Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Say No to Boo-ring Costumes

By Danielle Padilla

Me ready to raid the neighborhood for candy 
Crunchy leaves pile at your doorstep, ice begins to frost your windshield, and those Halloween costume adds bombard your mailbox. There are only a few days left until little girl witches and little boy zombies parade the streets in search of tricks and treats. As tempting as it may be to buy a costume advertised in the catalog, that is, the same catalog in everyone's mailbox-don't! If everyone is reading the same catalog, that means most of the readers will be wearing those same costumes on Halloween night, which would defeat the purpose of a creative costume. Halloween is a night to be anything you want to be- dead or alive- and young trick-or-treaters shouldn't conform to what everyone in the neighborhood is wearing.

Frida Kahlo 
Ever since I was a little girl, my mother has sowed, glued, or safety pinned every one of my childhood costumes. And although my school's playground was surrounded by whoever the new Disney princess happened to be, I had an original costume that was uniquely mine. Cabbage Patch slippers, scraps sewed together from old bed sheets  an old wig- I probably still have somewhere- and face paint, were a part of my homemade clown ensemble. I still remember trying to fit into it 2 years later.

My clown costume sparked my homemade costume career, and Halloween projects that followed included: a gift wrapped in fun, colorful wrapping paper, Disney's very own Pinocchio, Frida Kahlo- I even included the uni-brow and other costumes equally as fun and easy to make.
From me to you

"I'm a REAL homemade costume" 
If you got all excited and inspired to design, create and wear a homemade costume after reading about my experience with them, there is still time to pull out the sewing kit. So, you've never sewed a button, let alone build a complete costume? Don't worry, I've built a costume out of a cardboard box! If a cardboard box is all you can get your hands on this Halloween, you have the option of going as a Lego, dice, a Rubik's cube, a television, a hot air balloon, a robot and if you really lack imagination, you can always just be a cardboard box. Whatever you decide to go as this Halloween, don't go as the one who spent a whole lot of money on the same expensive costume everyone else is wearing at the party.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Duck and Cover the Basics

Emergency Preparedness

One summer during college, our history class met in a portable to take our final exam. Our professor would not be present during the exam and trusted that we would not be dishonest during the examination. I was stuck on an essay question and couldn't remember who was US president during the infamous Trail of Tears. I looked around the room and sorted my thoughts, but fearing that someone would accuse me of cheating, I looked outside the portable window instead. At first I thought someone was pushing a dolly to carry school supplies up the ramp, but the shaking and vibration of our desks was due to something bigger than that.

My classmates and I exchanged bewildered looks and finally someone asked, “Is this an earthquake?” I looked up to the front of the classroom, expecting to receive instructions from our professor, but of coarse, we were on our own. Fortunately, the earthquake only lasted a few seconds causing minor to no damage. Eventually, we evacuated the portable and stood far from any falling objects. However, I think back to that day and still can't believe that a group of adults were too startled to remember something so elementary and instinctive like duck and cover. If grownups can panic during a natural disaster, how much more preparation should we have with our children for future catastrophes.

Kiana rescued daddy from the flood.
Most of us have at least some emergency food stored in our kitchen cabinet, but emergency preparedness should not be stored in a dusty shelf but continually practiced and updated. Emergency preparedness is more than owning a first aid kit and food storage. Emergency preparedness is knowing how to use your supplies, how to evacuate a hazardous environment, and even who the family contact will be in case you cannot be located. After my cousin bought the emergency preparedness kit for her family, they decided to have a family night where they discussed evacuation plans and learned how to use basic equipment.

Rowing to safety with canned food
 from their food storage.
In Texas, my cousin's state of residence, locals must prepare against thunder storms, violent hurricanes and floods. 5 year old Aylen, and 2 year old Kiana sat in their blow up raft as they practiced rescuing their drowning dad on their kitchen floor. They threw down adult Floaties and with all their might, attempted to drag him into the raft. The girls learned how to apply a bandage and the importance of food storage during natural disasters when you might not have easy access to food like during a flood.

Wearing a life jacket helps you stay above the flood.
Wildfires, droughts and snowstorms are common natural disasters in the state of Utah. Remaining calm, alert and prepared will keep us from freaking out, and freaking out those around us as well. The toughest part is getting started. You can begin by keeping a flashlight by your bed side, a 2 Liter water bottle (in case of a fire) in every room, or knowing where the nearest and safest exit can be found. If you plan on adding to your food storage, you can do what my friend does, and spend $3.00 a week on emergency food. This way, buying all your food at once, won't seem overwhelming. Natural disasters can be unpredictable, but with the proper preparation, we don't have to be.

For more information on emergency preparedness and on how to include your children in emergency preparedness awareness, visit

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sweet Summer Sweat

Healthy Living
Danielle Padilla

The annual mini-Olympics was a week away. There I stood, eight year old me and seven others, competing for the anchor position in the relay race. Confidently, I rolled up the sleeves of my windbreaker and imagined crossing the finish line in first place. In an empty church parking lot, the eight of us sprinted towards our coach who waited for us at the finish line. I was in first place for about five seconds, until I saw Carolina's brown hair blowing in the wind ahead of me. My knees became weak and my legs bent forward. Did Carolina really run faster than me? The coach would never choose someone in second place to carry the baton last. These thoughts filled my mind and tears filled my eyes as my dream slipped away.

I'm not proud of what I did next, but out of shame and disappointment in myself, it seemed like the only thing to do. I threw myself onto the concrete, began to cry and faked a pain in my lower abdomen like if someone had elbowed me in the stomach. In fact, that is exactly what I said that happened. “You saw me,” I told my coach “I was in the lead, but after the injury, my body couldn’t take it.” I assured her. Although, I wasn’t chosen as the anchor, I learned a lot about teamwork and that you can't always be the winner. However, I did enjoy jump roping, potato sack racing, and shooting baskets in that year's mini-Olympics.
                                                                                                                                                                   This summer, we watched, celebrated and cheered for athletic greatness in the 2012 Olympics held in London. If you were like me, I sat in front of our television with a bag of potato chips, and a tall glass of soda pop as I watched the women's relay race. 
Throughout the Olympic games, Facebook statuses bombarded my page of how the athletes on television had motivated some of my Facebook friends to “get active” or “get in shape”. 

The Olympic Rings
As I scrolled down my page, thinking of dozens of reasons why I couldn't “get active” this summer, I came across an inspiring photo posted by my friend Mercie.

The Frisbee Target
Mercie's baby boy, Isaac was turning one, and lots of his young cousins and little friends were ready to celebrate his birthday at his Olympic themed birthday party. She got the idea from ( to design an obstacle course for the children created from fun noodles. The Olympic rings welcomed the energetic children as they arrived at their neighborhood park where the party took place. Off to the distance you could see the soccer wickets and Frisbee target zone. There was even a section with different sized beach balls for free play stationed near the playground. My mind traveled to the time when I had participated in the mini-Olympics in similar obstacle courses and how I enjoyed myself as I participated in a variety of exercises disguised as fun.

The Beach Ball Free-Play Zone

Although, the Olympics came and went, we don't need to wait four years to be motivated and “get active”. Hosting a mini-Olympics, creating simple obstacle courses, or creating your own challenges as family and friends, is fun and inexpensive. 

The Soccer Wickets 

So, what will you do this summer to be healthy, stay motivated and “get active”? If you are bored of jogging around the same block, check out these pictures. Following are some photos of some activities you can try with your teens, toddlers, and even have a friendly challenge against another family. Who knows, you might be coaching a future Olympian. Comment on your own Sweet Summer Sweat activities you did this summer!

Outdoor Sumo Wrestling
Hiking the Y in Provo

Washable Paint Gun Fight

Tug of War

Mud Run

Creating Their Own Twister Game With Chalk

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Camp Night, Without the Insect Bite

Camp Night, Without the Insect Bite
Danielle Padilla

In California, when our family wanted to spend time together, we would eat out at one of our usual spots in the city. We had outgrown the family fun centers and our single mother could not afford a family vacation on her own. When my family first moved to Utah and far from our usual city surroundings, I realized that nature is filled with a variety of activities a family can do to spend time together. During the summer, lots of families go fishing, camping, and hiking. In the winter, you can find the young and old speeding down the steepest hill on their sleds. However, planning a family camp can be stressful and expensive if you don't already own the necessary equipment. Coordinating schedules, asking for days off at work and delegating church responsibilities is like waiting for the planets to align to get the perfect outcome. So, why not use the nature in your backyard?

The girls' sleeping tent grounded in their living room

Many families find camping in their backyard a fun, affordable and easy-to-plan family trip. There is no need to reserve campground or carry a heavy propane stove for morning breakfast. Together, you can build the tent or spread a comfortable blanket over a patch of soft grass and lay under the stars. Not too long ago, my adorable nieces Aylen age 4 and Kiana age 1, camped in their very own living room. Dad set up the tent while the girls gathered their favorite stuffed animals and blankies.

Aylen, Kiana, and dad catching up on their daily adventures.
The girls were excited to play inside the tent and unzip, unbutton and untie every possible gadget they could find. The change of environment alone was entertaining as they rolled around in their sleeping bags and claimed their sleeping spot for the night. Together, the happy family of four told 
stories and caught up on updates from the 
week. Aylen told dad about her new adventures at karate and Kiana communicated to all that she wanted to watch a movie by waving around the remote control. Mom prepared triangle sandwiches as dad and the girls got started on the movie. Halfway through the movie, dad surprised everyone with a delicious snack and soon the air was filled with the buttery scent of freshly popped popcorn. Mom, dad, Aylen and Kiana were soon worn out from story telling and pillow fighting in the tent. Finally, it was time to turn off the flash light and tuck everyone in their sleeping bag.

A camping trip may be especially difficult to organize with young children and uncertain schedules. Using the resources in your own home like the backyard, the living room and even sleeping bags, can leave everlasting memories in the hearts of your young explorers. When I asked Aylen and Kiana's mom, what the girls enjoyed the most, without hesitation she said, “Just being together as a family, talking and storytelling.” It is the inexpensive things in this life that young children appreciate and with a little imagination, we can create an entirely new realm of adventures in our very own living room.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Cup of Flour, a Pinch of Salt, and Handfuls of Family Fun
Danielle Padilla

I remember standing in the kitchen as a kid with my grandmother. Both hands clapping down a ball of dough, right hand over left, then left hand over right. The dough would get in between my fingers and I would bring my clasped hands near my nose to smell the authentic flavors of the Mexican tortilla dough. For me, making homemade tortillas was simply playing with edible play dough; for my grandmother, it was passing down a tradition.

Somewhere in the world, a myth began, that children don't belong in the kitchen. Sure, it's much easier to send them off to their familiar video games or dolls than to have them tug on your apron, tip over the salt on the table or touch every ingredient on the counter. But why not replace their isolating playing toys with your cooking ingredients? Wait a minute, before you bring out the yarn and empty all the noodles and Cheerios from your food storage, don't limit your child's culinary creativity to a Cheerio and noodle necklace. Just like my grandmother was able to teach a very active and energetic child how to “tortiar”, your child may be just as eager to get their curious hands involved in creating the family meal.

My adorable niece Lauren (3) and my handsome nephew, Nathan (5) creating their own pizzas. 

Chef Nathan.
My very creative sister in law found a way to spend quality time with her 3 year old daughter, Lauren, her 5 year old son, Nathan and get dinner ready all at once. Together, mom, Nathan, and Lauren mixed, stirred and kneaded their own pizza dough. Lauren's precious, little hands gripped both sides of the roller as she shaped her pizza, and Nathan enthusiastically layered his pizza with his favorite toppings - olives and pepperoni. With a little flour on their noses and hungry bellies, they watched from a distance as the cheese melted to a golden brown and the dough rose to perfection in the oven.

Of coarse, a family who cooks together, eats together, and we all know what happens when a family eats together. According to Harvard Research, “Family dinners are more important than play, story time and other family events in the development of vocabulary of younger children.” Children also develop fundamental science knowledge every time they measure when you prepare meals together. It is not a shock to learn that, “Frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs; with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts; and with better grades in 11 to 18 year olds.” (Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2004)

Lauren about to take a bite of her creation.

There are lots of books and internet sites you can visit to get ideas on meals you can prepare with your children. One of my favorite sites is This website includes how-to videos, easy recipes and of coarse, recipes for kids. It even has ideas on how your children can help according to their age capacities from 3-16. There are more helpful sites like this one. Take some time to find your favorite and share it with your friends. It may be wishful thinking to imagine waking up one morning to a breakfast feast of pancakes, smoothies and sizzling bacon prepared by your toddlers. However, including them in the smallest of details like sprinkling the walnuts over a fruit salad, will make your child feel involved and lighten your load as well. Every good cook knows that one must set up all ingredients before even turning on the stove. Make your children part of the list of must-haves when preparing your next family meal. BON APPETIT!