Katy Texas

The Online Resource Directory for Katy, Texas

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

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

Katy, TX Blog (June 1, 2017) – Today is National Donut Day. Go nuts with donuts at these local shops and restaurants:

Shipley Do-Nuts
1135 S. Mason Rd.
20077 Katy Fwy.
27110 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
3811 N. Fry Rd.
Get a free glazed donut with any purchase.


Dunkin’ Donuts
3061 N. Fry Rd.

Free classic donut with the purchase of any beverage.


Tom + Chee
21788 Katy Fwy.

Grilled cheese donut sandwiches are $2 all day.


The Grove Do-Nutz & Deli
815 Plantation Dr.

One free glazed donut with any purchase. One per customer while supplies last.


More Katy, TX Donut Shops

Best Donuts
811 S. Mason Rd.

Daylight Donuts
5160 Franz Rd.
6191 Hwy Blvd.

D’ Lux Donuts & Kolaches
4327 S. Front St., Brookshire

Donuts Delight
23945 Franz Rd.

Donut Shack
21411 Clay Rd.

Fluffy Donuts
6078 N Fry Rd.

Fresh & Best Donuts
1619 S. Fry Rd.

Glaze Doughnuts
5815 Franz Rd.

House of Donuts & Kolaches
3030 Falcon Landing Blvd.

Just Glazed Donuts
6840 S. Mason Rd.

Katy Donuts
23222 Kingsland Blvd.

Mr. Donut & Kolaches
8945 S. Fry Rd.

Riley Donuts
550 Katy Fort Bend Rd.

Simply Splendid Donuts & Kolaches
1797 N. Fry Rd.

Snowflake Donuts
1316 Pin Oak Rd.
1443 FM 1463

Southern Maid Donuts
5508 S. Peek Rd.
5929 FM 1463

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

Written by Katrina Katsarelis

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

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


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


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


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


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

BE UNIQUE
5529 FM 359, Richmond
281-394-7004
beuniquetoday.com
GOT A CAMP? List it here.

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

Written by Kennan Buckner and Katy Magazine’s Editors

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

 

THE DANCER
Becky’s Academy of Dance
2501 S. Mason Rd.
281-398-9226

beckysonline.com

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

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.


THE ARTIST
A Painting Fiesta
16734 Westheimer Lakes N.
832-437-4359
paintingfiesta.com

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.


THE FIT KID

ESN Health
Healthy Kids Camp
2770 FM 1463
281-395-0827
esn-online.com
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.


THE HORSE WHISPERER
Circle Lake Ranch
1102 Circle Lake Dr.
281-395-4311
circlelakeranch.com

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.


THE SCIENTIST
Club SciKidz
700 S. Westgreen Blvd.
CrossPoint Community Church
713-589-8958
houtson.clubscikidz.com

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.


THE VETERINARIAN
Citizens for Animal Protection
17555 Katy Fwy.
281-497-0591
cap4pets.org

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!


THE BILINGUIST
Spanish Learning Castle
5024 E. 5th St.
832-437-6479
spanishlearningcastle.com

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
713-206-9744
houston-translation.com

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.


THE WORLD TRAVELER
Montessori Kids Universe
2004 S. Mason Rd.
713-344-1640
montessorikidskaty.com

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.


THE CHURCH GOER
Camp in the City
Multiple Locations in Katy
877-474-6326
pinecove.com

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.


THE GYMNAST
Katy Kips Gymnastics Club
923 S. Mason Rd.
281-578-5477
katykips.com

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.


THE WATER LOVER
Double T Hideout
Typhoon Texas
832-426-7071
typhoontexas.com/camps

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.
(281)769-8630
www.aqua-tots.com

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.


THE GIFTED KID
Katy GT Academy
21020 Highland Knolls Dr.
281-646-7360
katygtacademy.org

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.


THE ADVENTURER
British Private Prep School
Multiple Locations in Katy
britishprivateprepschool.com

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
kidsrkids.com

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
primrosesummer.com

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.


THE FIELD TRIPPER
Discovery Schoolhouse
4900 Falcon Landing Blvd
281-698-7234
discovery-schoolhouse.com

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.
281-599-1200
cinco.foundations-academy.com

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.
281-392-1912

5220 Ranch Point Dr.
281-392-1200
goddardschool.com

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
kiddieacademy.com

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!

 


THE NATURE LOVER
Monty Ballard YMCA 
15050 Cinco Park Rd.
281-392-5055
ymcahouston.org

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.


THE COUNTRY CLUBBER
Camp Willow Fork
21055 Westheimer Pkwy.
281-579-3508
willowforktennisshop.com

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.
281-392-7888
clubcorp.com/clubs/the-club-at-falcon-point

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.
281-395-7863
golfclubatcincoranch.com

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.


THE VOLLEYBALLER
Katy Volleyball Academy Camp
2211 Porter Rd.
281-391-4121
katyvolleyball.com

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.


THE BASKETBALLER
Stampede Basketball Camp
Camps held at Taylor High School
832-865-8416

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.


THE FOOTBALL PRO
Katy Youth Football
713-331-1907
katyyouthfootball.com

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.


THE MARTIAL ARTIST
Tiger Rock Martial Arts Taekwondo
625 S. Mason Rd.
281-829-9300
katytkd.com

5757 Katy-Gaston Rd.
281-202-3713
trmakatysouth.com

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.

 


THE SOCCER STAR
FFPS British Soccer Camp
FFPS Soccer Complex
George Bush Park
800-828-7529 ext. 101
ffps.org

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.
832-704-3038
proskaty.com

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.

 


THE TRACK & FIELDER
Katy Blazin’ Red Camp
Held at Katy High School
katyblazinred.com

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.


THE TENNIS PLAYER
Katy Tennis Academy
Camps held at Beckendorff JH or Seven Lakes HS
832-434-0205
katytennisacademy.com

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.


THE RUGBY KID
Texas Rugby Kids

Multiple Locations
832-600-8412
texasrugbykids.com

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.


THE ROBOTICS KID
American Robotics Academy
700 S. Westgreen Blvd.
(CrossPoint Community Church)
281-599-7626
roboticsacademy.com

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.


THE ACTOR
Spotlight Acting Academy
The Villagio Town Center
22758 Westheimer Pkwy.
832-913-6884
spotlightactingacademy.com

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 SMART COOKIE
The Lifelong Learning (LLC) Summer Camp
1701 East Ave
(346) 387-6955
www.texaslifelonglearning.com

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!

Katy, TX Blogs (May 5, 2017) – “After 26 years in international education, one of the things I have enjoyed the most has been the rich, diverse and rewarding discussions with colleagues around the world. One of the common themes across Nord Anglia Education in recent years has been, how do we educate our students for their future?

Part of that discussion has been increasingly around the design of school buildings and learning environments. How can we expect to develop learning to meet the needs of 21st century learners when the buildings we work in still follow the same ‘industrial’ concepts used for years?

So, imagine being given the opportunity to be part of designing, building and opening a brand new, state-of-the-art, ‘school of the future’. Along with the Nord Anglia Corporate Development team and lead architect, Ed Schmidt, that’s exactly what we just did in Houston.

The basic premise was quite simple, instead of building a school around a standardized model of education and the requirements of teachers and teaching, what happens if you build it around the varied and personal needs of learners and their learning?

The usual concept for school buildings has traditionally been classrooms, each belonging to a teacher, all connected by corridors. Students move from room to room either based on their age or based on the subject they are being taught at that time. Rooms, furniture, displays are usually fixed. Of course, this model matches the traditional, industrialized and standardized model for education that has been in place for many years. In addition, rectangular boxes, joined by straight corridors are cheap and easy to build.

But, the real world does not work in isolation and we know that learners do not learn best in isolated classrooms. Connectivity is everywhere and modern schools must be willing to adapt.

Imagine the conversation with our teachers a few years ago. It went something like:

We are going to have a new campus (lots of cheers).

But, teachers will not have their own classrooms (fewer cheers).

There will not even be offices for individual administrative staff (even fewer cheers).

There will be no teacher’s desks, teacher’s white boards or even fronts to rooms (deafening silence and obvious shock in the room).

I have to give full credit to our staff. They have been incredibly open minded, hardworking and willing to try new ideas. This transition could have been very tough without such a team and they deserve a great deal of the credit.

Our new 275,000 square foot campus opened this summer. Spanning 34 acres and accommodating over 2000 students, the school features an array of facilities and exciting learning areas that enrich the student experience.

General Concepts:

  • The entire campus was designed and built around the varied and personal needs of learners and their learning
  • All learning spaces are variable and flexible
  • Teachers are not assigned to a specific room. Instead the campus is built in ‘neighborhoods’ to which teachers are assigned
  • Each neighborhood has eight learning spaces, with flexible and moveable furniture
  • Learning environments within neighborhoods can be adapted, changed and developed to support teacher and student needs
  • Many teachers allow the students to design the learning environment most appropriate for the learning at that moment
  • The interior is mainly glass, very transparent and very light
  • Each neighborhood has a variety of floor to ceiling collaborative writing walls, interactive projectors as well as large screen TVs
  • All projectors and TVs are connected wirelessly via Apple TVs; this 1:1 environment allows any student to project their work in any place at any time

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is that every time I walk around the building the layout is different. The neighborhoods change every hour, depending on the needs of the learners.

Architectural Learning Concept

In his book ‘From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments,’ David Thornburg talks about the need to create a balance in spaces such as caves, campfires, watering holes and mountain tops. Each has a particular learning function, from quiet reflection to research, discussion, collaboration and presentation.

Similarly, every area in our school purposefully has possibilities.

The center of the building is the Agora, the Greek ‘Market Place’ where anyone can come to share ideas, research and collaborate. This is the heart of the building, from where you can see the whole school in motion. The glass allows visibility in to all learning spaces and sometimes I just like to sit here and observe.

At any time in the Agora you will see younger children reading, older students researching, a class being taught, teachers lesson planning and a few parents chatting over a coffee, all at the same time. You will also see several administrators working, since this has become the chosen ‘office space’ for the leadership team. It’s a great place to be easily found.

Impact

While we need more time and a larger study to measure the full impact of the new learning environment, some things have been immediate and obvious. We have had many visitors come in the new facility since it opened and everyone seems to have the same feedback: students in all year groups are highly engaged and move around the building with a high level of purpose and ownership of their learning.

This is very clear to all of us who work in the building on a daily basis. We need to study it in more detail, but we believe it has a lot to do with the fact that the entire building is built for learners; it is their school. In this school, learning is not something that is done to students. Instead, it is something that we empower our students to embrace and nurture, encouraging them to take responsibility for their individual growth on every level.

I have to say that this project has surpassed our expectations in many areas. We learned so much from our NAE colleagues around the world and from visiting other schools, so we would like to warmly invite anyone who is in the area to come and take a look. We never get tired of showing people around.”

 

Courtesy of Andrew Derry, BISH Principal

Katy, TX (April 26, 2017) – Katy ISD namesake and career educator, Catherine Bethke, continues to fuel a love for reading and passion for learning in students.

Written by Lacey Kupfer Wulf | Select photography by Anetrius Wallace

Catherine “Gigi” Bethke has devoted her life to young children, literacy, and reading. She developed reading intervention programs and a literacy library to help all students feel the same love of reading she has, allowing her to reach students beyond her kindergarten class. Carrie Lowery, principal of Catherine Bethke Elementary (CBE), adds, “When students are comfortable with literacy skills, their world is opened up for learning geared toward their passions.” It is little wonder why Bethke was chosen as the namesake for Katy ISD Elementary 39, which opened in August 2016.

As the sixth of 12 children, Bethke had plenty of practice teaching – helping her younger siblings with homework, and reading aloud with them. That love of teaching never faded. She says, “Even now at Bethke Elementary, my enthusiasm for teaching is renewed when I look into the beautiful faces of the children, hear their sweet voices, and feel their arms around my waist.”

 

A Special Gift
Bethke’s reading programs included more than just reading books, “We read daily affirmations, recited jivy jingles to help them with word attack skills, and sang songs to help them with comprehension in addition to standard reading practice.” These other activities not only helped students improve their reading skills, but also built students’ confidence in their ability to learn. “She has a gift for making everyone feel special,” adds Lowery. As Bethke’s former student and special education resource and in-class support teacher at Bethke Elementary, Christin Puyol adds, “When you go through your teaching certification courses, they often ask you to picture your favorite teacher and think about what you liked most about that class. I always pictured Mrs. Bethke’s class because I felt so welcome.

Celebrating Success
Through the reading intervention program REACH (Reaching Empowers All Children), which she created and coined, Bethke has learned how to help those students in first through fifth-grade who have negative feelings about reading and learning in general. She says, “An educator needs to take the time to build a trusting relationship with kids so they will be willing to put forth their best efforts.” She also believes that preventing these negative feelings from developing in the first place is the best course of action. “In the beginning it is necessary for the teacher to accept and celebrate small successes because they lead to reading gains.” Bethke’s example and experiences show that this teaching philosophy works.

Bethke Bisons
“When I was told that a school would be named in my honor, I felt blessed, humbled, and amazed,” Bethke says. “I feel a huge responsibility to help CBE become another successful Katy ISD campus.” She is already impressed by the strong leadership, dedicated teachers, and parental involvement. “I am very proud of this beautiful school and I am delighted to have a permanent link to Katy ISD.” Even the kids have had to adjust to the new school name and mascot. Bethke says, “It is not unusual to see and hear some of the sweet kindergarten or first-grade students eagerly waving and smiling at me as they call out, ‘Hi, Mrs. Bison!’ or ‘Hi, Bethke Bison!’”

Lasting Contributions
Even after retiring in 2012, Bethke continues to volunteer at Alexander Elementary, where her two granddaughters attend school, and Bethke Elementary three times a week tutoring, reading to classes, and teaching junior achievement. “Every time I hear her read a book to students, it reminds me of the excited feelings I had in kindergarten during story time,” Puyol adds. Bethke also works as a substitute GT proctor for Katy ISD. “I still want to be involved in a school setting as long as I feel I can contribute effectively,” she says. For Bethke, teaching has many rewards. “When struggling readers beam with pride because they can read a word today that they didn’t know yesterday, or when they leave the classroom hugging a book they can read, it is extremely gratifying,” she says. “I think my favorite is just four simple words: I love you, teacher.” KM

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Katy ISD

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

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

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!

BIRTHDAY

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. 

TEACHERS/SCHOOLS

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.


MILITARY/FIRST RESPONDERS

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.


SENIOR CITIZEN DISCOUNTS
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. 

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.

AUSTIN

AUSTIN AQUARIUM
austinaquarium.com
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.

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

LAKE TRAVIS
ziplaketravis.com
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)


CORPUS CHRISTI 

HURRICANE ALLEY WATERPARK
hurricanealleycc.com

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.

USS LEXINGTON
usslexington.com

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.

TEXAS STATE AQUARIUM
texasstateaquarium.org

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


DALLAS 

DALLAS ZOO
dallaszoo.com

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.

GREAT WOLF LODGE
greatwolf.com

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.

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER
dallasfw.legolanddiscoverycenter.com

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


GALVESTON 

BOLIVAR PENINSULA
bolivarpeninsulatexas.com

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.

MOODY GARDENS
moodygardens.com

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
schlitterbahn.com

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)


SAN ANTONIO

THE ALAMO
thealamo.org

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.

RIVERWALK
thesanantonioriverwalk.com

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.

SEAWORLD
seaworldparks.com

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)

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

Easter_Sunday_03

EASTER SUNDAY SERVICES 

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)


EASTER EVENTS

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.


 

Katy, TX News (March 1, 2017) – Katy ISD is sharing information about the State, district and your child’s campus as part of our obligations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). An information letter, along with a copy of the 2015-16 Federal Report Cards for the State, district and individual campuses are available for review online at tea.texas.gov.

An optional notification letter in English and Spanish is available if you choose to use this method of communicating. This is not a requirement. It is not necessary to send the Federal Report Card home with students.

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.

Katy’s 2019 Kids Birthday Party Places Guide

Here are some fun, unusual, and  traditional birthday parties that has something for every kind of Katy kid. Enjoy this list of the coolest and most creative places to throw a kids birthday party in Katy. 

KATY MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2019

by Jennifer Skelton and Katy Magazine Editors

FUNTASTIK LABS

615 S. Mason Rd. 281-819-6363

Inspiring Science, Arts, Robotics & Escape Room birthdays in fully furnished labs loaded with fun hands-on experiments and activities. Science Lab, Canvas Painting, Robotics parties. They provide everything you need and do all the clean up.

IRACE

24984 Katy Ranch Rd.

281 394-5083

Two levels of Kart racing, NASCAR Simulators, Bowling, iBlast, Hologate Virtual Reality, Arcade Games, Garage Bar and Restaurant. Awesome Party Suites are available.

USA NINJA

22564 Franz Rd.

281 394-1986

A full physical fitness program for today’s youth ages 4-17. Every obstacle course includes corresponding conditioning and flexibility stations. The desired result of this program is to improve children’s strength, flexibility and all-around athleticism.

iFLy   

9540 Katy Fwy.

281 942-4359

Indoor skydiving is the perfect activity for Katy daredevils. iFly offers birthday parties to corporate events and everything in between. It’s a fun activity for kids of all ages and we have a feeling skydiving could become families with kids new hobby, right here in Katy!

Cinemark 19
1030 W Grand Pkwy N,

281-371-6008
Parties include a party room and movie. Upgrade to a private movie screening with 20+ guests.  Each child receives a Movie Snack Pack. Contact the Theater Manager to schedule.

The Crazy Canvas

You Choose Your Location

(281) 253-3294

Now mobile with no permanent studio location, The Crazy Canvas brings the party to you. Kids paint parties are $30/guest for a 2-hour party which includes 30 minutes for cake, presents and painting supplies for an 8×10″, 12×12″ or 16×20″ canvas paint class and you select the painting to be instructed.

Katy Inflatable

2482 South Mason Road, Katy

281-574-3033

Katy’s only private Inflatable Birthday Party Place and bounce facilities in Katy. Custom designed 16,500 ft facility designed with safety and functionality in mind. Use their online reservation system to book and confirm birthday party packages online.

 

Alternate Reality Escape Rooms
21788 Katy Fwy,

281-394-7848

Choose from 3 rooms…Bunker 57, Piece Meal, and Steampunk. For children 12 & up and parents can book a game room for up to 20 people for $150 per hour.

Jo-Ann Stores
1219 N Fry Rd,

281-599-3091

Craft birthday classes include 2-hours of an instructor led craft class for children 5 – 12 years old. Parties also include a gift for the birthday child and invitations. Parents can bring snacks, cake, drink and decorations.

 Dear Marlowe Photography

Board & Brush Creative Studio
1315 W Grand Pkwy S,

281-914-5358

The wood sign party includes a staff member to guide them during the 2 hours of studio time. Parents can bring in cake, snacks and drinks. Geared towards children ages 6-15 years old.

Katy Go Karts, Mini Golf & Batting Cages
2482 S Mason Rd,

281-574-3045

Packages can include a combination of a round of golf, batting cage and/or go cart . You will have an outdoor table for 2 hours and we provide plates and eating utensils. Pizza can be added for an additional charge. Parents supply cake/cupcake and drinks.

Glowzone
830 Katy Fort Bend Rd,

281-383-9380
There are five uniquely themed party rooms to choose from like private access to Nerf Cannons, XBox Gamer Room, Interactive Dance Floor and Just Dance 15, and a customizable dance floor. Seat 20 – 25.

Pros Katy Indoor Soccer
1005 Airline Dr Suite B,

832-704-3038

Rent this facility for 2-3 hours playing games such as soccer, dodge ball, and kickball with a game director. Facility provides paper good. Parent supplies food and other decorations

Painting with a Twist
20020 S Fry Rd,

281-578-8862

During your 2 hour party, an Instructor will guide your children (6+ years) to create a painting chosen by you. Parent provides the food and decorations.

TopGolf Katy 
1030 Memorial Brook Ln.

281 406-3176

TopGolf has Interactive golf games for all ages and skill levels that are a nice change from traditional arcade games. Two hours of Topgolf game play and selection from kids menu options for birthday party packages.

TILT Studio  

5000 Katy Mills Cir.

281 644-2340

A one stop entertainment guarantee inside Katy Mills Mall, with arcade games, mini golf, and laser tag, four party packages to choose from including party host and food.

 Stephanie Durango

Paloma Trails
10655 Katy Hockley Rd,

713-715-9363

Choose between 3 birthday packages each includes time with a pony/horse. Parents provide food and decorations.

Smith Ranch
25440 Beckendorff Rd,

281-371-3318

Two party options includes waterslide/bounce house, pizza, drinks, pavilion, invitations, paper products, balloon bouquet and gift bags. Add-ons include paddle boating, pony ride, hayride, petting zoo, snow cones and cotton candy. Parent supplies the cake and decorations.

 Jamie Mills

The Storybook Cottage  
5814 1st St,

281-574-5707

Four tea party options. Everything provided. Parties for children 4 & up.

Typhoon Texas Waterpark

555 S Katy Fort Bend Rd,

832-426-7071

Base birthday includes pizza, drinks, birthday shirt and reserved space at the Birthday Barn. Add-ons include goodie bags, cupcakes, cabana, fast pass, VIP host and souvenir bottle.

Vortexic Martial Arts
3760 S Mason Rd.

832-819-4862
Choose between the Ki-Hap, Ninja, and Samurai parties that includes an 1.5 hour basic training in Tae Kwan Do by a certified black belt instructor. Parents provide food, drink, and decorations. The guest of honor will enjoy cutting their cake with a samurai sword and having the unique opportunity to break a real board in front of their friends.

We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym
2020 Katy Hockley Cut Off Rd #2D,

281-665-1440

ALL kids are welcome to this gym that was built with a focus on sensory swings, climbing structures, tunnels, crash pit, etc. Special needs children are welcome and host will assist you that is specially trained. Parties can include pizza, cake, party favors and crafts.

More Birthday Party Places in Katy 

Altitude Trampoline Park

24952 Katy Ranch Rd

281-394-9227

Build-A-Bear Workshop

5000 Katy Mills Circle

346-307-8192

Chuck E. Cheese

2002 Gulfmont Dr,

281-644-4949

Giggles and Fun

20117 Park Row,

281-492-2000

Hooray Indoor Playground

3750 S Mason Rd,

346-387-6635

Inflatable Katy

2482 S Mason Rd,

281-574-3033

Jumpstreet

5000 Katy Mills Cir,

281-347-3911

Kingdom & Wheels

25757 Westheimer Pkwy,

832-437-7039

Main Event

24401 Katy Freeway,

281-394-480

Mason Road Skate Center

535 Applewhite Dr,

281-392-9555

Monkey Joe’s

511-A S Mason Rd,

832-321-4420

My Gym Katy

414 W Grand Pkwy,

832-437-8940

The Little Gym

23010A Highland Knolls,

281-347-1400

Times Square Entertainment

402 W Grand Pkwy S,

281-395-8555

Westwood Gymnastics & Dance

23333 Taswell Dr,

281-347-2000

Katy BIRTHDAY Cuties

Stephanie Durango

Jacob By Jb Photography – Time Captured

Fazzarna Rabbi

Rebecca Navarette Lucero

Jaime Lannou Shipley

 Alexandra Marie Herrera

Michelle Daniel

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 

Katy, TX (January 10, 2017) A Katy ISD student’s dream of sending something into outer space has become an “out-of-this-world” reality when her artwork is selected by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to become a part of a space calendar.

sylvie-mei-lim

Katy Junior High sixth-grader, Sylvie Mei Lim, competed against submissions from across the world.  Yet her artistic masterpiece ended up winning the first spot in the Children’s Artwork Calendar for the month of January 2017.  Drawings from Spain, Romania, India, Portugal, London and now even Katy, TX, will be beamed into orbit for astronauts to enjoy during their stay in the International Space Station (ISS).

Katy Junior High sixth-grader, Drew Alvarez, was also selected for an Honorable Mention. The odds of two Katy ISD students being recognized and being the only two from Texas, is kind of “extra-terrestrial”.  Congratulations!

Click here to see Lim’s drawing and full calendar.

Courtesy of Katy ISD

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

Katy, TX – January 4, 2017  Students who have not received a high school diploma because they did not meet the passing standard on sections of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) Exit Level will have the opportunity to retake the necessary subject area tests in March, 2017.  The TEAMS and TAAS tests are no longer being offered; however, individuals eligible to take TEAMS or TAAS will take the appropriate part of the TAKS Exit Level English language arts and/or mathematics tests.

Students currently enrolled in school who need to retest are automatically registered; however, those who are out of school must register online by 5 p.m., February 10, 2017. Individuals will need to register online for the TAKS test by accessing the website at www.TexasAssessment.com/taksoos. The registration process will be online only. The online submission, beginning December 12, 2016, must be completed by 5 p.m., by February 10, 2017. Online registrations received after this date will not be processed. Test-takers can register at a participating campus on the day of testing, if the campus can accommodate them. All test-takers should arrive at the test site 30 minutes before the designated testing start time of 7:30 a.m. Test-takers must present picture identification (such as driver’s license, DPS ID, military ID, school ID or resident alien card) to test.

The 2017 March TAKS tests will be administered online only on the following dates:

  • March 6, 2017                      ELA
  • March 7, 2017                      Mathematics
  • March 8, 2017                      Science
  • March 9, 2017                      Social Studies

Katy ISD is offering the March Exit retesting at Miller Career and Technology Center located at 1734 Katyland Dr. For additional information, contact Dr. Christy Gregory in the Katy ISD Department of Research, Assessment and Accountability at 281-396-2128.

Courtesy of Katy ISD Department of Communications

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

Katy, TX – October 27, 2016 The Katy ISD Partners in Education department is once again inviting the community to support families in need this holiday season.  Food for Families is an annual campaign that provides $50 grocery gift cards to Katy ISD students and their families. Principals from every Katy ISD campus identify students in need of assistance, and the gift cards are given to those students before winter break.  Last year, our Katy ISD community raised $25,000 to support students and their families during the holidays.  Since its inception in 2002, this initiative has blessed over 3,000 Katy ISD families thanks to the generous support of our community.

Those interested in participating may contribute cash or check by Thursday, Dec. 8.  Donations of any amount are welcome and will be accepted by Partners in Education in person or by mail:  Katy ISD ESC, 6301 South Stadium Lane, room 1520, Katy 77494.  Please make checks payable to “Katy ISD Food for Families.”

Food for Families, a Katy ISD Partners in Education yearly initiative, unites our Katy ISD staff and community in holiday support for select students and their families.  To learn more, visit Partners in Education under the “Community” tab at www.katyisd.org or contact Tammy Stringer, 281-396-2645, tammyrstringer@katyisd.org.

2016foodforfamiliesbanner

 

Katy, TX – October 24, 2016  

“Outbacker of the Month” is Odessa Kilpatrick Elementary ‘s most prestigious award. Kilpatrick Outbackers exhibit “Koalaty” character: they always lend a helping hand, have a smile on their face, serve as role models, and go above and beyond to make OKE an exemplary school. Each month, one student from each grade level, a staff member, and a volunteer are selected “Outbacker of the Month.”  Our September  Outbackers are teacher Rhonda Miller, students Edward Barbee, Grayson Sanchez, Declan Hoeferlin, Racheet Bedi, Caroline MacLellan , Tyler Cline and volunteer Felicia Schubert.

okeoutbackerphoto

 

Katy, Texas – August 25, 2016

Heading back to school can be an exciting time of transition for families with preschool and Kindergartners, but it’s important to develop healthy habits – starting with your drop-off ritual – that set everyone in the family up for success for the year to come. That’s why Kiddie Academy developed an infographic outlining some of our kid-tested, mom-approved drop-off tips to start your school year off strong – starting when you get out of the car and head into school. They even include bonus tips from professionals who have been there: moms and dads like you!

drop_off_ritual_infographic

(click to enlarge)
Information courtesy of Kiddie Academy

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

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.

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.

B-Balance
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.

C-Connection
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.

Katy, TX News (December 16, 2014) – Bo Levi Mitchell, a 2008 graduate of Katy High School, recently led the Calgary Stampeders to a 20-16 win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and took home the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award during the 2014 Grey Cup Canadian Championship Football Game.

Bo Levi Mitchell

The 2014 Grey Cup win adds to Mitchell’s impressive list of athletic awards including the Katy High School State Championship in 2007; a National Championship at Eastern Washington University in 2010; and the 2011 Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

Click here for more information on the 2014 Grey Cup.

 

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.

Katy ISD parents Vince and Pam Zinnante speak out on the Katy 2014 Bond Election

Written by Pam Zinnante

Katy, TX News –  We have lived in Katy for 35 years, and have seen multiple bond issues approved to relieve overcrowding in schools. My husband and I were pleased to vote in favor of the bond that provided relief to the south side of Katy when there was an outcry that Cinco Ranch High School had hit over 3,400 students and would grow to almost 3,800 students by the time Seven Lakes High School was due to open. Within a few years, fast growth indicated the need for yet another high school serving Katy ISD south of I-10, and a community that should not take sides rightly voted in favor of another school and additional improvements and spaces to benefit all students district-wide.

Both Morton Ranch and Katy High School are hoping for relief from the expected growth in the Grand Pkwy. corridor. Those who think new buildings are unnecessary may be unaware that Morton Ranch High School is severely overcrowded. Lunch hours have to be expanded in order to be able to feed all of the students, and extra time between classes is needed to make it to outdoor temporary villages through halls too packed to navigate. How does that impact the education of students? Every minute of educational time lost matters!

So, my husband and I ask our friends and neighbors in Katy ISD to not abandon the needs of those students who would benefit from the changes suggested in the bond. This is not about a vote for a new stadium, but about the recognition that all students in Katy ISD, regardless of feeder pattern, have a need to be educated in a safe environment where the focus can be on curriculum. Thank you for voting in favor of the 2014 Bond Package, Build a Better Tomorrow Together, and supporting the education of our kids. KM

Vince and Pam Zinnante have lived in Katy for 35 years and have watched their three daughters graduate from Morton Ranch and Katy High School.

Katy Magazine would like to thank the Zinnante’s for offering their opinion on such an important issue. For information on the Bond package, visit katyisd.org.

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.
Kids-on-devices

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.

Mom-&-son-on-Phone

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

Katy mom Lara Massey shares her story of living through her worst nightmare, the tragic accident involving her 6-year-old daughter, and how Preslee Nicholson’s journey of recovery has brought hope to many

Written by Lara Massey | Select photography by Sassy Massey Photography

Katy, TX News – Arriving four weeks early, Preslee was born a fighter. After spending her first seven days in NICU, she came home weighing a little less than five pounds. The first few months of her life were just a glimpse of her strength and will to live. When Preslee was 2, her dad and I divorced. He was awarded visitation at various times, mostly during summer vacation for six weeks. In time, I remarried, and in a few short years our family welcomed Kaylee and Jax. Our lives were complete.

Lara Massey has been overwhelmed by the support she and her family have received from her hometown of Katy, and people around the country who have followed their journey
Photo by Melissa Brewer

Summer Days
Friday, July 5, 2013 was normal. Our family spent the day swimming at my parent’s house counting the days until Preslee returned home in two weeks. I knew Preslee would be traveling that day, and I was nervous. She was making a cross-country journey from Texas to Virginia with her dad’s girlfriend to visit family. I talked to her that night and told her I loved her, to be good, and that I would call her in the morning. By then, she would be in Virginia. I went to sleep that night uneasy, I always worry. I kept thinking that if I could just sleep, I’d wake up in the morning and Preslee would be off the road, safe and sound.

The Call
At 6 a.m. my cell phone rang. I heard a voice on the other end asking, “Are you the mother of Preslee Nicholson?” My heart stopped, and I said, “Yes.” The doctor told me that my daughter had been in a terrible accident. The words, “her heart is still beating, but she is non-responsive. She is not breathing on her own and has critical injuries,” kept repeating over and over.

Our lives changed in an instant. I woke up my husband Jarrod, and told him Preslee was hurt. I remember him flying out of bed and dropping to his knees, praying through his tears. I wasn’t crying – I don’t know why. We left the house with nothing except my purse and one phone charger. I threw up in the front yard, but I didn’t cry.

Preslee Nicholson was in a life-threatening car accident on July 5, 2013

 

Flying to Our Baby
After dropping off our two younger children with my parents, we got a flight and were in Winston-Salem, bedside by 2 p.m. To this day, I don’t know how I emotionally survived two flights across the country not knowing if my baby would be alive when I got there.

As our plane landed, the hospital informed me they were going to have to open Preslee’s abdomen to relieve pressure and “to be aware.” I wasn’t even sure what that meant. I remember the drive to the hospital, I kept wondering with each curve of the road “Is this where it happened? Was my baby crying for me?”

Arriving at the hospital, I made my way to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Before I saw Preslee, her doctor informed me that it had been a single car accident. My daughter was found on the floorboard in the back seat, pinned down by one of the doors that had been inverted from the impact of the crash. Numb with fear, her doctor led me down a hallway to the last room. The room was large and filled with machines, a big bed, and my little girl. She was asleep, hurt, and swollen with a sheet covering her abdomen that now contained a wound vac with suction pulling blood and fluid out of her little body. She was on an oscillator to breathe.

Her skull was fractured, her femur was split in two, and her arm and wrist were broken. Her lungs were collapsed. Her liver and arms had deep lacerations. Her ligaments in her neck were torn, and her thoracic vertebra had compression fractures. She couldn’t breathe on her own, sit up, or walk. She was heavily sedated due to pain. She’s my gymnast, my partner in crime, and she’s only 6.

Devastating Injuries
I asked over and over if my daughter would be okay. The only response was that they were going to try their hardest to save my little girl’s life. For now, we had to look at time in one-hour increments. If we get through this hour, we will look to the next. The doctors didn’t know if she would have brain damage, be paralyzed, wake up, or if she would even survive. I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed in my entire life. I reached out to my family and friends back home in Katy. I told them to pray. I told them to tell their friends to pray. Please God, save her. Please do not make me go home without my daughter.

Nicholson with one of her nurses at Spero Rehab in Katy

Praying for Preslee
From then on, the clock was ticking. In the coming days, we would see small improvements only to have a set back. Meanwhile, my friends set up a website, “Pray for Preslee Lynn.” It soon became “P4P.” Before I knew it, packages were being sent to the hospital, 20 to 30 letters a day, P4P car decals were made, and people started sending us clothes and personal items since we left home without anything. Ministers from all over North Carolina were stopping by to pray with us – it was amazing.

We spent the month of July in the hospital. Slowly, we moved her from the PICU, to intermediate care, and then to the general care floor. Preslee was weaned off of her medications. She started to show her doctors she knew exactly what they were saying and that she was determined to get out of there.

I sang to her in the hospital, painted her nails, put her hair in pigtail braids, and gave her feet spa treatments while she slept. I left music on 24/7, read books to her, and told her I loved her constantly. After 22 days, we were ready to go home. I was so happy, but knew we had a long road ahead of us. Preslee was in a turtle shell, a neck brace, arm cast, and couldn’t do anything on her own. She was miserable, but she was alive. We couldn’t fly, so God sent to us the amazing crew of Life Star Emergency Services. We made it home in approximately 21 hours via ambulance.

Nicholson has received many messages and tokens from people who have prayed for her recovery

Coming Home to Katy
Arriving home, there were balloons, gifts, meals, and packages from wonderful people who were following our journey. My small town of Katy amazed us with support.

Doctor’s appointments started the next day. Within one week of being home, her neck brace came off. Within two weeks, her cast was gone. She started first grade in a wheelchair and turtle shell. By mid-September her turtle shell came off, and she was able to start putting pressure on her leg; and by the end of the month, the wheelchair was gone. Within three days of being out of her wheelchair, she was walking. Within two days of being out of her turtle shell she climbed the rock wall at the mall.

She started gymnastics again, loves swimming and diving, playing with her siblings, and touching lives. I don’t know what is in store for the rest of Preslee’s life, or for mine, but I know I made it through my worst nightmare. I still question why. But something amazing and beautiful came from this tragedy. A little girl changed the hearts of so many, and let God shine through her. KM

EDITOR’S NOTE: We would like to thank Lara Massey for sharing her story of faith and strength. If you have an inspirational story you would like to share, email editor@katymagazine.com. As one of our former Katy Magazine cover girls, we will always be cheering for Preslee!

Katy ISD campuses discuss the importance of this anti-bullying campaign

Written by Kirsten Cornell | Photography by Anetrius Wallace

Katy, TX News – The No Place for Hate initiative, which launched in schools in 2001 by the Anti-Defamation League, provides educators and students with the resources to ensure that anti-bias and diversity education are an integral part of the school curriculum. “Our campus made the decision to pursue the No Place for Hate campus designation because we felt it was important for all students to feel accepted, valued, and respected for their individual differences,” says Doreen Martinez, assistant principal at Morton Ranch Junior High. “We also wanted to provide an opportunity to bring attention to bullying and help educate students on the negative effects of teasing, ostracism, intimidation, and rumor spreading.”

Morton Ranch Junior High No Place for Hate representatives Betsy Irwin, Doreen Martinez, Amanda Lara, Vanessa Whitehead, Mark McCord, Cindy Lamm, and Jordan Bates

Earning the Designation
The Anti-Defamation League asks that designated campuses hold meetings to discuss the initiative with the students and discuss active ways in which they can participate. “Students sign a resolution of respect and in doing so, they commit to ensuring that our school is a No Place for Hate campus,” explains Cimarron Elementary counselor Elizabeth Kratz. “Children spend most of their time with us, and we are the guiding factor in their lives. We want to make sure they understand differences not only in themselves, but in others as well.”

Stephens Elementary planned a “mix it up” at lunch where students were encouraged to invite students they didn’t know to sit and eat with them. “The goal was to make sure every student was included and felt welcome,” says Stephanie Vaughan, the school’s principal. Their culminating activity to-date has been a school-wide diversity concert, including a repertoire of songs representing different cultures.

At Morton Ranch, their No Place for Hate (NPH) Club meets at the beginning of the year to select three activities that will address appreciating differences, respect, kindness towards others, and anti-bullying efforts on campus. This year, the NPH club chose to have a Bullying Awareness Month which included a Unity Day where the entire school wore orange in support of bringing an end to bullying.

Club members also utilized technology to research various celebrities who had been bullied as teenagers during their Celebrity Bully Quotes event. “Students designed graphics with celebrity names and quotes about their personal experiences,” explains Martinez. “The goal was to help students understand that even famous celebrities had experienced, and were able to overcome, the negative effects of bullying.” The students also plan to create a multimedia presentation about how bullying impacts a student’s life.

Stephens Elementary antibullying advocates Yvette Sylvan, Caitlyn McCollum, Timothy Park, Stephanie Vaughan, Gabriel Santana, Samantha Boyer, and Alejandra Huerta

The Scarring Truth
According to the National Education Association, it is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. “Schools need to be a safe place for students and staff. No one should feel like they don’t belong,” says Saneé Bell, Cimarron’s principal. “Bullying excludes others and is damaging emotionally. It can take years to heal the scars that occur from acts of bullying, and it is important that we eradicate it from our schools.”

Children who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Martinez believes that because bullying can take on various forms, many students experience bullying in some way. Morton Ranch’s goal when working with students who are experiencing bullying is to help them understand that the bully has the issue, not them. “I want our students to feel confident in themselves and take a more assertive position by taking the appropriate steps to stop bullying,” adds Martinez.

Vaughan understands that what her students are learning in elementary school impacts how they will behave in the future and interact with others long after they have left the Stephens campus. “Young children are very impressionable, and they emulate what is modeled,” she says. “It is our responsibility to educate our students about acceptance and model it.” She adds that students know that bullying and disrespectfulness will not be tolerated, “We continue to have high expectations for how our students and staff treat one another.”

Cimarron Elementary students with their No Place for Hate leaders Holly Heiman, Brooke Foreman, Elizabeth Kratz, Saneé Bell, and Tanya Hughey

United Against Bullying
Part of preventing campus bullying is providing outlets for students to report incidents or discuss any issue they may be having in a safe environment. “Safety Net” has been utilized at several Katy ISD campuses and proven effective. “The safety net box is located in the library and students can fill out a form and drop it off. It is then checked by the school counselor,” explains Vaughan. “Students are encouraged to tell any adult that they are most comfortable confiding in as soon as possible.”

Campuses have noticed a significant difference in the atmosphere since accepting the NPH Challenge. At Cimarron, Kratz notes that children feel more free to talk to others and communicate their needs when they need assistance. “It has created a positive environment. Our students are very accepting of others and seek out help when they feel that someone is not being treated with respect,” she says. “Since this is our fifth year of being a NPH campus, we can see the difference in the level of respect and acceptance of individual differences and backgrounds,” adds Vaughan. Stephens Elementary has plans to expand their diversity book club and continue with programs that celebrate diversity through fine arts and in the classroom.

Martinez maintains that is important for students to know how to be proactive in addressing negative behavior by finding peaceful solutions and relying on staff to help keep them safe. “We have seen an awareness of the NPH club at Morton Ranch. Our students know that we are united with the campus to put an end to bullying,” she adds.

“Cimarron is a family, and we want all of our children to feel safe when they come to school. If students do not feel safe, they will not learn,” explains Kratz. “By teaching students that hate is not tolerated and that kindness is the right thing, students are more likely to have positive attitudes about themselves and others.” KM

KIRSTEN CORNELL is the lead associate editor for Katy Magazine. She has seen the effects of campus bullying and applauds Katy ISD for taking an active stand against it.

Summertime is a good time to face challenges of the school year

The last 180 days have been a whirlwind for many families. We are the parents of four boys. Our oldest just completed kindergarten. Our heads are still spinning over how much our little boy has grown in such a short amount of time. I think it’s important to take some time this summer to reflect a bit on what changes may have occurred in our children. Celebrate and encourage the good, and think of some ways to tackle the challenges that also reared their ugly head.

Of course he’s grown in size. He barely squeezes into the shorts he began school with; however, I couldn’t seem to muster up the motivation to buy new shorts for the last month of school. This sudden growth has been fed, literally, by his increase in appetite. I thought I was giving him enough food each day. In the spring, he let me know that I needed to “add something else in a plastic bag” to his lunch box. I am planning on meeting this challenge head-on by having him help me pack his lunch each night. Or perhaps having him put together five or 10plastic baggies on Sunday and he can put whatever two he chooses into the lunch box each morning.

Fine motor, fine motor, fine motor skills. We know our son can certainly work on these seemingly all-important concepts. While he can stand to practice proper pencil grip and handwriting, we have seen progress since day one. We like to encourage him to work hard on writing and cutting while he is at school. To meet this challenge over the summer, he will spend some time working on these things. I know other children have issues with reading, math, or social behavior. Summer seems the perfect time to practice needed skills in a relaxed setting.

Our son has made new friends this year. We would like to encourage these friendships while walking the thin line of being important role models to him. One challenge this year has been new sayings, new likes, and new ways of playing – all brought on by his being surrounded by 18 other kindergartners each day. Summer is an easy answer to bring back family time. The pace is slower, and memories can be made over splash pads, board games, bike rides, and visits with relatives. It is a joy to see the boys playing Legos or cars together instead of wolfing down breakfast to get to school on time.

We definitely want to encourage our son to hold onto the concepts he has learned and begun to master. He found a lot of interests during these past 180 days. Map skills, a little Texas history, number lines, and music are just a few of the things he has come home excited about. During the summer, we’d like to spend some time on digging a little deeper into these kinds of things. Trips to the library or museum are planned, of course, as well as YouTube videos that might help him see and learn a bit more.

What kinds of challenges and changes have you experienced this school year? How do you plan to meet the challenges head on? How will your child spend the summer?

Katy parents share tips on common topics we all face.

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

Written by Kirsten Cornell

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

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

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

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

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

Check out more helpful tips in our Parent Talk article.

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

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Beck’s Student Discovery Contest
Julia Yang recently won Beck Junior High’s first Student Directory Cover Contest. The theme was “Just Think.” As part of her prize, Yang received a Beck Junior High hoodie and a decal. Pictured is Yang with principal Carra Fleming.

Beck's Discovery Contest
Beck’s Discovery Contest

Rachel’s Challenge at Beckendorff JH
Larry Scott, the uncle of Rachel Scott who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999, shared with Beckendorff Junior High students about the program Rachel’s Challenge. The challenge is based on five ideas: look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness, and start a chain reaction. Pictured are PTA vice president of programs, Amber Willingham; Larry Scott; principal Mindy Dickerson; and PTA president Ashley Vann.

Rachel's Challenge at Beckendorff JH
Rachel’s Challenge at Beckendorff JH

 

CRHS Concerto Winner Ethan Le
Ethan Le, a sophomore at Cinco Ranch High School recently won the Clear Lake Symphony 2014 Youth Concerto Competition. As the winner, he will be performing the first movement of Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto in D major” at the Clear Lake Symphony on March 21 at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

CRHS Concerto Winner Ethan Le
CRHS Concerto Winner Ethan Le

Seven Lakes Gives Quilts to Texas Children’s Hospital
The Seven Lakes High School fashion design class donated their lap quilt creations to the Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. Pictured are Katy Williford, child life specialist; Jordan Groth; Samantha Gautier; Krista Caballero, child life specialist; Kaitlyn French; Emily Grass; and Sarah Rowe, child life specialist.

Seven Lakes Gives Quilts to Texas Children’s Hospital
Seven Lakes Gives Quilts
to Texas Children’s Hospital

Cinco Ranch Robotics Team Invited to Texas Bowl
For the second year in a row the Cinco Ranch High School Robotics Team 624 “CRyptonite” was invited to the Texas Bowl. The team represents the For Inspirations and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics, showcasing their Frisbee shoot robot, Thor. Pictured are Johnny Goforth, Shayan Baig, Dylan Bray, and Justin Kleiber.

Cinco Ranch Robotics Team Invited to Texas Bowl
Cinco Ranch Robotics Team Invited
to Texas Bowl

Mission Possible at Taylor High School
The Taylor High School student council partners with school staff to help raise funds for the Stephen and Stephanie Poss family. Both Stephen and Stephanie work at Taylor High School and recently had a son, Beckham, prematurely. Taylor students and staff have raised over $5,000 to go towards the family’s rising medical bills.

Mission Possible at Taylor High School
Mission Possible at Taylor High School

Beck JH Welcomes Principal
Beck Junior High welcomes their new principal, Carra Fleming from Holland Elementary School where she also served as principal. Former Beck principal Jeff Stocks now serves at Taylor High School. Pictured are seventh-grade assistant principal Dan DeYoung, eighth-grade assistant principal Marsha Dufner, Beck PTA president Maggie Boyle, new Beck Jr. High principal Carra Fleming, and sixth-grade assistant principal Kevin Webber.

Beck JH Welcomes Principal
Beck JH Welcomes Principal

KYB Owls Meet Rice Lady Owls
The KYB Owls basketball team recently got to do a clinic with the Rice University Lady Owls. Included in the meet-up was Rice’s No. 40, Megan Palmer, a Cinco Ranch grad.

KYB Owls Meet Rice Lady Owls
KYB Owls Meet Rice Lady Owls

 

Everyone knows Katy is a great place for kids, and that is especially true when it comes to planning a fabulous birthday party for your Katy cutie. Make party planning a family affair by involving the birthday boy or girl in the process, allowing them to pick a theme, a party game, or a special snack to serve. We’ve compiled a list of a few great venues in the Katy area to help you find the perfect party place for your child.

AMF West Houston Bowl
19936 Saums Rd.
281-578-9292 amf.com

Chuck E. Cheese
2002 Gulfmont Dr.
281-644-4950 chuckecheese.com

Dewberry Farm
FM 362 and Morrison Rd. Brookshire
866-908-3276 dewberryfarm.com

Houston Fun Plex
13700 Beechnut St. Houston
281-530-7777 houstonfunplex.com

Inflatable Katy
2482 S. Mason Rd.
281-574-3033 inflatablekaty.com

Jump Street
5000 Katy Mills Cir.
281-347-3911 gotjump.com/katy

The Little Gym of Katy
23010A Highland Knolls
281-347-1400 tlgkatytx.com

Main Event Entertainment
24401 Katy Fwy.
281-394-4800 mainevent.com/locations/katy-tx

Mason Road Skate Center
535 Applewhite Dr.
281-392-9555 masonroadskatecenter.com

Multiplicity
1306 Ave. A
832-437-2442 multiplicity.co

Pigtails & Crewcuts
5131 S. Fry Rd., #500
281-492-6061 pigtailsandcrewcuts.com/katy

Pump it Up
923 S. Mason Rd.
281-829-5777

Smith Ranch
25440 Beckendorff Rd.
281-371-3318 smithranchkaty.com

Snip-Its
6501 S. Fry Rd., #200
281-574-1555 snipits.com

Splatterhouse Paintball
1004 FM 359 S. Brookshire
713-515-1238 splatterhousepaintball.com

The Storybook Cottage
5814 First St.
281-574-5707 thestorybookcottage.com

Texas One Volleyball
6400 block of FM 723 Richmond
281-232-5693 texasonevolleyball.org

Tiger-Rock Martial Arts of Katy
625 S. Mason Rd.
281-829-9300 katytkd.com

Tilt Studio
5000 Katy Mills Circle
281-644-2340 tiltstudio.com

Times Square Entertainment
402 W. Grand Pkwy.
281-395-8550 timessquaretx.com

Know another birthday party place? Email us! editor@katymagazine.com

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

Written by Clare Jensen | Photography by Lara Massey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re taking a closer look at the bond shared between identical twins through the eyes of local Katyites

Written by Kirsten Cornell Photography by Lindsey Shelburne

KATY, Texas (KM) –  As the crowd cheered and the dust settled, 8-year-old Christie Mewis took to the plate and readied her bat wanting to win another hometown softball game. Back in the dugout, her twin sister Carol suddenly grabbed her cheek, jumped to her feet, and shrieked, “Ouch!” Seconds later, Christie was struck in the eye by the pitch.

The connection between twins is unique and undeniable. There have been stories about twins feeling emotional and physical pain even though they were separated by miles, states, or even oceans. They enjoy a type of closeness beyond what most siblings experience. “We get closer each year that passes,” shares Christie. “I appreciate that she always there for me. No matter the situation or the time of day, I can always depend on her support.”

A Special Bond in Katy, Texas
For 9-year-old twin sisters Amorie and Mackenzy Meadows, being in tune with each other and their feelings is nothing new. “Once when Amorie was in Meixco and I was in Texas, I knew she did not feel well and was crying so I asked my mom to call and check on her. I was about 4 years old,” recalls Mackenzy.  “She was so sure that something was wrong so I called and sure enough, she was crying,” confirms mother Bethany Geiman. “It was strange because she had not spoken to her at all that day yet she knew.”

Mackenzy (purple) and Amorie Meadows at their home in Katy by Lindsey Shelburne-2Amoire and Mackenzy Meadows

Deanna Wygal, mother of 13-year-old twins Devin and Dylan, remembers an instance when she was downstairs with Devin watching a TV program about twin telepathy which prompted her to ask him if he knew what Dylan was thinking who was upstairs. When he replied no, she asked him what he was thinking about. “He told me ‘donuts’ and we just laughed about it,” Deanna says. A few minutes later when Dylan headed downstairs they told him about the program and asked him what Devin had been thinking about. “He just said I was crazy,” laughs Deanna. “When I asked him to just guess he replied, ‘I don’t know mom, donuts.’ Devin’s eyes just went wide, donuts was such a random word and had no meaning to Devin.” Devin had been sitting with his mom the entire time and had no contact with his brother prior to the conversation.

DevonandDylanatCincoRanchHighSchoolbyLindseyShelburneofLindseyLouisePhotography-6Devin and Dylan Wygal

Some twins often experience Idioglossia or “twin talk”, as it’s commonly referred to. A seemingly secret language understood only by the twins themselves. “When we were younger, we made up code words and a secret language just to pick on my mom,” shares Carol Franklin with a laugh. “The more confused she got, the more fun we had with it.” Even when mirror twins Carol and Christie tried to let their mom in on their conversation, she still found it difficult to understand and was unable to participate.

“We are always on the same brain wave,” shares Christie. “We can tell what each other wants to do or say without speaking a word. It is actually weird sometimes – I can just give her a head nod and she knows exactly what I’m talking about.” Carol agrees saying that with simple eye contact, she can understand exactly what Christie is feeling in that exact moment. “Now we have a sort of unspoken twin language. We can read each other from a pause in conversation, a tiny sigh, or a sarcastic comment. It drives my husband crazy when we’re together,” she says.

Carol Franklin and Christie Mewis at LaCenterra by Lindsey Shelburne-19Carol and Christie

Deanna also remembers when her boys were younger, they would babble back and forth seemingly in intense conversation understanding perfectly what the other was saying. “They are very close and we can see that they have a special bond,” she shares.

Double the Fun in Katy, Texas
In addition to double the toys and a person to share closets with, identical twins relish the fact that they always have a pal they can count on nearby. “I always have someone to hang out with, we are best friends,” shares Dylan. Both students at Cinco Ranch Junior High School, the boys enjoy football, basketball, fishing, paintball, share the same tastes in music, and run with the same circle of friends.

“Being a twin is awesome. There are more clothes, more candy, and less work,” says Mackenzy. “We both love to play outside, visit our grandparents, and play with our baby brother Coby,” Amorie adds.

Being look-alikes can certainly pose its advantages, especially when it comes to sharing in a good-natured prank. “We tricked our teachers one year on April Fool’s Day by switching classes,” Dylan says with a grin. “They didn’t even notice until they were told what we had done.”

For Christie and Carol, their hands-down favorite thing about being a twin was being born with their best friend already in place. “I always have a partner in crime,” shares Christie. “She always has my back and is my number one protector.” Besides having someone she could depend on, Carol appreciates the fact that her sister drove her to be a better person. “She pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone and to accomplish things that I was scared of doing.”

Challenging Comparisons
Being treated as an individual often poses a challenge twins. People often compare them and lose sight of the fact that they are not a match set, but a pair of individuals defining their own paths.  “Many times, I would have to really sit back and contemplate if I wanted to do something because I really wanted to, or because Christie did,” says Carol.

“It can be difficult when one of us does better at something than the other,” says Devin. “And when people compare us,” adds Dylan.

Carol remembers being asked questions such as Are you the pretty one or the ugly one? Are you the smart one or the dumb one? Are you the good twin or the evil twin? “I would politely answer that I was the smart, good twin,” she says. “Christie would say that she was the pretty smart, evil, athletically gifted twin.”

Competition amongst them, while somewhat healthy, often proved stressful at times. “We turned everything into a competition,” says Carol, admitting that they still do although it is much friendlier now.  “It helped us excel in sports but it was also very tiring. No matter what I accomplished, I always felt like she outperformed me, it was difficult to handle at times.”

“As a twin it is a challenge to make sure that we are both happy and equal,” shares Christie. “Although I always know that she would be happy for me, I also want her to feel like we have the same opportunities to be successful in our lives.”

Unbreakable Bond in Katy, Texas
Beyond the built-in playmate and despite double the clothing to put away on laundry day, all agree that growing up as twin is a unique experience providing tremendous benefit. “We appreciate that we are always there for each other,” Devin and Dylan agree. “If one of us is having a bad day or has a problem, we are always there to help each other get through it.”

“My sister is willing to stop whatever she is doing in my time of need. But I most appreciate the fact that just lets me be me,” says Carol. “I am always there to defend her, protect her, cheer for her, and love her.”

“I can always make her laugh when she is having a bad day,” Christie says with a smile. “And she would drive around the world and back just to make sure that I am happy.”

 

KIRSTEN HAM is the associate editor for Katy Magazine and has always been fascinated by twins, especially her fraternal twin cousins, Rebekah and Courtney.

www.katymagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/katy-texas-the-twin-connection-katy-tx.pdf

With our oldest boy beginning pre-kindergarten this fall, my husband and I have a lot of jitters. I think that these feelings are totally normal, although they're certainly not fun to have.

Our son has been "in school" for the past three years. Toward the end of each summer leading into school, I felt a combination of pride that he was learning so much and fear that I wouldn't be with him all the time. We worried that he would miss us terribly, be bullied, or even be bored and then misbehave. It seemed that all the bad things that had happened to us as kids in school were sure to happen to him, and all of the good things – overwhelmingly good, of course – wouldn't.

Now, he's our oldest, so we know that we are navigating unsailed waters with him. The triplets will have each other, but they will also benefit from our experience with their older brother. In our minds, we know that it's unlikely that all our worries will come true. In our hearts, we still are concerned.

Have we learned anything from his past three years? Probably the same as other parents charting this course. For example, teachers are usually great. Early childhood teachers especially know that children enter their rooms at various stages and from a variety of backgrounds. I know all students at every grade level are at different stages, but at least a class of fifth-graders has been through several years of schooling and has some common knowledge and experiences.

We've also seen our son excel in school. He, like so many of his peers, enjoys going. We ask him what his favorite parts of the day are, and he usually says things like, "Circle time and recess and going to the library." He doesn't know that those fun experiences are chances for him to grow socially, verbally, and physically. He hasn't yet had to take a test or write an essay. Those things are for later, of course. So we know that he will be challenged according to his age and ability. Cutting with scissors today is enough of a challenge!

Lastly, we have discovered that we are pretty good parents, at least with regard to education! School is important to us, but we can't just leave all of our sons' learning to someone else. We share our love of books, music, art, and history with our boys. Our son will get his own library card for his birthday even though we could just check out all our family's books with one. We subscribe to a few magazines to help our boys see that learning new things is always important. It's terribly hard sometimes, but we limit the TV watching in the house to a few shows a day.

And in addition to practicing cutting out pictures and straight lines and rolling out Play Dough to strengthen his hands for writing (as his teacher suggested), we play together. We know that parents are children's greatest and most important role models and pillars.

So, although our nerves are in a bundle as we prepare for pre-K, deep, deep down, we know that he is ready for this next chapter. Tell us how your family has gotten over this hurdle – we need some good tips! And if you're just getting started like our family, please let us know how you are doing these days before the big day! Email editor@katymagazine.com.
 

Pleasantly surprised by Katyites’ kind words and good deeds during a family shopping trip

As I’ve written before, my husband and I don’t travel to many places with all of the children. The park and the mall are safe places, since there are a lot of wide, open spaces for the triplets and their older brother to act like children without bothering many people.

However, one gloomy day we needed to go to Target. We wanted to get out of the house, since the weather had been rainy for days in a row. We buckled everyone in and headed out. We went to the Super Target near LaCenterra. We could get some groceries and baby items and look quickly at the toy aisle.
My husband maneuvered the quad stroller through the aisles, while I pushed the nearly overflowing cart. Any parent can tell you how much space baby wipes, Pediasure, and diapers can quickly take up in an ordinary cart. The babies drew all kinds of nice looks. They were having a swell time. Older brother got a toy. All were happy – including the adults.

What struck us about this trip out were two strangers whom we met. That’s what this blog is about: you Katyites! I wanted to let you know that kindness in our city is alive and well. The first person was the cashier. He was a teenager just doing his job. As he scanned our items, he asked my husband about the boys. The usual – ages, names, how much work is involved with multiples and a 4-year-old. Then he said, “I’ve seen a lot of kids here. Yours are the best behaved.”

I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe this young man says this to everyone. But it made our day, since we had been so hesitant to “bother” people and cause a scene in public. It’s hard work to load everyone up and get a simple shopping trip done. His words were gold.

As we were leaving, the rain began – more of a downpour, really. My husband took the shopping cart and older brother and ran to the van. I followed once I saw he had the doors open. I put the babies in through the back and buckled them in, folded the stroller, and shut the back. My husband took care of the groceries and buckling in the other.

We were drenched, but at least we were almost in the car. All of a sudden, a kind woman yelled out to us from her car. The diapers! We had left the box of diapers on the bottom of the cart. Thirty some odd dollars and some very useful diapers could have been left behind to be either destroyed by rain or stolen and sold back by another, not so helpful, stranger.

We thanked the woman profusely. She said, “I was watching you two move so fast, I couldn’t let you forget the diapers in the rain.” Now it’s your turn, Katy readers. Share with us the kindness you have observed or been on the generous end of. It really made our day and gave us confidence that we can take our beautiful family out without too much doubt! Email editor@katymagazine.com.

Father/son bonding doesn’t go exactly as planned

It was a 6 p.m. game at Rhodes Stadium. My husband was truly excited about taking our four-year-old son to one of his first football games. Our son was excited too. The two of them teased me about all the junk food they would eat while I stayed home with the babies. As they left, I heard my husband talking about what they would see.

Forty minutes later, they were on their way home already. It seems that our son just didn’t seem interested in learning about the game. They didn’t even eat anything while there. He just wanted to walk up the steps and watch some of the plays.

Needless to say, my husband was disappointed.

This sometimes happens with our kids. We parents are so eager to share our likes and our interests with our children and when they don’t seem to reciprocate, we feel frustrated. Because this happened to my husband and not to me, I feel like I can look at it a little more objectively.

  1. Our son spent time with his dad. This is important no matter where my husband took him. Grocery shopping, out fishing, to the bookstore…it was quality time for the two of them.
  2. Our son had fun on his own level. He took in a four-year-old’s interpretation of a game. He saw the crowd, he heard the music. That was enough for him. When I ask him about that night now, he remembers things that were key for him.
  3. Our oldest feels like a “big boy” which is important for him as he learns to deal with three toddlers. They don’t get to go to football games yet. He sees that he is allowed to do special things which we hope makes him feel special.
  4. Even though I did worry about the food they may have eaten, doing something different and making it a special treat is so important for kids – and us! I love my Starbucks treat or a night out with my husband. It’s different, it’s special, it’s important.

While my husband was disappointed, we know that our son will remember these seemingly insignificant times with us. They are shaping his memories and ours.

What little things do you like to share with your children? If you have grown children, what kind of simple pictures linger in your memories? Please share so we all can learn.

Five simple ways to mark the change of seasons

I know it’s still in the 90’s here in Katy, so it doesn’t feel like fall at all. Even though I am a realist, I am also an impossible romantic when it comes to this season. ‘Autumnal is one of my favorite words. Apple cider and wagon rides fill my imagination. My son is learning about our senses and each season definitely has its own smells, sounds, and tastes, so I will focus this post on some family activities based upon our senses.

Sight
We don’t really get to enjoy fall colors in our area, and with the drought and fires, even east Texas may be hurting for fall foliage this year. If you want changing trees, you have to get creative. Easy leaf templates can be found online. Print some out on orange, yellow, and red construction paper. Talk with your children about kinds of leaves and the trees they come from. Which state has the largest tree population? What kind of trees does Texas have? Use your leaf cut-outs as decorations for your table or write the names of people you want to remember to be thankful for during this season.

Smell
This is an easy and fun sense to celebrate. The fall is made for apples, pears, dates, and kale (yes, for the healthier bunch!). Head over to Katy Budget Books for a cookbook and have some fun with your family concocting some delicious smells. Make 2011 the year to experiment with different recipes. Besides food, I smelled (before I saw) some of those cinnamon brooms that are around stores. Even though it’s 98 degrees today doesn’t mean you can’t smell autumnal!

Taste
This goes along with smelling, of course, but also you can take it a step further and invite some people who really need cheering up. This season is centered around family meals. If you know of a co-worker, a neighbor, or a teacher who is alone right now, invite them over for a day of baking or for cider and football. Adult friends can savor fall wines and enjoy food and wine pairings.

Hearing
Don’t you hear the sound of the fall leaves crunching and the cool winds blowing? No? How about hearing the sounds of fall at the Katy Rice Harvest Festival or the various bazaars around our community? Bingo games, auctions, music, the sound of pumpkins growing…perfect!

Touch

As I said before, this season is one of family and friends. Make it a point to reach out to those who may hate this season. Those who have lost a loved one or whose financial circumstances prevent celebrations are especially in need of compassion – and not just on Thanksgiving Day. Letting others know we care is a lesson we should pass on to our children. The more they see us doing it, the more likely they will grow up into caring, sensitive, and helping adults.

What did I miss? How can you be creative this wonderful season? Let us know!

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.

Enjoying Katy ISD Sports at a Young Age

It’s an understatement to say that football is big here in Texas. Football has never been that important to me. Even in high school and college, I didn’t mind skipping a game to do something else. I didn’t grow up in Texas, and maybe that has something to do with it! Our sons are Texans, and our oldest is beginning to watch sports with my husband. Of course, the questions range from, “Dad, what ball is that?” to “Are they supposed to be hitting each other?”

So much to learn!

My husband and I have decided that it is time our four-year-old sports fan attend some games around Katy. Forget the Texans, they plan to head out to local high schools to watch some practices and, of course, to Rhodes Stadium. My husband is researching school colors and players so that he can share details about each game. I am looking forward to seeing the bands and the drill teams.

Meanwhile, our son is also concerned with what food they’ll find at the games and whether Mom will let him eat hot dogs and popcorn. On my side, hot dogs and popcorn have always been on that scary “Forbidden Foods” list that doctors give out. I wasn’t going to let our children eat them until they were maybe 10!

Now that games our part of our weekly fun, I hope that our son learns to understand and appreciate football and the hard work that coaches, parents, and players put into it. I say appreciate the game because Mom’s not sure if she’s going to let him ever play it!

Do you have Katy football fun planned for your fall? Share some stories with us about how your family prepares for the big game.

Celebrating the Little Things

As a mother of four boys, I am used to having a less-than-perfectly-clean house. These hot days of triple digit temperatures don’t help keep a house clean. I can’t really send my boys outside to play, so we make do inside with books, blocks, cars, and videos.

Yesterday, I was so proud of myself for enlisting my oldest boy in a quick cleaning job. Singing the “clean up song,” we rapidly made headway into our living room, I mean, playroom. Perhaps you have such a room in your house.

We had been playing with chunky Legos that day. They are huge Legos, not easily missed since they are brightly colored as well. Right after the boys were tucked in, my husband and I collapsed on the couch before starting to get prepared for the next morning. Wouldn’t you know it – I sat right on a blue Lego!

This got me thinking. There is ALWAYS one more toy that we find after we thought all the toys were picked up. It could be hidden under the couch or on the windowsill out of view. Why don’t we find more valuable things than toys? Why isn’t a twenty dollar bill or a winning Lotto ticket or even that important list just out of view? Why is it always a toy?

I tried to get philosophical with the Lego. Maybe we should use that last, hidden toy to remind ourselves that blessings are also all around us. These blessings are hidden from view, although they are there for the finding. Healthy, happy children, a moment alone with a spouse, an e-mail from a good friend, the moment you realize that everyone in your family who had been ill with the latest virus is suddenly on the mend, the fact that at dinner everyone felt like sharing today: all these little blessings are just waiting to be noticed. When I appreciate them, it makes my daily load a bit brighter and easier to carry.

What blessings are hidden from your view? How do you celebrate these tiny gems?

Katy Mother Gets Ready for Summer Tradition

Guest post by: Usha L. Machiraju

This is my sixth trip back to the car, I have the list of things that need to be packed, and I am franticly checking them off as they go into the trunk.  Towels – check. Food two small coolers for the kids and a big one for us – check. Swim suits, caps and goggles – check. Folding chairs and a beach umbrella – check . Plenty of water and sunscreen – check.  No, we are not going to the beach. We are going to another swim meet!

Like many other parents these days, my husband and I feel like we should give our children every opportunity that we can to explore and excel in as many sports as possible.  They need the exercise and who knows if they get really good at it, it might help them enroll in or maybe even get a scholar ship to a good college.  We have two girls aged 8 and 10 who are completely averse to any type of physical activity and do not have an ounce of competitive spirit between them.  They are straight-A students who play the piano beautifully, but they really needed to be involved in a team sport.

We tried soccer, the one on one practices were fine, but whenever they saw the opposing team running towards them for the ball our two girls would run off the field screaming for their lives.  We tried tennis and gave that up too when we watched them unsuccessfully dodge the tennis ball.  And so came and went a few other sports.

But this summer we enrolled them on a swim team.  They both know how to swim, no one is coming at them or after them and there are no balls involved, so how hard can that be?  The pool where the team practices is not far from our house, we can ride our bikes there so we set out for our first practice in high spirits. And we were not disappointed!

Both my daughters thought it was fun and a lot of the other kids were from their school so it felt like play time.  But when they realized that they had to swim for 45 minutes to an hour every day and do as many as 40 to 50 laps, the whining and the complaining started.  First they protested then their bodies protested.  Sore muscles, summer feet, water in the ears and everything that goes with being in a community pool for prolonged hours.  And that’s just the kids; we as parents had to learn a lot of things too.

I am not sure about the other swim teams out there, but the one we were part of has swimmers of all calibers, in every age group.  There were some kids who were first timers, and there were some who have been competing since the age of 5.  Here are some of the things parents of first timers must know: your kids are not going off to the junior Olympics after two seasons of a summer swim league, in fact your kids might not even get to swim in every event at a swim meet. Don’t get frustrated.

What you can do is to take your kids to every practice and every meet, and encourage them in every way possible.  The practices are gruesome; you do not get to sleep in when school is over.  And the swim meets were a revelation of their own; they last for hours and are chaotic at best.  By the end of the season, we are nowhere near our goal of a college scholar ship, but our kids are better swimmers, they had lots of fun, made many new friends and learned how to be part of a team.

Swimming seems to be a risk free and fun sport, so why not enroll in long term team?  When both our kids tried out and made it into such a team, I proudly told the new coach that they swam in a summer league and she said “Oh, compared to this that is like play time.”  We are in for a very long year!

Must-Haves for the Pantry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My kids are so happy to be off for the holiday today – with the extra stress of cramming for the upcoming TAKS test at school, today came just in time. The weather is so perfect here in Katy today, warm and toasty, but with a cool breeze blowing through. So we started our three day weekend off right, out in the garden and front yard, adding colorful impatiens to our growing collection of spring beauties. Then we planted the rest of our herbs, adding dill, cilantro, and basil to our “edibles” garden. After some fun in the early morning sun, we started breakfast.

Breakfast on the weekends at our house is always a big deal, since there is time to not only create, but enjoy, a fuller spread than on rushed weekday mornings. As I prepared yet another version of my healthy iced coffee for us, and started flipping low-sugar pancakes, my seven year old daughter GiGi exclaimed, “Mom, this is the best weekend ever!â”

She has been looking forward to this weekend for many reasons (she knows there will be an egg hunt on Sunday), but the simplest reason has already been the most rewarding for her – I promised her iced coffee. She asked for it all week, but I just didn’t think it would be right to send her off to first grade, hopped up on full strength coffee. So I told her to wait until the weekend, and now we’re here, and her craving is satisfied. Her proclamation of the “best weekend” is also tied to the fact that she doesn’t love school right now, so she realized this morning that she’s already having this much fun, and – it isn’t even Saturday yet.

That is what I love about kids, and the way they see life – all it takes sometimes is pancakes and iced coffee to make their day. The best things in life really are free when you’re seven. These are the things that really matter, aren’t they?

The Blanco kids enjoy a special treat on their day off from school - iced coffee.

Five Whine-Busting Secrets Revealed!

For most of us moms, chores are something we dread.  I haven’t met a Katy mom yet who looks forward to folding laundry, washing dishes, or cleaning the bathrooms.  If you’re that mom, you can stop reading this article, you don’t need to waste your time!  This piece is for those moms who do their best to clean up the messes, take care of the daily routine tasks, but often find themselves alone in the process.  If this is you, read on, there is hope for help!

Here are five easy ways to get your kids to help with the cleanup of everyday living – after all, who made the messes, dirtied the clothes, and left the peanut butter jar out anyway?

1. Offer a fun reward. Even folding the clean washcloths is more motivating with the promise of something fun attached.  Utilize rewards that are free for you, but make great bargaining tools, such as; a half-hour of child’s favorite show, reading time with you cuddled up on the couch, a 10-minute back rub, pudding!

2. Do it together – team up.  When you are working as a team, the work seems like less, and the chore time goes by quicker.  It’s not so overwhelming to a child to put away the dishes out of the dishwasher if you are right there near them, chopping onions for dinner.  They feel like part of the family team when all members are working together on a chore, instead of a scenario where mom is flipping the TV channels while little Joey is mopping the kitchen!

3. Remind, remind, remind without the nag, nag, nag! It is too easy to nag our children, especially as they get older, and as our expectations of them are increased.  I like to use the word “remind,” as it sounds more politically correct to your child!  It doesn’t seem to raise the “nag flag” in them, and, in turn, their defenses!  For example, “Honey, I just wanted to remind you that today is Tuesday, and it’s your turn to take out the trash!”

4. Lead by example. As much as we parents might not want them to, our children do as they see us do!  Our example speaks so much louder than any words or explanation we might use.  Younger children are really good at pointing this out, too, as my three-year-old daughter has been reminding me lately.  “Slow down, Mom!”  She warns me urgently from her car seat in the back.  “Be careful!”  No matter what I might be currently instructing my twelve-year-old son about safe driving practices, my current driving skills show the truth about what I hold in importance.  The same goes for household chores and the cleanliness standards we hold ourselves to.  There is no use in projecting a standard on our children that we will not hold ourselves to!

5. Flattery is key. Really, flattery?  Yes, praising your child is very helpful when you are trying to achieve compliance in the form of labor out of him!  Of course, I’m talking about the type of “flattery” that is actually relatable to your child and is used to build self-esteem.  For instance, it still works on my son (at twelve) to tell him I need “my handsome son’s help for a minute!”  Or, in my nine-year-old daughter’s case, I tell her I would love if she helped to bathe her baby sister, because “she’s so good at being the big sister!”  I mean the things I’m saying to them, and it’s good to vocalize such esteem building words to my children!  Plus, it usually works!

I’ll admit, these methods are not by-the-book, but then, I’ve never been that kind of parent.  I’m more of a tried-and-true type, and these simple ideas do work!

What about you, Katy mom?  Do you have any great suggestions for us in getting more help from our kids around the house?  Let’s hear them!

Katy Mom Offers up Some of Her Family’s Favorite Activities

Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean the kids have to stay shut up in the house, whining about “nothing to do!”  Instead of sending them with a toothbrush to clean the tile grout at their first complaint of boredom, why not beat them to it with these 11 activity ideas?

1.       Drive around looking at Christmas decorations/lights – My kids love this one, especially if they are snacking on something fun while we do it.  We play Christmas music on the radio, snuggle up with blankets in our mini-van, and ooh and aah at the pretty lights, figurines and nativity scenes all over our well-decorated neighborhood.  Even if the peace and harmony between siblings sounds too good to be true, give it a try, you’ll have some bonding time with each other without technology and chores getting in the way.

2.       Play at McDonald’s – Nothing is easier on the wallet or clock as this one!  The McDonald’s restaurants now are so warm, hip and inviting.  The kids don’t need a happy meal every trip, just a 50 cent cookie or $1 parfait will do.  Our favorite pastime is to let the kids play and squeal their energy away in the indoor play ground while Mom and Dad drink their coffee and talk over their laptops!  I get work done and bond with my husband, all while the kids hang out for an hour at one of their favorite places.

3.       Read, read, and read some more! Nothing costs less than reading to your kids, but will form a heart bond that lasts forever.  My six-year-old, Gigi, loves to read to the family as we fix dinner, bathe little sister, and fold laundry.  She makes cute voices, and intonates to deliver fun involvement in the book.  My nine-year-old, Bella, loves to read to her younger sisters, who sit quietly, smiling at the story.  Read as a family, read as individuals, or even have a family reading contest; whatever it takes to get your kids involved in this affordable and very rewarding pastime.

4.       Make some crafts together for gifts for others, or just for yourselves! – This is a cozy, bonding experience that is simple to do, and low-cost to the checkbook.  Crocheting, needlework, knitting and scrapbooking are our favorites.  It is always fun to scrapbook some summer memories together, as it transports us back to summer and the activities of the trips to the beach, camping, and going on vacation. How fun to recount how it rained us out on our first camping trip, and how sun burnt we were on the beach, and how funny the puppy looked soaking wet…we start feeling warmer immediately.

5.       Family game night – This can be fun, and consists of no more investment than pulling out the old classics: Boggle, chess, Scrabble – all the goodies that exercise our sluggish winter brains. It’s also a great excuse for hot cocoa, popcorn, and candy treats; after all, it is the holidays!  Put down the Wii remote for awhile, and enjoy using your mind and smile for board game night.

6.       Get together with friends – The winter months are perfect for hanging out with those good friends you never get time to see.  Invite them over for a home cooked dinner one night, and catch up in the coziness of your own home.  Let the kids all play, and enjoy good company as you put just one more pot of coffee on.

7.       Cook together – This is the perfect time of year to be in the kitchen as a family; for once, you want the house to be warm from the oven heat.  Teaching the kids how to bread, dice, grate, and chop those veggies, meats and other delights is a healthy bonding experience, and gives kids a chance to take ownership over healthy foods and family favorites.  Eating should be a healthy experience anyway, and cooking together, even when the kids are young, leads to priceless memories.

8.       Bake and decorate holiday cookies together – Pick a family you would like to bless, and get the kids excited about making several different kinds of goodies for them.  Run to the store together, pick out the fun sprinkles and supplies together, and let them roll, press and decorate to their heart’s content.  This is not the time to be neat or perfect, just productive.  My kids still talk about the year they made empanadas with their “abuelita” (Spanish for grandma) for the holidays.  They treasure that memory, and it didn’t cost us anything.

9. Watch a classic movie – My personal favorites are “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Little Women,” but there are so many to choose from.  Get a tissue box, grab a cuddly blanket, and squeeze in close to your loved ones for a classic movie or two this winter.  If you’re at all like my little ones, you’ll pop up a big batch of popcorn (they’ll look for any excuse for popcorn!) and tune in to a great holiday classic.  Now this is what the holidays are about!

10.    Decorate the house together – Nothing is more fun than trimming the tree, hanging the stockings and putting up other family treasures together!  Even the little ones can be assigned a task, like putting the tree skirt around the tree, or not so neatly wrapping their other sibling’s gifts.  There is something everyone can do, and my kids especially love helping with the tree.  Our Christmas tree hasn’t looked perfect in a few years now, but the conversations we have over each “special” ornament that was made or received by someone we love are worth the well-loved look!

11.    Don’t forget to play outside – There are a few good weather days in Katy during the winter time, and this is a fantastic opportunity to walk to the nearest park, drive to a State park, or just go out in your own yard and enjoy the crisp coolness.  Take advantage of the holiday cheer by shouting “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” to your neighbors, as everyone is out and about during this lovely time of year in beautiful Katy, Texas.

What about you?  Do you have ideas on how to entertain our kids for no or low-cost this winter?  We’d love to hear them!

Katy parents say ‘Goodbye’ summer and ‘Hello’ school

We had every good intention of getting up at six o’clock a.m. this week, in preparation for the new school year, but those good intentions went out the same window that our good summer intentions of re-slathering the sunscreen every hour and a half went out of!  My twelve-year-old son had to wake me up at eight o’clock a.m. this morning, so we obviously haven’t been wasting our time practicing for up and at ‘em!  Shoulda,  woulda,  coulda…  Ok, I have set the alarm for a good old-fashioned try at it tomorrow morning, 6:00 a.m.  It’s that time of year again!

Almost gone are the lazy summer days of freedom and too much sun.  So many friends over and too much swimming.  So little chores to do, so much sleep to get!  Almost gone are the days of hanging out with friends until too late, since the kids don’t have to be anywhere anyway!  Almost gone are the endless popsicles, ice cream truck runs, and late night neighborhood walks.

Here again (almost!) are the days of school and schedules, sports and homework, appointments here and there.  Back to the family hubbub of activities, classes, church functions and dance meets.  Here again is curfew and time limits, running late and running around, the general hustle and bustle of back to school.  Time to put into place the family message center, meal plan and calendar.   Here’s another chance at organizing your entryway for the shoe changes, sports equipment, and dance costumes.  Have you gotten everything the kids need for school supplies, or, even more importantly, their fashion needs?  Welcome to the end of summer and everything slow paced and comfortable…school starts August 23rd!

So as we moms kiss summer goodbye for another school season, we take a deep breath together and embrace the change!  As for me, I might hit the snooze button in the morning just a couple of times, who needs to practice for getting up earlier, anyway?! 

 

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!

Katy makes it easy to help ensure the safety of your child

Make sure your child is protected by getting a Child Identification Card

The Katy Police Department offers a service to help locate lost or abducted children. The Kid ID  program provides parents with a photo ID card for their children. But this is no ordinary photo ID card.

Sergeant J. L. Field, the police officer in charge of the program for Katy Police Department, says that this card is connected to a national database, which can be accessed by any police department in the U.S. Once all identifying information about your child is collected, it is sent to the KidID.org along with the card information.

My daughter and I had my granddaughter go through the ID card process at the main police department. It took all of 20 minutes. During the process, Sgt. Field took two photos of my granddaughter – one facing the camera and a profile photo. He also took a photo of my daughter (granddaughter’s mom) facing the camera. Mom’s photo and the profile photo do not appear on the card, but are attached to the profile which is uploaded to the KidID.org data bank.

Sgt. Field took digital fingerprints of my granddaughter’s thumb and forefinger on both hands. Field said the digital fingerprints are much clearer than the old ink and paper method for obtaining prints. In fact, they are considered American Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) quality prints. Sgt. Field also collected identifying information including: my granddaughter’s name and address, names of her mother and father, and contact numbers for people to be called in case she is located. He also recorded my granddaughter’s physical description – height, weight, age, birthday and birthmarks.

All of the information, photos and fingerprints are now uploaded to the KidID.org site, and my daughter has attached her personal password to the account by signing in online as soon as she got home. Sgt. Field printed out two ID cards, one for each parent, that shows my granddaughter’s photo and physical description on the front and has the KidID.org site information on the back. Should she get lost or kidnapped – God forbid! – we simply have to present the card to the police officer and he can use KidID.org to help locate her.

The Katy Police Department purchased all of the equipment (computer, digital camera, digital fingerprint attachment, and card printer) a year ago for around $16,000 and have been putting it to very good use since then.

 The ID cards cost nothing – except about 20 minutes of your time for each child. We were able to walk in and get it done on the spot. If you family has 3 or more children, however you may want to make arrangements with Sgt. Field in advance.

The Katy Police Department main station is located at 5456 Franz Road in downtown Katy, about a quarter mile from the Mary Jo Peckham Park. They can be contacted by phone at 281-391-4848 or by E-Mail at kpd@katypd.com.

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!

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!


www.averyandkate.blogspot.com

Loving those priceless moments with my Katy cuties

Yesterday, my extended family and I were spending the day together.  We were sitting outside, watching my 4 year old daughter, Avery, playing in the sandbox.  My sister, Amanda, and my grandmother were talking about a new dress my sister was hoping to sew.  She went to the car to get the pattern she had purchased, only to discover she had left it at her house in Spring.  All of the adults discussed how frustrating it is to realize you’ve left something by the front door instead of loading it up.  I had no idea my daughter was listening until she interrupted the conversation.

“Mommy,” she said, “I’m all done with the sand.  I’m going to go inside and wash my hands and make Amanda a pattern.”

It was touching how much she cared about fixing the situation for Amanda, and although none of us knew how she was planning on making a dress pattern, we all went along with it.

After her hands were washed, she waited while my father got her paper.  And then, moments later, she emerged with a piece of paper.  It had circles scribbled on it in alternating colors: purple, yellow, purple, yellow…

She took the paper to Amanda and proudly handed it over to her.  “Amanda, I made you a pattern!”  She’s been learning about making A-B-A-B patterns in school, and was so proud to ‘fix’ Amanda’s problem by sharing her knowledge.

Amanda assured my daughter that this was exactly what she needed and we all enjoyed a good laugh over it. 

Having an almost-four year old is so much fun, and every once in a while we happen into these moments that couldn’t be scripted any cuter or more wonderful than they play out naturally.

What about you?  Do your children keep you laughing?  Post a comment below!


www.averyandkate.blogspot.com

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!


www.averyandkate.blogspot.com

Check out what your Katy kid should be reading this summer!

Katy Library

It’s out! Hot off the presses, the summer reading list for 2010 is officially posted on the Katy ISD website. Students can get a  jump start on their summer reading by checking out the reading lists for the grade level they will enter in the fall.

So why should they read during the summer? Summer is supposed to be for relaxing, taking vacations, and having fun,. That’s true, but part of the adventures of summer can include the adventures found in good book. We’re not talking about making them read because they “have to” learn something for school. The books on these lists are chosen to foster enjoyment of reading for pleasure and to cultivate their curiosity for subjects they may already be interested in – outside of the school setting.

Besides, reading is a cool activity for those exceedingly hot afternoons and rainy days. Southeast Texas gets so many rainy days and hot afternoons during the summer that finding time for reading is the easy part. One great to get students reading is to peruse the books with them. That way parents and children get to escape to other times and places together and have an abundance of  shared adventures to discuss for months or even years to come.

Buying the books isn’t vital. Many of them are available at the public library and can be located by browsing their catalog online. The only thing required to begin another voyage or the next quest is a library card. Should you choose to purchase books, however, they can always be passed on to other children in the family, to friends, or to neighbors when you are finished with them. Better yet, donate them to the school or public library so that they will be available for future readers.

The reading lists are available at: http://www.katyisd.org/library/Pages/Summer_Reading_EL.aspx  for elementary school.

http://www.katyisd.org/library/Pages/Summer_Reading_JH.aspx  for middle school.

The Katy Public Library hours and other information is listed on their website: http://www.hcpl.lib.tx.us/location/katy-branch-library

Using Jessica Seinfeld’s Cookbook in our Katy home

I put Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, on my wish list the year it came out.  I received it as a Christmas gift and immediately began cooking from it.  Her premise is that we can puree vegetables and include them in recipes to boost the nutrition of a meal.  The idea is that as children eat the muffins you serve them or the chicken nuggets you’ve made for dinner, they are also getting a serving of vegetables, which they may not otherwise have eaten.

When I first began using the book, I was already pureeing foods for my first-born.  She was in the baby food stage, and so I’d chop and steam and puree huge amounts of vegetables at once and have them on hand in the freezer.  Then, it was fairly easy to have pureed veggies on hand for the Deceptively Delicious recipes.

As time went on, my only child became more demanding, and then became the first of two.  I went from being concerned about feeding my family something healthy to just being concerned with finding something to feed my family in the first place.  I admittedly let my convictions on healthful eating slack. 

Recently, though, I took a good look at what my children had eaten in a week’s time.  The nutrition was more acceptable than I anticipated it would be, with one major weakness: veggies.  Even when my girls were presented with vegetables at lunch or dinner, they’d ignore them for the most part.   It would be fair to say that in a day, my children probably eat one full serving of vegetables each. 

So, I dusted off the Deceptively Delicious cookbook again, looked at our menu for the week, and made some slight adjustments.  Instead of my usual way of making quesadillas, I inserted Seinfeld’s recipe.  I did the same for three meals, and depending on how this week goes, I plan to use the breakfast recipes next week, too.

I don’t have the time I used to have to devote a full day to steaming and pureeing vegetables, so instead, I begin baking or steaming the vegetable I need at the beginning of naptime.  Once it is cooked, I stick it in the blender and quickly churn it up.  For this part of my life, small tasks (like pureeing one head of cauliflower) seem to fit in to my day much more easily.

I am excited about thinking of the health I am providing my children, and so far, they have enjoyed the recipes I’ve presented them with.  I’m not going to stop putting broccoli in it’s purest form in front of them, but until they decide they are dying for another helping of it… I know there is Deceptively Delicious to help me out.

What about you?  Do you sneak vegetables in to your family’s diet?  Share your helpful hints below!

One Katy Mom shares how she uses her kids’ TV favorite as a parenting tool

What is it about these guys?

I skipped the Barney craze and luckily missed out completely on the Teletubbies.  I did some babysitting and so I knew of them, but I never had a deep understanding of these children’s television icons.

I am getting paid back tenfold via Yo Gabba Gabba. 

In today’s media driven society, there are so many more choices out there for television for children.  And, with as much as we limit tv time in our house, we’ve been through a few crazes: Sesame Street, The Wiggles, The Doodlebops… and most recently, Yo Gabba Gabba.

Yo Gabba Gabba has taken my family by storm.  When my husband and I saw our first episode, we were confused and amazed.  Why didn’t these people take the time to make costumes with mouths that move?  Why does Muno have a black zipper down his back when the rest of his costume is red?  Why don’t they care if the words rhyme?  And, the most important, overarching question: Who in the world comes up with this stuff?

For all of our confusion, our children (Avery, 3 ½ and Kate, 18 months) were in absolute television bliss.  Kate, who will not sit still for anything, seems to go into some sort of trance when the show comes on.  From start to remixed ending, she moves less during the show than during any other time of the day.  Avery loves the show, as well.  It’s somehow edgy, in a kid-ish way.  She sings basic morals to her sister and to herself throughout the day: “Keep trying, keep trying, don’t give up… never give up,” or a recent favorite: “Don’t bite your friends!  Don’t, don’t, don’t bite your friends!” 

I’ve used Yo Gabba Gabba in parenting more often than I prefer to admit.  At lunch time, I sing “Try it… you’ll like it.”   When it is important to remember to share or when it’s bedtime, I have Yo Gabba Gabba songs at the ready.

I can appreciate Yo Gabba Gabba for what it is.  And I can love it for how still and happy it keeps my kids. 

Are you a Yo Gabba Gabba fan?  What kid’s shows does your family enjoy?  Post a comment!

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!

Katy has many work-out options to fit your budget and your interests

No one likes spending time doing activities they find disagreeable, even if the activities are good for them.   So, what is the best way to ensure you will exercise throughout your life?  The answer is finding a form of exercise that you love.  Once you find a kind of exercise that is fun, you will be hooked and exercise will become a pleasure.

My favorite form of exercise is dancing.  I enjoyed ballet and ballroom dance when I was younger and find that I work hardest when the form of exercise is somewhat creative.  I was thrilled when we moved to Katy and found that several of the local fitness centers offered cardio dance classes.  If you pay for a membership to Lifetime Fitness or the YMCA, for example, the fitness classes are included in the membership cost.  I have loved attending Latin Dance, Hip-hop and Zumba classes.  They are great cardio workouts and they make me feel like a teenager again.

Several years ago, my husband discovered a passion for racquetball.  He has found a group of guys in Katy that play regularly and keep him motivated and engaged in the sport.  Recently, he has participated in tournaments which further motivate him to push himself to become better.  My husband and I have also found that we enjoy biking.  We purchased a bike rack for our car, and we enjoy exploring Katy on our bicycles as a family.

Children are naturally active and when they discover fun forms of exercise, they will automatically seek out these activities.  Every day after school, my children enjoy a variety of fun, free sports.   They enjoy shooting baskets in our basketball hoop, jumping on the trampoline, biking, playing Frisbee, and rollerblading.  Sometimes the best exercise for children is letting them loose in your own backyard!

Exercise shouldn’t be drudgery.  In fact, it can and should be something we love…something that gives us an emotional and physical boost each day.  So what forms of exercise do you love?  How have you stayed motivated to continue exercising?  Please post a comment below.

One Katy family’s favorite place for the big celebrations in life

My daughter loves birthdays.  She loves her own (of course), her friends (the parties!), and especially birthdays of family members.  Our extended

Avery and Kate enjoy watching the fish swim around the tank

 family’s tradition is to go out to eat for any adult birthday, as a large family unit.  We used to try to head to places like Fogo de Chao or Perry’s Steakhouse, but as the children get older (and as there are more of them!), anywhere we go needs to be kid-friendly.

Enter our new family favorite: The Downtown Aquarium.  The food is still fancy enough to warrant a birthday celebration, and the children have so much to do that the event is at least as special for them as it is for the birthday celebrant. 

Before heading in to eat, we enjoy the shark tunnel train ride.  As we’re seated and making our dinner selections, the children can walk around the huge aquarium and pick out their favorites (this past time is was the green eels).  It’s not hard to keep the children entertained as we wait for our food with the cast amount of fish, sea horses, sharks, and eels to scope out.

The food is always amazing, and my youngest daughter especially loves the shrimp and chicken plate for children. 

After dinner, we let the children choose two more activities: the carousel, the ferris wheel, winning an item at the midway games, playing in the bubbles around the midway, dancing in the water sprays or a ride on the horse drawn carriages waiting outside the restaurant.  Every time we go, my daughters choose something different.  There really is so much to choose from!

The Downtown Aquarium is enough of a drive away (and bears enough of a price tag) that we save it for family birthdays, but when we go, everyone has a wonderful time.  It is certainly our family favorite for finer dining and child friendly fun!

How about you?  Do you have a favorite spot for family celebrations?  Post a comment below!

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.

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.

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
www.averyandkate.blogspot.com

One Katyite is rewriting holiday traditions to include less sugar and more nutrition 

When holidays roll around, the pull towards the kitchen gets stronger.  My desire to bake to make every occasion special is so deep rooted that I have had the hardest time breaking the trend.

I should stop and present this disclaimer: I’m not against sugar intake.  On the contrary, I love all things sugar.  But at some point, when the kitchen is overflowing with candy and my daughter brings home cupcakes from Nana’s house, the need to bake sugar cookies just because it’s a holiday deserves an honest assessment.

This Easter, I realized that we, as a family, are on sugar overload without me adding to the baking mix.  I knew this cognitively, but there was a powerful inner force that kept bringing me back to the kitchen, over and over again, reaching for the mixer.  “But baking a bunny cake is tradition,” I’d tell myself.  Or, “Sugar cookies at every holiday is so much fun!  I want my kids to have fun, don’t I?”

Honestly, though, our counters were piled high with chocolate cake from the great-grandparents, cupcakes from the grandparents, and endless eggs full of candy.  All delicious.  And also sufficient.

So, this Easter I squelched the need to bake for fun’s sake.  But it did still leave a void in our home that I am hoping to get creative ideas to fill.  If I don’t need to bake, is there something more nutritious I can do with my children that will still make the holidays special?  Can I find a way to get veggies in front of my children instead of sugar, while still in the spirit of the season?

My first idea is to use raw veggies on a pizza crust covered with a Ranch dip to decorate a bunny, like I would a cake.  I didn’t think of it this year until the day after Easter, but I am excited to think ahead to other potential sugar traps. 

The Fourth of July, for example, comes complete with a fruit pizza, homemade ice cream, cookies, and sometimes a cake.  I do not need to add to the delicious dessert stash.  But perhaps my children and I can use fruit in a healthy way.  Maybe we’ll make a flag on homemade whole wheat toast spread with low-fat cream cheese icing. 

My goal is to begin collecting healthy alternatives for kitchen fun long before each holiday.  If I’m prepared with my bowl full of colorful fruits and vegetables, with a plan in hand, hopefully I can add health to the season.  As long as the sugar is also readily available, that is!

I could really use some help.  Do you have a healthy kitchen alternative for any major holiday to share?  Post your comment below. 

Blog Post Entry

Title: Sugar Overload
Subtitle: Rewriting holiday traditions to include less sugar and more nutrition
To be posted under Katy Parenting, Katy Kids and Healthy Katy
Text:

When holidays roll around, the pull towards the kitchen gets stronger.  My desire to bake to make every occasion special is so deep rooted that I have had the hardest time breaking the trend.

I should stop and present this disclaimer: I’m not against sugar intake.  On the contrary, I love all things sugar.  But at some point, when the kitchen is overflowing with candy and my daughter brings home cupcakes from Nana’s house, the need to bake sugar cookies just because it’s a holiday deserves an honest assessment.

This Easter, I realized that we, as a family, are on sugar overload without me adding to the baking mix.  I knew this cognitively, but there was a powerful inner force that kept bringing me back to the kitchen, over and over again, reaching for the mixer.  “But baking a bunny cake is tradition,” I’d tell myself.  Or, “Sugar cookies at every holiday is so much fun!  I want my kids to have fun, don’t I?”

Honestly, though, our counters were piled high with chocolate cake from the great-grandparents, cupcakes from the grandparents, and endless eggs full of candy.  All delicious.  And also sufficient.

So, this Easter I squelched the need to bake for fun’s sake.  But it did still leave a void in our home that I am hoping to get creative ideas to fill.  If I don’t need to bake, is there something more nutritious I can do with my children that will still make the holidays special?  Can I find a way to get veggies in front of my children instead of sugar, while still in the spirit of the season?

My first idea is to use raw veggies on a pizza crust covered with a Ranch dip to decorate a bunny, like I would a cake.  I didn’t think of it this year until the day after Easter, but I am excited to think ahead to other potential sugar traps. 

The Fourth of July, for example, comes complete with a fruit pizza, homemade ice cream, cookies, and sometimes a cake.  I do not need to add to the delicious dessert stash.  But perhaps my children and I can use fruit in a healthy way.  Maybe we’ll make a flag on homemade whole wheat toast spread with low-fat cream cheese icing. 

My goal is to begin collecting healthy alternatives for kitchen fun long before each holiday.  If I’m prepared with my bowl full of colorful fruits and vegetables, with a plan in hand, hopefully I can add health to the season.  As long as the sugar is also readily available, that is!

I could really use some help.  Do you have a healthy kitchen alternative for any major holiday to share?  Post your comment below. 

There are many volunteers opportunities in Katy

Several days ago, I went to my child’s elementary school for a class party.  Upon entering the classroom, I felt like a rock star!  When the children saw me, they all began saying, “Hi, Mrs. Lewis!  I remember you!  How are you?”  You see, I had been their Junior Achievement teacher, so I had taught five short Junior Achievement lessons in their classroom.  I had loved every minute!  As I walked into the classroom, I felt honored that they knew me and felt even happier as I watched my son swell with pride.  I have really enjoyed helping in the Katy School District.

I am amazed at the parent support in the Katy schools.  I have never seen more parents who are willing to donate time and energy to making the schools better.    Some parents spend hours and hours volunteering at the schools as room mothers, PTA board members, lunchroom helpers, library volunteers, workday helpers, party planners, and organizers of special programs such as PATHS, Ranger Science, and Junior Achievement.   No wonder the schools are so good in Katy!  The parent support is unmatched!  I have just started to become acquainted with all the volunteer opportunities, but, boy is it fun!    

Last week my husband and I volunteered to read in my son’s kindergarten classroom.  The children looked at us with wide, eager eyes as we read some of our favorite children’s books to them.  Since reading is a passion of mine, I was thrilled to be able to share this love with some of my son’s classmates.

Another time this year, I helped with PATHS (Parents and Teachers Helping Students).  The theme was “Traditions around the World”.  Each of the Kindergarten classrooms was decorated to look like a given country.  As children entered each classroom, they were taught about the country’s food, dress, customs and culture.  What an amazing day that was!

Opportunities abound in the Katy School district.  You can volunteer as little or as much as you are able.  If you have always wanted to be treated like a rock star, trust me, volunteering in the classroom is where it’s at! 

What has been your favorite volunteer activity in Katy?  Post a comment below.

Katy Mom enjoys seeing her children having fun

I love the different kinds of sports that Katy offers for our children. There are so many choices that our children can pick from that they even want to do all of them. My son has selected t-ball and this is his first year in the sport. He has become a real pro at it. He anxiously awaits for his practices that he even tells me not to forget. I find this very amusing because he stares at his schedule and even the calendar just to make sure we don’t miss it. When we went to select his items for t-ball he was very excited that he wanted every item in the store.
Our first day of practice was real fun. He learned how to put on a baseball glove, hold the bat, hit the ball, pitch the ball, and even throw the ball to his teammates. I was on the bench being the cheerleader of the team. I even wanted to go out there and run with them. My camera will be full of pictures of his many special moments with his team to last for a lifetime. The practice went by so fast because of all the fun they were having that my son didn’t even want to go home. He keeps telling me that he is ready for his next sport event. He wants to do soccer next that he keeps telling me to sign him up when they start for next season. So here we go with our next fun sporting event. He was debating about football, flag football, soccer, swimming and even tennis. So many to choose from and so little time to do them.
Have any of your children participated in any of these sports? If they did what sport did they mostly like? Love to hear your comments please post below.

Katy Mom wants to know what age is appropriate

I have a 6yr old  and 11yr old and they both been asking me when will they get their own cell phones. I have been debating what age should I start giving them cell phones. I didn’t give my 15 yr old a cell phone until he was 13yrs. Did I start too early or too late? I decided to give him one because of all the extra curricular activities he was in. The one thing that I am concerned about is too much phone usage. Are we ready to hear those rings and what about those text messages? What cell phone plan would benefit them? Should I get them on a texting plan? Also what phone would be best? These are some of many questions that come to mind.
 
I have seen children as young as 9yrs of age with cell phones in their hands. A cell phone can always be handy in an emergency when needed especially if they have to stay after school or attend extra curricular activities. This has came in very handy for me with my 15yr old. 
 I love the family plans that some cell phone carriers have. Have any of you taken advantage of them? Or should we limit them on how much they can talk on the phone, like prepaid? Oh lets not forget that we need to educate them on how they need to use the cell phone too. Can a 6yr old understand how to use a cell phone?  I never knew shopping for that right cell phone or phone plan could be so hard. It’s almost as hard as shopping for shoes for me by selecting the right ones that fit comfortably. So my Katy parents have you encountered my issue? What have been your past experiences?

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!

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.

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.

Katy Mom finding ways of tutoring her children

I have three children ages 7, 11, 15 they are in elementary, middle, and high school. I find it sometimes very hard to have one on one tutoring with them. They all learn differently and sometimes I try to find other ways to help them. I have took advantage of tutoring classes at some of the schools morning, afternoon or even during classes, neighbors in our area, phone tutoring, and even computer tutoring. Some schools even have saturdays as an extra day of tutoring. I just wish I could find a tutoring facility that would not be so costly. I have three children and I am always trying to find affordable tutoring for them.
Having children in different ages and levels of learning can sometimes become overwhelming. I have called different tutoring facilities but have found it to be very costly. I have heard good things about the tutoring facilities out here in Katy but have not had the pleasure of trying them yet. I have read the reviews of some of them. I find reviews very helpful but it’s nothing like your own experience with them. Oh and let’s not forget about our children that have extra curricular activities on certain days. When can we find time to tutor during these times?
 I have applied at least one hour for each of them for tutoring but I always ask myself what about the parents that have to work? I have alot of friends that are single moms and have long hours at work. So what about them when can they help their child in reference to tutoring? Can our children tutor with friends or relatives? Also can it be more affordable? So my parents of Katy what other ways of tutoring have you found it easy for your children? I would love to hear from you.

A Katy mom shares her experiences in motherhood

March 26, 2010 – Katy, Texas – Sitting at the kitchen table, I mulled over possible meals for the week. I flipped through the pages of a cookbook and read through various recipes as I started on my shopping list. I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked at my youngest child, Braden, as he began to describe in detail a building he had just made out of blocks. He tugged at my arm pleading for me to go and admire his creation. Dropping my pen by my cookbooks, I ran with him up the stairs to inspect his work. He anxiously awaited my reaction to his masterpiece. His building was indeed impressive and I told him exactly how amazed I was at his engineering skills. He smiled, gave me a hug and resumed his work.

I walked down the stairs and continued my list. Within seconds, my oldest child, Brandon, walked to the table and asked if I would help him plan his school schedule for the following year. He excitedly spoke of the many courses that were available at Seven Lakes High School.  I looked at the class descriptions and for the next half an hour we planned his perfect schedule. With a grin, he left the kitchen to commence another activity.

Hm…I thought…soup sounds good for Wednesday. “Mom?” I heard a voice call. It was my daughter, Melissa. “I need you to help me with my math.  Do you know what the formula is to find the area of a circle?” I smiled since I did remember this particular formula.

“It is Pi R Squared.” I replied. She looked at me with admiration and asked if I would watch her work out the next few problems. As she successfully completed her work, she thanked me and left the kitchen.

The children love pizza. Perhaps we can make home-made pizza Friday night. “Mom! Come out to the trampoline!” My son, Bryan, breathlessly exclaimed. “I want to show you my back-flip. You won’t believe it!” He reached for my hand and began to pull me to the back door.

As I watched Bryan jump contentedly on the trampoline, a mental picture came to mind. I pictured my children continually in orbit around me. At this point in their lives anyway, I was the gravitas pull that gave them bearing.  As I thought about this image, I marveled at how important it was for me, as their mother, to provide consistent support and stability to each one of them.

Though I had been working on a meal recipe list, I felt as though I had stumbled upon a more significant recipe…a recipe for rearing happy children.  And, I realized that the recipe started with me.  I suppose I have my work cut out for me!  What are some ways in which you show love and support to your children?  Post a comment below.

One Katy Mom Shares the Benefits of Family Meals

March 25, 2010–Katy, TX — One of my most cherished memories from my childhood is family mealtime.  After a busy day of school, lessons, chores and homework, it was refreshing to pause for a brief moment to connect with each other.  I remember the savory aromas that called to each one of us to come.  Sitting around the dinner table, we laughed, talked and each shared highlights from the day.  To this day my parents, sisters and I remain very close.  I know that some of this closeness is due to our daily connection point…the family meal.  Now that I am married and have a family of my own, I have tried to carry on the tradition of family mealtime.

Scientific studies show there are numerous benefits to family mealtime.  One recent study showed that working parents who were able to eat dinner with their families expressed greater job satisfaction.  Other studies showed that children who have regular family meals eat more healthfully, and get better grades.  Family mealtime is a practice that truly benefits children and parents alike.  In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is difficult to coordinate schedules and even to find a time when the entire family is home.   So how does a family create a habit of positive family mealtime?

First, make family mealtime a priority.  Set a goal for two or more family meals per week and work to increase the frequency.  Try to plan and schedule around family mealtime.  Though not always an easy task, most days you will find it is possible.

Next, keep it simple.  Family mealtime isn’t so much about eating as it is about the time a family sits and talks together.  It doesn’t matter whether the meal is frozen pizza or an elaborate four course meal, it is simply an excuse to pause and spend time together.  When a sit-down meal isn’t possible on a given day, gather for a bedtime snack instead.

It is important to keep the dinner conversation positive.  Mealtime isn’t a time to discuss weighty or stressful issues.  Nor is it a time to complain about other members of the family.  Mealtime should be an uplifting experience for each family member.

Last, turn off the T.V. and ignore the phone.  For a small moment, all attention should be focused on family.  This is the very magic of family mealtime.

A Katyite remembers where her love of reading originated

March 25, 2010 – Katy, Texas – I recently struck upon a picture of a “reading countess chair” while searching for comfortable seating for my classroom library. My heart did a little skip and a jump as I thought back to how I crafted my blog name, “Reading Countess.” As the only granddaughter for sixteen years, I was treated like royalty by my beloved grandfather. He was the only one in my family who called me “Contessa,” a play on my “real name”, and he went out of his way to treat me like a member of the royal court. Much to my brother’s chagrin, I received preferential treatment by Granddaddy time and time again during my childhood. When we misbehaved, it was my brother and not I who was sent outside to pick the weeds. I was even given “fresh water baths” when I was really young. My grandfather carted buckets of water from the kitchen to fill the bathtub so that I would not be forced to take a bath using the pungent sulfur water from the rest of the farmhouse’s plumbing system.  

I delighted in the extra attention, but it was the time spent on my grandfather’s lap that molded me to become what I am now-a reading teacher. Being the sole granddaughter came with my favorite perk of all. I was the only grandchild allowed to crawl up on his lap when he was reading one of his many thick books he devoured weekly. Peering over his shoulder through the smoke-laden air of his pipe, the value of the written word was palpable. Surrounded by wall to wall shelves of books in his living room, I learned at an early age that books were treasured in my family, and I desperately wanted to be a part of that seemingly secret reading world.  

Having a “reading countess chair” in my classroom would be a silent nod to my loving Granddaddy. I will be looking for ways to add this touch very soon. But for now, the memory of him lighting a fire in me for literacy will have to suffice. Memories, and my “Reading Countess” surname, are all I have of him.

Making Reading and important part of your Katy Cutie’s Life

March 25, 2010 – Katy, Texas – One of my favorite quotes is, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” (Emilie Buchwald). As a reading teacher, I know all too well the absolute importance that habitual reading (a minimum of twenty minutes spent reading each day outside of school) plays in the development of a child’s emotional and academic growth. Studies show that children who are exposed regularly to the joys of literature from a young age consistently rank in the top percentile when they are at the secondary level. Not only are vocabulary development and comprehension skills stronger than those of their peers, but knowledge gained through voracious reading then applies to all areas of the curriculum.

But what can a parent do when reading is a chore for a youngster? Read aloud, say the experts. Careful selection of high interest books can be a wonderful way to “reel” a reader into the joy of books. Young  children typically enjoy repetitive books or books that contain rhymes. For an older child, selecting books that have sequels can sometimes entice a reader to want to continue a saga. I have found that tying books that have become movies helped to support my own reluctant reader son. Knowing that we would soon view the book’s movie was a motivating factor for my middle son. Thankfully, parents have no end to movies that have been adapted from books. As a rule, parents should encourage children to read the book prior to seeing the movie. For a comprehensive list of children’s books made into movies,  please visit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_children’s_books_made_into_feature_films

By sharing a story together, parents create a bond with their child that creates lasting memories and forges learning well into the future.

What books have been successful with your child(ren)? Do you have stories about your youngster who at first did not seem anxious to read but who now gleefully reads with wild abandon? Please share!

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!

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?

How one Katy mom discovers the simple joys

March 22, 2010 –Katy, TX — Rays of sunlight gracefully shimmered through the kitchen window as our family sat eating our breakfast.  It was Spring Break and we were all excited for the week that lay ahead. How were we going to spend our time?  What did we want to do first?  I listened as each child shared ideas for the coming days.

As we cleared the breakfast dishes, we decided to first start with a family bike ride through the beautiful nature preserve adjacent to our subdivision.  Since the winter had been unusually cold, it had been some time since we had ventured on a bike excursion.  Racing to the garage, we commenced untangling handle bars and bike pedals in order to give each bike a quick tune-up.  As we had suspected, several bikes needed air in the tires and all of the bikes needed a good washing.

My two youngest boys offered their brawn as they gleefully “fixed” the bikes with the tire pump.  I located some old rags and a bucket and we washed the winter dust from the metal frames.  The children chattered happily as they proudly prepped their bikes for our family bike ride. 

By the time we had fully prepared for our adventure, it was close to lunch time.  I hurriedly ran into the kitchen to pack a lunch to take with us so that our empty stomachs wouldn’t rush us.  Lunch prepared, tires pumped, water bottles affixed, and helmets on, we were ready to set off.

I led the pack as we mounted our bikes and started on our journey.  We rounded the bend in our street and started on the bike trail.  I inhaled the clean air and smiled as I glanced back at my children. Flocks of birds flew overhead and we listened to their melodious strains. I peered at the majestic oak trees that served as a canopy over the road and was overwhelmed by the calm of the afternoon.  Critters dashed from tree to tree, and cautiously watched as our family passed. A gentle breeze swept through the trees and my hair danced in the wind as we raced onward.

We soon found the perfect spot for our picnic.  We propped our bicycles up against some trees and gathered together to talk and share lunch.  Spreading a blanket on the ground, we divided the sandwiches, chips, grapes, cookies and drinks.  We had all worked up an appetite, so the food seemed to taste particularly good.  The children were happy, there wasn’t a hint of contention, and we were truly enjoying our time together. 

That evening, several of my children remarked that it had been one of the best days they had ever had.  I thought about the money we had spent on eating out, family vacations and fun toys.  I was amazed that our casual day of biking had been one of their favorite activities.  I suppose some the simplest family outings prove to be the most meaningful!  What are some of your family’s favorite activities?   Post a comment below.

At Home or out in the Katy community? Where’s the best place to have a birthday party?

March 19, 2010 –Katy, TX –I’m a big fan of having my kids’ birthday parties somewhere other than our home. After a particularly messy 8th birthday party at home complete with chocolate cake smashed into the carpet, I made a decision that birthday parties are best away from home.   The clean up is so much easier and the packages they offer are so convenient for moms and dads. Some of the most fun and memorable parties my kids have had were…

Times Square Entertainment – There are so many things kids can do and the party hosts are awesome. They follow you around and take care of every detail. This is best for kids age 8 through teens. Bowling, games, laser tag and pizza is fun for boys and girls.

Mason Road Skating – There is nothing like their money machine! What kid doesn’t want to stand in a money machine and catch flying dollar bills. A lifetime memory!

Laser Quest – Tweens and teens really like this place. It’s dark and kind of mysterious and they have a few party rooms to choose from. It’s on Westheimer, but not too far down, just past West Oaks Mall.

Pump it Up – I’ve had younger kids parties there and one for my 10 year old Both were a big hit. Jumping around on large inflatables is a blast for all ages, even for the adults!

Do you know a great Katy party place? Post your comment here!

Spring Break ‘Staycation’ Means  Bonding Time for Katy Families

Over the years, my boys have been the proud and loving owners of two gerbils and a hamster (thankfully at different times). While the hamster was relatively placid and generally roamed around his cage placidly, we delighted in watching the antics of the gerbils for hours. It seemed that they were never still. If they weren’t climbing up on the various apparatus we purchased for them, they could be found running on the little wheel that went around and around but never went anywhere. We would laugh at them and think them silly for being perpetually “on the wheel.”

Since we have been on Spring Break, I feel as though I, too, have been “on the wheel” and have thankfully hopped off of it. It might be for just a brief week, but this week has proven to be a spirit renewer in ways I never envisioned. We have had a glorious “staycation.” Although we have not travelled anywhere exotic, the time off has proven to be priceless. My boys have enjoyed the quiet days spent playing outside in the temperate weather, going to various parks, fishing with friends, roller skating and riding their bikes, catching a movie, staying up later at night and sleeping in during the day, and taking a trip to the local library. We even all crammed into our car around bedtime and went for ice cream-the boys clad in their pajamas. Personally, I have read more books and have spent leisurely time mulling over writing and thinking than I ever have during the school week. We would never have been able to enjoy all of our relaxing, family bonding time during the hustle and bustle of the school week. Between the rigorous schedule of school and all the after school activities my boys participate in, finding time to “just chill” can be difficult. But hopping off the wheel has been crucial for us as a family.

What have been your experiences with Spring Break? Are you a working parent? If so, do you find it challenging to take time off to be with your child(ren)? What activities or places have you enjoyed together during this time off?

Photo courtesy of RodeoHouston

Schedule of Events for Tuesday

It’s going to be another fun-filled day at RodeoHouston. Here’s what’s coming up for tomorrow. Don’t miss Keith Urban in concert immediately following the BP Super Sereis V – Championship Round.

Here is a schedule of events for March 16

  • 8 a.m. Quarter Horse Show: Roping Events at Reliant Arena
  • Lowline Angus Cattle Show at Reliant Center – Main Arena (east side)
  • Miniature Hereford Cattle Show at Reliant Center – Main Arena (west side)
  • 10 a.m. Ag Magic Show at Kids Country Stage
  • 11 a.m. Kids Country Carnival (closes at midnight) at Kids Country Shelley Anderson at Kids Country Stage
  • 11:30 a.m. Bravado Cattle Show at Reliant Center – Main Arena (east side)
  • 12:00 noon Ag Magic Show at Kids Country Stage
  • 1 p.m. Carnival (closes at midnight) at Radio Disney Road Crew at Kids Country
  • 2 p.m. Radio Disney Road Crew at Kids Country
  • 3 p.m. Ag Magic Show at Kids Country Stage
  • 4 p.m. Fables of the Wild West at Kids Country Stage
  • 5 p.m. Ag Magic Show at Kids Country Stage
  • 6 p.m. Shelley Anderson at Kids Country Stage
  • The Hideout opens at Reliant Park
  • 6:45 p.m. RODEOHOUSTON BP Super Series V – Championship Round; Keith Urban (following Rodeo performance) at Reliant Stadium
  • 7:30 p.m. Champion Wine Garden Educational Seminar:
  • Argentina Roundup ($30 pre-registration required) at Champion Wine Garden
  • 10:15 p.m. Two Tons of Steel at The Hideout

For more information, visit http://www.hlsr.com.

Hey Katyites! Did you have fun at the rodeo?  Send us your story and we’ll post it here! Email editor@katymagazine.com

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