Katy, Texas Blog (June 13, 2017) – Texas Children’s Hospital shares important information on the definition of secondary drowning, dry drowning, and how Katy families can take action if their child is submerged in water.

Recently, a mother posted on her blog, “Delighted Momma,” the story of her almost 2-year-old son developing significant breathing problems after a brief, less than 20 second, submersion in the spa. Because he seemed “totally fine after he had calmed down,” she decided to take him home rather than seeking medical care. Within an hour or so, her son seemed overly tired and began coughing, so she immediately took him to the closest emergency center. A chest x-ray showed that he had likely aspirated some of the water, which caused his lungs to not function normally. Fortunately, he was discharged after a 24-hour observation at a pediatric children’s hospital, but the parental/public interest in “secondary drowning” after her blog went viral remains a significant topic of discussion! What is “secondary drowning”?

“Secondary drowning” is a confusing misnomer that has been used to describe delayed-onset breathing problems in a child who seems to be recovering after a submersion event. When referring to “secondary drowning,” most people are referring to the complications that occur as a result of aspiration of water into the lungs. When a child aspirates any foreign substances, including fresh/salt/chlorinated water or vomit, it can cause progressive injury and inflammation within the lungs. As the lungs become more ineffective and fluid accumulates within the lungs, symptoms such as coughing, fast breathing, increased work of breathing, low oxygen levels, and altered mental status (irritability or lethargy) may quickly occur. Luckily, most healthy children who appear well after a submersion aspirate only small amounts of water, if any, and will recover spontaneously.

What do I do if my child is found under water?

If your child is unconscious, not breathing, and/or without a pulse, immediately give 5 rescue breaths, start effective CPR, and have a bystander call 911. If your child begins to vomit, gently roll your child to his/her side so that he/she does not aspirate the secretions. Also, be sure to keep your child’s neck immobilized in a straight, midline position if any trauma has occurred to your child’s head or neck (i.e., while diving in the shallow end of the pool).

If your child is awake and well-appearing after a submersion, keep your child warm/dry and call your pediatrician for further recommendations. Because most symptoms of non-fatal drowning occur within 6-8 hours from the submersion, it would be important to keep a close eye on your child and watch for breathing difficulties, skin color changes, persistent vomiting, or abnormal behavior. If any of these symptoms occur, you should seek medical care immediately.

What should I expect in the emergency center?

Dependent on the submersion events and your child’s vital signs and examination, your physician will likely order a chest x-ray and possibly some blood tests. If your child’s examination and x-ray and lab results are normal, he/she may be observed in the emergency center until it’s been approximately 6 hours from the submersion. So long as your child continues to appear well while in the emergency center, he/she will likely be discharged home with detailed return precautions.

However, if your child’s examination and/or workup are abnormal, he/she will be admitted for supportive care (i.e., oxygen, breathing treatments, intravenous fluids, etc.) and observation. Children who are very sick with decreased/lack of responsiveness, severe breathing difficulties, or very low oxygen levels are typically admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for increased respiratory support/treatment and close monitoring.

Childhood drowning is quick and quiet!

Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years, with the highest rate of drowning in the 0- to 4-year-old age group. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website, 18 Texas children have already drowned since January 2014. And, at Texas Children’s Hospital, we have seen 67 near-drownings and 6 drownings between April 2013 and April 2014.

The “Delighted Momma” blog has not only brought “secondary drowning” into the spotlight, but also the fact that childhood drownings happen unexpectedly, quickly, and quietly! Lindsay Kujawa was sitting near her child and for “less than five seconds”, turned to speak with a family member, while her child silently slipped under water. Unfortunately, this type of scenario is common, and I cannot tell you the number of times that parents have similarly told me they turned away from their child for “just a second”…to look for another child, converse with a friend, or make a quick meal….prior to finding their child in a pool, bathtub, or bucket/ice chest. Please take the necessary steps to protect your children while they’re in or around water…enclose and cover pools and hot tubs, safety proof your home (shut bathroom doors, safety-lock toilet seats, drain bathtubs, empty ice chests and buckets filled with water), enroll your children in water safety and swim classes, continuously (touch)-supervise or designate a responsible adult to watch over your children, and learn first aid and CPR!

Written by Dr. Katherine Leaming-Van Zandt, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Specialist, Texas Children’s Hospital
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Katy, Texas Blog (June 7, 2017) – Free breakfast and lunch will be provided to all children ages 18 and under at no cost this summer. Dates and locations below.

Breakfast served from 8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. | Lunch served from 10 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

  • Morton Ranch Elementary 
    June 12-16, 19-22, 25-29, and July 5-7.
  • Mayde Creek Junior High
    June 12-16, 19-22,25-29, and July 5-7.
  • Raines High School
    June 12-15, 19-22,26-29, July 5-7, 10-13.
Courtesy of Katy ISD

Courtesy of the USDA

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Katy, TX Blog (May 30, 2017) – The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30. During these months, Texas is more susceptible to powerful and destructive tropical storms and hurricanes. The City of Katy encourages everyone to assemble a disaster supply kit of emergency supplies including:

  • First-aid kit
  • NOAA Weather Radio or battery-operated radio
  • flashlight
  • necessary medications
  • non-perishable food items
  • bottled water


  • Follow the City of Katy Office of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for local updates.
  • Keep an eye out for storm-related hashtags on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-speed on storms as they progress.
  • Review your area’s hurricane evacuation map every year and watch for traffic updates to make the best decisions if an evacuation is needed.
  • Remember the evacuation assistance hotline, 2-1-1.
  • Always obey evacuation orders without hesitation, secure your home before leaving, and take pets with you.

Helpful Links: 


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Katy, TX Blog (May 10, 2017) – Unique Summer Camps for girls ages 12 – 15 in Katy, Texas

Written by Katrina Katsarelis

Be Unique is a new program offering Teen Camps designed to empower girls to recognize their unique qualities, increase self-confidence, and develop a mature Christian perspective. All camps include the guidance in creating a sophisticated and well-rounded young lady who is confident within herself, secure in her environment, and has a positive direction for her life. Call for dates. Space is limited.

Girls will learn about self-confidence, developing a healthy lifestyle, and identifying her greatest strengths. Choose one of two five-day sessions, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This program teaches skin care routines, facial symmetry, use of foundation, highlighter and contour, liquid eyeliner, and much more! Choose one of three five-day sessions, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Lessons will be given in the importance of conversation, posture and walking, social stances and hand positions, the art of writing thank you notes, and more. Skills are tested in a final three-course lunch on the last day of camp. Choose one of two five-day sessions, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Topics include knowledge of clothing styles, necklines, skirt lengths, handbag styles, use of belts, accessorizing, and more. Offering one four-day sessions, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Emphasizing the balance of body, mind, and soul, this camp covers the importance of body care, antioxidants, making healthy choices, portion size, and more. A healthy lunch is included. Choose one of two two-day sessions, 10 a.m. to 1p.m. KM

5529 FM 359, Richmond
GOT A CAMP? List it here.

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Katy, TX Blog (May 10, 2017) – We’ve got something for every kind of Katy kid!

Written by Kennan Buckner and Katy Magazine’s Editors

Take a look at these area summer camp offerings to find the perfect camp connection for your Katy kid. Regardless of what your child is interested in, there’s a camp available for making summer memories last a lifetime.


Becky’s Academy of Dance
2501 S. Mason Rd.


Becky’s offers day camps for kids kindergarten through sixth grade, as well as dance and drill prep camp for junior high and high school students. Connolly Dance Arts 22760 Westheimer Pkwy. 281-693-1232 connollydancearts.com Dancers kindergarten through sixth grade can attend dance intensives. Dance and drill team prep is also offered for junior high and high school students.

The Conservatory of Music
23922 Cinco Village Center Blvd. 3719 N. Fry Rd.
832-437-4511 | 832-321-3382

Guitar camps are held July 10 through14. Camp A is designed for the camper with no prior knowledge of the guitar for ages 8 to 12. Camp B is for ages 13 to 15. The camps are two hours daily, Mon through Fri. Camp guitar materials and camp T-shirt included in price. Call for details.

A Painting Fiesta
16734 Westheimer Lakes N.

Campers can choose to attend a full-day or a half-day, but either way they are going to have a great time getting their hands dirty and learning some great painting skills. Snacks and materials are included in the cost.


ESN Health
Healthy Kids Camp
2770 FM 1463
Kids ages 8 to 12 will participate in daily fitness games, make fun crafts, and assist in preparing healthy snacks in the ESN Healthy Kitchen. Camp runs June 19 through June 22 from 12 to 3 p.m.

Circle Lake Ranch
1102 Circle Lake Dr.

A horseback adventure awaits your animal loving campers ages 6 to 12 at Circle Lake Ranch’s horseback riding lesson camps. Learn riding and horse care. They have an fantastic indoor classroom, too! Camps are held 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. weekdays. The camps run through August. Register early.

Club SciKidz
700 S. Westgreen Blvd.
CrossPoint Community Church

Outstanding week long science and technology day camps for first through eighth graders. Kids love their themed programs like space engineer, emergency medicine, programming, special effects, video game maker, grossology, chemistry concoctions, jurassic, quadcopter aerial robotics, and more.

Citizens for Animal Protection
17555 Katy Fwy.

Kids & Kritters camp is the place for future veterinarians in third through sixth grade. Campers will enjoy games and crafts as well as hands-on animal experiences. Enroll early!

Spanish Learning Castle
5024 E. 5th St.

A unique Spanish immersion summer camp with themes like safari adventure, dramatic play, and two weeks of under the sea adventure. Camps are offered through July 24 for ages 18 months to 7 years old from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with extended hours available.

Listo Translating Services & More
830 S. Mason Rd. Suite B2-A

A terrific way for kids ages 3 to17 to learn Spanish while enjoying summertime fun. Listo offers three different camps: Children’s Spanish immersion summer camp, bilingual art camp, and summer AP language camp. Visit the website for more information.

Montessori Kids Universe
2004 S. Mason Rd.

Kids will be able to stamp their passports as they travel around the world this summer. Students kindergarten and up will “visit” several interesting countries exploring the culture through activities and hands-on projects and themed traveling fun.

Camp in the City
Multiple Locations in Katy

Camp in the City is Pine Cove’s summer day camp programs that are offered at local churches. Kidsentering first through sixth grade will enjoy bungee trampolines, water slides, and climbing walls. Camps held at Grace Fellowship UMC (July 10-14), and The Fellowship (August 7-11).

Vacation Bible School
Multiple Churches in Katy

Numerous churches are having fun, themed camps for school-age kids. These are usually held in the mornings for a few hours a week. Check with your local church.

Katy Kips Gymnastics Club
923 S. Mason Rd.

Children ages 5 and up will enjoy jumping, bouncing, and tumbling at Katy Kips’ annual summer fun tumbling camp. All day classes are available Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Weekly camps held all summer.

Double T Hideout
Typhoon Texas

Weekly day camp starts with a swim lesson followed by games and activities galore. Offering both full-day and half-day camps for school-age kids. Camps run through August 11, but space is limited so register early.

Aqua-Tots Swim School – Fast Track Swim Camp
1542 W. Grand Pkwy. S.

Fast Track Swim Camp gives children a jump start on their swimming because they receive 10 continuous days of swim lessons. Classes are offered at different levels based on the student’s needs. The courses are aimed at children who need to learn to swim or improve their swimming techniques.

Katy GT Academy
21020 Highland Knolls Dr.

Offering innovative camps like public speaking, young chefs, debate, chess, mental math, origami, critical writing, and many more, Katy GT Academy has something for every kind of advanced learner.

British Private Prep School
Multiple Locations in Katy

Make memories at one of British Private Prep’s summer camps. Themes include lights, camera, action; science adventures; and lions, tigers, and bears! Camp is for students kindergarten through age 12. Includes a camp T-shirt and water carrier.
Kids R Kids
Multiple Locations in Katy

Kids R Kids offer a 10-week summer camp series, where kids explore their hidden talents, passions, and interests. Each boy and girl will experience art and cooking, engineering, community service, and everything in between! The full-day program is open to ages 5 through 12.

Primrose Schools
Multiple Locations in Katy

These fun-filled, age-appropriate themed camps for ages 2 through 12 include basketball, flag football, soccer, cheerleading, art, robotics, science, drama, fashion design, and more. Camps will be running all summer.

Discovery Schoolhouse
4900 Falcon Landing Blvd

Programs are offered for children Pre-K through 13 years old which can be attended either three or five days a week. Children will experience field trips, charitable events, arts and crafts, and so much more. Educational activities include learning a new language, participating in a spelling bee, visiting the public library, and reviewing math skills.

Foundations Academy
20817 Westheimer Pkwy.

Students will build a time machine and visit cavemen, dinosaurs, gladiators, outer space, and more. Plus field trips, science experiments, team challenges, cooking, and splash pad play will have your kids wanting to go back each day. Camps run through Aug. 18 for kindergarten through sixth grade.

The Goddard School
24025 Cinco Village Center Blvd.

5220 Ranch Point Dr.

Get ready for some great field trips, STEAM activities, splash days, sports, and games galore. Also, fun mini-camps with cheer, dance, music, and cooking are available. Chose Preschool camp (ages 2 to 5) or Kids Club (K-5th grade.)

Kiddie Academy 
Multiple Locations

CampVentures, for ages 2 to 12, features age-appropriate programs, plus field trips, special visitors, and more. Day campers will create, explore, construct, design, investigate, and invent!


Monty Ballard YMCA 
15050 Cinco Park Rd.

Nestled in a woodsy park-like area, YMCA’s Camp Cinco offers exciting activities like archery, ropes courses, swimming, and more. It’s held at the 200- acre Camp Cinco behind Creech Elementary and features sports fields, a basketball pavilion, misting stations, and a brand new playground. Camp is held from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for campers ages 6 to 15.

Camp Willow Fork
21055 Westheimer Pkwy.

Campers will receive training in tennis, golf, and soccer. Includes a tennis racket, T-shirt, snack, and lunch. There are eight week-long sessions for ages 6 to 12. Camps run through August 4.

Falcon Point Country Club
24503 Falcon Point Dr.

The Club offers PGA Junior Golf half-day camps that run weekly through August 11. Two full-day camps will be held on June 27-30 and Aug. 8-11. Tennis camps are also offered. Call for details.

Golf Club at Cinco Ranch
23030 Cinco Ranch Blvd.

Weekly half-day golf camps run through July 31. School-age kids will learn fundamentals of golf, as well as participate in friendly competitions, games, and more.

Katy Volleyball Academy Camp
2211 Porter Rd.

Get ready for fall tryouts or just hone your volleyball skills with evening camps held four nights a week from 6 to 9 p.m. Various camps for fourth through 12th graders are held through
August 10. Call for details.

Stampede Basketball Camp
Camps held at Taylor High School

A camp for second through eighth graders to learn basketball techniques from top coaches in a fun, positive atmosphere. Camps are held June 5-8 and July 10-13.

Katy Youth Football

Offering both conditioning camps and tackle camps for first through sixth graders. Camps are held July 11-14 and July 18-21 respectively. Camps are held in the late afternoon and evenings.

Tiger Rock Martial Arts Taekwondo
625 S. Mason Rd.

5757 Katy-Gaston Rd.

Offering martial arts trick camps where students learn flips, twists, kicks, and master the jump track. They also have a camp of champions, and a combat sword camp for juniors and teens (green belt and above). Led by skilled masters, camps run various weeks June through July. Call for details.


FFPS British Soccer Camp
FFPS Soccer Complex
George Bush Park
800-828-7529 ext. 101

Camp for ages 6 through 16 will be held July 10-14 and will cover dribbling, moves, passing, shooting, and more. Coaches use a positive approach and are British certified.

Pro’s Katy Indoor Soccer
1005 Airline Dr.

They have a great summer camp program for ages 6 to 12. Campers will learn the sport of soccer with trainings and scrimmages and play a game or two of dodgeball all while staying cool in their indoor facility. Camp runs June 5 through August 11, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register in person at the facility.


Katy Blazin’ Red Camp
Held at Katy High School

This track and field camp has two sessions Mon. through Thurs. 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. for kids ages 3 to 12. Choose June 5-29 and/or July 6-16.

Katy Tennis Academy
Camps held at Beckendorff JH or Seven Lakes HS

Weekly camps cover areas like stroke technique, drills, singles and doubles, match play, serving, and more. Beginners, intermediate, and advanced players welcome. Ages 5 through 17. Camps run through Aug. 11.

Texas Rugby Kids

Multiple Locations

Five fun-filled days of non-contact rugby fun for boys and girls,ages 3-14. Weekly camps run Mon- Fri 9 am-noon throughout June and July. Teamwork, physical activity, and coordination for the little ones; skill development, off-season training, agility work and game play for our older ruggers.

American Robotics Academy
700 S. Westgreen Blvd.
(CrossPoint Community Church)

Their mission is to excite, inspire, and motivate youth about the fun, importance and impact of robotics technology in today’s world. Their classes teach students to understand “how things work” through hands-on activities that demonstrate the principles of simple and motorized machines. Offering both morning and afternoon camps. Camps run through August 11.

Spotlight Acting Academy
The Villagio Town Center
22758 Westheimer Pkwy.

Offering summer camps, classes, and workshops for ages 3-18 including the Triple Threat Workshop and the Never Grow Up Preschool Camp. Be part of the High School Musical, Jr. performance. Providing excellent theatre instruction through fun activities for thespians of all ages.

The Lifelong Learning (LLC) Summer Camp
1701 East Ave
(346) 387-6955

Their summer camp specializes in youth and adults ages 12-22 with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Weekly activities consist of arts and crafts, cooking shows, field trips, game days, and much more. KM

Got a camp? Email editor@katymagazine.com! Call to confirm individual camp sessions and prices.
Visit our Katy Magazine Summer Camp Facebook page!

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Katy, TX Blog (May 8, 2017) – After weighing two pounds at birth and suffering multiple organ failures, Logan Buelna proves that life is worth fighting for

Written by Meagan Clanahan | Select photography by Candace Cook

For Dr. Molly Obergfell and Dr. David Buelna, the early stages of their first pregnancy with their son Logan was picture perfect by all medical standards. After meeting at Kingsland Animal Hospital where they were both employed as veterinarians and subsequently marrying in 2013, they were overjoyed to be expecting their first son. They never expected the twists and turns that would come when he burst onto the scene in the early hours of June 18, 2015.

Unexpected Arrival
It was early June when Molly started to feel like something wasn’t right. One Saturday she landed in the hospital, but was sent home being told she had Braxton Hicks contractions. The next week she noticed that she felt extremely sluggish, but chalked it up to working long hours and not knowing what to expect during a first pregnancy. Little did she know that she would find herself in the emergency room fully dilated at just 25 weeks pregnant. Her doctors at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital did everything they could to slow down delivery including doses of magnesium and steroids, but it was too late. Logan David Buelna made his appearance weighing in at a tiny 2 lbs., 2 oz. and 13 inches long. Molly tearfully recalls those first moments. “They took him immediately to intubate him and get him stabilized,” she remembers. “There was plastic stuff all around him and I could barely see him.” Because the NICU at the local hospital could not accommodate a micro preemie, plans were immediately made to chopper him to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Medical Center. “I was still recovering, so I had to stay behind while David made the trip with Logan,” she says. “I had one chance to see him and he grabbed my finger before they left. Not being with my baby was the longest night of my life.”



Predictably Unpredictable
Seven long days passed before they were even able to hold their precious son using skin-to-skin, a.k.a kangaroo care. A few weeks into their NICU journey, he went into congestive heart failure because his PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) never fully closed, thus leading to multiple organ shut down, including his liver and kidneys. The Buelnas made the difficult decision to transfer Logan to Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) for heart surgery on his PDA. Once at TCH, doctors were able to stabilize him, repair his heart, and get the rest of his organs functioning again. From there, it became a feeding and growing game, as well as also working on his ability to breathe without the use of the CPAP and oxygen.

The Will to Fight
While both David and Molly spent every weekend at the hospital with Logan, Molly was the primary caregiver for Logan during his NICU stay while David held down the work front. She spent weeks pumping precious breast milk for Logan, setting her alarm every three hours for a session, day and night. With the exception of a few frightening nights, the Buelnas made a deal that she needed to come home every night, but she was right back crib side every morning for rounds to catch up on the latest news. “Just seeing our baby down there, it broke my heart to leave him every day,” she recalls. “He was fighting so hard, you could see it. He wanted to be with us. I was his advocate, I had to be there. His will to live was my will to fight.”

Surpassing Expectations
As his official due date drew nearer, Molly and David began to breathe sighs of relief. After passing his mandatory carseat test with flying colors and receiving good news on his retinal optic tests, it was finally time to go home, three and a half months after their journey began. After stocking their freezer with over 400 bags of breast milk from Molly, the family was finally released from TCH with their tiny fighter weighing almost five pounds more than he did at birth.

One would never guess today that Logan had such a tumultuous start. While still on the smaller side of the charts, he is a rambunctious, happy, and healthy 19-month-old who is the resident comedian of the household and a daddy’s boy through and through. He has surpassed all medical expectations and was released from all outside therapies including occupational and physical. The future is bright for this little warrior and he’s especially enamored with his new little brother, Eli, whom his parents welcomed full term in November 2016. KM


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KATY, TX (April 27, 2017) – The Quality Texas Foundation has awarded Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital the Texas Award for Performance Excellence (TAPE). The prestigious award recognizes strong dedication to quality and high performance.

“We are honored to be among the select group of organizations to achieve this distinction from the Quality Texas Foundation. Winning the TAPE award is a reflection of the focus on clinical excellence, quality, and patient safety that the team at Memorial Hermann Katy provides every day,” said Heath Rushing, Senior Vice President and CEO, Memorial Hermann Katy.

The Quality Texas Foundation, known as a national leader in its field, was chartered to recognize the best organizations in Texas. The group uses an extensive evaluation process that includes hundreds of hours spent through on-site visits to evaluate and score applicants in several criteria.

Dr. Mac McGuire, CEO Quality Texas Foundation said, “This award is no small achievement. It’s not about a particular test, or one day evaluation. It is a critical look at both the processes and results shown by Memorial Hermann Katy, in accordance with the Baldrige Criteria. Those who receive the TAPE award have a proven record of excellence.”

The Baldrige Excellence Framework is used by businesses, healthcare providers, schools, government agencies and other nonprofit organizations to improve and excel in their industries. This distinction takes Memorial Hermann Katy one step closer to achieving the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital received the prominent award in 2016.

“We know the hard work isn’t over yet. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is a lofty goal, but we believe our staff already provides the high quality care outlined by the Baldrige Excellence Framework, and we are confident that we will prove that to the organization in the coming months,” said Rushing.

“I want to congratulate the team at Memorial Hermann Katy on this significant award,” said Dr. Benjamin Chu, President and CEO, Memorial Hermann Health System. “It is a rigorous journey to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and this is an impressive step in the right direction.”

Memorial Hermann Katy will receive the award during the Quality Texas Foundation annual conference June 27, 2017 at the Houston Westin.

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital
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Katy, TX Blogs (April 19, 2017) – Elena Carlberg and her husband David have been best friends since they met over 20 years ago when she was just 18. Today, she’s mom to their 11 biological children and counting her blessings one by one. Katy Magazine caught up with Elena to compile some of her best advice for other Katy supermoms.

Written by Kennan Buckner

1. Less is More
Since organization has never been one of Elena’s strengths, she relies on minimalism to keep things running smoothly. “I have 13 of everything in the cupboard,” she says. “Thirteen white plates, 13 white bowls, and 13 cups.” And in her hall closet, there are 13 towels. “Each child has enough clothes for two weeks’ worth of school, and that’s all,” she says.

2. Have Humor
Elena is always making her family laugh; whether it’s by talking in her silly Marilyn Monroe voice or encouraging Arya to use her English accent. “I don’t know if I’m funny, or if my husband and kids are just easily amused,” she laughs.

3. Do Something for Yourself
Being a mom doesn’t usually lend itself to time alone. Her guilty pleasure is recording episodes of The Bold and the Beautiful and binge-watching them later. She also plays bunco and has joined her mom in her home décor business. She adds, “I spend a few hours a night designing items after the kids go to bed.”

4. Stay Calm
Elena describes herself as calm, but not quiet. The couple’s laid-back style reflects in their children’s natures, too. “People are usually shocked at how well-behaved our children are, and we quite often get complimented on it.”

5. Work as a Team
When it comes to the nighttime routine, they divide and conquer. “David and I tackle it together and high-five each other when they’re finally all in bed. It’s like completing a marathon,” she says. Her husband’s support doesn’t end there. “When I’m having a rough day, I can always count on him to try to make me feel better,” she adds.

6. Get a Support System
While she would tell her younger self to accept advice, she says not to take to heart every opinion. Elena finds balance by getting support from those who matter most. “I couldn’t do it without my family – especially my mom,” she says. “She’s been through this journey with me every step of the way.”

7. Plan Ahead for Meals
“We order our groceries online and use the pick-up service. This new option has been life-changing for us,” she says. Every night’s dinner has a theme. Monday might be breakfast for dinner and Tuesday is Italian night. The following week, they just change up the menu items but still follow the theme.

8. Everybody Helps
With more kids come more messes, but also more help. Alec and Aidan do laundry and take out the trash. Andrew and Abby are the sweepers, Adam is the duster, and Ashton cleans counters. Addison and Adrian are in charge of getting everything off the floor. “Annie keeps an eye out for me, ensuring everyone is doing their job properly,” says Elena. Annie, who has cerebral palsy, is also in charge of their music and the family agrees that she has amazing taste. They often listen to John Williams, The Beatles, or Prince.

9. Celebrate Victories
“There’s no such thing as a little victory in this house,” Elena says. “Anything that was achieved through hard work gets met with a huge cheering section.” Last year, Andrew came in last place in a race during field day. This year David trained with him, and he placed first. The whole family called to congratulate him. “You’d think he was just elected president,” Elena boasts. “He couldn’t stop smiling for days.”

10. Focus on Relationships
Elena says David uses any spare time to play with or teach the children new things. “David listens intently when the kids talk,” she shares. As a result, the kids shower him with love, devotion, and sincere affection. “When you focus on the individuals you’re around, rather than just the things that need to get done, the result is deeper relationships. What you get out of a relationship is dependent upon what you put into it,” she adds.

11. Count Your Blessings
Counting her blessings comes easily for Elena. “I’ve been blessed with getting to stay home with my kids and having the best role models in my mom, grandma, and aunts,” she says. “I’ve been blessed in having a husband who always puts us before anything else. I’ve also been blessed with 11 of the most kind-hearted, unique, and gracious children in the world.” KM


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Katy, TX (April 13, 2017) – One of the most commonly used modalities in stretching routines is the foam roller, which mimic a therapist’s myofascial release techniques and has been shown to increase range of motion, reduce soreness, improve tissue recovery and decrease the overall effects of stress placed on the body. Rollers come in several different lengths, densities and surface structures.

When to Use

Foam rolling should be done before dynamic or static stretching exercises to increase body temperature and improve the tissue’s ability to lengthen during a stretch.

How to Use

When using the foam roller before exercise, roll eight to 10 times at a moderate pace along the muscle and follow with dynamic stretching. When using post-exercise, slowly roll the targeted area until the most tender spot is found. Hold on that targeted area for 20 to 30 seconds until discomfort is reduced. If discomfort becomes intolerable, back off the area.

Common Areas

The most common troubled areas cyclists experience are the iliotibial bands (IT bands), hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, hip adductors, calves and the back. These areas are very susceptible to tightness, which can lead to injury. With rigorous training programs and competitions it is vital that these areas are addressed to decrease the chances of injury and potentially increase performance.


Individuals who have been medically diagnosed or are experiencing symptoms related to osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, varicose veins or pregnancy, or who are unsure about their condition, should consult a physician before beginning to apply soft-tissue therapy.


Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital 
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Katy, TX (March 29, 2017) – Katy Magazine gives a shout-out to all the good news happening in our community.

Compiled by Katy Magazine’s Editors

Katy ISD’s Lunch Angel
An anonymous donor contributed $650 to pay off negative balances for free and reduced lunch students at Mayde Creek Junior High, Cardiff Junior High, Mayde Creek Elementary, and Mayde Creek High School.

Katy Million Meal Pack-A-Thon
Host churches Redeemer Community Church, The Fellowship, and Westland Baptist Church held an event where 626,000 Feed the Hunger meal packages were packed by 2,500 Katy area volunteers.

Katy High School Faculty
Faculty and staff raised $4,450 to donate to The Ballard House.

Santa Cops
Katy ISD’s Santa Cops program helped 674 children and more than 330 families by providing toys and clothing.

Raising Cane’s
The chicken finger restaurant sold white plush puppies to patrons. The sales of the puppies went to help the animals at Special Pals Shelter.

Fort Bend Rancher’s Ball
The ball raised almost $290,000 through the hard work and dedication of Katy residents as well as Commissioner Andy Meyers. The money has been donated to Katy Christian Ministries, Simonton Christian Academy, and Katy Contemporary Arts Museum.

Watercrest at Katy
Residents of Watercrest at Katy raised $1,746 to donate to Katy Christian Ministries.

During an evening charity event, the upscale clothing boutique donated 20% of its sales to Clothed by Faith.

Cinco Ranch Giving Circle
The members, made up of Katy area residents, collected $1,521 to donate to Child Advocates of Fort Bend.

Employees brought clothing items to their company party and donated everything to Hope Impacts.

Impress Computers
The company collected teddy bears to donate to the Joe Joe Bear Foundation.

Fulshear Police Department
For every Red, White, & Rescue calendar sold, the police department donated funds to Special Pals Shelter.

Camp Bow Wow
Katy Employees and patrons dropped off pet food, toys, and other needed items for animals in foster care.

Monty Ballard YMCA at Cinco Ranch
The health and fitness club partnered with Cigna to offer free health screenings to help people find out their four health numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and BMI.

BH Hair Studio
The salon gave away free makeovers to five lucky patrons.

Girl Scout Troop 129068
Scouts prepared pancakes, bacon, and eggs for dinner, then served them to residents at The Ballard House.

Katy Triathlon at Firethorne
The event raised more money than expected and is increasing scholarships from $1,500 to $2,000.

Houston Methodist West Hospital
Volunteers from the hospital visited families delivering teddy bears donated by Beckendorff Junior High, tigers from Katy Junior High, and blankets donated by National Charity League Katy Chapter.


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Katy, Texas (March 22, 2017) – Officer Luis Santiago with the Katy ISD Police Department delivered 20 “Teddy Cop” Bears to some of our students today! Their goal is to give every PPCD, ECAP, YCAP, Lifeskills & TIP child in our school district a Police Officer Teddy Bear … specialized with a uniform and Katy ISD Police Officer badge!

In the first 5 months since the program was started, they raised over $11,000 to purchase 497 bears for students at 23 KISD elementary schools. They still need to purchase about 600 more bears for 14 more of the KISD elementary schools.

We are asking for your help to PAY IT FORWARD! Please consider making a donation for this wonderful program! You may send donations to the NCE front office. We will accept cash or checks (payable to Katy ISD), or you may purchase a gift card from the Build-a-Bear Workshop at Katy Mills Mall where the bears are made.

Here are a few pictures from this morning! More pictures can be seen by visiting the Nottingham Country Elementary School Official Facebook page.

Thank you in advance for your help, and thank you Katy ISD Police Department for the bears!!

Courtesy of Katy ISD

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Katy, TX (March 21, 2017) Stretching and soft-tissue therapy are essential components of a complete exercise program. Incorporating them into your fitness routine will increase performance, reduce injury, improve range of motion and benefit overall physical fitness.

Static stretching is a slow and constant stretch, with the end position held for 20 to 30 seconds. A static stretch includes the relaxation and elongating of the stretched muscle. Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that actively moves a joint through the full range of motion. It closely duplicates movements required for a sport or activity.

Soft-Tissue Therapy
One of the most commonly used modalities in stretching routines is the foam roller, which mimic a therapist’s myofascial release techniques and has been shown to increase range of motion, reduce soreness, improve tissue recovery and decrease the overall effects of stress placed on the body. Rollers come in several different lengths, densities and surface structures.

When to Use
Foam rolling should be done before dynamic or static stretching exercises to increases body temperature and improve the tissue’s ability to lengthen during a stretch.

How to Use
When using the foam roller before exercise, roll eight to 10 times at a moderate pace along the muscle and follow with dynamic stretching. When using post-exercise, slowly roll the targeted area until the most tender spot is found. Hold on that targeted area for 20 to 30 seconds until discomfort is reduced. If discomfort becomes intolerable, back off the area.

Common Areas
The most common troubled areas cyclists experience are the iliotibial bands (IT bands), hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, hip adductors, calves and the back. These areas are very susceptible to tightness, which can lead to injury. With rigorous training programs and competitions it is vital that these areas are addressed to decrease the chances of injury and potentially increase performance.

Individuals who have been medically diagnosed or are experiencing symptoms related to osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, varicose veins or pregnancy, or who are unsure about their condition, should consult a physician before beginning to apply soft-tissue therapy.

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital
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Katy, Texas – The top five ailments to watch for in Katy this year

Written by Lana Timbs

Being sick is no fun for families, and is often inevitable. Katy doctors and pediatricians see certain illnesses often. Learn more about some of these common diagnoses and how to protect your family.

1. Ear Infections

Ear infections commonly occur when fluid behind the eardrum, or in the middle ear, becomes trapped due to inflammation and becomes infected. Colds, sinus infections, throat infections, or even allergy attacks can cause the inflammation. Symptoms include ear pain and fever.

  • Treatment
    Ear infections are commonly treated with a seven to 10 day prescription of oral antibiotics. Some patients do not require antibiotics, as the ear infection can heal without them. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help reduce fever and alleviate ear pain. Chiropractic care can also be used to treat certain illnesses, such as ear infections.
  • Prevention
    Nose health is important in the prevention of ear infections. Keep your nose as healthy as possible by using nasal saline daily when well, or several times a day when experiencing allergies, a cold, sinus, throat, or ear infection.

2. Strep (Streptococcus) 

Streptococcus bacteria, commonly called strep or strep throat, has been a prevalent illness among children and families. These contagious bacteria can cause chills, headache, stomachache, vomiting, fever, and sore throat – many of which are flu-like symptoms. Anyone can get strep, but some are more susceptible to it. Families with multiple children may have one child that gets strep more often than any other children in the family.

  • Treatment
    Strep throat has to be treated, not only because it is contagious, but also because if left untreated, it could be dangerous, causing rheumatic heart disease or an autoimmune disease. Pediatricians often prescribe regular antibiotics or even a strong antibiotic given as a shot in the office. Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help with fevers. Gargling with salt water and drinking warm drinks can help soothe the throat and relive some of the pain.
  • Prevention
    Try to not let little ones share drinks or food, as that’s a very quick way for another child to get strep throat. Keep the sick child or person isolated as not to spread the bacteria. Hand washing and keeping the house and living areas clean also helps with not spreading the strep bacteria.

3. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is very common in childhood. This is a contagious, viral disease, originating from the coxsackievirus. Symptoms include a pimple-like rash around the mouth, soles of the feet and on the palms of the hands. Sores can occur in the back of the throat causing pain, and most children will refuse to eat even their favorite foods. There will also be a low-grade fever, around 101 to 102 degrees.

  • Treatment
    Hand, foot, and mouth disease is most contagious during the first week, but can stay in the body for up to a month or longer. The virus is a self-limiting virus, meaning the body fights it on its own. Once the rash begins to scab over, usually after two to three days, it is safe for children to return to school or daycare. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be administered for the fever and mouth pain; popsicles, pudding, and ice cream can also help soothe the throat.
  • Prevention
    Hand, foot, and mouth is more prevalent in the summer months. Prevention includes hand washing with soap and warm water, wiping toys and play surfaces with disinfectant wipes or sprays, as well as trying to isolate the child from other children during the first few days of the illness.

4. Impetigo

Impetigo is a skin rash, seen commonly in preschool and school-aged children. The rash is caused when streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph) bacteria get into a cut or abrasion or an area that is already irritated, like under the nose after blowing it a lot. The rash causes sores that resemble blisters that ooze fluid and look crusty. There is no fever with impetigo, and the rash is contagious. Scratching can cause it to spread from one area to another.

  • Treatment
    Impetigo is typically treated with a prescription-strength local antibiotic ointment. If there are a lot of lesions, an oral antibiotic can be prescribed. There is no fever or pain typically associated with impetigo. Cool compresses can help relieve itching.
  • Prevention
    Impetigo is seen most commonly in early fall months. Keeping sports equipment clean (close-contact sports), hand washing, and keeping the lesions loosely covered are all ways to help prevent the spread of impetigo.

5. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Conjunctivitis, commonly called pink eye, occurs when the eye conjunctiva, clear tissue lying over the white of the eye, becomes inflamed. There are two types of pink eye, infectious (either bacterial or viral) or non-infectious (due to allergies). The infectious type of pink eye is a common illness in younger children. Symptoms include redness and discharge in one or both of the eyes, and sometimes swelling of the eyes and eyelids.

  • Treatment
    A physician can determine what type of pink eye it is, and according to the type, can prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Viral conjunctivitis is self-limiting, and the body will heal itself of that type. Warm or cool compresses can be used to relieve swelling or any eye pain.
  • Prevention
    Pink eye is contagious, so precaution should be used to not spread the illness. Hand washing and reducing hand-to-hand contact with others while infected are both important in reducing the spread of the bacteria or virus. Pink eye can last a week or longer, and can still be contagious even after beginning drops or ointment. KM
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Katy, TX (March 10, 2017) – Has the “stomach bug” hit your household? It might be the highly contagious Norovirus. Read on for some information and tips from Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus.

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes acute gastroenteritis. Following introduction of rotavirus vaccination, norovirus has become the most common cause of gastroenteritis in adults and children. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. It happens when a person’s stomach and intestines get infected with a virus. Both adults and children can get viral gastroenteritis. The Center for Disease Control estimates norovirus to be responsible for 19-21 million illnesses, including 50,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations as well as 570 to 800 child deaths every year in the U.S. alone. Anyone can get infected with norovirus and become sick.

How do kids contract it?

Your child can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting vomit or stool from infected people in their mouth. While that may sound weird, this usually happens by: consuming contaminated food or drink, touching contaminated surfaces or objects then putting fingers in the mouth or having contact with someone infected with norovirus. Typically, norovirus outbreaks happen when infected people spread the virus to others. Outbreaks can occur in numerous institutional settings including schools, child care centers and colleges because it lives on surfaces and is resistant to many common disinfectants.

Someone with norovirus is most contagious when they are sick and the first few days after they recover.

What are the symptoms of norovirus?

The most common symptoms of norovirus include; diarrhea, throwing up, nausea and stomach pain. Other symptoms can include; fever, headache and body aches.

These symptoms usually appear within 12 to 48 hours of being exposed to norovirus. For most people, norovirus illness is not serious and they get better in one to three days. A person may become extremely ill and throw up or experience diarrhea multiple times a day which can lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include; decreased urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up. Young children who are dehydrated may cry with fewer tears and usually are sleepy and fussy.

How do you treat norovirus?

Unfortunately, there is no specific medicine to treat people infected with the norovirus illness. Norovirus cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is a viral – not bacterial – infection. If your child has the norovirus illness have them drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from throwing up and diarrhea to help prevent dehydration.

What’s the best way to prevent Norovirus?

These tips will help protect you and your child from norovirus.

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before eating, preparing or handling food and especially after changing diapers or using the restroom.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly before preparing or consuming them.
  • Do not prepare foods or care for others when you are sick and for at least two days after symptoms stop.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. You should handle soiled items carefully by wearing gloves and washing your hands after.
  • Clean and disinfect any surfaces thought to be contaminated.
    • The CDC recommends using a chlorine bleach solutions with a concentration of 1000-5000 ppm; about 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water.
Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus and Dr. Stan Spinner
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Katy, TX (March 9, 2017) – Everybody loves a freebie now and then. We’ve tracked down all the places in Katy to get a free product, service, or meal. Take a look!


Applebee’s – Get one free birthday entree.

Arby’s – Diners get a free small shake with any purchase on their birthday.

Auntie Anne’s – One free birthday pretzel.

A&W Restaurants – Get a free root bear float on your big day.

Baskin Robbins – Get one 2.5 oz ice cream scoop on the house for your birthday.

BJ’s Restaurants – Birthday boys and girls get a free pizookie dessert.

Buffalo Wild Wings – Free snack-size wings.

Camp Bow Wow Katy  – All birthday dogs will get a free bath, a “Happy Birthday” bandanna, and a photo on their Facebook page. No credits – baths must be given on your dog’s birthday. (Dogs must pass all camp requirements.) Visit campbowwow.com.

Chuck E. Cheese – Birthdays get 100 free tickets.

CiCi’s Pizza – One free buffet with the purchase of an adult buffet and a regular drink.

Corner Bakery – A free cookie or bakery sweet.

Denny’s – Their Grand Slam Breakfast is free on your birthday.

Fuddrucker’s – $5 off your check, and kids receive free burgers on their birthday.

Great American Cookies – Get a slice of cookie cake at no charge with the purchase of a regular drink.

Grimaldi’s – Get a large, one-topping pizza for free on your birthday.

IHOP – Birthday diners get a free stack of Rooty Tooty Fresh N Fruity pancakes.

James Coney Island – Enjoy a cheese coney on the house on your birthday.

Jason’s Deli – Receive a $5 discount on your check.

La Madeleine – Get a free pastry on your special day.

Landry’s Seafood House – Choose from a complimentary appetizer or dessert with the purchase of an entree.

Marble Slab Creamery – Receive a free small cup or cone.

Marco’s Pizza – Anyone celebrating a birthday can get a free medium, one-topping pizza.

Nothing Bundt Cakes – Free Bundtlet cake on your birthday.

Olive Garden  – Get a free app or dessert with the purchase of two adult entrees.

Panera Bread – Get any bakery item at no charge on your birthday.

Rainforest Cafe  – Birthdays get a free appetizer with purchase of an entree.

RedBox Movie Rental – Complimentary Blu-Ray or DVD rental.

Red Lobster – Go in on your birthday and receive $5 your check with the purchase of two entrees.

Rita’s Italian Ice – Get a free regular Italian ice on your big day.

Schlotzky’s  – Redeem one free sandwich on your birthday.

Smashburger – Enjoy a hand-spun shake on the house with the purchase of an entree.

Smoothie King – Birthdays can purchase a 20 oz. smoothie for only $2.99.

Starbucks – Free hot or cold drink, bottled beverage, or food item on your birthday.

Taco Cabana – Birthdays get a free flauta plate that includes three chicken flautas, rice, beans, pico de gallo, sour crea,guacamole, and two tortillas.

Texas Roadhouse – Chow down on a free appetizer or sidekick of ribs with the purchase of an entree on your birthday.

Which Wich – Redeem a free small sandwich on your birthday.

Wing Stop – Enjoy a free order of large fries on the house.

Zaxby’s – Birthdays will receive a free Nibbler sandwich.

Zoe’s Kitchen – Enjoy a free entree on your special day.

NOTE: Please visit individual websites for more details – as most offers are valid only through e-mail subscriptions or app downloads. 


Barnes & Noble – Teachers get a 20% discount on qualifying purchases when they are a part of the B&N Educator Program.

Leafology Tea Lounge Katy – Katy ISD teachers and faculty will receive 25% off a menu item when they present a valid ID. Visit leafologytealounge.com.

McDonald’s – Katy ISD teachers and faculty will receive a free small McCafe coffee when they present their school ID during the 2016-2017 school year. (Participating locations – see our blogs page for details.)

Katy Budget Books  – Teachers will receive 20% off in-store pick-up or school delivery when they order new books for their classrooms. They also have a Used Book Credit Account that has been donated to public school teachers for the purchase of used books for the classroom. Visit katybooks.com.

Michael’s – Teachers can get 15% their entire in-store purchase.

Peter Chang Restaurant – Katy ISD teachers and faculty can receive 10-50% off in January and August. Visit peterchangtx.com.

Texas Roadhouse – Teachers can get 10% off their meal every Tuesday with a valid school ID.

Verum Vi CrossFit Katy – Full-time teachers and students receive 10% off of their membership.


24 Hour Fitness – Active, reserve, and retired military and dependents receive 10% off their membership, and free workouts on Memorial Day weekend.

A&W – Active military can present valid military ID for a special discount at their Katy store. Details vary by location.

Aeropostale – Active, retired, and reserve military and their dependents get 20% off their purchase at any store nationwide.

Anne Taylor Loft – The Katy Mills Mall location offers 15% off full-priced items for active, reserved, and retired military and their dependents.

AT&T – Active, reserve, and retired military as well as veterans will receive a 15% government discount with a valid military or VA ID. Veterans must show a copy of your DD214 at all Katy locations.

AutoZone – Offers free shipping for online orders for any FPO or APO address for active, retired, and reserve military. Check with individual Katy stores for additional military discount programs.

Banana Republic – Their Katy Mills location offers 10% off in-store purchases on the first Monday of every month for active, retiree, reserved, veterans, and dependents.

Bass Pro Shop – From the 15th to the 22nd of every month, active, retired, reserve, veterans, and dependents can receive a store-specific discount when they present active military ID or DD214. Discount does not include reels, electronics, firearms, ammunition and reloading equipment, scopes, bows, arrows, taxidermy, gift cards, Tracker boats, Mercury motors, or ATV’s.

Camp Bow Wow – All military personnel receive 10% off all boarding and day camps, and 5% off of retail services. Just show proof of employment for the discount to be applied. (Dogs must pass all camp requirements.) Visit campbowwow.com.

Country Park Portraits– Active military personnel can receive a complimentary portrait session and 8 x 10 photo when they present a military ID.

Eddie Bauer – Active, retired, and reserve military and their families can receive 10 – 15% off in-store purchases. Must ask about veteran discounts at your location.

El Pollo Loco – Military service members receive 15% off of their order.

Goodwill – Offers 30% discounts to first-responders and their families every Friday.

Lowe’s Home Improvement – They offer a 10% military discount to active military, retired veterans, and immediate family. Must present a valid DD214 or other proof of service. Personal purchases only.

Michael’s – Military and immediate family can receive 15% off their entire in-store purchase when they present a valid military ID.

Peter Chang Restaurant – Police officers can get discounts in  April and October, family members of military in the month of May, and firefighters (regular, volunteer, and family) in the month of September. Discounts range from 10 – 50 percent and valid occupation ID is required. Visit peterchangtx.com.

Texas Roadhouse – Military members get 30% off their meal every day.

Verum Vi CrossFit Katy – Police, firefighters, EMT, and active military receive 15% off of their membership. Veterans receive 10% off of their membership.

WellPet Center Veterinary Hospital – Pets of active or veteran military and public service members get 15% off of their service.

Applebee’s – Diners aged 60 and up can get 10 to 15% off their meal at certain locations.

Burger King – Ages 60+ receive 10% off their order plus additional discounts on coffee and soft drinks.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill – AARP members get 15% off their entire meal.

Denny’s – Most locations offer 15% AARP members who are 55 and older.

Dunkin’ Donuts – AARP members get a free donut with the purchase of a large or extra large coffee.

El Pollo Loco – Seniors 60 and over receive 10% off their order.

Fuddrucker’s – Get 10% any senior platter if you are over 55 years old.

IHOP – They offer special pricing on breakfast items for diners over 55.

Office Depot/Office Max – AMAC members get 10% off office products.

Stein Mart – Shoppers over the age of 55 get 20% every Monday.

Please call to verify these deals and offers, as some vary by location or require an app download or coupon to redeem. 
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Katy, TX (February 27, 2017) – Parker Brown, a 5-year-old Katy boy with hydrocephalus who loves cars and blowing bubbles, shows others that living with a disease can’t stop him from enjoying life.

Written by Lana Timbs | Select photography by Christi Harwell
KM_Feb March_17_Parker Brown Story_photos by Christie Hartwell (4) copy


The path of life is different for every family, with unique plans for everyone. A big part of the Brown family plan was revealed over five years ago, when Dave and Leah Brown found out they were going to be the parents of a very special little boy.

At Leah’s 20-week ultrasound, where doctors commonly check the anatomy of the growing baby inside the mom, it showed that Parker had an excess of fluid in his brain, a condition called congenital hydrocephalus. The fluid surrounding Parker’s brain was not allowing his brain to grow as a normal one would, and was causing great damage. Fluid was pushing his brain to the outside of his skull, making the brain appear almost non-existent.

Parker Mason Brown was born at 36 weeks on September 16, 2011 via C-section. Two days after his birth, Parker had his first brain surgery, where the doctors removed two pounds of fluid, and inserted a brain shunt. A shunt is a device with tubing that allows the cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to flow out through a tube down to the abdomen where the fluid is absorbed back into the body. Parker’s first shunt was placed at the back of his skull, near his neck area.

Parker was at Texas Children’s Hospital in the care of the NICU for 16 days following his birth. “Saying that now, it sounds very short, only 16 days, but when you are going through all of that, those days feel like a lifetime,” says Leah. Leah and Dave learned how to feed baby Parker through the use of a feeding tube enabling them to bring him home.

KM_Feb March_17_Parker Brown Story_personal photos
Photo courtesy of the Brown family

Getting Through as a Family
A side effect of hydrocephalus is epilepsy, and at 3 months old, Parker began having seizures. His seizures, controlled with a daily medication, usually occur now when he outgrows his dosage. “You learn to deal with it and how to handle it,” says Leah, as this is just part of her everyday life.

At 6 months, his brain shunt failed. Shunt failure is very common, and Parker had a second brain surgery to receive a new one placed near the front, right side of his head. When Leah discusses the shunt and the procedure, little Parker will reach to the top of his head and feel for it. He doesn’t mind if others see and touch it; he’s even proud to show off the scars on his neck and abdomen.

KM_Feb March_17_Parker Brown Story_personal photos (8)
Photo courtesy of the Brown family


Living Life
Currently, Parker attends a PPCD (preschool program for children with disabilities) in Katy. He has a daily routine and seems to love school. Leah and Dave want Parker to be around other children his age because he rarely is and interacts mostly with adults. When asked what his favorite part of school is, Parker says, “riding the school bus,” which makes sense, as Parker is infatuated with cars and garages. He loves to go for rides around the neighborhood, and different neighbors will swing by to take him for a ride. Parker says shyly, “My favorite car is a Corolla.” He loves them so much that a Corolla even made his Christmas list!

Parker works with physical therapists to build up his weaker muscles, on applied behavior therapy for life skills, and occupational therapy for motor skills. Parker is about the size of his little sister Emery who is 2 years old. Leah says that Emery and Parker are starting to interact some, and Emery has a sense that Parker is not typical. She often lends him a hand with things; for example, when they are playing with bubbles. Parker has a tremor with his arm and hand so sometimes it is hard for him to hold the bubble wand, so Emery will help her brother out.

KM_Feb March_17_Parker Brown Story_photos by Christie Hartwell (1) copy

The Most Loving Boy
Sweet and cuddly definitely describe Parker. He loves to touch, feel, and be loved on. Leah recalls a time when they were out shopping, waiting to check out, and Parker reached out and started rubbing on another shopper’s behind. “It is quite embarrassing. People look at us as if we are crazy because my son is rubbing on them. They don’t realize that he doesn’t know not to do that to strangers,” says Leah.

In the words of Leah, “Parker is truly one-of-a-kind, no one in the world is like him.” She means that literally, as no one in the world has the same amount or type of brain damage as Parker. KM

LANA TIMBS is an Aggie and mother of two who loves spending time with family and friends.

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Katy, TX (February 20, 2017) – Childhood cancer survivor and Seven Lakes High School graduate, Samantha Loos-Polk, goes back to where it all began.

Written by Anna-Catherine Rose | Select Photography by John Glaser


The afternoon Samantha Loos-Polk was training at the gym was like any other. In preparation for an upcoming Taekwondo tournament, the then 13-year-old freshman at Seven Lakes High School and second-degree black belt was performing strength and conditioning training. But when she swung a dumbbell as part of a squat exercise, she immediately felt pain in her back and knew something wasn’t right. The events that followed, and the diagnosis that awaited her, would change the course of her life forever.

KM_Feb March_17_Samantha Loos-Polk_Photos by John Glaser (5) copy

More Than a Routine Injury
Aside from sore muscles following her injury, Samantha was also unusually fatigued. Accustomed to a rigorous schedule with her studies, choir, and martial arts, she suddenly wasn’t able to keep up. “I was exhausted all the time, and it was difficult to walk from class to class,” she remembers. She also began to develop bruises on her legs, along with tiny red spots on her wrists and eventually throughout her body.

Concerned and on a mission for answers, she and her parents, Margaret Loos-Polk and James Polk, visited a battery of doctors, and she eventually underwent blood tests. Around 4 a.m. the morning after her tests, Margaret received a call instructing them to take Samantha to a hospital immediately. Her platelets were extremely low, so much so she could have bled to death.

Samantha and Binx

The Diagnosis
Samantha was eventually taken to Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH). It was here, in room one on the ninth floor of the West Tower, her symptoms were given an official name: acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She soon underwent 10 days of intensive chemotherapy. And while the treatment effectively fought the cancer, it wreaked havoc on her immune system.

When Samantha was eventually released, she was very weak and in constant pain. A few days after being home, she developed a fever and was rushed back to the hospital. After a series of tests, doctors determined she had acquired a rare type of fungal infection called Fusarium. It was prevalent in her blood, in and around her lungs, kidneys, left eye, and skin. From here, Samantha endured eight eye and four nose surgeries over the course of a nine-month stay at TCH. To date, she is the longest-known survivor of this type of infection.

KM_Feb March_17_Samantha Loos-Polk_Photos by John Glaser (8) copy

Destiny Determined
Samantha’s journey nurtured a passion within her to help others with similar obstacles. So inspired by the level of care she received from the nurses at TCH, she set her mind on achieving a nursing degree, with a specialty in pediatric oncology, from University of St. Thomas. She reflects, “I knew I wanted to pursue a career that made a difference in people’s lives prior to my diagnosis, but I didn’t know what exactly that would look like until I survived cancer and the fungal infection. From that point on, I knew the superhero I wanted to be was a nurse.”

And now, from the very place she was diagnosed and treated, the ninth floor of the West Tower of TCH, she cares for and comforts young patients facing cancer. “I know I can help others in their battle because of my personal understanding of what they’re going through. My unique perspective enables me to treat patients holistically and ensure their families are provided much needed support,” she says.

When asked about her greatest source of encouragement during her toughest times, she credits her parents, who were by her side every minute of every day. She is also grateful for several organizations that ministered to both her and her family, including Harley’s Helpers Angel Ministry, Snowdrop Foundation, and B.I.G. Love Cancer Care. These groups supplied parking tokens, gas and gift cards, groceries, laundry baskets, blankets, and regular visits. In fact, Samantha was awarded three scholarships from two of these organizations.

Ryleigh and Sam at BIG Love Cancer Run

The Path Ahead
Samantha is now a five-year cancer survivor. She undergoes yearly checkups at TCH, along with regular assessments by her ophthalmologist. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and boyfriend, Ryleigh; snuggling with her cat, Binx; reading; and watching movies. She also serves as co-secretary of St. Thomas’ Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society.

Her story is one of struggle, determination, perseverance, and triumph. It’s also a poignant reminder that adversity, when met with hope and a fighting spirit, can be an unexpected but most impactful teacher. KM

ANNA-CATHERINE ROSE lives in Katy and is a firm believer that struggle is what connects us and is always accompanied by a purpose.

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Katy, TX (February 13, 2017) – Valentine’s Day has become a holiday filled with lots of candy and treats. Try to take the focus away from all of the candy this year by making some delicious and healthy treats with your children instead! Red fruits like strawberries, cherries, pomegranates and raspberries are natural ingredients for Valentine’s Day treats. Frozen fruits are a good substitute if you can’t find a fresh alternative and will work in many of the recipes below.

Here are some recipes you and your children can make and enjoy at home:

  • Yogurt Granola Parfaits* – Making a yogurt granola parfait is a great way to start the day! Use a variety of red fruits for a pretty, layered Valentine’s Day look.
  • Fruity Greek Yogurt Popsicles – These simple cool treats can be made quickly and are a family favorite in my house.
  • Wild Berry Blast Smoothie Bowl – Looking for a fun twist on smoothies? Try a smoothie bowl – there are so many different pairings to choose from! The linked blog post includes a free e-book filled with fun, kid-friendly smoothie bowl recipes, as well as adult coloring pages. How fun is that?!
  • Mini Heart-Shaped Lemon Chia Cheesecakes – I love mini desserts since they are perfectly portioned, and this fun recipe is no exception!

Have your children help make these treats to “share the love” with family and friends:

  • Chocolate Cherry Avocado Muffins – This is still one of my favorite muffin recipes! The muffins are delicious, and they contain several heart-healthy ingredients.
  • Apple Peanut Butter Pops* – These are a fun alternative to cake pops and, when cut into a heart shape, can serve as the perfect Valentine treat. Use soy butter or sunflower butter in place of the peanut butter if nut allergies are a concern.
  • Heart-Shaped Graham Crackers – Have you ever tried to make your own graham crackers?
    It is easier than you might think. Spread with cream cheese and strawberry slices for a fun snack.
  • Sweet and Salty Pretzels* – Chocolate-dipped pretzels are simple and fun to make. They are a great way to balance a little sugar with a slightly healthier option. Wrap them in a festive goody bag to share with friends!

*Based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, certain foods like nuts, seeds, hard pretzels, etc. may pose choking or allergy risks for children under the age of 4. Please consult your child’s pediatrician before serving these foods to children under age 4.

Courtesy of Primrose Schools 
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Katy, TX January 17, 2017

Models don’t just live in Milan, Paris, or New York. There are stunning and talented models who were raised or live right here in Katy.

Written by Lacey Kupfer Wulf 

Modeling is not an easy profession. It comes with harsh criticism, working long hours in uncomfortable clothing or weather, and demanding bosses. These five beautiful girls and women share how to look past the hard stuff and revel in the spotlight of being a top model.

Legendary Model
Tatiana LaBello, formerly Tatiana Anderson, is a model with ambition. By age 9, she had over 150 trophies in modeling, beauty pageants, dance, pep squad, cheerleading, and baton twirling. She even taught aerobics classes in Katy at age 14. After graduating from Katy High School, LaBello became a professional cheerleader for three major sports teams: the NFL Denver Broncos, the NBA Houston Rockets, and the USFL Houston Gamblers; wrote a fitness book, and received many fitness pageant titles.


KM Dec Jan 16_Katys Top Models_Tatianna Anderson (16)
Photography by Michael Helms

Her greatest claim to fame, however, is being the host of ESPN’s top-rated fitness show Kiana’s Flex Appeal. She  also hosted a lifestyle show with Robin Leach on CBS and was interviewed on extra, Inside Edition, and appeared in episodes of Friends, Baywatch, and She Spies. Now, as a healthy lifestyle coach and owner of LaBello Lifestyle, she has relocated to Houston to be closer to family. She says, “True beauty comes from the inside. We need to work equally on the inside, mentally and spiritually, as much as the outside.”

On a Whim 
When Amy Gonzales heard about a casting call for a local Houston magazine, JMG Magazine, she decided to try out. She says, “I was so nervous when I walked in and saw so many tall, beautiful girls who knew exactly what they were doing.” Despite her lack of modeling experience, she was chosen and was shooting outdoors in 100-degree weather two weeks later. “It was quite the warm welcome to the industry!” she says.

Dec Jan 17 _ Katys Top Models_ Amy Gonzalez (6)
Photography by Francesca Murray

Since that first experience, she has modeled for JCPenney, Paul Mitchell, Mary Kay, and local designers in Houston and Dallas. Gonzales says, “Every job is different which is so fun for me! It doesn’t feel like work when you’re having fun doing it.”

Defying Standards
Like many little girls, Brianna Key grew up with a dream to participate in pageants and be in magazines. Although she did some modeling as a child, her career really started at age 12 after appearing in ads for Wimpy’s Hamburgers in downtown Houston, and participating in music video pilots for the Disney Channel. She is a former Texans Cheerleader and has won Miss USA titles like Miss Texas Continental and has modeled for Sierra Pacific Bridal and Cane Island.

Dec Jan 17 _ Katys Top Models_ Brianna Key 5_Photo by Arthur Garcia
Photography by Arthur Garcia

In her work, Key has been told that she is too short or not good enough to be a model. “Once I step outside that room, I have to realize who I am and be proud of who I am. I can’t control what I look like, but I’ve come pretty far. I have defied standards,” she says. “I’m good enough for myself, and that’s what matters.” At age 25, she now owns her own business, Key Designs, and takes modeling opportunities as they arise.

Born with a Talent
At 9 months old, Kyrie McAlpin danced on top of the table when her great-grandmother played music and acted out songs she listened to. She says, “I was born with that natural talent. I love modeling, acting, and dancing.” After attending Drama Kids Camp and taking acting and modeling classes with the Neal Hamil agency, Kyrie’s career has taken off. Her credentials include Academy Sports and Outdoors weekly ads, a Nationwide Insurance commercial, and a Macy’s showcase.

Dec Jan 16_Katys Top Models_ Kyrie McAlpin (11)_photo by Debbie Porter
Photography by Debbie Porter

Five-year-old Kyrie’s mom, Kadene says, “Be yourself and get as much training as possible. You can never have enough.” Although Kyrie occasionally travels for gigs, including to California to play a young Mary in a Mary J. Blige music video, she and her family live in Katy for the amazing schools.

A Young Pro
Unlike most toddlers, who often fight standing still for pictures, 3-year-old Cami Valverde loves having her picture taken. Her mother Patty says, “She sees a camera, and she starts posing, and she loves to look at the pictures to see how they came out after we are done.” Cami started modeling clothes and headbands for small clothing shops at just 9 months old.

Dec Jan 16_Katys Top Models_ Camila Valverde (19)_Photo by Tia Ray
Photography by Tia Ray

Her pictures have been printed in magazines like Semana News, Magnificent Magazine, Big City Kids, and Stylish Milk Magazine. She is also on Instagram for brands like Cherokee, Munchkin, and Igloo Coolers. Patty says, “She is so free-spirited, so I think her poses are always fun and different with a little bit of sass.” KM

LACEY KUPFER WULF is a wife, mother of twin toddler boys, and a freelance writer.

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Katy, TX (January 10, 2017) It’s no secret that young children are full of natural energy, and it’s often more difficult getting them to sit still than be active. But did you know that the amount of time children spend daily being physically active is decreasing? Despite children’s active nature, it’s still important for parents to encourage and support their physical development starting from birth. Research shows that children who develop basic motor skills through physical activity are more likely to become healthy, active adults, and there is increasing evidence that daily physical activity helps children perform better academically and avoid anxiety and depression in their teenage years.

 “At Primrose Schools, we believe children’s physical development is as important as their intellectual, creative and social-emotional growth,” says Lou Ann McLaughlin, Franchise Owner of Primrose School of Woodcreek Reserve. “Through our exclusive Balanced Learning® approach, we’re able to help children build important physical skills as they’re developmentally ready through a combination of purposeful free play and meaningful, age-appropriate activities.”

As part of the Balanced Learning approach, children at Primrose School engage in physical activity each day through the Thumbs Up!® program. Through Thumbs Up!, children practice proper techniques for movement, balance and motor skills through fun exercises like running, hopping, throwing, catching, bouncing and more. Thumbs Up! balances structured, teacher-guided games and skill development with free play, which helps children develop physically and psychologically. Studies show that children exert themselves more during free play and learn essential life skills like decision-making, problem-solving, creativity and self-control as they exercise their curiosity and explore their environment. Even infants develop physical coordination and build early motor skills through group play, games and exercise.

Thumbs Up! activities are brought to life by the Primrose School teaching staff, who participate in all activities and encourage children throughout the lessons. The Primrose approach to physical development also follows the highest professional standards and guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice developed by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the Council for Physical Education for Children (COPEC).

“Study after study shows us that developing healthy habits in young children leads to active, healthy adults,” says Lou Ann McLaughlin. “By building the right foundation, all children can develop the fundamental physical skills needed for lifelong health. We love partnering with parents and working together to create excitement for physical activity in young children, because we know we are planting the seeds for a brighter future.”

For more helpful parenting tips and information, visit our blog at www.PrimroseSchools.com/blog and sign up for the Pointers for Parents newsletter.

Courtesy of Primrose School of Woodcreek Reserve
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Katy, TX – December 27, 2016 All are welcome to try the facilities at any YMCA in the Greater Houston area!

At the Y, they can help you design a wellness routine that promotes positive improvements in your health and wellness. Become a part of something that nourishes the soul, strengthens your muscles, and keeps you motivated.

Members say that they feel like part of a family at the Y, and that sense of support keeps them motivated, holds them accountable and helps them attain their goals without giving up. From the greeter at the front desk who knows your name, to fellow exercisers in the locker room who make sure you won’t miss a workout, to a friend on the treadmill keeping you company as you burn calories, the Y is a place that makes working out fun.

What’s more, research from the Journal of Preventative Medicine and the Journal of Behavioral Medicine suggests that a support system helps people better adhere to their workout goals.

This is a one-day event on January 7th, and you are not going to want to miss it!

Courtesy of YMCA of Greater Houston
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Katy, TX – December 22, 2016 Fourth graders at Griffin Elementary gave the gift of warmth, and advice, to newborns and their mothers at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital. The students knitted caps for the newborns and wrote letters to the parents, offering “words of wisdom”. It’s a part of their “Caps for Cubs” program.  Women who give birth at Memorial Hermann Katy will have the opportunity to take home the caps and letters over the next few weeks.


Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital
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Katy, TX – December 12, 2016  Children who bite others cause a great deal of concern for the parents. The parents of the child who has been bitten are also usually very concerned about infection. Biting is an unacceptable behavior that needs to be stopped at an early age to prevent it from happening again.

Why young children bite

Biting is fairly common in young children, and it is often worrisome to adults. A family member, playmate, or classmate at daycare or preschool may be the one bitten. Biting can be painful and frightening when it happens. It upsets other children and often angers teachers and other adults.

Biting is usually caused by 1 of 4 different factors, including the following:

Experimental biting

Experimental biting is done by infants and toddlers as they explore their world. They put everything in their mouths and sometimes bite in the process. You can help decrease biting by telling them, “No—biting hurts!” and being firm. Offer them things that they can safely bite on such as teething rings.

Frustration biting

Frustration biting happens when young children become frustrated and unable to cope with a situation. Until they learn how to play cooperatively, they may respond to the demands of other children by hitting or biting. Some helpful guidelines for decreasing this type of biting include:

  • Keep playtimes short and groups small.
  • Supervise young children’s play closely. Try to recognize frustration and intervene before the biting happens.
  • If biting happens, say, “No, don’t bite. Biting hurts.” and remove your child from the situation right away. Stay with your child and help him or her to calm down. Explore other, better ways to handle the situation with your child, so he or she learns to handle emotions differently next time.

Powerless biting

Powerless biting happens when a child is in need of feeling powerful. Sometimes, the youngest child in the family uses biting to gain power. To help prevent this type of biting:

  • Make sure your child feels protected and is not always being “picked on” by others.
  • Explain the situation to bigger or older children and get their help to make things more equal.
  • If biting happens, tell your child that he or she is not to bite and remove him or her from the situation right away. Stay with your child and help him or her to calm down. Explore other, better ways to handle the situation with your child, so he or she learns to handle emotions differently next time.

Stressful biting

Stressful biting is done when a child is under a lot of emotional stress. Biting may be a sign of distress or pain when the child is upset or angry. If this occurs:

  • Try to find out what is bothering your child. Watch for what happens right before the biting happens.
  • Help your child to find other ways to express his or her feelings. Let him or her know that biting is wrong and remove him or her from the situation right away.

If your child bites, respond firmly, but calmly, to the biting. Let your child know that you disapprove and remove him or her from the situation. Help your child learn new ways to handle things. If your child bites repeatedly, be sure to talk with your child’s healthcare provider about the problem.

What do I do if my child is biting others?

While every child is different, the following are some recommendations that may be used to help with the child who bites:

  • Be firm. Tell your child that you will not accept biting and why. Tell him or her biting hurts others.
  • Offer another behavior the child may use instead of biting. If the child bites because he or she is angry, have the child come to you and tell you this instead. A child who is younger than 18 months may need a toy that is allowed to be chewed on.
  • If you catch your child biting, use a firm “no” to stop the behavior, or try to stop the child before the biting actually happens.
  • Use time-out if your child bites, or take away a favorite toy or activity.
  • Do not bite your child for biting someone else. This teaches your child that biting is still acceptable. Do not bite your child in a playful manner, as this might teach him or her to bite others.
  • Give praise when your child does not bite.
Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital
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Katy, TX – December 16, 2016 It’s the season of giving and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) is getting in the spirit by unveiling a new installment in the Rick Smith Gallery entitled The Ultimate Gift. The latest installation highlights the importance of organ donation through the portraits of organ donors, donor families and recipients. Gratitude, sacrifice and hope can be seen in the eyes, smiles and embraces of those photographed, who all share one thing in common: their lives have been forever changed by the ultimate gift – the gift of life.

The Ultimate Gift was a deeply personal project for all those involved, including local photographer Troy Fields who captured all of the moving images for the gallery. Fields’ 7-year-old daughter, Abby, will likely need a lifesaving liver transplant in the future. A self-portrait of Fields with his daughter is featured in the installation.

“When I was 10 years old, I was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis, which required a liver transplant,” said Tyree Hunter, who is also featured in the gallery. “Now, 20 years later, I work as a surgical technologist assisting with transplants here at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. It really has come full circle. I hope that people are able to see these photos and realize the importance of organ donation, and how it has an effect on the lives of so many different people.”

The Rick Smith Gallery, which was funded through employee contributions to the annual employee campaign several years ago, was created in memory of Rick Smith, the late director of Chaplaincy Services at Memorial Hermann-TMC who understood the importance of healing the body, mind and soul. Located near the main lobby of Memorial Hermann-TMC in the Hermann atrium, it is open to all employees, patients and visitors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is the gallery’s ninth installment since it opened in 2012. Previous exhibitions have featured a tribute to the late Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr.; paintings, photographs, mixed media and sculptures by physicians and hospital employees; professional photographic images of the Campus’ beloved therapy pets; hand-drawn portraits of caregivers by pediatric patients; Holocaust Museum Houston’s Butterfly Project; and a history of Memorial Hermann Life Flight®.

Watch the behind-the-scenes video that takes a look at how the project came together, and sign up to become an organ donor today.

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital
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Katy, TX – December 7, 2016

Cox Media Group Houston stations – including The Eagle (106.9 and 107.5), Country Legends (97.1) and The New 93Q (92.9) – hosted a two-day live event at Texas Children’s Hospital in December which helped raise more than $655,00. These critical funds will help benefit patient care, education and research at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the building of a new pediatric tower in the medical center for the most critically ill children, and the opening of a community hospital in North Houston – Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands.

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Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital
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Katy, TX – December 7, 2016

Patients at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Texas Medical Center now have access to hands-on music therapy thanks to a multiple guitar donation from Joan Holst and Michael Fuller, of Fuller’s Guitar, a guitar store located in Houston’s Greater Heights. Fuller and Holst were inspired to make the donation by their friend, Paul Jardell, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment at the Center. The guitars will be available as a musical diversion for patients to play while they receive treatment. They will also be used by the Center’s music therapy support group.


“It’s important to me that the patients are engaged in the music, not just by listening, but by participating,” said Maegan Morrow, music therapist with TIRR Memorial Hermann, who also dedicates some of her time to Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-TMC. “By picking up a guitar during long treatments, it can be a distraction that puts the brain in a more positive state. Some patients might already know how to play guitar, but now we have the resources if someone wants to learn as well. We are so grateful to Fuller’s Guitar for their generous gift.”

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital


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Katy, TX (November 22, 2016) According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more people die every year from lung cancer than of breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital are encouraging people to be screened for lung cancer.

“Current and former smokers are at a higher risk for having lung cancer. Unfortunately, those who grew up around smokers are also at a higher risk for developing lung cancer. As with all cancers, early detection is key to fighting the disease successfully,” says Qi-Ming Zhu, D.O., a pulmonary and critical care specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Katy.

The ACS recommends the following guidelines for lung cancer screening:

  • 55 to 77 years old
  • Have at least a 30 pack-a-year smoking history
  • Are still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
  • Have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer

“People often ask why the screening is done on people with no signs of lung cancer. Often, issues like coughing, wheezing, and chest pain will prompt a person to have the condition evaluated by a physician, who may recommend other tests. For those without symptoms, a low-dose CT scan is a good way to detect lung cancer before they start showing symptoms,” added Dr. Zhu.

A low-dose CT (LDCT) scan provides more detailed pictures than a chest x-ray and uses a lower amount of radiation than a standard chest CT. It does not require the use of intravenous contrast dye.

“People should also be aware that a low-dose CT scan may also find other abnormalities in the body that may need to be checked out, but may not be cancer. Do your research and make sure the facility and physicians have experience in lung cancer screening and that they follow the recommendations from the American Cancer Society,” says Dr. Zhu.

Several Memorial Hermann facilities, including Memorial Hermann Katy, offer low-dose CT scans for patients who fit the necessary criteria and have an order from a referring physician. You can learn more about the screening here.

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann
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Katy, TX – November 16, 2016 The West Houston community is invited to join Houston Methodist West surgeons and the Girl Scouts for a hands-on demonstration of the new da Vinci Xi surgical robot on Monday, Nov. 21 at 4 p.m. in the Houston Methodist West Sky Plaza. Houston Methodist West is the only facility in the Energy Corridor to acquire this latest piece of surgical technology.

During this one-hour event, we will explain the background of the da Vinci Xi robot and the impact it will have on minimally invasive surgeries. Attendees will then have a chance to use the robot to complete simple tasks, followed by a group Q&A.

“There is a constant transformation in technology surrounding surgery,” said Wayne Voss, chief executive officer of Houston Methodist West. “The da Vinci Xi is a great example of how we are committed to leading medicine in the West Houston and surrounding communities by providing the tools our surgeons need to deliver unparalleled safety, quality, growth and innovation.”

Robotic-assisted surgery is a minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery that uses a robotic interface to control surgical instruments. With this specially designed system, the surgeon gets a magnified, three-dimensional view of the surgical area and is able to maneuver instruments more precisely during complex and delicate procedures.

At Houston Methodist West, our specially trained and credentialed surgeons are leaders in robotic surgery. Since its introduction a few years ago, robotic surgery has been used in thousands of procedures, proving its safety and effectiveness. Patients benefit from the least invasive, safest surgical treatment for even the most complex conditions. Compared to open surgery, robotic-assisted surgery results in less trauma to the body, less risk of infection, less blood loss and need for blood transfusions, significantly less pain and scarring, shorter hospital stay, and faster recovery and return to normal activities.

Please RSVP at events.houstonmethodist.org/DaVinciXi to try your hand at the new da Vinci Xi surgical robot.


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Katy, TX – November 16, 2016

The 41,000 square-foot YMCA at Katy Main Street will feature strength training and cardio equipment, group exercise rooms, a basketball gym, an outdoor heated swimming pool, child watch rooms, cycle studio and gathering areas where members can meet for coffee. It will offer health and wellness activities, aquatics, youth sports, afterschool care, summer day camp, summer sports clinics, teen programs, senior activities and more.

“A lot of thought went into the design of this new facility. We’ve used best practice concepts from Ys across the country,” said Brian Haines, district executive director at the YMCA of Greater Houston. “We hope many people will take advantage of the new membership incentive so they can gain access to both Ys in Katy as well as in the Greater Houston area.”

The $12 million center is expected to accommodate the growing population of Katy, serving residents in west and north Katy and in neighboring communities.

The YMCA at Katy Main Street is expected to receive more than 400,000 visits a year. It will provide approximately $250,000 in community assistance and program/membership scholarships and create more than 200 area jobs.


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Katy, Tx – November 9, 2016    Written by Dr. Erica Wang, Texas Children’s Pediatrics – Grand Parkway

For many parents, fever is one of the most concerning and alarming symptoms a child can have. There are many scary fever myths out there – and it’s time to set the record straight! To many pediatricians, fever is considered a good sign that the body is mounting a response to an infection.

Here are my top five fever myths and facts:

Myth #1: Temperatures between 98.7°F and 100°F (37.1°C to 37.8°C) are low-grade fevers.
Fact: These temperatures are actually normal variations and are not fevers. The body’s temperature changes throughout the day and is naturally higher in the afternoon and evening.

An actual fever is any temperature of 100.4°F or higher.

Myth #2: Fevers are bad, can cause brain damage or seizures and are dangerous to my child.
Fact: Fevers are a protective mechanism and a sign that the body’s immune system is turned on. Most fevers are good for sick children and help the body fight infection. Fevers do not cause brain damage.

As for seizures, the vast majority (96 percent) of children do not have seizures with a fever. About 4 percent of children can have a seizure with a fever – this is called a febrile seizure. Febrile seizures are scary to watch, but they usually stop within five minutes. They do not cause brain damage or have long-term side effects. Children who have had febrile seizures are not at greater risk for developmental delays or learning disabilities.

Myth #3: All fevers need to be treated with fever medicine (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen). After treatment, the fever should go away completely.
Fact: Fevers need to be treated only if the child is uncomfortable. For young children, that usually means fevers over 102°F or 103°F (39°C or 39.4°C). With treatment, fevers usually come down 2°F or 3°F (1.1°C or 1.7°C) but may not go away completely. There is no harm in not treating a fever.

Myth #4: The exact number of the temperature is very important. If the fever is high, the cause is serious.
Fact: How your child looks is what’s important, not the exact temperature. If the fever is high, the cause may or may not be serious. If your child looks very well, the cause is likely to be less serious. One exception is in babies who are less than 3 months of age. They should always be seen by a health care provider right away if they have a fever because their immune systems are not fully developed. If it’s the weekend and your baby spikes a fever, it’s best to call your doctor’s office and take them to an urgent care.

Myth #5: If the fever doesn’t come down (if you can’t “break the fever”), the cause is serious.
Fact: Whether a fever comes down or not, is not related to the seriousness of the infection. The height of the fever and how long it lasts does not tell us whether it is caused by a virus or bacteria. What matters most is how your child looks.

Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital

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Katy, TX – October 27, 2016 364 golfers teed off at The 19th annual Bad Pants Open golf tournament at The Clubs of Kingwood recently, benefiting premature and critically ill babies at Texas Children’s Newborn Center, the largest neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the nation.

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The tournament will donate $375,000 to Texas Children’s Newborn Center, which will support research and advanced education for NICU providers and improve outcomes for the hospital’s tiniest patients.


The colorful tournament, presented by RBC Wealth Management and Capital Markets, is a lighthearted and fun day of golf where the best prizes are awarded for how “bad” players look, not just how well they play! This year’s tournament, chaired by Rob Cooksey, vice president of Texas Aromatics, featured prizes for the baddest pants as well NICU nurse of the year, awarded to Crystal Cruz. Becca Schiff, assistant clinical director of nursing for the Newborn Center, gave a speech about the impact funds from The Bad Pants Open have on babies born prematurely or critically-ill. Her own twins were born at 24 weeks gestation weighing just over a pound each. The two year olds are now thriving due to the great care they received in the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital.

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Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital


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Katy, TX – October 19, 2016  Halloween arrived early for hundreds of Houston area families on Sunday as Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital celebrated a record-high turnout for its 6th annual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) reunion.

Decked out in Halloween costumes, more than 900 NICU graduates and their families flocked to the Houston Zoo to reunite with their caregivers and enjoy a festive autumn morning of pumpkin decorating and carnival games.


“Every year, the NICU reunion is a much-anticipated event for our physicians, nurses and other members of the care team who look forward to the opportunity to re-connect with patients they haven’t seen in months or even years in some cases,” said Nicole Francis, clinical director of neonatal services at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “It’s always so rewarding to see the tremendous progress these children make once they graduate from our care. Nothing brings me more fulfillment than seeing their smiles and witnessing their joy.”

In addition to the many fun-filled activities and a free pass into Houston Zoo Boo 2016, the NICU reunion had a special treat this year that delighted the crowd, both young and old. Curious George®, the timeless storybook monkey who now has his own popular animated television show, made a surprise appearance as part of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital’s ongoing sponsorship of PBS KIDS on Houston Public Media.

“The kids were beyond excited to meet Curious George and have their photo taken with their favorite PBS character,” Francis said. “We are proud to play our role in helping support such a cherished community partner that has made it a mission to foster literacy and educational development in children across the Houston area.”

See more photos of the Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital NICU reunion.

Courtesy of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital


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Katy, TX – October 11, 2016 Recently, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses at Texas Children’s Hospital were celebrated for the care they provide to the hospital’s tiniest and most critically-ill babies. The nurses wore “bad pants” decorated with bright, colorful adornments in the spirit of the Bad Pants Open, an annual golf tournament that raises funds to support research and advanced education for NICU providers at Texas Children’s. Houston media personalities acted as “bad pants” judges, checking out each nurse’s bad pants and awarding the top three designs with hand-painted commemorative plates created by hospital patients.

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The colorful celebration also included remarks from Becca and Mike Schiff, whose twins Elliot and Jonah were born at just 24 weeks gestation, weighing 1 pound, 6 ounces each. They were given a 25% chance of survival, but against the odds—and thanks to the specialized care they received in the NICU—Jonah and Elliott continued to grow stronger and are now thriving 2 year olds. Texas Children’s Hospital has the largest NICU in the nation and cares for more than 2,500 premature or critically-ill babies per year.

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Proceeds from the 19th annual Bad Pants Open golf tournament will support continued innovation and excellence in the research, treatment and care of critically ill and premature infants at Texas Children’s Newborn Center. At the Bad Pants Open, the best prizes are awarded for how “bad” players look, not just how well they play! Presented by RBC Wealth Management/Capital Markets, this light-hearted annual golf tournament staged at the Clubs of Kingwood helps improve outcomes for infants by raising funds to support critical research, patient care and education initiatives. This year’s tournament is chaired by Rob Cooksey, vice president of Texas Aromatics.

Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital
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Katy, Texas – September 20, 2016 
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adults. Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease include fever, blister-like sores in the mouth (herpangina) and a skin rash. Hand, foot and mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease), a disease of cattle, sheep and swine. However, the two diseases are caused by different viruses and are not related.


The initial symptoms of Hand, foot and mouth disease include:

  • Fever
  • Poor appetite
  • Malaise (feeling under the weather)
  • Sore throat

Within two days, the symptoms typically include:

  • Painful blisters or ulcers in the mouth
  • Rash that develops on the hands and feet (flat or raised spots or blisters)
  • Rash on the knees, elbows, buttocks and/or genital area

Hand, foot and mouth disease is highly contagious and is spread from person to person. The time period of contagion is the highest during the first week of the illness; however, the disease can stay in the body for weeks after all symptoms are gone and still be spreading the disease. Adults with no symptoms may also be spreading the virus without knowing they have the disease.

A person will come in contact with this disease through bodily fluids, which include:

  • Nose secretions (coughs, sneezes, runny nose)
  • Saliva (coughs, sneezes, drool, mouthing toys)
  • Blister fluids (blisters drain or open up)
  • Feces (during diaper changes, checking diapers, toilet training)

Treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease includes taking over-the-counter medication to relieve pain and fever, such as acetaminophen or using mouthwashes or sprays to numb any mouth pain. However, if you are concerned and/or symptoms worsen, seek medical attention.

Find out more information about hand, foot and mouth disease.

Content Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital 

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Katy, Texas – August 29, 2016 – Memorial Hermann recently teamed up with the YMCA of Greater Houston to help make sure hundreds of area students have the supplies they need to start the school year. Memorial Hermann physicians, employees and volunteers donated money and school supplies as part of the YMCA of Greater Houston’s Operation Backpack 2016.


Memorial Hermann campuses have long supported Operation Backpack but this year Women Leaders of Memorial Hermann along with Memorial Hermann’s Partners in Caring, worked closely to consolidate the initiative across the system. Collection sites were set up at 10 locations across the Memorial Hermann system and employees could also donate online through the Memorial Hermann Foundation.

Memorial Hermann physicians, employees and staff collected supplies to fill more than 1,200 backpacks to be distributed to students in need throughout metro Houston. In addition, employees donated more than $1,200 to the YMCA of Greater Houston to further support Operation Backpack.

“Operation Backpack is such an important program and it’s been exciting to see our participation expand throughout the Memorial Hermann system this year,” says Erin Asprec, Regional President of Memorial Hermann and co-founder of the Women Leaders of Memorial Hermann. “We want students to begin the school year empowered with feelings of hope and joy and not stress or anxiety over not having the school supplies they need to be successful.”

Memorial Hermann set up donation boxes at Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Cypress, Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital, Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital, Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital- Katy, Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital, Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital and TIRR Memorial Hermann. A donation box was also placed at the regional office of United Surgical Partners International in Houston, a partner of Memorial Hermann.

“Our mission is to “Advance Health” and that includes the emotional health of children and families in our community,” said Kyle Price, Sr. Vice President and CEO, Memorial Hermann Southeast. “We want to help students to arrive at school with confidence and the tools they need to learn and to excel.”

The YMCA of Greater Houston area set a goal of distributing 100,000 backpacks to students throughout the community this year. The backpacks not only include school supplies but also notes of encouragement to the students. Donations to Operation Backpack are still being accepted through the YMCA of Greater Houston.


Content Courtesy of Memorial Hermann 

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Katy, Texas – August 1, 2016
Summer in Houston means hot, humid weather with many people going to swimming pools, lakes and the beach to find relief from the heat. With all of the water fun, we see more and more children with swimmer’s ear, otitis externa (OE).

A beautiful African American child swimming

OE can occur in both the ear and the ear canal and starts when excess water gets trapped in the canal, causing skin breakdown and allowing bacteria cultivation. The excess water usually comes from swimming, thus creating the term for the infection – swimmer’s ear. However OE can come from other causes as well, including moisture retention from showering, headphones, trauma of the canal from the use of cotton swabs, and alteration of the pH of the ear canal. Some kids can go swimming all summer long and not get swimmer’s ear, but some could get the infection right after a shower. No one can totally explain it.

Usually there are several symptoms with the most pressing symptom being a sharp, “stabbing” pain. Don’t underestimate the severity of the pain associated with this relatively “simple” problem. Even though swimmer’s ear is rarely serious, it can be a very painful condition due to the plentiful supply of nerves to this area of the body. Other symptoms include swelling of the ear canal, itching, drainage and hearing loss. 

Typically, swimmer’s ear can be treated quickly. Usually your child’s doctor can use a suction device to remove debris and discharge in the canal. Your doctor may also prescribe antibacterial ear drops and ibuprofen as a pain killer. Sometimes the swelling is so great that the opening to the external auditory canal is totally closed and drops will be prevented from reaching the walls of the ear canal. In these cases, your child’s physician will likely position a small wick in the external canal to draw the medication down the swollen canal. The wick, which functions as a straw carrying the drops to the infected area, usually remains in place for 72 hours. The wick can be removed easily and the drops should be continued for a period of days.

In order to decrease episodes of swimmer’s ear it is best to use ear plugs when swimming and carefully dry the external canal after getting out of the water. I recommend drying the canal with a hair dryer on a low setting or using a terry cloth towel over your index finger and inserting it into your child’s ear canal to absorb any excess water.  In addition, avoid using cotton swabs to remove the moisture in the ear canal as this will frequently cause trauma.

Using these simple tips should help you and your child enjoy all of the water related activities that are so popular. So keep those ear canals dry, wear sunscreen and have a healthy summer!

Content Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital 

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Your kids are arguing, the house is a mess, and you have to get everyone fed and make sure homework is finished before heading to evening extracurricular activities. Oh, and don’t forget to get that laundry out of the dryer before it wrinkles. If you’re like most Katy families, life can get so busy, it’s sometimes a struggle to and joy in everyday things. Here are 25 ways to practice seeking joy in every little moment and become a happier and healthier you.

1. Practice Daily Gratitude
From your first thought in the morning to your last one in the evening, always look for things you’re grateful for.

2. Redirect Your thoughts
Our moods go where our thoughts lead so each time your mind starts heading in a negative direction, practice redirecting it to something positive.

3. Spend Time Outdoors
Studies show that being in nature revives us and positively aspects our minds. Plus, it gives us a healthy dose of oxygen and vitamin D.

4. Crank up the Music
Listening to your favorite music lifts your mood and relieves stress because it releases serotonin (one of the hormones that contribute to happiness).

5. Accept Yourself
There will always be someone smarter, richer, more attractive, or with more accomplished children than yours. Make a decision to stop comparing and just accept and love yourself.

6. Choose a Good Attitude
 If you’re in a bad mood, it’s most likely because you are dwelling on something that upset or hurt you. Refocus on something else and let it go.

7. Be Tolerant of Others
Whether it’s the purple-haired check-out clerk, a street person, or your bragging neighbor, understand that every person is on their own life journey which is always different from yours.

8. Get Inspired
Read books or go to seminars on something that really interests you. Whether you want to be a better parent, learn a new skill, or grow spiritually, there are a lot of ways to self-improve.

9. Come from Love
In all difficult interactions you have with your spouse, children, their teachers, or even a fast food worker, make sure you are coming from a place of love in the way that you treat them.

10. Help Someone
Getting out of your own head and helping someone else is a great mood booster. Bring soup to your sick neighbor, give a blanket to a homeless person, or just visit a friend who is hurting.

11. Let Go of Grudges
If you are hurt, let the person know in a calm way so they have an opportunity to apologize or gain an understanding. Then let it go. Grudges and unwillingness to forgive are always barriers to joy.

12. Energy Creates Energy
Do some kind of physical activity for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Not only does exercise create those happy endorphins, it can really boost your confidence.

13. Have Quiet Time
If you can take even 10 to 15 minutes to meditate, pray, or even just sit quietly, studies show this helps you be more at peace and lowers stress. Even if you have to go in the bathroom or closet, do it.

14. Stay in Peace
Instead of screaming at the driver who cut you off, just take a deep breath and say nothing. In all stressful circumstances, you can choose to remain calm.

15. Live in the Moment
Put down the technology or remote and savor the moment. Enjoy your child’s laughter, listen fully to your spouse, or stop to stare at a beautiful sunset.

16. Let Go of Toxic People
Love those bitter or angry family members from a distance or they could infect you with negativity and hate.

17. Be a Visionary
Write down or create a poster with everything you wish to accomplish in life and look at it daily or weekly. Dream big and put down that beautiful house, car, and vacation. You have to see it to achieve it!

18. Simplify Your Home
Clutter adds stress to your life and costs you more time searching for items. If you haven’t used something in a year, it’s time to give it away.

19. Have Me Time
Find time to be alone. Solitude actually energizes your soul and helps you be a better parent and spouse.

20. Use Encouraging Words
Words are powerful and can be used to help or harm someone. Are you speaking words of love to your family and friends or causing pain and worry? Don’t say anything out loud that you don’t want to come true.

21. Stop Worrying
Most strife is brought on by worry and fear. Quit freting and obsessing about all those little things you have absolutely no control over and just enjoy today.

22. Give Three Compliments
When was the last time you told your child’s teacher what a great job she is doing? Never be too busy to let people know how awesome they are.

23. Put Things in Perspective When something disappointing happens, don’t overreact. So what if your son got a B on his science project – at least he’s not in the hospital.

24. Keep Growing
You are never too old to try a new hobby, learn a new technology, or admit you’ve made a mistake and self-correct.

25. Reach out for Help
When you feel down, see a counselor or talk to a pastor or loved one. Whether it’s your marriage, parenting struggles, an addiction, or depression, there is never shame in getting help. KM

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Katy, Texas – December 11, 2015
The holiday season is a special time to spend reminiscing with family about special memories and traditions while creating new ones. For members of a family living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, this can often be a difficult time. For the one with memory impairment, the change in routine and sensory overload the holiday season brings can cause stress and take away the ability to enjoy time spent with family and friends. The Orchard Assisted Living & Memory Care in Katy specializes in person-centered care, and this holiday season it is sharing helpful advice about how caregivers and families can create the best environment and situation for loved ones living with dementia.

Photo 1
“For seniors, the holiday season is a special time to connect with family and pass along traditions and memories,” said James Stroud, President of The Orchard Assisted Living & Memory Care in Katy. “For those living with memory loss it is still possible to have a special holiday experience. The key is finding ways to still include your loved one in those traditions. For instance, if your mother was always in charge of baking cookies, you could set aside time to make cookies together. This will allow for you to create new memories that include your loved one, while sharing a familiar and pleasant experience.”

Stroud recommends bringing the holidays to a loved one living with dementia. Hold a holiday get-together in the individual’s or caregiver’s home, instead of travelling to another location. If that’s not possible, limit the amount of time spent away from the normal environment to no more than two hours. It is also a good idea to carry on traditions in a smaller setting and keep things simple. Watch for signs of discomfort, anger, fatigue, overstimulation or a sense of being overwhelmed, and take the individual home if those signs arise. Patience is the real key to success and knowing that it may take trial and error to determine what will make a loved one feel content.

“It can be upsetting for a family to change the location of Christmas dinner or make adjustments to accommodate a loved one who is living with dementia,” said Erica Willis of The Orchard Assisted Living & Memory Care. “Family members who have a preconceived notion about how the day will unfold can forget that when family comes together things don’t always go as planned. Especially when a loved one with memory loss isn’t able to participate as they once could, it could feel like a letdown. You have to remember that your loved one still deserves the same dignity and respect as anyone else in the family, and you may need to change some traditions or plans to make that individual comfortable.”

She also recommends that families should be conscious of providing a secure environment and consistency for their loved ones, especially during meal time. A loved one should be able to enjoy the meal and the time spent together, but a lot of noise and chaos may lead to feelings of stress or concerns about personal safety, as well as a reduction in appetite. With this idea in mind, some families may decide to go over to a loved one’s home for a meal instead of bringing him to them.

“Remember that it is important to keep your loved one on his or her routine and schedule. Major shifts and changes can cause stress and agitation,” said Stroud. “If your loved one is going to attend holiday celebrations at your home and he or she lives in an assisted living environment, you could consider inviting a caregiver as well. This would provide a sense of consistency and security for your loved one, and the caregiver will know all of the nuances and preferences that can be extremely helpful.”

For someone living with dementia, proper nutrition is often a challenge, and during the holiday season this can take on a whole new meaning. The holidays mean large gatherings around the table sharing special foods and indulging when we normally keep our belts a little tighter. While it is okay to loosen your belt, it is also important to consider the dietary needs of loved ones living with memory loss in attendance and ensuring that they are able to enjoy the meal too.

“Even though we are all in need of proper nutrition to remain healthy and strong, for a person living with dementia, having a well-managed diet is a challenge as their cognitive function declines,” said Karl Rosenbusch of The Orchard Assisted Living & Memory Care. “Many often struggle with the ability to use eating utensils, become overwhelmed with their food choices and even forget to eat altogether. These challenges can lead to changes in behavior and weight loss, causing more problems for their overall health and well-being. These struggles often become amplified during the holiday season with new settings, people and noises that might cause stress. That is why it’s critical for families to think about their loved ones in advance and take extra steps to help family members living with dementia to enjoy the holiday meal.”

He stresses that the key is to provide quality meals while emphasizing simplicity, and he suggests that it is important to always keep an open mind. An easy way to accomplish this is by using fresh or natural ingredients to make everything from scratch. That way, the dishes are high quality and taste delicious. By staying away from boxed and canned goods, you can raise the quality of even the most basic holiday dishes. To help maintain a balanced diet, cut down on high amounts of fats, sugars and sodium, which will benefit the entire family.“It is also critical to remember that having too many options and choices can seem overwhelming, so instead of having everything presented at once, slow the process down by offering sides first, then meats and so on,” said Stroud. “This encourages independence by allowing the person to make choices based on their own preferences, thus allowing them to truly enjoy the meal. Most important, remember to remain flexible; just because the family is having lunch doesn’t mean that breakfast isn’t an option. You have to keep in mind that your loved ones may not remember that they already had breakfast, so if they want cereal or scrambled eggs, it is more important for them to eat something they choose than to try to make them eat something that doesn’t sound appetizing. For many seniors, food is the only thing that they still have any control over. When you can provide them a meal specific to their needs and it tastes outstanding, you give them something special, especially during the holiday season.”

Rosenbusch stresses that individuals living with dementia can eat the same foods as everyone else. He is sharing one of his favorite recipes this holiday season. He hopes that the traditional holiday stuffing recipe below will be a delicious side dish for area families to enjoy.

At The Orchard everything goes back to person-centered care, and ensuring that all residents’ needs are met individually can be as easy as spending time with them. Staff members practice this standard by getting to know the residents they care for. Caregivers are encouraged to eat meals with the residents in their care so that they may learn their habits and preferences, allowing for the opportunity to understand the residents and their wants when they cannot express their needs themselves.“Our goal is to be a resource for families living in Katy and the surrounding area,” said Stroud. “Our staff provides person-centered care that caters to each individual, and we recommend that families adjust their holiday plans to accommodate the personal preferences of loved ones living with dementia. The holidays can still be a time to have purpose-filled experiences together, while creating new memories together.”

Content Courtesy of the Orchard Assisted Living 
The Orchard represents a new concept in assisted living and memory care and is built in a residential setting located in Katy on Kingsland Boulevard. Situated on 4.5 acres, the convenient one-story design is more like home. Assisted Living apartments are available with or without patios. Three balanced meals are made fresh from scratch daily and are provided each day in a variety of settings from restaurant-style seating to family-style tables. The full-time events coordinator ensures that residents enjoy engaging and purpose-filled activities on a daily basis. The Orchard embraces the concept of person-centered care, which emphasizes the residents’ individualized needs and ensures their well-being. The caregivers truly feel as if the residents are part of their family.
Services and amenities include onsite 24-hour trained caregivers, weekly housekeeping, laundry services, scheduled local transportation for medical appointments, shopping, religious services and other local activities, assistance with bathing and dressing, medication management and onsite physical therapy. The community is pet-friendly and residents have access to a full beauty salon and secure courtyard areas.
For more information, visit www.TheOrchardKaty.com or call 281-371-3000.

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Katy, Texas – November 25, 2015

Your guide to enjoying Katy’s most tantalizing social-hour specials

1 KM_Oct Nov_15_dining guide_Los Cucos Manuel Rodriguez, Mgr. - Photo by Shanna Kenney (5)

Happy hour is a time to relax and unwind after a hard day or kick back with friends and enjoy a drink or two. But happy hour is not just about the drinks. There are a lot of delectable snacks and appetizers to try, making happy hour even happier. No more pretzels and peanuts – these snacks are sure to spoil your appetite for dinner.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
20536 Katy Fwy. | 281-769-1850
At BJ’s happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Sunday through Thursday, 9 to 11 p.m. This fall, happy hour is also extended to anytime during a pro football game. In addition to drink specials, there are lots of great specials on snacks and appetizers. BJ’s offers mini deep dish pizza, prepared with their signature five-cheese blend for only $6. An order of four sliders with grilled onions, lettuce, and pickles is only $5 during happy hour.

Bonefish Grill's bang bang shrimp
Bonefish Grill’s bang bang shrimp

Bonefish Grill
2643 Commercial Center Blvd. | 281-394-5099
Stop by Bonefish Grill in LaCenterra and enjoy $1 off draft beer and $3.50 wines daily from 4 to 6:30 p.m. They also offer specials on their signature cocktails including the fresh pear martini, with freshly muddled pears and garnished with an edible flower. Enjoy a taste of the season with the fall apple martini, including soaked apples, a touch of honey, and topped with cinnamon sprinkle. On Wednesday nights you can try their famous bang bang shrimp, tossed in a creamy spicy sauce, all night for only $6.

21300 Katy Fwy. | 832-772-1277
Stop by Chuy’s for happy hour, Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and enjoy their famous, free, fully-loaded nacho car. General manager Mark Novak says, “Our nacho car is the back end of a 1956 Chevy Bellaire, piled high with nacho chips, queso, beans, and ground sirloin.” You can help yourself to a plate of nachos at the bar anytime during happy hour. Another great option is the deluxe quesadillas with chicken fajita meat, cheese, green chilies, and onions or the appetizer plate, which includes the deluxe quesadillas along with chicken flautas, chile con queso, guacamole, and sour cream.

Hasta La Pasta
1450 W. Grand Pkwy. S. | 281-392-0045
Stop by for happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Kimberly Gattis owns and runs Hasta La Pasta with her husband Eric. “We have $1.99 house wine, domestic beer, frozen margaritas, bellinis, and house-made sangria during happy hour,” Gattis says. She suggests any of their $5.99 appetizers to go with your bevvies. “We have bruschetta, toasted ravioli, calamari, fried zucchini, and sausage with peppers,” Gattis says. The calamari is lightly breaded, fried, and served with artichokes. The fried zucchini comes with pomodoro and ranch sauces.

Perrys Chateaubriand
Perry’s Steakhouse

Landry’s Seafood
22215 Katy Fwy. | 281-392-0452
Kyle Simms, general manager at Landry’s in Katy, says, “We have happy hour seven days a week, 11a.m. to 7 p.m., with drink specials on beer, wine, and cocktails.” The food prices are pretty special too. Simms adds, “We have tiers of appetizers like the battered onion strings and jalapenos, served with ranch dressing for dipping at just $4.” For shrimp lovers there are the fire cracker shrimp poppers, tempura fried in a sweet chili glaze or stuffed shrimp brochette, large bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with seafood, jack cheese, and jalapenos, which can be had for only $7 during happy hour. “Another must-try app is the fried crab balls,” Simms says. “They’re great with cocktail sauce and served with a side of onion strings for $5.”

Los Cucos
5831 Highway Blvd. | 281-391-9466
Los Cucos manager Luis Toro proudly recommends the family appetizer platter at happy hour. “It’s a big variety of bite-sized snack foods, with enough for everyone to share,” says Toro. The platter comes with chicken flautas, stuffed jalapenos, beef fajita nachos, chicken quesadillas, and chile con queso. Happy hour at Los Cucos is all day Monday and Tuesday, and from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Happy hour food specials are served Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m. and include chicken taquitos, shrimp cocktail, and ceviche served with chips.

Perry’s Steakhouse

23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd. | 281-347-3600
Monday through Friday Perry’s Steakhouse offers specials on their social hour menu from 4 to 6:30 p.m. With delicious select appetizers and signature cocktails for half the price, your experience at Perry’s is bound to be blissful. Try their delicious escargot or pork chop bites for $7.95 each, with a cucumber blueberry martini for $6.

KM_Oct Nov_15_dining guide_17803198 cj new choke dip june 2015hh or app_Saltgrass

Saltgrass Steakhouse 
21855 Katy Fwy. | 281-647-9400
“Saltgrass Steakhouse has a happy hour that is incomparable,” says corporate beverage manager Brian Webb. “We offer a large selection of local and imported beers for less than $3 and several premium wines for under $5. At Saltgrass, you can enjoy value drinks without having to compromise quality.” To go with your libations, Webb recommends the range rattlers. “We take jumbo jalapenos and stuff them with jack cheese and whole shrimp, then we fry it to a golden brown.“ Another popular choice is the creamy, satisfying spinach and artichoke dip, served with crisp tortilla chips and salsa. Both are available for only $6 in the bar area during happy hour, Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m.

Texas Borders Bar & Grill
20940 Katy Fwy. | 281-578-8785
See ad on page 182
At Texas Borders Bar & Grill, happy hour runs all day on Monday and from 3 to 7 p.m. the rest of the week. “We have some awesome apps and different specials for every day of the week,” says Kellie Messer. The Texas Borders hot bites are only $3 during happy hour. Choose from fried pickles, onion rings, or cheese sticks with marinara. “For bigger appetites we have $6 buffalo chicken, a cheeseburger, or pulled pork sliders served with fries,” Messer says. Another great choice is the mini crab meat quesadilla with pico.

TGI Friday’s
Any time can be happy hour at TGI Friday’s with their new endless choice of appetizers. You can get endless refills on your choice of appetizers for only $12 or, for $10, you can have endless refills of one favorite appetizer. There are new selections on the menu as well including spicy sriracha chicken potato skins loaded with asiago-queso, and French onion dumplings filled with caramelized onions and topped with melted Swiss cheese. Pair that with one of their famous smoothies like the mango passion smoothie with organic agave, passion fruit, and mango purees. KM

More Great Happy Hours in Katy
Black Walnut Café – $4 mimosas, and other cocktails, $3 fried pickles, and $4 quesadillas M-F, 7 – 10:30 a.m. and 3 – 6:30 p.m. Jimmy Changa’s – $2.50 draft beer, $9 Tex-Mex egg rolls, M-F, 12 – 6 p.m.
Johnny Carino’s –
$2 off appetizers and pizza, M-F, 3 – 7 p.m.
Kublai Khan –
$5 sushi rolls, M-F, 3 – 6 p.m.
Las Mañanitas –
$3.50 margaritas, $7.50 shrimp nachos, M-F, 3-7 p.m.

CHERRI NORTHCUTT enjoys dining out with friends and family in Katy. Her favorite happy hour snacks always include nachos.

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Courtesy of Camp Bow Wow – Pet ownership has proven mental and physical health benefits for humans, including reduced stress, anxiety and loneliness, and increased exercise and social interaction. Our pets are doing many great things for us so it’s important to return the favor and make sure we are doing what we can to keep them happy and healthy. Read on for some important pet care tips.

1. Evaluate your pet’s poundage. Over half of all pets are overweight which contributes to numerous health problems and can shorten your furry friend’s lifespan. Work with your vet to create a weight loss plan if your pet is overweight.

2. Make preventative care a priority. Visit your vet for annual check-ups to stay updated on any relevant health issues and stay current with vaccinations.

3. Read the labels. Many dog foods contain sugar and other ingredients that cause health problems. Your vet can help you determine the food that will best fit your pet’s needs. And be sure to follow the food bag’s feeding instructions so you don’t over-feed your pet.

4. Don’t fur-get to brush. Our pets need oral hygiene just like we do, and plaque and tartar build-up can lead to serious health issues. Start preventative care early by brushing teeth and giving them rubber toys to chew on, and opt for professional cleaning when the vet says it’s time.

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Going to a dental office on a regular basis is a crucial aspect of your child’s oral care. While you, as your child’s parent, know this, the very thought of taking your autistic son or daughter to the dentist can fill you with concern. Many people often feel apprehensive when they go to the dentist, but autistic children can experience sensory overload that can trigger tantrums. Fortunately, there are ways that a family dentist can help make autistic children feel more at ease when they come to the office.


At Kingsland Dental Group, they know how uncomfortable going to the dentist can be for autistic children. They’ve made accommodations, so these children can get the oral care they need in a soothing and calming environment.

Banish Bright Lights
There are typically many bright lights in any dental office. These include not only the lights overhead but also the headlamp that the dentist uses. While most people might find them a bit glaring and annoying, an autistic child might start feeling overwhelmed by their presence. Kingsland Dental Group starts by turning off the overhead lights, and they use the headlamp only to peer inside your child’s mouth. If possible, they avoid using the headlamp, as well.

Counteract Loud Noises
Suction hoses and air or water syringes can make loud noises that can cause highly sensitive autistic children to startle and become distraught. Their soothing music and engaging, slow-moving visual images played on the ceiling can help distract and calm your child.

Provide Security in a Fun Way
It is important that your child remain still in the dental chair during the visit, so they use a seat cover that has a fun design. In addition to keeping your child secure, it also provides a calming, deep-pressure hug.

Whether your child needs to be seen for a general check-up or you want to learn more about teeth whitening, Kingsland Dental Group strives to accommodate the dentistry needs of all their patients. They work hard to make each visit to their office as positive as possible.

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Running is great exercise for you and your pup, but as the weather warms up, it’s important to take precautions to keep your dog happy and healthy.


Start slow: If Fido has never been out for a run with you, don’t expect him to be up for a marathon. Start with a combination of running and walking for a short time until you notice that his endurance is increasing.

Be mindful of the weather: Dogs can overheat very quickly and can suffer heat stroke. If you absolutely must run on a very hot and humid day, go during the early morning hours–between 5 AM and 8 AM– or leave Fido at home.

Watch out for Fido’s feet: Pavement and asphalt gets incredibly hot on summer days and can quickly burn your pup’s feet. To be safe, only take your dog running on dirt trails, grass, or sand. Stop periodically during your run to check his paws for burns or cuts.

Hydrate: Make sure Fido has had a chance to drink water and hydrate before you take him out on a run. Take a portable water bowl so you can stop and give your pup some water throughout your run.

Keep a watchful eye: Be sure to check on your dog and make sure he doesn’t look like he’s in pain or suffering from heat exhaustion.

Lather up: Believe it or not, dogs are susceptible to sunburns. If you’re running on a sunny day, be sure to apply sunscreen to both yourself and Fido if your dog has shorter hair or is a lighter color.

Eating before or after running: Make sure that your dog does not eat one hour before or after running. Some dogs are susceptible to bloat and eating too close to exercising can be extremely dangerous.

If it’s just too dog gone hot, drop your pup off at Camp Bow Wow (opening in August 2015) so he can romp and play in our climate-controlled play yards, and come home happy and exhausted!

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Katy ISD has adopted the Summer Food Service Program, which was created to ensure that children in low-income areas could continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations, when they do not have access to school lunch or breakfast.

This program provides nutritious and free meals to children 18 and younger during the summer months. Katy ISD, in particular, will be offering free breakfast and lunch during the summer at six different schools. For locations, date, and times, check the flyer below.



Information courtesy of the Nutrition and Food Service Department of Katy ISD

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Five difficult conversations parents need to have with their kids, and how to know when to have them

Written by Kirsten Cornell and Katrina Katsarelis

Talking to our kids is usually an enjoyable experience, but there are some topics that make many parents uneasy. Should you be the one to bring up these topics or wait for your child to approach the subject? Here are some of the most common tough talks as well as tips from the experts to help guide you.

Body Parts
From as early as infancy, kids are interested in learning about their own bodies. They may notice the differences between boys and girls and be naturally curious. According to the experts, the best way to address this topic is to take a matter-of-fact approach. Use the correct names for body parts and answer questions openly and on the child’s level of understanding. “Children will often take their cues from adults,” says Katy child psychologist, Abigail Langan, MD. “If you feel uncomfortable discussing a topic and avoid it or dismiss it, your child will feel embarrassed to ask you for information. Therefore, they will look elsewhere – like friends or the Internet.” David Dotson, a licensed professional counselor with Houston Center for Christian Counseling, says he encourages parents to use correct names for body parts. “For years we referred to our boys’ private parts as their‘business.’ But once when they were told to, ‘Keep their nose out of other people’s business,’ they were grossed out and completely confused,” he laughs. “We used correct anatomical terms after that.” Dotson says it’s important to establish comfort when talking about our bodies from an early age but in an appropriate way. “When children are younger, ages 3 to 4, bath time affords a simple opportunity to talk about hygiene concerning body parts. As they get older, ages 4 to 7, the topic of modesty is a natural subject.”

The Sex Talk
One of the most feared topics of all is definitely the dreaded s-e-x talk. Starting from a young age, children will give you many opportunities to discuss this topic. Something as simple as a preschooler asking, “Where do babies come from?” or a first grader wanting to know “how does a baby get out of mommy’s tummy,” can lead to a discussion. Although it can be very uncomfortable for parents, it’s important to answer questions honestly and in an age appropriate way. “If, as parents, we are able to foster a sense of security in our children, a feeling that they can ask us anything without feeling embarrassed or ashamed, many difficult topics can be covered,” says Langan. Later, as a child begins junior high and high school, discussions will go deeper and address topics of importance such as abstinence, birth control, relationships, sexually transmitted diseases, and other vitally important topics. Many parents avoid discussing these for fear they will encourage teens to become sexually active, but statistics show the opposite may be true. In fact, providing accurate information before young people begin to have sex has been shown to help teens abstain from sex. There are many helpful books on this topic to assist parents in these difficult conversations, but parents should always read the book first before giving it to their child to read. Karen Jaggers, a counselor at Stokan Jaggers & Associates in Katy, suggests giving teens a book to read in private, but telling them you would like to discuss it together afterward. “If children are too embarrassed to ask questions, you can ask them to write down their questions and answer them later.”

Death and Loss
Death can be as difficult to explain as it is to understand. Whether you have to discuss with your child why their grandmother is in the hospital or the loss of the long-time family pet, it is important to be honest and encourage questions. Let them know you do not have all the answers, but create an environment of comfort and openness. Send the message that there is no right or wrong way to feel. “I believe grieving is an intentional process,” says Dotson. “We hear the saying, ‘time heals all wounds,’ but not addressing a painful situation with your child can actually create a wound. We need to walk along side our kids through grief by showing affection, asking them how they are doing, praying with them, or even helping them take action.” Dotson points out that culture often discourages kids from attending funerals. “A funeral is a powerful ceremony that can be a tool in the grief process. It helps us see we are not alone in our grief and gives us an opportunity for a solemn and respectful farewell,” he adds. When dealing with the loss of a pet, if you have to use euthanasia, be cautious about saying the animal went “to sleep” or “got put to sleep.” Young children sometimes interpret events literally, so this can conjure up scary misconceptions about sleep, surgery, and anesthesia. If the pet’s death is more sudden, calmly explain what happened, be brief, and let their questions guide how much information you provide.

Drugs and Alcohol
Discussing drugs and alcohol with your child may not seem like the highest priority when they are young, but how your child approaches alcohol and drugs can have life-long effects and serious consequences. Studies have shown that children ages 12 and 13 are most commonly exposed to this type of peer pressure, however some evidence now shows that they are being approached much younger. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 19% of high school students admitted to drinking more than a few sips of alcohol before the age of 13. When asked if they’d had at least one drink of alcohol in their lifetime, that number jumps to 66%. Hands-on parenting is often seen as the most effective approach. Frequently discuss your family’s values and then make sure you are serving as their role model. Children mimic their parents’ behavior at an early age, and look to them in order to determine what responsible behavior is. “If your son or daughter is feeling peer pressure about drugs or alcohol, tell them that you are going to start randomly drug and alcohol testing them,” suggests Jaggers. “It’s a great deterrent and for the kids who truly aren’t interested but are being pressured. It usually only takes one ‘I can’t. My parents drug test me,’ to have them never asked again.

Divorce and Separation
As soon as you are certain about your plans, start discussions with your children about your decision to live apart. Keeping the news hidden will only build unnecessary tension. If possible, have both parents present for this conversation. It’s important to try to leave feelings of anger, guilt, or blame out of it and not share your adult issues with the children. Practice how you’re going to tell your kids so you don’t become upset or angry during the talk. “A primary goal should be to establish yourself as someone who is safe to talk to about anything,” advises Dotson. Don’t feel like you have to pour out every detail about difficult subjects all at once, but create an on-going atmosphere of safe conversation.” Although the discussion should be tailored to your children’s age, maturity, and temperament, be sure to convey that what happened between mom and dad, is not their fault, and that both parents still love them. Most kids will feel they are to blame even after parents have said that they are not, so it’s vital for parents to keep providing reassurance.

Be Ready for Teachable Moments
It’s important for parents to prepare for these conversations and fortunately, there are many resources available. “Seeking reputable sources and arming yourself with knowledge should help to remove some of the embarrassment or discomfort some parents feel when discussing certain topics with their kids,” says Langan. Kids need straightforward facts and most importantly need to feel comfortable coming to you with embarrassing questions. “The best times to touch on these subjects are when life presents them to you,” advises Dotson. “Parents should capitalize on teachable moments.” KM

KIRSTEN CORNELL is a lead associate editor for Katy Magazine. She wants to thank these Katy experts for taking time to help parents better navigate tough talks with their kids.

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A Katy parent’s guide to the basics of selecting the right preschool for your family

Written by Freda Ihediwa and Katy Magazine’s Editors

Selecting a preschool is not an easy task, especially with the overwhelming amount of quality preschools to choose from in the Katy area. Each one has its own unique qualities, and parents diligently seek a preschool that matches their family’s educational beliefs and values. Communication and research are key components when selecting a preschool that will accommodate your needs. Here are the basic ABC’s and 123’s of selecting the best fit for you and your child.

Primrose Preschool from drive
Primrose partners with parents to assist children with developing a love for learning

A – Ask
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make a list before you visit each school of things you would like to know about. For Katy mom Ashley Lancaster whose son has a life-threatening illness,
she had two main questions entering into her evaluation process. “‘What is your sick child policy?’ and ‘What is your hand-washing policy, and is it enforced?’” Evaluate what is most important and valuable to your family, whether it’s health-related, education-oriented, or a matter of proximity.

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Katy ECEC emphasizes developmentally appropriate hands-on experiences

“Open communication with parents, management, and staff helps to foster a healthy and beneficial learning environment,” says Kamilla Saidova, owner of The Learning Experience. Also, ask for referrals from other parents. They have already done the research or may have
children currently enrolled in programs. Find out what they’ve appreciated most about their school’s curriculum, teachers, and overall environment.

Do your research. Preschool accreditation can be easily verified through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and most schools also allow you to view sample curriculum. Do you want a more hands-on approach to learning, or would you prefer a structured academic schedule? “Our motto sums it up: Learning for fun. Learning for life. I would like all parents to know that at The Goddard School, learning is fun,” says Asli Remlinger, owner of The Goddard School in Katy.

Look for programs that offer a good mix of learning, playing, activities, and extracurricular opportunities. Schools that are too focused on just learning or just playing are usually not the best fit for children. “Primrose classrooms are furnished with developmentally appropriate furniture, fixtures, and equipment,” says marketing director of Primrose School of Cinco Ranch Starla Fitch. “Our units of learning and our character development program, alongside a culturally diverse staff and student population, helps create a positive, productive, and cultural learning environment.”

Once you have narrowed down your choices and come up with two or three places you are interested in, schedule a time to visit each preschool. You can learn a lot about a setting by the way staff approach introductory visits with you and your child. During your visit ask yourself questions such as, “Do I feel welcome here? Does my child seem interested in what they have to offer? Do the children in the setting seem happy? How do the adults and children interact? Is the setting clean and safe?”

KM_DecJan_14_Preschool Feature_SLC 5_submitted by Spanish Learning Castle
Spanish Learning Castle learn best with total language immersion

“Spanish Learning Castle is a school setting where their child is safe, and he or she, feels at home. Parents are confident knowing that their child is being attended to every minute of the day while learning and having fun. Recently, a parent told us that this is the reason she enrolled her child at our school,” says Ramon Marin of Spanish Learning Castle.

Find a preschool you feel is in line with your child’s needs and fits your family’s philosophies. Remember to ask how the preschool stays in close communication with parents and updates them on their child’s progress. “An emphasis is placed on parent communication to foster the connection between school and home, creating continuity in the child’s educational experience,” says Fitch.

Spend at least one hour in the classroom of your top three choices. This will not only allow you to see teachers and students interact, but determine if their education philosophy supports your family’s values. “We have a loving, family atmosphere that exists between the staff, kids, and extended families,” says Steve Sandweiss, owner of Tiger Land Child Care Center.

Connect with your child’s teachers. They will be the ones interacting with your child every day and their new primary source for knowledge. Find out if the teachers are available for quick side chats at drop-off and pick-up. Do they offer their email addresses to parents? And if so, how quickly will they get back to you? “Besides Goddard’s play-based curriculum, the school realizes the importance of the home and school connection between parents and teachers,” says Remlinger. “The teachers differentiate instruction for each child. They also modify or enrich goals as needed for the success of children.”

Many schools also send home newsletters to update parents on classroom activities. Find out if these will tell you menu plans for the week, what projects are being completed, and other school-wide news.

Choosing the best preschool for your child does not have to be an overwhelming task. Successful parents go into the process aware, informed, and ready to ask questions. Being prepared will make the process efficient, effective, and meaningful for you and your child. KM

FREDA IHEDIWA is freelance writer, and teacher at Hancock Elementary. She is proud to call Katy home.

* See the full feature in Katy Magazine December/January 2014 for tips on how to prepare your child for preschool and a list of common preschool philosophies in the Katy area.

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More than just a place to stay, Katy’s Ballard House provides patients, caregivers, and families in need with Texas-sized hospitality in a home away from home

Written by Susanna Donald | Select photography by Kristofor Rodriguez

Katy, TX News – It’s no secret that Katy is surrounded by premier medical facilities. People travel from all over the country – and the world – in order to get treatment here. But what happens when an out-of-town patient needs long-term care? Where do they sleep when they don’t qualify for a hospital bed? Being critically ill or having a loved one in the hospital is hard enough. Now imagine compounding the problem by sleeping in waiting rooms or spending money that should be going toward medical bills on a long-stay in a hotel.

KM_DecJan_14_Ballard House-Katy Magazine Winter 2014 by Kristofor Rodriguez 16
The Ballard House, a Cinco Charities community, serves to house families who have traveled to the area for long-term medical treatment

Passion for a Mission
In 2011, Erin Ballard heard about this problem while she was undergoing treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Katy. Her oncologist, Dr. Suni Patel, told her about Cinco Charities, a non-profit dedicated to providing temporary housing for patients and their caregivers coming to Katy area medical facilities for treatment of life-threatening illnesses. Since 2006, Cinco Charities had housed these families in nearby hotels, with the ultimate goal of building a free-of-charge hospitality house that would be open to patients and their families.

Ballard, inspired by the mission of Cinco Charities, donated one of her rental houses in Katy for the non-profit to use, and her passion for the mission was contagious. Erin’s husband, Monty, started the Ballard Foundation in order to help Cinco Charities move toward their goal of the freestanding hospitality house in Katy. Two years later, the Ballard House opened its doors to five families in need of a place to stay. “The generosity of Monty and Erin Ballard has made it possible for so many families to have free lodging,” says Ginger Hopper, Ballard House’s executive director. “The size we envisioned for our ‘house’ was half the size they helped us build.”

Becky Underwood, Pat Mahaffey, Chris Hiller, Erin Ballard, Monty Ballard, Ginger Hopper, Lou Boxleitner (1)
Pictured are board members Becky Underwood, Pat Mahaffey, Chris Hiller, Erin Ballard, Monty Ballard, Ginger Hopper, Lou Boxleitner

Comforts of Home
With 24 guest suites, free onsite laundry facilities, a common kitchen and dining area, stocked pantry, library, chapel, beautiful backyard, and more, this 20,000 square-foot hospitality house truly offers guests the comforts of home. Patients can qualify to stay at Ballard House regardless of age or financial situation. To date, Ballard House has never charged guests anything because of the kindness of sponsors, donors, volunteers, and the Katy community.

Beyond the amenities, though, are the unique relationships that are formed between the families who are staying at  Ballard House. “Families find themselves meeting total strangers who become like family in a very short time,” says Hopper. “We see folks walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but there is so much hope, joy, and love. The Ballard House is a happy place.”

KM_DecJan_14_Ballard House_KM_DecJan_14_Ballard House_ photo (9)_submission_submissions
Guests approved by Cinco Charities are allowed to stay at a preferred lodging facility free of charge.

Making a Difference
Before guests come to stay at the Ballard House, they often find themselves drained financially and physically from traveling back and forth for treatment. Being able to stay somewhere free of charge allows patients to rest, recover, and use their funds for paying medical bills and taking care of things at home.

When Pamela Hockett found out she had breast cancer, she immediately began researching treatment options. “It was clear that MD Anderson, seven hours away, was the only medical facility that offered the treatment I needed,” she says. “The realization that I needed weekly treatment so far from home added an additional burden. Suddenly, I was faced with the possibility of not getting the treatment I needed due to the financial strain of needing housing and daily living expenses.” Hockett had already lost her job and was planning to be married at the beginning of June – incidentally, only a few days before she would start treatment.

Hockett’s social worker at MD Anderson told her about the Ballard House, and soon she and her husband-to-be Michael were offered the room where they would stay as husband and wife and where she could rest and recover from the lifesaving treatment she would receive. “The Ballard House gave us so much more than a room,” Hockett says. “It was hope, and hope makes all the difference.” KM

KM_Dec-Jan_14_Ballard House_Anna and Katarzyna, guests from Poland with Ginger_by Kristofor Rodriguez (2)
Residents Anna and Katarzyna visit with Executive Director Ginger Hopper
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Katy, TX News (December 6, 2014) – The Katy ISD Communications department has issued a letter regarding the tragic deaths of Terra Kubala and Trent Weber:

“Dear Parents and Guardians,

The faculty and staff of Seven Lakes and Cinco Ranch High School are deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of  two students who tragically lost their lives in a vehicle accident over the weekend. We ask that you please join us as we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the families as they mourn their loss.

Grief counselors will be on campus on Monday to help our school community deal with this loss. We will be doing everything we can to help your child and our staff through this heartbreaking experience.

Over the next few days, you may wish to encourage your child to express his or her feelings and listen attentively. It will be helpful to recognize the various steps that we all go through in the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

If you have any concerns regarding your child’s reaction to this loss, please contact your child’s teacher, school counselor or any member of the administrative staff. Thank you for your concern and support during this difficult time.”

Katy ISD

*Katy Magazine would like to express their deepest sympathies for the families of these students, and send wishes for comfort and healing in this time of incredible loss. 

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A look at the dangers of too much screen time and how Katy families can find the right balance for connecting and socializing with family

Written by Katy Magazine’s Editors

Katy, TX News – Go to any restaurant and you’ll see it: an entire family, silent, all looking down at their devices instead of talking with each other. Some “hip” new restaurants are even offering media-inspired entertainment at the table to keep everyone occupied throughout the meal. As we spend more and more time checking Facebook, Instagram, and playing Candy Crush Saga, we are spending less and less time connecting as a family.

With the ease of access to the Internet and the constant feeling of being in-touch with friends through social media, many Katyites, from kids to adults, admit to being tempted to be “on” digitally all hours of the day. Teens aren’t the only ones glued to their smart phones. Parents are also facing attention-span issues between their tablets with games, movies, work emails, app notifications; and the cries of young children that are pacified by handing over the device. But experts say this attempt to socially multitask is actually leaving negative imprints in families as they struggle to find ways to connect.

Escaping Real Life
“I think that families are learning to escape from the stress of life behind their iPhones and tablets. We are learning that instead of looking at a sunset, it is more enjoyable to scroll through our Facebook feed,” observes certified Katy counselor Susan Sowell, MA, LPC-S. “We have exchanged the blessing of connecting with our loved ones with disconnecting in front of a screen. It is an easy trap to get into and robs the family of having true community.”

Lack of Engagement
The first step is to recognize the problem and admit if you or others in the family are getting a little obsessed with your digital devices to the detriment of real-life human interaction. “I see the problem as being not just kids who are spending too much screen time,” says George Jolliff of Faith West Academy. “Parents are often guilty of spending too much time checking smartphones and email when not on the clock.”

Dinner with the family used to be a time for bonding, connecting, and discussing everyone’s highs and lows, but today everyone seems to be on their own screen. “When you go out as a family leave the devices at home and be present with those who are around you,” advises Darlene Rankin, director of instruction innovations for Katy ISD.

We’ve all been in a conversation with a friend, when they look down and check their phone. You suddenly sense how unimportant your conversation must be. Imagine how a child feels when mom is listening with one ear, but looking down at the cell phone instead of looking in his or her eyes. Who knows what the long-term detrimental impact on today’s children will be?

“What we are creating is a generation that is far more comfortable talking via text than talking in person. What is being lost is the art of personal relationships,” adds Jaggers.


Setting Digital Boundaries

“We implemented a ‘no-electronics rule’ during family meals so we can focus solely on each other,” says Tony Rivera, a Katy father of two. The Riveras recently returned from a long road trip where they actually turned off the DVD player and played license plate bingo together. Other Katy parents never allow kids to have phones or tablets at mealtimes, homework time, or bedtime. Collecting kids’ and teens’ cell phones at the end of the day is a standard in many Katy homes.

Forming New Habits

“If we want our children to form new habits, then we need to take the lead,” adds Sowell. “We need to be willing to put our phones down when we are spending time with them.” She suggests waiting to respond to text messages, emails, and even phone calls when you are engaged in spending time with your children. “As parents, we need to lead by example and that means limiting our screen time as well,” she adds.

Katy mom Angie Waller helps her family avoid experiencing technology overload by balancing her childrens’ screen time with face-to-face socialization. “For my younger ones, ages 8 and 10, they have to play outside either at the pool or just with friends in the yard before Internet time,” says Waller. She also makes sure they’re involved in extracurricular activities and clubs. Waller says they are in “either a club at school, sports, or music. I have a football player and guitar player and a theater student.”

Families may even want to challenge themselves to a “media fast,” where they take a break from their normal digital routine to help them form new, healthy habits.

The Deeper Issue
As a family, you may need to evaluate why you are spending excessive amounts of time on and behind the screen. For example, is it simply a bad habit or could you be escaping from stressful situations or issues within the family that need to be addressed?

“Evaluating why we do what we do is a great place to start,” says Sowell. “The next step is to make a decision to make a change. Discuss this as a family and brainstorm together.”

You may find that your children would rather spend time with you participating in a fun family activity, or you may realize that you need to invest more in your child so that they will be more excited about wanting to spend time together as a family.

Technology’s Rightful Place
Limit Internet time at home, and insist on family time. Area mom India Smith says her children have responded well to a point system where they earn screen time by reading. “The length of reading determines how much video game time that [my son] is allotted,” says Smith. “For instance, 30 minutes of reading equals 15 minutes of technology, one hour equals 30 minutes and so on.” Smith also finds that scheduling screen time for the latter part of the day keeps the family more in tune with each other and ensures more face-to-face time earlier in the day.

“Children of all ages learn by watching what their parents do with their time. Model to them that you are not ‘glued’ to your devices,” Sowell suggests.

“In our schools, we use the ‘red light, green light system,’ and parents can easily incorporate this,” says Rankin. “Green means full access to devices, yellow means at parents’ discretion, and red is no access.”

Technology is a wonderful tool, but as with anything, it should be used in moderation and not as a replacement for
one-on-one socializing. Sit down as a family and discuss your rules for digital devices, how you will use them, and what the limitations are. As parents, be sure you are following the rules as well, setting a strong example for your children to follow. You will all be thankful for the memories and conversations you will create together. Jaggers adds, “In the end, no one will look back on their life and say, ‘I wish I had spent more time online.’” KM

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Several factors contribute to poor posture-most commonly, improper spinal alignment, stress, obesity, pregnancy, weak postural muscles, abnormally tight muscles, and high-heeled shoes. In addition, decreased flexibility, a poor work environment, incorrect working posture, and unhealthy sitting and standing habits can also contribute to poor body positioning.

How to sit properly:

• Keep your feet on the floor or on a footrest, if they don’t reach the floor.

• Don’t cross your legs. Your ankles should be in front of your knees.

• Keep a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.

• Your knees should be at or below the level of your hips.

• Adjust the backrest of your chair to support your low- and mid-back or use a back support.

• Relax your shoulders and keep your forearms parallel to the ground.

• Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.

Understanding correct posture and remembering to maintain correct posture during a long work day are two very different things. There are software programs that pop up a reminder to stretch or stand at certain time intervals or you could simply set an hourly timer on your phone or watch, even a post it note saying “sit up straight” is enough to give you that mental cue to remind you to take a short break and assess your posture, even small changes like these can make a huge difference in the health of your spine over the years. And of course…get adjusted regularly!

Dr. Craig Nemow, D.C. Chiro Dynamics

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Katy parents share tips on common topics we all face.

Need Advice? Have helpful tips to share? This section is where Katy parents help other parents with great advice and tips for common kid issues and childhood dilemmas.

Written by Kirsten Cornell

 How do you handle a toddler’s tantrum in a public place?

Prepare Ahead of Time
“I always try to address this before we go to a public place. For instance, if you throw a fit while we are in Target, we will leave without getting anything. Make sure you follow through. Park that basket and promptly leave. If it happens in a restaurant, I will go sit in the car with them for a time out and a nice long talk.” – Meredith Gilbert

Give a Warning
“I will punish my kids during the tantrum if they disobey after the first warning. I love my children enough to get them to act straight, have manners, and respect for adults.” – Bobbi Shea

Relax, It Happens to Everyone
“Most importantly, it’s ok. Every parent has had to find out what works when dealing with tantrums. You are not alone and not everyone who looks at you is with disapproval, most are sympathetic. I always say a prayer in my head for the parent when I see a child having a public meltdown.” – Michelle Molinari

Remove Them from the Situation
“Remove them to a more private place to talk to them, but remember that you are the adult and the child should not be telling you what to do. With my kids, we sometimes discuss expected behavior on the way to our destination.” – Christina Gamble

Check out more helpful tips in our Parent Talk article.

Click for our Parent Talk Article
Click for our Parent Talk Article

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Nine-year-old Kaylee Fowler becomes an ambassador for her spectrum mates by raising over $65,000 for Autism Speaks

Written by Clare Jensen | Photography by Lara Massey

Katy, TX News – Kaylee Fowler calls herself a bookworm, ballerina, scientist, inventor, chef, comedian, and child of the Lord. For the second year in a row, she was the top fundraiser for the Autism Speaks walk in Houston raising over $65,000 in 2013. Her team, God’s Little Lambs, seeks to help local families in need by raising autism awareness. Kaylee’s fundraising efforts were inspired by a desire to increase understanding for her “spectrum mates” – because she has autism as well.

Kaylee Fowler brings awareness to those diagnosed with Asperger’s by raising funds for Austism Speaks

Autism Spectrum
Autism is often characterized by repetitive behavior, difficulty with communication, and challenges in social interactions. Within the spectrum of autism, Kaylee has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a highly functioning form of autism.

One of her special qualities is that she focuses on specific interests so intensely that she learns expert level details before continuing to another topic. For example, at the age of 3, she became consumed with maps, and methodically proceeded to learn everything she could about geography, from continents to capitals. Once she learns something, it is imprinted in her memory for an extended period of time, often verbatim from her original understanding. Kaylee’s extensive vocabulary has allowed her to read full-length novels since the age of 4 or 5.

Fundraising for Love
Her fundraising efforts were fueled at the age of 5 with the gift of Easter baskets to children at Healthbridge Children’s Hospital in Houston. In addition to raising the money through crayon-colored fliers and a driveway juice stand, Kaylee also carefully selected gifts for each child’s basket. Upon delivery, the receptionist suggested that Kaylee give the children their baskets personally. Kaylee declined saying, “No, thank you. It’s not about me. It’s about God’s love. Please, just let them know it’s from one of God’s little lambs to another.”

The donation of these Easter baskets provided Kaylee with the name for her Autism Speaks team: God’s Little Lambs. Autism Speaks is a nationwide organization that dedicates itself to helping those with autism, from raising awareness to raising money. For the 2013 Autism Speaks walk, Kaylee set her goal at $50,000. Through a church carnival and benefit concert, she was able to exceed that goal by over $15,000.

The Fowlers are also in the process of making God’s Little Lambs into a non-profit organization. “Kaylee wants to fundraise as much as she can now for the researchers, so by the time she’s old enough to become a geneticist, they’ll have the pieces ready so she can help solve the puzzle,” says Kaylee’s mom Lexy.

Fowler’s mom Lexy has also been diagnosed with Asperger’s

Different Perspectives
Kaylee’s actions, however, are not only centered around raising funds, but also to increase understanding for spectrum mates with more severe forms of autism. Kaylee says, “I wouldn’t want people to ignore me if I needed help just because it looked complicated.” Lexy adds that her daughter “has always accepted that, embraced it, and tried to learn effective communication with others.”

John Fowler encourages people to educate themselves. “Kaylee and her spectrum mates may communicate differently or not at all in some cases, but they are still children of God,” he shares. Developing understanding and cultivating natural interactions are the simplest and best gifts to Kaylee and those diagnosed with autism.

Once on a family outing, the Fowlers saw a shirt that read “Asperger’s: it’s not a glitch, it’s a whole different operating system.”

The differences of her operating system have inspired her with proactive eagerness to help God’s other little lambs. John says, “The beauty and innocence of the world that Kaylee sees and shares with everyone, at every corner, is nothing short of amazing. She has taught me that there is no excuse for not giving life everything you have, every moment of every day.” KM

CLARE JENSEN is a junior at Rice University majoring in English and history. She calls Katy her home and loves the community.

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Morton Ranch student Caraline Miller survived brain cancer and child abuse, but chooses to be victorious, not a victim

Written by Zilah Miller | Select photography by Juliana Evans

Katy, Texas News – After moving from Katy to Chicago in 1998, my 2-year-old daughter Caraline and I encountered more than a change in climate. Six months after settling into our new home, I knew something was amiss. My jolly, active little toddler began to sleep 12 to 18 hours a day. When awake, nothing she ate stayed down.

Misdiagnosis Mix Up
The first occurrence landed us in the emergency room with a diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning. After two days, we were back at the ER with Caraline complaining that her neck hurt. A spinal tap revealed no meningitis, and this time, the doctor diagnosed her with stomach flu. Another two days passed, and I took her to our primary care doctor. I told him that Caraline rode her wheeled horse down the staircase in December, tumbling all the way down, and asked if the neck pain and vomiting could be related to the fall. Our doctor ordered a CT scan.

Zilah and Caraline Miller stand strong
Zilah and Caraline Miller stand strong

We Have a Problem
When the results of the scan finally came in, the doctor flew across the waiting room and came to his knees in front of Caraline and me. He said, “Peanut, we have a problem.”

As I sat in that dark room with a wall filled with scans of Caraline’s brain and tears rolling down my face, the doctor told me there was a mass the size of two golf balls in her little head. Caraline placed her small hands on either side of my face and told me, “Don’t cry, mommy. I will be okay.” This beautiful little girl was comforting me. Even as a toddler, Caraline had the ability to comfort others.

Twenty-four hours later, she had lost her ability to speak and all her motor skills were gone. My brother John sat in the chair in ICU as I lay holding Caraline. My mother, who never flies, flew from Mississippi to Illinois, and my sister Laura arrived from New York. The next morning, Caraline had surgery to remove the tumor. It was malignant and ended up being larger than expected. Dr. Ruge, her brain surgeon, was able to completely remove it, but said she could have potential issues after the surgery.

Guardian Angels
We believe in the power of prayer. Caraline’s body was able to recover, the shunt was removed, and she was up and eating in a day. The first thing she asked for was Chicken McNuggets. She told us about all the people in her ICU room, and we know it was the angels watching over her because only two people were allowed in her room at one time.

Two weeks after the surgery, we went home. Over the next two months, Caraline had chemo; then, she traveled to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Tennessee for seven weeks of radiation. Through it all, she continued to recover – even thrive. We expected complications from the chemo and radiation: partial blindness, drop foot, hearing loss, lack of motor skills. None of these complications occurred. Caraline was diagnosed with short-term memory loss in second grade, but she takes medication that helps with this issue.

In March 2014, Caraline will celebrate 15 years of being cancer free
In March 2014, Caraline
will celebrate 15 years of
being cancer free

A Badge of Courage
Cancer is only part of Caraline’s story. In 2000, Caraline was deliberately burned, over 40% of her body, with boiling water and oil by her biological father while she was in his care. The third-degree burns required daily skin treatments, removal of skin, and skin grafts at Shriner’s Burn Unit in Galveston. She carries the scars today, calling them her badge of courage. “I was given the option to attempt a surgery and have the burn scars on my thighs removed,” Caraline says. “I chose not to have the surgery because my burns make me who I am today. Without my past, what is the future?”

You can only imagine the heartache we went through to have just come through cancer only to have her hurt like this. The incident occurred less than one year after she completed radiation. But Caraline won’t let herself be a victim. Today, she is a lifeguard in the summer and confidently wears shorts and swimsuits. “I don’t really have a feeling for the way that I look,” she says. “I know that I want to be happy and not sad or mad about life every day.” When Caraline shared her story with the students at the Krause Center, she reminded them that everyone’s life has stumbling blocks, but we all have the choice in how we move forward after bad things.

New Blessings
After the burning incident, God provided a new dad for Caraline in the form of my sweet husband, Michael Miller. Michael officially adopted Caraline in July 2002, before she began kindergarten, and has been supportive in every way possible.

Today, Michael uses Caraline’s story to encourage his football players to find strength through adversity. Caraline’s story has been shared with Fellowships of Christian Athletes, Sunday schools, friends, colleagues, and others who are going through health-related issues. In fourth grade, Caraline dreamed that she was in an auditorium encouraging the audience to be survivors and not victims. This dream is what she aspires to do with her life – to motivate people to come through adversity and to influence those who don’t know how to move forward in life. “Things happen to people of all ages,” she says. “I am here for anyone who wants to listen.”

Beyond the Scars
Now, as a student at Morton Ranch High School, Caraline has a long list of accomplishments that tell a story far beyond her scars: National Junior Honor Society member; recipient of the Panther Spirit Award in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades; recognized as Katy Elks Outstanding Eighth Grade Student; National Charity League member; awarded 2013 Outstanding Newspaper Reporter; sports editor for the Maverick Star Newspaper; ninth grade volleyball team manager; and ninth grade tennis team, just to name a few. In March 2014, Caraline will celebrate 15 years of being a cancer survivor.

Caraline walks with her scars every day – physically and mentally. Cancer can strike anyone; it has no feelings or preference. But the fact that another person could harm a child the way Caraline was harmed is impossible to understand. Still, in our home, we love the song called “Blessings” by Laura Story that says, “What if your blessings come through raindrops?”

A Bright Future
Through all her adversities and successes, we give thanks. I know that Caraline will make a difference to the people she meets and the ones who hear her story – she already has. At our house, we say, “Make a choice: be a victim or be a survivor. One will have you miss out on the joys of life, and the other will open doors to exciting adventures.” KM

We would like to thank Zilah and Caraline Miller for sharing their amazing story with us. Do you have an inspirational story to share? Email editor@katymagazine.com.

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Encouragement from local Katy area experts for having a successful, healthy weight loss journey

Written by Kirsten Cornell | Photos property of Katy Magazine

Katy, Texas News – In the midst of a culture obsessed with weight and physical attractiveness, it’s no wonder there’s a growing trend of fad diets and infomercials showcasing any number of do-it-at-home workout programs and exercise equipment. From the cabbage soup or lemonade diet to more founded routines such as Paleolithic and gluten-free, it’s no surprise that more Americans than ever struggle with weight loss. Katy Magazine sat down with local experts on the subject, to find out practical ways to maintain a healthier lifestyle and incorporate fitness into your daily life.


1. Plan of Action
Deciding to live a healthier lifestyle is one that involves your entire mindset. “You have to ask yourself ‘Why do I truly want to lose weight?’ The answer will give you motivation,” advises Carl Comeaux, owner of Premier Personal Training. “People who are motivated take action.” Create an action plan that implements new habits including a regular exercise routine and proper nutrition. “Keep it simple. Don’t think about the marathon before you take your first step toward exercising on a consistent basis,” adds Comeaux. Obstacles are inevitable – put strategies in place that will help you overcome them.


2. Set Goals
It is important to have goals, and to stick to them. Results always take time and setting realistic fitness goals will help you attain them. “Set two goals you want to accomplish in 12 weeks,” advises Comeaux. “Make sure they are goals with finish lines such as running a one-mile race or working out four days a week.” Many of those with large, abstract aims such as “losing weight” often find the process more frustrating. Having a goal with a clear end will help you feel more accomplished. “You will start automatically losing weight because you have changed your routine,” adds Comeaux. Celebrate your accomplishments with worthy rewards. Did you stick to your workout plan this month? Treat yourself to a massage. Lose that stubborn 20 pounds? Buy a dress in your new size. Rewards will keep you motivated to stay on course.


 3. Building Good Habits
“We tell clients to focus on one habit per week to become successful at it,” says Comeaux. “By starting one step at a time, you will never feel like you’re starving, and you will see change.” Start keeping a nutrition log. This visual reminder of what you are eating will help you maintain a healthy diet plan. “A daily food and activity journal can help you keep on track with your weight loss goals,” says Danielle Steel, clinical director for Ageless Med Spa. “Weight loss isn’t just calories in and calories out,” explains Andy Garnett with Physicians Weight Loss Centers of Katy. “Nutrient dense plans are necessary so that you don’t feel hungry. Protein supplements increase your metabolism, preserve muscle mass, and increase overall energy.”

“Good habits include five servings of vegetables a day, two to three servings of fruit a day, 10 glasses of water daily, and stop eating three hours before you go to bed,” says Comeaux. “If you make good decisions 90% of the time, you can afford to splurge 10% of the time.”

A month-long effort will not sustain your long-term goals over the next 10 years. Formulating good habits will help you to be consistent and stick to your plan. “By exercising daily and eating lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, you will not only look and feel fantastic, you will reduce the risk of serious illnesses,” says Steel.


4. Get Moving
Now that you have a plan, get moving. Evaluate your schedule and goals to determine what will work best for you. “If you can only commit to four days a week, then that’s what you start out with,” encourages Comeaux. “Remember that your mindset needs to look at exercise as a lifestyle habit.”

“In the Houston area, we do a lot of sitting as a result of long commutes, desk jobs, or staying indoors because of high temperatures,” explains Garnett. “If we do not get enough activity to counterbalance calories, our bodies become fat storing machines.”

If you’re new to exercise and looking for an option you enjoy, utilize online programs in the beginning. These can range in everything from light weight-lifting to cardio kickboxing. Vary your routine to keep your body guessing. Try to actively incorporate activity into your everyday life. Park in the back of the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or take a family walk after dinner. “There are many physical activities that can be enjoyed as a family such as walking, riding bikes, skating, or swimming,” suggests Steel.


5. Better Together
Share your fitness goals with a friend that can help keep you accountable. “Having a diet partner, someone to encourage you, is an important tool in any weight loss journey,” advises Garnett.

Surround yourself with at least five friends who work out and practice a healthy lifestyle. Being around those who are already making these life changes will encourage you to do the same.

On-the-go moms will especially find workout groups helpful. “Connect with other moms and get a babysitter two to three days a week to watch all the kids while you go work out,” suggests Comeaux.

Connecting with others will not only help keep you accountable, but will make working out fun and something that you look forward to doing. “Once you start feeling good from exercise, which takes around two months, you won’t be worried about your dedication anymore – the feeling will be too good to stop,” laughs Comeaux.

“Take your weight loss journey one day at a time,” advises Steel. “Before long, you will see great results and be on the road to healthy living.” KM

KIRSTEN CORNELL is the lead associate editor for Katy Magazine and looks forward to her nightly walks with her husband and two dogs.

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Written by Leigh Ann Mitchell

KATY, Texas (KM) – Choosing a pediatrician that you and your child connect with is an important first step in raising a healthy, happy child. Whether you’re expecting your first baby or it’s time for a a change, here are a few words of wisdom from Katy moms and pediatricians.

Asking the Important Questions

Many parents interview potential pediatricians to ensure a good fit. “I don’t think there are a lot of ‘don’ts’ when interviewing a pediatrician,” explains Dr. Farah Mamedov from Katy’s Steeplechase Pediatrics. “You are choosing a medical home for your child, so you have to be comfortable with the doctor and the clinic.” Dr. Mamedov emphasizes making sure you ‘like’ your new doctor, and asking questions to see if you agree on important parenting topics like breastfeeding, discipline, antibiotics, and more.

Katy mom Kelly Brotherton interviewed pediatricians after a disappointing experience with her children’s first doctor. “Interviewing doctors is a great way to ensure your child’s best interests,” she notes. “Especially now, with varying opinions on holistic care and natural options, finding a pediatrician who sees eye to eye with you and is willing to build a trusting relationship will ultimately benefit your child.”

Kendra Martin PhotographyKelly and Oliver, by Kendra Martin Photography

Meet the Staff
When you visit, look around to make sure the office is clean and neat. Since you will be interacting with the office staff regularly, talk with them and make sure they are friendly and helpful. A staff that is quick to respond is very important to parents. Brotherton explains, “I don’t want to talk to machines and wait an hour when my child needs help. I also don’t want to wait so long in the lobby when an appointment has been scheduled. I need an office that treats my time as valuable as theirs.”

“It is important that the staff listens to your concerns and questions,” says Dr. Mamedov. Office staff and their ability to help can make or break a potential relationship. Brotherton explains, “The management of the office was actually our deciding factor.”

Compatibility is Key
Like all families, Brotherton wanted a doctor who would be willing to listen to her parenting choices. “We use natural options like diet and essential oils as a first defense against illness and to promote health,” says Brotherton. “We didn’t need a doctor who practiced this way, just one who would support us and be willing to listen.”

If you are expecting, schedule appointments to interview your top choices before the baby is born. Bring in a set of questions to ask the pediatrician, and try to pare them down to what is most important to you. Brotherton recommends asking anything that pertains to your family specifically.” How do you feel about breast feeding? How do you feel about alternate vaccination schedules? These were some issues that were important to us,” she says.

Ultimately, what parents are truly searching for is chemistry, not credentials. Interviewing potential pediatricians is an effective way to discover that compatibility. Asking questions and making simple observations during the interview can help parents figure out if the pediatrician is someone they feel comfortable with, someone who answers their questions, and someone they trust.

LEIGH ANN MITCHELL also went through the interviewing process to find a pediatrician to make sure he was a good fit for them and their child.


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I am always looking for great places to take my children. Local places are even better. Let’s explore Katy, have fun, and save on gas–what’s not to love? Our latest venture took us to the new Whole Foods on Fry Road.

We went one quiet weekday morning and spent an hour. It may not sound like a big deal, but to keep three almost-three-year-olds in a supermarket cart for an hour is a major success. Here’s how we did it. Maybe you can try it with your family, too.

1.) Go in the morning–Whole Foods, like most supermarkets, are busiest on weekend mornings. People-watching can be fun for children, but being stuck in aisle after aisle is not. So, go when you’ll have a lot of space to yourselves. Mornings are also a better choice because of number two on the list.

2.) Sample the food. This is iffy for a lot of parents. Do you trust the food that’s unsupervised? Sometimes I do, and sometimes I just can’t bring myself to give my children the food on the bottom of the sample display. That’s why we go early in the morning. Less touched food means safer. Which leads to number three.

3.) Whole Foods has a free fruit stand for children. If the samples look picked-through, or if your kids want a bigger treat, swing by the front desk. We enjoyed two bananas and a clementine. I steered clear of the apples since I wasn’t sure if they were washed. You can always bring your own snacks, too. You know your own children’s likes.

4.) I like it when a place is really child-friendly. Whole Foods shows they are by having lots of tables inside and out where families can sit and enjoy the food they buy at the buffet or sandwich or pizza counter. And how cool is it that there are also a few child-size tables so everyone feels welcome?

5.) Feel free to use a supermarket outing to help teach things like healthy choices, which price is higher, shapes and colors, bigger/smaller portions, or how many of this item do we need to buy to serve our family? It’s also another great chance to practice meeting people like the workers behind the fish, meat, pizza, flower counters.

I hope you utilize Whole Foods to enjoy a morning out with your children. I am sure some of these same things can be done at most other markets. Where do you go with your children to have some fun (and maybe get an errand done at the same time?) We’d love to hear from you.


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Remembering to be thankful for the people and moments that make life wonderful

Even though it is nowhere near Thanksgiving, I decided to try to make May another month where I try to be grateful for the people and events of my life. We all know life is busy, but so far, I have found that taking the time to be mindful of the richness already in my life helps me to not take it for granted or pine for something more.

Here are my current top five things for which to be grateful. Perhaps your list is similar? We’d love to know!

1.    Children’s laughter. As our triplets turn 2 and become more aware of their surroundings, we hear a lot of laughter. They enjoy interacting with us and with their big brother, who of course, loves to add to all the fun. I have read in some articles that harried moms and dads can defuse a negative behavior by doing something funny for the child to laugh at. I have tried this and it usually works.

2.    Family. I try to call or email members of my family each day. It can sometimes be a long conversation, but it’s usually a shorter, “How are you?” type of communication. Family helps me stay grounded, and after being around children most of the day, even if they are laughing, I often need some adult conversation.

3.    Food. My husband recently volunteered at the Houston Food Bank. He was astonished to learn that most of the people they serve are working families who just can’t afford enough food for the month. I work hard to use up every grocery item and cringe when something goes bad before I can use it.

4.    Quiet time. This is one that I have recently learned to appreciate more. With young children, it is also one that I have had to create for myself. I now wake up at least an hour earlier than they usually do just to see my husband off to work and then to have a little time to prepare for the day. When I wake up just a few minutes before the children, I find that my morning is rushed and I am grouchy.

5.    Katy, Texas. I love living here! From the beautiful parks to the great restaurants, I appreciate that we decided to move here. There isn’t much that Katy doesn’t have: Great grocery stores and shopping are just the tip of what the city has to offer. My husband and I love Alamo Drafthouse and mini golf. My mom can have a spa day right here in Katy, and great hospitals are just up the road. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Please add to my list. What can you be grateful for this month – and all year long?

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Katy mom shares the importance of becoming a bone marrow donor

Guest Blog by Kelly Schuler

I had no idea how important it is to become a bone marrow donor until my daughter Lucy was diagnosed with Leukemia at 2 years old. She is a fighter and is winning her battle! Currently in remission, Lucy will continue to undergo chemotherapy for another year. The intensive two-and-a-half years of treatment will be enough to keep this dreadful cancer away. Although Lucy has received numerous blood transfusions, a bone marrow transfusion is not required. Many of our fellow young cancer warriors however are not so fortunate. Lucy has several friends on the same battlefield whose only hope of survival is to replace their cancer-ridden bone marrow with healthy marrow via a donor.

The fact that only 2% of Americans are on the national bone marrow donor registry may be evidence that many people are simply unaware that the need for donors is vast. There are more than 70 medical conditions for which the matching bone marrow is the only life saving remedy available. As many as 3,000 people die in the U.S. each year waiting for a bone marrow match and an even greater number of people die from complication arising from partially matched donors. Additionally, there are 16,000 people on the marrow transplant waiting list right now and their best chance of finding a matching bone marrow if from a donor of the same race or ethnicity. Black, Indian, Asian, Hawaiian, Hispanic and patients from multiple races are especially in need of donors.

The lack of knowledge for the need for donors may be comparable to the destitute of education regarding the donation process. Many people may be worried about sacrificing a great amount of time. Others may be concerned that the process is a painful one that may pose a health risk to the donor.  How many people really know the facts?

Anyone between the ages of 18-60 in good general health can register to be a donor. Registry can be as simple as filling out some basic information on line. A registration kit is mailed and a cotton swab included in the kit is used to swab your cheek cells. The donor’s tissue type is used to detect any possible matches to patients in need. If the donor is contacted by the bone marrow bank, he or she may be asked to donate in one of two ways:

  • Bone marrow donation- is a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the back of the donor’s pelvic bones. This process takes place in a hospital where general and regional anesthesia is always used. Donors generally go home the same day they donate. They do experience some pain in their lower back for a few days afterwards, but normally return to their daily routines in one or two days.
  • Peripheral blood cell (PBSC) donation- involves giving blood through a needle in the arm. A machine separates out the cells used in transplants and returns the remaining blood.

In both cases, the donor’s immune system is not compromised and the donated cells replace themselves within four to six weeks. There is no cost to the donor to donate and any travel costs are reimbursed by the registry. On average the donation process can take approximately 30 to 40 hours, including travel time, over four to six weeks.

Too many kids die waiting for a bone marrow match. Clearly, these sacrifices are insignificant compared to their life being saved. It would be wonderful to clear the cancer battlefield and allow Lucy’s friends and fellow warriors who are awaiting bone marrow transplants a chance to be healed and a chance to go home. Give a warrior a chance and become a bone marrow donor today by registering at marrow.org or dkmsaamericas.org.

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Finding Ways to Get in Exercise, Despite the Summer Temperatures

As I write this it’s nearing 8 p.m., and it feels as if the temperature is still in the 80’s. So much for my goal to get outdoors and exercise more. To beat the heat, I either have to go outside when it’s still dark or brave the high temperature after the children are in bed. Common sense tells me that both choices are unwise.

I try to be creative, and no doubt you’ve see some of these ideas before. But here are five of my favorite indoor exercise ideas.

  1. Dance. Unless you live on the second floor of an apartment, you don’t have to worry about disturbing your downstairs neighbors. Choose your own tunes, or just put on one of the music stations on cable. My favorite is the 80s channel. Turn up the music, dance around the house. Before you start, tell yourself that you will dance for a certain number of songs. Knowing there is an end in sight helps me stay motivated. Your kids will love to join you, which is an added bonus.
  2. Walk in place during your favorite show. Most people DVR their shows these days to avoid commercials, but if you choose this one, you have to suffer through the commercials, literally! Walk in place or on the treadmill or even jump on a mini-trampoline during the show. Then, when the commercials come on, do sit ups or push-ups or some other kind of exercise.
  3. Have a scavenger hunt. If you have younger children, this is a very fun way to get some exercise. Hide their stuffed animals, cars, or dinosaurs–whatever toys they like to play with–all over the house. As they try to find the items, you join the fun and get active. If they run to the next room, you do, too.
  4. If you are brave, you can always host an exercise party at your house. All you need is one motivated friend, but if you have more, it’ll be even more fun. Alternate houses where you can all meet and pop in a video to exercise with. Then, end with a healthy smoothie or meal, depending on the time of day. When you see a friend sweat and really work toward a goal, it does motivate you to try hard, too. Inspiration!
  5. Get a few exercise routines out of some fitness magazines or off the Internet. Mix and match the routines so you’re never doing the same one. If you find five different routines, choose two exercises from each one. Then add some cardio. The next workout, change up the choices and do a different type of cardio. If you’re bored, you’ll never stick with any program. This idea gets you doing something new each time.

No, I’m not a personal trainer, and of course, everyone should get a doctor to clear them for exercise before working out–especially in this savage heat we’re currently in. But after you get the go-ahead, try some of these ideas.

Let me know how you like them and how you stay moving in triple digits!

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Must-Haves for the Pantry

Reaching for a snack is a constant for my kids, especially after school and after dinner.  Today’s kids are snacking more and getting much less exercise than kids five, ten, even 20 or more years ago.  Traditionally, families ate during mealtimes only, and they were more physically active in their overall lives.  In today’s America, however, far too many sugar-filled and salt-laden processed foods line our grocery aisles, and then find their way into our pantries at home – and we’re not spending the added “food energy” in our bodies as fast as we’re adding it.

Since cutting most sugar-filled and processed foods out of our family’s diet, we have had to adjust the types of snacks we stock.  Here are the top healthy options waiting in the pantry when my kids reach for that after school snack:

1. Peanut or almond butter – Great source of protein and fiber and easy to use in sandwiches, smoothies, sauces, and as a veggie spread.  This natural nutty goodness is nicely filling, and is a great grab snack anyway you serve it!

2. Pocorn – A classic favorite, popcorn is light, fiber-filled, and easy.  Popcorn provides a fun crunch and texture for the snacker, and is a great source of bulk.  This is the cream of the crop for my kids, as they turn to this snack when they are craving less healthy alternatives, like chips.

3. Whole wheat bread, bagels, and wraps – A healthy sandwich, piece of toast, or quick wrap are always an option if you keep these items stocked!  So many varieties, take so little time, and satisfy even the pickiest eater!  Make sure the options available are true whole wheat or whole grain varieties (if the label ingredient says enriched, steer clear!)

4. Nuts – Almonds, walnuts and pecans are best, in that order.  These three have the most benefits, carrying loads of fiber (3 grams for one ounce) and vitamin E, folic acid, copper, magnesium and the amino acid arginine.  Each of these benefits present evidence of playing a role in preventing heart disease, so it’s not just a healthier snack option, it’s one of the healthiest!  Some information out there is warning of the high levels of fat in nuts, but be assured, they contain healthy fat – these choices are very low in saturated fat.

5. Crackers – Most brands are naturally sugar-free, low in fat (no trans fat!) and available in whole wheat.  Serving sizes are realistic, and actually fill the snack need – great alone or with spreads, cheese, or even veggies!  Try a fresh pico salsa with them, or mix some salmon with whipped cream cheese and spices for a quick and easy protein boost.

6. Prunes and craisins – Add them to your nut mix, or just pop them in your mouth for a quick sweet tooth fixer.  Either way, the high fiber count (almost 4 grams per serving) and loads if vitamins and minerals contained in this dried fruit packs a punch in your body for health!  Craisins (dried cranberries) also provide many benefits as you enjoy their naturally sweet-tanginess.  They were found to have the highest level of natural antioxidants per gram than any other fruit!  That’s a good reason to munch on them – you’re boosting your immune system and protecting your heart at the same time!

7. Salmon – bagged or canned – Filling, full of protein, so quick and easy, we enjoy this as a snack weekly.  The benefits to this fish are numerous – of course, the omega-3 fats, but salmon also contains high levels of vitamin D, vitamin B3, B6, and B12, and many other vitamins and minerals.  It is an energy booster, and a generally good choice for a midday snack.

8. Tea/sugar-free drink mixes – It is so easy to whip up some iced tea or a cold pitcher of sugar-free fruit punch!  This has made the transition from sugar-laden juices, sodas and other harmful drinks to much healthier options easier on my kids.  Of course the ideal is to end up sugar-free without sweeteners, but I have learned to choose my battles, and I am choosing the lesser evil on this one!  One really great option I have found for chocolate milk – 1 Tbsp. of Nesquik’s 25% less sugar chocolate powder mixed with 6 oz unsweetened soy milk – equals one happy kid, and that is achieved in under seven grams sugar!

It is possible to make healthier choices in snacking at home, it just takes a conscious decision to make the transition.  Decide to do it, commit to a plan, and watch your family grow healthier today!

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Lisa’s Fresh Bean Relish

This springtime relish is easy, fresh, and full of natural fiber.  Thanks to Lisa (Juan’s co-worker), our family enjoys this quick dish often with grilled chicken or as a side to fish.  It turns out best with all the ingredients rinsed and completely drained, and then refrigerated overnight.  It’s one of those dishes that just gets better with time.

This recipe has helped our family eat more beans, which are rich in fiber and other nutrients for the body.  I personally have never enjoyed beans, but this dish has a way of hiding the bean taste in the goodness of the overall dish, and I have enjoyed it often now.

Here’s the recipe:

1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained (or 1½ cups frozen)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 (4 ounce) can mild green chiles

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 cup Italian-style salad dressing

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

In a medium bowl, combine black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, onion, green bell pepper, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes. Season with Italian-style salad dressing and garlic salt; mix well. Cover, and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors.

If you prefer fresh tomatoes, substitute 1¾ cup for the canned diced tomatoes.  For a spicier relish, switch out the mild green chiles for jalapeno peppers, either fresh diced or canned.

Lisa's Fresh Bean Relish
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Experiencing New Culture in Katy

Recently, I added some new culture to my family’s diet with some delicious Afghani food.  My dear friend Ghizal and I both packed up our little ones (both 3 years old and best buds.) along for a ride to the Middle Eastern specialty store in Houston.  What a learning experience.  I was surprised at the selection available in organic and specialty health products, though I shouldn’t be.  The culture I was experiencing supports a strong Mediterranean-type diet, with such a fresh appeal.  The amount of aromatic spices and savory sauces and dips available was delightful.  I was like a kid in the candy store, and I plan to go back very soon.

The prices were comparable, and in some cases, better than the general market’s.  I found the tofu I had been searching for, grabbed some wonderful Tzitziki sauce, and overindulged in teas, spices, and olives.  The pita bread I bought fresh from the in-house bakery was so chewy and delightful, that a day later, the kids have almost finished it.  I’m definitely going to get more of that next time, and bake it gently to make pita chips for the kids.

Later at home, Ghizal helped me cook yet another native Afghani dish, her ground turkey meatballs, as I provided a healthy and delicious Middle Eastern dinner for my family.  For sides, I made brown basmati rice in chicken broth and popped a fresh frozen bag of veggies in the microwave, adding some cumin and lemon pepper to them for great pizzazz in just minutes.  Frozen veggies are such a smart choice, as the vitamins and minerals in them are well-preserved from the freezing process.

I noticed recently something that has been resonating in me the more Ghizal and I get to know each other.  No matter what the obvious and fascinating differences in our cultures, the more we realize we are also alike.  The Hispanic and the Middle Eastern cultures are so similar in traditions, flavors, values, and other areas.  It is a fun experience to learn more about each other, and what we value most.  She is even teaching me some Dari, her native language.

All cultures are valuable, with something wonderful to instill in others, and I am learning this all over again firsthand.  What other culture are you currently experiencing (or desire to), and how do you embrace those moments?

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Eight Pantry Must-Haves

To cook healthy for your Katy family, your pantry must be stocked with healthy ingredients. Here is a quick list of the items you’ll turn to as you begin to cook healthier dishes for your family. Having them on hand makes last-minute decisions for dinner better choices. If the only thing available to grab and fix is wholesome, the likelihood of “falling off the health wagon” is decreased.

1. Chicken, vegetable, and beef broth (low in fat and sodium are best) – You’ll need broths for veggie dishes, soups, casseroles, and sauces. Always have a few cans or boxes of each on hand. Our bodies are benefited by the high concentrate of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and sulphur found in meat broths.

2. Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans – The three choices listed are the healthiest choice – these nuts contain monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, copper, protein, and fiber, and are rich in antioxidants – they help prevent heart disease and lower bad cholesterol. Plus, they fill you up and make a great ingredient in many dishes – rice, salads, baked goodies, and as a simple snack.

3. Whole wheat pasta – There are plenty of varieties available now: stock spaghetti, elbows and penne. Pasta dishes made with veggies and chicken or fish are healthy, and are simple one-pot dinners for the whole family.

4. Beans, all different varieties (black, cannellini, and chickpeas are our favs.) – Beans are so rich in protein, dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates (energy givers), and provide good fats for the body. Beans can be used in sides, soups, salads, and casseroles. For easy preparation, used canned varieties.

5. Truvia, honey, and stevia (for baking, use Splenda) – Hot debate swirls around “fake” sweeteners constantly, but rest assured, choosing and stocking one or all of these choices is a good decision. All of them are better for your body than sugar, hands down. They will add flavor and sweetness to your cereals, baked goodies, desserts, and fruit dishes – without the toxic damage of processed sugar.

6. Canned tomatoes – crushed, diced, paste and sauce – Select low sodium varieties, and use these Lycopene-rich fruits as a staple for soups, casseroles, veggie sides, and other dinner dishes. The rich levels of Lycopene in tomatoes work to stave off cancers, heart disease, and high cholesterol.

7. Whole wheat or grain bread – Bread isn’t good for us unless it is whole wheat or whole grain – enriched flour and breads are still processed, and not good for us. Use this healthy staple in sandwiches, for morning toast, or as a filler in favorite dinner dishes, such as meatloaf.

8. Olive oil, pan sprays, sunflower oil – Cooking with these lowfat and naturally healthy oils is a winner every time. They contain vitamins E, K, and A, as well as other powerful antioxidants, which are anti-inflammatory agents in the body. Use to cook with, or in salad dressings and marinades, and in bread dips.

Of course, this is a simple list with easy explanations for use of these items in your family’s healthy cuisine. Use your imagination and creativity to explore other uses and options for these staples  and be sure to share them with us. Here’s to simple family health from your Katy kitchen pantry.

Keeping your pantry stocked with healthy food items helps you to make better meal and snack choices!
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How to Enjoy a Healthier Daily Cup of Joe

Coffee has gotten a bad rap in recent years, and with good reason.  The coffee that the bulk of Americans are drinking is loaded with additives, sugar and other unnatural ingredients which are harmful to our health.  This post is in no way meant to tout the consumption of the coffee drinks that have become the popular mainstay of the morning routine, but rather to offer a redemptive take on the benefits of the pure form of the dark liquid given to us by nature!

On that note, keep in mind that as I talk about coffee in this post, I am speaking of black coffee, and know that as you add sweeteners, cream, whip, or any other delight, that those additions are the basis of coffee’s increased popularity and decreased nutritional value.  Here are the soundly tested benefits of coffee:

  • Coffee has been shown to prevent diabetes – Dr. Frank Hu, Professor with the Harvard School of Public Health, reviewed nine studies done on coffee and type 2 diabetes with 193,000 participants, and 28% were at lower risk for the disease after drinking 4-6 cups of coffee a day.
  • Coffee contains magnesium and chromium, which help the body use the hormone insulin, resulting in more regulated blood sugar.
  • Drinking 1-3 cups of coffee daily lowers the risk of heart rhythm disturbances in both men and women, as well as the risk of stroke for women.
  • Linked to the lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (especially in men) – a consistent finding over numerous studies.  The risk was substantially lowered by drinking 3-5 daily cups – by 65% in a twenty-year study.

Coffee contains only 7 calories per 6 ounces, and it is believed that decaffeinated contains the same benefits as full strength.  The caffeine is really the key negative of coffee, as it can be harmful in large doses.  It is still up for debate though, as new studies continue to find the benefits to outweigh the harm.

Moderation and keeping the coffee pure are the best bet when enjoying a cup of morning joe!  Use sugar-free creamer, or heavy whipping cream (less than one gram of sugar) and a natural sweetener, like Truvia, to flavor your cup.  The popular drinks served at the coffee houses, on the other hand, are loaded with calories, sugar and a lot of fluff!  They are also a costly treat, and although I occasionally indulge in a sugar-free cappuccino, I make most of my coffee drinks at home.  Here is a simple iced coffee recipe:


  • Ice
  • Chilled brewed coffee (strong – remember, it’ll get thinner due to milk and ice)
  • Sweetener (I use Truvia)
  • Milk (Use unsweetened soy milk, or heavy whipping cream)


Fill a tall glass with ice.  Pour in chilled brewed coffee to desired strength (about 1/3 of glass for mild strength – ½ for stronger).  Sweeten as desired.  Top with milk.


Try making your own specialty coffee drink at home with this simple, healthy recipe.
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Survival Tips For Transition

When the decision has been made to get healthier as a Katy family, the look of your food shelves must change, little by little!  In order for the family to eat healthy, the available selection must be healthy.  There are several items I suggest you stock in your pantry for both cooking needs and quick snacks.  One thing that is so important to remember that during the exchange of previous foods to healthier picks: it takes time for your family to adjust.

The previously available selection of processed, junk foods has wreaked havoc in more areas than the body – there is usually a mind connection as well – especially to comfort foods.  The process gets easier with time, but the ease of it depends greatly on the ages of your children, and level of willingness of the family as a whole to make this change for the better together.  During our pantry makeover, we’ve struggled with two of our children especially – both were picky eaters to begin with, and they have fought the transition harder than the other two.

During this transition from previous eating habits to the ones you now keep, remember to pick your battles.  If your child is having a difficult time adjusting to less sugar, less carbohydrates, and more whole foods, add in fun favorites that are not harmful, and ease the recovery!  For instance, I make sure to keep sugar-free puddings in the fridge, and microwave popcorn in the pantry.  Two of their favorites, and they don’t feel as deprived.

Over time, the transition eases, the family adjusts, and enthusiasm grows – especially as results begin to show due to the sacrifice.  Be patient with your family, continue to educate yourself in new recipes, ideas, and healthy additions to the family’s diet, and above all, splurge when necessary!  In the rough spots where discouragement may come, go grab a sugar-free deluxe coffee drink, and small plain frozen yogurt for the kids.  Allow yourself a break and then get right back on track, you’ll be refreshed, and ready to restart the whole and healthy plan you’ve all committed to.

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This Easy Recipe is Sure to Please Any Katy Family

You can cook gourmet dishes in little time, with little effort, offering your family something full and healthy for dinner. Since spaghetti sauces are loaded with sugar, I have resorted to using crushed tomatoes with a small amount of tomato paste stirred in, along with your fave Italian seasonings (garlic, thyme and oregano always work for Italian.) to make quick and easy semi-homemade sauce. This dish is easy, will please your picky eaters and is healthy. Enjoy!


1 – 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

½ of a 6 oz. can of tomato paste

½ medium onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 – 6.5 oz can of mushroom pieces

1½ lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5-6 thighs)

For Rice:

2 – 15 oz cans chicken broth

2 cups basmati rice

Heat up 2 tbsp olive oil in a large fry or saucepan. Sautee the diced onions for 3 minutes, add the garlic and continue sauting for another minute or two, until the onions are clear. Add the chicken and brown it for 3-4 minutes on each side. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and paste, stir to blend. Season with desired seasonings (I use oregano, fresh thyme, black pepper, and garlic salt.) Add the mushrooms (drained), place the lid on, and simmer on medium heat for about 20-30 minutes. (Or until the chicken is cooked tender.)

Rice: While the chicken is cooking, in a saucepan, heat to a boil the cans of chicken broth and 1/3 cup of water (liquid should total 4 cups). Add 2 cups of basmati rice to the broth, and cook, covered, for twenty minutes or until done on medium heat. The rice will absorb the fluid and be fluffy and soft.

Serve the cacciatore over the rice – yummy!

Six Ingredient Chicken Cacciatore
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A Quick and Healthy Alternative to a Restaurant Favorite

Always on the lookout for quick and healthy, I have reinvented Chili’s famous lettuce wraps and made my own version at home. I think this one is much easier and definitely does without all the sugar-filled sauces you’ll find at the restaurant. Try them for yourself, and let me know what you think.

This recipe is just about as easy as it gets for a healthy, filling, and quick dinner. All you need is a nice head of green lettuce (any type BUT iceberg), sliced grilled chicken, carrots, onion (purple or green are best), sliced almonds, and crispy rice noodles. You can add any extra ingredients that you might have a hankering for, like I did with bacon pieces in this picture below. Yellow or red bell peppers are also a strong addition, adding more than a naturally sweet taste and vibrant splash of color. They are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins.

A light drizzle of Kraft Light Asian Toasted Sesame dressing over the mix tops it off beautifully. The dressing only has 3 grams of sugar and 25 calories in one tablespoon serving.

We have this on easy nights and wrap the mix in the lettuce leaf, like a natural burrito. It is fresh, crisp, and light but still so filling. The colors in the dish are representative of the depth of health found in the ingredients. One easy rule of thumb when eating healthy: the more colorful a vegetable, the more vitamins and minerals found in it. Enjoy!

Lettuce wraps are a perfect option for nights when a fast and easy dinner is needed.
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This has been a family favorite of mine for years, and the perfect amount of sweetness and moist texture of this recipe will make it a new family favorite of yours.  This recipe also makes 12 muffins, soft on the inside and chewy on the outside!

1¼ cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup (one stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar(for low-sugar recipe, use 1/2 c Splenda, 1/2 c sugar)
3 ripe bananas
½ cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, prepare four mini loaf pans, or 9x5x3 bread pan.  (Mini loaf pans work  better, bread stays really moist!)  Sift flour, soda and salt in medium bowl, set aside.  Whisk eggs and vanilla together, set aside.  Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Pour egg mix into the butter and sugar mix, stir until mixed together.  Mash bananas thoroughly, then pour them in to wet mixture.  Fold in dry mix, beat all ingredients together.  Add nuts, stir several more times.  Bake mini pans for about 40-45 min, bread pan for 50-55 min.  Done when inserted toothpick (or butter knife!) comes out clean.  Cool for 5 min.

NOTE:  The LOW sugar version of this bread uses ½ cup Splenda and ½ cup sugar – still moist, but much lower calories and sugar content!  Another fun tip for a special treat is to add 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips to the mixture when the nuts are added.

Banana bread is perfect for breakfast, snacks or a healthy dessert!
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Tips and Tricks to Get More Fresh Produce Into Your Diet This Spring

Fresh spring veggies are colorful, appetizing, and vital to our overall health. The nutrients and vitamins found in vegetables not only give our bodies the nourishment they need, they also work to combat the toxins in our systems. For instance, dark greens like mustard and collard greens, kale, and green leafy lettuce contain high levels of vitamins B6 and C, fiber, calcium, carotenes, manganese, and copper, just to name a few benefits. Green vegetables, especially leafy greens, give us cancer-fighting benefits. This is mostly due to their high content of antioxidant compounds including vitamins C and E, carotenes, and a high content of glucosinolates.*

Growing up the farm in Illinois, we grew all our own greens and vegetables in Mom’s large garden. Fresh green beans, spinach, zucchini, beets, onions, carrots, and even wild-grown asparagus were always on our springtime menu. My family and I never had a shortage of home-grown, organic vegetables and herbs. Mom canned, too, so even into the winter we enjoyed the fruits of her springtime labor.

It is easier than ever to obtain fresh and healthy vegetables to your family diet on a daily basis. Although green vegetables are the best choice, allowing for variety in the selection will keep your family interested in continuing to eat vegetables. Vary the dishes between fresh selections such as salads, and hearty sauted and grilled varieties. Add low-sugar ranch and sour cream dips to an appealing selection of crunchy raw veggies for your family’s enjoyment. Use your creativity and entice them to choose vegetables over empty, harmful, processed foods that will only add toxins and no value to their diet.

Whether you grow your own, buy them fresh at a Katy market, or go for organic selections, just find ways eat more veggies. The powerful benefits found in them will detoxify, add vitamins and minerals naturally, and nourish your body. All good reasons to enjoy more green this spring with your family in Katy.

Do you have any “fresh” ideas on how to consume more green? Bring on the suggestions – share it with us.

* Nutrition information found at DailyChef.com

Growing your own vegetables is a great way to obtain your own fresh produce.
Giving your veggies a light saute helps add flavor while keeping your meal healthy.
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Fun Ways to Burn Calories This Spring

With spring hinting at us around the corner here in Katy, the neighborhoods are beginning to look alive again.  People are out in their yards, cleaning up the garden beds, and washing the cars.  All of these activities are necessary to keep our hearts pumping, blood moving, and calories burning.

Did you know that gardening and yard work count as exercise?  So does washing the car, cleaning the house, and rough-housing with your kids.  Yes, according to the experts at Diet.com and Harvard Medical School, here are the calories you can burn by doing these everyday activities:

  • Digging and weeding in the garden – 150 to 205 calories in 30 minutes
  • Mowing the lawn with push mower – 244 calories in 30 minutes
  • Sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming house – 100 calories in 20 minutes
  • Playing with the kids – 178 to 222 calories in 30 minutes
  • Washing and vacuuming the car – 300 calories in one hour
  • Cooking and preparing family dinner – 192 calories
  • Sleeping – 50 calories

These are all healthful things to do – and not just for your physical needs.  Doing any of these activities as a family will strengthen your relationships, promote bonding, and teach youngsters responsibility!  All around, they are great everyday things to pursue, not just for the honey-do list either, but for overall health.

What about your family?  Does the warm weather invite you outside to stretch your ligaments, move your bodies, and spend time in the sun together?  Tell us what you like to do in Katy to burn the calories off.

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Discovering the Health Benefits of a Favorite Sweet

When my family and I first embarked on our sugar-freeing journey a few weeks ago, we thought we were kissing all goodies goodbye.  Most “junk food” sweets contain over 20 grams of sugar per serving, and since our new daily quota is 15 grams of sugar, we can no longer dabble in the confections of our former sugar-filled days.  How relieved we were to find that we can still have chocolate, and some baked goodies, without the guilt and shame of “cheating” ourselves.

After some passionate research, we found that dark chocolate is not only permissive in our new restrictive lifestyle, but also good for us in many ways.  So we have been happily experimenting with different brands and percentages of chocolate bars to bring you the latest Blanco family findings in the best chocolate on a low-sugar diet.

Our personal favorites so far are:

Juan (Daddy) – Lindt Excellence Smooth Dark 85% Cocoa – 5g sugar per serving (four squares)

Bess (Mom) – Lindt Excellence 70% Smooth Dark Cocoa – 12g sugar per serving (four squares)

Kids – All brands, all percentages!  Except for GiGi and Sophie, who find the 85% cocoa too bitter.

We usually only eat about 1-2 squares, since they are so rich, and each square is 1 ½ inches – it’s plenty to satisfy the craving.  We also really enjoy Cote D’ Or and Godiva brand 70% dark chocolate.

All of these chocolates are rich in flavanoids, which act as antioxidants and work to lower blood pressure and cholesterol in the body.  Did you know that dark chocolate contains eight times the antioxidants found in strawberries?  All the more reason to have chocolate-covered strawberries as a treat now!  Chocolate also stimulates our endorphin production, making us feel pleasure (duh, right?!) and contains serotonin, which is our built-in anti-depressant.

It is safe to have a small amount everyday, as dark chocolate is made from plants and is a natural product.  As with anything else, remember to use moderation, and small servings is the key.  Be careful to read the labels, make sure it is the low sugar, natural type of chocolate you are purchasing.  Too many good reasons to abstain from that piece of deliciousness any longer – go ahead, have a chocolate today!

What about you?  What are your favorite dark chocolate treats?

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Enjoy This Simple Recipe and Kick Off Spring

One of the things I love most about living in Katy is the wide array of cultures we have located right here!  We have met and made friends with people from all over: Colombia, Brazil, Phillippines, Mexico, Venezuela, Africa, Haiti, Peru, India, Afghanistan…We love learning about their culture, as well as sharing with them what we love about ours.  One of the things I love best about my friend’s cultures is tasting their delightful foods!  Here is a recipe for you to enjoy at home – to you, from Colombia.

With warmer weather approaching, light fares and easy dinners are on the family appetite radar.  This easy, low-sugar recipe from my friend Maggie combines fresh, colorful ingredients and delightful Latino taste.

1 med-large avocado
2 med tomatoes
1 large onion
small bunch cilantro (1/4 cup)
1 cup  light orange juice
1/4 cup reduced-sugar tomato ketchup
3 small limes
1 lemon
1 lb medium to large cooked shrimp
salt and hot sauce (salsa) to taste

Dice all veggies and shrimp, squeeze limes and lemon into mix, stir all ingredients together.  Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before serving, so all flavors blend together.

Produces six cups of cocktail, and for each cup serving there is only four grams of sugar (including vegetable sugars) and under two grams of carbs.  There is, however, tons of fiber and potassium in the avocado and tomatoes, and plenty of flavor to make it all worth it!  We usually eat this with soda crackers, which only adds a couple grams of carbs.  Enjoy this low-fat, low-sugar, and low-carb recipe – then let me know what you think!

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An Update on New Year’s Resolutions

The last three weeks of being on a low-sugar lifestyle change have been eye-opening, to say the least!  Saying no to the old way of eating (mindlessly, mostly) and bringing in the new way (completely, constantly mindful) is not easy.  It’s even more difficult when feeding four snack-addicted youngsters, and to further complicate the transition, we’re doing it all on a tight budget!  Well, at least we’re figuring out that it can be done.

It has taken a large amount of creativity, little dose of patience, and a well-deserved and strategically planned cheat or two to make something like this work for the whole family.  For example, tonight my thoughtful husband got us out of the house and over to McDonald’s, one of our family’s favorite haunts “pre-low-sugar diet.”  I had a sugar-free cappuccino, which curtailed my annoying sweet tooth, and the girls and I shared frozen yogurt sundaes.  Not too much damage done, while my growing obsession with something sweet is quenched.

Gigi, my six-year-old bread lover, still gets to eat her carbs, just less of them.  She is finding the transition smoother than she first thought it would be when she stood horrified as I threw all the “crap” that was in the pantry into the trash three weeks ago!  She is relieved that I am finding creative solutions to meet her bottomless need for all things carbohydrates, even as I sneak more protein into her previously sugar-infested diet.

The variety in our diet as a family has not been eliminated; in fact, we are finding that we are getting more creative with the foods we are allowed to eat.  We eat more “colorful” food now, beautifully full salads and soups, loaded with such delicacies as avocado, cheeses in all forms, and crisp, fresh nuts.  I was also so happy to get guiltless permission to enjoy my occasional bacon again, and the once a week red meat serving in the form of a juicy steak is always a pleasure!

So as we enter our fourth week as a low-sugar, low-carb eating family, we have renewed commitment and an excited expectation as our waists are shrinking and our energy levels increasing.  No more rise and fall all day long, of sugar levels and emotions!  More stability, less irregularity.  We can do this!

What about your Katy family?  Are you pursuing a new health regimen for your family?  I’d love to hear about it!

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Breaking the Cycle Can Help You Feel Good

Frankly, I am shocked at my “progress” with this brand new health and lifestyle change my family and I have implemented this year.  I emphasize the word progress because the scale doesn’t say anything different than last year’s weight yet.  The clothes I yearn to try on without popping the front button off don’t fit me – yet.  No, nothing has visibly changed as of now.  On the outside, that is.  Inside, however, there is change – and it’s good!

We began a low sugar, carb counting regimen early last week, and we are already noticing substantial improvement in energy and sleeping habits.  Right before I began this plan, I was not sleeping much at all, averaging just four or five hours a night, due to a busy mind, and restlessness.  I also was dragging all day, napping at least three days a week, and always off balance in the “regularity area!”  The funny thing was, I wasn’t concerned about any of these symptoms, or how to improve them, because I had gotten so used to them and was assuming they were the norm!

So when we cut our sugar intake down to 15 grams a day, and carbs down to six or less servings a day (a serving is 0-20 grams per helping), we thought we would have withdrawal or something.  Nope, nothing.  Not even a headache!  The tiredness and drag disappeared almost immediately (maybe two days in?), I have no bloating, gassiness or any other digestive malady (I had forgotten what it is like to “go” normally!)   I’m sleeping like a baby every night, getting up with alertness (that’s before my coffee!) and going all day, no dragging or napping.  It’s weird, feeling this good, I feel young again!  I had heard that saying before, but never really knew how much it meant until now!

I have also been exercising – and if you really know me, you know that I DESPISE exercising!  So, what I told myself was, if I just do something active for twenty minutes or more every day, then I could do it.  I couldn’t just come out of the resolution gate “working out” three times a week, I had to convince myself just to get up, get out, and move for a few minutes every day, and it would be better than nothing!  So the first day, I rode bicycles with my kids around the block a couple times, the next day, I walked fast for 20 minutes with my husband,  and by the third day, while walking with my friend, I was starting to get excited.  I could do this exercise thing!  We pounded the pavement for an hour, and I didn’t even realize it!

So, I am on the road to improvement, 20minutes at a time.  15 grams of sugar at a time.  One day at a time.  That’s the moral of the story, really – just start some kind of an improvement, any improvement, and take it one step at a time!  That will put you on the road to success, and that’s a road we all can travel in 2011!

What about you?  Are you tackling a healthy new lifestyle too?  Tell us what you’re trying, and how you’re feeling!  We want to share in your successes (and maybe bumps in the road!) with you!

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Using the concept of Love Languages in your Katy home

My husband and I read Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, early in our marriage.  We found it to be of such importance that I went on and read The Five Love Languages of Children, by Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell.

The premise of both books is that love is understood differently by different people.  If I love my husband with acts of service, he will receive the love more deeply than if I love him with quality time.

I highly recommend the books for anyone who is interested in finding out your love language.  The book lists 5 basic, general love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time, and gifts.

When life is busy being lived, it isn’t always easy for me to know exactly how to translate the overarching idea of ‘quality time’ into my structured week.  I know my spouse responds to love through gifts, but that doesn’t always mean I know which trinket to grab while I’m grocery shopping.

Enter a strategy we occasionally employ: I will, from time to time, ask my spouse the question, “How can I make you feel loved today?”  The answer is supposed to be something that meets a need or desire he has that very day.  From grabbing his favorite beer at the grocery store to spending 30 minutes watching UFC with him, I know that what he requests will allow him to feel love from me.

I often, throughout the day, will make mental notes of how I would feel love.  Although acts of service is not my primary love language, some days, with the kids and the house heavy on my mind, I feel the most love when my husband willingly takes cleaning the kitchen on.  Other days, all I want is to sit still in his presence after the kids have gone to bed.

Although it takes some of the surprise and intrigue out of it, stating our particular ‘love need’ on some days assures we will be meeting the other person where they are, with something that will really encourage or refresh them.  It works well for us, and helps take general ideas from a book and apply them in our daily lives.

What about you?  Do you use the five love languages in your home?  Post a comment below!

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Spreading Love to the Katy Community

As a child, I enjoyed tossing rocks into the water and watching the ripples that emerged from the displacement of water.  I marveled at the widespread impact of a small pebble.  Small ripples became larger ripples that spread further and further away from the center.  I have often imagined that we, like pebbles, can have a significant impact on those around us.  The pebble analogy has been a reminder of the impact of my words and actions on others.  

This past weekend, while attending a seminar, I learned additional information about water ripples.  The ripples of water that come back to the pebble are much stronger than the ripples that go out.  If our lives are indeed like a pebble in water, that which we emit will eventually come back to us with added strength.  As I sat pondering this scientific property, I was sobered by the thought of it.  What had I emitted to others?  Was I spreading happiness, positive emotion and goodwill, or was I spreading ill-will and negativity? 

The quote, “What goes around comes around”, it seems, is a true physical property!  The more we emit kindness, truth, and happiness, the more we will receive it. Conversely, the more we gossip, express negative emotion and treat others unkindly, the more others will treat us this way.  Our daily words and actions definitely impact those around us- particularly the members of our family. I often feel that as a mother, I can set the tone in the home.  It is no wonder that on the days when I am stressed or short tempered, others seem to be stressed and short to me!  A smile, a kind word, an empathetic ear and a positive attitude are all examples of positive ripples. Emotion is truly infectious…may we share it wisely!

How has someone positively impacted you?  Please share.

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Show Your Katy kids that You Care

While attending a family reunion last week, I observed my three-year old niece, Allison, in my sister’s arms.  Many of our family members were talking with each other, and I overheard my niece say to her mother, “Mommy, look at me!  Mommy, I am talking to you!”  She then touched both of my sister’s cheeks and made my sister look her straight in the eyes.  Allison then said, “Now…I want to talk to you.  Are you listening to me?”

Once my niece had her mother’s eye contact, she was content.  She then said, “I want to tell you something.  I saw a bird flying over there.”  She beamed that she had been able to share with her mother what she had found so wondrous.  Since witnessing this small interaction, I have become more aware of the necessity of giving eye contact so others know we are truly listening. 

Last night I was busily running around the kitchen preparing dinner when my five-year old began chattering to me.  He mirrored my movements, dodging this way and that as I opened the refrigerator, ran to the stove, cleared a dish, and wiped the counter.  Suddenly I stopped my bustling as I realized he was doing exactly what my niece had done with her mother.  He kept trying to get my eye contact so he could know I was truly hearing what he was trying to express.

When I realized this, I paused in my mayhem, bent to his level and focused on what he was saying.  As I stopped, he too stopped and smiled, knowing that he had finally broken my frenetic pace.  While listening to him, I realized that not only did he feel like I was listening, but I was truly understanding him more clearly.  I understood him because I was still and focused.

In our crazy rushing, sometimes it really pays to slow down, pause and listen with full interest to our loved ones.  I realized that if I am not listening with my eyes, I am not fully listening.

How do you show others you are really listening to them?  Post a comment.

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Family Fun that’s close to Katy

Avery, helping her Aunt Amanda pick a blueberry.

This weekend, we will be participating in a three-year family tradition: picking our own blueberries off of the bush at Moorhead’s Blueberry Farm.  It is located in Conroe, a short drive from my sister’s home in Spring.  From Katy, it is roughly an hour’s drive, but well worth the trip.

Moorhead’s Blueberry Farm (www.moorheadsblueberryfarm.com) is open to the public for blueberry picking from late May until mid July, with changes each year based on how the year’s weather has affected berry growth and ripening.   They do not charge admission and blueberries cost $1.50 a pound, payable by cash or check only.  They are open from 7 am until 9 pm every day each week, but recommend coming either early or late due to the heat.

The past two years, by the middle of June, the blueberry picking has been slight due to extreme heat the first year and a long winter the second year.  However, on the website this year, the forecast for berries looks good!  The latest update says that there are still plenty of berries and we are thrilled to have our first year of a heavy harvest.

Each year on the Saturday before Father’s Day, my family gathers at my sister’s house to caravan to Moorhead’s Blueberry Farm.  We spend about an hour picking blueberries, with my children sampling them off of the bushes as fast as they can pick them.  The blueberries we are able to get into the bucket, we take to the front and pay for and then split between us.  We love the experience, although incredibly hot, and we love that we’re teaching our girls what fresh blueberries look like and how they grow.

After an hour in the heat, with our loot in hand, we always celebrate with a snow cone and a great nap on the way home for the kids.

Since our personal family tradition is to go the weekend of Father’s Day, this comes with an added perk: breakfast in bed for Daddy with fresh blueberries and blueberry muffins from scratch!

What about you?  Do you have a favorite site for fresh fruit picking?  Post a comment below!

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Are your Katy kid’s immunizations up-to-date and ready for the new school year?

If not, the summer months are the perfect time to take care of their immunization needs. Pull out their immunization cards and check them for what shots may be needed.

Any child who is in need of a vaccination and all children moving into the Texas from another state will need proof of current immunizations being given before being allowed to attend school in the fall. If a child is a little behind in receiving immunizations, that child will be allowed a 30 day grace period for immunizations that cannot be given all at once. For instance, if the child needs two doses of the polio vaccine, they can’t be given at the same time. But, if one has been given before the start of the school year, the 30-day grace period will be applied so that the child can receive the second missed dose without missing any school.

Children should, at the very least, have the following vaccinations before entering kindergarten: 2 doses of Hepatitis A; 2 doses of Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR); Vericella (Chicken Pox); and 4 doses of the Polio vaccine. Before entering the 7th grade, students need 1 dose of Vericella, 1 dose of the Meningococcal vaccine,  and 1 dose of the Tetanus, Diptheria, and acelluar Pertussis-containing vaccine.

Check out the following two websites for more information about Immunizations for parents and for school and child-care requirements: 

Texas Department of State Health Services
Public Information – for Parents & Consumers

Texas Department of State Health Services
School & Child-Care Facility Requirements

For charts showing current immunizations, the following website has printable versions in various sizes, available for color printers or in black-and-white versions:

2010 Immunization Schedules – Printable

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Fresh Produce In Katy

I am so happy to find out that we have a fresh produce market in Katy. This Market is located at 5026 E. Third St. in Old Katy. It’s hours are from 10am – 6pm Wednesdays through Mondays and closed on Tuesdays. They will not only have fresh produce but as well organic produce too. The Market is stocked with honey, dry beans, and herbs and many more to come. The Market will eventually grow bigger in time but until then I have enjoyed seeing all the produce it has stocked. Produce will vary depending on the season so make sure to go and see the different produce they have before it is gone.
I still remember when my parents would take me to a farmer’s market to go and get fresh produce. We would leave early to get the best picks and leave out of there with bags full. We loved going there and would spend the whole morning just looking at the produce. I loved the sweet smell that some of the produce would give out as well the different colors. This is a tradition that I will be bringing into my family for years to come. My children love the different kinds of produce they see and smell. I love eating healthy and what better way to do it than getting fresh produce for my family. There’s is no substitution for that sweet tomato taste. I could eat a whole basket full myself and remember my parents having to get another basket for us to take home.  So get those your bags ready and go fill them with fresh produce that your family can enjoy. You can as well make it a family fun trip with all the produce that they will come to see and smell.
Have you been to a farmer’s market in town? What were your experiences?
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The Results of a Katyite’s water-only experiment

Last week, I posted a blog about my one big temptation: sugary drinks.  Whether it is Kool-Aid, Coke, or sweet tea, I just love to drink anything with lots of sugar and lots of calories.

For years, this has been my primary health weakness, but in the last several months, my love for sugary drinks has gotten a little out of hand. 

And so a week ago, I decided to try a little experiment.  I cut out all drinks except one coffee in the morning (I couldn’t let go of sugar AND caffeine in one week!), and committed to drinking water only for the past week.  The hope was that after a week of healthful drinking, I’d be a transformed individual; I would see the err of my healthless drinking and desire only water from here on out.

The experiment didn’t turn out quite that way.   On day one, I took in the right amount of water.  And all week long, I stuck to my guns and didn’t drink sugary beverages.  But, starting on day two, I also didn’t drink much water.  I had promised myself at the beginning of the week that I would be mindful to drink enough water each day, but the idea of a glassful of water just never became appealing.  Instead of drinking sugary beverages, I was supposed to be drinking water.  But instead, rather than drinking sugary beverages, I drank nothing.  (I did drink some water, but not nearly the 8-8 ounce glasses that are recommended.)

Towards days 4 and 5, I ended up with familiar symptoms of dehydration and realized I’d have to step up the ‘forcing myself to drink water’ front.  I did, but water never became appealing and I never really stopped wanting to drink something else.

So, in the end, I’m not sure that my experiment proved what I was hoping it would prove.  I know I need more water.  I know it is healthy for me.  I haven’t yet convinced my taste buds of this fact, though.

Do you have any advice regarding staying hydrated?  Post a comment below!

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The taste of summer in Katy, TX

Watermelon jello

This week for our summer dessert, my girls and I made watermelon Jello.  To be more exact, we made strawberry Jello in a watermelon rind.

I first found the idea at www.theidearoom.blogspot.com, a blog I check on occasion.  It’s simple and fun, and Jello is healthier by way of desserts than most of the things I make, so I included it in the summer dessert line-up for my family.

The basic idea is to cut a watermelon down the middle and clean it out.  Once the watermelon has been removed (and feasted on!), it is time to make the Jello.

To fill both halves of my ‘personal’ sized watermelon, I used 3 large boxes of strawberry Jello and 4 ¼ cups of boiling water.  I whisked them together for 2 minutes and then poured them carefully into the watermelon halves.

It should be noted here that watermelons are round, which means they roll.  And pouring boiling water into a round, rolling watermelon rind is not exactly something I’d recommend doing any time, and especially not with little helpers underfoot.  This I discovered the hard way.

My solution was to put the watermelon halves into large cereal bowls (luckily for me, they were a perfect fit) – no harm done.

The Jello took roughly 4 hours to firm up, so we let it sit overnight and carved it when we had some friends over.  The Jello is roughly the consistency of Jello Jigglers and stayed firmly attached to the watermelon rind.  It was a striking dessert, and tasted wonderful as well.

My daughters got a kick out of eating something that looked so much like watermelon but that was a sweet dessert instead.  It was so easy and inexpensive that I think we’ll use this idea for our Fourth of July cookout as well.

I’m thinking of so many ways this dessert can be extended: I think I will try it with apples in the fall and plan to keep it in mind for other opportunities.

Give this dessert a try and post a comment below!

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A Katyite Struggles to find the differences between Life’s Necessities and Life’s Extras  

The day began like any other—the warm Katy sun gently brightening our bedroom. Its beams lightly danced across the alarm clock that was just about to go off at a leisurely hour. Our son was still sleeping happily in his own bed. The lovely smell of freshly brewed coffee wafted—okay, so I’m lying through my teeth.

Here’s how it happened: our diabetic cat (see a previous blog) still feels the need to eat throughout the night. His next vet appointment is in a few days. So, after being rudely awakened at various hours of the night, here he was again early in the morning. Our toddler son was also at our bedside with his new exclamation, “I need food.” Wonderful.

The day’s agenda loomed in my mind: “Doctor appointment at 9:30; haircut at 10:30, and then to work. Oh, is there a way to visit the triplets in the NICU today? We’re going out of town, we can’t visit tomorrow, we need to go. Need to get gas in the car and pick up a few grocery items.”

Coffee can wait. How many of us feel similar most days? What can we do to stay sane?

Organization will only take you so far. I have learned two of the best words that will make your life a little easier: “Help” and “No.”

The cat can be fed by both son and husband, as well as myself. Our hungry tot can messily pour himself some juice and grab a banana. That will be a good start for his breakfast. The haircut and the doctor’s appointment cannot be rescheduled again—that is a necessity. The triplets cannot visit us, and that is a necessity. So this is where asking for help becomes important. The babysitter can watch our son who is too young to enter the NICU and we can go spend some valuable time with them. Oh, and we can pick up some groceries on the way home.

I have learned the hard way—by getting sick, rushing around, ignoring myself and my family’s needs—that no one can do it all. We need a support system. We need to say “no” to extras—taking over the class play, being homeroom mom or dad, exercising for an hour seven days a week. We can’t say “no” to our necessities—paying bills, work, worshipping, family.

How have you learned the difference between extras and have-to’s? I’d love to hear from you, and I’ll do my best to respond!

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With the world becoming more technologically advanced, are your Katy kids getting the education they need?

Technological advances allow for a wealth of knowledge to be readily available.  Any inquiry that arises from the young questioning mind can easily be researched on the internet and explored.  What a great asset this technology is as we try to teach our children.

It would seem plausible that children would be smarter than ever before since information is literally at their fingertips.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case.  So much is available, that often the wrong types of information and technology squash the young, fertile mind.

I recently read an article in Time magazine on children and media consumption.  The article stated that children ages 8 to 18 are consuming more media than ever before.  A survey showed that children and teens are now using their phones, computers, TVs and video systems for a total of 7.5 hours a day, or 52.5 hours a week.  The study also showed that the only leisure activity that has become less popular is reading.

After reading the article, I wondered if I was fostering a love of learning in my children.  Am I providing them with a wealth of good media choices in books, music and technology?  Am I aware of the media choices my children are making?  Am I helping my children limit excessive use of media that provides little to no benefit to them?  Since there is no shortage of available media options, it seems necessary that we as parents work to foster the consumption of the best kinds of media.

I was chagrined to find that the popularity of reading as a leisure activity is slipping.  I have long felt that children, who love reading, excel in school.  Reading indeed opens the mind in ways that no other media medium can.  So, with summer here, may we all join the library summer reading program and help each of our little ones develop a lifelong love of learning!

How do you foster a love of learning in your home?  Please share a comment.

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Using our Katy community offerings to our club’s advantage

My daughter decided to do ballet as her extra-curricular activity this year, but she loves bouncing around in the gym.   Luckily for her, our mothering club, AMOK (All Moms of Katy) and Westwood Gym teamed up to offer Gym Day once a month.

Through AMOK, my daughter is given the chance each month to participate in a 45 minute gym class.  Our club has worked out an arrangement with Westwood Gym that allows children in the club to pay a small fee and participate in gym classes without any other sort of contract.

My daughter and her friends (ages 3 and 4) love Gym Day!  It is actually my daughter, Avery’s favorite day of the month.  The coaches are friendly, fun, and obviously well trained. 

Avery starts off with warm ups cleverly disguised as fun dances and games.  Then she has the opportunity to participate in gymnastic skills all over the gym floor.  She loves the trampolines, the uneven bars, bear crawling on a balance beam, and floor rotations that allow her the chance to climb, jump, and bounce to her heart’s content.  The last few minutes of class every month, Avery has the opportunity to play in a special area that is set up to look like a mountain.  It has slides, climbing walls and a pit.

Because we’ve been able to experience gymnastics through Gym Day with AMOK and Westwood Gym, Avery has decided that next year, she’ll give ballet a rest and take gymnastics instead.  Clearly, for Westwood Gym, this is a great opportunity to let parents and children alike in on their gymnastics magic.  And for AMOK, it is a wonderful opportunity to let members enjoy a day at the gym.

If you are interested in Gym Day, consider joining AMOK (email Stephanie at allmomsofkaty@yahoo.com) or consider contacting a local gym and setting up a similar partnership with your mothering club.

What other activities do you enjoy with your child?  Post a comment below!

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How Katy Families can get ready for this year’s season

Yesterday launched the first day of Hurricane season. If your family wants to learn more about how to be prepared in a hurricane or how these massive storms form then the Houston Weather Museum is the place for you. During the month of June Thursdays are free for all museum guests. Talk to meteorologists and learn about the function and history of hurricanes in the gulf. And there are prizes involved as well. All visitors can enter to win a hurricane kit and weather radio donated by Midland Radio.

“Believe it or not we need hurricanes, states meteorologist and The Weather Museum Executive Director Jill Hasling. “The hurricane is one mechanism by which nature releases the tremendous buildup of heat in the tropics. Hurricanes also are the mechanism to bring tropical moisture into the farm lands of the central United States and often breaking droughts.” Hurricanes are useful and don’t need to be feared. As long as your family is prepared then you will be ready. There are many ways to get ready for such a powerful storm such as Ike that Houston endured last time a hurricane breached our coast. The Houston Weather Museum can help you get ready.

One thing to keep in mind is to always have an evacuation plan. If a large hurricane is heading our way will you stay? Or do you know where you will go? My husband and I plan to take any approaching hurricane as an opportunity to visit friends. We already know where we will go once we are sure that our house is properly boarded and secure for the storm. Of course our dog will be coming as well but if you plan to stay be sure to bring all pets inside.

It may be wise to buy wood and pre-cut your window coverings in advance. Buy and do the work now so that you won’t have to stress and rush to get it done if you need it. And if we escape a major storm this year then you will always be ready for future seasons!

Always make sure that you have some non-perishable food and water in stock during hurricane season. Of course go buy more of these supplies when a storm is in the Gulf but at least you won’t be too stressed if there is a shortage. Also, make sure that all of your vehicles are filled with gas prior to a storm arriving. This way if you need to leave after the storm to seek shelter you won’t have to worry about getting gas. Gas is another item that frequently is in high demand during such events.

If you or anyone if your family have medical needs make sure that you have plenty of medication and supplies before a storm hits or before you evacuate. If you have pets it is always smart to have a copy of the rabies and shots record. During the storm it is also smart to keep you pets on leashes and close at hand.

These are just a few of many things that you should keep in mind while preparing for this years hurricane season. Be sure to pick up your KHOU Hurricane Season guide at any Randall’s or State Farm office. Remember to visit the Houston Weather Museum to get prepared for this year’s season and to learn all about nature’s greatest storms. Make this an educational and informative time for your family. And you can even visit the museum for free every Thursday this month.

Did your family do anything that you feel was different and affective for the last hurricane that you feel others could benefit from this season? Share it with us in a comment.

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The options are endless for Katy families. Get out this Saturday in Katy and/or the Greater Houston area

National Trails Day is June 5, this Saturday and is targeted at getting people outside, on trails and walking or hiking. The Houston area offers many picturesque settings for just this occasion.

If you love your dog then take them with you and enjoy some great food at the Houston Arboretum and Nature’s Center’s Annual Tails on Trails. The arboretum, one of Houston’s best trails, invites dogs on leashes and their owners for an afternoon of hiking the arboretum trails that wind along an 155 acre of lush lands and a vast variety of wildlife.

Before your hiking journey pick up water and a doggy bag. After the hike return to the party for food provided by Freebirds World Burrito and Smartwater.  There will also be music and prices. For more information on the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center visit their website.

We are fortunate to live in a metropolis that offers so many great parks. You have plenty of options and many are free to celebrate National Trails Day. Hermann Park Downtown has some wonderful walking trails. Also downtown you will find Discovery Green. This Saturday Discovery Green is offering two great free events for families to enjoy with their children. Listen to the Young Harmonies Houston at 12pm. Learn about insects and other bugs with Jungle Jim from 1-2pm.

If you want a more local park look around your community and I’m sure you won’t have to look far. In the Katy area enjoy a stroll around LaCenterra. Every Saturday you can find great produce at their farmers market.

Pack a picnic basket and go out to your local school’s playground. Fly a kite. Really your options are endless. So get your family together. Get the kids away from that Xbox and spend the day outside or hiking a trail this Saturday for the National Trails Day.

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A Katyite’s Attempt at Drinking Enough Water

I rank among the middle of the crowd when we’re talking about health.  My family and I eat healthy meals for the most part, we don’t stock our kitchen with processed foods, and we are careful to keep trans fats out and saturated fats to a healthy level.

However, when it comes to staying hydrated, I really struggle to be healthy.

I’ve spent most of my life detesting water.  It’s just so… boring.  And tasteless.  And unattractive.

In order to get myself to drink water, I’ve tried many different tactics: for a while, I only allowed myself something delicious to drink (like a cola or tea) after I’d had a full glass of water first.  I’ve tried adding lemon to my water, and I’ve even tried using a shot of Kool-Aid to make water more appealing.

Most often, I give up and end up drinking fair amounts of colas, teas, and Kool-Aid.  Not healthy, I know,

Last night, I was considering this issue I have and how it is one of the primary things keeping me from being wholly healthy. 

And so, I’m committing myself to a week-long trial run.  It is possible that water doesn’t appeal to me because I’ve always had other options, and because I’ve never really allowed water the time to satisfy my thirst.

Starting today, I am committing to drinking only water and milk (besides my mandatory morning coffee) for a week straight.  And, since it is in my nature to just stop drinking if I don’t like what there is available, I am also committing to drinking the right amount of water each day for a week.  At the week’s end, next Wednesday, I will assess my attitude towards water and hope to find that, given a fair shot, water can be just as appealing as my favorite sugar-drinks.

I’ll check back in next week and let you know how it went.  I’m fully expecting that once my system gets a taste of what it is like to enjoy health, I will never want to go back.  Here’s hoping!

What about you?  What tricks do you use to help you stay hydrated?  Post a comment below!

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Katy cyclists have rules of the road

It’s been a beautiful spring, with endless days of sunshine. The summer promises more of the same fabulous bike riding weather. Before the kids hop on their bikes and ride off into the sunshine,  it’s time for one of those periodic bike safety chats. Accidents happen, and none of us wants to be the parent sitting with their kids in the emergency room with a bike related injury.

First, since head injuries are the most serious, bikers should always protect their head by wearing a helmet. The helmet should meet safety regulations, be the right size, and be worn properly. Next keep the kids’ bikes in good shape. A chain that keeps slipping off or breaks that don’t work is a recipe for problems.

Kids should know the safety rules of the road. They should always keep an eye out for cars. A driver might not see your child until it’s too late, but if they are in the habit of being aware of cars, they can prevent accidents. The next one may not see so obvious. They should watch out for people so they don’t have an accident with a walker or another child playing in the yard. Parents should set and enforce the rules for where their children can ride bicycles, but in general it’s best if children under 10 keep to the sidewalks.

Finally our kids should also know the proper hand signals, so they can let drivers know what they intend to do:

  • Left Arm Straight Out: means the rider is turning left.
  • Left Arm Bent Upward: means the rider is turning right
  • Right Arm Straight Out: also means a right turn.
  • Left Arm Bent Down: means the rider is stopping.

There are a few more tips about “Bike Safety” at the Kids Health website at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/out/bike_safety.html.

Also check out the Katy Police Department. The Department offers free bike safety coloring books at the police station. There is also a “Bicycle Registration Form” available on their website at: http://www.katypd.com/Bicycle%20Safety/Bicycle%20Registration%20Form.htm.

Fill out the form and take it into the police station with pictures of your children’s bikes. What other bicycling safety tips do you know of? Are there special rules for your family that others might find helpful?

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Are Katyites prepared for a possible storm?

The beginning of hurricane season brings with it many stressors. Two of the biggest are the hassles of hurricane preparedness and the worries of helping young children understand and cope with what’s happening. So how can parents make this easier for themselves and their children? By getting the kids involved in the process.

First, have your children help compile 2 lists: the first contains hurricane supplies that your family will need, the second contains the nonperishable foods your family would like to eat. Next, send the children on a hurricane scavenger hunt around the house. Let them see how many of the items they can find on the hurricane supply list. After that, let them help you check the supplies to see what needs replacing (like batteries) and what still needs items are missing from the list (i.e. radio, first aid kit). After all, even small children can check flashlight batteries and light bulbs to see if they need replacing. Do the same with the hurricane food list.

Second, assemble your hurricane supply box. You may need to get a couple boxes from one of the moving supply stores or mini-storage places that sell boxes. Have the kids help fill the boxes with emergency supplies. Save at least one box for foods, paper plates, garbage bags, cooking and eating utensils and anything you will need for meals.

Third, have older children help locate the safest room in your house and even help with an evacuation plan. Should your family needs to evacuate however, parents will need to have an evacuation plan and evacuation route ready. The kids can help load the car since they already know where the supplies and food are collected together. Including them in the planning should lower their stress levels somewhat because they know what’s going on and because they are helping out.

Older kids can help with hurricane tracking charts. These are available from all the major stations here in town, so go online and request one now. You can even download them from each of the stations websites. Chars are also offered through just about every grocery and hardware store as well. What about letting younger children track storms? That depends on the child. Only parents will know which of their younger children can handle this job. You’ll have to decide this on an individual basis. Either way, track each new storm with a different color ink pen or start a new map for each new storm – just to make it easier to tell storms apart.

Finally, once the emergency is over, why not get your family involved in the cleanup and recovery. Your family efforts could be something as small as checking on an elderly neighbor or offering food to a stranger. Or it could be something like volunteering at a Red Cross shelter or clearing debris around town. What other preparations or cleanup efforts can your family do together?

NOAA Hurricane Supply List: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/prepare/supply_kit.shtml

 NOAA  Hurricane Disaster Plan: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/prepare/family_plan.shtml

Local Stations all have printable hurricane tracking maps and information:

 KTRK, Channel 13: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/feature?section=weather/hurricane&id=6139670

KPRC, Channel 2: http://www.click2houston.com/hurricanetracker/index.html

KHOU, Channel11: http://www.khou.com/weather/severe-weather/hurricane-center/Printable-tracking-chart-67771777.html

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A Katyite shares the reason she runs 

Angela and her husband at the Space Center 5K last year

I have never been the type of person who likes to run.  In fact, up until last year, I despised running.  It was something I did merely for the health value, but I am not like those people who enjoy running for the sake of running.

However, once we had our second child, we decided it was time to let our gym membership go to save money.   For a while, I didn’t exercise much.  But, for me, exercise is about knowing I’m doing what I can to stay healthy, to have strong lungs and a strong heart so that I can be my best for my children.

Since I’m not a runner, and since my husband and I stay very busy, I knew that there would have to be something bigger than just “today I should run” to keep me on track.  So, last year around this time, I searched the internet for 5K runs in the Houston area and found one at Space Center Houston that is held each July.  I decided to train for it, and found online guides to becoming 5K ready in 6-8 weeks.

My favorite training guide, by a man named Hal Higdon, gives a daily exercise: running, walking, or a day of rest.  It gives the mileage for the day as well.  It’s perfect for me because I can mindlessly follow his guide and know I will be ready to run a 5K by the race day.

Last year when I was training for the 5K was the first time I’d ever run more than 2 miles at a time and it was the first time I’ve ever actually looked forward to my daily run.  The training guide is set up so that I was always challenged but that I also was never unable to complete the run. 

After the 5K I ran last July, I intended to sign up for another race to keep me on track.  However, busy lives got in the way.  Without a race on the horizon to look to, my health once again fell by the wayside.

We’re now 6 weeks out from the same annual race at Space Center Houston, and I’ve signed myself up for it again this year.  I’m a week into my training schedule and already I remember how much I love training.

The jogging part will probably never be easy for me, nor will it be the primary draw.  But while I am training, my husband watches the kids while I get my run in.  My running time is all mine: I can listen to a podcast, jam to my favorite music, or just be alone with my thoughts and with relative silence.  I also love the daily sense of accomplishment and the goal that I have to work towards.

This year, my plan is to train for the 5K in July and then stay in 5K mode so that I can run the last part of the Katy Triathalon with my husband.  He races the entire race, and while that is still not something I am ready to commit to, I think it will be a great support and motivator for me to be able to run the last leg with him.

How about you?  How do you stay motivated to be healthy?  Post a comment below!

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Katy Area Church Prays for Pastor to be a Loser

Last Sunday morning, The Waters Church (www.iamthewaters.com) did something bold.  During announcements, Finance Pastor Andrew Sunderman stood before the congregation and presented an opportunity.

The opportunity is for families within the church to support and pray for Assimilation Pastor Brad Graves as he begins his journey towards health.  For many years, Graves has struggled with maintaining a healthy weight.  On Sunday, Sunderman said, “I love Brad so much, and his struggle tears me up inside.  I want Brad to be here, ministering to us, for many many years to come.  And this is our opportunity to love him and challenge him towards becoming a wholly healthy Brad.”

The Waters Church has issued Brad Graves this challenge: lose as much weight as he can towards his final goal during the next six months and keep it off for a year.  Members of the church are given the opportunity to pledge an amount of money per pound.  This money will go towards funding a very unique and important ministry opportunity that Brad Graves has been given the chance to participate in.

On Father’s Day 2010, Brad Graves’s beginning weight will be announced.  Between now and then, families within the church are asked to pray about their involvement.  On Father’s Day, each family will be given the opportunity to pledge an amount of money per pound towards the ministry opportunity.  One family in the church has already committed to $100 per pound lost, with others weighing in in amounts ranging from $0.50 to $10.00 per pound lost.  

Through the year, The Waters Church will surround Graves with love, encouragement, and support as he travels a challenging but fulfilling road to healthful living.  During the year, Graves will be covered in prayers from the members of his church and will have men who are as close as brothers stand arm in arm with him to recover his health.  Six months from Father’s Day, Graves will weigh in again and the amount that he has lost will be the amount to be donated.  If he has lost 100 pounds, each family will plan their donation per their pledge on that amount of weight. 

On Father’s Day 2011, Graves will stand before his church family and weigh in again.  In order for the donations to be made, Graves will need to have kept off the weight loss from his six month weigh in.  At that time, families will donate according to their ability and their pledges towards this unbelievable ministry opportunity. 

Lead Pastor of The Waters Church, Clint Paschall, told the congregation on Sunday, “We won’t be announcing what the ministry opportunity is just yet.  But when you hear it, you will be amazed at how perfectly matched Brad is for this opportunity.” 

Graves says of this new journey, “The number one reason I want to lose this weight is so that I can be all I can be for my wife.  My number two reason is so that I can be a better dad, and the third reason is so that I can be a great pastor to my church family.  When I try to wrap my brain around this thing, when I think of the way my entire church has stepped up and is supporting me, it absolutely blows my mind.  It is just beyond words.” 

As a member of The Waters Church, I am excited to take this journey with Brad Graves.  Our family is currently praying about how much we will pledge per pound. 

What about you?  What creative ways does your church show love and support?  Post a comment below!

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 Love Lessons from a Katy Couple

Megan Lewis and her husband

Marriage has indeed made me a better person.  Not that I wasn’t a decent person before I got married, but, marriage tends to highlight areas that can be improved.  Any time two people from different backgrounds come together and form a life together, there are bound to be adjustments that need to be made.  I have learned many lessons as my husband and I have journeyed down the road of life together.  As different as we are, we seem to bring out the best in each other.   Here are a few of the lessons learned:

Forgive Quickly and Move On– My natural reaction to conflict was to become quiet and withdraw.  I learned, however, that when I do this, it prolongs the conflict.  The faster I forgive and forget, the faster we return to peace.  Then, we can happily move on.

Make Time for Play– I am a driven, goal-oriented person.  If it weren’t for my husband, I might never stop to smell the roses.  My husband has helped me prioritize fun in my life.  Our whole family has benefitted from this!

Ask For Help– How many times do we as women expect that our husbands will read our minds?  I have learned that my husband wants me to be happy.  All I need to do is communicate what I need, and he is happy to help or do what I want!  Isn’t that terrific?  He is a great husband.  I simply need to ask and my request is granted.

Correct With Kindness– No one likes to be criticized- even when the criticism has merit.  So, it does us all good to couch our criticism in the most loving way possible.  Another rule of thumb that has been helpful is to give at least ten compliments for every one negative comment.

Laugh A Lot– We laugh a lot in our home and I am grateful for a husband who makes us all laugh!  It is fun!

What lessons have you learned in your marriage?  Post a comment!

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It is important to properly take care of our Katy animals

I just returned from a bittersweet visit to my veterinarian. Our nine-year-old cat, Geordi (all you fans of Star Trek will know where his name came from!) was noticeably ill. Over the course of just a few weeks, he began to empty his food and water bowls several times throughout the day and increase the use of the litter box. Besides the obvious changes, Geordi seemed normal. I mean, cats sleep a lot anyway, and he came out for tickles and he still purred. But we knew he needed to go see Dr. Wendy at Mayde Creek Animal Hospital.
Good thing we did. Geordi is a diabetic. Dr. Wendy did blood tests, and his glucose number was in the 500s. The normal range for cats is in the 100s. The point of this blog is not to discuss feline diabetes, but I hope to remind us all about how much our pets are a part of our lives. I drove to the vet thinking that I would not be coming home with Geordi. I really thought I would have to have him put to sleep. He had been a companion of mine since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001; he was rescued as a kitten from the flood waters and passed along to me by a friend.
Geordi has seen me through my first apartment, my first job, dating woes, marriage, a new house, one child, and now triplets. He has known me longer than my husband. I am sure that all pet owners can relate to the value they put upon their animal companion. Pets just love us. They make our lives better. When we lose them, our hearts are broken. When I had to put down a previous cat, the vet presented me with a clay imprint of his paw. Now, I don’t look at it everyday and sob over it, but it is a visible reminder that Q (yes, another Star Trek reference!) was here and is now missed. (Of course, another reminder is some scratched up furniture, but that’s a different matter!)
We have some more time with Geordi because we hopefully caught his illness early enough to make simple changes to improve his health. I may have to put him to sleep in the near future if these changes don’t effect enough of an improvement. That will be a tough day, but I am thankful that I can now show him some more love while he’s here. How do you show that you love your animal companion? How do you remember those that you have lost?
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A Katy Parent shares her struggles with stress

The school year is drawing to a close and it seems that life is as busy and chaotic as ever!  As a parent, sometimes life can be stressful and at times, more than we can handle.  One day, I had an “aha” moment when I learned that I didn’t need to absorb the stress of my loved ones.  As I think about it now, I can remember the pit in my stomach, the rapid breathing, and the threatening headaches as my children shared their stress.  “Mom, I’m supposed to bring a red folder to school.  I’ll get in trouble if I don’t have it!  Mom, did you wash my soccer shirt? I need it right now!  Mom, I failed my English test today.  Mom, can you bring me my lunch?  I think I left it in the kitchen.”

My, oh my, how my body would tense with the incessant stress!  And, when things turned out badly, I blamed myself.  It didn’t matter that it was my daughter who had left her lunch, or my son who hadn’t studied for his test, it was now my stress.  After many years of learning, I discovered a marvelous secret.  I discovered that I could let my children own their own stress!  It was no longer my stress…heaven knew I had enough of my own!  With each pressing demand, I learned to take a deep breath, and remind myself that it wasn’t my problem.  (I know, it is much easier said than done, and sometimes I still feel stress, but, I’m improving!) 

So, as the days pass, my children are learning that I am not their rescue hero.  I am their mother. Yes, I will always be there to cheer them on, love them, teach them and support them in their journey, but, they need to worry about their own rescue efforts.  What a calm feeling this gives me.  The pressure is off.  I find my responsibilities are much more manageable when I remove the panic factor.

How do you manage stress?  Please share!

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Tips on how to survive Katy’s tiny torturers

Standing water is a breeding ground for pesky mosquitos

It’s May. It’s warm. It’s humid. And it just rained – boat loads! Not quite a frog strangler, perhaps, but certainly a gully-washer. All that water is now breeding amd hatching grounds for mosquitoes over the next few weeks; 55 species of the insects live in the Houston area alone. 

Floodwater Mosquitoes lay their eggs in soil, where they wait for the flooding rains we saw over the weekend. Those eggs will now hatch. The good news is that flood water mosquitoes don’t carry the West Nile virus. The bad news is that the other kind of mosquitoes – the culex mosquitoes that lay their eggs in standing water – do carry West Nile Virus.  Any containers like garbage cans, old tires, and storm sewers that go stagnant after the rains, are breeding grounds for the culex. The end of may and beginning of June is typically when the first cases of West Nile start popping up.

The good news is that the city of Katy provides mosquito spraying services twice a week beginning in May, but the City needs your help. Mosquito larvae need  still water for five or more days to mature into adult biting mosquitoes. These numbers can be reduced by removing sources of standing water in residential areas.

Suggested ways to help reduce standing water sources – and the mosquitoes that breed in them – include clearing away old tires, buckets, drums  and any water-holding containers.  Fill in the low spots in your yard that hold water for long periods of time.  Ridding drains, ditches, and culverts of weeds and trash so they flow freely.  The same goes for debris in rain gutters. Cover trash containers and empty plastic wading pools.  Replace the water in birdbaths and plant pots with fresh water weekly. Keep ornamental ponds stocked with fish since they eat mosquito larvae. Use mosquito repellant and wear appropriate clothing when outdoors to prevent mosquito bites.  Don’t wear concentrated perfumes since insects find there smells appealing.

Should you or your family get bitten anyway, there are several home remedies for soothing the itch:

  • Try cooling the sting with cold water or ice.
  • Another home remedy is making a sticky paste of baking powder and water and dabbing it on the mosquito bites.
  • Moisten the bite with water, and rub salt on it.
  • Apply apple cider vinegar directly on the bite.
  • Rub a bit of toothpaste – peppermint is best – to the area.
  • Aloe will stop the itch and heal the bite.

Calamine lotion works well also. So if none of the home remedies work, you may just need a trip to the drug store. Are there any other home remedies or inexpensive ideas for soothing mosquito bites?

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Free life-saving techniques are available right here in Katy

Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a vital skill that is easily learned. It has been proven that providing CPR before the Fire Department or EMS arrive is a valuable part of the process of calling 911. It could, in fact, be the deciding factor in saving someone’s life.

West I-10 Fire Department

Having CPR skills have a few benefits such as the reassure that you can help a friend or family member should they need it. Being able to understand how you can help 911operators when you’ve called them for assistance is also encouraging. It’s been 25 years since I took a CPR class, it was good to have that CPR skills review and to learn the new guidelines – a few things have changed in the last 25 years.

 The CPR and first aid classes are also open to anyone looking to offer babysitting services. Imagine how comforting it would be to know that the person babysitting your young children took the time to learn Basic Life Support (BLS) and first aid.

West I-10 Fire Department offers CPR and First Aid the third Saturday of every month (except November and December). The Department teaches Heart Saver CPR, Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and First Aid courses intended for general public. Also offered are more comprehensive Basic Life Support (BLS) courses for Healthcare Providers (doctors, nurses, and EMTs).

Courses are taught by a licensed health care professional, like a nurse, or by an American Heart Association instructor. The small classes (generally no more than 25 students) begin at 8am and run till around 1pm – or noon, if CPR is taken without the First Aid class. They cost $15 to $25 and can be paid on the day of class in cash, or by check or money order. (If you’re bringing cash, try to bring exact change.)

 The CPR/First Aid courses for both citizens and Healthcare Professionals are taught at the West I-10 Fire Department located at 22125 Kingsland Blvd. For more information, or to sign up for classes, email hhyslp@WestI-10FD.org.

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Elementary schools around Katy participate in fun, healthy competitions

One of my favorite May activities is helping with Field Day.  Field Day is a day set aside for elementary students to get outside, exercise and have fun in the sun!   As I attended Field Day last week at my children’s school, I was amazed at what a successful and entertaining event it was.  Kudos to our awesome Katy Schools and many parent volunteers!

Before Field Day commenced, there was an “Opening Ceremony”.  The students who had scored the highest in their fitness tests walked around the track holding a torch.  As the torch-bearers walked around the track, they waved to an adoring crowd (the other elementary students and parents) and the crowd cheered loudly.  When the torch was lit, it was time for the games to begin.

Each child was given a piece of paper that listed thirty different activities that they could do during Field Day.  Activity stations filled the gym and the entire playground.  Parent volunteers and teenage volunteers were stationed at each booth.  When a child completed an activity, the volunteer wrote his/her initials on the child’s field day sheet.  Every elementary grade participates in field day, so as you might imagine, it takes hundreds of parent volunteers all over Katy to make Field Day a success.

Activities ranged from running races, to bowling, to water games.  Children happily ran from one activity to the next, knowing that the children who completed the most activities would get ribbons.  It was all I could do to keep up with my excited children.  As soon as they had completed one activity, they were off to the next.  Mothers and Fathers joined in some of the races just to prove they still had some vim and vigor. 

At the conclusion of Field Day, the students gathered in the shade and were each given a Popsicle.  Children chattered happily and parents stood close to their children at the conclusion of a memorable school activity.

What are your favorite school activities?  Please share.

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A Katyite shares one of her favorite recipes

This fresh, citrus-filled dessert has become a popular request item among my friends and family, and is easy and fun to make.  Whether for a picnic meal, to add to a delicious buffet of springtime dishes, or just alone with a fragrant cup of coffee, this bar dessert is a real winner!  The original recipe is from the Good Housekeeping – Great Home Cooking Cookbook.   I’ve just adjusted a couple of details after perfecting the bars to our taste!


1 ½ cups plus 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup cold butter
2 large lemons, or 3 small ones
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 13” by 9” pan with aluminum foil, lightly grease foil. 

In medium bowl, combine 1 ½ cups flour with the powdered sugar.  With pastry blender or two knives used scissor-fashion, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan.  Press it firmly evenly around the bottom of pan. 

Bake until lightly browned, about 17-20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, from lemons, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1/3 cup juice.  In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat eggs until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low.  Add granulated sugar, remaining flour, baking powder, salt and lemon peel and juice.  Beat, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula, until blended.  Pour over warm crust. 

Bake until filling is just set and golden around edges, about 17-19 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack. Dust powdered sugar over warm filling.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack. 

When cool, remove lemon bars from pan by lifting edges of foil and place on cutting board.  Cut lengthwise into 3 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 12 pieces. 

After you make these, let me know how they taste!  Enjoy the lemon goodness!

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How one Katy mom uses technology to “get away” for a while

As a stay-at-home mom, I like to be available to my children.  But there comes a point at which I need a mental break in order to keep going.  This has become especially true now that my oldest daughter has given up naptimes.  She still reads or plays quietly in her room, but silence in our house is a thing of the past.

I’ve found that podcasting can really save my sanity.  During “rest time”, I don’t want to hear every little bump that my daughter is making.  However, I don’t feel comfortable tuning her out by cranking up the tunes to drown her out completely.  My solution: Podcasting! 

There are endless options available for free via podcasts.  I prefer to download sermons from The Waters Church (my home church here in Katy) or from a church whose pastor I know from high school, The Village Church in Dallas.   I find that these sermons put me in a good frame of mind and help me drown out the little person noises that abound upstairs (but since it is just a person talking, it doesn’t get so loud that I wouldn’t be able to hear her if she really needed me).  I wasn’t sure how it would work at first: would I be able to stay focused and not get bored listening to a sermon?  Would I get anything done around the house?  I’ve found that cleaning is so much better when podcasting.  Housework is relatively mindless work, so I am still able to attend to the speaker while checking things off of my to-do list.  It took me a few tries before I found pastors that I enjoy listening to, but once I found the handful that keep my attention, I’m able to go back every week and get their latest sermon via podcast.

There are so many podcasts to choose from: almost every church has their sermons online, many famous authors have podcasts, and my husband’s favorite is How Things Work.  He says he podcasts them on the way to work and learns something new while sitting in traffic.

I use podcasting during naptime but I also use it on those days when I just don’t think I can listen to Old MacDonald Had A Farm anymore on car rides.  The girls still get to listen to their music, and I blissfully sneak away to a much calmer, rejuvenating place. 

How about you?  Do you podcast?  What is your favorite podcast?  Post a comment below!

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Using Jessica Seinfeld’s Cookbook in our Katy home

I put Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, on my wish list the year it came out.  I received it as a Christmas gift and immediately began cooking from it.  Her premise is that we can puree vegetables and include them in recipes to boost the nutrition of a meal.  The idea is that as children eat the muffins you serve them or the chicken nuggets you’ve made for dinner, they are also getting a serving of vegetables, which they may not otherwise have eaten.

When I first began using the book, I was already pureeing foods for my first-born.  She was in the baby food stage, and so I’d chop and steam and puree huge amounts of vegetables at once and have them on hand in the freezer.  Then, it was fairly easy to have pureed veggies on hand for the Deceptively Delicious recipes.

As time went on, my only child became more demanding, and then became the first of two.  I went from being concerned about feeding my family something healthy to just being concerned with finding something to feed my family in the first place.  I admittedly let my convictions on healthful eating slack. 

Recently, though, I took a good look at what my children had eaten in a week’s time.  The nutrition was more acceptable than I anticipated it would be, with one major weakness: veggies.  Even when my girls were presented with vegetables at lunch or dinner, they’d ignore them for the most part.   It would be fair to say that in a day, my children probably eat one full serving of vegetables each. 

So, I dusted off the Deceptively Delicious cookbook again, looked at our menu for the week, and made some slight adjustments.  Instead of my usual way of making quesadillas, I inserted Seinfeld’s recipe.  I did the same for three meals, and depending on how this week goes, I plan to use the breakfast recipes next week, too.

I don’t have the time I used to have to devote a full day to steaming and pureeing vegetables, so instead, I begin baking or steaming the vegetable I need at the beginning of naptime.  Once it is cooked, I stick it in the blender and quickly churn it up.  For this part of my life, small tasks (like pureeing one head of cauliflower) seem to fit in to my day much more easily.

I am excited about thinking of the health I am providing my children, and so far, they have enjoyed the recipes I’ve presented them with.  I’m not going to stop putting broccoli in it’s purest form in front of them, but until they decide they are dying for another helping of it… I know there is Deceptively Delicious to help me out.

What about you?  Do you sneak vegetables in to your family’s diet?  Share your helpful hints below!

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Having sick Katy kids can be a hard experience

My oldest daughter and I spent the morning at the doctor’s office.  She woke up in the night with croup and a high fever, and needed cuddling and to be rocked most of the night.

Although she is four, and we have been through many illnesses, it is still such a painful, disappointing experience every time she gets sick.  For one, it is so hard to watch your baby feeling so ill.  It hurts to not be able to do anything for her.  One of the worst feelings in the world.

Add to that sleep deprivation from being up with the sick child all night.  And the need to clear your schedule, make an appointment, drop some cash on a doctor visit and a prescription… it is just a miserable experience.  Without fail, I have to cancel some plans that both she and I were looking forward to – this time it was a friend’s birthday party, church, and lunch with her cousin afterwards.  Not to mention school if she hasn’t kicked the fever by morning.

But in all of this, there is so much to be thankful for.  Sick children sit still so much longer.  They let you hold them and stroke their hair and kiss them.  They appreciate you and want to be with you.  It is so fulfilling to sit with my daughter and know that I am giving her everything I can just by being there for her.  A sick child brings out the lioness in me and I feel so empowered when all is said and done.  The prescriptions are filled, the smoothie is made, and my baby and I are laying on the couch watching Yo Gabba Gabba on repeat.  We can get through this thing.  And I can make it better for her after all.

Every time one of my children gets sick, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have such healthy kids.  By and large, our life goes off without a hitch and my children stay healthy.  Their temporary and mild illnesses serve as a reminder of just how blessed I really am.  Three days from now, this illness will have passed and life will be back in full swing.  But for now, I am going to sit up with my little girl when she calls me in the middle of the night and cherish the time we get to spend together.

What about you?  How do you deal with sick children?  Post a comment below!

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Your Katy garden will enjoy this time of year

Humidity can be a good thing, in a small amount.  As April is progressing here in Katy, that small amount is growing!  As a gardener and nature lover, I love it!  The lettuce is already forming small bunches, and I’m salivating at the thought of homegrown salad! My parsley, basil, chives and dill are turning into miniature herb fields, and the okra, peppers and tomatoes are all growing nicely.  The flowers here…don’t get me started!  My gladiolas are about to burst into bloom at any moment, the deep pink impatiens have become weeds, and the geraniums in red, white and pink are brilliant in the front yard.

So, humidity and I get along just fine.  Without the rain, moisture and mist, my garden and flower babies wouldn’t look the same.  Trust me, I’ve lived without it!  The roadsides in town are amazing, lit up with rose and violet colored azaleas, which grow like roses here.  Further out of town, into the countryside (my favorite place!), the wildflowers grow in abundance, like a flag spread over the meadows.

The critters are also coming out, saying hello to a new year, a new season of warmth and growth.  Some are wanted, some are not…like the young cottonmouth we found in our backyard last week!  The birds sound like life to me, with their tweeting, whistles and sometimes, songs.  They are little pests, as in stealing the first fruits from my strawberry plants!  I love them and the perky spirit they bring, though, just the same.

All the babies signify that the winter is through, new birth is here!  Driving home just a couple of days ago, the kids and I saw four little calves romping in the field together, leaping and frolicking while their mothers grazed calmly nearby!  We’ve seen more foals this spring in Texas, in front yards and on neighboring ranches, than we have in a lifetime elsewhere.  Baby ducks, baby chicks – they’re everywhere.  Watching babies never gets old!

New life – that’s what spring means to me, and I appreciate every minute of the season.  Is spring a favorite time of year for you?  Do you have any spring babies to talk about?  We’d love to hear your spring story!

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There are many different fitness options in Katy, how do you choose?

Many people often wonder what are the best ways to get in better physical condition. I am one of those people and with some research I have found  3 methods of training that seem to work fairly well and they are –

3. High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T)- This training system offers great balance between scientific theory and intense physical effort.The theory for this paricular system is intense short busrt of effort and muscular tension whether it be with cardiovascular training or weight training followed by longer but effective rest periods. The other method is a complete contradiction of the previous idea, but just as effective.This method involves long, strenuous and intense muscular movements followed by shorter resting periods. While the second method is intended more for athletes or weight lifters with intermediate to advanced levels of fitness, both are effective and with proper technique and form mastering both routines will come easily.

2. Circuit Training- My personal favorite training system and a good one at that. This is a training system consists of  short periods of exercise on multiple movements in secession with minimal to no rest for multiple sets. This is best for athletes looking to improve muscular endurance as well as individuals looking to push themselves past any exercise plateau.

1. Body Specific Target Training (B.S.T.T)- Though I mentioned that circuit training is my personal favorite training system, it is not the best in my opinion. Body Specific Target Training may be the slowest training system of the three mentioned, but in terms of the results gained  it may be the most effective.The idea is to train one specific muscle group for multiple repititions and multiple sets for an extended period of time with extended rests. The theory behind this idea is that the continuous extention and contraction of the muscle will cause extrenuous stress upon the muscle and with a stable and consistant resting period( between sets and after exercise) the muscles will begin to repair themselves and adapt to the movements i.e. stronger muscles, strength and endurance.

Though I based this writing on athletic and strength training, the systems can be used in other facets of exercise such as cardio, endurance, flexibility ect. Leave a comment letting me know if you have a favorite method of exercise.  Leave me a comment if you would like a blog on sample routines or more specific definitions of any training routines.

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Favorite Katy locations and activities for enjoying the weather as a family

We have enjoyed the fair weather this last month or so and have spent most of our time outside.  My two daughters have gotten their fill of indoor activities… in my opinion, winter (even in Katy) goes on two months longer than it is welcome. 

Angela, along with her daughter Avery, enjoy a bike ride around Katy

Over the past month, with the weather being as nice as it is, almost every play date and get together has involved some sort of outdoor activity.  Some of my favorites include…

*Walking around the large lakes at Cinco Ranch Blvd and Spring Green.  This is a family favorite, and we will sometimes pack a lunch and eat out on the grass.

*Playing outside at La Centera.  And what trip to La Centera is complete without a treat from one of the several shops around?  The girls love to get ice cream or cookies, I love the Starbucks and Jamba Juice.

*Visiting the parks in each of our friends’ neighborhoods. 

*Geocaching in and around Katy (for more, go to www.geocaching.com).  Geocaching is like a global scavenger hunt, with locations given in GPS.  We use my iPhone and my 4 year old has a blast helping us discover the hidden capsules.

*Local Katy parks are a real hit.  Mary Jo Peckham, the ‘train park’ nearby it, George Bush park – we love making the park rounds!

*Refilling our sand and water table.  And for an extra twist, we make one side warm, soapy water and the other cold, clean water.

*Sidewalk chalking and sidewalk painting.  To make the sidewalk paint, we mix 2 tablespoons of water with 2 tablespoons of corn starch and then add food coloring.  It’s so much fun and washes right off (except for our blue food coloring… oops).

*Biking together.  The girls enjoy the ride and my husband and I love getting exercise and family time all at once.  We’ve gotten really brave and biked to a casual dinner or to the store before, but even a trip around our neighborhood is nice.

What about you?  How do you take advantage of the warm weather? Post a comment!
Thanks so much,
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The Houston and Katy areas offer many fun (and sometimes free!)options for families.

Earth Day would be great time to take your children to a local Katy park. You can search for the one nearest you right here on the Katy Magazine site http://www.katymagazine.com/parks.htm. Fly a kite, take a walk, enjoy the beautiful Katy weather before things get too hot!

If you want to tie in a little more education into your Earth Day celebration the short drive into Houston can provide you with many options. Today you can celebrate Earth Day at a most appropriate venue, the Houston Weather Museum. From 10am-4pm the museum will celebrate the Earth and the museum’s birthday. Admission is free. For more information visit http://www.wxresearch.com/earth/index.html.

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is also always a great place to go to be close to nature. It also is free! Enjoy walking the trails and coming face to face with wildlife. The Arboretum also has many great programs that you can learn about on their site at http://www.houstonarboretum.org/

If you want to celebrate Earth Day this year in the comforts of air conditioning Disney is debuting their documentary, Oceans in theatres today. This is a great way to show your children some of nature’s masterpieces! You can read more about this at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0765128/.

Even with these options if you want to stay home there is always a way to incorporate a love for nature in what you do. Channel surf the National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet stations. There is bound to be something on that will peak your family’s interest.

Earth Day is a great time to have family discussion about what you love most about the Earth and how you can help to make a difference. Discuss the importance of conserving electricity by turning off the lights in rooms when you leave them. Come up with a family recycling plan or decide to help through volunteering. If your family is doing something fun and unique for Earth Day please share it in a comment!

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Making the perfect selection of fruit for your Katy family

I was shopping in one of my local grocery store and saw so many fresh fruit out ready to be bought. As I walked by several of them they smelled so sweet that tempted me to grab one and put it close to my nose and enjoyed that wonderful smell of fresh fruit. I saw mango’s, oranges, strawberries, grapes, apples and cantaloupes. Upon selecting the fruit I would put it close to my nose and see if it had that sweet smell. I would also check the tenderness and color of the fruit. I always wonder if the fruit would be sweeter if I would go to a farmers market instead of the grocery store.

I know that Katy has several days with a farmers market that comes out and sells fresh fruit. Is this fruit sweeter? Is it fresher than the ones we get at our grocer? Should we make our own fresh fruit garden in our backyard? Is it difficult to take care of a fruit tree? I think I took longer in the fruit aisle than expected because I was enjoying seeing and smelling the fruit in the store. There were so many to choose from that I filled my cart with different choices of fruit for my children to enjoy.

My youngest son loves fruit and is always looking in the fridge for different kinds of fruit. He even wishes that we had our own of fresh fruit trees in our backyard. I do see many fruit tress in surrounding neighborhoods and see that soon they will have fresh fruit of there own.
How do you shop for your fruit? Have you encountered having fun yourself by selecting the perfect fruit for your family? I have also been thinking of having neighborhood fruit parties by gathering together and enjoying different varieties of fruits. What better way to meet and greet your friendly neighborhood friends. Please share your comments and ideas with me below.
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Katy has many work-out options to fit your budget and your interests

No one likes spending time doing activities they find disagreeable, even if the activities are good for them.   So, what is the best way to ensure you will exercise throughout your life?  The answer is finding a form of exercise that you love.  Once you find a kind of exercise that is fun, you will be hooked and exercise will become a pleasure.

My favorite form of exercise is dancing.  I enjoyed ballet and ballroom dance when I was younger and find that I work hardest when the form of exercise is somewhat creative.  I was thrilled when we moved to Katy and found that several of the local fitness centers offered cardio dance classes.  If you pay for a membership to Lifetime Fitness or the YMCA, for example, the fitness classes are included in the membership cost.  I have loved attending Latin Dance, Hip-hop and Zumba classes.  They are great cardio workouts and they make me feel like a teenager again.

Several years ago, my husband discovered a passion for racquetball.  He has found a group of guys in Katy that play regularly and keep him motivated and engaged in the sport.  Recently, he has participated in tournaments which further motivate him to push himself to become better.  My husband and I have also found that we enjoy biking.  We purchased a bike rack for our car, and we enjoy exploring Katy on our bicycles as a family.

Children are naturally active and when they discover fun forms of exercise, they will automatically seek out these activities.  Every day after school, my children enjoy a variety of fun, free sports.   They enjoy shooting baskets in our basketball hoop, jumping on the trampoline, biking, playing Frisbee, and rollerblading.  Sometimes the best exercise for children is letting them loose in your own backyard!

Exercise shouldn’t be drudgery.  In fact, it can and should be something we love…something that gives us an emotional and physical boost each day.  So what forms of exercise do you love?  How have you stayed motivated to continue exercising?  Please post a comment below.

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New Health Care Law Hits Katy

It has been an interesting time for Katy residents as the Health Care and Reconciliation Act bills recently became law. Below is a list of provisions in the new legislation that all Katy residents should know.  The following items will be implemented throughout 2010. 

To be implemented immediately:

  • Employers with 50+ employees must provide breast feeding breaks to new mothers.
  • Small Business Tax Credit (for businesses with less than 50 employees) of up to 35% of employer’s contribution to health insurance. 
  • Medicare Part D rebate of $250 after you spend $2,830 in total drug spending to help fill the  “doughnut hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage.
  • Adoption Tax Credit and Adoption Assistance increase of $1,000.
  • Temporary credit to organizations for investing in new therapies to prevent, diagnose and treat acute and chronic diseases.
  • Tax relief for health care professionals who work in underserved or shortage areas and have state student loans.
  • Establishes a National Health Care Workforce Commission for Health Care professionals.
  • All new health plans must provide coverage for preventative care without co-pays.
  • Requires group health plans to cover dependent children up to 26 years old.
  • Requires Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to States to create health insurance consumer assistance to receive and respond to inquiries and complaints regarding health insurance coverage.
  • Requires better screening of health care providers to reduce fraud.
  • Creates a federal council to promote healthy policies.
  • Extends Medicare payment protections for small rural hospitals.
  • Establishes a private, non-profit institute to identify national priorities and provide for research to compare the effectiveness of health treatments and strategies.
  • Offers an option to allow States to cover parents and childless adults up to 133% of the poverty level.
  • Creates new requirements of non-profit hospitals.
  • Expands and improves low-interest student loan programs, scholarships and loan repayments for health students and professions.
  • Requires BCBS organizations to have a medical loss ratio of 85% or higher to receive special tax benefits.
  • Insurers cannot cancel policies to avoid paying medical bills if a person gets sick.
  • No more lifetime limits on benefits.
  • Creates a grant program to help the States in requiring health insurance companies to submit justification for all requested premium increases.

To be implemented July 1

  • Eligible people cannot be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • Indoor Tanning Services will be taxed an additional 10%.
  • Creates a temporary reinsurance program that helps companies provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55-64 to help with the expense of the coverage.
  • Requires the HHS to create a website for people and small businesses to find affordable state health insurance.  It will also give information regarding reinsurance for early retirees and small business tax credits.
  • Creates an investment fund for prevention and public health programs.

To be implemented by October 1

  • Insurance companies cannot cancel coverage when a person gets sick.
  • No lifetime limits on benefits.
  • Requires new group health plans to provide an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.
  • Children cannot be denied for pre-existing conditions in employer and individual plans. (Will be effective for all plans by 2014.)

My future posts will describe what the law provides from 2011 – 2020.

So how does this new law affect you and your family?  Are you happy about the new health care bill or does it cause you great concern.  Let me know what you think.  Email me at lmcland@mclandhr.com  I am running an unofficial survey and will publish the findings in a future blog.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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 How do you make your Katy garden grow?

As an avid gardner who had struggled with the oppressive heat and lack of natural moisture back in Arizona, I have to admit I was relieved to be coming to live in Katy where it is green and wet!  I looked up the statistics online before we even arrived here last fall, and was the thrilled with the promise of a lack of cold weather and bounty of rain.  I told friends that I would be able to “throw the seeds in the ground, and they’ll just grow!”  OK, I’ll admit, I’ve doubted those numbers a lot recently, as this area went through record-breaking cold weather, rainfall, and even heat this past six months!   Needless to say, I’ll tell you that it hasn’t been quite that easy to garden here!  It is, however, not a disappointment to me at all.

I tried a couple of different options this year for planting, just to see how it would go.  I planted seeds inside, in the seedling trays you can find at Wal-mart.  I also planted the same seeds outside by the first week in March.  (I planted bulbs, like the onions, garlic and flowers, earlier, around the beginning of February.)  Interestingly, the outside seeds are doing better as far as strength and tolerance.  The inside seeds grew larger plants, but not as hardy to the weather.  Of course, the typical hardier plants are doing fine from both seed groups, such as the pepper and tomato plants.  It helps, I’m sure, that our yard has an automatic sprinkler system to water my “babies.”  So far, so good, yet I know I have many battles ahead of me with the heat, birds and bugs to deal with as Spring grows on.

What do you think about this past year’s record breaking weather; has it wreaked havoc on your garden?  Did you lose any longstanding favorites to the freezes, or did your plants come out of the storm still kicking?  Am I in for more surprises, or is the weather usually fairly normal around here?  I would love your feedback!

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One Katyite is rewriting holiday traditions to include less sugar and more nutrition 

When holidays roll around, the pull towards the kitchen gets stronger.  My desire to bake to make every occasion special is so deep rooted that I have had the hardest time breaking the trend.

I should stop and present this disclaimer: I’m not against sugar intake.  On the contrary, I love all things sugar.  But at some point, when the kitchen is overflowing with candy and my daughter brings home cupcakes from Nana’s house, the need to bake sugar cookies just because it’s a holiday deserves an honest assessment.

This Easter, I realized that we, as a family, are on sugar overload without me adding to the baking mix.  I knew this cognitively, but there was a powerful inner force that kept bringing me back to the kitchen, over and over again, reaching for the mixer.  “But baking a bunny cake is tradition,” I’d tell myself.  Or, “Sugar cookies at every holiday is so much fun!  I want my kids to have fun, don’t I?”

Honestly, though, our counters were piled high with chocolate cake from the great-grandparents, cupcakes from the grandparents, and endless eggs full of candy.  All delicious.  And also sufficient.

So, this Easter I squelched the need to bake for fun’s sake.  But it did still leave a void in our home that I am hoping to get creative ideas to fill.  If I don’t need to bake, is there something more nutritious I can do with my children that will still make the holidays special?  Can I find a way to get veggies in front of my children instead of sugar, while still in the spirit of the season?

My first idea is to use raw veggies on a pizza crust covered with a Ranch dip to decorate a bunny, like I would a cake.  I didn’t think of it this year until the day after Easter, but I am excited to think ahead to other potential sugar traps. 

The Fourth of July, for example, comes complete with a fruit pizza, homemade ice cream, cookies, and sometimes a cake.  I do not need to add to the delicious dessert stash.  But perhaps my children and I can use fruit in a healthy way.  Maybe we’ll make a flag on homemade whole wheat toast spread with low-fat cream cheese icing. 

My goal is to begin collecting healthy alternatives for kitchen fun long before each holiday.  If I’m prepared with my bowl full of colorful fruits and vegetables, with a plan in hand, hopefully I can add health to the season.  As long as the sugar is also readily available, that is!

I could really use some help.  Do you have a healthy kitchen alternative for any major holiday to share?  Post your comment below. 

Blog Post Entry

Title: Sugar Overload
Subtitle: Rewriting holiday traditions to include less sugar and more nutrition
To be posted under Katy Parenting, Katy Kids and Healthy Katy

When holidays roll around, the pull towards the kitchen gets stronger.  My desire to bake to make every occasion special is so deep rooted that I have had the hardest time breaking the trend.

I should stop and present this disclaimer: I’m not against sugar intake.  On the contrary, I love all things sugar.  But at some point, when the kitchen is overflowing with candy and my daughter brings home cupcakes from Nana’s house, the need to bake sugar cookies just because it’s a holiday deserves an honest assessment.

This Easter, I realized that we, as a family, are on sugar overload without me adding to the baking mix.  I knew this cognitively, but there was a powerful inner force that kept bringing me back to the kitchen, over and over again, reaching for the mixer.  “But baking a bunny cake is tradition,” I’d tell myself.  Or, “Sugar cookies at every holiday is so much fun!  I want my kids to have fun, don’t I?”

Honestly, though, our counters were piled high with chocolate cake from the great-grandparents, cupcakes from the grandparents, and endless eggs full of candy.  All delicious.  And also sufficient.

So, this Easter I squelched the need to bake for fun’s sake.  But it did still leave a void in our home that I am hoping to get creative ideas to fill.  If I don’t need to bake, is there something more nutritious I can do with my children that will still make the holidays special?  Can I find a way to get veggies in front of my children instead of sugar, while still in the spirit of the season?

My first idea is to use raw veggies on a pizza crust covered with a Ranch dip to decorate a bunny, like I would a cake.  I didn’t think of it this year until the day after Easter, but I am excited to think ahead to other potential sugar traps. 

The Fourth of July, for example, comes complete with a fruit pizza, homemade ice cream, cookies, and sometimes a cake.  I do not need to add to the delicious dessert stash.  But perhaps my children and I can use fruit in a healthy way.  Maybe we’ll make a flag on homemade whole wheat toast spread with low-fat cream cheese icing. 

My goal is to begin collecting healthy alternatives for kitchen fun long before each holiday.  If I’m prepared with my bowl full of colorful fruits and vegetables, with a plan in hand, hopefully I can add health to the season.  As long as the sugar is also readily available, that is!

I could really use some help.  Do you have a healthy kitchen alternative for any major holiday to share?  Post your comment below. 

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When you are running on low, this Katy mom knows how to relax

For the most part, I tend to be a fairly up-beat person. In fact, most days I wake up with a sense of anticipation for the day ahead. The one exception, however, is when I am sick. I learned early on in motherhood that gone are the days when someone waits on me hand and foot when I am under the weather. In fact, it seems fair to say that mothers simply aren’t allowed to be sick. There is no such thing as taking a sick day, calling in sick, or taking a leave of absence. For, there is always a fire to put out, a heart to cheer, a kitchen to be cleaned, a meal to prepare, and an extra-curricular activity to attend.
So, when one day, I found myself sick with a horrible case of the flu, I was grumpy. My muscles ached, I had no energy, and of course, my husband had to work late. By the time I was giving the children a bath, reading to them and tucking them in bed, I felt absolutely horrible. I feared I was feeling what it must be like to get old. Every step hurt. My neck and shoulders throbbed, and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable. Suddenly, I felt angry.
Just as I was about to sink into despair, I remembered that we had a jacuzzi tub with jets in the master bathroom. I shuffled into the master bathroom and started the steaming water. While I waited for the tub to fill, I found some forgotten bath salts hiding in my bathroom cupboard that I had received for Christmas from my sister. I poured a generous amount of salts into the tub. Within moments, I was soaking in the tub with jets shooting my stiff muscles into submission. I had found heaven.
Had I ever used the jacuzzi tub? No, I didn’t think I had. Why not? I wondered. Well, probably because I never wanted to take the time. Suddenly, I realized how silly I had been. I spent hours meeting the needs of others, but, when I needed something, I simply ignored it. Why didn’t I consider myself and my own needs?
Much of the tension in my muscles began to ease. Closing my eyes, I made a silent commitment to listen to the little voice inside my head. Oh, how life would be better if I learned to rest when I was tired, treat myself to an oreo milkshake when I was down, and ask others to pitch in when I needed it.
How do you spoil yourself when you are running on fumes?  Post a comment below.
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Katy Mom enjoys seeing her children having fun

I love the different kinds of sports that Katy offers for our children. There are so many choices that our children can pick from that they even want to do all of them. My son has selected t-ball and this is his first year in the sport. He has become a real pro at it. He anxiously awaits for his practices that he even tells me not to forget. I find this very amusing because he stares at his schedule and even the calendar just to make sure we don’t miss it. When we went to select his items for t-ball he was very excited that he wanted every item in the store.
Our first day of practice was real fun. He learned how to put on a baseball glove, hold the bat, hit the ball, pitch the ball, and even throw the ball to his teammates. I was on the bench being the cheerleader of the team. I even wanted to go out there and run with them. My camera will be full of pictures of his many special moments with his team to last for a lifetime. The practice went by so fast because of all the fun they were having that my son didn’t even want to go home. He keeps telling me that he is ready for his next sport event. He wants to do soccer next that he keeps telling me to sign him up when they start for next season. So here we go with our next fun sporting event. He was debating about football, flag football, soccer, swimming and even tennis. So many to choose from and so little time to do them.
Have any of your children participated in any of these sports? If they did what sport did they mostly like? Love to hear your comments please post below.
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One Katy wife shares her secret for a happy marriage

I knew I had found Mr. Right when, after a fun evening together, my date asked if he could give me a kiss.  As I nodded and prepared for our first awkward kiss, my date then proceeded to pull a bag of Hershey Kisses from his pocket.  He didn’t kiss me that night, but we had a good laugh!  I fell in love with this funny man and today, after nearly sixteen years of marriage, laughing is still one of our favorite shared pastimes.  Laughter is truly the perfect medicine.  It is not only fun and free, but there are many physical, mental and social benefits.

Physical Benefits
A good, hearty laugh can actually relieve stress and cause the body to relax for up to forty-five minutes.  Laughter boosts the immune system, decreases pain, and can prevent disease.   

Mental Benefits
Laughter adds joy to life, improves one’s mood, eases anxiety and fear and boosts resilience.

Social Benefits
Shared laughter is the best form of laughter.  Laughter is contagious and is infectious to all.  Laughing with others strengthens relationships, decreases conflict and promotes bonding.

Life, with all of its ups and downs must be laughed about.  I must confess that some of the most embarrassing moments have turned into some of the most humorous, due to my husband, who loves to laugh.  I am reminded of one particular time when our entire family showed up Sunday morning at another family’s home for breakfast.  We found it odd that they came to the door in their pajamas, but walked in and thanked them profusely for the invitation.  After about a half an hour of conversation, we realized that they weren’t the family that had invited us.  Being new to the neighborhood, we had confused them with another family, who had the same last name.  Though it was an embarrassing situation for both families, we have laughed about this incident time and time again.

Another time, my husband awoke early for work and, trying not to disturb me, left the lights out while grabbing his shoes.  Later that day, he discovered he was wearing two completely different shoes.  I will never forget the look on his face as I delivered one shoe to his office.

Some of the best humor is had in reflecting on past humorous experiences.  Finding humor every day creates a never ending bank of fun from which one can withdraw at any time.  So, go ahead, laugh!  And, while your add it, infect someone else! 

What humorous situations have you found yourself in?  Please share below!

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How Katyites stay healthy through spring, summer and year ’round

March 25, 2010 – Katy, Texas – Why drive when you can walk- Many individuals in the  Katy area fortunately work in close vicinity to their homes yet feel the need to drive. Instead of wasting unnecessary gas money on a daily basis save a few dollars and lose a few calories by walking.

Exercise, even walking to start the day has been proven to ignite a greater level of productivity in many individuals. Although sidewalks seen to be non-existent in some Katy communities there is an abundance of great parks and walking trails that are open every day of the year .So if you are looking for a great way to stay active and alert simply walk.

No Gym, No Problem- As much as the local gym may seem appealing because of the innovative equipment and great environment it is not the only option. Jogging, biking, swimming, hiking and other outdoor activities are some of the best and most fun ways of staying active and offer a great cardiovascular workout.

Marathons and other events- There are many marathons and other events that offer a great opportunity to socialize and achieve a greater level of fitness. These events are free and are usually sponsored by groups or organizations that donate to foundations in order to help those in need. So not only are you working on your health but the health and benefit of others as well.

There are so many other alternatives to achieving a greater sense of self and fitness but hopefully these tips will help you in your pursuit of happiness.  Do you have any tips of your own? Post a comment below!

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Encouraging your Katy Toddler’s Healthy Eating Habits

March 24, 2010 – Katy, Texas – My first child, Madeleine, was an eater. From the day she tasted rice cereal at 4 months old, that child ate just about anything we put on her plate. Or her soft-bite Gerber spoon, as the case may be.  One of our favorite stories about Madeleine:  As a two-year-old, she threw a tantrum at McDonald’s because they didn’t serve broccoli.  The wide-eyed cashier couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  Now that she is eight, broccoli is still one of her favorite foods. 

Featured Katy blog writer, Lerin Wheeless, give her daughter, Lucy, her first teething biscuit.

Bragging about that McDonald’s meltdown, I was sure I’d done something right. My friends complained about their picky toddlers, while mine was eating everything from green beans to salad.  I doled out the unsolicited advice at every opportunity.  I had the simple answer: all they had to do was to serve a variety of foods and not make any alternate meals.  Their problem would be solved, I assured them!  Kids will eat whatever you put in front of them, as long as you don’t allow junk food, right?

Not necessarily.  God put me in my place with my next two picky eaters.  The only vegetable Ben (3) will eat? Ketchup.  Yes, I know that ketchup is not a vegetable, but he treats it like a side dish.  Rather than dipping food in it, he eats it from the spoon!  This always triggers my gagt reflex, so we only give him a little with his meat.

I’ve tried everything.  I’ve tried begging, bribing, threatening, punishing, and sticker charts.  What I’ve learned from these fruitless and frustrating efforts is, what your child chews and swallows and keeps down is ultimately up to them! 

I’ve stopped letting myself tie my mood to what my children do or don’t eat.  I’ve surrendered in the meal-time battle, and am taking a much gentler approach these days.  Our meals havbe an extra helping of joy, now.

I think the most important thing is to make meal time a happy time.  We all come together at the dining room table, and share not just a meal, but ourselves.  We take turns going around the table talking about our day, and sometimes answering creative questions.  I make one healthy meal, and put a little of everything on their plates.  I give them a cup of V-8 Splash instead of apple juice.  I give them children’s chewable vitamins, make chocolate milk with Carnation instant breakfast, and sneak veggies into our sauces. 

My children are not required to finish everything on their plates, but are required to take one bite of each thing.  Sometimes, they are surprised that they actually love a new food!  Most of the time, they take one bite and make horrible faces… followed by chugging from the sippy cup.  We make sure to give lots of attention and praise for each bite of a new food.  My children eat up the positive attention… even if they don’t eat up the food every time.

But I have to say… I’m encouraged.  After serving broccoli to Bella (4) at least once a week since she was a toddler, she finally took a second bite yesterday.  She has tried broccoli many times, but this time she proudly announced:  “Mommy, I like broccoli now!  It’s not yucky anymore… it’s like a tree!”

Do you deal with finicky eaters?  What are your tips and tricks?  Post a comment below and share your ideas with me!

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Katy Mom is Looking for Tips and Tricks to get ‘Pre-Kids’ Body Back

I used to work out all the time, eat pretty healthy and therefore, fit nicely into my size 4 clothes. Then I had kids. Now-a-days you are lucky if you see me in a short sleeve shirt because I’m so embarrassed of my fat, jiggly arms!  I loved our cold winter for the sheer reason that I could stay covered up all day long! What in the world is the deal with me?!

I am one of those women, the ones that have kids and they gain a ton of weight, their hair is never the same and can never get rid of that ugly pooch at the bottom of my stomach that looks like something you should knead, punch and roll out. And then there are the “others”. I hate these women…ok not really, just despise the fact that their bodies don’t change after giving birth AT ALL!  And with such little effort on their part!!  I had a friend that was back into her size 2 jeans 4 weeks after giving birth to her first son, and after each birth of her 3 kids! And she didn’t diet or exercise!  WHAT?!  How is that possible?  I used to kill myself in the gym after each of my son’s births, I did the Atkins diet, the Slimfast Diet, the Starvation Soup Diet, the Medifast Diet (oh! I starved on that one!)  and oh so many more. Each one was too hard to stay on, got bored with it, or didn’t see much progress so I quit. I’m sure my love of wine and Italian food had NOTHING to do with my lack of progress.

Anyone out there found something that really works?  That won’t require me to count points, weigh food, take a pill that sends me into cardiac arrest, or eat boxed lasagna that has so many preservatives in it that its shelf life extends into my 4 year old’s golden years?!  Post your comments below.

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Balin served both as a rider and as ride marshall

Katyites Get Ready for the Ride of a Lifetime

Last April, 13,000 cyclists came together to ride 182 miles from Houston to Austin in the BP MS 150 to raise over $17 million for those living with MS, and they will do it all over again this year on April 17. Many riders are from the Katy area including our own Katy Area Economic Development President, Lance LaCour, who is in training for the arduous journey.

Committed Katy Cyclists

Currently, more than 400,000 Americans are living with MS, according to Gena Hyde of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It is a debilitating disease that affects each person uniquely. “There is no known cause, and so there is yet to be a known cure,” Hyde explains. Perhaps this is why Katy cyclists commit year after year to ride the 182 miles from Houston to Austin and to raise $400 or more for the National MS Society.

Local Residents Take a Ride for MS

Katy resident Dr. Scott Balin decided to take up the challenge seven years ago while riding with a friend whose sister has MS. He is riding for family friend, Samantha Gluckman, who lives in Israel. As a former cyclist herself, she loves to ride, but can no longer do so due to the affect of MS on her body. Her family brought over a bandana with her name embroidered on it for Balin to wear. He explains, “Just knowing that I can ride for her is an honor for me, and truly helps me keep going by knowing her winning spirit will be with me the entire ride to that sweet end in Austin.”

Becky Ricketts, another Katy cyclist, is also familiar with the finish line in Austin. She has ridden in a Bike MS four times, including twice in Houston and twice in Louisiana. Every year, there are 100 Bike MS rides across the country to raise money. Each bike ride varies in the course and the actual mileage ridden. Ricketts was enticed by the challenge of the ride. “I had a cousin that died of MS in her 20’s, and so it is very special to my family,” she shares. Becky loves the hills and the camaraderie of the ride, but confesses that it can be trying at times. “The hardest part of the ride is sleeping with 200 of your closest friends,” she says. “It’s cold at night, the lights go out early, and the snores begin.” Riders usually camp on Saturday night at the fairgrounds in La Grange. They arise early the next morning to finish up the second day of their ride.

Motivated to Bike MS

The Katy community has many ways to support you. Bike Barn’s Andy Gonzalez urges, “Get out and ride as a group as early as you can. The more you do it, the more you get used to it and the safer you end up being.” Bike Barn leads rides for riders of varying levels every Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m. starting from the store.

There are many ways to be involved in the BP MS 150, whether that is riding the 182 miles yourself, or donating to and supporting another rider. Whatever the case may be, all over the country, Bike MS is raising millions of dollars to find a cure for MS. Balin says of his ride, “I only pray that every mile I ride brings us that much closer to finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.” Hopefully, that prayer will be echoed in April, when 13,000 riders hit the road from Houston to Austin to change the futures of those living with MS.

© Katy Magazine 2010

Adapted from Kelly Isenberger’s story in Katy Magazine’s Spring Issue 2010

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A personal trainer will help hold you accountable

Katy Residents Find Ways to Shed the Pounds

Monica Romero has plenty of reasons to celebrate these days. Once considered morbidly obese, the mother of two has drastically reduced her weight by 60 pounds. Although she has not reached her goal weight yet, she has made a commitment to herself and is on track to becoming a healthier mom, wife, and daughter.

Romero is not alone in her weight loss pursuits. Obesity is now one of the biggest health issues in the United States. It’s no secret that the dietary habits of Americans are spinning out-of-control. Luckily, there are solutions for everyone.

Surgical Solutions

Romero’s success is a result of the Lap-Band procedure. Laparoscopic adjustable banding and gastric bypass are the two most popular surgical options available for the morbidly obese, which includes those with a BMI of 40 or higher, or a BMI above 35 with an obesity-related disease such as diabetes, hypertension, or sleep apnea. “Studies have shown that diets and exercise alone fail up to 98% of the time in the morbidly obese population,”states Dr. Bradley Waggoner, of Cypress Bariatric and General Surgery. “My interest in weight loss surgery is not primarily cosmetic, but is for the patient to lose the appropriate amount of weight so that they may live a longer and healthier life.”

Lap banding, which is becoming more popular than gastric bypass due to its lower risk and reversibility, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that usually allows the patient to go home the day of surgery. Romero was up and walking the next day after her Lap-Band was inserted. She admits that adjusting to her Lap-Band was difficult at first. “You have to chew your food 25-35 times every time you eat.” But, with the help of a Lap-Band support group, Romero began to shed those excess pounds. “You have to be focused and have your mind set. If your mind’s not set, you will find a way to cheat.” The Lap-Band must be tightened periodically, but Romero was able to have hers loosened while pregnant and after the birth of her daughter. Now preparing to have it tightened again, she advises others, “I would go with a Lap-Band 100%; it’s a great tool for you to lose weight.”

Group Guidance

Groups such as Weight Watchers provide not only dieting tools and information, but a place where you can get support and encouragement from others. “I had tried to lose weight on my own, and it just didn’t work very well for me,” says Susan Schroder, a Weight Watchers member. Weight Watchers members attend weekly group meetings until they reach their goal weight. Group meetings provide members the chance to learn about healthy eating, share recipes and tips, and recognize weight loss achievements. They are taught appropriate portion sizes and are encouraged to make better food choices. Once members attain their goal weight, they go through a maintenance program, after which they become lifetime members. “I’ve learned that weight loss must be a lifestyle change. The way you eat has to change for the rest of your life, not just until you reach your goal weight,” notes Schroder.


Menu Makers

Not sure how to change your diet? Programs such as Jenny Craig and NutriSystem provide all your food for you. While Jenny Craig has centers around the area, NutriSystem is completely online. Both programs offer menus that are designed to help you lose weight. Jenny Craig provides a personal counselor to help you slowly transition from the food they provide to your own food, in addition to providing advice on physical activity and overall support. NutriSystem has counselors that can be reached by phone, a fitness DVD, and all food is sent directly to your home.

Change for the Better

Weight loss is a journey toward good health that has tremendous rewards for all those involved. It is a very personal matter, and to begin, you must find a program that works for you. There are other options out there, from hypnosis to Bible-based programs. But what matters most is being mentally ready. As Sampson advises, “If you haven’t made up your mind to lose weight, no weight loss program will work for you.” 

Story by Holly Garcia. Copyright Katy Magazine, Cy-Fair Magazine, Sugar Land Magazine 2009.

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Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital has earned the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers and has also been designated as a primary stroke center by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The hospital is the first in Katy to receive the Gold Seal of Approval. The DSHS designation program seeks to establish a framework for developing a voluntary, statewide emergency treatment system for stroke victims, and will allow victims to be rapidly transported to and treated in appropriate stroke-treatment facilities. Strokes are the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in America. There are over 4 million Americans living with the consequences of a stroke. Every year, about 700,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke, which is the nation’s third leading cause of death. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every 3.1 minutes.

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