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 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 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, 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 (March 7, 2017) – Katyites can pack up the family vehicle and embark on a spring break adventure without ever leaving Texas.

Written by Kennan Buckner

Make special memories with your kiddos as you make new friends, both human and animal, at these spring break hot spots. From cooling off by a lake to sipping drinks poolside, vacationers are sure to have fun they’ll never forget at these Texas destinations.


Visit the Austin Aquarium for a close-up with sharks, stingrays, corals, and a giant Pacific octopus. You might even see a mermaid on weekends. Buy tickets online and save $3.

Inside Zilker Park, you’ll find your own oasis at Barton Springs Pool, fed from underground springs with an average temperature of 70 degrees.

Bring your fishing reels for shoreline fishing and a picnic basket for lunch beside beautiful Lake Travis. Thrill-seekers can visit Austin Outdoor Zipline Adventure to zip through the trees and over

the water. Lodging is also offered.

KM_Feb March_17_Lake Travis Zipline Adventures(2)



After a day at the sandy beach, head over to the Hurricane Alley Waterpark which offers everything from a lazy river and water slides to a kid’s cove with mini slides and a swimup bar offering kid-friendly beverages.


Resting in Corpus Christi Bay is the USS Lexington, which served as a carrier during World War II. Take a self-guided tour of the ship or visit the museum, virtual battle stations, or the 3D mega theater.


Touch and feed stingrays at the Texas State Aquarium or make friends with sea turtles at Tortuga Cay. Families will also enjoy the underwater view of a 125,000-gallon exhibit featuring an entire ecosystem. Save $3 on weekday tickets online.

KM_Feb March_17_Texas State Aquarium



Trot the globe without ever leaving Texas at the Dallas Zoo. From elephants to penguins, visitors can embark on a fun day of discovery. The children’s area features friendly goats, pigs, and other farm animals.


Go from swimming and splashing back to your wolf denthemed room or premium suite without ever having to get in your car. The Great Wolf Lodge offers endless indoor water fun, character appearances, dining, shopping, spas, and more – all under one giant roof.


A LEGO lover’s dream, this one-of-a-kind experience offers a LEGO factory tour, 4D cinema, and adventures like the Merlin’s apprentice and kingdom quest rides. Visitors can also build and test their own LEGO car or explore the Star Wars miniland model display.

Coffee Shop exterior



Ride the Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry from the mainland to Bolivar peninsula. The free trip, which sails 2.7 miles, lasts about 18 minutes. Then visit the peninsula’s lighthouse built in 1852. It’s survived the 1900 and 1915 storms and Hurricane Ike.


Have an educational adventure while exploring Moody Gardens. The Aquarium Pyramid, Rainforest Pyramid, Discovery Museum, and 3D and 4D theaters immerse visitors in a tropical paradise. Adventurers can also try the five-tier ropes course or zip line over Palm Beach.


Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark opens March 4 and features indoor family fun on the Boogie Bahn surf ride or amid the 70,000 square feet of slides, pools, kids’ area, and secluded beaches. Open daily March 11 to 19 for spring break.

KM_Feb March_17_Travel Spring Break Destinations_Sclitterbahn (3)



Visit the Lone Star State’s historical landmark where the first stone for the Spanish mission was laid in 1744. It’s open year-round and entrance is free. Last July, archaeologists discovered an adobe wall about 23 inches below the flagstone surface.


Shopping, dining, art, and river taxi rides await along the San Antonio Riverwalk. Visitors can walk the Riverwalk all the way from the hip Pearl District to the Shops at Rivercenter, Tower of Americas, and the Mission Reach.


Meet Jack Hanna during the family favorite “Wild Days” taking place March 4 to 26 when SeaWorld brings you brand new shows, rides, and attractions. Or get up close with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, beluga whales, and sea lions during an interactive swim at Discovery Point. KM

KM_Feb March_17_San Antonio Riverwalk(2)

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Katy, TX (March 6, 2017) – Katy Magazine has compiled a list of Easter Sunday services and family events for 2017.



Church services in Katy, Texas on Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bridgepoint Bible Church
13277 Katy Fwy., Houston

Services will begin at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. There will be an Easter egg hunt for children immediately following the 11 a.m. service. Visit bridgepointbible.org.

Central Baptist Church
2855 Greenhouse Rd., Houston

There will be an Easter drama performance in lieu of a service at 11 a.m. Visit cbchou.org.

Higher Dimension Church
5819 10th St.

There will be services at 8, 9:15, 10:30, and 12:30 on Easter Sunday. Visit higherd.net.

Kingsland Baptist Church
20555 Kingsland Blvd.

They will have a 7 a.m. sunrise service, and services at 8, 9:30, and 11 a.m. There will also be a Saturday service at 3, 5, and 7 p.m., and a Spanish service at 6:15 p.m. in the Courts. Visit kingsland.org.

Second Baptist Church – West Campus
19449 Katy Fwy.

Join the SBC family for 9:30 and 11 a.m. services. Visit second.org.

Bethel Bible Fellowship
25335 Fulshear Gaston Rd., Richmond
9:30 and 11:00 a.m.

The Church at Cane Island
Katy High School
6331 Highway Blvd.
9:30 a.m.

Church of the Holy Apostles
1225 W. Grand Pkwy. S.
8 and 10:30 a.m.

CrossPoint Community Church
700 S. Westgreen Blvd.
9 and 11 a.m.

Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church
1530 Norwalk Dr.
8, 9:45 and 11:30 a.m., and 5:30 p.m.

The Fellowship
22765 Westheimer Pkwy.
8:45, 10:05, and 11:25 a.m.

First Baptist Church of Katy
600 Pin Oak Rd.
8:30 and 10:30 a.m.

First United Methodist Church
5601 5th St.
8:30, 9:45, and 11 a.m.

Grace Anglican Community
24968 Katy Ranch Rd.
9:30 a.m.

Grace Community Fellowship
Exley Elementary
21800 Westheimer Pkwy.
10:45 a.m.

Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church
2655 S. Mason Rd.
8:45 and 10:45 a.m.

Grand Lakes Presbyterian Church
6035 S. Fry Rd.
9, 10, and 11 a.m.

Holy Covenant Methodist Church
22111 Morton Rd.
8:30 and 11 a.m.

St. Edith Stein Catholic Service
3311 N. Fry Rd.
9 and 11 a.m., and 6 p.m.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd.
8 and 11:30 a.m.

St. Peter’s United Methodist Church 
20775 Kingsland Blvd.
6:30, 8, 9:30, and 11 a.m.

The Waters Church
2710 N. Mason Rd.
9:15 and 11 a.m.

Westland Baptist Church
1407 W. Grand Pkwy S.
8:30, 9:45, and 11 a.m. (11 a.m. service will have a deaf interpreter)


A list of family-friendly Easter events in Katy, Texas

Saturday – Sunday, April 15 – 16, 2017 10:00  a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Easter Extravaganza

Blessington Farms
510 Chisolm Trail, Wallis

Families can enjoy a day of Easter fun with egg hunts, playing in Farm Funland, and picking strawberries. Visit blessingtonfarms.com.

Friday, April 14, 2017 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Hop Into Spring with the Easter Bunny
LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch
23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd.

Families can take a photo with the Easter Bunny while enjoying musical performances, games, and more. Visit lacenterra.com.

Friday, April 14, 2017 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Journey to the Cross and Personal Lord’s Supper Family Walk-Through

Kingsland Baptist Church
20555 Kingsland Blvd.

The Journey to the Cross walk through is a brief, come-and-go experience for preschool and children’s families to gain a better understanding of the events that led to Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. Interactive stations will encourage discussion and participation for the entire family, located in the Crawford Center. The Lord’s Supper is a powerful way to remember Christ’s sacrifice. Guides will be provided to walk families through an intimate time of reflection, located in the Worship Center. Visit kingsland.org.

Friday, April 14, 2017 6:30 p.m.
Bethel Bible Fellowship
25335 Fulshear Gaston Rd., Richmond

Join them as they remember Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday. Childcare will be provided for ages 4 and under.

Saturday, April 15, 2017 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Easter Festival
Central Baptist Church
2855 Greenhouse Rd.

Enjoy the Easter festival with family and friends. They will have games, food, candy, a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting, and much more.

Saturday, April 15, 2017 10:00 a.m.
EGG-Stravaganza Easter Show and Egg Hunt
The Fellowship
22765 Westheimer Pkwy.

Children and parents alike will enjoy award-winning ventriloquist, story-teller, and musician Dennis Lee. Kids can visit with the Easter Bunny and the Chick-fil-A Cow. Admission is free, but tickets must be reserved online at thefellowship.org.

Saturday, April 15, 2017 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. or 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Easter at the Ranch
Smith Ranch
25440 Beckendorff Rd.
Kids can run, play, and hop until their hearts content with a special day of fun at this 40-acre ranch. Hunts will be divided by age. Visit smithranchkaty.com.

Saturday, April 15, 2017 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Cypress Custom Pools
14119 Grant Rd., Cypress

They will have an Easter egg hunt, games, and food for everyone. Visitors will have the opportunity to look around the design center and see two demonstration pools. There will be door prizes so make sure to invite the whole family.

Saturday, April 15, 2017 5:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Fun Glow Run & Flashlight Egg Hunt
Jordan Ranch
30722 Sonora Ridge Dr., Brookshire

You don’t want to miss this nighttime Easter adventure. Families can participate in a 3-mile run, walk, or bike ride through the neighborhood. After the race, children and teens can participate in an egg hunt by flashlight. Proceeds benefit the March of Dimes Foundation.

Sunday, April, 16, 2017 10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Easter Brunch
Sammy’s Steakhouse
7035 W. Grand Pkwy. S.

Specialty drinks and a custom brunch menu for those with a reservation. Call 281-762-0866.

Sunday, April 16, 2017 11:00 a.m.
Easter Celebration
The Church at Cane Island
6331 Highway Blvd.

There will be a fun, day filled with Easter egg hunts, crafts, music, and more.

Sunday, April 16, 2017 12:30 or 1:00 p.m.
Glow-in-the-Dark Hunt
TILT Studio
5000 Katy Mills Cir.

Get your glow on with two Easter egg hunts! Kids ages 2 to 6 will pick an egg from display in the Black Light Mini-Golf course at 12:30 p.m., while kids ages 7 to 11 will hunt in the Black Light laser tag arena at 1 p.m. Visit tiltstudio.com.


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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 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 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 22, 2016 Internationally ranked professional golfer Patrick Reed stopped by Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital with his wife, Justine, to deliver special treats for pediatric patients who are hospitalized during the holidays.


The Reeds graciously donated dozens of toys, games, coloring books and infant rattles, delivering the gifts in an oversized Santa bag much to the delight of the boys and girls at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

The presents provided a welcome distraction for the children and their families, helping brighten their days during a difficult time and bringing a taste of the season to the patients who are unable to go home.

The Reeds partnered with the hospital in an effort to give back to the community that has embraced them. Patrick Reed, who is ranked eighth in the world and was a member of the 2016 Ryder Cup championship team, has established his home in Houston with his wife and young daughter.

“We are so grateful for their thoughtful gesture which brought joy and cheer to the children across our hospital,” said Susan Distefano, Senior Vice President and CEO of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “This time of year can be a struggle for families in the hospital, but kind acts like this help restore a little magic back into their holidays.”

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital


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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 – 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, 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 – December 28, 2015
It’s Tuesday morning. The company holiday party is four days away and your babysitter just backed out. Instead of working on your job, you’re working the phone trying to line up a sitter.

It’s Thursday evening. Your fifth-grader has a band concert; your kindergartner has no interest in sitting still for two hours, but who’s available to watch her?

When Grandma and Grandpa are out of town and the high school neighbor is busy with her own social life, the options for parents are limited. They can either spend hours on the phone trying to line up a sitter or put their lives on hold (again)!

In a world where you can find a date, order a pizza and binge watch every episode of “Gilmore Girls” all from your smartphone, the solution is just an app away.

The My Sitters™ App from College Sitters connects moms and dads who need help with qualified, reliable sitters who have a passion for watching kids.


Here’s how it works:

Mom or Dad downloads the app and sets up a time for an in-home consultation. At that one-time meeting, our Family Placement Manager gets to know the family – how many kids they have, what their interests are, if they have any pets or allergies. This process helps College Sitters match families with the right sitters.

After that meeting, a set of sitters is assigned to the family. Whenever you need one, booking is as easy as sending a text. Mom or Dad can pull up a calendar and scroll through the available babysitters. When they’ve chosen their favorite, they book a date and time right on their phone. Within a very short period of time (sometimes only minutes), they’ll get a confirmation directly from the sitter.

The actual event is just as simple. College Sitters arrive on time and provide their own transportation – no picking them up and dropping them off! Plus, there’s no reason to stop at the ATM to get cash. Parents get billed through the app on a biweekly basis.

It’s a win-win for the babysitters, too. The initial meeting ensures the home environment is safe for them. They are employees of College Sitters, who get a steady paycheck and on-going training. This means parents can feel confident their kids will be safe and happy while they’re out.

The My Sitters App can’t solve every problem for parents. But, at least your sleepless nights will be because of a crying baby and not over the stress of finding a sitter.


Content Courtesy of College Nannies & Tutors

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Growing up in Katy was one of the best things my parents could have done for me. I was raised a Winborn Eagle, A Katy Tiger, and a member of girl scouts, KYF, and more. Although I didn’t get to fulfill my dream of being a Katy Tiger, I was still able to appreciate everything Katy had to offer. However, besides a great education and amazing town experiences from little league games to the Katy Rice Harvest Festival, my most favorite treasures are my friends.

College station
Diane Winborn Eagles to Texas A&M Aggies
(Left to Right: Ashley McElmurry ’15, Brecklyn Gordon ’15, and Stephanie Ellis ’15)

At the age of four years old, my parents enrolled me in Williamsburg Country Day School and it was there that I met some of my best friends. Soon after, I began my six years at Diane Winborn Elementary, and met some of the best friends that I still have today.

Growing up in Katy made it easy to grow with these friends. We all did girl scouts and attended local town events. We joined the community and participated in almost everything together, even leaving home. Fast forward through high school, and we have arrived at June 2011. We all graduated from High School and were ready to leave Katy. Most of us went to the same place, the place I have called home for the past four years.

One by one, we all traveled to College Station. Some of us went straight to Texas A&M and some of us enrolled at Blinn in hopes to one day be an Aggie. With all these people here, the transition was supposed to be easy. However, I found myself missing home. I started going home a lot, and taking advantage of all of my childhood experiences. I went and rode the rides at the Rice Harvest Festival, sat at Starbucks in La Centerra, and walked around Katy Mills Mall as if I was 13 again. Although this was fun and all, I knew I had to let go, and fully immerse myself in this Aggie town. Lucky for me, I still had a few of my best friends left with me to make these past couple of years easier.

As my roommate and hometown best friend was receiving her ring the other day, it dawned on me that I had to do something I have never done before. I needed to stop and appreciate everything my hometown has done for me. It brought me friends for life and as we all realize that we are permanently connected through the Aggie Network, we acknowledge the fact that we are connected from our hometown roots as well.

Now as a senior in college, I can say that it is time to come home. When I graduated high school I thought I was ready to leave my little home called Katy, Texas. Now, as a more wise soon to be college graduate I can say that I finally appreciate home. So from Katy to College Station, and back home again I go.

By Ashley McElmurry

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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.

KM_DecJan_14_Preschool Feature_TST_6515_submitted by Katy ECEC
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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There are times when you can’t believe you just did that. Katy parents reveal some of their most embarrassing parenting secrets.

Missing Something
“When my twins were infants, I was in a constant state of exhaustion. One day they had their 2-month-old check-up. As usual, I got them ready in the carriers and put them by the garage door so I could grab my purse and get everything loaded in the car. Without even thinking, I jumped in the car and headed out. When I got to the end of the street, I realized I had forgotten something very important – the babies! I drove home as fast as I could and swung open the door. My little ones were fast asleep in the carriers with no idea that mommy had forgotten them.” – M.C.

Early Preparation
“My mom used to have us get dressed in our school clothes the night before, after bath time, so she wouldn’t have to fight with us in the morning about what to wear.”- N.M.

Misplaced Milk
“One time, I was looking for Charlotte’s bottle of breast milk I had just pumped. I knew I had pumped, but it wasn’t in the fridge. Hours later, I found it in the kitchen cabinet with the glasses – because that’s where breast milk belongs. I was clearly sleep-deprived. But I laughed for days.”  -K.M.

Neighborly Visit
“I never set an alarm on the weekends. There’s no need to. My alarm comes in the form of a 5-year-old and 3-year-old twins. One Saturday, I woke up to see my 5-year-old not only awake but dressed in a hot pink skirt that was at least one size too little and a turquoise tank top. When asked her why she had gotten dressed, she nonchalantly said, ‘We walked over to the neighbors.’ I’m freaking out. I can’t believe my ears. About that time, our neighbor was knocking on the door. Her hubby told her they went to her house, and she was checking on them. Not my proudest parenting moment. I bought a lock that is higher on the door. My 5-year-old’s response to that was, ‘I’ll have to get a chair to reach it now.’”
– S.C.

Gummy Bear Secrets
“Being a working parent is hard with medication and fever policies. So I have to confess, on occasion when my daughter has woken up with a slightly elevated temp, and I know what’s causing it (usually ear infection – not contagious), I slip a couple of chewable Ibuprofen in her gummy bears at lunch to keep her from being sent home. She takes them at home, I give her specific instructions not to share, and it saves me from the call and more importantly the 24-hour stay-home policy.” – D.R.

Emergency Measures
“When my oldest, 4, declares she needs to potty after I have already buckled all the car seats and it is an ‘emergency,’ I will grab a diaper from the baby’s bag and put it on her so I don’t have to unload and drag everyone to the public bathroom.” – N.M.

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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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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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How we deal with all the questions that come along with having multiples

My husband and I are blessed to have four sons. The oldest is four, and the triplets are almost 2 years old. Because of the amount of work, we don’t really go out together many places yet. We haven’t tackled a restaurant. The park is for us – lots of wide open spaces to run, laugh, and occasionally cry when your brother pushes you over.

We have ventured out to the new HEB by Katy Mills Mall and to the mall. Perhaps you’ve seen us shopping for groceries. He’s pushing the big four-seater stroller. I’m with the oldest son in the cart. We are really going as fast as we can. We don’t mean to block the entire aisle. We have a lot of fun zooming around the store pretending to chase each other.

Most shoppers are great. They smile or ask how old the boys are. Sometimes we find out that there are twins in their own families. It’s nice, short, and pleasant.

But now that we’ve been parents of multiples for awhile, we also know that there are inappropriate questions or comments, too. Yikes – if I hadn’t been through this, I may have asked such questions, too.

  1. Were they planned?
    Ours weren’t. They surprised us, but other multiples you’ll see were planned. There is a lot of emotion that goes into “planning” your pregnancies. It’s a personal question with a lot of complex details.
  2. How do you do it?
    We do our best. It’s a really long answer if you want to know. Take one child and multiply the amount of work by three then add a toddler’s needs. It’s tough, but they are our children.
  3. Do you have help?
    This sounds innocent, but if I say, “yes,” I feel like I need to explain that the help that comes is sporadic. We gladly take what is offered, but with four children a nanny is not in the budget.
  4. Are they all yours?
    Yes, we’ve actually been asked this frequently.
  5. Why are they so small? Do they have special needs?
    Many multiples were preemies. Their age doesn’t reflect their size, but they’ll catch up by early childhood. We know they’re small for their age. Asking us about size and special needs is a really personal question – too much for the grocery store.

That being said, please continue to smile, to make a funny face to get them to laugh, and to say things like, “Beautiful boys.” All parents want to hear those kind of comments, and when we get to know you a bit more, we’ll be happy to share more.

I know I can’t be the only parent in Katy to hear these questions. How do you deflect some of the more personal ones? I’d love to know and use your tricks!

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Offering friends support in small ways can make a big difference

I’m writing this before the crack of dawn today. Why? Our household has been invaded by the virus of the month. You may have run across it – it’s the one that causes super-high temperatures, mostly in the middle of the night. It lasts a good three days for your children to feel better, which means parents are not sleeping. Now multiply that by the number of kiddos in your house, and you’ve got one tough virus and little rest. Our particular case has lasted about two weeks so far. Our oldest boy just got it a few days ago.

Anyway, this post is not about the virus. It is about lasagna, but first some details. In the early days of our sickness, it was just the triplets who fell ill. We had gone to the doctor, bought our juice and extra bottles of acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

My husband and I worked as an overnight team. I would hear the baby cry and go get him, amazed at the heat. He would feed and then comfort the baby as I sponged him off with a cool rag and gave him his medicine. I would put him back to bed until we did that all over again with the other two. It was definitely not a one-man job.

As we dealt with lack of sleep, I guess it became obvious to others how tired we actually were. One of our good friends wrote that she would like to bring us dinner. “It’s the least I can do,” she said. I jumped at the chance for some help. As you know, when contagious illness arrives, offers of help usually dwindle. No one wants to babysit your children while you sleep when the stomach flu or pink eye comes your way!

So it was such a wonderful surprise when she picked up the lasagna and drove it all the way to our house. No visit, no time for thanks that evening. She merely dropped it off on our porch, rang the bell, and headed back onto I-10 traffic to her own busy home.

It was the best meal we had had in a week. The lasagna was good, but the feeling that someone cared and that someone had gone beyond the easy “Let me know what I can do to help” statement made it delicious! She put it into action.

I can’t be the only one touched by a friend’s thoughtfulness. Let us know the good deeds of Katy – please share!

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The other day the boys were all home from the Mothers’ Day Out program they attend twice a week. I had seen the marking on the calendar and was watching it approach with, I have to admit, some fear and trembling. A school holiday – yay!

Of course I love spending quality time with my four children, and I know that some parents spend each day with their children. I wasn’t complaining, it was just that I was worried about keeping the babies happy while showing some personal interest in the 4-year-old’s activities. Everyone likes to be held or directly played with which is impossible for one parent to do for the entire day. I just knew that someone was going to begin to cry or act up in order to get my attention. Our oldest boy is also beginning to stretch the limits of his independence. I know the parents reading this know exactly what I mean.

I decided to plan and organize and fill the day with so many different activities that no one could feel slighted. The night before, I looked over my game plan and hoped that by the time my husband came home, all five of us would be so worn out that the bedtime routine would be quick and painless.

The day arrived. “No more morning shows!” I over-happily announced at the early (too early?) hour of 8:30 a.m.

“What?” said my only talker, still in his pajamas.

“Let’s clean up our breakfast mess and go check the weather!”

To my delight, we had loaded up the dishwasher and the quad stroller before 9 a.m. The boys seemed to enjoy our walk. I pointed out any birds, cats, or flowers I saw, and there was no fighting amongst them as I pushed them along. I was even able to get the oldest out walking on his own once we hit a green patch near our house. I checked my watch – 9:45 a.m.

What was I going to do all day? My game plan seemed to crumble before the slowly-moving hands of time.

I won’t bore you with hour by hour details, but I am happy to report that while the day did move by slowly, we had a really fun time together. We put on some fun kid CDs and danced –  even the babies ran around the room laughing. Big Boy was able to eat his lunch in the backyard picnic-style and then decorate the patio with sidewalk chalk. Everyone went down for nap at around the same time, which gave me some blessed moments of non-excitement. Books were read as if we were at story time and even though I was the only one who stayed within the lines, we all had a blast coloring. Our day together concluded with a quick trip to the train playground near Katy Library.

I think the trick was that I was able to put my day at their level. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do housework or computer work. I was one of them for the entire day. I tip my hat to those stay-at-home parents who don’t have the opportunities to have their children attend a MDO program. It’s a lot of work to be a child (and responsible parent!) day in and day out.

That was my day – how do you all do it? Share your stories and tips with those of us who are in the kiddo trenches alongside you!

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Running the Race Against the Clock Every Morning

Two weeks into having all four boys at a Mothers’ Day Out program has brought some big challenges to my life, especially in the morning. I am running around like a mad woman. I’m sure all moms understand and can add their own experiences to the morning routine. It’s calm, and then all of a sudden it’s time to get up and begin the Morning Triathlon!

The first event in this never ending triathlon is breakfast. Today, my oldest son was fine eating a bowl of cereal. Yesterday, it was a bagel and only a bagel. If I had offered cereal, the tears would have started. Tomorrow, the exact same cereal will not work. The babies are fine with anything I offer, bless their little stomachs! But with babies, I need to be with them with a spoon, so the second event in the Morning Triathlon gets off to a late start.

The second event is dressing and cleaning up. I am sure that all my sons’ teachers have noticed sticky hands (the wet wipes only get so much off) and the messy hair. Teeth always get brushed so as to avoid my sons being the “bad breath boys” at school. And cavities are expensive, I hear. But as every parent knows, for some strange reason in the morning, your children develop a severe loathing of washing hands or changing diapers. Meanwhile, the clock ticks on…

Which leads us to the final event: getting into the car injury-free and in an orderly fashion. If any neighbors are watching us load up into the Odyssey, I am sure it beats anything out of the comics page. Three car seats with squiggling babies and one preschooler who now seems interested in everything except the car. “Mom, look at this bug.” “Mom, why is the bike’s wheel turned like that?” “Mom, did you see how many crumbs are on the floor of the van?” I can only carry one car seat at a time, so I put one baby in and then invite my oldest to go next. Huffing and puffing, carrying the second and then the third car seats, I pass the slowpoke and then finally get him buckled into the car seat. Yikes.

I then do a quick check of myself. Did I spill something on my blouse? Do I have shoes on? (Yes, I once set the alarm without them on my feet!) Do I have my purse and all the bags for school? Then off we go, passing and being passed by other parents competing in the Morning Triathlon.

Any hints or tips from Gold Medal winners out there? I’d love to hear some advice.

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Finding a Moment Alone in the Busy Days of Raising a Family

It happened again this morning. The triplets were in their highchairs, our four-year-old was happily fed and playing with some car toys, and my husband and I were planning for a pleasant breakfast. Then everything changed in what seemed an instant.

“I have to go potty,” said one. I looked at the babies and they had somehow managed to eat every Puff off their tray and were demanding more food – NOW! The kettle began to whistle, and I forgot what I was getting out of the pantry. Craziness in the Browne household strikes again!

I know I’m not alone. Every parent from the beginning of time can tell stories of how a seemingly easy-going moment suddenly turns into a scene from a horror movie. A child may come running in covered in blood, the dog or cat runs out the front door, a roof leak pops up out of nowhere, or the toilet/sink/dishwasher (you pick) is not working properly.

I constantly remind myself that how I respond to these moments is what my children will remember and hopefully grow from. If they see me lose it, what will they take away but that it’s okay to yell or throw in the towel or to stomp away angrily. I don’t want them to have that as a common experience, and that helps me stay calm.

I am far from perfect, and my husband and even my four year-old can tell you that! When I do tend to slide toward the chaos, I do my best to pull myself out and just go to work. The boy needs to go potty, okay. The babies need some finger food until I am ready to feed them, okay. Breakfast needs to be made, okay. In the mornings, I am blessed to have my husband with me – feeding babies, getting kids dressed, washing dishes, and folding clothes before he heads to work.

When I’m alone, I sometimes have to work through the babies’ cries, knowing that I can only change one diaper at a time. I think multiples quickly learn how to wait their turn.

And then there is the other daily need–to take time for oneself. My husband gets to unwind during his commute home down the Katy Freeway. I know, not exactly a drive in the country, but he listens to a CD, works out problems, and is alone! I have to take that alone time when I can get it: naptime, when the babies are quietly playing with toys together, or before everyone wakes up. It’s wonderful, it’s needed. And I challenge both moms and dads to find some quiet time to help balance the chaotic periods of the day.

That’s how I do it – on good days. I’d love to hear from you. How do you manage the stress of daily life with the needs you have personally?


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Life in Katy with a toddler and a pre-schooler

I am constantly amazed by my girls.  Yesterday, I went in to wake up my four-year old from her nap and just sat and stared at her.  On a daily basis, I appreciate the obvious things about her: her sense of humor, her creative mind, the way she spins in circles when she feels beautiful.  But yesterday, sitting on her bed watching her breathe in and out, I was struck by the little things.  How her hands have grown.  How this amazing creation coexists with me every day of my life.  How I can know the exact outline of her face and still be surprised when I really look closely at how perfectly she was formed.

I sat there, watching my daughter sleep, thinking about how not 2 hours earlier I was praying for more patience to deal with the latest act of defiance.  With both of my daughters, four-year-old Avery and 18-month Kate, I feel like I spend my time living between adoration and frustration.  The same little creature that throws temper tantrums is the one I was watching sleep and marveling at.  The number of times a day I breathe deep and count to ten equals the number of times a day I cannot help but stop everything for a hug or a giggle with my beloveds. 

In this place of parenting a toddler and a pre-schooler, I am always aware of how fast this time goes by and how common my feelings are to mothers in the same stage of life as me.  I want to embrace these moments, and catching my daughter napping really helps me with my perspective.

I wonder if all of parenting isn’t like that.  It is as wonderful as it is challenging.  It is as much frustration as it is enjoyment.  That there are just as many days you want to be over before they begun as there are days you would freeze for all of eternity.  And, as I pulled Avery in to me and held her tight as she slept, I couldn’t help but think of how welcome the frustrating time in this stage of life are, if they mean I also get these moments of sheer wonderment.  

What about you?  Which parts make you frustrated?  Which parts will you cling to while they last?  Post a comment below!

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My Katy kid loves The Little Gym…

And so do I!

Kate on the bars at The Little Gym

I love The Little Gym because my 18 month old daughter Kate’s face lights up when we walk through the doors. There are so many reasons that I love this place… and so many reasons that it has become my favorite hour of the week.  It’s because it is a special hour designed for us to spend together, just the two of us.  With a big sister at home, Kate spends most of her time following us around to “big kid” activities.  Even when I am careful to focus on Kate, she doesn’t have the space to come alive while under the shadow of a very loving – and helpful – sister.  At The Little Gym, Kate works on independence and self-esteem but it is also time for us to spend bonding.  When we have a chance to interact, I am able to capture those moments between she and I and cling to them (and to her) with so much gratitude.  During the times Kate is participating in more independent activities, I am able to step back and marvel at the things she knows and how she interacts with other children her age.  These are things I long to know about my second-born but don’t always have the ability to observe while facilitating life for both of my children.  The  activities are so uniquely crafted to Kate’s age and the focus is so much about the experience and the process, rather than the actual skills and where she is on the developmental scale. For Kate, her love for The Little Gym is much more obvious: she loves the bells. She loves the bubbles. She loves the balls. She loves the parachute. She loves the exploring time, the forward rolls and straddle rolls, the high bars the obstacle courses. She loves her teacher and she loves the routines and being able to anticipate what comes next.

 I knew that we would love The Little Gym but it just wasn’t in the budget.  So, for Kate’s 1 year (and now her 2 year) birthday, we asked family members for money to pay for this activity rather than for toys.  Since she has a big sister who enjoys most of the same things she does, she is not lacking for toys.  Plus, as much as she enjoys The Little Gym, I think she’d happily trade a new doll for a class at The Little Gym any day!

What about you?  Do you have a favorite activity of your week?  Post a comment below!

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A Katy family makes a beach scene to compliment dinner

My four year old daughter and I decided to make May special and to count down the days until school is out.  I wanted to keep it healthy, low-cost, and low-stress, since the end of the year has enough stress of its own.

We decided to do a healthy(ish) dessert each week that somehow makes us think of summertime.  Last week, we made beach scenes.  We used graham cracker crumbs, low-fat vanilla pudding, and marshmallows to create the beach.

In each clear cup, we lined the bottom with graham crackers to look like sand.  We had to make sure to put enough of the graham cracker crumbs along the bottom, because once the pudding is poured in, they can get hidden from the side of the cup if there aren’t enough. 

Next, we stirred blue food coloring in to the vanilla pudding to create the water.  We used a box mix of French Vanilla pudding and stirred the blue food coloring into the milk before whisking it together.  Apparently French Vanilla pudding is mostly yellow, because our ocean turned out more green than not.  Next time, we’ll see if we can find a better canvas to prepare our ocean with, but it worked fine to make an over-all impression of ocean water.  We poured the pudding in to the clear cups and let it set in the refrigerator.

After the pudding set in the cups, we added marshmallows to the top.  These were meant to look like the crest of the wave, but they also added a fun texture to the dessert.

It was a fun, quick way for us to build excitement over the possibilities that summer holds.  And, as an added bonus for health-minded Momma, it was a relatively healthy dessert that we could all enjoy!


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Inexpensive fun at this Katy family’s favorite hang-out

Today I took my girls to Katy Mills Mall.  Sometimes we head there to shop, and I love those trips.  But today, we just went to be together.

Before we left, we gathered all of our change from around the house and stuck it in one of my daughter’s dress-up purses.  I was curious if it would be enough to keep us busy for the next hour, and I was pleasantly surprised.

We arrived, with no agenda except to walk the mall and spend our coins.  First, we stopped at one of those coin collectors with the funnel.  My girls had so much fun watching the coins pin around and around.  I was careful to pick out the pennies for this activity.  Total cost for this stop: approximately 50 cents.

Next, we wandered the mall, looking for one of the gumball dispensers.  We found a huge clump of them and my girls circled the glass domes over and over trying to choose which flavor they wanted.  Total cost for this stop: 50 cents.

From there, the girls got very excited when they saw the sign for Bass Pro Shop.  For us, it means one major thing: fish!  We stopped in and stared at the fish for a while, my youngest pointing out each new fish that swam by.  Total cost for this stop: nothing!

We were starting to run low on time, so we had to skip so many of our favorites: the play area by the movie theaters, the photo booths, pointing out animals at Rainforest Café, and the carousel.  We only had time for one more stop, so my girls chose the mini-carousel just past Bass Pro Shop.  It was so much fun that we rode it twice.  Total cost for this stop: $2.00.

On the way out, we stopped at one of the drink machines just outside the entrance and I treated us to a  Lemonade and a Coke.  Total cost for this stop: $3.25.

For an hour’s worth of pure, relaxed, undirected fun, we paid only $6.25.  And since it was all from change laying around our house, it was free for our bank account… even better!

This outing was so much fun that we plan to make it a weekly trip.  What about you?  Do you and your family have a favorite place to go for inexpensive fun?  Post a comment below!


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 How a Katy Mom-To-Be is Embracing “Nesting”

With our daughter arriving this July and summer now at our doorsteps I decided to really make the most of spring-cleaning this year. The last month my husband and I have been cleaning house and organizing all of our stuff. Yes, of course I wanted to jump into the cute baby decorations but I quickly saw that first you have to get organized before you can any fun with the cute stuff.

Honestly though, once we got started it wasn’t that horrible. I even tackled my overflowing file cabinet. As someone with an at home business I keep files on everything from our bills to my projects. Now that my file cabinet is organized and has some order to it I’m finding that I can now save time on many daily tasks. Paying bills, sorting mail and other undesirable tasks are handled much quicker and easier now. I also am able to be more productive with my writing career. Before it would take me a while to find notes or research on a topic. Now I can put my hands right on what I need and when I need it.

My husband and I were also amazed at how much space we actually do have. After removing several piles of clothes to goodwill our closets actually began to have some purpose to the way things were hanging in them! I also now know where I plan to put various things for our daughter. I know longer have to stress about where to fold and put away her little towels and bath hoodies. The linen closet now has plenty of room.

So, I do admit that the actual cleaning and organizing process is not fun and it never will be. However, now that I’ve done it I feel a great sense of accomplishment. I feel not as overwhelmed and I now can look forward to arranging the cute baby stuff now! Whether you are organizing for a baby or just because it needs to get done you will be amazed at the results when you take a step back and realize, “Wow that was worth it!”

Now that May is here embrace your spring cleaning before the activities of Summer pull you away. Trust me, you will be glad that you did clean and you will save time in the long run if you can organize your life through your belongings. Do you have any spring-cleaning success stories or nightmares? Please share in comments below!

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A Katy Mom shares her triplet experience

Although my triplet boys were born last week and I am out of the hospital, they must remain in the NICU for an unknown period of time.
This is obviously difficult and emotional, but I wanted to blog about how this is a immediately humbling event in our family’s life. It has taught my husband and me that we are not an island unto ourselves. We cannot do everything.  We must rely on the kindness of friends.
I won’t be able to drive for at least the next week. Who will take my toddler to school? How will I get downtown to be with the Trips? Will my husband have to take time off of work?
Good friends have swiftly stepped up to help us. Acqaintances have come out of the woodwork and surprised us with dinners and offers of transportation. It is truly amazing. Our son will get to school without any problems. This helps him to stay on a schedule in the midst of chaos for us. That’s so valuable for the family.
It is still an uphill road for the Trips and for us; however, a simple act of compassion makes life so much easier. I have to remember sometimes to ask for help–that is often all it takes for people to fill a need.
I would love to hear your stories of inspiration. How has your life been touched by others’ goodness. Please comment.
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How you can help a fellow Katyite in their time of need

It’s been five days since my doctor has assigned me to bedrest for pre-term labor. Today my mother graciously brought me a laptop–I had been close to losing my mind in the hospital.
My husband and I are eagerly expecting triplet boys. We’re at Week 29, so we are happy that the boys are almost here. We also have a toddler who is almost three. My being out of commission has really put a strain on our daily schedules.
Our friends and family have really come through for us. It has been a humbling and blessed experience to see how much we are in others’ thoughts. How can you help a friend in need?
1. Think of the children–our good friend has been to our house at 6 AM each day to get our son ready for school and to drive him. Not everyone can do this of course, but it would be a huge relief to parents if you could take over one specific job that will allow them to keep their child to a particular schedule.
2. Think of the other spouse–in this case, it’s my husband. This person suddenly has extra stress and responsibilities to handle. Can you bring over a dinner, do some of the chores, or just take the child out to play  while this person deals with the extra workload?
3. Think of the bedridden person–a phone call, a simple bouquet, or a note really brightens the day of someone who is sick or homebound. 
Don’t forget to be specific in your offer of help. It’s much easier for us to say, “Yes, thanks for babysitting on Thursday so my husband can visit me.” than to say “Would you mind bringing us dinner tomorrow.” We don’t want to impose on your friendship and generosity.
How do you help the sick or homebound in your life? I’d love to hear your comments. 
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A Katy mother-to-be starts saving before the arrival of baby 

I use to be one of those people that despised having extra cards in my wallet. However, expecting a baby quickly changes you! Now that I’m 6 months pregnant I’m quickly becoming a collector of coupons and reward cards as a way to save money.

At the local Katy Babies R Us my rewards card helps me earn points towards savings and alerts me via email on great coupon specials. Thanks to paying attention to such coupons my husband and I were able to save 20% on our crib. This was a significant savings and with a baby on the way every little bit helps.

Also, with my Babies R Us rewards card I can save money when buying diapers and formula. I’ve recently discovered how expensive those much needed and everyday items can be so learning ways to save money in this area is a huge comfort.

I’m also finding other ways to save money in our everyday lives. Even if it isn’t directly related to our baby savings is savings. I have a membership card with Barnes and Noble. As an avid reader this is a simple way for me to find some savings. We also now have a Randalls card, Best Buy, and Petsmart rewards card. And I have found that my original hesitation to such reward cards is unwarranted. I don’t like to weigh down my wallet but all of our reward cards are linked to our phone number so I can give that to the teller and I don’t have to have the card.

When I first thought about covering this trending topic I posted the question, “Do you like to use reward cards?” on Facebook. I quickly got responses from many friends on their opinions. I did find it interesting on how my single friends without families of their own were against reward cards for the very reason that I once was, the hassle and extra bulk to my wallet. Then my friends that are married with children or a baby on the way were all for the reward cards. Maybe this is just another life change that comes with a growing family.

Whatever your belief is on reward cards it is a easy and wonderful way to save money on not just baby products but also normal items that your family typically purchases. Also, it does open you up to great coupon opportunities that I’ve found are easy to follow to great saving opportunities. Have you come across a great baby saving find such as a coupon source or a store program? If so please share your experience below in a comment.

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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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Creating space to play and be together with your Katy family

I got a phone call from a friend of mine the other day.  “Angela!  You will never believe how much fun we just had!”  She and her 4 year old son were running an errand at Katy Mills Mall when they discovered a sidewalk full of caterpillars.  She happened to have a container in the car, so the two of them spent the next 30 minutes collecting caterpillars to take home and nurture together.  It was a moment of unplanned fun, and it reminded both my friend and I that so much of our time has become scheduled.

I stay home with my two girls, but we have activities planned most days.  With pre-school, The Little Gym, ballet and playgroup, we are very rarely home and almost always have a schedule and a plan wherever we go.

My girlfriend’s caterpillar experience was a good reminder that some of our best moments come in the unplanned space between activities. 

If I am honest, I’ll admit my girls are probably tired from all of our activities.  Sure, I want them to be enriched.  And yes, if we stay home for too long without a plan, we all start to go crazy.  But I also think we can find a better balance than we have now.

For the next several weeks, my plan is to carve out one day a week that is just for us to be together.  No agenda, no schedule.  (And no housework for Mommy.  I plan to treat it like I would a playdate or other activity in that I don’t expect to accomplish anything around the house for that amount of time.)

I am excited to see how this goes.  If it isn’t raining, I may take the girls to a park or for a nature walk.  If it is raining, maybe we’ll go waste some time and coins at Katy Mills Mall.  Or maybe we’ll stay home and bake or have a tea party.

What about you?  Do you care to join me on this little experimental ‘day of rest’?  Post a comment below!

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The intricacies of raising two Katy kids that are as different as night and day

My first daughter, Avery, is what most would call strong-willed.  She is emotional and excitable, which make her fun to be around… most of the time.  Anyone who has been in our lives at all will vouch for the fact that when Avery is in her element, feeling wholly loved and supported, she is a gem.  However, when something goes wrong or when she is asked to obey and she doesn’t want to… well, everyone knows about it. 

Avery is defiant and has been known to clear a playground, classroom, or grocery store with her ear piercing screams.  She doesn’t just reserve those screams for special occasions, either: she’ll unleash a scream when she’s not ready to go home yet, or when she’s asked to eat her dinner, or any number of other times.   I am strong willed, as is my husband, so we just assumed that all of our children will be this way.  Avery is a lot of work and doesn’t respond to discipline or encouragement like other children do.  Wrestling her into her car seat after she’s been patiently asked to obey repeatedly is somewhat common for us.

When our second daughter, Kate, was born, we quickly realized that two strong-willed parents sometimes produce an easy-going, even-tempered baby.  Kate is 18 months old right now, and by this time in Avery’s life, I’d cried, read every book I could find, and still found primarily failures in correcting her.  Kate, on the other hand, has only been disciplined a handful of times.  Each time, her little heart breaks in front of us and she immediately responds with a hug and obedience.  It is such a nice change.

However, it was recently brought to my attention that Kate may be getting away with far more than I let Avery do.  Avery is defiant and will look me in the eyes and tell me “NO” when she doesn’t plan to obey.  Kate, on the other hand, grins at me when I tell her to do something, and then toddles over and does whatever she wants.  She is such a different personality and I have to remind myself that it is not black and white: Avery does not equal disobedience and Kate does not equal obedience. 

Kate is actually getting away with a good deal when I step back and look at this objectively: she climbs on the furniture and then jumps down right when she catches my eye (whereas Avery would’ve yelled at me that she’d do what she wanted and would’ve kept jumping).  Kate throws her food to the dogs when I’m not looking and then giggles about it when I catch her.  She is still doing exactly what she wants, but because I’m so used to the confrontational aspect of discipline, Kate is getting away with a good bit of misbehavior.

I’m becoming more and more aware of how much I have to learn about my second born.   What about you?  Are your children different, and how does it affect your parenting?  Post a comment below!

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Katy Mothers Helping Mothers

April 14, 2010 – Katy, Texas – This week, while waiting in the airport to board my plane, I noticed a mother approach the ticket counter with a young toddler and an infant in her arms.  She struggled to carry her belongings, and her two children through the throngs of people gathered to board.  Floods of memories came to my mind as I remembered myself in the very same situation.  I remembered the looks and smiles of those around me.  I remembered I yearned for an additional arm.  As I watched the mother carefully move to the boarding ramp, I remembered the numerous kind women who offered assistance when I needed it most.

On this trip, I was traveling by myself, but, I could recall many other trips with my babies and toddlers that had been quite stressful. On one particular occasion, a sweet middle-aged woman shared a row with me.  As I juggled cheerios, bottles, and Sippy cups, she was an angel.  She helped me the entire flight and turned a very difficult time into a manageable, happy time.  When I had asked her if I could do something to repay her kindness, she simply smiled, winked and said, “It is the Mother Code.  You will give back to other mothers.   You’ll see!”  And, that was that.

It was finally my time to board, and as luck would have it, I entered the plane, located my seat, and discovered I would be sitting next to this mother and her children.  She smiled wearily at me and said, “I’m sorry you have to sit by us today.  You probably won’t have a very quiet flight!” 

I smiled at her and responded, “It is a treat for me to sit next to you!  I would be happy to hold your baby so you can play with your other little one.” 

A look of relief spread across her face and she said, “Oh, that is so nice of you, could you?  I have been very worried about this flight.

I was thrilled!  Within moments, I was holding a precious little baby.  I held the baby for most of the flight as Theresa entertained her 18 month old daughter.  As the plane began to descend for landing, Theresa said, “You made my day!  What can I do to repay you?”  I simply smiled and said, “It is the Mother Code.  It’s just what we do!”

Have you known any angel mothers?  Post a comment below.

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One Katyite’s top 5 favorite spring time picture books

My mother and I both went back to school and got our Masters in Library Science.  That means, among other things, that my children have a double dose of avid readers gifting them with books upon books.  And they love it!

With the beautiful weather outside and the promise of longer evenings, there are a few favorite books I like to read with my children during this season especially.  Some are oldies but goodies, while others are recent discoveries. 

*The Aminal by Lorna Balian – This is a fun little story about a boy who finds an aminal.  The children spend the rest of the book picturing what this aminal might look like, and in the end, all are surprised by the friendly creature.

*Fancy Nancy Explorer Extrodinaire by Jane O’Conner and Robin Preiss Glaser – Fancy Nancy is a favorite with my prissy little girl, and in Explorer Extrodinaire, Fancy Nancy shows her reader that it is fancy to learn about nature and be an explorer.  I love reading this book and then heading out to do some exploring of our own!

*The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown – The pictures are beautiful, and I love to stop half way through the book and have my girls draw pictures of what they think goes inside of an egg like the one in the book.  Literature and science, nicely meshed.

*Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood – This book has similies comparing a child to many different animals.  Beautiful pictures and great comparisons make this a librarian’s favorite; acting out the different similies make this a child’s favorite.

*Cat by Martin Van Fleet – This is a great hands on book, fun for any time of year.  However, I do love reading books about animals in the spring time, and my daughter has recently renewed her love for this book as well.  We love the squeaking ball!

How about you?  What are your favorite picture books to read during the spring time?  Post a comment below!

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One Katy mother shares her tips on getting your child to appreciate reading

We all know how important reading is for children. Children who are readers score higher on standardized tests, show a love for literacy, and are usually clearer writers and spellers. There are even studies that show that reading to a child still in the womb is a calming and beneficial practice. Parents of toddlers and pre-readers know the joy children exhibit as they wander through a bookstore or library and choose a book of their very own. My son loves to climb into any family member’s lap and simply say, “Read to me.” Books are one of his favorite hobbies, and I think it’s mainly because both his parents enjoy reading and reading to him.
So, how do you get your child to enjoy reading? Here are some simple ways parents can involve their families in literacy.
1.) Read together on a daily basis. Turn off the TV and find comfortable spots–the couch, comfy pillows on the floor, or outside in a shady spot are good places to start.
2.) Make trips to the library and discount booksellers like Katy Budget Books (2450 Fry Rd., 77084) and The BookWorm Shop (22764 Westheimer Pkwy, 77450). Children of any age can choose some books that look interesting and then narrow that choice to one or two. This also teaches critical thinking. You as a parent can ask some probing questions like, “What do you think this book is about? Who are the main characters? Why does this look like you might like to read it?”
3.) Young children enjoy it when you change your voice to suit different characters. Can you roar like a lion or squawk like a parrot? What does your child think a particular race car would talk like?
4.) Older siblings should be encouraged to read to younger ones. Trust me, this is as enjoyable to watch as a parent as it is for the younger child. Yes, parents can read to toddlers and elementary students, but nothing compares to a big brother or sister giggling and just making reading purely entertaining.
5.) Read and talk to your older children about their literature choices. If you can manage to discuss a book that your child is reading just for fun during the summer, imagine how helpful that will be once school starts up again and they are reading for class. Getting them to delve into plot, characterization, and comprehension skills now will make it easier for them when they don’t have a choice in what novel or play they are assigned.
Don’t despair. Keep reading–you, your spouse, your children–can all find books, magazines, and even comic books that will entertain and educate! What are some of your family’s reading habits. I’d love to hear from you.
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One on one time in a busy Katy household is hard to come by, but it is possible!

My children, ages 18 months and 3 ½ years, are very busy.  They (luckily) love playing together and most often keep each other pretty well entertained.  We’ve reached a point where I can even spend 5 minutes tending to a household chore while the children play nearby.  We’re in the eye of the storm: my baby has not yet hit her terrible twos, and my oldest daughter understands how to share to some extent.  It is wonderful.

Yet in this blissful break, it is also important to me that I remember my favorite poem of all time.  It is called “Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton, and while I never plan to have a fifth child to recite the poem to, I love the heart of the message: “The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow, for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.  So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

I heard it said once that it takes a lot of effort to pursue your child’s heart.  Case in point: at age 3 ½, my daughter’s first response when I ask her what she did that day at school?  “Played.”  It can seem like pulling teeth to get more information out of her, and even at a young age when she still craves my time, I am well aware of how easy it would be to let time (and my children) slip away.

I’ve skated the line between getting the house clean and comfortable to live in and paying attention to my children constantly for the last 3 ½ years.  What I have finally come to as my reasonable solution is spending 30 minutes of one on one, attention focused time on each child during the day.

Since the girls nap at the same time, I am not ever actually alone with each child.  Rather, they know when their 30 minutes happens, they can choose to do anything they would like: bake muffins, paint, swing outside, play dolls.  I spend that amount of time focused on the interests of that child, allowing the other sibling to play along but not to dominate the attention. 

This accomplishes two things for me.  First, I feel so much less guilt about telling the girls no when they ask me to stop doing the dishes and dance with them.  At some point, the dishes have to get done.  If I know they will be getting (or have already gotten) special time with me, I can accept the fact that less important things (like dishes or laundry) are filling other parts of my day.  The second thing our one on one time accomplishes is that it opens the door for communication and allows me to become a teammate and a friend to them on some level.  It was during one on one play that I was able to work through a friend struggle with my oldest recently. 

I know there are many ways to balance housework and children.  I’m so thankful I’ve found one small way to tip the scales more towards balanced.

Do you have any advice about balancing housework and children?  Post a comment below!

Thanks so much! Angela McClinton

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Searching for good bluebonnet photo locations in and around Katy

Avery, 2 1/2 years, and Katie Beth, 6 months, at their blue bonnet photo shoot last year.

We took a road trip to Austin last weekend.  It was a quick trip with very little time to stop and smell the roses (or to stop and take photos with the bluebonnets).  But while we were driving, I made it my personal mission to scout bluebonnet spots along I10.

I was surprised to see many, many Indian Paintbrushes but very few patches of bluebonnets.  They were out along the side of the road, but not in any real numbers.  It wasn’t until 2 hours outside of Katy on I10 that I started noticing fields of bluebonnets and cars pulled over to take pictures. 

I love taking annual pictures in the bluebonnets with my children.  But a 2 hour trip seems a bit excessive just to snap a few shots.

Two years ago, we loaded my then 19 month old daughter into the car and drove up and down roads for about an hour before giving up and heading back for home.  That year, we captured no bluebonnet shots.  Just an adorable little girl in the grass.

Last year we had much better luck.  Twice we stumbled upon amazing bluebonnets – as far as the eye could see.  We snapped some of my favorite photos of my girls (now two of them!) and enjoyed a picnic dinner in the spring sun.

This year, I haven’t yet tried our other two lucky spots from last year: 290 on the way to Brenham and a few hot spots in Fulshear, just off of 1093.  Our plan is to load the girls up on Saturday and try out these two locations.  It’d be wonderful to find some bluebonnets close to home.  I have a feeling that if it comes down to a two hour trip out to Austin for pictures or skipping the shots, we’ll end up skipping the shots.  My girls’ patience only lasts so long.

I’m also curious if the excess of Indian Paintbrushes and lack of bluebonnets has something to do with the long winter.  It will be interesting to see if the Indian Paintbrushes are more numerous than the bluebonnets in our favorite spots as well.  I’ll have to make sure to dress the girls in something that will look good with blue or red flowers.

Does anyone have a sure fire spot that they’ve visited this year?  How were the bluebonnets?  Were there many Indian Paintbrushes?

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Having Katy kids of my own really does help me see how much my mom did for me

Today, I stand in the kitchen surrounded by sugar cookies.  They’re out of the oven, half-iced, and cooked unevenly because I’m still learning to roll dough correctly (after 29 years!)
All of the baking and rolling and icing makes me think of my mom.  It’s too true that we don’t fully appreciate our own moms until we ourselves are moms.  
My mom used to make sugar cookies at every major holiday: Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter… she’d bake them and then let us help ice them and add the eyes and decorations as we saw fit.  When I was a kid, it looked like this:
(Skipping in from careless play)
Mom: I have cookies, you want to ice them?
Me: Yes!
I never realized that “I have cookies” meant she’d spent the last 2-4 hours mixing, rolling, cleaning… I never stopped to think that she had a million other things going on.  It was just cookie day.  Man, I love that lady.
This got me thinking about other things.  Like the fact that if I brought home 1 or 14 friends, she’d order pizza for us or hand out candy bars like a vending machine or have fresh baked brownies.  Like the fact that I had more experiences in my youth than most people have their whole lives.  Like the fact that she constantly had a new art project, a new science experiment, or a new pet for us to use as we learned through play.  And she did it all for us, all without ever having anyone fully realize the depth of love and effort she was pouring into us, every single day.
I take being a mom more seriously than any other job I’ve ever had.  I love it, I throw myself into it.  If only I can give my girls what my mom gave me.
Today, I appreciate my mom.
What about you?  What is it that you appreciate about your mom?  Post a comment below.
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Parenting books are everywhere!  Which ones do you recommend for this Katy parent?

I love to read.  I have to limit myself to the amount of “for pleasure” reading that I do because I tend to get so involved with the book that I neglect my house, my children and my husband until the last word on the last page.  I’ve found that self-help books are a bit easier to pull myself away from; the information takes a while to digest and if I read too much too quickly I tend to forget what I’ve read.  

I have a pile of no less than 8 books and magazines sitting next to my bedside right now, and all of them are self-help, books for better living, or parenting related.  I am in the middle of all 8 of them, and I really do love them all.   

When it comes to parenting books, there are the highly touted (and highly controversial) baby sleep books, but I am talking about so much more than that.  I love anything inspirational, funny, or helpful about raising children or activities I can do with my children.  What follows is a list of my favorite 10 parenting books and magazines from my reading over the last year or so. 

  • The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst – the chapters are short and offer practical advice, but more than that, I love the fact that just in the title, I feel understood.  It is so comforting to read another mom’s honest account of loving (but also being drained by) her life as a mom.
  • Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend – I loved their original book, Boundaries, and was recently recommended this one by a friend.  I am in the middle of it and love the way the book clearly outlines how to maintain healthy boundaries while showing unconditional love to our children.
  • Discover Your Child’s DQ Factor by Dr. Greg Cynaumon – This book changed everything about how I viewed my oldest daughter and how I approach her.  It is an important book for anyone with a uniquely wired (read: difficult) child.
  • Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp – This book I’ve read twice: once as a new mom and again recently.  It talks about the motive behind the correction with children. 
  • Raising Confident Girls (also: Raising Confident Boys) by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer – 100 quick tips for raising confident children.  Practical and easy to read!
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp – Dr. Karp shares the 5 “S”s which really worked with my fussy baby.
  • The Girlfriend’s Guide to the First Year by Vicki Iovine – I love her other book, The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy, as well.  When I read her books, I laugh, am educated and feel understood at the same time – a great combination!
  • Katy Magazine – I scour it for ideas for activities around Katy.  I also love to send in pictures of my kids for the Cute Kids contest!
  • The Toddler’s Busy Book by Trish Kuffner – Such an important book to have in the house for the “I’m bored!” days.  There are 365 ideas for activities to do with your child. 

What books do you recommend to an avid Parenting-Book-Reader?  I can’t wait to get started on more great reads!  Post a comment below with your recommendations!

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Exploring Katy’s budget and family friendly fun

Spring is traditionally a time for rebirth. Buds are slowly appearing on my crepe myrtle in the backyard, we’re beginning to hear baby birds in the chimney, and bugs are back.
Use these opportunities to share the season with your child. Here are three activities you can do with toddlers and young children. None should cost more than $5.00. You could always gather some friends with young children and share the cost. Everyone can then benefit and you have some adult time with your friends, too!
1.) Katy has several parks that lend themselves to exploring! Grab a paper lunch bag and head out! In the car, talk about what kind of nature items everyone might find. Then go out and see what everyone collects. Grass, leaves, rocks, twigs, sand, even a safe insect or two may find a way into the bag. Make a collage of the found items, sans bugs!
2.) During Hurricane Ike, we were blessed to have fair weather–at least in the beginning of the power outage. My husband, son, and I ate outdoors just to escape the stuffy house. Use our mild weather to help little ones learn and experience the art of the picnic. Go to your backyard, throw down a heavy quilt, and enjoy a simple meal. Invite a few pals over, and this will be a lot of fun.
3.) Everytime my son comes home from school with a little project, I marvel at how creative his teacher is. I wonder if I could do something similar. Then I walk through a educational store like MindBuilders (870 S. Mason Rd., Suite 126, 77450) or Learning Express (5556 South Peek Road, 77450) and the ideas start flowing. What can you come up with from seeing their displays?
How about these simple ideas to get you started? Buy a packet of animal stickers. Use your child’s crayons to draw a jungle scene. Have your child stick the animals onto the drawing. You can do the same with flower or vegetable stickers– you draw an empty garden, and your child decides where the stickers go on the paper.
How do you interest your young child in the season? I’d love to hear your insights.
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One Katyite mom has found a way to relieve dinner stress

I believe in the power of family meals every night.   I do not particularly care for processed foods, nor do I always have the time to make something fresh and fabulous each night.

So, if I am generally opposed to easy-to-prepare processed foods but I don’t have time to cook healthful meals, what do I do? 

I meal swap.

Meal swapping is an idea that a few friends and I came up with to better answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”  Each month, I prepare 2 home cooked meals to share.  I triple the recipe and feed one portion to my family that night.  The other two portions I package up in freezer safe containers, label the top of the container with the name of the meal and the last minute preparation instructions, and put it in my freezer. 

Once a month, my two girlfriends and I meet up with our ice chests and kids in tow and swap our meals.  They’ve each come with 2 portions of two separate meals, and we dole them out: each of us gives away our four meals and each of us receives four new meals.  It is a very good return for my time investment: I cook huge portions twice and in return I get 4 meals that are almost completely ready for me to serve. 

Most often, the meals need to be defrosted and baked, neither of which takes much effort.  And a major plus to this way of cooking is that I don’t have to come up with a creative menu item four times each month.  My girlfriends have already done that for me!

A few helpful hints if this seems like something you’d be interested in doing:

*Try to recruit people with roughly the same family size as you.  It would be unbalanced for a family of 2 to be cooking for a family of 6.

*I’ve found that 3 people in the group is ideal.  It can be done with fewer, but tripling a recipe takes a lot of work and cooking more than that may make the hard work in the kitchen too much to handle.

*If you’re unable to find a group to meal swap with, consider doing this on your own.  Double or triple your family’s favorite recipes and freeze them for your own use throughout the month.

*Some recipes freeze better than others.  Avoid using recipes with heavy cream or other ingredients that may curdle when reheated.

*It’s best not to triple a new recipe until you know how it will end up.  I always do a trial run of a new recipe on my family the month before I triple it to make sure it turns out.

*Experience is your best ally.  It took me a while to figure out which recipes were cost-effective, easily frozen and reheated, and worth the effort of tripling them.  Play with your favorite recipes and soon you’ll have a set of delicious, healthy meals at your disposal.

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Enjoying Community Activities in Katy This Easter Season

March 24, 2010 – Katy, Texas – I love spring.  I love the comfortable weather and the flowers.  But I especially love Easter.

I have such fond memories of Easters past.  My family partook in so many of the Easter traditions: egg hunts, church on Sunday morning, confetti eggs, dying hard boiled eggs… the list goes on and on.  Now that I have two children of my own, I feel giddy about the opportunity to pass these traditions down to them.  And pass them down I will.

Avery enjoying the bounce house at last year's Easter Fest.

But my new favorite tradition started last year.  The Waters Church at 2710 N. Mason Road (Suite #145) hosts an annual Easter Fest in the parking lot of the church.  Our family went last year, and we were amazed at how much there was for our children to enjoy.

A lot of community outreach programs focus on Easter egg hunts this time of year, and we plan to be a part of many of those as well.  But The Waters Easter Fest is more like a carnival than the traditional Easter egg hunt event.  Last year, my oldest daughter got to have a pony ride, get her face painted, jump in bouncy houses, enjoy a petting zoo, and eat hot dogs for dinner at Easter Fest. 

I’m looking forward to Easter Fest this upcoming Wednesday, March 31st from 6:30-8:30 pm.  I’m sure many of the attractions from last year will be back, and this year I know my 3 year old daughter is really looking forward to the fire truck and a visit from Chuck E. Cheese.   

My family is always game for a free night of entertainment, and this year will be no exception.

We’ll be in the parking lot of The Waters Church from 6:30 until 8:30 this upcoming Wednesday night.  I hope to see you there!

What other free or inexpensive Easter activities in the community do you and your family participate in each year?  Post a comment below!

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Early Education for Katy kids on a Budget

With the current state of the economy, we’ve been looking for ways to pull in extra money and cut our budget.  I’ve been working as a photographer on the weekends to help make ends meet, but it has been at the cost of time together as a family.  And the house?  Oh, boy… please don’t come over without giving me at least 6 hours notice!

Photo by Lerin Wheeless

Katy ISD offers half-day preschool for certain children.  Their eligibility can be based on having English as a second language, an active military parent, or federal income guidelines.  We were a little disappointed to find out that we make just $30 per paycheck too much to qualify!

My first thought was to take on more photography work to pay for preschool.  We figured out how many sessions I would need to book each weekend to cover the cost.  I was one of the crazy moms standing in line way too early in the morning on registration day with a baby and two toddlers in tow, just to make sure we secured our spot!  I paid the registration fees and filled out the paperwork for Bella (4) and Ben (3) to start in the Fall. 

However, as the weeks have gone by, we are reevaluating our decision.  After all, $700/month for preschool would mean quite a few photo sessions!  If I have them in school during the week and am working every evening and weekend… when will I get to be their mother?

One tearful family meeting later, we’ve made a decision… next year, we’re doing preschool at home!  I feel a tremendous burden off of my shoulders.  To prepare our children for the wonderful Katy ISD school system, we’re planning a daily schedule of learning activities.  One of my majors at NSU was Early Childhood Education, and with two siblings so close in age, this could be lots of fun.

Rather than being disappointed at my inability to pay for preschool tuition, I find myself getting more and more excited to enjoy another year at home with my daughter before she spends the rest of her childhood in the school system all day.  I sat with my son yesterday morning, playing Play-Dough for over an hour.  He was laughing with joy, while we squished and rolled and named colors and shapes.  We love to color and paint, too!  I have flashcards to play with, and shape sorters.  We have a little play area in the backyard to exercise those large muscle groups. 

Katy offers a lot to preschool-aged children, and I plan to take advantage of it!  The library system in Katy has many storytimes for different age groups to choose from.  What a great way to let my children practice sitting and listening to a teacher for short periods of time.  Local playgrounds and our church nursery will provide opportunities to interact with other children.

As I gear up for Preschool At Home, I would love to hear your ideas.  What are some other things we can do at home?  What else does Katy have to offer parents of preschoolers on a budget?

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From our Katy family to yours–a few hints to make bringing home the new baby as seamless as possible

March 22, 2010 –Katy, TX –Being pregnant with my second child was considerably less blissful than my being pregnant the first time around.  Sure, I was sick more often the second time around (and those “slight” pains associated with Braxton Hicks were more intense), but  the thing that really plagued me, the unavoidable reality that haunted my thoughts at night, was the idea that I’d somehow have to find a way to split my love and loyalties between two children.

Big sister, Avery, holding newborn baby sister, Kate.
I adore my first child, Avery.  And while I was pregnant, I knew I would adore my second, Kate, as well.  And what new mother hasn’t heard the age old advice, “Once the second child is born you’ll understand how your heart can just swell to love both children equally.”?  Still, I had my doubts.

Besides my own doubts, I’d heard from friends that welcoming a second child into the world is significantly more challenging than the first.  The exhaustion and post-partum hormones are still in place, but added to that is the ongoing needs of your first.  I’m not one to take a challenge lying down, so I did some poking around for ideas on easing the transition from one child to two.

These ideas worked well for our family:

  • When my two year old came up to the hospital to meet the baby, we gave her a gift with a few disposable cameras to use and a Big Sister photo book she could carry around.  She delighted in taking pictures of the new baby, and when we first saw relatives and friends, we’d make a big deal out of her photo book before focusing on her baby sister.
  • I did some searching and found several picture books about becoming a new sister.  We inserted my oldest daughter’s name into the book instead of using the main character’s name, and Avery enjoyed being the star of the book.  She identified with the characters in the books and would sometimes reenact segments.
  • Avery had a Tinker Bell movie she really liked to watch, and we bought her a new and different Tinker Bell movie.  We talked to Avery about how the old Tinker Bell is special and the new Tinker Bell is special, and how Avery could love them both, just like Mom and Dad love the older sister and the new sister.  It was a little over her head as a two year old, but we referred back to it several times and I think it helped in the long run.
  • We got a stool to keep by the changing table and had her “help” change diapers and feed the baby anytime we used a bottle.  Any time Avery helped out, we were very verbal about how wonderful she was.  We admittedly overplayed it a bit, but Avery responded well to it and seemed to accept the baby willingly since she still felt clearly that she had an important role in our family.
  • I set a timer every day for 30 minutes of Avery-focused attention.  Even if the baby needed me, I would quickly respond and then get back to Avery.  During that time, she could choose to do anything at all, with Mommy’s full attention.  Once the baby got old enough, I began to do the same with Kate as well.  The children love their one on one time and I like having a measurable way to show each child how important they are to me.
    More than anything, I just had to be patient with Avery and let her work through her emotions.  And all of the classic advice I received?  It was all true.  I love Kate with as much passion and wholeheartedness and I love Avery.  And the best part of all: a year later, Kate is the best present I’ve ever given to her big sister!

What about you?  Did you find any hints especially helpful when welcoming your second child into the world?  Did the age of the child have an impact on how you handled the new baby?  Post your comment below!

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Beautiful Baby rooms
Photo by Marisa Hugonnett

How to Create the Perfect Katy Nursery

Nursery planning typically kicks into gear once you know if you are having a boy or a girl. Then, you can choose a fun theme that ties in all elements of the room and sets the stage for a great beginning. Katy mom, Jessica Huntoon had an important consideration in mind when deciding on a nursery theme for her first daughter, Hanna. “I wanted a theme that could grow with her,” explains Huntoon. Her plan was successful. Hanna is now in kindergarten and her nursery theme of butterflies and dragonflies is still prevalent in her new big girl room. Really, the nursery theme is for the parents and not the baby. By picking something that they can grow with, the theme will hopefully be loved by the baby, too, and become something they enjoy. “Now Hanna loves butterflies and just pretty bugs,” Huntoon says.

Unique Rooms to Fit Each Baby

You don’t always have to think outside the box again for your second child. Huntoon loved the theme of Hanna’s room, so she reused the idea for her second daughter Lyla, now two and a half. With a few changes, Huntoon transformed the room into a unique space. Lyla’s nursery includes flowers in the theme and is more purple and green than Hanna’s, which had more pink in the color scheme.

Lisa and Graham Tidbury of Katy chose the theme of the Australian outback for their 4-month-old son Grayson’s nursery. Though the idea may seem unique to most, it was the first the couple had, since Graham’s parents live in Australia and are far from their grandson. “We wanted to honor his grandparents that live abroad,” Lisa explains. Even though it was challenging for them to find accessories to complement their nursery’s creative them, they enjoyed every minute of it. When the usual baby stores were lacking cute baby kangaroos and koala bears, Lisa found a friend in Ebay, which proved that most any theme can be achieved.

The Tidbury’s also personalized their son’s nursery by refurbishing Graham’s old dresser. The dresser had once been in Graham’s nursery and it had been remodeled and used throughout his life. Once they learned that they were having a son, the dresser was sanded and painted to coordinate with the room. This brought a very personal touch to the nursery and also proved to be a great way to save some money. Lisa made sure to include her family’s old rocking chair in the nursery, too. This was the chair that her mother had used to rock her to sleep and she loved the sentimental touch.

Convertible cribs are one popular trend that can take your child into their toddler years and beyond. These are great, sturdy cribs that can also convert into a child’s bed when you buy the extended package for it. This way, the crib can serve your baby longer and grow with them when they outgrow the crib. It was important to Huntoon to get this type of crib, so that it would last longer for her girls. Since they tend be sturdier and heavier, they are also a great option for people with large dogs who fear they could frequently peek in on the baby.

Brande Jones of Katy turned to the talent of a family member for the color inspiration of her son, Chapman’s circus-themed nursery. Jones’ husband had recently lost his aunt, a talented painter to cancer. One of her paintings was of the classic childhood Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. Jones hung the painting in the nursery, using its bright red and primary colors in the nursery theme. “I loved how it turned out and was happy to see a family painting as the center piece,” she says. She was also lucky to have a lot of help decorating from her mother, who is a professional decorator and who was all too willing to help prepare a masterpiece for her grandson. Lisa Tidbury encourages parents designing a space for their cutie to have fun with the project. “Don’t stress out too much,” she says. “Make it an enjoyable time.” Make your nursery a place where you love to be with your baby and then it will be the perfect nursery for you.

© Katy Magazine 2010

Adapted from Katy Magazine’s article written by Natalie Cook Clark in Katy Magazine’s Spring Issue 2010

Do you have a cute idea for a baby room theme? Add your comment and post it here.

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Babies & Tots