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 5, 2017) – Seven Lakes High School graduate Caitlin Ricketts is now traveling the world modeling for top name brands

Written by Debbie McDaniel 

As a young girl growing up in Katy, Texas, Caitlin Ricketts only dreamed of the life she’s now living as a model for the Wilhelmina Agency in New York City. “I love being from Katy and I’m so happy I have all of my family still in Katy to come home to,” she says. She grew up in Katy ISD, attending Roosevelt Alexander Elementary School, Beckendorff Junior High School, and Seven Lakes High School. “I have lived in New York City for years now, but Katy will always be my home and a place to bring me back to reality.”

A Big Break
Ricketts was introduced to modeling at a young age. “I started modeling when I was a baby for brands like Foley’s and Palais Royal and stopped when I was about 5 years old. It wasn’t until I was 14 when my older sister Chelsea convinced me to try it out again and go to an open call for Abercrombie.” Ricketts shares how she ended up booking the job, and saw that she loved it. “I realized then how much fun and exciting it was!” The Abercrombie job jump-started her career. “It just took off after that,” she adds. Ricketts went on to sign with the New York agency Wilhelmina Models when she was 16. She moved to NYC and has been there five years now, modeling full time. “Since then, I’ve worked for brands like CoverGirl, which was one of my big dreams, Maybelline, and Garnier, and have had the opportunity to live in so many amazing countries such as South Korea, London, Japan, and Australia,” she says.

Traveling, People, & Projects
She shares that while traveling is one of the most exciting parts of her job, it can also be one of the most challenging. “I’m thankful for the chance to travel the world, and even though it can be hard to be gone for months at a time, I wouldn’t change a thing about it,” says Ricketts, who has been to 26 countries in the last few years. “My next stop is Iceland and I can’t wait.” Another fun part of her career are the people and projects. “I have had the chance to work with so many talented people like Bruce Weber and Bobbi Brown. I also had the pleasure of being a part of so many fun ads for brands such as LeSportsac and Kendra Scott, and magazines like Glamour and Shape.”

A career in modeling may seem glamorous, but Ricketts still embraces the Texas girl she truly is. “I love Tex-Mex, burgers and fries, and of course, some good ole’ Texas barbeque,” she laughs. “I grew up going to the rodeo every year and spent Friday nights dancing with my high school drill team during football season. I still cheer on the Texans from NYC and am a big fan of JJ Watt.”

Ricketts says she treasures her family, and also loves a glass of red wine and an episode of Game of Thrones. A great sense of humor is vital in her life and industry, and she recalls one of her most embarrassing moments. “I embarrass myself daily, but one memory that sticks out the most is when I dropped a shampoo bottle in a store and it busted open. I then ended up slipping in the mess and falling on my face right in front of the checkout line.”

Being looked to as a fashion icon isn’t always easy, but she describes her style as a mix of being very feminine and girly one day, to being very tomboy and gothic the next. “My style is ever-changing,” she adds. Ricketts encourages other young women to embrace their dreams and go after them no matter how big or small they might seem. She says her favorite quote has always been, “Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” KM

CAITLIN SIGHTINGS

  • CoverGirl
  • Glamour Magazine
  • Seventeen Magazine
  • Maybelline
  • Shape Magazine
  • Garnier
  • Kendra Scott
  • Abercrombie
  • LeSportsac
  • Marie Claire Magazine

Katy, TX (June 1, 2017) Katy ISD recognized 88 high school seniors who were chosen by their campus administration for their dedication, perseverance and achievement during the 2016-2017 school year. Alongside each one of them, an outstanding teacher, who was selected by the student, was also acknowledged for having a profound impact in that student’s life.

These students are the finest example of the character and commitment of the Katy ISD community. Their passion for excelling embodies the Katy ISD mission and vision to prepare and inspire each student to live an honorable, fulfilling life….to create the future.

“The accomplishments of this senior class are outstanding,” said Superintendent Lance Hindt during the ceremony. “It is gratifying to know that Katy ISD will be well represented in colleges, universities, the military and the work force throughout our nation.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 Awards of Excellence winners!

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

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

Tips:

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

Helpful Links: 

 

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.

Visit our Katy Magazine Summer Camp Facebook page! 

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 9, 2017) – Treat the most special woman in your life to a delicious food, fun, and pampering on Mother’s Day. Here is a list of events and specials in Katy, Texas. Don’t forget to tell them you found it on Katy Magazine!

EVENTS

Friday – Sunday, May 12 – 14, 2017 11:00 a.m.
Mother’s Day Combination Special
Los Cucos Mexican Restaurant 

Katy Mills
5303 Bell Patna Dr. 

Historic Katy
5831 Highway Blvd. 

The Mother’s Day special will include four grilled shrimp, one fish filet sauteed with crab, pico, and lemon butter, chicken and beef fajitas, and a small queso with chorizo with rice and beans for $44.99. They will also have Mother’s Day cocktails like blackberry sangria and watermelon margaritas for sale.


Saturday, May 13, 2017 8:45 -9:45 a.m.
Free Mother’s Day Boot Camp
LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch – Central Green Park
23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd. 

Join other moms for a free, fun baby boot camp in celebration of Mother’s Day. Bring a stroller, water, and snacks.


Saturday, May 13, 2017 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Mother’s Day Card Crafting
Cane Island
2100 Cane Island Pkwy.

Little ones can make special cards for their moms.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 8:00 a.m.
Whiskey Cake Katy
23139 Grand Cir.

They will open an hour early and offer their usual brunch menu items for Mother’s Day.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
All-You-Can Eat Buffet
Agave Rio Patio Oasis & Restaurant
1135 FM 1463 

Surprise mom with a fun, all-you-can-eat buffet. Price is $55 for adults, and $12 for kids 6 years and up, and includes a salad station, omelet station, scrambled eggs and frittata, bacon, sausage, barbecue carving station, crawfish, shrimp and grits, chicken picatta, and a children’s buffet. There will also be a cash bar. Call 281-665-3337 to make reservations.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Mother’s Day Buffet
Hasta La Pasta 
1450 Grand Pkwy.

They will be serving a special buffet to celebrate Mother’s Day. Call 281-392-0045 for reservations.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Landry’s Seafood House
22215 Katy Fwy. 

They will offer a special menu with brunch favorites from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a carving station, a starters bar, seafood and farmhouse favorites, a children’s table, and desserts. Price is $32 adults and $11 for children ages 4 to 10 years old.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 10:30 a.m.
Jimmy Changas Fresh Mex Fun
300 Westgreen Blvd.

In honor of Mother’s Day, they will offer a special Cancun platter complete with lobster tail, shrimp, and beef and chicken fajita for $23.99.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 10:30 a.m.
Mother’s Day Brunch
Omni Houston Hotel at Westside

13210 Katy Fwy.

Mother’s Day plates are $56.95 for adults, $27.95 for children ages 6 through 12.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Mother’s Day Brunch
Alamo Drafthouse – Mason Park
531 S. Mason Rd. 

Treat your mother to a special screening of a movie that leaves everyone divinely and utterly happy, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Their brunch menu will include Danish pastries, creole crab cake, salad, caviar, and panna cotta.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Mother’s Day Special Menu
Antonia’s Cucina Italiana Katy
2001 Katy Mills Blvd.

They will offer a selection of delicious special menu items from appetizers to desserts in celebration of Mother’s Day. Call 281-644-6000.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Orleans Seafood Kitchen
20940 Katy Fwy.

Moms can enjoy a grilled lobster tail with shrimp and scallops served with a summer squash medley and dirty rice for only $23.99.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Mother’s Day Live Music
LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch
23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd.

Trumpeter Preston Smith will perform smooth jazz live from Heritage Square.


Sunday, May 14, 2017 4:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Perry’s Steakhouse
23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd.

They will offer a three-course Sunday Supper special that includes a salad, a sweet, smoky Perry’s pork chop, and a dessert trio for only $29.95. Make a reservation at PerrysSteakhouse.com.


SPECIALS

BH Hair Studio – Complimentary deep-conditioner, champagne, and sweet treats from Friday, May 12 – Saturday, May 13, 2017. Call 281-395-5010 to book an appointment.

Black Walnut Cafe – Purchase a $25 gift card for mom, and receive a $5 Walnut Bucks card.

Cici’s Pizza – Get a free adult buffet for large, one-topping pizza to go when you purchase at $25 gift card for mom.

Las Mananitas Mexican Restaurant – Their Mother’s Day special will include a free, small margarita and live mariachi music from 1 to 3 p.m.

Tilt Studio – Moms get a free game for every game of mini-golf and mini-bowling purchased.

 

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

Written by Meagan Clanahan | Select photography by Candace Cook

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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 (May 5, 2017) – Polling locations for the City of Katy mayoral and city council election.

Election Day
Saturday, May 6, 2017 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Ward A
Katy City Hall
901 Ave. c

Ward B 
Katy Municipal Courthouse
5432 Franz Rd.

Click here to see the most current City of Katy Ward map.

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 (April 20, 2017) –  As the Houston Rockets continue to lead in their playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Academy Sports + Outdoors is taking 20% off all Rockets gear (including clearance items) at the Katy locations on Grand Parkway and FM 1093, as well as other Houston locations. The discount will last until Sunday, April 23, 2017.

Courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors

Katy, TX News (April 19, 2017) – The dates for early voting and election day for the 2017 Katy ISD Board election have been announced. The Board is comprised of seven members who are elected at-large to fill available positions. In accordance with the provisions of the Texas Education Code, a person may not be elected as a trustee of Katy ISD unless the person is a qualified voter.

An individual seeking election as a member of the Board of Trustees must have been a resident of the state for 12 months and a resident of the District six months prior to the last date on which the candidate could file to be listed on the ballot. The following persons have filed as candidates for the upcoming election.

Dates, candidate information, polling information, and more below.

EARLY VOTING DATES & LOCATIONS

Monday, April 24, 2017 – Tuesday, May 2, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • Cinco Ranch High School
    23440 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
  • Morton Ranch High School
    21000 Franz Rd.
  • Seven Lakes High School
    9251 S. Fry Rd.
  • Taylor High School
    20700 Kingsland Blvd.
  • Leonard Merrell Center
    Rooms 143 – 144
    6301 S. Stadium Ln.

ELECTION DAY POLLING LOCATIONS

Election Day is Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • Precinct 1 – Seven Lakes High School
    9251 S. Fry Rd.
  • Precinct 2 – Cinco Ranch High School
    23440 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
  • Precinct 3 – Katy City Hall
    901 Avenue C.
  • Precinct 4 – Katy Municipal Court Building
    5432 Franz Rd.
  • Precinct 5 – Hayes Elementary
    21203 Park Timbers Ln.
  • Precinct 6 – Taylor High School
    20700 Kingsland Blvd.
  • Precinct 7 – Maurice Wolfe Elementary
    502 Addicks-Howell
  • Precinct 8 – Morton Ranch High School
    21000 Franz Rd.
  • Precinct 9 – Mayde Creek Junior High
    2700 Greenhouse Rd.
  • Precinct 10 – Bear Creek Elementary
    4815 Hickory Downs
  • Precinct 11 – Pattison Elementary
    19910 Stonelodge Dr.
  • Precinct 12 – Shafer Elementary
    5150 Ranch Point Dr.
  • Precinct 13 – Beck Junior High
    5200 S. Fry Rd.

Click here to locate your precinct based on county boundaries.


CANDIDATES & POSITIONS

Position 3 Candidates 

  • Candice Perkins
  • Ashley Diehl Vann
  • Dr. David Velasquez

Position 4 Candidates

  • Courtney Doyle
  • Carlos Young

Position 5 Candidates

  • Henry Dibrell
  • William E. “Bill” Lacy

Courtesy of Katy ISD. Visit katyisd.org for more information .

Katy, TX News (April 19, 2017) – 2017 Prom Dates for Katy Area High Schools

  • April 22
    – St. John XXII College Preparatory at Dukessa
  • April 28
    – Strake Jesuit College Preparatory at Lakeside Country Club
  • April 29
    – Morton Ranch High School at Hilton Houston Post Oak
    – Tompkins High School at the Westin Galleria
  • May 12
    – Houston Christian High School
  • May 13
    – Faith West High School at the Clubhouse at Firethorne
    – Katy High School at Four Seasons Hotel Houston
  • May 20
    – Cinco Ranch High School at The Westin Galleria
    – Mayde Creek High School at Hilton Houston Post Oak
    – Seven Lakes High School at The Citadel
    – Taylor High School at The Corinthian

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

When to Use

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

How to Use

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

Common Areas

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

Precautions

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

 

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital 

Katy, TX (April 3, 2017) – Katy Summer Academic Term (KSAT) is a seamless extension of the academic school year which provides Katy ISD students differentiated learning experiences and opportunities to earn original and restoration credit. See below for locations, registration information, and schedules.

DATES: 
SEMESTER 1:  June 13 – 27, 2017 

SEMESTER 2:  June 28 – July 13, 2017

LOCATIONS:
Original Credit & Credit Recovery
Seven Lakes High School
9251 S. Fry Rd.
7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

EOC/TAKS Remediation Clinics & Summer Testing
Taylor High School
20700 Kingsland Blvd.



High School – Original Credit Courses

1 Semester Courses 2 Semester Courses
US Government Math Models
Economics Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC)
Health World Geography
Professional Communications Pre-AP World Geography
PE: Foundations of Personal Fitness Geometry
PE: Individual & Team Sports Pre-AP Geometry
Digital Arts & Animation

 

 

High School – Credit Recovery Courses

Algebra I English III Professional Communications
Algebra II English IV Spanish I
Aquatic Science Geometry Spanish II
Biology Health US Government
Chemistry Integrated Physics & Chemistry US History
Economics FE Math Models World Geography
English I PE: Foundations of Personal Fitness World History
English II Physics

 


Register online at katyisd.org.

 

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

Compiled by Katy Magazine’s Editors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chick-fil-A
Employees brought clothing items to their company party and donated everything to Hope Impacts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Have something GOOD to share? Email good@katymagazine.com.

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 2, 2017) – Are you and your family headed out to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this year? We have great news! You can get carnival ticket packs for half-price if you order by Saturday, March 4, 2017.

$10 Carnival Pack ($34 Value)

  • 1 Fun Card with 22 tickets for rides and games
  • 4 refreshment coupons
  • one free game coupon
  • $5 off show merchandise

$50 Carnival Pack ($133.50 Value)

  • 2 fun cards with a total of 150 tickets for rides and games
  • 9 refreshment coupons
  • 2 free game coupons
  • 2 free rides (Ferris wheel or fun house)
  • $5 off show merchandise

$20 Carnival Food Card ($30 Value)

Half-Price Carnival Packs may be used during the WCBBQ from March 2 – 4, 2017, and a show from March 7 – 26, 2017. Order online at rodeohouston.com/carnivaltickets.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Samantha and Binx

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryleigh and Sam at BIG Love Cancer Run

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

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

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

Katy, TX (February 16, 2017) –  Bring on the balloons, hot dogs, and bouncy houses – it’s party planning time! These Katy venues take the work off of you and allow more time for memories and fun. Whether you’re after an artistic experience or a superhero laser tag thrill, you’re sure to find something that will put the icing on the cake!

Compiled by Katy Magazine’s Editors

Altitude Trampoline Park
altitudekaty.com
Packages range from $170 to $430

Chuck E. Cheese
chuckecheese.com
Prices range from $14 to $23.99 per child

Cinemark 19 and XD
cinemark.com
Private screenings start at $100 plus ticket

Connolly Dance Arts
connollydancearts.com
Packages start at $250

The Crazy Canvas
thecrazycanvas.com
Packages start at $25 per child

The Dancer’s Closet Katy
thedancersclosetkaty.com
Parties are $350

Frozen Ropes
frozenropes.com/katy
Packages start at $250

Giggles and Fun
gigglesandfun.com
Packages start at $300

iFly Houston
iflyworld.com
Packages start at $1,028

Inflatable Katy
inflatablekaty.com
Packages start at $350

Jumpstreet
gotjump.com/katy
Packages start at $5 per person

Katy Kips Gymnastics Club
katykips.com
Packages start at $275

Life Time Fitness
lifetimefitness.com
Packages start at $225

Main Event
mainevent.com
Packages start at $14.95 per person

Mason Road Skate Center
masonroadskatecenter.com
Packages start at $144.95

Monkey Joe’s Katy
monkeyjoes.com
Packages start at $209

Monty Ballard YMCA at Cinco Ranch
ymcahouston.org/katy
Packages start at $250

My Gym Katy
mygym.com/katy
Packages start at $200

Oil Ranch
oilranch.com
Packages start at $340

Potter’s Brush
pottersbrush.com
Packages start at $6 per person

Pump It Up
pumpitupparty.com/katy-tx
Packages start at $199

Santikos Palladium AVX
santikos.com
Packages start at $15 per person

Segway Outback
segwayoutback.com
Packages start at $415

Smith Ranch
smithranchkaty.com
Packages start at $325

The Storybook Cottage
thestorybookcottage.com
Packages start at $260

Sweet Three Nail Lounge
sweetthreenaillounge.com
Average price is $25 per person

Tilt Studio
tiltstudio.com
Packages start at $279

Times Square Entertainment
timessquaretx.com
Parties start at $15 per person

Topgolf
topgolf.com
Average price is $25 per person

Typhoon Texas Waterpark
typhoontexas.com
Packages start at $325

Vortexic Martial Arts
vortexic.com
Party packages start at $150

Westwood Gymnastics & Dance
westwoodgym.com
Packages start at $180

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 (February 6, 2017) – With a brand new music video, “The Real Me,” out and an EP on the horizon, this Seven Lakes High School senior is headed for stardom.

Written by Ashley Lancaster

Ever since attending her first concert with her father, Greg Conklin, at the age of 4, Taylor Thi has been consumed with a passion for performing and songwriting. “We saw James [Vernon] Taylor, and I was so amazed by all the cheering that I turned to my dad and asked him why everyone was making noise. He said, ‘See that man up there? They’re clapping for him.’ Ever since then I’ve wanted to be a singer.”

KM_Dec Jan_17_Taylor Thi_Taylor_Brown6380_photo by David Gaona
Photo by David Gaona

Drawing Inspiration
Although she began formally training at the age of 15, she considers her sixth-grade performance her official debut. “I performed ‘Material Girl’ by Madonna at the Beckendorff Junior High pop concert,” she says. And she has been strategically placing herself in local gigs in order to build a following ever since.

“The rush of adrenaline is unexplainable; you can walk on stage and be whoever you want to be. You can be confident, a completely different person and just let loose,” she adds. “You forget everything and just feel free in that moment.” Thi spends hours at a time writing notes and lyrics. “Every song I write has a special meaning to me because I never want to write about something I don’t mean or feel.”

KM_Dec Jan_17_Taylor Thi_3_photo by David Gaona

Wildest Dreams
The young songwriter finds strength to pursue her dreams close to home. “My family has always been my biggest supporters no matter what. I’m extremely family-oriented and they are the ones I show all my music to first. Everything I do, they see or get to hear before I announce or release anything,” she says.

Thi comes from a family not afraid to pursue their wildest dreams, and credits her father for giving her the courage to try. “He was from a small town, lived on a farm, and grew up being told by everyone he knew that he would never achieve his dream of being a pilot. He has now been a pilot for 41 years. Every time someone tries to tear me down, I think about my dad, and I know I’ll prove them wrong.”

Thi recently directed her own music video for her original song, “The Real Me,” which received over 20,000 views on YouTube. “It was such an amazing experience,” she says.

Armed with a notebook full of material, Thi plans to continue working on singles and eventually produce her first EP. But her future plans also include receiving an education. “I would love to go to college for audio engineering or songwriting,” she adds. “I’m still deciding, but I’m positive I’ll be around music no matter what.” KM

Katy, TX (January 17, 2017) This year seven Katy ISD high school students earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36.  On average, less than .1 percent of all test takers earn the top score.  Only 2,235 out of the nearly 2.1 million students who took the ACT in 2016 earned a composite score of 36.

“Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare,” says ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda, in a letter recognizing the students’ exceptional achievement.  “While test scores are just one of multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”

The following Katy ISD students earned a perfect score on the ACT:

Seven Lakes High School

  • Luis Alfonso Pabon Madrid, 11th grade
  • Dora Cecilia Gurfinkel, 12th grade
  • Clio Sun, 12th grade
  • Justin Zhang, 12th grade

Cinco Ranch High School

  • Russell Ku, 11th grade
  • Samuel Shenoi, 12 grade

Taylor High School

  • Richard Liu, 12th grade

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1-36.  Exceptional scores of 36 provide colleges with evidence of student readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead.

Courtesy of Katy ISD

# # #

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 6, 2017  Katy ISD is pleased to announce the establishment of an Athletic Hall of Honor to recognize the efforts and contributions of former student athletes, athletic teams, coaches and special merit individuals who have brought distinction, honor and excellence to themselves and to the District.

kisdath

Nominations are now being accepted through March 15, 2017.  Submissions will be reviewed by the Katy ISD Athletic Hall of Honor Honorary Board and voted on by the Katy ISD Athletic Hall of Honor Committee. Once submitted, a nominee’s application will remain active for five years with the Honorary Board. Due to the sheer volume of alumni worthy of such an honor, nominations will be accepted annually.

The Hall of Honor Committee has already selected the following four state championship teams to be honored in the inaugural class of the Athletic Hall of Honor:

  • Katy High School 1959 Football State Champions
  • Katy High School 1997 Football State Champions
  • Taylor High School 1997 Tennis State Champions
  • Taylor High School 1998 Tennis State Champions.

Individuals and state championship teams will be honored at a 2017 fall banquet and a Katy ISD football game. State championship teams will continue to be added to the Athletic Hall of Honor every year.  For more information and access to the requirements and nomination form, click here.

Courtesy of Katy ISD

Katy, TX – January 4, 2017 Katy ISD is one of 433 school districts in the United States and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on the 7th Annual AP® District Honor Roll for increasing access to Advanced Placement (AP) course work while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP Exams.

Since 2015, the number of Katy ISD students participating in AP exams increased by 16 percent, and the number of students receiving a 3 or higher increased by 11 percent.

To be included on the 7th Annual AP District Honor Roll, participating districts must:

  • Increase participation/access to AP course work by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts;
  • Increase or maintain the percentage of exams taken by black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students who scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam; and
  • Improve or maintain performance levels when comparing the percentage of students in 2016 scoring a 3 or higher to those in 2014, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70 percent of its AP students are scoring a 3 or higher.

For more information on the AP District Honor Roll, visit the College Board website.

Courtesy of Katy ISD Communications Department

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

mem-her

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital

 

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

caps-for-cubs-donation

Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital

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

Why young children bite

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

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

Experimental biting

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

Frustration biting

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

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

Powerless biting

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

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

Stressful biting

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

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

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

What do I do if my child is biting others?

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

  • Be firm. Tell your child that you will not accept biting and why. Tell him or her biting hurts others.
  • Offer another behavior the child may use instead of biting. If the child bites because he or she is angry, have the child come to you and tell you this instead. A child who is younger than 18 months may need a toy that is allowed to be chewed on.
  • If you catch your child biting, use a firm “no” to stop the behavior, or try to stop the child before the biting actually happens.
  • Use time-out if your child bites, or take away a favorite toy or activity.
  • Do not bite your child for biting someone else. This teaches your child that biting is still acceptable. Do not bite your child in a playful manner, as this might teach him or her to bite others.
  • Give praise when your child does not bite.
Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital

Katy, TX – November 10, 2016

The Cinco Ranch High School Chapter of Future Business Leaders of America got together for their annual Halloween Katy Christian Ministries Can Drive. While Halloween commonly holds the American tradition of people of all ages receiving candy and joy from others, the Cinco Ranch Chapter of FBLA decided to take a refreshing reverse and give to others rather than receive. Members went above and beyond spending a round trip of as long as 6 hours placing flyers on their neighbors’ doors and then returning the next day to collect cans to donate to KCM. With the combined effort of hardworking and generous members, the Cinco Ranch Chapter of FBLA was able to collect a grand total of 1316 cans with Daniel Gaw donating the most at an impressive count 325 cans! Following the collection, they had a spooky social decked out with all kinds of creative costumes including teabags, snapchat filters, zombies, magicians, and much more! After dinner, the members gathered to participate in an exciting costume contest by competing against one another for the best costume on the runway! After a couple hours of fun and games, the winner was declared: Haylee Giang won the contest with her “tea-rrific” costume! Special thanks to PDQ for providing FBLA with a nice location and amazing food for this year’s “Scare Away Hunger” can drive and Abby Rooney’s dad for providing a large truck to transport all 1316 cans to KCM. The Cinco Ranch High School Chapter of FBLA had an enjoyable time making awesome memories and helping out in the community.

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Courtesy of Angela Young, Cinco Ranch FBLA Reporter

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.

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Katy, TX – October 26, 2016 The Cinco Ranch High School FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Team 624 (CRyptonite) recently collaborated with the Houston chapter of Sewa International to organize a science event at the Katy ISD Robert Shaw STEAM Center (RSC) to foster interest in science and technology among children. The event was devoted to youth involved in ASPIRE – a Sewa program that provides education and mentoring services after school for young refugees and immigrants.

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Over 30 children arrived at the RSC to engage in numerous hands-on activities set up by CRyptonite students, ranging from robot demos and lab tours to mini-experiments that explored topics such as air pressure, force, and elasticity. The trip also included a presentation on robot design and testing to introduce the basic principles of robotics.

After the success of this event and a previous partnership involving robot demos in an underserved neighborhood, CRyptonite and Sewa International look forward to future collaborations to help provide fun science-based activities for ASPIRE children and share the FIRST robotics mission to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders.

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“We hopefully plan on doing this for many more years to come,” CRyptonite Team President Alyssa Wu said. “It was amazing to see these kids all hyped over our science activities and it’s really heartwarming to see our effect on their lives. I hope they continue to be this happy when working with science.”

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.

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

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

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

Within two days, the symptoms typically include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital 

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!

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(click to enlarge)
Information courtesy of Kiddie Academy

Katy, Texas – March 22, 2016
The British International School of Houston welcomes Dr. Siva Kumari, director general of the International Baccalaureate Organization, to Houston to share her insights about developments in education, specifically the increased importance and emphasis colleges and employers are placing on individuals with international mindedness and global competencies. She will detail how an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma offers students a passport to the world’s top universities.

Joining Kumari will be a panel of admissions counselors from selective colleges and universities to answer audience questions about the application process. The community is invited to this free discussion and dinner event on Thursday, May 5 from 5-7 p.m. at The Westin Galleria in Memorial City, 945 Gessner Rd., Houston, 77024.

Parents and students interested in learning about the IB Diploma and the British International School of Houston are welcome to join the event by making a reservation at bishouston.org under the “upcoming events” tab or by calling the school at 713.319.5048.

“College readiness is a theme of the utmost importance to the IB,” says Dr. Kumari. “An IB education prepares students extremely well to go on to further education in whatever area they choose. As part of our commitment to continually improve student outcomes, we conduct much research into this, which confirms the positive impact of participation in the IB on high school graduation, ACT score and college enrollment.”

Dr. Siva Kumari
                              Dr. Siva Kumari

Andrew Derry, principal of the British International School of Houston, states, “Dr. Kumari will share with the community how the IB Diploma program can make a difference for your child. We have seen the value of the IB program through the success of all of our graduates. I am pleased to share that our wonderful teaching staff has helped our students achieve a 100 percent pass rate on the IB Diploma Program for the past five consecutive years.  Additionally, our students’ IB scores are ranked first in Texas, in the top 1% in the U.S. and the top 3% internationally.”

Dr. Kumari joined the IB Organization in 2009 as regional director for Asia-Pacific Singapore; she was named chief operating officer in 2010; and director general in 2014. Prior to joining the IB, Kumari was associate provost for K12 Initiatives at Rice University. She accepted this position after serving as associate dean in Continuing Studies at Rice University and adjunct professor in the School of Education. During her professional tenure in the United States she was the recipient of local, regional and national professional and academic awards.

 

 

Courtesy of The Mills Agency

Here are some surefire ways to tell if you’re a true Katy, Texas mom!

 By Katrina Katsarelis, Katy Magazine Editor-in-Chief

1. You’ve taken your family photo at Katy Heritage Park.

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2. You got talked into dropping your junior high kid off at the Katy Mills Mall one time and you never did it again.

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3. You enrolled your son in youth football before he could read so he would be able to make the high school varsity team.

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4. You went crazy at Katy Budget Books and got 15 used books but only spent $4.75.

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5. You’ve paid for mediocre but pricey food at Rain Forest Café because your kids love the moving animals.

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6. You’ve taken your kids fishing at a local bayou, but find yourself watching for alligators.

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7. Your front lawn is proudly decorated with yard signs and your car windows display your kids’ team decals.

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8. You’ve sent your kid’s photo to Katy Magazine for the Katy Cuties section, Cutest Kids Cover Contest, or other feature.

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9. You accidentally said the F word when yet another fundraiser packet came home from your child’s school.

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10. Your kid has gotten in trouble for not saying yes ma’am or yes sir.

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11. Your kids have switched elementary schools 3 times but you still live in the same house.

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12. You can’t find a good place to eat lunch on Sunday because the church crowd just got out and everything is packed.

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Katy, Texas – December 30, 2015
Due to the number of recent fire incidents associated with hoverboards, Harris County ESD 48 Fire Department urges hoverboard owners and those considering purchasing one to consider the points below and be aware of potential fire hazards associated with these new and popular devices.

On Monday, December 28th 2015, Deerbrook Mall was evacuated when a hoverboard, still in the original packaging, caught fire and eventually exploded.  A mall shopper, Sarah Elizabeth Herbert, caught this video while shopping with her family earlier this week.

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There are many different manufacturers of hoverboards, not all are unsafe.  The fire issues that are being seen so far are primarily related to the batteries.  These batteries, in most cases, are Li-Po(lithium polymer) type.  Li-Po batteries use a specific type of charger and have a specific safe operating range. If the batteries are discharged too low or are improperly charged they can become volatile.  This, coupled with many counterfeit devices with potentially substandard parts flooding the market, has created a high potential for fire hazards with this innovative new technology.  Below we have some things to consider before deciding whether to join the craze or steer clear of one of 2015 most popular purchases.

Safety Steps

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) recently issued safety tips for the use, care, and maintenance of hoverboards.

Purchasing a hoverboard

  • Please take the time to look at and research the product you buy.  Choose a device with the seal of an independent testing laboratory, like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), on their key components.  If it is compliant with federal standards, inspections, and certifications, it will have a mark on it or indicate such on its packaging, on the device itself, or on its charging equipment. There are currently some manufacturers who claim their boards are fully UL tested but UL consumer safety director John Drengenberg recently stated that, “there are presently no UL-certified hoverboards.”
  • Buy a device with a warranty.  If you are buying online, buy from a reputable source or buy it in person at a brick and mortar store so you can personally check for proper labeling. Also, check with your retailer regarding the safety of the device you are purchasing and their return policy if you decide later not to take the risk.

Charging a hoverboard

  • After it has been used, give the device time to cool off prior to charging.
  • Batteries should be visually inspected prior to use and charging and if a battery is swollen or deformed in any way it should never be recharged.
  • If possible charge the device outside and do not leave the device unattended while it is charging.
  • An adult should be responsible for charging the hoverboard, should be able to observe the device during its recharging time and should never leave the hoverboard plugged in overnight.
  • Do not overcharge the device; follow manufacturer’s recommended charging times.
  • Only use the charging cord that came with the hoverboard. Do not use imitation electrical chargers as they may be unsafe.
  • Keep to one plug per socket.

Operating a hoverboard

  • Wear appropriate safety equipment; similar to when riding a bicycle.
  • Do not text or operate a cell phone while using a hoverboard.
  • Operate the device in accordance with its intended use.
  • Stop using your hoverboard if it overheats and check with your manufacturer or retailer. This could suggest a faulty battery that needs replacing.

General hoverboard safety information

  • Read and follow all manufacturer directions.  If you do not understand the directions, ask for help.
  • Extreme hot or cold temperature can hurt the battery.
  • Be on the lookout for product updates from manufacturers and safety groups.
  • Many airlines have banned hoverboards. If you plan to fly with a hoverboard, be sure to check with your air carrier.
  • When riding in a car, keep the hoverboard where you can see it in case it shows signs of a problem.
  • Make sure to have an appropriate fire extinguisher nearby to handle minor incipient fires until the fire dept arrives.

Signs of a Problem

  • Leaking fluids
  • Excessive heat
  • Odor
  • Sparking
  • Smoke

If you notice any of these signs, stop using the device right away. Call 9-1-1.  If safe to do so, move the hoverboard outside away from anything that can burn.

What Next?

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is now working nonstop to figure out the actual root causes of these incidents, but they don’t have the answers yet. “We want to be able to deliver for the public, but we hope they’ll be able to appreciate that what’s going on right now is a very thorough science-based investigation,” said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson.

We are still waiting to hear what the Consumer Product Safety Commission uncovers. It could be that the organization finds a specific batch of defective batteries or other defective component and issues a recall. The CPSC may push for more voluntary standards like the ones that made laptops and phones safer today.  Or, they could push to ban hoverboards altogether considering they recently reported that there have been 22 incidents of fires in at least 17 states (report incidents at ) and so far 70 Emergency Room treated injuries related to people riding the devices.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you.  We do ask that if you chose to dispose of your hoverboard and you aren’t able to return it, please separate the battery from the device. The battery should not be disposed of with household waste.  You can safely dispose of it at an approved battery recycling center such as a Batteries Plus or a home improvement big box store. The other portion of the hoverboard may be thrown away with curbside waste.

Content Courtesy of  Harris County Emergency Services District #48 Fire/EMS

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s how it works:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Content Courtesy of College Nannies & Tutors

Katy, TX Blog (November 16, 2015) – From Katy ISD Leadership – “As you may already know, on Friday the world was shocked to learn of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Today, as a mark of respect for those victims, our flags were flown at half-staff and will remain as such until sunset on Thursday. Furthermore, many Katy ISD schools and facilities participated in a moment of silence today at 12:00 noon to honor the memory of the victims.

Even though this took place in another country, its impact reaches across the world and gives us reason to pause and think about our families and our children, as no community is immune to random acts of violence.

Here in Katy ISD, we take proactive measures to not only be prepared to respond to random acts of violence, but to prevent – to the extent that we can – them from occurring in the first place.

The safety and security of students and staff members on our campuses is of the highest priority and by working together to create healthy and positive relationships with teachers and the school, we can ensure that we provide safe teaching and learning environments.”

 

Katy ISD

After losing her son in a tragic car crash in 2006, Katy mom Carol Levin is on a mission to end drunk driving

Written by Gail G. Collins | Select photography by Sara Isola

“It’s as bad as you think it is,” Carol Levin says, describing the loss of her son to a drunk driver. “He was an amazing person, and we’ll live his life in the best way we can. We need that.” It’s why Levin got involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

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Katy mom Carol Levin encourages drivers to realize the lasting effects of substance-impaired driving

 

Todd Levin was 28 years old and was planning on proposing to his girlfriend Ralynn Healey soon. The couple was returning from a sports activity and dinner out. Todd never drove under the influence, and Healey was training for the Olympics as a figure skater and didn’t drink at all. On September 25, 2006 at 10 p.m., a drunk driver shot through a red light going 85 mph in a 35 mph zone. The impact was severe. Suffering two skull fractures and a crushed chest, Todd was killed instantly. Healey died on the way to Ben Taub Hospital. The driver was nearly twice the legal limit and didn’t stop to render aid. “It was a horrific accident, and he didn’t even know he’d killed two people,” Levin says, still in disbelief. After five years in prison, the man shows no remorse. Advised by MADD, Levin undertakes a regular letter-writing campaign, asking authorities to deny his parole. She has been successful twice.

“It was a horrific accident, and he didn’t even know he’d killed two people,” Levin says, still in disbelief. After five years in prison, the man shows no remorse. Advised by MADD, Levin undertakes a regular letter-writing campaign, asking authorities to deny his parole. She has been successful twice.

Finding Hope and Advocacy
The Levin family has lived in Katy for 25 years. Todd graduated from Katy High School with honors, and nearly every teacher attended his funeral almost 10 years ago. Since then, Levin has devoted a major portion of her life to helping others in the same circumstances.

Initially, those who have tragically lost a loved one may be so shocked they don’t remember their own names. “Sometimes, you just hold and love them,” she says. “We’re all in the same family – the worst kind – and it helps to have been there, too.” According to Levin, the pain never goes away. It merely becomes a dull ache. Fortunately, therapy can help those who suffer such loss to cope with their pain. Victims find support through MADD advocates and activities.

 

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Todd, Carol, and Jason Levin during a family trip to Connecticut in 1979

Drunk Driving Fatalities
MADD Southeast Texas Affiliate executive director John McNamee says, “MADD supports drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving one person every 10 minutes through local MADD victim advocates and at 1-877-MADD-HELP.”

Unfortunately, the state and local community is known by a surprising statistic. “Texas, and specifically Harris County, leads the nation in drunk driving fatalities,” says McNamee. “In 2014 MADD Southeast Texas, which includes the Katy area, served over 2,800 victims of drunk driving.”

The organization also reaches teens to help prevent underage drinking. One program advises how to start a conversation with youngsters and continue it through their young adult years. National Teen Influencer allows teens to share their commitment to not drink while underage. MADD is involved politically, too. They cite increased law enforcement and bill HB 2246, creating anti-ignition legislation, requiring a convicted drunk driver to blow soberly into a device in order to start their car.

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Todd graduated from the University of Texas in 2001 with a degree in marketing research

Sharing Their Stories
Levin works on this bill’s behalf and sits on a monthly victim impact panel, whose venue shifts around the city. The panel consists of victims who tell their stories, a police officer, and those formerly convicted. Drunk drivers run the gamut in ages. Levin brings photographs to help them think seriously about their decisions. To the older drivers, she says, “I impress on them that they’re role models, and if they’re drinking and driving, their kids will be, too.”

Kathy Barzilla, another Fort Bend advocate, sits on the panel and acts as an advisory board member. In 1993 while she was on her way to work, when a car traveling 80 mph broadsided her. “If it hadn’t been for Life Flight, I wouldn’t be here to tell my story,” she says. “I’m grateful for each new day.”

With her pelvis fractured in six places, Barzilla had to learn how to walk again. Like Levin, she admits that her life changed forever on the day of the accident. Barzilla was told she could never bear children as a result of the accident. She never met the drunk driver who hit her, but Barzilla says she has learned to forgive the driver and in return has been able to let go of the bitterness and anger.

 

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The Levin family honors Todd’s memory at Stride for Change event

Planning Ahead
“Death and injuries are 100% preventable. Just plan ahead,” Barzilla says. The only night each year most people actively plan to avoid drunk driving is New Year’s Eve, but any time any day, it should be a reality. The women advise others to always have a plan and a number they can call for help.

Every year the group participates in Walk Like MADD, an initiative that gives victims a chance to raise money and awareness while honoring their loved ones. “It takes years to fight your way back,” says Levin, and MADD helps people do just that. KM

GAIL G. COLLINS writes internationally for magazines and has two books on expatriate life that create a charity revenue stream.

Editor’s Note:  We would like to thank the members of MADD Southeast Texas Affiliate for taking a stand and making a difference in the Katy community. Visit madd.org.

 

 

 

 

A handful of dedicated Katy High School students eagerly await the rush of teachers and staff to come. The time is 10:15 AM. With tables decorated, and salad, desserts and 30 pizza boxes set out, KHS Student Council is ready to host their second annual Teacher Luncheon.

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The previous year, a simple pizza lunch was served solely to teachers and hailed as the first time the entirety of the teachers had been fed students.

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This year they upped the ante. Teachers, office staff, paraprofessionals, custodians, nurses, cafeteria workers, KHS parent volunteers and other faculty were invited to attend the “Teacher Luncheon”. Every staff member here has a hand in the students’ education and deserve to be honored.

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Starting in January, the preparation began as KHS Student Council Members Kat Rogers, Kaitlin Miller, Olivia Williams, Marie Ann Barron, and Piper Harris ventured to local businesses in request of donations. Most impressive was the collective 75 pizzas donated by Pizza Shoppe, Cici’s, and Pizza Inn.

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KHS Student Council’s exponential growth and success since its meagre state three years previous has been through a multitude of projects around Katy High School and the Katy Community. Eager to continue its vision and tradition, Katy students look forward to partnering with even more local businesses and projects to keep Katy beautiful.

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Courtesy of:
Kaitlin Miller
Class of 2015
KHS Student Council Vice President

Nikki Wood– University of Montevallo in Alabama and will play Division II lacrosse on a scholarship.

Samantha Farrell– University of Montevallo in Alabama and will play Division II lacrosse on a scholarship.

Marisa Braden– University of Texas, Club lacrosse

Tobi Dipelou– University of Oklahoma, Club lacrosse

Their program continues to grow and has a number of former players playing college lacrosse. Currently their program has three former players playing lacrosse at the college level. They also have a number of girls who have continued to play at the club level at their college.

Courtney Brown– Liberty University, Division I, 2013 class

Katy Brown– Concordia University, Division III, 2013 class

Lacey Bowersox– Southwestern University, Division II, 2014 class

Bethany Moore – Texas Tech University, Club lacrosse, 2014 class

Mallory Claypool – University of Texas, Club lacrosse, 2014 class

Courtesy of: Katy Cavaliers Boys & Girls Lacrosse Club 23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Suite H-120, Box 278, Katy, Texas 77494.  www.katycavalierlacrosse.org

Dear Editor,

I married a beautiful lady here in Katy, last December. She encouraged me to write poetry, after my brain surgery a year ago, to keep my mind (what’s left of it) sharp. So I began to try & then began to post what I wrote on my Facebook page.

I call them T.P.O.T.D, which stands for “The Poem Of The Day” in abbreviation. I refer to my postings as “Fruit from the Poet’s Tree” and today’s plucking was inspired by how much I’ve come to love Katy. I was born in Austin & still maintain a house there. I tell Roxanna (my sweet, amazing bride) that it’s now our vacation home, since we are in Katy the vast majority of our time.

I’ll always love Austin too, but never wrote a poem about it. That brings me to why I am writing “a letter to the editor”. Below is my T.P.O.T.D. I hope this doesn’t waste your time. I appreciate your efforts to publish a fine magazine, which I always enjoy reading.

My T.P.O.T.D.:

 

rr town

Katy Was a Rail-Road Town
Back when folks were
“West-ward HOO & Bound!”
looking for a future & a
brand new town to found.
And I certainly should mention:
’twas the Missouri Kansas Texas extension,
called then by the old brand of
“Union Pacific – Southern Branch”
It went passing along & thru quite a few
farms to market &/or ranch,
soon, that name got grounded
& dropped out of contention,
in favor of a line that became simply known
as the M.K.T. Folks in Texas just liked the way
that “M.K.T.” sounded.
Yes, most of them would agree.

As the Metro-plex of Houston grew
& Katy, Texas was still brand new,
just how fast Katy would grow?
Who knew?
But it sure would not be slow.

As the railroad started laying tracks back in 1895,
The town that James Oliver Thomas was busy
laying out, began to come alive!
Giving it the name of Katy,
He knew that it would thrive,
long before that first M.K.T. railroad train
was scheduled to arrive.
Expecting vast prosperity, folks began to come.
either by the new locomotives,
or in wagon-trains came some.

The original depot station
still stands & holds the memory
of the founders, then filled with elation,
That made Katy come to be.
So, if in the vicinity,
stop in so you can see
the beauty long ago
brought here by the M.K.T.
_______________________________
Yours Truly, George Knaak

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

Katyites Steven and Stephanie Poss’ premature son Beckham faces a life-threatening “medical mystery” and survives

Written by Stephanie Poss | Select photography by Kristen Richards

It’s been said, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” The greatest news in the world was that our family of three would be growing to a family of four. Beckham Neil Poss was due to arrive in mid-October 2013. As any expecting parents, my husband Steven and I could not be happier. We immediately started preparing his room and our daughter for the change of not being an only child anymore. During pregnancy, I threw up so much I ended up on complete bed rest. I went into preterm labor in early August, and we began shots to help build his lungs and trying to stop the labor.

KM Feb March 15_Stephanie and Beckham Poss by Kristen Richards 18 copy

On August 24 Beckham arrived, weighing just over five pounds. Beckham was quickly rushed to the NICU. When a child is born, you want to hold and cuddle them, but a NICU mom can’t. Each day he improved. As parents, we lived for the few times we got to hold Beckham. We struggled to not feel helpless. One month after being born, he was released to go home. He was strong enough, or so we thought.

The Longest Days
I have never felt more ill-prepared than when I took Beckham home for the first time. Something in my heart kept telling me he was not ready, but I tried to silence that voice because the doctors believed he was. On October 1, 2013, I woke up excited to celebrate my birthday and found out it would be the toughest day of my life.

I was holding Beckham as he was sleeping and noticed a strange violent movement. It was like nothing I had seen before. I called the doctor’s office, trying not to sound crazy. As I was on the phone, Beckham went into a seizure again and stopped breathing. The nurse dispatched 911 to my house and walked me through how to help him. All I could do was try to follow her directions and pray God would take over. After many tests at Texas Children’s West Campus, it was decided Beckham needed more intense treatment at Texas Children’s in the Medical Center in the Level II NICU. My husband and I had no answers.

The doctors did not know what was wrong. All we were told is he was a “medical mystery.” I have always been a Christ follower, but I never knew what it meant to truly trust the Lord with my whole heart until He was truly the only thing keeping my son alive. There in the NICU, we begged God to save him. In the depths of our despair, we clung to the miracles that began to unfold. A sorority sister I had not seen in close to 10 years showed up and had a blanket made for Beckham that was blessed at a church. This became the one thing that never left his side. This same friend was able to help get us into the Ronald McDonald House so we could stay close by.

Katy Support
As the days in the hospital turned into months, we saw an outpouring of support. Taylor High School students had a fundraising week. They had meals, made shirts, had dodgeball tournaments – you name it, they did it for us. They raised over $8,000 to help us with our bills. Taylor and our church, Parkway Fellowship, set up a meal calendar providing dinners from October through January. The Houston Aces soccer team dedicated their preseason to Beckham. The Joe Joe Bear Foundation brought Beckham and Brooklyn gifts. Musician Justin Michael Bell did a benefit show. Friends and family cleaned our home.

Waiting for Answers
My sister-in-law had a great idea to set up a Facebook page so we could update it, and then all of our friends and family could see what was going on without us having to talk about the details repeatedly. She also set up a medical fundraising page and gifts started to pour in for our little warrior. As bills were mounting, and all of our resources were depleting, my husband and I prayed about what to do next. We still were no closer to any answers.

The best minds in medicine could not figure him out. All we had been given was a medical label of “failure to thrive” – a label the doctors gave him, but we would not allow them to speak in Beckham’s room. Yet my husband and I both felt a peace that can only come from our heavenly Father. We were reassured Beckham was going to live. In November, Beckham was released to come home with a feeding tube and a home health nurse. The thought of having medical staff in my home was horrible, but I tried to remember that it would be better than not having him home. The next day we met Tara, Beckham’s home health nurse, one of the angels who touched our lives.

Tara was a member of the family from the first moment we met her. She taught my daughter how to turn the feeding tube on and off and how to use the stethoscope. Beckham was on specialized formula because he could not digest. Once we were out of the hospital, our insurance denied this. Our formula bills were almost as much as our mortgage. We were struggling. Steven and I began to sell items, give private coaching lessons, anything we could do. In December, Beckham got the flu and was hospitalized again. The staff at the Texas Children’s West Campus became friends. We got to come home and then he was sick again and was hospitalized until two days before Christmas.

Friends and Miracles
As parents, you worry not only about the health of your children, but also their happiness. With all funds depleted and no end in sight, we were burdened with not making our mortgage and celebrating Christmas. Again, God reminded us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). The next day Brian Bruenke, one of our pastors told me they felt led to pay our mortgage. Our spirits were renewed. God was keeping us going. A group of friends from Taylor High School brought gifts for my children.

I had to quit my position as a teacher at Taylor High School. In an amazing turn of events, Dagley Insurance and Marcus Henneke offered me a position which allowed me to work from the hospital. With Beckham still needing home health, we wanted to get back to normal. Katie Collins, a previous student of mine, just happened to be working at my daughter’s day care at the time. She became Beckham’s nannie so I could work full-time. We were told Beckham would have to be on a feeding tube for at least a year.

If he was ever strong enough to be off it he would need a massive amount of therapy. By April, only six months after being on the feeding tube, Beckham began to have oral feedings. A few months later he was tube free. Today, weighing 23 hard-earned pounds, Beckham is completely caught up to his peers! A true miracle. KM

Editor’s Note : Katy Magazine would like to thank the Poss family for sharing their amazing story of hope and faith with the community.

Katy artist Kathleen Wedemeyer makes it her business to turn other people’s trash into treasure and inspires with her messages of hope and faith

Written by Tassie Hewitt | Select Photography by Country Park Portraits

KM_DecJan_14_people of passion_Wedemeyer, Kathleen-115_photo by Country Park Portraits
Wedemeyer learned how to weld to better hone her skills

What started as a hobby 25 years ago for crafty Katy resident, Kathleen Wedemeyer, turned into her livelihood and passion, as demand for her handmade antique vintage creations took her artwork out of local craft shows and into homes across the country. She dutifully named her brand, Hope and Glory.

Hope and Glory
The artist, who makes an art out of turning junk into gems, admits to being creative from a young age. “I remember going through trash cans at the house and wondering what I could make out of stuff,” she says. She once sold Christmas ornaments made out of dried okra to supplement her family income. “I can almost pick up a stick off the ground and make something out of it.”

Wedemeyer, who has a background in commercial art, scavenges thrift stores for old silver and jewelry for use in her work. The frugal artist, who professes to being cheap at heart, transforms antique ceiling tile and discarded bead board into the collection of crosses, architectural angels, collages, and frames, for which she is so well known.

“I love metal,” she says. Wedemeyer studied welding so she could expand the scope of her work. “I love rusty metal that tells a story because it’s been through the process of time.

KM_DecJan_14_people of passion_Wedemeyer, Kathleen-136_photo by Country Park Portraits
What started as a creative outlet, has now grown into her own business, Hope and Glory

Where the Heart Is
Katy became home to Wedemeyer after her business grew and her old neighborhood’s deed restrictions stifled her creativity. She needed space to spread out and allow storage for her growing collection of materials. “I bought a big trailer full of ceiling tin one time, and I was thinking, ‘How am I going to get that home?’” she says. “So then, I just bought the trailer, too.”

The artist, whose one-acre backyard in Old Katy is home to chickens and dogs, vintage bikes, and a ’70s travel trailer, grew up in southeast Houston, but does not regret her move to Katy 15 years ago. “Old Katy still feels like a small town,” she says. “I love this house. It has character.”

Wedemeyer’s 2,000 square-foot workshop, located behind her historic home, is crammed with bits and scraps and pieces of her finds. The workshop was built by her architect husband, Ron. It’s where she spends at least three days a week creating the artwork she hopes will inspire purchasers. It is also where her husband taught her to use power tools, a skill that launched her business in a whole new direction.

KM_DecJan_14_people of passion_Wedemeyer, Kathleen-041_photo by Country Park Portraits
Wedemeyer uses various metal components and architectural antiques to create her pieces

 

Finding Inspiration
Wedemeyer finds inspiration for her work everywhere. “There are times I will hear a message at church and thatwill become a banner one of my angels is holding,” she says. “There are dark things in life, and people need hope.”

In 2011, the owners of Creative Co-OP discovered Wedemeyer’s artwork and asked permission to reproduce some of her more popular pieces. As a result, Hope and Glory licensed creations can be found in stores throughout the country, as well as online. “I even have little crosses at Buc-ee’s, now,” Wedemeyer laughs. “It was a nice opportunity to take some things off my plate so I could go on to create new things.” Despite her accomplishments, Wedemeyer says it is important not to judge success in purely economic terms. “There have been many shows I went to and didn’t make a penny, and yet I met a new best friend,” she says. Her artwork is more about the message than the money. “I love the power of words to inspire people. I hope to glorify God in what I do. He is the master artist, and we’re all His masterpieces.”

KM_DecJan_14_people of passion_Wedemeyer, Kathleen-232_photo by Country Park Portraits
“I love rusty metal that tells a story because it’s been through the process of time.”

Giving Back
When she is not creating or selling her artwork, Wedemeyer finds time to share her enthusiasm for art with the community. She teaches Power Tools 101 in her workshop where she empowers women with the courage and skills to master the sander, drill press, and nail gun. She hosts art workshops and retreats and belongs to the Rowdy Art Sisters art club where members meet to trade techniques and stir up each other’s creativity. She has a passion for mentoring other artistic women. Above all, Wedemeyer cherishes the oneof-a-kind in art and in life and has the ability to find beauty in anything. “I think every person you meet has a treasure inside,” she says. “I love mining for treasure.” KM

KM_DecJan_14_people of passion_1_submitted by Kathleen Wedemeyer
Local artist Kathleen
Wedemeyer is passionate about sharing her creative gifts through her pieces and by teaching others

TASSIE HEWITT is a freelance writer who believes in angels and the power of words.

Katy, TX News (January 29, 2015) – The City of Katy has selected Blackboard Connect, a leading mass notification platform, to facilitate important communication and emergency preparedness. The first community-wide test call will be held on Thursday, January 29, 2015.  A test call to business will launch at 2 pm and the test call to residents will launch at 6:30 pm.

The City of Katy implemented Blackboard Connect so that officials can stay connected to residents and efficiently provide them with direction in the event of severe weather warning, planned and unplanned all-hazard events or community events as well.  Using Blackboard Connect, officials can record and send an unlimited number of personalized voice messages to home phones, businesses, local agencies and mobile phones in just minutes. The service also sends email, text messages (SMS) to mobile phones and posts on Facebook, RSS feeds and Twitter channels. Messages can also be sent to TTY/TDD devices for people who are hearing impaired.

“Keeping our community safe and informed is our top priority, which is why we need to be able to communicate with residents quickly in an urgent situation,” said Maria Galvez, City of Katy’s Emergency Management Coordinator.  “Katy•Connect, powered by Blackboard Connect enables us to communicate efficiently with residents in just a matter of minutes, helping save valuable time, use resources efficiently and protect our community.”

City officials can target each message to an unlimited number of groups. Authorized users can also use the system’s geo-mapping and group subscription features to contact residents based on specific geographical locations and interests, helping ensure recipients receive relevant, targeted information.

“With Katy•Connect – powered by Blackboard, we know our residents are receiving the information that matters most to them, whether it’s an urgent situation or routine community update,” said Mrs. Galvez. “I strongly encourage residents to register their contact information and update their message preferences into the system’s secure database so they are prepared to receive important notifications.”

Publicly available primary residential and business phones in the City of Katy will automatically be included in the system. However, to ensure the City has the most up-to-date contact information, including cell phone numbers and email addresses, residents should visit the City of Katy website at www.cityofkaty.com  and click on the link that says “SIGN UP NOW – SERVICES BY BLACKBOARD CONNECT” in the KatyConnect portal and provide their complete contact information. Users should also manage their message preferences by indicating their preferred mode of contact, language and message topics. You may also opt-in to receive information directly from the PARKS & RECREATION portal as well as PUBLIC WORKS.  Those without Internet access are encouraged to call 281-574-8638 to provide their current information. Residents with call blocking services should add that phone number to their approved number list to ensure they receive important notifications from the city.  All opted-in SMS messages will be sent from a 23177 or 63079 number.

“Targeted communication is the best way to keep residents safe and allows them to receive the information that matters most to them,” said Ed Miller, president of Blackboard’s administrative platform group. “With Blackboard Connect, administrators can ensure the right messages get to the right people.”

For more information about Blackboard Connect, please visit http://www.blackboard.com/connect.

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 – The word is out! At 12 midnight, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo released the long-anticipated 2015 concert lineup. Many are saying this is the best performance schedule in rodeo history. With chart-topping artists from various genres, this year’s rodeo is sure to be a hit for everyone.

Performing artists include Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Hunter Hayes, John Legend, Fall Out Boy, Tim McGraw, Ariana Grande, Billy Currington, Blake Shelton, Pitbull, Brad Paisley, and Zac Brown Band.

For a full list of entertainers, and for ticket information, visit www.rodeohouston.com/concerts.

Happy Rodeo Season, Katy!

 

Tommie Cross-Holmes, a Mayde Creek graduate, is accomplishing his dream of modeling in New York City

Written by Cherri Northcutt | Photography courtesy of Tommie Cross-Holmes

Growing up as a student at Mayde Creek Elementary, Tommie Cross-Holmes never imagined that he would one day live in New York and have a successful modeling career. “As a kid, I was always playing outside with friends,” Tommie remembers. “My mom even got walkie-talkies so she could let me know when to come in for dinner. The only problem was, I had to stay within range,” he says.

“Tommie loved to read and play football,” his mother, Denita Holmes shares. In fact, his love of sports led him to Katy Youth Football where he met some of his lifelong friends. His dad played golf, so Tommie started playing in seventh grade. Tommie adds, “I also played football and ran track through junior high and high school.”

KM_DecJan_14_Tommie Cross-Holmes_Editorial shot by photographer Phyllis Lane
Tommie Cross-Holmes, a graduate of Mayde Creek High School, is making a name for himself as a model in mainstream editorial after moving to New York City

Dreams of Broadway
At Mayde Creek High School, Tommie was also active in choir. “He performed in Kantori and Encore choirs, and played the Beast in Beauty and the Beast his senior year,” Denita says. An active, good-natured young man, Tommie had dreams of playing for the NFL and singing on Broadway.

After graduating from Mayde Creek in 2009, Tommie was accepted into the musical theatre program at Sam Houston State University. While there, he also found time to play intramural football, basketball, soccer, and kickball. He was on the rugby team for the university as well as a camp counselor for incoming freshmen in his sophomore and junior years at college. “I like to meet people and be active,” Tommie says.

Getting the Callback
For years, Tommie’s mother and several of his friends encouraged him to give modeling a try. “I said, ‘That’s not for me,’” Tommie recalls. “Finally in 2010, I decided to give it a shot.”

Page Parkes in Houston was the second agency Tommie went for a meeting. “The only pictures we had were my senior photos from high school,” Tommie admits. After meeting with Parkes, the agency signed him that day. “They set me up with my first test shoot,” Tommie remembers. “I felt like a superstar in my own way.”

“We were drawn to Tommie’s sweet nature, cool look, and we loved the hair,” says Erik Bechtol, agency director at Page Parkes. “He’s always happy and has a love of the business that makes people want to be around him.”

At an agency review, Tommie showed off his modeling and acting talents for other agencies and clients. “I was so nervous,” he recalls. “At home later I was freaking out that I wouldn’t get a callback.” He did not need to worry. The next day Tommie learned that he had callbacks for eight modeling opportunities and 10 callbacks for acting. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,” Tommie says. He began modeling under the name Tommie Cross.

The Move to NYC
In August 2011, Tommie went to New York to test the waters. In his first few days, he went to casting calls and met potential clients. He then booked his first campaign for Off Broadway Shoes. A few days later he booked a TJ Maxx advertisement. Jobs with Seventeen Magazine and GQ quickly followed. “I thought that if it was going to keep going like that, I’d better find a place to live,” Tommie says.

Three weeks into his trip, Tommie found an apartment, and he’s been in New York ever since. Tommie’s “trial run” has turned into a permanent move.

Last February, Tommie met his goal of getting work with a national modeling agency when he signed with Wilhelmina Models in New York and Los Angeles. His proudest moment as a model so far was a recent commercial for Sony. “I did a Sony campaign with video game characters of me that played on the billboard in Times Square,” he says. “That was a great moment.”

Calling Katy Home
Tommie enjoys occasional visits with his family and to his hometown. “New York is just go-go-go, 24-7,” Tommie shares. “I love coming home to Katy to just chill and relax.” In Katy, he still loves playing football with old friends and watching his little brother Samuel grow up. Samuel is now a freshman at Mayde Creek High School. “I like to go back to Mayde Creek and talk to Coach Carter,” Tommie says. “I miss driving instead of always taking a subway everywhere.” Tommie also enjoys reconnecting with his childhood friends in Katy. “I’m still the same person. I don’t let success go to my head.”

Remember Your Roots
Tommie believes in setting goals. In the future he says, “I want to get the acting side of things going. In three years I want to shoot a TV pilot and in five years I want to be on my first feature film.” This January, he will be in Los Angeles working with Wilhelmina, LA. Tommie believes that the attitude you display determines how successful you will be
in the industry.

“Modeling isn’t for everyone,” Tommie admits. “You have to get used to rejection.” Even so, he encourages people to stay positive. “Don’t be scared; get out of your comfort zone. Get out there and try.” He encourages others to not be afraid, and to remember their roots. “No matter how successful you get, don’t forget who you are, where you came from, and the people who were with you when times were hard.” KM

CHERRI NORTHCUTT has lived in Katy with her husband and two daughters for over 14 years.

 

An inside look at Katy ISD’s dedicated board of trustees

Written by Shetye Cypher | Photography courtesy of Katy ISD

As one of the fastest growing communities in the nation, Katy ISD is the perfect combination of long-standing tradition and a cutting edge approach to learning. Through collaboration, commitment, and a desire for greatness, the Katy ISD board of trustees is always striving to provide the best educational experience possible for Katy students.

KM_14_Katy ISD Board of TrusteesGroup 4x5 Large
The Katy ISD Board of Trustees (Back Row from Left to Right: Charles Griffin, Ashley Vann, Joe M. Adams, and Courtney Doyle. Front Row from Left to Right: Rebecca Fox, Bryan Michalsky, and Henry Dibrell.)

Bryan Michalsky, President

  • Is the CFO of Cotton Holdings, Inc.
  • Has lived in Katy for six years
  • Was a Bearkat cheerleader for Sam Houston State University
  • Was elected to the board in May 2012

Both lifelong educators, Bryan Michalsky’s parents instilled the importance of a good education early on, which he feels
had a huge impact. “I love children, which to me is the first prerequisite to serve on the board,” he says. He also truly believes that the board has made strides in engaging the community over the past two years since he has served.

In addition to his passion for education, his professional experience provides him with the knowledge to make sound financial decisions. He loves that Katy ISD provides its students many opportunities to learn and succeed. “From athletics, to fine arts, to FFA, Katy ISD does a remarkable job of educating the whole student and preparing them for a fulfilling life,” says Michalsky.

Henry Dibrell, Vice President

  • Plays the drums and was in a band that traveled around the U.S.
  • Is a licensed minister
  • Is a flag football coach at CrossPoint Community Church
  • Was elected to the board in May 2011

Henry Dibrell refers to the involvement of parents and community volunteers as the “secret sauce” behind Katy ISD’s success. “We have an opportunity in Katy to change the face of education for all young people,” he says. “Katy is a great community. We have a bright future. As we continue to grow, we must work together to ensure that greatness continues and is passed down to the next generation.”

Dibrell decided to run for the board out of a passion for seeing young people achieve. He believes the board’s mission is to make sure every child in the community has access to unparalleled learning experiences. “Education is the great equalizer in our society. In this great nation, if you have a good education and work hard you can achieve great things. The key to the preservation of our liberties is an educated populous,” he says.

Rebecca Fox, Secretary

  • Has served in PTA’s, the VIPS executive board, and the Katy Council of PTA executive board
  • Has lived in six countries
  • Works as a motivational speaker

No matter the strengths, challenges, or interests of students, having talented educators ready to teach and inspire is what Rebecca Fox loves about Katy ISD. “I love children of all ages and watching them learn new things. Giving them opportunities that meet their individual strengths makes me excited,” she says.

Fox could not be more proud of the amazing programs that Katy ISD offers students, from fine arts to special needs. “I have attended countless graduations and shaken thousands of hands, and I still get misty-eyed every time I hear the music as they walk the stage and throw their caps into the air. It’s my favorite time of year. I am so proud of them, and happy that they are prepared for the future.”

Charles Griffin, Treasurer

  • Retired from the U.S. Air Force
  • Coached by Gary Joseph at Katy High School
  • Third-generation Katy grad
  • Elected to the board in May 2012

In Charles Griffin’s travels around the world, he has seen the value of a great education. Having lived almost his entire life in Katy, he wants to help restore the trust of the community in the district. “I grew up in Katy and moved back here so my children could have the same great experiences. I wanted to give something back to the district having received so much myself,” he says.

Griffin believes that being a leader includes being honest, loyal, steadfast, and of sound character. He feels the current board’s vision statement works well. “It was put together by this community and covers all the important needs of our students, community, and the district,” he says.

Courtney Doyle, Sergeant-at-Arms

  • Mother of six children
  • Active in PTA and as a community volunteer
  • Secretly wants to adopt six more children
  • Was elected to the board in May 2014

Courtney Doyle feels she is acutely aware of the importance of all kids being given an opportunity to learn. She felt running for the board was a unique opportunity to add another woman’s voice to the leadership. “I want to continue to aid in opening the lines of communication between
the district and the community. We not only have to communicate our goals to those who have been in Katy forever, we have to engage and find unique opportunities to communicate effectively to families who are new to the area,”
she says.

Doyle loves walking the halls of the schools and spending time at extracurricular events. The students brighten her day and her outlook on the future. “Children have a way of sharing hope without even knowing they are doing so. They are innocent, quick to love, quick to laugh, and eager to be great,” says Doyle.

Ashley Vann, Member

  • Graduate of James E. Taylor High School
  • Third-generation community servant
  • Vann and her mother were the founding members of the National Charity League – Katy Chapter
  • Was elected to the board May 2014

Ashley Vann feels that being a Katy resident means that you are a part of something great. “People move to the Katy area for the Katy ISD schools, and I love being a part of this district – its past, its present, and its future,” she says.

A James E. Taylor High School graduate, Vann has served in leadership positions for over a decade in Katy ISD. She is a third generation community servant who felt a calling to do more for the school district. “I campaigned honestly and tirelessly. I communicated clearly, and truly committed to do this job with all of my heart the minute I filed,” says Vann.

Vann also loves that even though the district is significantly larger than when she was a student, it still feels like a small town. “As a product of public education, I always believed my children would be, too,” says Vann. “Education is more than just the classroom. It is hands on learning outside the four walls of a school building. It is achieved through mentoring, the many co-curricular activities that are available, and the fundamental basis and commitment that exists at home.”

Joe M. Adams, Member

  • Has been a proud Katyite since 1986
  • Has held every board position at least once
  • Is a private pilot and owns his own plane
  • Has been a member of the board sine 1989

Joe Adams believes that the board’s job is managing the district along with the superintendent. He says the board wants to continue to improve the district so all students have opportunities to excel. “Education is important for our students because they are our future. One day they might be my doctor, my mechanic, or even the president of the U. S.,” says Adams. “We need to make sure every student is prepared for the next step in life, whatever that might be.”

Adams is confident in the opportunities Katy ISD can offer. “I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that their children have done well in college because of the education they received in Katy ISD,” says Adams. “We need to be proud of our district, our leadership, administration, and teachers. We are all in this together and it is important for us to be successful.” KM

Shetye Cypher is a freelance writer who is also the journalism teacher and publications advisor at Tompkins High School.

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.

 

Katy, TX News (December 6, 2014) – The Katy ISD Communications department has issued a letter regarding the tragic deaths of Terra Kubala and Trent Weber:

“Dear Parents and Guardians,

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

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

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

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

Katy ISD

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

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.

Spotlighting the students who transform Katy’s Friday nights

Written by Ashley Lancaster and Kirsten Cornell | Select Photography by Craig Moseley   

Katy, TX News – The stands fill with fans of all ages donning their school colors and faces painted with their favorite players’ numbers and armed with pom-poms, foam fingers, and signs. Athletes who have trained for years grind their cleats on the soft AstroTurf as they stare down the 120 yards to the goal line. Dozens of anxious students polish their instruments and fluff their plumes as they go over the spirit numbers one more time. It can only mean one thing: It’s Friday night, and the game is about to begin.

KM_F_14_FNL_SLHS_11_ASC_4003_PSE-3388449824-H_photo by Craig Moseley
Mascots are responsible for learning stunts, cheers, and getting the crowd going on Friday Night

KATY’S FOOTBALL TEAMS
A Winning Mindset
While every football program has its own strategies, the coaches and players at each school will tell you that preparing to take on an opponent takes more than just physical strength. “The coaches will begin preparing right after the previous game by watching video of what our next opponent does and how they do it,” says Don Clayton, athletic director and head coach at Cinco Ranch High School. “The players will do the mental work in meetings and video sessions, as well as on their own with study of the scouting report and with opponent video that is available to them.”

Physical preparation is accomplished during weekly practices, which averages about eight hours per week. While as many as 450 students try out for football each season, only about 85 will end up playing varsity under the stadium lights on a Friday night, something that each player looks forward to. According to Taylor Jiral, team captain and student at Cinco Ranch High School, Fridays
are synonymous with football. “All I can think about is the game. After school we go straight to the meeting room and prepare as a team for our games. We get in the zone and focused for the task ahead of us.”

Taylor Mustang Eddie Schwarz is looking forward to competing with this teammates and winning this season. “We will be making new traditions this year with Coach Herrmann and the coaching staff. I can’t wait to go all out for them and for all of our supporters.”

KM_F_13__football_photo Craig Moseley_khs_asc_3562_4katymag
Traditions run deep in Katy ISD football, and fans look forward to games each season

AWARD-WINNING BANDS
Sounds of School Pride
In the moment before kick-off, it wouldn’t be a football game if there were no drum roll or music to lift the spirits of the fans in the stands and players on the field. That is why the high school band plays such a huge role in encouraging the athletes and keeping the crowd on their feet.

“The band is one of the integral components of the football game that helps cultivate the environment and
create excitement in the stands,” says Michael Ary, newly appointed band director at Taylor High School. Without the dedication and hard work of the band programs, like the eight-hour practices during the weeks before school and regular practices throughout the week, Friday nights at
Rhodes Stadium wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.

“Our Katy fans are really spirited,” adds Katy Tiger Nathaniel Hebert. “They make up chants and scream them during the game. They know all of the spirit songs.”

KM_F_14_FNL_SLHS_11_DSC_7153_7x17_pse-3388450573-H_photo by Craig Moseley
Half-time wouldn’t be the same without the carefully choreographed performances of the band and drill team

SPIRIT LEADERS
Rallying the Community
The cheerleaders, mascots, and drill team members boost school spirit with more than their presence at a game. They help rally the community to support their team. “They are responsible for so much more than just sideline cheering,” says Seven Lakes cheer coach Amy Weaston. “We go to Red Ribbon Week, pep rallies, store grand openings, public relations appearances, birthday parties, and homecoming decorating – anything that reminds the public of who we are and what school we represent.”

This involvment in the community is what keeps people filling the stands to root for their school on a Friday night. The drill team members are in charge of decorating players’ lockers to boost morale during the week and practice their half-time routine for hours each day, right up until the moments before they perform.

Darby Boyd, dance instructor and drill team director at Taylor High School, shares what it’s like to watch her team perform on game night. “I love seeing a dance evlove from initial conception, then to teaching it, casting it, and finally perfecting it. It all comes to fruition in the moments the Pacesetters are on the field,” she says. “I am always nervously excited and incredibly proud.”

Student participation is the lifeblood of the crowd, and you can feel their excitement build throughout the game. “We will have a new student section this year nicknamed ‘the Jungle’ that we are really excited about,” explains Ryver Kirk, a cheer captain on the Katy High School varsity squad.

“The THS crowd always loves the chants where we have them repeat after us, getting louder and louder,” says Taylor High School varsity cheerleader Nicole Phillips. “They also seem to love the cheers that include our stunts, which take a lot of practice. And I can’t go without saying they love tumbling. All of our varsity cheerleaders are great tumblers.”

Chloe Rasch - Cinco Ranch HS 3
Varsity squads spend time each week preparing spirit signs and cheers for the game

IN THE STANDS
All for the Fans
Each group plays an important role in encouraging school spirit, but without the fans there would be no one to rally. Lorraine Eberly, cheer coach at Morton Ranch High School, remembers one fan in particular who touched her heart. “There is a little girl named Brittany that comes to every Morton Ranch game. She wears a cheer uniform and sits in the top section, brings posters and noise makers, and leads the 50 yard line crowd during the whole game. She comes down at every game to say, ‘Hi.’ How much sweeter can it get than that?” It’s safe to say that even Katy’s littlest fans love their football.

“I love being on the field and cheering for my team and the people who come out to support us,” adds Mayde Creek spirit
officer Amanda Sprague. “I couldn’t ask for a better squad. They are my family.”

Without the combined efforts of each group and the dedicated fans, Friday night football wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype. Katy High School head football coach and athletic coordinator Gary Joseph sums it up when he says, “It takes the coaches, players, school, athletic administration, teachers, student body, band, drill team, cheerleaders, parents, fans, and loyal supporters to have a successful program.” KM

ASHLEY LANCASTER is the Editorial Assistant at Katy Magazine and loves to watch her youngest brother and cousin play football for Katy High School.

Kirsten Cornell is the lead associate editor of Katy Magazine and she’s excited about wearing her spirit shirts to Friday football games this season.

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

These local leaders share how they keep their teams energized and motivated to achieve victory on the field, in the classroom, and in life

Written by Kelly Boldt|Photography by Anetrius Wallace

Katy, TX News – Football coaches aren’t just drill sergeants. They are also mentors, counselors, motivators, and strategic planners. Each one of Katy ISD’s head football coaches has a different approach to their team, but a common thread is woven into each of them – their families. They are described as patient, tolerant, and understanding. The most important message is that behind every good coach is an amazing Katy family. Here is a quick glimpse of our Katy area high school coaches (in alphabetical order).

Don Clayton – Cinco Ranch High School

Cinco Ranch head coach Don Clayton loves working with and helping to develop athletes. “It’s not a job; it’s a calling,” explains Clayton, who has been with the Cougars since their first football season in 2000. “I love the way football mirrors real life. You work hard to succeed and also learn along the way that you will get knocked down, but you have to get right back up and get after it again.”

Discipline is also important for Clayton, as is intensity and a high level of commitment from his players and staff. This undertaking is not limited to the field. “We are here to supplement and reinforce what parents do in raising their children,” says Clayton. “We try to be a positive influence to keep them on the right track.”

KM_F_14_coach profiles_Cinco Ranch HS_Don Clayton (4)_photo by Anetrius Wallace
Coach Clayton has been Cinco Ranch’s head coach since it’s opening in 1999
His wife Rhonda is a teacher at Randolph Elementary

Gary Joseph – Katy High School

After 32 years at Katy High School, coach Gary Joseph appears to have found the formula for success. He says it’s discipline. Known as a tough, straightforward leader who works at developing trust with his players, Joseph also realizes the importance of being a mentor to his team. “Leadership is important,” Joseph explains. “The biggest thing with our staff is developing trust with the kids. The players have to believe in what we’re saying. If they don’t believe in anything or anybody, they’re not going to be committed to anything in life.”

The Katy Tigers hope to continue their legacy of seven state championship wins. Joseph says, “I am proud to have helped build the great traditions at Katy High School over the years.”

KM_F_14_coach profiles_Katy HS_Gary Joseph (7)_photo by Anetrius Wallace
Coach Joseph has had 11 state championship appearances, six as head coach

Lance Carter – Mayde Creek High School

The first word Mayde Creek head coach Lance Carter uses to describe his program is “tough.” That’s their style of practice, what he expects his players to bring to the field, and how his team plays on game day. “There are lots of other details, but what really drives us is our love for the game,” Carter says. “Off the field, I have loved watching young men grow into their futures.”

KM_F_14_coach profiles_Mayde Creek HS_Lance Carter (3)_photo by Anetrius Wallace
Coach Carter’s wife, Emma, is a history teacher at Cinco Ranch High School

Carter also believes that coaches play an important role in other facets of their players’ lives. “So much of this game is a mentality,” he says. “You’ve got to be very driven to play football, and we have the opportunity to use football to teach them drive and motivation that may last a lifetime.”

Dave Meadows – Morton Ranch High School

Coach Dave Meadows believes he can be described as intense, thorough, and caring in his role as head football coach at Morton Ranch High School. “Our workouts are intense, and we work on things that are applicable to what the kids have to do on the field,” says Meadows.

Physical training isn’t the only aspect of being a good coach for Meadows. “We hold our players to a higher standard,” he says. “They may not live up to them all the time, but we want them to understand that there are consequences if they make a bad decision. We are all part of this together.” Meadows believes the Mavericks are ready for the new season. “What we are doing here is what suits us best. It may not work for everybody, but it works for us.”

KM_F_14_coach profiles_Morton Ranch HS_Dave Meadows (7)_photo by Anetrius Wallace - Copy
Coach Meadows’ has had four state championships, three state runner-ups, and 293 wins in his career

Lydell Wilson – Seven Lakes High School

In his third year at Seven Lakes High School, coach Lydell Wilson is working hard to achieve his goal of building a state champion-caliber team. Part of his strategy is to get involved with the kids. “I can relate to them, and they tend to respond to that,” explains Wilson. “I try to get individual guys to understand that winning is important. Everybody has to sacrifice something for our
team goals.”

KM_F_14_coach profiles_Seven Lakes HS_Lydell Wilson (3)_photo by Anetrius Wallace
Coach Wilson won a 4a division I state championship in 2007 at Lamar Consolidated

For example, Wilson sacrifices his personal time and encourages the players to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team as well. Wilson says, “Every second counts, and we want to make sure they put their all into everything they do.”

Trey Hermann – Taylor High School

Head Coach Trey Herrmann will be taking over the reins at Taylor High School this year. Herrmann is a graduate of Mayde Creek High School and was previously part of the coaching staff at Mayde Creek and Seven Lakes high schools. He was named the 20-5A Coach of the Year in 2010.

Herrmann believes his hard work and commitment to the program will demonstrate the strong work ethic he expects from his players. “I am honest and work hard to be clear about expectations,” says Herrmann. “But toughness has always been the most important part of what we do. Not just the physical part, but we want them to develop the mental strength to overcome obstacles.”

KM_F_14_coach profiles_Taylor HS _Trey Hermann (4)_photo by Anetrius Wallace - Copy
All three of coach Hermann’s sons are currently in Katy Youth Football

Each program has its strengths, and Herrmann considers the off-season work by his players to be the cornerstone of his program. Herrmann adds, “We find that when players buy into it, that translates into better performance on the field during the season.”

Tony Tademy – Tompkins High School

As the head coach of the newest Katy ISD football program, Tony Tademy at Tompkins High School knows he and the players have a special connection. “We are learning together, growing together, and every day is a new day for us,” says Tademy. He says the team is ready for game time. “We have a plan, and every day we stick to that plan.” Organization, attention to detail, and being honest with the athletes are all important components of Tademy’s leadership style.

“We try to always do what’s best for the kids and be as consistent as we can,” says Tademy. “My coaches and I want them to know that we want to see them succeed.”

KM_F_14_coach profiles_Tompkins HS_Tony Tademy (7)_photo by Anetrius Wallace
Coach Tademy is a former TCU linebacker coach and was also a defensive coordinator at University of Louisiana, Lafayette

Kelly Boldt is a freelance writer and Katy mother of three teenagers. 

By Gabbi Browne

Katy, TX News – Our four boys are attending camp this week. It’s three hours a day at a nearby school. Our oldest has attended this camp before, but it’s the triplets’ first summer. While I am using my solo time well—Costco trips, exercise, laundry, and a dentist trip—I have to be honest that I miss my companions a bit.

I am hoping that the boys will be making some new friends, although they probably won’t be year-long friends. It is meant to be a fun time for all.

Yesterday at pick-up time, the triplets said they liked camp. They had fun playing with the toys in the room. They didn’t enjoy the sand in their shoes.

“How did it get in your shoes,” I asked?

“We played in the sandbox.”

“What can you do to not get sand in your shoes?”

“Not use the sandbox!”

Problem solved? Maybe?

They didn’t know any of the names of the other children in their class. I asked them to tell me one name at today’s pick-up. Challenge hopefully accepted!

Our almost-seven-year-old is a different story. He was alone in the class, sans brothers. It’s a large group and the theme is math with pirates. He was eager to begin this camp session. It was unfortunate to hear that he had “no fun” on his first day.

“What happened?”

“No one spoke to me hardly at all.”

My heart broke.

“That is tough. Did you talk to anyone?”

“A little.”

“How about on Day Two you look for another boy who doesn’t seem to have a close friend and you go talk to him?”

There are 18 other boys in the class; I am thinking someone else is feeling left out. I got him to tell me that he would do it, so let’s see.

How do you more experienced parents handle situations like this? I am sure others like me would love to hear your hits and misses.

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.

Local students are giving back to others here at home and around the globe

Written by Holly Leger

Katy, TX News – As a teenager, it’s easy to get caught up in the world of adolescence. But these Katy teens received a reality check after going on mission trips – some around the world, and others in their own hometown. Katy Magazine reached out to these young men and women to hear their inspirational stories.

Parkway Fellowship students on a mission trip in Diepsloot in northern Johannesburg, South Africa
Photo courtesy of Parkway Fellowship

A World Apart
Johannesburg, South Africa may look like any other large, well-to-do city, but as the youth group at Parkway Fellowship discovered, the outskirts of the city are the polar opposite. The teenagers walked through squatter camps, performing door-to-door ministries.

Parkway student pastor Chris Sedgwick says the camps have very small square footage, yet house hundreds of thousands of residents and refugees. “It’s very hard conditions,” Sedgwick says. “It’s a maze of shacks. You have to walk sideways in between houses.”

Skylar Station and Tanner Clark playing a game with the children of Diepsloot Photo courtesy of Parkway Fellowship
Skylar Station and Tanner Clark playing a game with the children of Diepsloot
Photo courtesy of Parkway Fellowship

Seeing True Joy
The youth group split into groups of four, each one assigned with a translator, and walked from hut to hut to help others, share the story of Jesus, and pray.

Skylar Station, a 17-year-old youth member, says that although she was shocked by the poverty she witnessed while in South Africa, she was just as surprised by the level of pride and joy the people showed for their homes and family. “Even though they’re in these horrible conditions, they’re still happy,” Station says. “They haven’t lost sight of hope.”

Teen mission groups often spend time teaching Bible classes in village schools
Teen mission groups often spend time teaching Bible classes in village schools

Building Relationships
Traveling with the student organization at Second Baptist Church, 17-year-old Ansley Harris went to Belize City, Belize to help make renovations on a local Catholic school during her spring break.

While Harris and her fellow youth members were painting, the children at the school would periodically come outside during their breaks.

Harris says, “That’s when we would stop our work, go build relationships, and get to know the kids.” Harris reached out to the parents, too. A mother came to bring her children lunch each day, and Harris said she bonded with their family the entire week.

“Each day, I got to hear more of her story and tell her more of mine,” Harris says. “It was neat to pray over her and tell her why I believe what I believe. She was already a Christian, but we went into depth. It was a cool experience, and to talk to her kids about it, too, was neat.”

Harris says the experiences she had in Belize, as well as others she’s had this year while doing local mission work, helped her learn the world doesn’t revolve around her. Instead, she realized she is on Earth to serve, just as Jesus did. “For me, it was kind of a news flash and a slap in the face,” Harris explains. “Like, ‘Hey, Ansley! What are you doing to serve others? What are you doing to share the gospel?’ It was a super humbling experience.”

Second Baptist Church teen Ansley Harris hands out gifts to children in the village

Close to Home
If you double dog dare 18-year-old Josh Corley to do something, he doesn’t back down. That is, if it’s a dare at Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church.

In 2013, Josh applied for Grace’s Double Dog Dare Grant, which offers money to members who would like to plan a mission project. For Josh, that mission plan was easy: help the homeless men and women in the Katy area.

His mother, Dora Corley, says she was not surprised by her son’s decision. “Josh has always had a heart towards homeless people,” Dora says. “I’ve asked him why, and he replies, ‘You see them all the time, and they’re real people. But we’ll never know who they are, because we just drive by them.’”

Assisting the homeless was just part of Josh’s plan, though. He has Asperger’s syndrome and wanted to do the mission project with other special needs families at The Bridge, a ministry offered at Grace.

Lache Monroe and Jimmy Richardson washing clothes for some women at the community watering spot
Photo courtesy of Parkway Fellowship

Building a Bridge
The Bridge provides services for approximately 50 individuals. Josh said he knew a big group like that could make a big impact, as well as prove to others what they’re capable of doing.

“The special needs kids can actually do stuff,” he says. “We’re not just sitting around.” With the $500 Josh received from the grant, he bought Ziploc bags, toiletries, and other essentials. When the project was completed, Dora asked Josh what he thought of the day’s work. “He said, ‘I feel great inside.’” KM

HOLLY LEGER is a freelance writer who was constantly reminded during this story what a great spiritual gift serving can be.

By Gabbi Browne

Road Trips Old Style
Katy, TX News – Summer is officially here, and many families are planning road trips. Katy is a great starting point for drivable daytrips. What to do to help make those drive times more enjoyable? Here are some simple things parents can do to help avoid the sounds of agony from the backseat.

  1. We have happily discovered children’s audio books at our local library. We check out around five every other week we go to the library. You can really find a lot online and some at your local bookstores. One rule is that no one gets the books to read along, we just have to listen to the CD. Now, if you have one child who can handle the book with care, go for it. With four boys though, it’s easier to just listen. I feel like DVDs have their place for really long trips, but a few audio books mixed in are good for the brain.
  2. Dad’s musical CD pick is a fun way to introduce our children to good music that we enjoy. Raffi and The Wiggles are fine, but after a few times, we need some of our music too. By having a few CDs of our choosing in the front, we can select which songs are all right for our kiddos. For example, we just introduced our children to Johnny Cash’s song, “I’ve Been Everywhere.” I thought “A Boy Named Sue” would be a fun song too, but my husband reminded me that at the end it includes a word that is inappropriate for them. So, we were able to pick some songs and leave others for a later time. The boys love it when Dad takes over the music.
  3. Telling a story in parts. One child starts a story by only telling two lines. Then, the other passengers take turns furthering the tale. It is a creative way to spend some miles, and I think it helps children be able to put words on ideas, which is always helpful when in the middle of a tantrum.
  4. Quiet Travel Bags have been a really big hit on the Internet these days. I’ve seen bags that you can make at home on Pinterest and Facebook. Of course, you can always buy some magnetic games for older children to play in the car, but the travel bags that have caught my eye are when you plan ahead and wrap a few activities to be opened at various points of the trip. You can wrap a chapter book, or a travel game, a magazine, a coloring book, a sticker book, or some candy. At the first bathroom break, everyone opens one bag. When you cross the state line, another bag gets opened. After ten minutes of quiet time, another bag gets opened, and so on. It’s quite ingenious.
  5. Lastly, let a road trip be as fun as possible. There will be tantrums, sibling arguments, and maybe even some yelling going on. Try to take a deep breath, realize at the outset that no family’s trip is absolutely perfect, and try to enjoy each other’s company. These are memories in the making, not just the destination, but the journey.

By Cadet Staff Sergeant Faith

From start to finish, food to fun, and work to rides, Thunderbird cadets had a great time volunteering at the Cajun Invasion Festival at Katy Mills Mall. May 16 – 18 was a bright and sunny weekend, perfect for the carnival. Thunderbird Composite Squadron was invited by Katy Mills Head of Security to assist as a response team, perform trash pick up, and patrol the inner and outer perimeters of the festival. “We looked at it like a mission,” said Senior Member 1st Lieutenant Torre LoDolce, who was in charge of the cadets for the weekend. Cadets were split into teams and given radios to communicate. A tent was set up as headquarters. It served as a place for visitors to come and ask questions about the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Many people, as well as vendors, were very impressed by the cadets performance around the carnival and came to inquire about CAP. Members of CAP always have opportunities to participate in events and activities similar to the Cajun Invasion Festival because volunteer service is one of the most important core values for the organization. The festival offered a great opportunity to explain as well as demonstrate what CAP is all about.

Thunderbird cadets

Many Cadets and Seniors volunteered throughout the weekend so that the work was distributed evenly. Everyone had a chance to enjoy the rides and games. There were several live performances including  Kimberly Caldwell, Katy native. She was the seventh place finalist on American Idol. As she invited children up to the stage, cadets  Zach Lexa and Truitt LoDolce jumped into the group. The two jammed out on stage with the pop star.

Every cadet enjoyed volunteering at the festival. “It was a fun experience,” said Cadet Technical Sergeant Zach Lexa. “Sure we cleaned up, but we had fun doing it.” Katy Mills Mall was pleased with Thunderbird’s performance and welcomes them back.

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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Follow us on Facebook and post your answers to common questions.

Click Here For Our Prom Resource Guide!
Click Here For Our Prom Resource Guide!

What’s in. What’s hot. What’s fun!

Gowns
• Bright Colors
• Bold Patterns
• Mermaid-style
• Hi-low Skirts
• Beaded Bodices
• Flowing Skirts
• Short Gowns

Hairstyles
• Side Ponytails
• Messy Braids
• Loose Updos
• Sleek Waves
• Tousled Buns
• Fishtail Braids

Makeup
• Bold Lip Colors
• Natural Eyes
• Bronze Cheeks
• Lash Extensions

Sweet Rides
• Classic Cars
• Party Buses
• Limos
• Hummers

Ways to Ask
Ask early! Your date has a lot to buy and plan.

• Spell it out in rose petals
• Have it written in icing on a cake
• Hang a large sign in the school
• Team up with friends for a singing telegram
• Light votive candles spelling “Prom?”
• Write it on her Starbucks order

To advertise, call 281-579-9840 or email sales@katymagazine.com

Experts say the same-sex parent is the most important role model in a child’s life. Here are some great together-time tips and local ideas for making the most of your mother-daughter or father-son relationship.

Written by Kirsten Cornell

Mother & Daughter

1. Sign up for a jewelry making class together at Multiplicity in historic Katy.
2. Get dressed up and have a tea party with some winter melon black tea from Kim’s Tea House.
3. Get your hair done together at Pari’s Gallery, BH Hair Studio, or Simply Irresistible.
4. Pick up two copies of the same book at Katy Budget Books for a mom-and-me book club.
5. Get a cookie at Nestle Tollhouse Café at LaCenterra then hit Justice for some cute clothes.
6. Paint ceramics at Plaster Fun House and Ceramics.
7. Get dolled up and go to the Santikos Palladium.
8. Head to a local nail salon for mommy-daughter mani-pedi’s.
9. Order matching pajamas from pajamagram.com and have a mommy-daughter movie night.
10. Go to lunch at D’Amico’s Italian Market Café followed by a movie at Cinemark.

Father & Son

1. Play a round of blacklight miniature golf or laser tag at Tilt Studio.
2.
Hit Midway in historic Katy for some of the best barbecue in town.
3.
Take aim at sporting clays at American Shooting Centers.
4.
Head to Houston Fun Plex for bumper cars, rides, arcade games, and endless play.
5.
Go to Mary Jo Peckham Park or other local pond for a day of fishing.
6.
Enjoy a game of billiards or bowling at Times Square Entertainment.
7.
Practice your golf swing and enjoy some food at TopGolf.
8.
Visit Texas One Athletics and book their batting cage for a half hour of practice.
9.
Go to Katy Mills’ Jump Street for boundless bouncing and fun.
10.
Find your way to Steak ‘n Shake and have a pancake eating contest with their all-you-can-eat pancake special.

Click Here For Our Article With More Ideas Of How To Spend Time Together
Click Here For Our Article With More Ideas Of How To Spend Time Together

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

Donned in tiaras and cowboy boots, the Katy Cowgirls celebrate over 70 years of tradition

Written by Ella Hearrean | Photography courtesy of Katy Cowgirls

Katy, TX News – Carla Fisher was in fifth grade when she watched the Katy Cowgirls perform for the first time and told her parents, “I want to do that.” Eight years later, as a senior line captain of the mounted drill team, the Katy High School junior says, “I’ve learned leadership skills, gained friendships, and I feel proud carrying the flag during parades and performances.”

Katy Cowgirls Carla Fisher, Addy Alucema, Gretta Brong, and Jennica Davis

Representing the Community
This year, the organization of Katy ISD student horse-riding performers marks over 70 years of representing their hometown and school district at community events. Its 27 riders, whose ages range from 8 to 17 years, don their trademark tiaras and hats and present choreographed patterns at events like the Katy Rice Harvest Festival and Special Children’s Day. The culmination of their hard work is the annual presentation of the flags at the Katy Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Anita Mancini, director of the Katy Cowgirls for the past 11 years, attributes the success of the group to the diligence of its members. “These girls are the cream of the crop. Most are in advanced academic classes and are involved in other school and social activities, but they are dedicated to their horses and to each other. They are learning to be leaders.”

Working as a Team
The Katy Cowgirls accept girls of all skill levels, which Mancini says distinguishes the group from other team sports. “We want them to simply be able to walk, trot, and lope a horse with a flag in hand. We’ll take on someone with basic skills and a horse.”

The differences in abilities help the girls work as a team. “Their talents are different. Without each person’s position, the performance isn’t right,” says Mancini. Nine-year-old rider Faith Mancini agrees. “When I’m scared of holding the flag or steering the horse, the older girls make me feel comfortable and confident,” she says.

Their challenges strengthen the team as well. “The horses are spooked by the flags at first, so we have to teach them,” says Mancini. “They are also large animals that will misbehave. The girls learn to discipline them with respect.” Fisher adds that working closely with friends can sometimes be difficult. “Sometimes we have arguments and have to work them out, but Miss Anita always helps us. These girls are my best friends. They are like family.”

The team relies on the support of others, including five cowhands who prepare horses for rides and watch for the girls’ safety. “These are strong, capable young men who are always available,” says Mancini. She adds that parents are critical to the group’s success. “They show support by driving the girls and helping them reach their goals. Their commitment is awesome.”

The Katy Cowgirls team is comprised of Katy ISD students

Spreading the Love
Their camaraderie is evident in fun group traditions such as smashing cupcakes in birthday girls’ faces and going on annual alumni trail rides. It is also evident in their ability to come together to meet goals, such as exceeding their goal to support the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Mancini says, “Their horse rides, bake sale, and collections from family and friends raised over $7,000. I was so proud of them.”

Mancini’s close relationships with her current riders, as well as her 400 alumni riders, are reflected in their nicknames for her: “Miss A,” “Barn Mama,” even “Nana” by her granddaughter Faith – one of the youngest on the team. “I get to know each girl and what is going on with her so I can help her reach her goals,” she says. “They are such a blessing in the way they love me back.”

Ushering a New Season
The team is gearing up for its annual membership tryouts at the Katy ISD rodeo arena, where newcomers are judged on basic skills and where veteran members interview for spots as captain. Mancini is confident the new season will hold wonderful adventures. She shares, “I just can’t say enough about these girls. I can’t do them justice.” KM

ELLA HEARREAN is a Katy-area writer and editor.

Lena and David Carlberg share how they manage their daily routine with 10 children

Written by Holly Leger | Photography by Sara Isola

Katy, TX News – “Alyssa, Annie, Aidan, Alec, Andrew, Adam, Ashton, Abigail, Addison, Adrian…” No you’re not listening to a nursery rhyme; that is breakfast roll call at the Carlberg home. Lena Carlberg still finds it hard to believe sometimes. “I didn’t plan it that way,” she laughs. “I wasn’t ever going to have 10 kids.” She and her husband, David, are proud parents of six boys and four girls, ranging in age from 1 to 16 years old.

Planning A Family
David and Lena met in 1996 while working at the Olive Garden. A couple of years later, they began dating. Soon both wanted a family, but had slightly opposing views on the matter. Lena’s mother came from a family of seven. Lena and her two brothers have fond memories of being surrounded by their cousins at family gatherings. “I remember crying and begging my mom to have more [kids],” Lena says.

Lena and David Carlberg with their children, Adrian, Annie, Alyssa, Addison, Abigail, Alec, Aidan, Ashton, Adam, and Andrew

David on the other hand, grew up with the large family Lena wanted so badly. He was the youngest of eight, and had different dreams about starting a family of his own. “I wanted twins – a boy and a girl, and then be done,” David laughs. However, before either of them compromised on the matter, they got a surprise and learned they were pregnant with a baby girl. In the following 15 years, Lena and David added nine more children to their family. “There’s no explanation,” Lena says. “They just kept coming, and we didn’t want to stop – until now. We are officially done,” she adds, looking at 1-year-old Adrian in her arms.

Helping Hands

With six children attending three different schools and four children staying at home each day, the Carlbergs follow a tight schedule. Lena and David expect the kids to help along the way. For instance, while Lena takes 13-year-old Annie, who has cerebral palsy, to therapy after school, Alyssa, 16 and Aidan, 11 watch over their younger siblings at home. Alyssa even helps them with their homework. Lena says sometimes they perform tasks like these without even being told to. “They’re actually amazing at helping each other,” she says. And of course, mom and dad put in their share of work – with Lena doing about three loads of laundry a day, and David cooking dinner each night after he returns from work at Inchcape Shipping Services.

The Wolf Pack
Another challenge Lena faces are her sons’ seemingly endless games of wrestling. “I don’t know how to stop that,” she laughs, as David reassures her that it’s probably a universal problem with boys. These four brothers are what Lena likes to call, “the wolf pack,” because they are such close pals.

According to Lena, Ashton, age 4, was recently lost to the wolf pack, too. How did she know? “All the sudden, he says, ‘I don’t like Barney!’” But the wolf packs does more than wrestle and disown Barney. They also take good care of their sister, Annie. Lena says the boys constantly make sure Annie has everything she needs, whether it is a missing piece to a game she’s playing, or a glass of water. “I can hear them talking to her,” Lena shares. “They listen really intently.”

Hectic But Happy
It is love like that which makes their full house something special. The mess and noise may sometimes be amplified, but then again, so are the holidays and the family fun – like the 12 birthdays they get to celebrate each year. “There’s never a dull moment,” David says. “There’s always something going on.” From being the little girl who once longed for more siblings, to becoming the mother of 10 children, Lena couldn’t be happier with her lot of straight A’s. “My favorite thing is without a doubt all the love, all the hugs, and all the laughter,” she says. “I guess you can say I’m addicted to kids – especially mine.” KM

HOLLY LEGER loves hearing her father’s stories about growing up as one of 10 in the Kitten family.

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.

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Written by Leigh Ann Mitchell

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

Asking the Important Questions

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

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

Kendra Martin PhotographyKelly and Oliver, by Kendra Martin Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I know it’s January, and that means the making of resolutions and the reorganizing of priorities. I follow some blogs of busy moms, and it seems to me that a major theme this new year is to not beat yourself up trying to be perfect. I think it’s good advice; after all, no one is perfect. But with the advent of Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and other sites, it’s difficult to not compare yourself and your lack of accomplishments with others. 

As I said, looking at just ordinary blogs that my friends are writing, it is tough to see the pictures of the delicious meals, involved desserts, stylish home furnishings, and crafts for their kids without feeling a bit overwhelmed. “What have I done today,” I ask myself? I fed my family, but it wasn’t nearly as tasty as that blog meal. I cleaned the house, but don’t invite Martha Stewart over. I found a few educational crafts on Pinterest that I printed out, but right now they’re sitting in a growing pile while my boys and I play trains.

When I was growing up, we never really knew what other moms and dads were doing in their free time. Now, everyone feels like they have to blast it around cyberspace. So you’re an award-winning photographer who also bakes cupcakes decorated with your own brand of frosting. And yes, you can create educational games out of old newspapers and glue sticks. But I wonder if their real lives, the lives that are lived when the camera is turned off, are more like mine.

I think they are. And that’s really what many mommy-bloggers were confessing. Homeschool moms wrote that somedays they wish they had a principal to send their own child off to. Moms who usually shared delicious-looking recipes said that there are days when it’s fast food for their families. Educators who share creative ways to teach reading and math said that there are maybe ten minutes a day when everything in their classrooms are worthy of a photo.

It’s not an excuse not to try to be better–if that’s your inclination. I really do want to reinforce school learning at home with my children. So, maybe we have fifteen minutes of that kind of thing–found easily on the Internet, no workbooks for us, thank you! Then we play trains, or read books, or set the table together. That quiet moments are worthwhile, too. If I want to explore cooking more detailed or healthier meals, I know I can start with one dish at a time. My husband is grateful, as he says, “that you cook for me at all.”

So, Katyites, relax this year and take a deep breath. Find one challenge a week, make a goal, and please tell us all about it! We’d love to hear what our neighbors are doing.

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.
 

By Harmony Keel and Angie Aviki, co-coordinators for FBC Katy MOPs

We are currently having registration for our fall 2012 Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) semester at First Baptist Church (FBC) Katy. The fee for the fall semester is $70 for early registration before July 29, or $75 for registration between July 30 and Aug. 31. Registration includes childcare and specialized Veggie Tales curriculum for birth to 5 years old, and we welcome homeschool-aged children, as well. Those who register prior to Aug. 31 will receive an FBC Katy Moppets T-shirt for each “Moppets” registered child.

To register for MOPS at First Baptist Church of Katy, please:
• Download the registration form at www.fbckaty.org/mops/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/mops_registration-form_fall_20121.pdf
• Print it and fill it out
• Mail or bring it with your tuition to the church office:
MOPS at FBC Katy, 600 Pin Oak Rd., Katy, TX 77494

It is our wish that every mother desiring to be involved in MOPS be given the opportunity. A limited number of scholarships are available. Please contact our registration/finance coordinator at fbckatymops.registration@yahoo.com with any payment or scholarship questions.

If you are not familiar with MOPs, it is an international organization that exists to encourage, develop, and equip every mother of preschoolers to realize her potential as a woman, mother, and a leader in the name of Jesus Christ. There are over 4,000 groups in 30 countries with over 100,000 members. The theme this year is “plunge.”

The first MOPS meeting of the fall at First Baptist Katy is Friday, Sept. 14. The meetings start promptly at 9:30 a.m. and end at noon. Meetings are normally every other Friday, but are sometimes shifted to another Friday due to the Katy ISD schedule or holidays. The general format of the meeting is a meet-and-greet time, followed by brunch and either a speaker or a craft, with great fellowship throughout. We’ve already have some wonderful dynamic presenters scheduled and great crafts planned!

We welcome our fellow homeschooling moms and have a study hall setting available for homeschooling kiddos. We also meet up for playdates, the occasional mom’s night out, and family events.

While moms are enjoying their meeting, the children are lovingly cared for in the preschool area while they participate in our Moppets program. This year, our Moppets curriculum is the always fun Veggie Tales!

If you want more details about MOPS in general, go to www.mops.org. If you want more info about MOPS at FBC-Katy, then check out www.fbckaty.org/mops/.

For specific questions, please feel free to contact Angie Aviki and Harmony Keel at fbckatymops@gmail.com.

Hope you can join us!

We are currently having registration for our fall 2012 Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) semester at First Baptist Church (FBC) Katy. The fee for the fall semester is $70 for early registration before July 29, or $75 for registration between July 30 and Aug. 31. Registration includes childcare and specialized Veggie Tales curriculum for birth to 5 years old, and we welcome homeschool-aged children, as well. Those who register prior to Aug. 31 will receive an FBC Katy Moppets T-shirt for each “Moppets” registered child.

 

To register for MOPS at First Baptist Church of Katy, please:

• Download the registration form at www.fbckaty.org/mops/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/mops_registration-form_fall_20121.pdf

• Print it and fill it out

• Mail or bring it with your tuition to the church office:
MOPS at FBC Katy, 600 Pin Oak Rd., Katy, TX 77494

 

It is our wish that every mother desiring to be involved in MOPS be given the opportunity. A limited number of scholarships are available. Please contact our registration/finance coordinator at fbckatymops.registration@yahoo.com with any payment or scholarship questions.

 

If you are not familiar with MOPs, it is an international organization that exists to encourage, develop, and equip every mother of preschoolers to realize her potential as a woman, mother, and a leader in the name of Jesus Christ. There are over 4,000 groups in 30 countries with over 100,000 members. The theme this year is “plunge.”

 

The first MOPS meeting of the fall at First Baptist Katy is Friday, Sept. 14. The meetings start promptly at 9:30 a.m. and end at noon. Meetings are normally every other Friday, but are sometimes shifted to another Friday due to the Katy ISD schedule or holidays. The general format of the meeting is a meet-and-greet time, followed by brunch and either a speaker or a craft, with great fellowship throughout. We’ve already have some wonderful dynamic presenters scheduled and great crafts planned!

 

We welcome our fellow homeschooling moms and have a study hall setting available for homeschooling kiddos. We also meet up for playdates, the occasional mom’s night out, and family events.

 

While moms are enjoying their meeting, the children are lovingly cared for in the preschool area while they participate in our Moppets program. This year, our Moppets curriculum is the always fun Veggie Tales!

 

If you want more details about MOPS in general, go to www.mops.org. If you want more info about MOPS at FBC-Katy, then check out www.fbckaty.org/mops/.

 

For specific questions, please feel free to contact Angie Aviki and Harmony Keel at fbckatymops@gmail.com.

 

Hope you can join us!

Harmony Keel and Angie Aviki, co-coordinators for FBC Katy MOPs

One of my favorite comic strip creators, Bill Keane, often showed that he knew what life with children was really like. His strip, The Family Circus, centered on a couple with four young children. He titled these particular strips, “It’s Apparent You’re a Parent” and showed things like the husband finding a toy in his pocket while at work and the wife correcting someone’s bad language.

As a single woman, I used to laugh at Keane’s strips. Now, as a wife with four young children of my own, I find myself pointing to my own parental oddities. Yikes, I’m a parent!

It’s apparent I’m a parent when… I can quickly browse through racks of superhero and Cars 2 toys knowing who we have at home and who we are desperately looking for.

It’s apparent I’m a parent when… my husband and I know if it’s going to be Steve or Joe as the host of Blue’s Clues just by the first five seconds of the opening song.

It’s apparent I’m a parent when… the most I will do to the driver who just cut me off is to briefly beep, because I have children in the back seat who will mimic any foul language.

It’s apparent I’m a parent when… my purse contains lone Cheerios, Goldfish, and those pesty straw coverings from juice boxes.

It’s apparent I’m a parent when… the DVR contains more recorded shows from Nick Jr. and PBS than any other channels combined.

It’s apparent I’m a parent when… Amazon sends me ads for toys.

It’s apparent I’m a parent when… my husband and I can tell you when story time is at any Katy library.

It’s apparent I’m a parent when… 9:30 rolls around and my husband and I are ready to sleep.

I know these are funnies for parents of young children. I’d love to hear from other moms and dads, especially those of you with teenagers. How does your status of parent show as the kiddos grow?

Like many of you, I watch a lot of cooking shows. I love the professionally-edited ones on Food Network and the artsy ones on the Cooking Channel, and I even catch a few on the weekends on PBS. Even though I don’t necessarily use too many of the recipes from these chefs, I always feel inspired to rev up my cooking repertoire when I see them.
My husband is a sweetheart – especially when it comes to my attempts at being Katy’s version of the Pioneer Woman or the chefs on those challenge shows. How do they decorate cakes taller than me in a few hours? How does she make a week of meals out of one day of cooking? How does he know when to flip those burgers on the grill and still keep them juicy? I shout out these questions, and my husband listens as all responsible husbands do.

“Where are the pineapple pork chops?” he asks when I set before him grilled cheese and tomato soup. “Didn’t work out right,” I answer.

“Oh. Well, I like anything you make me. Thank you for a lovely dinner.” And he means it! One time I bought some frozen tilapia to use in a Bobby Flay recipe. Somehow, my fish ended up tasting, quite literally, like dirt. I couldn’t serve them. (It was reminiscent of the time I tried to make the Barefoot Contessa’s Irish Soda Bread one March. More flour ended up on the floor and on me than in the dough. He told me the bread was just delicious.)

Anyway, I thought of those quick-thinking chefs on Chopped and ran to the pantry, opened up some black beans, and began heating some frozen peppers. I prayed we still had some tortillas left (we did!) and then magically microwaved cheese over nachos. My husband loved that just as much as he would have loved Bobby’s tilapia.

So, it doesn’t matter if you can make 10 meals out of one or if you can manage to homeschool, blog, take wonderful photographs, write cookbooks, and still get a scrumptious dinner out each day. I think as long as you can manage to get a dinner on the table most days, your family will appreciate you. Of course, we keep plenty of take-out menus on hand for days when even a home-cooked dinner is too much to ask for!

Do you enjoy or revile cooking shows? We’d love to hear from you about your Katy cooking adventures!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Offering friends support in small ways can make a big difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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!

Create New Traditions This Holiday Season

Is all this talk of traditions, warm family holidays and fun activities with your kids this Christmas getting you in the spirit of the season?  Or is it causing your spirits to get flustered and overwhelmed, adding more to your already-jam-packed holiday calendar?  Well, don’t stress, here are 6 very simple ideas that are fun, memorable and affordable.  You can easily squeeze them in and around everything else going on, especially once school is out and tests, homework and lunch preparation is over for a couple of weeks!

1.       Build a gingerbread house with your kids – The kits they have now are the best invention!  For around $10 at any craft store, everything you need to plaster, decorate and then eat the gingerbread house is included in the kit!  I found this year that the gingerbread boy cookie kit was even better, because each child decorates their own cookie, then eats it the way they want, with no fighting or yelling, “No, I wanted to eat the roof!”  This simple tradition literally takes about thirty minutes, and cleanup is minimal, but my kids look forward to it every year.

2.       Hang and fill each other’s stockings – My husband and I have been filling each other’s Christmas stockings for as long as I can remember, and it is one of my favorite parts of Christmas morning.  The cost is very little, since the items we load up the stockings with are favorite candies, lotions, lip gloss, maybe a cd and a book.  For the kids, we always raid the dollar section at Target, and they are thrilled with small tablets to write on, fun makeup to play with, dress up jewelry, and more goodies from each other.  This year was extra fun, as they were able to shop for each other at their schools, and no one but them knows what small gifts they purchased for us and each other!  Keep in mind, the key is to stuff the stockings on Christmas Eve, not before!

3.       Cookie exchange bakeoff – Get together with a few friends, pick a house, and each participant bake at least one variety of their favorite holiday cookie or treat!  It is so much fun to hang out, drink hot cocoa and talk and laugh too much, then take a plate of assorted home baked goodies to your family, or maybe even a lonely neighbor.

4.       Go caroling at an assisted-living home – I work at a home here in Katy for the elderly with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Those “nana’s and papa’s” as I call them, love to have company, especially children!  Caroling takes all of an hour or so out of your holiday season, but the pleasure and fulfillment you and your kids would get out of giving back to our elderly is worth every minute!  And it’s free!

5.       Attend a holiday church service – Katy is blessed with many different churches, offering a large array of services and holiday celebrations.  Every family loves the tradition of stopping for an hour or so, and giving time to the real Reason for the Season.  My family and I have been impressed with the sheer beauty of the decorations and atmosphere in assorted churches in the Katy area, and the hospitality of the people in them!

6.       Host a family at your holiday dinner table – My family and I have learned over the years to embrace and learn about other people in the world.  One of the things we love most about Katy is the vast number of different ethnicities and cultures in our town.  Why not open up your home and invite a family or individual who might not have a family nearby to share your holiday dinner with you?  We shared Thanksgiving dinner with someone we had recently met, and since then, we have become fast friends.  It’s also a good opportunity to try other foods and ways of eating!  The kids enjoy the opportunity to broaden their young minds on being hospitable and appreciative of other cultures.

There are many ways to begin new traditions with your family, or keep treasured generational ones that are passed down over the years.  Either way, the idea is to keep it simple and enjoy these holidays with those who matter most, your loved ones!

Help Create Special Memories with Loved Ones This Holiday Season

Growing up, my family didn’t have too many traditions, especially around the holidays.  I can remember a couple that were special, and they were observed when the funds were available, but my childhood was not full of warm traditions.  Part of the reason was the strict religious beliefs my parents held, and part was my mother’s stand that “things shouldn’t hold value.”

In my adult years, and especially as a parent, I have taken a different approach to creating traditions; one of joyful memories, warm lessons, and delightful keepsakes.  I hope the balance I have found between overcompensating and appreciating traditions is one that blesses my children in their years to come.  Here in Katy, we’ve already started forming new holiday family traditions, weaving in the Texas way of celebrating with our native Hispanic customs.

Here are a few reasons I have found to make and observe traditions in my family:

1. Everyone needs something to look forward to – What a fun reason to continue or create new traditions for the family; to have something great to look forward to.  We get very few true holidays during the year, why not make them memorable and full of rich rewards.  We all need a little joy in our lives, and the holidays are the perfect time to celebrate our blessings and each other.

2. Keeps the focus off the busyness of the season and on the rewards instead – The holidays can get hectic, hairy and no fun real fast in our society; a good idea is keeping first things first.  Family, friends and fellowship are always first.  These are the times to reflect on our blessings and let the little things go.  Time is the greatest gift in our lives, and our children spell our love as T-I-M-E, not M-O-N-E-Y.

3. Builds bonds, memories and life journeys – Our families will not look back and remember what they were given as gifts during the holidays, they will remember the precious moments and experiences they were given during these most valuable times.  They will place value on what they see and are taught value is in, and the lasting value of family time in a warm, loving atmosphere is priceless.

4. Creates an appreciation for the blessings in our lives – Celebrating special events like the holidays with family traditions will develop a new sense of appreciation in our families.  They will come away from the celebration with a new appreciation for not only the traditions, but also refreshed for “normal” life again.  After well-spent time with loved ones, our family will be ready to get back to the routine with a fresh take on their gifts of time and relationships.

Specific traditions around the holidays are a priceless gift to give your family, and will create a new sense of belonging in your family members.  They will reminisce about the things you did together, dishes they ate, and funny stories they enjoyed for years to come.

What are your family traditions around the holidays?  Do you find tradition to be important in your Katy household?  Do you celebrate the same way as you did growing up, or have you found new traditions for your family?

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 moms no longer need the craft stores to be crafty

In 1996, I became a card maker using rubber stamps.  My friend Sharon taught me how to use stamps to make beautiful cards.  She had thousands of stamps, and I’m not exaggerating.  I slowly built up my own collection of stamps along with embossing pens and powder, markers, ink pads, adhesives, and cardstock.  It then became necessary to buy a drafting table and a rolling cart to store the materials for my new hobby.  I also needed a room for my crafts, so my study became the “craft room.”  I have to admit that since I started this hobby, I have bought roughly five cards in the last 14 years.  I justified my crafting expenses by the money I saved from not buying cards.  Well, that’s what I told my husband anyway.

My friend Christine was also a stamper (as we fellow crafters called ourselves), but she was also a scrapbooker.  She tried to convince me to become a scrapbooker like many ladies in the Katy area.  I kept thinking of the expenses that scrapbooking would incur; I would have to buy even more supplies like a die cut machine, special 12×12 papers, embellishments, ribbon, organization bins, albums, and on and on…

After resisting for many years, I finally  did it. I became a scrapbooker, much to the delight of Hobby Lobby and Michael’s.  No matter how many supplies I owned, it became an obsession to want more supplies.  I was thrilled with my “new” hobby.  I chose to create chronological albums of my children’s lives that include each month of the year.  After two years of being an official scrapbooker, I became disillusioned by the overwhelming effort it was to make a single page.   For example, if I wanted to make a page of our visit to the zoo, then it would require all (but not limited to) the following: a couple of 12×12 papers of animal print, cardstock, alpha chipboard or alpha die cuts, animal stickers, a cute phrase sticker or rub on, ribbon to match the paper, adhesive for the ribbon, glue dots, fun embellishments, and printed pictures.  Then I would need space and free time.  Scrapbooking wasn’t for me anymore, especially with my two little kids who needed my attention.  I admire all the ladies who are hard-core-weekend retreat-going-scrapbooking enthusiasts.  I marvel at their patience.

I became overjoyed when I discovered digital scrapbooking.  I researched the best software online and then bought it for about $25.  It is very user friendly, and I can now make a beautiful page in just a fraction of the time and cost of the hand made pages.  I entered the world of digital scrapbooking blogs. There are so many women out there with a passion for digital scrapbooking, and they love to share their digital embellishments, papers, and alphas (digikits).  When I say share, I mean it’s FREE to download.  Do a search for free digikits, and you will find that it is endless.  Be careful though…it’s addictive.  Once I have made a page, I save it as a JPG, and then upload it onto one of the many digital printing websites. One 12×12 page typically costs $1.99 to print; I print 20+ pages at a time, and then I wait for the delivery in my mail box.  When I hold my pages in my hands, I am so happy.  I have given away or thrown away most of my supplies.  My craft room has become a study again, and I now need only my pictures on my external hard drive and my laptop to “craft.” 

So, busy Katy moms — If you want to preserve your kids ‘memories (or your own) in a special way but don’t want to spend a fortune on supplies, then consider digital scrapbooking.  Do you have any questions about digital scrapbooking? What are your thoughts about it? Post your comments below.

                                                                                                

How to decide whether or not to give into your Katy teen’s pleaing

Of course, my husband and I had to hear about the cell phone many months before we actually deemed it a need instead of just a want, and gave in and bought it.  My twelve-year-old son, Jovanni, is in a little hurry to grow up.  Are all kids like this now?  They want Facebook profiles (he hasn’t won that argument yet!), laptops, cell phones, ipads… I was happy with a notebook and pen at his age.  That’s all that was readily available when I was his age!  (Oh, did I just date myself?)

What to do?  Well, my advice, even if you don’t want it, is to NOT give in to all the requests, whines, or demands for the newest, most expensive “thing” on the gadget market.  Ask yourself, is this something my child really needs right now?  Is peer pressure a factor in their pressing “need” for this item?  Would this purchase create more problems for society situations (i.e. bullying, sexual predators, etc.)?  If so, then maybe, just maybe, it is not the best purchase idea for your child at this time.

If the purchase is a good idea, then I highly recommend that a purchase for your tween or teen come out of their own pocket, either partially or fully.  They are getting closer every year to springing the nest, and if they get the idea at home that whatever they want, they can get with no investment on their part, the value of that item is immediately diminished.  They are better off if they have to save for part – or all – of it, because they will value it more having waited and planned for it.  They also watch to see if you put it on “the card.”  If your child gets the idea that what you want, you get now, they are not able to realistically deal with the idea of credit later in their lives.  They don’t see that you are paying for that item later, and paying more, a lot of times, than the original price.

In our house, my son has to use his own allowance for his cell phone bill.  We felt that this would create a sense of responsibility in him, and he would treat his “toy” better for it.  Sure enough, he has not lost the phone, it hasn’t been broken, and I love that I can run to the post office and call him to check in on the way home!  The peace of mind that this gadget gives me, and the fun that texting his cousins and friends back home gives him, is worth every dime.

Katy residents can earn a degree “From the school of hard knocks!”

If you haven’t already received your pamphlet in the mail, be on the lookout for the Fall 2010 Community Education classes list from the Katy Independent School District.  This idea is new to me, being from a small rural area previously, and I like it!  A large assortment of interesting topics are available to local residents, either online or in person.  The classes are held locally at assorted KISD campuses.  From foreign languages to finance, painting to sewing, guitar lessons to zumba dance classes, there seems to be a little of everything offered!  Take your pick, and if you are age sixteen and above, sign up for one of these classes.  Fees are different for every class, as some require more materials than others. 

Have you ever wanted to learn how to arrange flowers?  There is a class for that!  Always wanted to try your hand at shooting a bow and arrow?  Take the archery class!  The topic list is almost endless, covering sign language for babies, conversational arabic, real estate investing, how to organize your life, oil painting, gardening, how to get published, and photography!  There is even a class for learning how to make your home more energy efficient (Home Energy Efficiency 101)! 

This is a great idea, and very affordable.  The average class cost is about $50-$70, and they last as long as one evening to several weeks.  If you would rather learn at your own pace and without the social stimulation, sign up for an online class, and still reap the wonderful reward of knowledge.  These classes are not offered for college credits, but they do further your “degree from the school of hard knocks!”

For further information, you can contact the Community Education Program of Katy ISD at 281-396-6365 or in person at 6301 South Stadium Lane in the KISD Educational Support Center on Monday-Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

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?! 

 

The First Day of School is Right Around the Corner for Katy ISD Students

Merrell Center - Katy ISD Administration Building

The 2010-1011 school year starts is only a month away, which means school supplies, clothes, and for some of us, registering children in new schools. For students new Katy ISD and returning students, parents need to make sure you’ve got everything ready for the new school year.

According to the Katy ISD registration site at http://www.katyisd.org/parents/Pages/Registration.aspx, to register students new to the district, or new to kindergarten, middle, or high school, parents will need the following documents:

  • Proof of residence (like a recent utility bill or house/apartment rental agreement)
  • Official birth certificate or other  proof of the student’s identity
  • Immunization Records
  • Report card or transcript from the previous school
  • Withdrawal sheet from the previous school
  • Social Security card
  • Application for Determination of a Minor’s Residence (if the student lives with someone besides a parent)

Registration occurs in the front office at individual campuses, during the second and third weeks of August. The hours for August 10-13 are: Tuesday and Thursday, 9-11 AM for names beginning with A-L and 1-3 PM for M-Z. Kindergarteners Register on Wednesday from 8-Noon and 1-3. Friday is open to all students from 9-11 AM. For the Week of August 17-19: Tuesday is open to elementary school registration from 9-11 AM, and secondary schools from 1-3 PM. All grade levels can be registered on Wednesday and Thursday.

To find out which schools to register your students at, first visit the Katy ISD Attendance Zones site at:  http://apps.katyisd.org/public/katyisdcampusmap, then go to:

http://www.katisd.org/scd/District­_map.pdf   to locate individual campuses and addresses.

The first day of school is Monday, August 23, 2010. The Elementary school day begins at 8:20 AM and ends at 3:40 PM. Junior and Senior High school days begin at 7:30 AM and run through 2:35 PM.

For more Information:

Katy ISD School Supply Lists can be found at:
http://www.katyisd.org/parents/Supply%20List%202010/Forms/AllItems.aspx

Katy ISD Instructional Calendar for 2010-2011 is located: http://www.katyisd.org/Calendars2/2010-2011%20Instructional%20Calendar.pdf

For General Katy ISD information:
http://www.katyisd.org/Pages/default.aspx

Spreading Love to the Katy Community

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

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

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

How has someone positively impacted you?  Please share.

 (Mostly) sugarless crafting for Katy kids

 This year, our big annual family vacation starts quickly after the Fourth of July. Preparations are in full swing and keeping us very busy, so we are not planning a major party or event for Independence Day. A low-key barbeque, sparklers, and a few crafts are plenty to keep our 2 and 4 year olds busy and happy.

 Cutting back on the sugary treats in our house means no red, white, and blue jell-o or sugar cookies. Homemade ice cream, made with reduced fat ingredients, may still make it to the table, but we are proudly bidding farewell to the majority of our patriotic sweets. Instead, the children will help me make fruit-and-lowfat vanilla yogurt parfaits. We may make it extra fun and throw a little red and blue food coloring into our yogurt.

One major change this year is that both of my girls are old enough to participate in family crafts. We will be making a large banner for our home on butcher paper. We’ll take the paper outdoors (to the grass) and soak cotton balls in washable paint. The children will throw the cotton balls onto the paper so that they will land with a splat and give a fireworks appearance.

We also plan to make sparklers out of wired star garland (found at the local craft stores) and the cardboard portion of coat hangers. We will stick some garland out of the end of the coat hanger tube and then tape it into place with blue painter’s tape. Follow up with some painting on the cardboard, and we’ve got fireless sparklers.

Our last family craft is making our place mats. If they turn out, I plan to laminate them and use them year after year. My four year old loves to tear paper, so we will make torn-paper American flags. We’ll rip the paper and then glue it in lines across the paper to mimic an American flag.

What about you? How are you celebrating the Fourth of July? Post a comment below!

Welcoming Home a New Katy Cutie

Our toddler son has been  hearing all about his triplet brothers in the NICU ever since their birth nine very long weeks ago. Now that one is ready to come home in a few days, the rush to get every single last-minute thing done has swung into full-gear.

Every parent who has brought home a sibling knows that Child Number One experiences a wide range of emotions. Although our situation is a bit different than most families’, here are a few things we did to better prepare our son. In the weeks ahead, I’m sure I’ll know if they made a big difference or not.

First, we did our best to include Son Number One (SNO) in some decions regarding his brothers. My husband and I let him make the final decision on the color of paint for the boys’ room. Of course, we had already chosen three finalists from which he could choose. SNO also helped pick out special soother friends for each brother and helped load up the shopping cart at Babies ‘R’ Us–because he is such a good big brother.

Which leads to encouraging your older child to look for ways to help. Can he share toys, help Mom and Dad stock the changing table (although the stack of diapers won’t be as neat as if you diud it?), or be the last one in his carseat so that he can make sure the baby is safely buckled in by you?

Last for now is that everyone needs to remember SNO is an individual. He still needs his toddler routine–so we can’t put him to bed when the babv goes. Is there a parent or relative who can take SNO out on special “Big Sibling” trips to the mall carousel, library, or bike ride? How can we make sure he still knows he has a special role in our family?

These are some of my suggestions, but I know you can help me with more. How did you prepare your own SNOs for their little siblings?

How do you preserve your Katy family memories?

When I was a young girl, I remember being very proud of one of my possessions- my scrapbook.  My mother had started a scrapbook for me when I was a baby and had added to it as the years passed.  It wasn’t fancy.  It was simply a compilation of pictures, letters, certificates, and drawings…in essence, all of my good memories.    By the time I went to college, I had three large notebooks filled with my life’s history. During college, I remember flipping through pages of my treasured scrapbooks on many occasions.  The scrapbooks have always seemed to be a powerful reminder of what matters most.  

When I got married, my mother gave me six empty scrapbooks and supplies to start on scrapbooks for my husband and family to be.  My husband jumped aboard the scrapbook wagon.  He began the long process of gathering any and all memorabilia he could find.  It was a treat to walk down his life’s path with him as we compiled his scrapbooks.  With much time and effort, he too had scrapbooks that detailed his life.   

As children entered our home, we began a scrapbook for each of them.  I was happy when digital cameras became the norm because we could design and print scrapbook pages on the computer.  I found it saved time if, for family event pages, I made one and simply made a copy for each family member.   I am not a crafty person, so I have tried to keep the books simple and manageable.  

At the end of the school year, I felt happy as our family gathered in the living room to update the scrapbooks.  I noticed the air of pride that emanated from each of my children as they flipped through pages and memories from the past.   So, no matter how many years have gone by, scrapbooks are always doable…and very well worth the effort! 

How do you preserve family memories?  Please share a comment.

What lessons have your Katy kids taught you? 

This morning, I raced around the house knowing that the day was full.    I peered at the clock and noticed that I had five minutes to eat breakfast before I had to rush to the car and set off.  I hurriedly poured a bowl of cereal and did what I tell my children not to do.  I began to eat, standing up in the kitchen, and tried to quickly devour my Cheerios.  Just as I took my first bite, my youngest child ran up to me and began to explain what was on his mind.  In animated speech, he flung his arms up and, while doing so, hit my cereal bowl.  Cereal and milk covered my face, hair and clothes.  I was absolutely drenched with my breakfast!   In exasperation, I let out a shriek of shock and frustration. 

Now I was really pressed for time!  I raced to the laundry room, took my milk-covered clothes off and ran to the bathroom to wash off my face and hair.  I knew I would definitely be late and I felt frustrated!  As much as I had tried to start off the morning right, my morning had not gone as planned.  I shook my head as I thought of the craziness of motherhood.   Suddenly, I caught sight of myself in the mirror.  I looked horrible.  Little, wet Cheerios were nestled in my hair.  At once I realized how busy I had let my life become.  I knew that, as a mother, it was important to leave wiggle room in my schedule for the unexpected.  Maybe the Cheerios incident was a reminder that I needed to slow down.    

Drying off my wet hair, I selected my second outfit of the day and sprinted to the kitchen to grab my purse and keys.  In the kitchen I noticed my son, who had drenched me with cereal, sitting at the table crying.  I knew it had been an accident, yet, since I was in such a hurry, I had reacted with anger.  So, in spite of my already being late, I decided I needed to tend to hurt feelings before moving forward with my day.  I walked up to him and put my hand on his shoulder.

“Braden, it isn’t your fault.  I shouldn’t have been standing up while I was eating.  But, I learned a good lesson!  Next time, I will sit down when I eat and I won’t rush around like a wild woman.  I love you!”

What lessons have your children taught you?  Please share a comment.

Katyites don’t have to look far for Summer fun!

Welcome to the first day of summer even though the Katy heat has made us feel like it’s been summer for sometime now. If you still are looking for some fun summer activities don’t worry. Katy/Houston has plenty!

For all you swimming types both Splashtown and Schlitterbahn Galveston Island are offering great summer specials and events. Be sure to visit both of their websites for information and details. If you think that your family may enjoy one of these parks multiple times this summer then consider a summer pass. If you love water parks those are a great deal.

Looking to introduce some education into your summer activities then consider visiting one of the wonderful museums in the Houston Museum District. You can read up on all of the museums at the museum district website. Several of the museums are free all the time and many others have special free admission days and times.

Katy is home to one of the most unique museum experiences. The Forbidden Gardens in Katy offers families the chance to learn about the historic past of China and it’s culture. This would be really fun now considering the hit movie Karate Kid that is currently out in theatres. What a great way to incorporate some fun and education!

Houston continues to provide us with many summer options in the fine arts area as well. Music and performance lovers should check out the Miller Outdoor Theatre. They are always hosting great events and it’s always free! If you want assigned, covered seating for any of the performances you can pick up tickets between 10:30 and 1:00 pm on ticketed show days at the Miller Outdoor Theatre box office.

Wanting something a little more low key? Katy has so many public parks that are wonderful for walks, runs, picnics and more. Discovery Green in Downtown Houston is also a beautiful place for a stroll. They also host many free events.

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is also a wonderful place to go for a walk and to experience nature.

Whatever you are looking for, Katy and Houston has it and at prices that won’t empty your wallets. What is your favorite Katy summer activity? Share it with us below in a comment.

The Perfect Summer Choice for Katy families

Many local churches offer Vacation Bible School during the summer, and I know that these half-day programs are big helps to families. In the heat of the summer, when school is out, kiddos can get an extra helping of Scripture and faith and have fun making new friends, too.
I know people do the “VBS shuffle” during these months: the Catholic church down the road offers a week of VBS this week, and then they send their child to the Baptist church up the road next week. The VBS publishers make their programs generic so that the children receive a basic reminder that God made them and loves them and is there for them in their lives. The crafts are cool to make and the Scripture stories are chosen to lead each child to realize they are special in the eyes of God and therefore can do things to help others. 
If you are concerned about any “extra” information a particular denomination may give your child, I suggest you volunteer to spend the week helping out at the VBS or talk with the director of the program before signing up. 
The church I am involved with sticks closely to the pre-packaged VBS program. They rely on parents to be the first educators of their children so if parents want to add something, they can do that at home.
Do you have any experience with VBS? Have you volunteered at such a program? I’d love to hear about your involvement in these important weeks for your children!

How do you teach your Katy kids good manners?

Let me first say that I am not writing this because my children have fabulous manners.  In fact, when I recently received a call from my son’s elementary teacher, informing me that my son was over-doing it on the bodily noises, I paused to consider whether I was being effective in my teaching of good manners.  So, I don’t have all the answers, but I am a believer that good manners are not old-fashioned and that they definitely still apply.  I think children and adults alike would benefit in reviewing and renewing polite behavior.   Here are some of my mental ramblings on good manners:

The words please, thank you, excuse me, and I’m sorry are magical words in human interaction.  It is amazing how polite words can diffuse tense situations and help calm emotion.  On the playground, in the doctor’s office, in the grocery store, and in our families, polite words are still very powerful.

The virtue of patience is needed at every stage of life.  Just as I tell my young son to be patient while I finish up a project, I too, need to be patient when I am waiting in line or when I encounter a difficult situation.  Patience with others, especially in times of difficulty, is a very positive trait. 

I have met people who seem particularly gifted in human interaction.  They are more interested in listening and understanding others than in talking about themselves.  I have learned from these people that it is better to listen more than I talk, and that good manners consist of thinking of others before self.     

I hope traditional etiquette doesn’t fade with time.  Good table manners, dating etiquette and respect for adults seem not to be as central to our teaching in this day and age.  Call me old- fashioned, but, I loved it when my husband opened the door while we were dating and I still love it to this day!

How do you teach your children good manners?  Please share a comment.

Katy resident offers suggestions from local event options to keeping things at home           

The Katy/Houston area is full of options to celebrate the Dad in your life with. It all depends on what you are looking for. Does your family want to go out to eat or stay home for a cookout? Maybe you’re looking for a fun event to attend?

The Children’s Museum of Houston is celebrating Father’s Day all week with special activities at Daddy Daze! Make a card, learn about Daddy’s in nature and so much more at the popular museum.

Sam Houston Race Park will be celebrating Father’s Day, this Sunday with live racing, great food and lawn mower races. Some lucky Dads will b selected for the Father’s Day lawn mower race!

Our local Katy Alamo Drafthouse will be showing Mr. Mom in honor of Father’s day this Sunday as well. And don’t forget to check into your favorite local restaurants. Most offer specials on what Dad would like.

You can also stay at home. Lounge in the pool, cookout, make it a family day! Visit the local grocery stores for great specials on cookout essentials. To get some ideas you can also get some ideas from websites like Williams-Sonoma.

Below I’ve posted some links with more info on these ideas. If you have more suggestions on Father’s Day activities please leave a comment below.

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/ 

http://www.shrp.com/ 

http://www.cmhouston.org/ 

http://www.drafthouse.com/

Show Your Katy kids that You Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Fun that’s close to Katy

Avery, helping her Aunt Amanda pick a blueberry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Department of State Health Services
Public Information – for Parents & Consumers
http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/public.shtm

Texas Department of State Health Services
School & Child-Care Facility Requirements
http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/school/default.shtm

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

2010 Immunization Schedules – Printable
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/child-schedule.htm#printable

Katyites are lucky to find free times in Houston Museum District

You don’t have to spend money to entertain your family and introduce them to something new. You just have to know where to look. The Houston Museum District is home to some of the best museums in our nation. We as Katyites are lucky to be close enough to enjoy such opportunities but not too close that we feel like we are in the big city of Houston itself.

Just because your kids are not in school doesn’t mean that they can’t learn something this summer. If you play this right they won’t even think that they are learning because they will be having so much fun!

Of course, we know about the major museums in the district such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Children’s Museum. But did you know that there are 18 museums in the Houston Museum District? Many of which are always free! Some have special free times during the week. See info below.

Always Free:

  • Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum
  • Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
  • Holocaust Museum Houston
  • Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
  • Houston Center for Photography
  • The Jung Center of Houston
  • Lawndale Art Center
  • The Menil Collection
  • Rice University Art Gallery
  • The Rothko Chapel

Special Free Times: General Admission Only

  • Buffalo Soldiers National Museum – FREE Monday 10 am – 5 pm
  • Children’s Museum of Houston – FREE Thursday 5 – 8 pm
  • The Health Museum – FREE Thursday 2 – 5 pm
  • The John C. Freeman Weather Museum – FREE Thursday 12 – 4 pm
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science – FREE Tuesday after 2 pm
  • Houston Zoo – FREE Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Columbus Day, New Years Day & the Friday after Thanksgiving
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – FREE Thursday 10 am – 9 pm

So if you do your homework, you can introduce your family to something new while saving money this summer. To learn more about these museums visit http://www.houstonmuseumdistrict.org/. If you have a favorite museum in the Houston Museum District please share your comments.

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!

 A few tips on making shopping more enjoyable with your Katy kids

I have recently begun taking my Granddaughter to the grocery store with me. And, much as I did with my children when they were young, I gave her jobs to do that made her feel like she was part of the shopping. This had the same effect with her as it did with my kids – it kept her from whining and complaining the entire shopping trip.

What was the trick that kept her happy and me sane? Well there were three things really. The first thing I did was to let her have her own cart; one of the smaller two-tiered carts at HEB. They are short enough for her to see over (she’s 5 years old), and even fully loaded, they’re light enough for her to push around. She also gets to unload her groceries onto the conveyer belt when we get to the grocery stand.

The second thing is to give her a few of those plastic produce bags. She gets to pick out a few of the fruits and vegetables she would like to eat around our house. For things I know we need, I’ll tell her how many, like 3 apples, 5 bananas, two peaches. I’ll tell her about how full to fill the bag of green beans or carrots.

The third thing I did was to giver coupons, the ones with the most easily recognizable pictures. If they require a certain number or size, I tell her that “this coupon says to buy 2” or “that coupon says to buy the big container.” And she’s allowed to choose whose cart it goes in, hers or mine. We have started the ritual for putting things in her cart. If she’s putting in “squishy” things (eggs, bread, grapes, bananas) the go into the top tier of her basket, and everything non-breakable or non squishable goes in the bottom tier.

She does a great job, too. I was wondering though what other ideas people have come up with to have kids help with the groceries.  What has anyone else tried?

P.S. Yes, we have come home with 1 or 2 … or 4…extra items that weren’t on the list. Thankfully they weren’t expensive.

Finding creative fun around your Katy household

Corn starch is great for cooking, I suppose.  I think it is supposed to be used to thicken soups or something.  I don’t use it much in the kitchen, because, admittedly, cooking is not one of my strengths.

However, I keep plenty of corn starch in the pantry at all times.  Some days drag on with two busy children, and the days that seem the longest are the ones that we aren’t able to leave the house because we’re waiting to be fever free for 24 hours or because I’ve somehow misplaced the keys to the car… again.

Enter corn starch.  Equal parts corn starch and water will make that fabulous stuff that is neither a solid nor a liquid.  When you pick it up, it becomes a solid, but when allowed to drip out of your hands, it somehow is liquid again.  Some people call it ‘oobleck’ from Dr. Suess’s book, some call it ‘Gak’ after the commercially available stuff.  It doesn’t matter much what we call it, my kids love to fling it, grab it, and slime it on our counters and tables.  We add a few drops of food coloring and sometimes mix the colors of oobleck to see what happens.

Next up: sidewalk paint.  Equal parts corn starch and water with several drops of food coloring create sidewalk chalk that is bright, easy to use, and also ok for little ones who might decide to taste it.  I would advise testing the colors first to make sure they wash away easily; the blue paint took a few weeks to rinse away completely last time we made it.  (Idea originally from www.skiptomylou.blogspot.com)

My last secret corn starch weapon is bath paints.  I use eco-friendly liquid dish detergent (about 1/3 cup) and roughly 1 tablespoon of corn starch.  Of course, the food coloring makes all of the fun this time as well.  I let the girls mix their own colors and then they hop in the tub and paint each other, the tub, and often my hands and arms as well.  We keep the paint out of the grouted areas and primarily on the basin of the tub just in case, but that never seems to spoil the fun.   (Idea originally from www.pepperpaints.com)

Corn starch adds a whole lot of fun to our home.  On days where the clock seems to stop, I know it’s time to pull out my secret weapon and unleash the creativity of my girls upon the slow day.   Corn starch to the rescue!

How do you spend long days at home?  Post a comment below!

A great place to enjoy the summer while staying close to Katy

Discovery Green, located downtown, is one of the most inclusive free places to enjoy summertime in Houston.  It includes two large water features, similar to any local neighborhood splash park… except much, much larger, and a playground area as well.  Additionally, there are little remote controlled boats to rent and a snack bar/cafeteria and restrooms.

Visit www.discoverygreen.com for directions and more details, such as fun events held each weekend (and often during the week as well).

Discovery Park was opened in 2008, and I only recently discovered it last October while I was downtown for a conference.  Even when it was too cold for the water parks to be open, the playground area was an obvious draw for my two children, ages 4 and 18 months.  Add in interactive water areas and they are in hot-Houston heaven.

There is always art on display, which includes art carts and more permanent art.  One of the structures, the Mist Tree, is both art and fun – my girls love to stand beneath the structure and giggle as the showers come over them.

Discovery Green also has a lake and plenty of green grass to spread out a blanket on and enjoy a picnic, a cold treat from the snack bar, or just to rest after letting the children wear themselves out in the water features and on the playground structure.

The park is open from 6 am until 11 pm every day, with the exception of some areas closing for maintenance as needed.  Parking is available around Discovery Green in metered spots, and there is additional paid parking in garages around the area.

Although heading downtown isn’t something I do on a regular basis, Discovery Green is absolutely worth the trip.  My daughters love to splash and play, they love the art, and they love the café.  I love all of those aspects as well, and I especially love the quiet ride home as the children nod off to naptime.

What about you?  Do you frequent Discovery Green?  Post a comment!

A Katy Mom-to-Be reflects back on a favorite childhood pool activity

With our baby due this already very hot summer I find myself thinking back to a fun pool activity from my childhood. And it’s the perfect example of how the simplest things can bring the most fun. So what is this cool idea? It’s simple, it’s cool, it’s giant ice cubes!

On hot summer days my parents use to take large Tupperware bowls, fill them with water and freeze them. In more recent years when my brother and I would talk about how much we loved those summer days with the giant ice cubes my parents told us that they would put the water-filled bowls in the freezer the night before. So it does take a little planning but the good news is that it won’t go bad. If your swim day gets rained out don’t fret!

When it’s time to swim take out the Tupperware bowls and hold them upside down to slide out the giant ice cube. Be sure to support the ice that will be sliding out so that you don’t drop your new pool toy. We would then take them to our pool in the backyard.

You would be amazed at how much fun swimming and pushing around a giant ice cube can be! It may sound silly but it always brought some cool fun to the pool for my younger brother and I. This is just more proof that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on pool toys to have fun in the pool. Sometimes it is the simplest ideas that will stick with your children. That is how it was for my brother and I. Now as my daughter’s birth quickly approaches my husband and I love to talk about what kind of parents we want to be. One thing I know for sure that we want to do is to introduce our daughter to the little joys of life. In most cases you don’t have to look far to find the fun in a situation. The giant ice cube pool toy idea is a great example of this.

Do you have great ideas for summer fun? Maybe some that you remember from your childhood? Share it with us in a comment!

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.

How to make worship time not only bearable, but faith-filled, with your Katy kids

If you’re like me, taking your young child to church is not always a prayerful experience—except it increases the likelihood that YOU’RE praying that your child will behave! Not what the whole church-going experience should be like, I think.

Our son is almost three, and he is barely able to sit and watch a half hour video at home. It takes some work to guide him in his church experience. Distractions abound—from the people sitting around us to the hymnals in front of us.

How many toys—if any—do we take with us? Do the books we bring need to be religious in subject? Should we bring food for a Mass that takes only an hour? If he does begin to get fussy, do we grin and bear it or take him to the back? Won’t that teach him to misbehave in the first place? These are the questions we struggle with.

I do NOT have it all figured out, but here are some suggestions. I’m sure you have found some tricks for your own family.

1.)    Choose a worship time that best suits your child’s needs. You may want the contemporary service, but if it falls at the same time your child is used to getting ready for bed, you’re asking a lot of him.

2.)    Go to your church during the week. Give your youngster a tour and let him ask questions and see things up close.

3.)    Talk to your child about how you expect people to act at church. You may say something like, “Do you think grown-ups run around the church? What do they do when they want to talk with God? What can you do?”

4.)    In my opinion, having a specific church toy or bag of toys works well. It’s used only on days of worship so it comes to be special and something your child will look forward to playing with. It will also encourage worship since they’re religious items.

These are a few tips. How do you make worship time not only bearable, but faith-filled, with your kids?

Movie Time for Katy kids

Many of our children in Katy are looking for ways to cool off this summer and what better way to do it by going to the movies. Cinemark and AMC theaters will be having Movie Camp this summer. Cinemark is located at 1030 W. Grand Parkway N. AMC is located in Katy Mills Mall at 5000 Katy Mills Circle. The best part is that it will be affordable. Movies will be a $1 and showings are done on certain days of the week in the morning at 10am. They will also have a kids or movie pack for the kids on the days of the movie for a discounted price.
 
Cinemark will have showings on Wednesdays/Thursdays at 10am with a $1 off discount on a movie snack pack. You can buy tickets in advance for 10 shows for $5 or $1 each showing per show. Moves listings are from Madagascar, Shrek the Third, Monsters vs Aliens, Kung Fu Panda, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Planet 51, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Open Season. Check the listings online for current showings.
 
AMC will have showings on Tuesdays at 10am with doors opening at 9:30am. Their showings will be a $1 on Tuesdays with a kids pack for $4. You can advance purchase as well online through their website and see current showings. Movie listings are from Shrek the Third, Imagine That, Monsters vs Aliens, Madagascar, Madagascar: Escape to Africa, Hotel For Dogs, Kung Fu Panda, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and a Surprise Mystery Title.
 
So grab those little ones and head off to the movies. Oh and the best part it is affordable too. I hope to see many of you at the movies this summer.
What other summer outings do you have planned for your children?

Make summer in Katy more fun with cool themed picnics

You’ve planned the perfect summer picnic with your kids.. Food, drinks, games – the works. They each invited a friend or two to make a party out of it You no sooner get the picnic packed up in the car, when – Crash! Rumble, rumble. The picnic is called on account of rain. Let’s face it, we’ve had a rash of pop-up storms in this first week of June. So what happens when the planned picnic gets rained out? Plan a themed picnic that can be eaten indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather.

For a Beach Picnic, everyone dresses in bathing suits (with cover ups if desired) and either flip-flops or swim shoes. For the decor, spread out beach towels on the sand or on the living room floor. Food can be packed in the ice chest or individual sand-bucket “picnic baskets”. Pack the buckets with anything you and your kids like to eat at the beach. Include some mood music for the drive to the beach, or the drive to the living room beach. This could be kids summertime music, the Beach Boys, or sounds of the beach including seagulls and waves.

How about a Teddy Bear’s Picnic? This probably one for the girls. Both the teddy bear’s and the girls dress up. The picnic table – or the kitchen table – get the table cloth and tea set treatment. The tea party could also be set up on a nice blanket or two. The “tea set” could be plastic or one you won’t worry about if something gets broken. Foods include cheese and fruit cut into cubes with party toothpicks, “tea” of your choice, and finger sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, or other kid favorites) cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Music can be classical music to set the mood for the trip to the tea party or kids music – starting with the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, of course.

Evening picnics are fun too, especially with a flashlight hike afterwards looking for nighttime critters. If it rains, turn it into a drive-in theater picnic. Attire  is summer clothes and sandals or sneakers. Either in the garage or in the living room, arrange chairs and a couch into rows as if everyone’s sitting in the car. Set up a television with the movie of choice. Food can include hot dogs or chili dogs, fries or chips, beverages in cups with ice and straws, and popcorn.

What other picnic themes can be done inside or outside? Find some picnic themes for boys only and picnics for older kids in junior and senior high.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you teach your Katy kids about helping?

I recently asked my seven-year old to help me with some housework.  Immediately, he peered at me and said, “How much are you going to pay me?”  I could tell by his tone, that he was weighing whether or not it was worth doing the job by how much he would be compensated.  To his question, I replied, “I am not going to pay you anything.  Sometimes we work just to be helpful.  Work is fun, and often it is most fun when we do it without expecting anything in return.”

My response had clearly surprised him.  He sat and thought for a minute and then said, “So, you aren’t going to pay me to do these jobs?” 

“No.”  I said.  “Today, you are simply going to help me because you are a member of the Lewis family, and there is work that needs to be done.” 

Slowly he looked up at me and said, “Ok.  What do you want me to do?”

For the next hour, we worked side by side washing dishes, dusting, straightening, and talking.  I asked him about his school work, his friends, and his hopes for the summer.  Time flew by because we weren’t focused on the work, but each other. 

As we stood back and admired our clean home, I said, “Thanks for all of your hard work.  Did you like helping me clean the house?”

He responded, “I like earning money, but I guess sometimes, I will just help because you need it.  I can see that you are happy, and that makes me feel good.” 

I smiled at him and thought, Yes- a moment of triumph!  The value of work is indeed priceless!

How do you teach your children the value of hard work?  Please post a comment.

Using our Katy community offerings to our club’s advantage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you foster Katy family closeness?

In a little over a week, I will be attending a family reunion.  We have decided to go on an Alaskan Cruise- the most exciting and elaborate reunion we have ever had.  As much as I am excited to go on the cruise, what really excites me is the uniting of loved ones for an entire week.  I have three sisters, whom I adore, and I can’t wait to be with them.  I am enamored with my nieces and nephews as well, and I know the cousins may have the best time of all.  In addition to my sisters and their families, I have wonderful parents, an amazing grandmother and a fabulous aunt who will be joining us on the cruise.

When it comes right down to it, I think that the relationships we have are our most prized possessions.  I for one, wouldn’t trade my family for anything!  As I think about family, I think of the many vicissitudes of life.  We have all had struggles from time to time, and we have helped each other through the difficult times.  Though life is ever changing, family can and should be our rock that we lean on when times get tough. 

While growing up, my family created some fun traditions.  We decided it was necessary to decide on a family dance, family word and a family dialect.  We have always loved to laugh together and enjoy  re-telling funny stories from years gone by.  Family get-togethers also include gathering around the piano and singing together. 

I wonder what it will be like when my children are all grown and have families of their own.  Will my children be as close to each other as I am to my siblings?  I hope I am fostering closeness in our home and that they will be each other’s best friends.  So, Alaska, here we come!  I can hardly wait!

How do you foster family closeness?  Please share!

Katy cyclists have rules of the road

It’s been a beautiful spring, with endless days of sunshine. The summer promises more of the same fabulous bike riding weather. Before the kids hop on their bikes and ride off into the sunshine,  it’s time for one of those periodic bike safety chats. Accidents happen, and none of us wants to be the parent sitting with their kids in the emergency room with a bike related injury.

First, since head injuries are the most serious, bikers should always protect their head by wearing a helmet. The helmet should meet safety regulations, be the right size, and be worn properly. Next keep the kids’ bikes in good shape. A chain that keeps slipping off or breaks that don’t work is a recipe for problems.

Kids should know the safety rules of the road. They should always keep an eye out for cars. A driver might not see your child until it’s too late, but if they are in the habit of being aware of cars, they can prevent accidents. The next one may not see so obvious. They should watch out for people so they don’t have an accident with a walker or another child playing in the yard. Parents should set and enforce the rules for where their children can ride bicycles, but in general it’s best if children under 10 keep to the sidewalks.

Finally our kids should also know the proper hand signals, so they can let drivers know what they intend to do:

  • Left Arm Straight Out: means the rider is turning left.
  • Left Arm Bent Upward: means the rider is turning right
  • Right Arm Straight Out: also means a right turn.
  • Left Arm Bent Down: means the rider is stopping.

There are a few more tips about “Bike Safety” at the Kids Health website at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/out/bike_safety.html.

Also check out the Katy Police Department. The Department offers free bike safety coloring books at the police station. There is also a “Bicycle Registration Form” available on their website at: http://www.katypd.com/Bicycle%20Safety/Bicycle%20Registration%20Form.htm.

Fill out the form and take it into the police station with pictures of your children’s bikes. What other bicycling safety tips do you know of? Are there special rules for your family that others might find helpful?

How a Katy writer/mom-to-be uses Twitter to find fun while working from home

Twitter is an easy way to follow the information that you want without too much effort. Businesses are seeing this growing trend and using it to build their followers. I’m an at home freelance journalist so I follow many businesses and people on Twitter to help find topics and what is of public interest. But recently I discovered that what began as a business tactic is quickly becoming an avenue for finding family fun!

In my writing I cover a lot of events so I follow all the popular Katy and Houston area event venues. By doing so I’ve found that most of them offer special coupons and specials for their Twitter followers!

The Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Houston Symphony are taking this a step further by hosting a special event for their Twitter followers. This Friday, June 4 if you follow them on Twitter you can join them for a special night with a private viewing of the Hubble IMAX 3D and a special performance by the Houston Symphony at their first ever Tweetup event.

 Guests will get to enjoy the show and the performance at a special discounted price. Plus there will be light bites and drinks for all to enjoy while you mix and mingle with fellow Twitterers. They will also have access to Twitter so guests can tweet before and after the events. For more information on this event you can visit the Facebook evite http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=106708386041974&ref=mf or follow either the Houston Museum of Natural Science @hmns or the Houston Symphony @housymphony both on Twitter.

It just takes a little bit of time to set yourself up to follow the things that interests you and your family. Follow them on Twitter and take a few minutes each day to glance over what they are tweeting. You never know when you may find a great coupon or a special event that will make for a fun family event this summer.

If you follow any Katy/Houston area venues that you feel others should follow as well please tell us about it in a comment!

Are Katyites prepared for a possible storm?

The beginning of hurricane season brings with it many stressors. Two of the biggest are the hassles of hurricane preparedness and the worries of helping young children understand and cope with what’s happening. So how can parents make this easier for themselves and their children? By getting the kids involved in the process.

First, have your children help compile 2 lists: the first contains hurricane supplies that your family will need, the second contains the nonperishable foods your family would like to eat. Next, send the children on a hurricane scavenger hunt around the house. Let them see how many of the items they can find on the hurricane supply list. After that, let them help you check the supplies to see what needs replacing (like batteries) and what still needs items are missing from the list (i.e. radio, first aid kit). After all, even small children can check flashlight batteries and light bulbs to see if they need replacing. Do the same with the hurricane food list.

Second, assemble your hurricane supply box. You may need to get a couple boxes from one of the moving supply stores or mini-storage places that sell boxes. Have the kids help fill the boxes with emergency supplies. Save at least one box for foods, paper plates, garbage bags, cooking and eating utensils and anything you will need for meals.

Third, have older children help locate the safest room in your house and even help with an evacuation plan. Should your family needs to evacuate however, parents will need to have an evacuation plan and evacuation route ready. The kids can help load the car since they already know where the supplies and food are collected together. Including them in the planning should lower their stress levels somewhat because they know what’s going on and because they are helping out.

Older kids can help with hurricane tracking charts. These are available from all the major stations here in town, so go online and request one now. You can even download them from each of the stations websites. Chars are also offered through just about every grocery and hardware store as well. What about letting younger children track storms? That depends on the child. Only parents will know which of their younger children can handle this job. You’ll have to decide this on an individual basis. Either way, track each new storm with a different color ink pen or start a new map for each new storm – just to make it easier to tell storms apart.

Finally, once the emergency is over, why not get your family involved in the cleanup and recovery. Your family efforts could be something as small as checking on an elderly neighbor or offering food to a stranger. Or it could be something like volunteering at a Red Cross shelter or clearing debris around town. What other preparations or cleanup efforts can your family do together?

NOAA Hurricane Supply List: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/prepare/supply_kit.shtml

 NOAA  Hurricane Disaster Plan: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/prepare/family_plan.shtml

Local Stations all have printable hurricane tracking maps and information:

 KTRK, Channel 13: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/feature?section=weather/hurricane&id=6139670

KPRC, Channel 2: http://www.click2houston.com/hurricanetracker/index.html

KHOU, Channel11: http://www.khou.com/weather/severe-weather/hurricane-center/Printable-tracking-chart-67771777.html

Katy Families can enjoy the beautiful outdoors with cool family time

This Memorial Day Weekend don’t stress about finding the right Houston area event for you and your family. You can stay right here in Katy and have lots of family fun time and for little cost. Unfortunately, since I’m seven months pregnant I’m avoiding the outdoors like the swine flu but this great weather is the perfect time for families to get out. Get your kids away from the video game systems and computers and outside!

Pack a picnic basket. Get the family involved in making sandwiches that they will like, chips and cookies, etc. Take an old blanket and pick a local park or school playground for your picnic location. Plan ahead some fun activities. Take a football to throw, a kite to fly or a board game. But don’t forget the sunblock!!

Looking for some new ideas to brighten up your picnic basket cuisine? Look online for recipes. The Food Network is always a great place to start, http://www.foodnetwork.com/. Another one of my quick recipe finding sites is Williams-Sonoma, http://www.williams-sonoma.com/. Just click to recipes and you will be amazed at what you can find.

If the weather gets to warm for you don’t forget to get in the pool! Either your own or go find a community pool for some splashing fun. If you want to go out don’t forget to visit http://www.lacenterra.com/ to see what is happening on their event calendar. Today and tomorrow nights you can find live music at the Baker Street Pub. Be creative and look around our town Katy. There is always something fun to do.

If you do go with the picnic idea take pictures to immortalize your family outing and enjoy the time together. With summer camps and activities summer time quickly can become just another hectic season where families do not get to spend as much time together as they should. Take this opportunity and enjoy the time together. What is your family doing this holiday weekend? Share it with us in a comment!

 Love Lessons from a Katy Couple

Megan Lewis and her husband

Marriage has indeed made me a better person.  Not that I wasn’t a decent person before I got married, but, marriage tends to highlight areas that can be improved.  Any time two people from different backgrounds come together and form a life together, there are bound to be adjustments that need to be made.  I have learned many lessons as my husband and I have journeyed down the road of life together.  As different as we are, we seem to bring out the best in each other.   Here are a few of the lessons learned:

Forgive Quickly and Move On– My natural reaction to conflict was to become quiet and withdraw.  I learned, however, that when I do this, it prolongs the conflict.  The faster I forgive and forget, the faster we return to peace.  Then, we can happily move on.

Make Time for Play– I am a driven, goal-oriented person.  If it weren’t for my husband, I might never stop to smell the roses.  My husband has helped me prioritize fun in my life.  Our whole family has benefitted from this!

Ask For Help– How many times do we as women expect that our husbands will read our minds?  I have learned that my husband wants me to be happy.  All I need to do is communicate what I need, and he is happy to help or do what I want!  Isn’t that terrific?  He is a great husband.  I simply need to ask and my request is granted.

Correct With Kindness– No one likes to be criticized- even when the criticism has merit.  So, it does us all good to couch our criticism in the most loving way possible.  Another rule of thumb that has been helpful is to give at least ten compliments for every one negative comment.

Laugh A Lot– We laugh a lot in our home and I am grateful for a husband who makes us all laugh!  It is fun!

What lessons have you learned in your marriage?  Post a comment!

Finding a club for moms in Katy makes all the difference for this Katyite

I’ve stayed at home with my girls since my oldest was born almost 4 years ago.  And throughout my journey in mothering, I’ve been a part of one mothering club or another in the Katy area. 

I am very thankful for a friend who drug me to meetings in the very beginning.  I was still bleary eyed, smelling of spit up, and bloated from delivery when my girlfriend began calling and asking me to join her as we scoped out local mothering clubs.  It felt a bit unnecessary at the time (my baby not being but 5 weeks old), but her encouragement, and the subsequent relationships I formed from joining a mothering club, made all of the difference in the world.

In the beginning, being a part of a club (in my case, I chose All Moms of Katy “AMOK”) helped me with the common feelings of new moms: feeling alone, feeling exhausted, feeling like life changed instantaneously.  As my children grew and are now able to participate in the activities that the club has to offer, we’re all better off for days spent with AMOK.

This past Tuesday, we went to the monthly club meeting – this time, at Mary Jo Peckham park.  The children played, then enjoyed an enormous potluck lunch.  Next came a scavenger hunt and kite flying… and while we were following our children around and they were engrossed in the activities, we were able to spend some adult conversation time, as well.

There are many different mothering clubs in Katy, and each has something unique to offer to parents.  All Moms of Katy has been a great fit for me because there are children the same ages as my children, the activities are varied and entertaining to my children, and the women are friendly, open, and helpful.  I am thankful for AMOK because it helped me stave off the baby blues in the beginning and has allowed me to grow into a more active role as my children participate in and enjoy the field trips and meetings.

What about you?  Do you have a mothering club that you love?  Post a comment below!

It is important to properly take care of our Katy animals

I just returned from a bittersweet visit to my veterinarian. Our nine-year-old cat, Geordi (all you fans of Star Trek will know where his name came from!) was noticeably ill. Over the course of just a few weeks, he began to empty his food and water bowls several times throughout the day and increase the use of the litter box. Besides the obvious changes, Geordi seemed normal. I mean, cats sleep a lot anyway, and he came out for tickles and he still purred. But we knew he needed to go see Dr. Wendy at Mayde Creek Animal Hospital.
 
Good thing we did. Geordi is a diabetic. Dr. Wendy did blood tests, and his glucose number was in the 500s. The normal range for cats is in the 100s. The point of this blog is not to discuss feline diabetes, but I hope to remind us all about how much our pets are a part of our lives. I drove to the vet thinking that I would not be coming home with Geordi. I really thought I would have to have him put to sleep. He had been a companion of mine since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001; he was rescued as a kitten from the flood waters and passed along to me by a friend.
 
Geordi has seen me through my first apartment, my first job, dating woes, marriage, a new house, one child, and now triplets. He has known me longer than my husband. I am sure that all pet owners can relate to the value they put upon their animal companion. Pets just love us. They make our lives better. When we lose them, our hearts are broken. When I had to put down a previous cat, the vet presented me with a clay imprint of his paw. Now, I don’t look at it everyday and sob over it, but it is a visible reminder that Q (yes, another Star Trek reference!) was here and is now missed. (Of course, another reminder is some scratched up furniture, but that’s a different matter!)
 
We have some more time with Geordi because we hopefully caught his illness early enough to make simple changes to improve his health. I may have to put him to sleep in the near future if these changes don’t effect enough of an improvement. That will be a tough day, but I am thankful that I can now show him some more love while he’s here. How do you show that you love your animal companion? How do you remember those that you have lost?

Closing out our first year of dance classes in Katy

Avery in her recital costume and make up

My daughter has been a self-proclaimed dancer since before she was two.  She loves to twirl and twist to music, and is especially fond of mimicking the dancers on So You Think You Can Dance.  When she turned three (at the beginning of this school year), I enrolled her in Creative Dance at Adamson Ballet School. 

This past weekend, a year’s worth of dance classes culminated in a 2 minute performance on stage.  And my daughter could not have been more elated by the whole experience.

Adamson Ballet School has classes ranging from my daughter’s 3 year old Creative Dance class all the way up through Pointe and Senior-Level Ballet classes.  Sitting in the recital as a mother of the youngest dancers there, I felt very emotional and connected to the experience.  In the same performance that my daughter makes her dancing debut, several other moms are saying goodbye to this chapter of their life. 

The opening performance was done by Pointe students to a beautiful orchestra arrangement of Coldplay songs.  It was moving, stirring, and poignant for me to sit there with my 3 year old, watching the beginning and the end.

My daughter’s class was later in the show, and my eyes filled with just as many tears… there was a good deal of comic relief when my daughter (or any number of her classmates) forgot their steps, but there was something that affected me deeply as I watched my tiny little girl, up on the big stage, doing something so grown up without any adults.  It was such a picture to me of what we’re just embarking on – the way that she will continue to grow and mature into a little lady who no longer needs her Mommy.  The years between now and then are many, but they are flying by so quickly already.  This weekend’s recital was a very real reminder to me that I am doing my job: teaching my daughter to slowly and healthfully not need me anymore, day by day, until she is ready to take on the world.

And on that stage, take on the world she did.

Thank you, Adamson Ballet School, for a beautiful, hilarious, and poignant recital.

What about you?  Are end of year activities causing reflection?  Post a comment below!

How to keep your Katy kid occupied during their summer break

Only a few more days until the end of the school year. How long will the excitement of being off for the summer last before it dwindles into that all-too-familiar “mo-o-o-om, I’m bored” whining? A little planning ahead can yield a laundry list of boredom-busting pastimes sure to keep most kids occupied at something other than plopping in front of the TV or video game.

If your family is planning a vacation, why not add “vacation memory box” creating to the planning process. (Think shoe box here). Have each child decorate their own box however they see fit. At the end of the vacation, they can collect together all of the trinkets, postcards, photographs and other memorabilia they acquired on vacation and place them in their memory box. Have them tuck the boxes away for the next rainy day. The memory boxes can be pulled out time and again, providing them with hours of enjoyment recollecting the fun they had on that trip – long after the trip has ended.

Indoor activities might include arts and crafts around the kitchen table with modeling clay, tempera paints, paper grocery bags or whatever you have on hand that lends itself to cutting and gluing and painting. How about dress-up day – especially for the younger kids – complete with a tea party or a living room fort made from kitchen chairs and old sheets. There is always a trip to the library for story time, or just to check out books for reading late into the night – by flashlight, of course. The best part of this is it only costs the time it takes to go to the library. The books cost nothing and you get to return the books after the kids are done reading them.

There are so many outdoor games and activities, the list could go on for days.  Any kind of game involving a ball is sure to be a hit. How about 4-square, volleyball or kickball? Fun without a ball might mean getting into the swing of a hoolahoop  or flying high with a Frisbee or  kite. Better yet, how about games that involve water? When my kids were young they always liked tossing water balloons or playing squirt gun tag. One of their favorites, besides a trip to the community pool,  was playing in the sprinkler. If you’re worried about paying high water bills or concerned about water conservation (we are starting the summer with a rainfall deficit, after all) then include the kids in helping to conserve water. Let one keep track of the time they play in the sprinkler, another gets to turn the sprinkler on, and another gets to turn the sprinkler off.

I’ll be helping to take care of my granddaughter over the summer. If anyone has some other ideas, for keeping a 5 year old entertained over the summer, I’m all ears.

A Katy Family Makes Summer Desserts  Fun

Watermelon Basket

This May, we decided to make a summery dessert each week to celebrate the season. I wanted to keep the desserts healthy and fun, and so week one we made a pudding ocean scene <http://www.katymagazine.com/summer-dessert-fun/ >.  This week, my daughter got very excited about watermelon carving, and so our dessert of the week was a watermelon basket with fruit salad. If she knows that watermelon and fruit salad aren’t exactly desserts… she’s not complaining!

This was one of those family projects that seemed to go wrong at every turn.
Luckily, our daughters didn’t seem to care and we were able to pull it
together in the end.

First, I bought the watermelon and all the fruit early last week and
promised my daughter the watermelon basket “this week”. Then our week got unusually busy (the last week of school and extra evening meetings for my husband and I), so our watermelon carving kept getting pushed back.

Last night, we were determined to carve the watermelon. I helped my
daughter find a few examples online <http://www.watermelon.org/watermelon_carving.asp >of what she
wanted to carve, I cut up the other fruits, and when my husband got home, we were all ready to go. Except no one could find the watermelon.  It wasn’t in the fridge, it wasn’t in the pantry, it wasn’t in my car. We assumed I must’ve forgotten to load it from the grocery store early last week and so we told the girls that watermelon carving would be the very first thing on our list of things to do in the morning (thinking one of us would be rushing out to the store after bed).

Once the girls were in bed, we found the watermelon. In our ice chest. In
the garage. It looked fine to us, so we put it aside to wait for the official watermelon carving this morning.

After breakfast, as we began to carve, we noticed a few… let’s call them
“extra ripe” sections of the watermelon. Which made for a bit of a
challenge carving the basket with a heart that my daughter had chosen.

A few toothpicks later, we had a watermelon basket with fruit salad for
“dessert” and two very happy children.

I love this project idea and know that the next go-round will be much
smoother. Maybe we’ll make it again soon.

What about you? Have you carved watermelons before? How did it go? Post a comment below!

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!

Favorite Eats for Katy Families

I had a wonderful, leisurely lunch with some girlfriends today.  I know this sounds like an oxymoron since I have an 18 month old, but with all of our toddlers in tow, we sat at the table and chatted and enjoyed chips and salsa.

How did we do this?  We situated ourselves at a table near the sandbox at El Jarrito on Highland Knolls Drive.  The children enjoyed chips and their bean salsa, inexpensive kid’s meals, and an enormous sandbox while we ate at our own pace.

Usually, taking either of my children to a restaurant is a challenge.  Unless we go to Rainforest Café, it is unusual for them to stay entertained the entire time we’re there.  However, around the time my oldest daughter turned two, I discovered the magical world of sandboxes at restaurants.  Now, when my parents ask us to join them for dinner, or when we want to catch up with an old friend, we know just what to do.  We suggest one of a handful of places that were brilliant enough to install a play area.

In addition to El Jarrito, we also frequent Victor’s Casa Garcia on North Fry Road, Café del Sol on Franz Road, Willie’s Ice House on The Katy Freeway at Fry Road, and Clay’s Restaurant on Clay Road. 

We live further out in West Katy, but these restaurants are worth the drive for us because the children are entertained the entire time: from choosing our food, to ordering, to eating… all the way to paying the check, our children are happily playing.   Sure, there is a little mess to contend with, and yes, we do have to wash hands very well before the children eat, but these are small inconveniences compared with finding ways to beat boredom in other restaurants.

We’re always searching for other locations to take our family.  Do you have a place your family loves to go?  Post a comment below!

A Katy Parent shares her struggles with stress

The school year is drawing to a close and it seems that life is as busy and chaotic as ever!  As a parent, sometimes life can be stressful and at times, more than we can handle.  One day, I had an “aha” moment when I learned that I didn’t need to absorb the stress of my loved ones.  As I think about it now, I can remember the pit in my stomach, the rapid breathing, and the threatening headaches as my children shared their stress.  “Mom, I’m supposed to bring a red folder to school.  I’ll get in trouble if I don’t have it!  Mom, did you wash my soccer shirt? I need it right now!  Mom, I failed my English test today.  Mom, can you bring me my lunch?  I think I left it in the kitchen.”

My, oh my, how my body would tense with the incessant stress!  And, when things turned out badly, I blamed myself.  It didn’t matter that it was my daughter who had left her lunch, or my son who hadn’t studied for his test, it was now my stress.  After many years of learning, I discovered a marvelous secret.  I discovered that I could let my children own their own stress!  It was no longer my stress…heaven knew I had enough of my own!  With each pressing demand, I learned to take a deep breath, and remind myself that it wasn’t my problem.  (I know, it is much easier said than done, and sometimes I still feel stress, but, I’m improving!) 

So, as the days pass, my children are learning that I am not their rescue hero.  I am their mother. Yes, I will always be there to cheer them on, love them, teach them and support them in their journey, but, they need to worry about their own rescue efforts.  What a calm feeling this gives me.  The pressure is off.  I find my responsibilities are much more manageable when I remove the panic factor.

How do you manage stress?  Please share!

Parenting your Katy kids is a learning process

I remember talking to my mother one day when my children were very young.  I was tired and I told her how happy I would be when my children were older.  “Motherhood will be so much easier!”  I said.  Wise as she was, she said, “No, it won’t be easier, in fact, it may be harder!”  At the time, this didn’t sit well with me, and I wondered what could possibly be harder than late night feedings, colic, and temper tantrums. 

Now, as my older children are entering their teenage years, I know what she was talking about.  The physical demands of young children are indeed exhausting!  But, the emotional demands of older children are just as, or more exhausting.  I am just entering this stage of life, but, I am learning that I need to change as they change.  I can’t be the same mother to them that I was when they were little.

Let me illustrate what I mean.  My teenage son is a night owl.  Some nights it drives me crazy that he stays up so late!  I know he will be tired the next day and he knows he will be tired the next day.  Each night I say the same words:   “Honey…it’s getting late.  Please go to sleep soon.”  He is a wonderful boy and he often gives me a hug and says, “Don’t worry.  I’ll go to bed soon.”  Apparently his and my definitions of “soon” are very different, because he always ends up staying late.  He is entering the season of independence and I am learning to choose my battles.  Admittedly, he is doing fantastic in school, making good choices and is willing to help me whenever I need it.  I suppose letting him manage his sleep schedule is something that I can live with.

Motherhood is indeed complex. Learning to adapt as my children grow and change is something I am working on!

Do you have any suggestions?  Thanks!

The importance of keeping good learning habits for you Katy kids during school’s  “off-season”

Studies show that kids lose knowledge over the summer.  Kindergarteners, for instance, generally slide backward about two reading levels from June to August.  So, for a student who is already struggling scholastically, summer can be quite a set back.    With more time and fewer commitments, learning can be a great component to a successful summer.  Our children will be far ahead of the game if we continue to foster learning during the summer break.

As a young girl, I don’t remember ever uttering the phrase, “I’m bored.”  I believe this is due to the fact that I wasn’t bored.  My mother was very good at keeping her children productive.  Every summer we purchased workbooks that covered the material we would be learning the following school year. My sisters and I knew that each day, we were required to complete a given number of pages in our workbooks, read, and help with chores around the home.  Extra-curricular activities to help us discover and develop our talents were also an integral part of our summer schedule.  Our summer learning prepared us for the rigors of the following school year, and, because we were prepared, we enjoyed school. 

Now that I have a houseful of children of my own, I have tried to carry on the tradition of summer learning.  It is fun to guide the learning of my children during the summer months and it keeps them busy and happy.  Prior to school dismissal, I make a summer schedule that we can use as a guide. For several hours each morning, we learn together. In addition to writing, reading and math, we enjoy going on field trips to local museums, frequenting the library, exercising together and cooking.  Our summer learning moments are some of the best memories I have!

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

Can early exposure ensure a love for music throughout your Katy kid’s life? 

My toddler son amazes me with how interested he is in all types of music. Neither my husband nor I play an instrument, but we play various records and CDs in the home and in the car. Our son hears everything from Raffi and Mozart to Jimi Hendrix and Santana. We are careful that the choices we make are age-appropriate. We are more interested in the music than the lyrics. Our son will sit and listen intently to guitar solos and violin concertos. We’re saving AC/DC for later.
We began playing classical music to him when he was still in utero. I don’t know if the studies are correct that show a correlation between music in the womb and a child’s intelligence. It couldn’t hurt, we figured, to play good music when we knew he could hear it. I do feel that our playing such music then helped him appreciate it now.
I remember when he was first brought into our hospital room after his birth. Even though he was just a few hours old, my husband played a gentle jazz CD as we cuddled him. Now I make sure that music is a part of our daily life.
We find music shows on TV. PBS has a series called “From the Top–Carnegie Hall.” Here, young musicians are interviewed in a fun way and then perform on stage. Our son sits there mesmerized–but only for a few of the performances. He has his favorites. Netflix is another awesome and inexpensive way to find quality DVDs of music for children. Don’t forget the public library!
I look forward to taking our son to high school musical performances. I know he will enjoy seeing and hearing the instruments. I wonder what instrument, if any, he’ll choose to play when he gets a little older! Where do you find music here in Katy? What songs do you like to play for your children? I’d love to hear from you.

This Katy couple walks a mile in each other’s shoes

Yesterday, I had a funeral in Austin that I needed to attend.  My husband willingly took a personal day from his office job and stepped into the role of Mr. Mom.  I usually stay at home and manage the children’s activities during the day, but for this occasion, we very much had our roles reversed.

While I was away all day, my husband, Jordan, was wholly responsible for attending the Mommy And Me swim class for our 18 month old, Kate.  Not only did he have to manage swimming with Kate, but our older daughter, Avery (3 ½ years old) was sitting on the bench coloring and watching, so he had to be aware of her as well.  After swim, he changed both he and our daughter in the swim changing rooms and took the girls to Katy Mills Mall for their weekly date with coins, fish, and gumballs.

Next came ballet lessons for Avery, including a change of outfit for her and keeping Kate occupied while Avery was in class. 

And that was all before noon.

After ballet, my husband made lunch, put the kids in bed for nap, cleaned up the house some, was there to greet the girls when they woke up from nap, and cuddling tv time.

When I got home around 4, I was so proud of my whole family.  The girls had really enjoyed their time together, and my husband was in full parenting mode. 

Switching spots really enlightened me and my husband.  At the end of the day, I told him I completely understand why he needs a break when he first gets home.  Although I was not with the children all day, I also did not have any mental down time and really needed about 30 minutes to myself to regroup.  He mimicked my sentiment, saying that he felt the kind of tired I feel at the end of everyday and I was feeling the kind of tired he feels at the end of every day.  His exhaustion was physical and emotional, and mine was mental. 

Trading spots for the day was a wholly successful event.  Walking a mile in each other’s shoes allows me to appreciate so much more what my husband does in a day, and the exact same was true from his end as well.

What about you?  Have you done a job switch recently?  How did it go?  Post a comment below.

A favorite  activity for young Katy kids

This morning, I loaded my girls up with a sack lunch, a few dollars, and 2 towels.  Then we headed to LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch and met some playgroup friends for a little fun in the sun.

This is a favorite May activity for us.  It’s finally warm enough to warrant running through the water sprays, but isn’t yet so hot that I need to be in the water as well.  My daughters, Avery, 4 years, and Kate, 18 months, loved standing over a water hole until it squirts up on them.  Later, they giggled as they walked straight through a row of streaming water. 

Once the children got hungry, we sat out at the tables provided and ate our sack lunch.  Some days, we’ll stop at Mission Burrito or Panera Bread for lunch, but today we were going the low-cost route.  Once lunch and a little more splashing were over, it was time for my daughter’s favorite activity at LaCenterra: ice cream!  There are so many wonderful options for sweet treats: Jamba Juice, Starbucks, Tollhouse Cookie Company and Cold Stone Creamery.  One kid-sized cone per child (blue bubble gum flavored ice cream… yum!) and a Coke for me completed the morning’s fun.  There’s nothing like a morning of sun, water, and energy exerting to guarantee great naps for the kids and some down time for me.  All the way around, LaCenterra offers us with an amazing day.

LaCenterra does ask that while splashing in their water, children wear shirts, pants, and shoes.

Once the weather gets too hot for Mama to comfortably sit and watch the girls splash at LaCenterra, we’ll make it an evening activity.  Some of my favorite pictures and several of the best family memories come from summers spent at LaCenterra.

What about you?  Do your children love LaCenterra?  Where do you go for splashing fun?  Post a comment below!

A Katy Family Beats the Heat and Learns Something New 

Natalie and her husband, Stephen, pose with a fossil on display at the museum

A great place to visit this summer, if your looking for a Katy/Houston area staycation or just a fun weekend outing is the Houston Museum of Natural Science. They are currently showing several great exhibits; The Science of Wonder: Magic, Faberge: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars, Archaeopteryx: Icon of Evolution and those are just the special exhibits.

My family set out to see the Magic and Archaeopteryx exhibits. The Magic exhibit is filled with history of some of your favorite magicians from Houdini to Penn and Teller and who inspired them. The best part is that if you time your visit right (see showtimes http://www.hmns.org/exhibits/special_exhibits/magic/live_magic_shows.asp) you can see live magic shows by some of today’s best magicians. We saw Richard Hatch who seemed to be well trained in the traditional classics like the Chinese rings and close-up slide of hand.

We also took advantage of the special going on with the Hubble 3D IMAX and the Burke Baker Planetarium show, Life in the Universe.  With this coupon (http://www.hmnsmedia.org/Campaigns/Coupon/Hubble.html ) you can get into Life in the Universe for only $5 with a purchase to the Hubble 3D IMAX. I find anything in the planetarium to be education and relaxing. You have to love those chairs! The Hubble 3D IMAX was wonderful! In the 40 minute show you can learn about the challenges and triumphs that NASA has faced to maintain the telescope that provides us with the best view of the universe. These two shows are a must see for anyone who loves space and the hope of finding life out there.

My favorite part of our day was the Archaeopteryx exhibit. What probably made this our favorite were the museum volunteers. Always talk to the volunteers. They are assigned to that exhibit because they have something to add to it. Another, great feature in this exhibit is that you can take pictures! The majority of special exhibits forbid this so it was nice to be able to capture the memory of this walk through evolutionary history.

The Houston Science Museum is always a family favorite for me. It is a great way to beat the summer heat and have fun while learning something new. And if you think that this is something that your family could enjoy at least twice a year then become members. That’s what my husband and I did. After two visits we found that it paid for itself and you get special offers, special member only invitations and discounts in the gift shop. Are you a fan for a museum in our Houston Museum District? Share your experience in a comment!

A Katy family brings back some of the classics

My daughter was sick last night, and so we declared today a movie marathon day.  With the rain and her recovering stomach, it is the perfect day to cuddle up in front of the tv and enjoy family favorites.

We are avid Disney fans, and have most of the movies they have released from the vault since my oldest daughter was born in 2006.  We also have the traditional child faves, such as Sesame Street, Curious George, and the Shrek movies.

This morning, though, we decided to offer my daughter Avery some “new” options: classic favorites from my childhood and my husband’s childhood.

Right now, we are watching the 1969 movie Hello Dolly with Barbara Streisand.   My daughter loves it!  There is so much dancing and singing, and even my husband is willingly watching the story as it unfolds.  It has inspired me, and so in the next several weeks, we’ve decided to try out some other favorites from our childhoods:

*The Wizard of Oz

*The Sound of Music

*The Never Ending Story

*The Karate Kid

*Mary Poppins

We don’t watch movies often (we have a pretty strict television watching policy), and therefore the cartoons have dominated any time we are in front of the tv.  The girls have been perfectly happy watching The Princess and the Frog on repeat.  While I do love that movie, I’m not always as excited about the same movie the 10th time its been played.  This is an exciting moment for my husband and I… we’re going to get to introduce Avery to parts of cultural history, be entertained and reminded of our youth, and enjoy a special time with the whole family.

Since Avery is still pretty young (almost 4 years old), we know these movies may be hit or miss for now.  But my hope is to keep a mental file of these movies and try them throughout the years until she is ready for each of them to make the impact on her that they made on us.

I am certain I’ve forgotten true favorites from growing up, and I don’t want to miss the experience of sharing classics with my children.  Is there a movie you loved as a child that you now love to watch with your family?  Post a comment below!

Weighing the options for your Katy kid

I was homeschooled as a child, from 3rd grade to my High School Graduation, and although there were many great lessons I took away from that experience, I promised myself up until recently that I would never home school my own children.  I had been very lonely as a homeschooler, and quite isolated.  I didn’t want to inflict the same treatment on my own brood.  That’s what I thought, anyway!

A couple of months ago, through a series of events and changes, my husband and I pulled my 6th grade son from public school and I began the grand adventure of homeschooling a Junior High kid.  Wow!  What a job!  Now, two months in, I am just finding my feet as a “home school” mom.  All my grandeur fantasies of field trips to the ocean and science experiments with chemicals and a microscope and…  Well, we haven’t had a field trip yet, not even down to the neighborhood pond!  As for an experiment, we just started picking up the science book!

We have however, accomplished something better than fancy science projects; my son and I are closer than we’ve ever been.  He is less stressed, excited about his future, and learning self-motivation.  He gets to explore further the subjects that he is naturally interested in, and study the Bible and Creation and other Christian teaching that he did not have awareness of in public school.  He is self-paced and even though we just began this new adventure, he is already well into 7th grade material in most of his subjects!  (Obviously science will need some work!)

We also love the flexibility homeschooling allows us – he has much more free time now.  And I love that he helps me with household responsibilities, it makes my busy day smoother, and he’s learning wonderful values like teamwork and work ethic! 

Now, I’m not suggesting by any means that this situation is for every parent/child combo.  It takes commitment, hard work, and a lot of self-discipline to truly homeschool your child.  You would really want to think it over and do some research before making such a serious decision.  What is best for your family overall is obviously the best choice to make.  I know I am blessed by our decision, and my son is excited for his future as a homeschooler in Katy, Texas.

What do you think?  Do you homeschool your child(ren)?  Do you know any other homeschooling parents, and what do they have to say about it?

Visit the Katy Fiesta Market

Baby elephant, Baylor, was recently born at the Houston Zoo. Photo by Brian Hill.

Looking for something fun to do this summer with your family? Make plans to go to the Houston Zoo. There is always fun and excitement to be found at the Houston Zoo and when you plan your trip in advance you can save money. Visit the Katy Fiesta’s courtesy booth (or any Fiesta) for discount tickets to the Houston Zoo. Just one extra stop can save you money! Also, if you ride the METRO and you plan to purchase your tickets at the gate present your METRO pass and you will save a dollar on each ticket. Every little bit can help!

This month has brought major zoo news along with the Houston summer weather! After a pregnancy lasting almost 23 months Shanti, an Asian elephant delivered a healthy, 348-pound baby boy named Baylor. Now the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat is currently closed to the public until the elephant care team has seen signs that Baylor is settling into his new home. But you can follow the scoop on their website http://www.houstonzoo.org/.

You can always find your staple favorites at the Houston Zoo. From birds to primates, fish and cheetahs and so much more there is always something wild going that the family will love! Beginning Memorial Day weekend the Houston Zoo is opening a Dinosaur exhibit. Summer is always a great time to see what is going on at Houston hot spots. Take a few minutes to look at the websites of the Houston area museums. You can access them all easily at the following site http://www.houstonmuseumdistrict.org/.

Be sure to look at what’s going on a check out look into discount and special offer opportunities. By looking into things in advance you save money and make sure you don’t miss out something fun! Have fun this Summer by making some plans! Have you found any great deals at Katy/Houston area hot spots? Share what you found in a comment below.

An oasis of nature close to Katy

Avery and Hannah fishing with nets at the santuary

Yesterday, our playgroup took a field trip to the Edith Moore Nature Sanctuary.  It is literally a nature oasis in the middle of the Memorial area.  When we pulled in to the parking lot for Memorial Drive Methodist Church, the sign – and certainly the area – were not obvious.  But once we got our bearings and found the entrance to the Nature Sanctuary, we were amazed at what hides just beyond the road on Memorial Drive.

Yesterday, our children participated in a learning time, a craft, and many fun outdoor activities.  This was the last day of that particular program, but there are many more opportunities at the Edith Moore Nature Sanctuary, which you can explore by visiting http://outside.in/memorial-houston-tx/edith-l-moore-nature-sanctuary. 

The focus was on pond life while we were there, and my 3 ½ year old daughter had the opportunity to listen to information about pond life, observe many different types of pond critters, and paint a ceramic turtle and frog. 

After she finished painting, we were lead to a small pond with a low dock.  Each child was given a net and allowed to catch fish with it.  It was exciting for my daughter to get up close and personal with a crawfish and several smaller fish. 

After painting and fishing, my daughter got to pet a box turtle and a walking stick insect.  She was somewhat timid, but the nature guides were patient and gentle and once we finished, my daughter beamed with pride over what she had done.

Once the official class was over, we walked around the Nature Sanctuary, following paths through the woods and over bridges.  We saw an enormous frog and several turtle heads poking up from the water.

As we were leaving, we crossed a large bridge over a river about 10 feet below.  We stopped to look over the bridge and saw an enormous snake swimming aggressively all in the river.  From way up on our bridge, we felt very safe, and my daughter and her friends had a wonderful time observing such an exciting creature in its natural habitat. 

All in all, it was a wonderful trip.  I had no idea such an abundance of wildlife and nature was hiding just behind Memorial Drive.  We will certainly return!

Do you know of any hidden gems like the Edith Moore Nature Sanctuary?  Post a comment below!


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Just one of the many sports enjoyed by our Katy community

Ah, baseball.  What a sport!  The smell of a new glove, the whish of the air as the bat is swung, and the screams and whoops of the excited moms as their sons bring home trophies!  My twelve-year-old son Jovanni, is playing with the Orioles in the Katy Pony League this spring, and although they just finished up a great season, they placed well enough to participate in the playoffs!

Tonight was their first playoff game, and it was a tight one!  Not in the score, but in the play by play.  It was too much fun to cheer for our team as they rose from 0-0 up to the fourth inning all the way to 9-1 by the bottom of the sixth!  They took the win, and will play again on Tuesday against the undefeated White Sox.  The Orioles came in second to the White Sox this season, so that will be the game to watch! 

It is so exciting to watch the kids; as their determination rises, their success follows.  The ball cracks as it connects with the bat, and it is thrilling to see the sphere fly through the air, holding our breath as the outfielder goes for the catch!  Will he catch it?  The batter doesn’t know yet, he threw that bat down and took off running towards first base as soon as the ball made contact!

My son, being the rookie on the team, doesn’t connect as often as the rest of his team, but it’s not for the lack of trying!  So today, as he was going up to bat, with a runner on third, I told him, “Hey Jovie, if you were ever gonna get a hit, now would be that time!”  Sure enough, “CRACK!” and off he ran!  He got tagged out at first, but the third base runner made it home, and he gave me that run I asked for!

Can’t wait for Tuesday’s game!  Is your child in baseball this year?  What has your experience been?  I would love to hear it.

Elementary schools around Katy participate in fun, healthy competitions

One of my favorite May activities is helping with Field Day.  Field Day is a day set aside for elementary students to get outside, exercise and have fun in the sun!   As I attended Field Day last week at my children’s school, I was amazed at what a successful and entertaining event it was.  Kudos to our awesome Katy Schools and many parent volunteers!

Before Field Day commenced, there was an “Opening Ceremony”.  The students who had scored the highest in their fitness tests walked around the track holding a torch.  As the torch-bearers walked around the track, they waved to an adoring crowd (the other elementary students and parents) and the crowd cheered loudly.  When the torch was lit, it was time for the games to begin.

Each child was given a piece of paper that listed thirty different activities that they could do during Field Day.  Activity stations filled the gym and the entire playground.  Parent volunteers and teenage volunteers were stationed at each booth.  When a child completed an activity, the volunteer wrote his/her initials on the child’s field day sheet.  Every elementary grade participates in field day, so as you might imagine, it takes hundreds of parent volunteers all over Katy to make Field Day a success.

Activities ranged from running races, to bowling, to water games.  Children happily ran from one activity to the next, knowing that the children who completed the most activities would get ribbons.  It was all I could do to keep up with my excited children.  As soon as they had completed one activity, they were off to the next.  Mothers and Fathers joined in some of the races just to prove they still had some vim and vigor. 

At the conclusion of Field Day, the students gathered in the shade and were each given a Popsicle.  Children chattered happily and parents stood close to their children at the conclusion of a memorable school activity.

What are your favorite school activities?  Please share.

A Katy family celebrates a new kind of holiday

While reading my Mother’s Day cards with my children and husband, my five year old looked up at me and said in all seriousness, “There is Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, and all of the rest of the days are Children’s Day’s!”  I smiled at him and said, “You are right!  Three hundred and sixty-three days of the year are children’s days!”

As I have thought about the years I have been a mother, I smile as I think about the many Children’s Days I have enjoyed.  Yes, there have been many difficult and exhausting times, but there have also been countless beautiful, fun and delightful times.

Some days I feel like my children are my greatest fans.  For instance, my eleven year old daughter made a card for me on the computer for Mother’s Day that said, “When I think of you, certain pictures come to mind.  This Mother’s Day, I decided to show you what pictures are in my mind.”  She had found clip-art and had written words by the clip-art such as:  Beautiful mom, Amazing Singer, Fabulous Cook…”  Her sweet card made my day!  To have a child love and adore you is priceless!

Other days, a kind act by one of my children warms my heart.  Several days ago, as I was loading the dinner dishes, my teenage son walked into the kitchen.  Sensing that I was tired, he said, “Stop mom.  I’ll finish the dishes.  Go to bed.”  I felt so lucky to have such a sweet and sensitive son.  It made me feel grateful!

And, on other days, I simply watch my children and feel proud.  I walked into the family room recently and listened as my seven year old lectured my five year old about how he could best prepare for first grade.  I watched silently and smiled as my little 7 year-old man lovingly taught his younger brother.

So, even though three hundred and sixty-three Children’s Days per year is a lot, being a Mother definitely has its perks.  I for one, wouldn’t trade those days for anything!

What have been your favorite Children’s Days?  Please share a comment below.

A Katyite shares one of her favorite recipes

This fresh, citrus-filled dessert has become a popular request item among my friends and family, and is easy and fun to make.  Whether for a picnic meal, to add to a delicious buffet of springtime dishes, or just alone with a fragrant cup of coffee, this bar dessert is a real winner!  The original recipe is from the Good Housekeeping – Great Home Cooking Cookbook.   I’ve just adjusted a couple of details after perfecting the bars to our taste!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups plus 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup cold butter
2 large lemons, or 3 small ones
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 13” by 9” pan with aluminum foil, lightly grease foil. 

In medium bowl, combine 1 ½ cups flour with the powdered sugar.  With pastry blender or two knives used scissor-fashion, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan.  Press it firmly evenly around the bottom of pan. 

Bake until lightly browned, about 17-20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, from lemons, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1/3 cup juice.  In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat eggs until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low.  Add granulated sugar, remaining flour, baking powder, salt and lemon peel and juice.  Beat, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula, until blended.  Pour over warm crust. 

Bake until filling is just set and golden around edges, about 17-19 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack. Dust powdered sugar over warm filling.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack. 

When cool, remove lemon bars from pan by lifting edges of foil and place on cutting board.  Cut lengthwise into 3 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 12 pieces. 

After you make these, let me know how they taste!  Enjoy the lemon goodness!

Simple steps to ensure your Katy Cutie has a fun and safe summer

As summer approaches, it is important to check our homes and yards to prepare for a safe summer.  Pediatricians admit that during the summer months, children are at an increased risk for accidents and injuries.  With more leisure time, children are likely to be adventuresome and active…both positive traits when they are closely monitored.  Most accidents and injuries can be prevented when potential threats are addressed.

Indoor-

While we as mothers are in spring cleaning mode, we should also review our homes for safety.   Are medicines and cleaning supplies out of our children’s reach?  Do outlets have safety covers?  Are knives and other sharp objects put away?  Are plastic bags stored safely? If toddlers or babies are in the house, are stairs gated and sharp edges on furniture covered?    

Outdoor-

Insects and spiders love the weather in Katy and seem to thrive in our yards.  Insect repellant and pest control treatment are important preventative measures to manage potential injury. When a child gets a bite, redness, pain, itching and swelling are normal reactions.  If, however, the child becomes clammy, has difficulty breathing, or begins to vomit, he should be taken to the emergency room. 

Children should stay far away from operating lawn mowers.  A small rock or twig can be projected a great distance when hit by the lawn mower blade.  Children shouldn’t play in parked cars, or by barbeque pits, grills and smokers.   

As children fill their summer days with rollerblading, and bike riding, we as parents can help them stay safe by insisting on the use of protective wear.  In nine out of ten fatal bike accidents, the child was not wearing a bike helmet. It is also important to be vigilant at the playground.  Slides are the most dangerous of playground equipment with children burning themselves or falling off.

Due to warm weather year round, pools in Katy are abundant.  Nearly every neighborhood has a pool, and many homeowners need simply walk into their backyards to take a nice, refreshing dip in the pool.  As fun as pools are, they are also very dangerous.  Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children.  Even if children know how to swim, it is very important that, near water, parents are 100% vigilant.  Most drownings occur in residential pools- in the victims own pool.  About three-quarters of children under age 5 who drown were not expected to be at or even near a pool; more than half of them were thought to be safely inside the house.

Children are bound to get hurt at one time or another.   But, when we take preventative measures, we can at least rest assured that we have done our best to keep them safe.

What have I left out?  Please share additional safety precautions.

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

Here are some tips for your Katy family when the weather puts a damper on your outdoor camping trips 

Have you ever planned a camp-out and had the weather decide not to co-operate? What’s a family to do when their camp-out gets rained out? How about a camp-in instead? Better yet, let your kids invite a friend over and make it a pajama party.

To set up for the camp-in, first clear some space in the living room or family room. Then spread out those sleeping bags (one for each kid) and hang a few strings of outdoor party lights for a little ambience. Next, either attach glow-in-the-dark stars all over the ceiling – in constellation patterns, of course – or set up a star field projector if you have one. Put out a star-gazer book to help the kids identify the constellations. To enhance the feel of a camping trip, set up a CD player with a few forest sound effects disks with crickets, frogs, and the like.

Kids get to put out lanterns and flashlights next to their sleeping bags – for when it gets dark – and wear their craziest pajamas. After all this is a pajama party. Play some camping games like guessing the identity of a hidden object or a game of “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?” (Replace the button with a forest object like an acorn or a stone.) Have the kids tell each other some amazing camp fire stories. If the kids are old enough to handle it, make it a Ghost Story contest, with prizes for: scariest story, best story told by one person, best story told by  two or three people, or funniest ghost story.

Can’t cook those hot dogs over a fire because of the rain? No problem. Cook them over a hot microwave. The same goes for the s’mores. Keep that  ice chest handy and full of cold drinks and fruit (or other healthy snacks).

So the only thing left is to figure out where to get those ghost stories for the kids to tell each other. There are a few books available in any book store. There are also several websites that have ghost stories posted:

Another website that contains stories, games, songs and other camping activities is Ultimate Camp Resource at:  http://www.ultimatecampresource.com/

By the way this camp-in makes for a great sleepover birthday party as well. The best part is there are no mosquitoes! What other rainy day ideas are out there? What about birthday party ideas that don’t cost tons of money and can be easily organized?

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

One Katy family gets by on the support of their friends

It’s been almost three weeks since our triplets were born. They are small, but they are doing well. The doctors are happy with their progress and that gives my husband and me a lot of hope for the future. However, it is obviously a stressful situation for our family. If you know of someone with loved ones, especially children, in the hospital, here are a few things you could try to help lighten their load.

First, offer to drive them to the hospital. Parking fees are tremendous. There are times that I am paying $15.00 just to park. When you drive your friend to the hospital, you are making life easier. I know that the hospital my triplets are in offers a monthly contract which is a much better deal. Perhaps you could do the legwork for your friend so that it is one less errand for her to do while at the hospital. That will free up some time for her to spend with her sick family member.

 
Second, don’t push your friend to talk. This may sound rude, but my husband and I find it difficult to tell the same news to so many people. We are grateful others are interested in how the boys are doing, but it is a very scary and emotional time for us. Repeatedly sharing the same information with various people who call to check on us adds to our stress level. As a friend, is there a way you could help shield the family from these calls by setting up a Facebook page or by distributing the information to an e-mail list approved by the family?
 
My last tip is to offer specific help to the family. There are certainly jobs and responsibilities that are currently falling by the wayside in our household. We try to keep up with grocery shopping, laundry, and healthy meals, but there is only so much time in our day between commuting to the hospital and work. It is wonderful when some friends call to offer to drive our son to school for me or when I hear there is a meal ready for us. Don’t feel that you have to do all the work–our good friend, for example, simply set up a calendar for others to sign up for meals, driving, and even cleaning. It is a truly humbling experience, but these offers have really made our lives easier these past few weeks.
 
I hope this blog shows that while families in crisis sometimes are too busy or strained to answer calls and e-mails, we do value offers of friendship and help. Please don’t be put off by our lack of communication. We are sometimes just struggling to stay afloat. We do appreciate all that others do for us. I would love to hear how you have been helped by others when your family has gone through such an experience.

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

Katy students get the chance to doll up their moms for Mother’s Day

Yesterday, I was invited to a “Mommy Makeover” event put on by the Kindergarteners at Woodcreek Elementary.    I have many wonderful Mother’s Day memories, but, this one tops the list!   At 1:30 p.m., I walked to my son’s classroom.  At the door, I was greeted by his teacher and immediately, my son, Braden, walked to the door and offered me a beautiful paper bouqet of flowers.

A huge smile spread across Braden’s face as he escorted me to a seat and began to pamper me.  I had brought a bag of toiletries- some makeup, nail polish, lotion and hair accessories.  “Hmm…”  Braden said.  “What should we do first?”  He then decided to re-do my eye make-up.  The other mothers sitting in the classroom were getting similar royal treatment.  Every few minutes, the mothers admired each other and offered comments about how beautiful we all looked. 

Braden took off my sandals, lathered my feet with lotion and carefully slipped my shoes back on.  He brushed my hair and added a few colorful clips for effect.  He then painted my nails and finished with some fresh pink lipstick. After my makeover was complete, he held up a mirror so I could see how “gorgeous” he had made me.  He was so proud and I felt so loved!

The Kindergarteners served their mothers lemonade and cookies and we sat back and enjoyed a song about mothers.  I always feel silly when I do it, but, I got choked up!   As the sweet children sang precious words of love to their mothers, I wiped a tear from my eye and tried to compose myself.

For a time, the world stood still, and life was just my son and I, together, enjoying some lemonade and cookies.  We chatted and laughed happily, and my heart swelled with pride and love.  How I hope I savor these moments!  A Happy Mother’s Day it was!

What are some of your most cherished Mother’s Day memories?  Please share!

Mother’s Day is the perfect time for this Katy mom to reflect

I’m living my dream.

Angela with her two daughters, Avery and Kate.

When I was young and couldn’t sleep at night, I’d lose myself in fantasy worlds. I didn’t dream of being a princess or a ballerina. I didn’t want to be a rock star. I wanted to be a mommy. I’d lay awake at night, dreaming of the day I could hold my very own little ones in my arms.

Several times a week, I catch myself with a silly grin (often with a tear as well), just soaking in these moments that are so fleeting and so very precious. The way that my oldest daughter, Avery, says “Mama”, the way that the baby, Kate, stares at her daddy when he walks in a room, the days full of learning and playing and cuddling… it’s all a dream come true. I’ll take the dishes and laundry and constant clutter. With it comes the most blessed moments I’ve lived through yet.

I wondered when my first daughter, Avery was born how people could tell me it only got better from there. She was so small and so precious and a part of me never wanted those days to end, so I couldn’t imagine it being even better than that. Now, I understand. As a 3 ½ year old, the child is so full of life and spunk and I absolutely adore her at this age. Watching her figure out her world and explore communication is like seeing it all again myself. Just like I felt when she was one, and two, and three, I don’t ever want to forget the way she looks as a three and a half year old girl, running around our backyard or splashing in the tub or hunched over her sister, sharing toys, singing, or giving kisses.

Avery is so special and so full of life that before we knew Kate, our 18 month old (“the baby”), we wondered how another baby could possibly find a place to belong in our family.  Kate has answered that call with overwhelming sweetness, gentleness, and delight.  She has awoken a place in my heart that I never knew was there.  Her tender hugs, the way she clings to me like a monkey on its mama, and her coy but flirty personality are completely different but wholly complementary to her sister. 

This Mother’s Day, I’m pausing to say thank you to God  for this dream come true. These days are just too precious, and although they are fleeting, I do not miss them when they are gone.  I know tomorrow holds more moments to appreciate  and more dreams come true.

 Offered by Katy Parks and Recreation Department

It’s time to start thinking about summer activities for our kids. I know, I know, the economy is still a little shaky and gas prices on the rise – again! So how can families find activities at a reasonable cost, without draining the gas tank, or the wallet? Katy Parks and Recreation Department might just have the answer you’re looking for. The Department offers a number of week long summer camps that won’t cost an arm-and-a-leg and are close to home.

The camps are designed for children ranging in age from three to twelve years of age with groups divided up based on learning levels and skill sets for each age group. The week-long sessions are broken down into pre-school, elementary and middle school age groups (3-5 years, 4-6 years, 4-8 years, or 8-13 years). Prices range from $89-260. The cost covers supplies used during the camp and length of the day. The camps are all 5 days long, with most running for 2-4 hours and others going as long as 6 hours a day.

What the kids will learn varies from one week to the next and one age group to the next. Camp themes range from building Lego® structures, reading, and princess manners to cheering, computer classes, and Mad Science® labs. Camps are being held at the VFW Hall at 6202 George Bush Drive in Katy.  Registration forms can be downloaded from the City Parks and Recreation Department website.

For camp information contact the City Parks & Recreation office by calling (281)391-4840 or by e-mail at katypard@cityofkaty.com. 

To registration, visit the City Parks and Recreation website at: http://cityofkaty.com/departments/parks/summer-camps-2/

Can one Katy mom find peace amongst the chaos?

Snuggled cozily in bed, I opened my eyes and watched the sun pour through my bedroom window. The day was gorgeous. I stretched my arms high above my head, flexed my feet and let out a great, slow yawn. It was Saturday and I looked forward to a fun-filled day with my darling children. As my mind mulled over the possibilities of the day, I was suddenly pulled from my musings. My great notions suddenly began to dissipate as I heard shrieking from upstairs.

“Mom, Bryan won’t stay out of my rooooom! Make him leave!”
“Mom, Braden pushed meeeee! Ow! Stop it Braden! You’re hurting me!”
“Stop it Bryan! Those are myyyyyy games. You can’t play with them!”

Did my perfect day really have to start like this? I jumped out of bed and lumbered up the stairs. My older two children were now in the center of the action pulling the younger two boys away from each other. It reminded me of a boxing ring. Our own little boxing ring. How dreadful!

“OK guys. What’s going on?” I asked in a sleepy voice.

At once, all four children blurted our their individual version of the story. I sat, nodded and listened as if what they were saying was registering. Then, I responded as I always do.

“We are a family. We do not hurt each other. We do not say unkind things to each other. It is a privilege to play with each other. If we can’t be kind, we can’t be together. I want each of you to spend the next half-an-hour in your rooms. Then, we will start this day over. I will decide what we can do today based on your behavior. Now, scoot! Go to your rooms right now!”

With grumbling and mumbling, each child wandered back into his/her room. The next half an hour was quiet and peaceful. I made my bed, straightened the kitchen and made some pancakes. I still maintained high hopes for a glorious day. As the smell of pancakes found it’s way to the bedrooms, I heard children’s voices.

“Can we come out yet?”
“We’ll be nice.”
“I’m starving. Can we eat yet?”
“Alright children. You may come to the kitchen to eat now.” I responded.

As the children filed into the kitchen, I silently hoped the day would be a good one. We ate in silence for the most part. Pancakes were everyone’s favorite breakfast, so they ate and ate until they were satisfied. But, tummies full and freedom in their hands, they cleared the dishes and apparently began to focus on what the next argument could be.

Within moments, Melissa hollered, “Mom, Bryan spilled my new lotion all over the bathroom floor! Bryan that was the best lotion ever! Why did you do that?” She lamented.

I paused in my kitchen clean-up to again go upstairs to mitigate. For Melissa’s birthday, I had given her a make-up kit with lip gloss, light eye shadow, finger-nail polish and lotion. Sure enough, her new, fragrant lotion was all over the bathroom floor.

“Bryan, why did you spill Melissa’s lotion?” I questioned.
“I didn’t know it would spill when I squeezed it.” He responded innocently.
“You need to clean up the lotion and buy Melissa a new bottle.” I stated matter-of-factly.
“M-o-m! Why do I need to buy a new one?” He complained.

As I began to practice my deep breathing techniques to manage my stress, I attempted to keep my cool. When I lay down on the floor, I think the children noticed that I wasn’t tolerating the bickering very well. Compunction soon spread across each of their faces and they promised to behave better.

The day did turn out to be a good one. No, it was not perfect. We had a few contentious moments, but, we enjoyed each other and when contention reared it’s ugly face, I tried my best to beat it back.

I hope that one day my many ramblings to my children will all sink in and that contention will be completely eliminated. Well, let me be more realistic. I hope that we can at least go for one day without it!

There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained.
Winston Churchill

 
What do you do to create peace in your home?  Please share!

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

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

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

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

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

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

What one Katy family does to celebrate

Mickey Mouse cupcakes

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have always seemed a bit daunting to my two siblings and me.  We love our parents so much and cherish the opportunity to show them this, but we have a bit of trouble coming up with a new, creative, meaningful way to express ourselves each year.  We don’t just want to give a gift to Mom on Mother’s Day, we want it to be a perfect gift that clearly represents how wonderful she is to us.

After several years of searching the creative vaults of our minds, my sister, brother, and I had a stroke of genius.  My mother and father want nothing more than for us to be together, and we want nothing more than to serve them and show them how much they mean to us.  Add in the whole family’s love for cooking, and we had a plan.

For the last 6 years, we have prepared a five or six course meal, complete with a theme and 5 star quality recipes and ingredients, and given it as a gift to my parents as a joint Mother’s and Father’s Day gift.  Their three children are all married, and so the six of us gather in their kitchen to create a meal fit for a queen and king.  My dad loves watching us all work together to make new recipes, and my mom delights in having us all together for an entire weekend.  (My brother lives in Los Angeles, so finding a weekend for him and his wife to fly in town is also a part of the big event.)

We wanted to be careful, when this idea became a reality, to make this an event that would stand out from all others throughout the year.  So, we begin by picking a theme and recipes that are more challenging than we would usually tackle.   One year, our family took a vacation to California together, and we used this as our theme for the meal.  We served Hollywood Hills avosalsa and homemade tortilla chips, Sunset Boulevard martinis, Grauman’s Chinese Theater salad, Wine Country Chicken Piccata, and Mickey Mouse mousse.  We decorated the table in the nice linens and served it all on china.  Another year, we had a Hawaiian theme and decorated much differently.  The food was still first class, but there were grass skirts, leis, and hibiscus galore.

We present the theme to my mom on Mother’s Day and the menu to my dad on Father’s Day.  Usually, the actual celebration doesn’t take place until the end of the summer, when my brother is able to make it into town.  No one seems to care that Mother’s Day lasts from May until August.

Last year, my parents both suggested that we do an Iron Chef take-off for this year’s meal.  The men will square off against the women.  My parents will provide the mandatory ingredient (we are going easy and doing one ingredient per course) and then the men and women will come up with menus and present them.  For Mother’s Day, we’re giving my mom a portfolio of each of us (photoshopped) in chef’s outfits with a culinary bio for each team member.  My mom and dad will present us with our ingredient list and we will return with the menus prepared by Father’s Day.  I cannot wait to add a whole different element to our usual custom.

What about you?  What creative traditions do you have for celebrating Mother’s Day?  Post a comment below!

Teaching our Katy cutie the value of a thoughtful gift

My husband and I decided when my daughter was very young that we wanted to use Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as an opportunity to teach her about thoughtful gifts.  We wanted to teach her to give gifts that are special because she thought of the person she was giving the gift to.  We were hopeful that we could teach her that cost isn’t as important as thought.

To that end, we agreed that the most meaningful gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day would be gifts that she picked out herself.  One year, we took her to the Dollar Store and let her pick out anything she thought her Mommy and Daddy would like.  She chose sidewalk chalk and a water gun for her Mommy that year and candy and sidewalk chalk for her Daddy.  The next year, we narrowed the decisions down for her and let her chose between a few gifts we knew would be special.

This year, my daughter is almost 4 and capable of more abstract thought.  When my husband asked her what she thought Mommy would like to get for Mother’s Day, she instantly responded, “Mommy would like a party.  With a piñata.  And a rainbow cake.  And pin the tail on the donkey.”  So, this year for Mother’s Day, my gift will be a Rainbow Party, put on by one very loving 4 year old girl.  For a four year old, this is an incredibly thoughtful gift: Mommy is a girl, just like her, and she would like a party in her honor, so wouldn’t Mommy?  It makes me really happy to imagine the thought process she must’ve worked through in order to decide that what Mommy wants is a Rainbow Party.

Sure, every mom loves flowers and earrings and sweet cards.  But knowing that my daughter thought of something by herself and watching her excitement grow as she plans the party with her Daddy… that is so much more special to me during this time of my life than any other gift I could receive. 

How about you?  Do you have any special ways of celebrating Mother’s Day?  Post a comment below!

A Katy family turns to one another for support

Rain pelted the windshield as I cautiously attempted to drive home. It had been raining when we had arrived at our church for the Fourth of July activity, but now as I tried to make the trek home, I found that the roads were covered and the drains were obviously not able to drain the water as fast as it was accumulating. I said a silent prayer and wondered if I would be able to see through the great torrents of water that were rushing from the sky.

Since all of the roads were covered with water, it was impossible to discern how deep the water was in any given spot. I hesitated and wondered if we should pull to the side of the road to wait out the storm. After some thought, I felt I would be safe to proceed. Suddenly,the van stalled. I tried to start the car again, and again, but alas, it would not start. The engine had flooded and we were in serious danger. I peered out of the window and saw that the van was surrounded by water. It looked like the van was floating in a giant river. The normally gentle stream adjacent to the road, had risen and had flooded the ground on which we were driving. We were caught in a flash flood.

Within moments, I decided my children and I needed to get out of the car before it was swept away. As I opened the van door, water began to rush inside. My three children were not yet strong swimmers, thus, I held onto them with all my strength so they wouldn’t be swept away. Exerting all of the energy I could muster, I waded through waist-deep water until we reached higher ground. I collapsed onto the grass, exhausted, and drenched to the bone.

I have often thought back to this experience and have thought about how grateful I am that our family was able to pass through this storm safely, and without harm. Life is much like that stormy day. Sometimes life surprises us with floods, storms, and difficulties of all kinds. How grateful I am for a family to cling to during life’s troubled times.

In time of test, family is best. -Burmese Proverb

A little change goes a long way for one Katy mom

Since my hair is naturally curly, I have found that it is easiest to let my hair do it’s own thing. After showering, I simply work some gel through my hair and, voila, I’m ready to go!

A friend whom I have known since college said to me one day, “My husband and I were remarking that you look the same as you did in college. Even your hair is the same!” At first I thought her remark was a compliment implying that I hadn’t aged, but then, I wondered. How many people who haven’t changed their hairstyle in fifteen years look all that good?

As I ran over the conversation in my head the next day, and thought about the probable implications of her words, I was determined to find a new look. Upon finding a Salon of some repute, I scheduled an appointment for that very day. When I arrived at the Salon, I told the hair-stylist I needed a completely new look. After an hour of sitting in the salon chair, I peered at my reflection in the mirror. The hair-stylist had added some layers and had completely straightened my hair. I liked it! I didn’t know whether I had the time or energy to spend the same amount of time straightening my own hair, but, for today, I felt hot!

When my two youngest boys arrived home from school, they immediately looked quizzically at me. “You look different mom!” they quipped simultaneously.

“Mom, you look like a rock star!” said Bryan, my seven-year old.
“Oh really, Bryan?” I asked. “So, what do I look like with curly hair?”

In a completely flat tone of voice, Bryan responded, “You look like you are going to McDonalds.” I determined right then and there that it was worth whatever time it took to straighten my hair! I definitely didn’t want to look like I was going to McDonalds every day!  Oh, the honesty of children!

 
What funny things have your children said to you?  Please share a comment. 

How one Katy mom uses technology to “get away” for a while

As a stay-at-home mom, I like to be available to my children.  But there comes a point at which I need a mental break in order to keep going.  This has become especially true now that my oldest daughter has given up naptimes.  She still reads or plays quietly in her room, but silence in our house is a thing of the past.

I’ve found that podcasting can really save my sanity.  During “rest time”, I don’t want to hear every little bump that my daughter is making.  However, I don’t feel comfortable tuning her out by cranking up the tunes to drown her out completely.  My solution: Podcasting! 

There are endless options available for free via podcasts.  I prefer to download sermons from The Waters Church (my home church here in Katy) or from a church whose pastor I know from high school, The Village Church in Dallas.   I find that these sermons put me in a good frame of mind and help me drown out the little person noises that abound upstairs (but since it is just a person talking, it doesn’t get so loud that I wouldn’t be able to hear her if she really needed me).  I wasn’t sure how it would work at first: would I be able to stay focused and not get bored listening to a sermon?  Would I get anything done around the house?  I’ve found that cleaning is so much better when podcasting.  Housework is relatively mindless work, so I am still able to attend to the speaker while checking things off of my to-do list.  It took me a few tries before I found pastors that I enjoy listening to, but once I found the handful that keep my attention, I’m able to go back every week and get their latest sermon via podcast.

There are so many podcasts to choose from: almost every church has their sermons online, many famous authors have podcasts, and my husband’s favorite is How Things Work.  He says he podcasts them on the way to work and learns something new while sitting in traffic.

I use podcasting during naptime but I also use it on those days when I just don’t think I can listen to Old MacDonald Had A Farm anymore on car rides.  The girls still get to listen to their music, and I blissfully sneak away to a much calmer, rejuvenating place. 

How about you?  Do you podcast?  What is your favorite podcast?  Post a comment below!

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 mother shares her experience from growing up in a house full of girls to raising a family of mostly boys

I was raised in a family with three sisters, a composed mother and a soft-spoken father.  Memories of my childhood consist of piano lessons, ballet lessons, creating musical productions with my sisters, and all things beautiful.  I remember collecting flowers, pressing them and making stationary with them.  I cherished family meal time and basked in the warmth of my fellow family members.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t all perfect, but that’s how I like to remember it.

As you can imagine, it was quite a shock when I married a man.  It was a further shock when three of my four children were boys.  Though I had imagined my home would be much like the home I grew up in, it has actually been, oh, I daresay, a little livelier!

With the exuberance and energy of boys continually around me, I have become much more relaxed than I use to be.   I use to want an immaculate house, for instance.  Now I see that little boys and immaculate houses are contradictions in terms!  I have discovered, however, that I have quite an affinity for household items such as carpet cleaner, stain remover, super glue, and drywall filler.  We have spent many hours watching insects, playing with cars, digging in the dirt, and amassing every kind of ball we can find.  Boys are active.  They have boundless energy, thus, we have also taken our share of trips to the emergency room.

But the thing I love most about boys is that they love their mothers.  After a long, tiring day, it is not uncommon for one of my sons to say, “Thank you, Mom for all you do.  You are the best mom ever!  You are so pretty!”  So, even though a life filled with boys can sometimes be loud, crazy, and at times obnoxious, I wouldn’t trade the men in my life for anything!  How have the boys in your life made life beautiful?  Post a comment below.

Little mistakes can cost your Katy family hundreds each year!

Yesterday I went to the grocery store for my weekly shopping trip.  I piled the cart with fruits, vegetables, cereal, milk, bread, and the necessary ingredients for a week’s worth of meals.   As I unloaded my grocery cart and watched the cost add up, I was shocked!  My total came to $188.64.  Reluctantly, I scanned my credit card and signed my name on the credit-card machine.  I couldn’t believe how much I was spending on groceries!  I knew the cost would go up as my children grew, but boy, the cost never ceased to amaze me!

As the cashier thanked me and handed me my receipt, I took 30 seconds to scan the receipt before leaving the store.  I caught the mistake immediately.  Rather than ringing me up for one honey dew melon, the cashier had accidentally rung up 12 honey dew melons.  My mouth dropped as I realized that the cost of twelve honey dew melons had cost me, the buyer, $35.26.  I immediately pointed out the mistake to the cashier, and apologetically, he refunded me the cost of the eleven honey dew melons I hadn’t purchased.   I left the store, grateful I had taken 30 seconds to scan my receipt!  It had saved me over thirty dollars!

Over the past few months, there have been numerous times that I have “saved” myself money by simply checking my sales receipt.  One time, I stocked up on a certain kind of cereal that was on sale.  Cereal is a staple in our home, and I love finding a bargain!  Anyway, upon checking out, I was charged the regular price on all ten boxes of cereal.  The caught mistake saved me $15!  Another time, I was charged the wrong price per pound on grapes.   That, I discovered, saved me $5!  A couple weeks ago, I found I had been charged for several items someone else had left on the belt, saving me $23!

My examples of money saved in simply checking my sales receipt are endless.  I have never been good at clipping coupons, or driving to various stores to find the cheapest food.  But, I am now committed to always checking my receipt.  Just think!  With all of that saved money, maybe I can go on a vacation!  You can too!  Just try it!  How do you save money at the grocery store?  Post a comment below.

How one Katy family inspires others in the community

Some time ago, my husband and I met a family who had a significant impact on our lives. This remarkable family taught me how one can live with what I like to call “An Abundance Mentality”.  They inspired me to live life to its fullest in spite of circumstance.     

I met the Smith family the first day we visited our new church.  We had recently moved, and had not yet met anyone.  Upon entering, Shannon Smith walked up to me and introduced herself.  Shannon promptly asked if she could help me in any way.  Not knowing her, I was at first reluctant to ask, but I desperately needed some help with my younger children while we unloaded the moving truck. I decided to go ahead and ask if she could help me with my children for a couple of hours the following day.  She happily agreed and told me not to worry.  She was glad to help.  I was warmed by her kindness, and felt good knowing I had found a friend.   

Over the next few years, I watched as this amazing family positively impacted others. The Smiths were quite poor.  Their home was very small and it was clear that they didn’t have a lot of money.  What surprised everyone who met them, however, was that you would never know they lacked for anything.  They were always the first to volunteer to take a meal to someone who was sick, or open their home for a play group, or offer service to those in need. 

I often reflect upon the Smith’s example.  In spite of their meager means, they richly blessed everyone they came into contact with.  I realized, through their example that it doesn’t matter how much money one makes, or how full one’s time, living abundantly really comes down to a state of mind…and using our time and resources to help others.   Have you known people who have “An Abundance Mentality”?  Please share a comment.

Making your kid’s playdate at the park even better!

Avery, holding up her completed scavenger hunt

My daughter, Avery, has been a part of a playgroup since she was 3 months old.  Which I realize means it was really more of my playgroup than hers.  But, having grown up with the other children in her playgroup, three years later she is fabulous friends with each of the children.

We take turns planning events for our group of nearly-four-year-olds.  Ordinarily, we choose a park and provide the snack during the week we hostess.  If the weather is bad, we’ll either open up our homes or meet at a bounce warehouse or play area at a restaurant.

This week, our friend Miss Stephanie and her son Tyler played hostess and host.  We met at Mary Jo Peckham park, which in itself makes for a wonderful playdate.  However, Stephanie also provided the children with a scavenger hunt.  She gave each child a paper with words and pictures listing items to find: squirrels, trees, fish, flowers, leaves… As each child found something on the list, they’d get a sticker to put in a box next to the corresponding word and picture.  After they found three of each item, they got a treasure… bubbles!

We had such a great time and it really allowed the kids to appreciate nature.  The kids all huddled together to stare down at an ant hill, raced on the path to the pier to check for fish in the lake, and yelled with delight when they discovered three ducks at once!  The children loved being a part of a structured activity together and finished it up with bubbles, playing together on the park’s play structures, and snack.

It was so much fun and such an easy idea that I plan to use it much more often.  Perhaps on walks around our neighborhood as we wait for Daddy to get home, or when I know we’ll be stuck in a doctor’s office for a long wait, or even on car rides… the possibilities are endless!

How about you?  Do you have any great ideas to make a day at the park even more enriching?  Post a comment below!

A Katy Mom shares her triplet experience

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

Katy families should take advantage of  free internet resources

We’ve all been there. It’s the weekend or summer day and you are looking for something fun for the whole family to do without costing the bank. Sometimes saving money can be so easy and informative. We are fortunate to live in a world run by the Internet. Businesses can reach out to their target markets and for free. 

Your family can use the success of social media to save money and not miss out on great events. By following local event venues you can easily stay up to date on events and programs but you can in many cases gain access to great coupons and offers. I have seen several cases where a company has posted a special offer to their Twitter followers where you can get two admission tickets for the price of one. That can be helpful when planning family outings.

 Businesses are doing the same thing with their Facebook accounts. Following a business that you like on Facebook is another way to let your voice be heard. Many companies seek out information from their Facebook friends. We do it at the Katy Magazine (follow us @ http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Katy-TX/KATY-MAGAZINE-Katy-Texas/ .) There are many times that we are looking for a particular type of person to interview and we will put out a request.

With summer quickly approaching many favorite event venues and local activity centers are going to be preparing for social media summer campaigns. This is the time for you to put in a little time at your computer that could result in great savings.

Sit down with your family and think of some of your favorite places to go around town. Then visit sites such as http://www.houstonmuseumdistrict.org/ and pick out some places that you haven’t been but would like to try. Take a few moments and search for the places on your list on Twitter and Facebook. Commit to follow them.

That’s all you have to do. Then while you follow your family and friends online each day don’t forget to pay attention to any great offers or events that pop up on your newsfeeds. Take advantage of the savings and offers thanks to social media and enjoy your time together as a family! If you’ve had a great savings experience by following a venue through their social media please share. Also, feel free to post links to businesses Twitter and Facebook pages if you find them to be helpful.

Having sick Katy kids can be a hard experience

My oldest daughter and I spent the morning at the doctor’s office.  She woke up in the night with croup and a high fever, and needed cuddling and to be rocked most of the night.

Although she is four, and we have been through many illnesses, it is still such a painful, disappointing experience every time she gets sick.  For one, it is so hard to watch your baby feeling so ill.  It hurts to not be able to do anything for her.  One of the worst feelings in the world.

Add to that sleep deprivation from being up with the sick child all night.  And the need to clear your schedule, make an appointment, drop some cash on a doctor visit and a prescription… it is just a miserable experience.  Without fail, I have to cancel some plans that both she and I were looking forward to – this time it was a friend’s birthday party, church, and lunch with her cousin afterwards.  Not to mention school if she hasn’t kicked the fever by morning.

But in all of this, there is so much to be thankful for.  Sick children sit still so much longer.  They let you hold them and stroke their hair and kiss them.  They appreciate you and want to be with you.  It is so fulfilling to sit with my daughter and know that I am giving her everything I can just by being there for her.  A sick child brings out the lioness in me and I feel so empowered when all is said and done.  The prescriptions are filled, the smoothie is made, and my baby and I are laying on the couch watching Yo Gabba Gabba on repeat.  We can get through this thing.  And I can make it better for her after all.

Every time one of my children gets sick, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have such healthy kids.  By and large, our life goes off without a hitch and my children stay healthy.  Their temporary and mild illnesses serve as a reminder of just how blessed I really am.  Three days from now, this illness will have passed and life will be back in full swing.  But for now, I am going to sit up with my little girl when she calls me in the middle of the night and cherish the time we get to spend together.

What about you?  How do you deal with sick children?  Post a comment below!

 An all-time Katy family favorite… perfect for any occasion!

Whenever I need to sign up to bring a dessert to an event, I know just what to make.  My mom has been making caramel brownies my whole life, and when I started making them for my own functions and get togethers, people loved them.  They were even re-named “Ridiculous Brownies” because of how ridiculously rich and good they were.  We use the same basic recipe as the one found online when you do a search for “caramel brownie recipe”, but I like to think of it as a family recipe.

The recipe calls for:
14 oz caramels
1 cup evaporated milk, divided
1 package German Chocolate Cake mix
¾ cup butter
2 cups chocolate chips

To begin, melt the caramels (unwrapped, of course) with ½ cup evaporated milk.  You can do this double-boiler style or you can microwave them in very small time increments, stirring after each, until melted.

Then, grease a 9 by 13 pan and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, make the batter.  Stir together the cake mix, melted butter, and the rest of the evaporated milk.  Take half of the batter and spread it evenly across the bottom of the greased pan.  Bake this for 8 minutes.

When the brownies have baked for 8 minutes, remove them from the oven and sprinkle evenly the chocolate chips.  Layer on the melted caramel mixture.   On top of this, use a teaspoon and place small chunks of batter across the top.  Don’t try to spread the mixture out over the top of the caramel!  Continue placing small rounded spoonfuls across the top of the caramel until you have used up all of the batter. 

Bake for 20 minutes or so.  Let cool, cut, and serve.

This is the type of brownie that needs to be served on a plate with a fork.  It is ooey and gooey and completely rich and yummy!  Enjoy and let me know what you thought!  Post a comment below.

Being a Katy mom is full of surprises! 

Simple things seem to make life wonderful.  That’s why I decided to try this new, really cool toothpaste.  I was honestly excited to brush my teeth.  Yes, I had spent a little extra on it, but, goodness, I was a mother of four.  It was okay to splurge on myself.  I deserved it.  The first morning I used it was like magic.  My breath was as fresh as it had ever been.  I liked spoiling myself!

I wasn’t the only one who was excited about my new toothpaste.  He must have known how much it meant to me, because he waited until I was on the phone to make his move.  My toddler snuck into my bathroom, located the new toothpaste and commenced the experiment.  He smeared it all over the tub, counters, sinks and floors.

When I discovered my new toothpaste was already used up, I set out to get my next luxury.  Lipstick!  I was in need of a new color.  I had worn the old color for a long time and was ready for a change. The search began for the perfect new lipstick.  Finally, I found the perfect color.  It was called Burgundy Wine.  I bought it and stashed it in my purse. 

Again, the undercover rascal lay in wait.  This time, he waited until I was in the shower.  How did he know it was in my purse?  While drying my hair, little Braden walked in my bathroom.  I immediately noticed his hands and panicked.  Was it blood on his hands?  I threw the blow dryer down and rushed to him.  Upon closer examination, I discovered it was lipstick.  My brand new, beautiful, perfect lipstick covered him.  A smile crept over his face. 

“Where is it?”  I demanded.  “Where did you put it?”

He led me to the powder room and pointed.  The white pedestal sink was now a red pedestal sink.  And, there, lying on the toilet was my new lipstick…now only a stub.  There was nothing left. Ah…the joys of motherhood!

Do you have any zany motherhood stories to share?  Please do!

“You’ll love this place!”

Fabulous Schools– Most people admit that an excellent school district is what brought them to Katy.  The Katy ISD school district is indeed impressive.   Most of the elementary, junior high, and high schools within Katy ISD are rated exemplary.  There is tremendous parent involvement within the district, and students within Katy ISD become accustomed to a rigorous academic environment.

Extra-Curricular Choices-There is no shortage of choices when it comes to extra-curricular activities in Katy.  Sports offered in Katy include Roller Hockey, Basketball, Bowling, Dodge ball, Fencing, Football, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Tennis, Track, Volleyball, and Baseball.  There are also many excellent dance studios, martial arts studios and art, theater and music studios.    

Friendly People-Having moved ten times in the past sixteen years, I must say that Katy ranks at the top of my friendly people cities.  In Katy, Texas, people smile, extend helping hands and make you feel as if you are finally home.

Family-Oriented-Katy is a bedroom community, and due to the strong school system, families move here in droves.  If you refer to the Katy Texas events page on the Katy Magazine website, you will find many family-oriented activities year round.

Strong Economy– Job growth and stability in the housing market are two factors that put Houston, Texas at the top of many national economic forecast lists.  In Katy, the purchase of a home is still a good investment because the economy remains stable. 

Good City Planning-In spite of the amazing growth in population, the Katy City Government is very adept at looking forward and projecting infrastructure needs.   Road expansion, housing development, and school construction remain ahead of the growth.   

Affordable Housing-Compared to any other major metropolitan area, Houston Texas boasts very affordable home prices.  I was amazed at the many choices in builders, location, and style of homes available in Katy.

The list goes on and on.  How glad I am to live in such a beautiful, safe, affordable, and friendly city.  No wonder everyone is so happy in Katy!  What do you like about Katy?  Post a comment below.

Should this type of test be required for our Katy kids?

Annual standardized testing throughout the United States is common and to some degree a necessity; however,  it could be debated that in many states including Texas it is an unnecesary necessity.
The structure of the students annual agenda is based around not only the semester exams but the standardized tests. The Texas ASSESMENT of Knowledge and Skills  or TAKS for short requires five weeks out of every school year for students to prepare, which includes the pre-TAKS and TAKS itself. That five weeks,while miniscule to many, is an actual necessity to many students.
In a state such as Texas where grade point average and class rank could essentially reward a student full scholorships to top schools (University of Texas, Rice University, Baylor University ect.) the time spent in preparation for the final exam and weekly class tests are of the greatest priority.The stress of a test that is not required for colleges outside of the state and many in-state colleges as well but for graduation can be seen as absurd.
The TAKS test is an exit level exam as a student enters their junior year, but not an exam that is required for college acceptance. The idea of having a student study five weeks out of the year and 15 weeks out of their entire high school career for a test that has no  merit is unnecessary.To hold a student responsible for not passing a test that has no merit is a legitamit argument for change or expulsion of this test.
I am aware of the need to test a students knowledge of basic skills ; however, in my opinion a student that has passed their semester and final exams has shown they are fully capable of presenting their basic learned skills of reading, writing, and arithmatic. The Texas School Board of Education has spent, in the last five years, over two million dollars on an exam that test ther students  bare minimum  knowledge and abilities,yet many Texas cities are without refirbished roadways and sidewalks.
I truly believe in our educational syste and it’s overall interest for it’s students; however, some things need to be eliminated for the greater good of the student. If a student fails that exam by one point, they do not graduate and that is not an apropriate measure of a students ability to adapt, learn and succeed. What do you think of the TAKS test and what is the appropriate measure of a students knowledge?

How you can help a fellow Katyite in their time of need

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

A Katy mother-to-be starts saving before the arrival of baby 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come support one of the Katy area’s many Fine Arts programs

My four year old daughter loves dancing.  She is in a dance class, watches So You Think You Can Dance every season, and generally believes all dancers are princesses. 

So, the Cinco Ranch High School Stars Dance Team’s Annual Spring Show is perfect for us.  Each year, I let my little dancing princess choose an extra special outfit and we gear up for the big night of dancing.  She gets so excited to see all of the performances. 

There are a variety of dances put on by each grade level within the Cougar Stars, each squad of girls, and some really special performances by the mothers, fathers, and Cougar Men of CRHS.  There are solos, small group dances, and whole team dances.  My daughter loves the music, the lights, and the dancing so much that she is mesmerized the entire length of the show.  She truly believes we are in the presence of celebrities, and we are!  These Cougar Stars have spent the year practicing and growing as dancers, and we get to come and support them and be entertained by them.  

Being a former dance team member in my high school days at Mayde Creek High School, I also thoroughly enjoy watching the Stars perform.  It is a mix of admiration for how far dance has come and nostalgia for some of the best days of my life.  It is sheer enjoyment for both my daughter and myself.

This year the title is THE SHOW and the Cougar Stars will be performing on both Friday and Saturday nights at the Cinco Ranch High School Performing Arts Center at 7:00 pm both nights.  Tickets are $8 at the door or $7 purchased beforehand from a Cougar Star and they are accepting KISD Gold Cards for Senior Citizens, making their ticket price $5 each.

How one Katy mom shares her time with her children

When I first became a mom, I devoured every parenting book I could get my hands on.  I wanted to be the best mom I could be.  I wanted to parent correctly!  The more I read, the more amazed I was at the abundance of parenting theories.  From sleep to discipline to diet, there was no shortage of advice on how to raise happy, well-adjusted children.  So, I began my long journey through motherhood, daily testing the theories I had read about.  At times I felt really good about my parenting…the methods were working!  But, it seemed that just as I mastered a particular parenting technique, my child changed and I found I needed to adjust my style.  There is one parenting technique, however, that serves as a powerful tool at every stage of child rearing.  That tool is my time.

On Sunday, my seven-year old son seemed tired.  But, instead of laying down for a rest, he proceeded to go to each of his siblings, and tease them, until the sibling hollered for reprieve.  As I realized the teasing wasn’t subsiding, I stopped what I was doing and approached my son.  I knelt down by him and said, “Would you like to spend some time with me?  Go pick out some of your favorite books, and we can snuggle on the couch and read.  Or, if you would like, we can play a game.  You choose!”  My son excitedly set up a game of bean bag toss, and let me know he was ready for a game.  After about a half-an-hour of one-on-one play time, his disposition changed, and he was ready to interact appropriately with his siblings.  Just a small amount of my time had completely changed his mood!

The powerful parenting tool of time also applies to older children.  One day, my daughter came home from school and it was clear she was not in a good mood.  As I tried to talk to her, she didn’t seem to want to open up.  She seemed frustrated and I could tell something was bothering her.  Instead of pressing the issue, I asked her if she wanted to make a batch of cookies with me.  A lover of baking, she said she would like to make some cookies with me.  As we began to gather the ingredients, we talked about the summer vacation that we had planned.  We brainstormed together about what we would need to bring.  After some time, her frustrated demeanor melted and she was soon smiling and laughing with me.  Toward the end of our baking, she opened up to me and told me what was bothering her.

Though it is not always possible to drop what we are doing to give our undivided attention to a child, where possible, the results are astounding.  Children do indeed desire our time above all else.  I have found that one-on-one time is the best parenting bullet in existence!

Have you found your time to be a powerful parenting tool?  How do you connect with your children?  What one-on-one activities have proven beneficial to your relationships with your children?  Please share!

Favorite Katy locations and activities for enjoying the weather as a family

We have enjoyed the fair weather this last month or so and have spent most of our time outside.  My two daughters have gotten their fill of indoor activities… in my opinion, winter (even in Katy) goes on two months longer than it is welcome. 

Angela, along with her daughter Avery, enjoy a bike ride around Katy

Over the past month, with the weather being as nice as it is, almost every play date and get together has involved some sort of outdoor activity.  Some of my favorites include…

*Walking around the large lakes at Cinco Ranch Blvd and Spring Green.  This is a family favorite, and we will sometimes pack a lunch and eat out on the grass.

*Playing outside at La Centera.  And what trip to La Centera is complete without a treat from one of the several shops around?  The girls love to get ice cream or cookies, I love the Starbucks and Jamba Juice.

*Visiting the parks in each of our friends’ neighborhoods. 

*Geocaching in and around Katy (for more, go to www.geocaching.com).  Geocaching is like a global scavenger hunt, with locations given in GPS.  We use my iPhone and my 4 year old has a blast helping us discover the hidden capsules.

*Local Katy parks are a real hit.  Mary Jo Peckham, the ‘train park’ nearby it, George Bush park – we love making the park rounds!

*Refilling our sand and water table.  And for an extra twist, we make one side warm, soapy water and the other cold, clean water.

*Sidewalk chalking and sidewalk painting.  To make the sidewalk paint, we mix 2 tablespoons of water with 2 tablespoons of corn starch and then add food coloring.  It’s so much fun and washes right off (except for our blue food coloring… oops).

*Biking together.  The girls enjoy the ride and my husband and I love getting exercise and family time all at once.  We’ve gotten really brave and biked to a casual dinner or to the store before, but even a trip around our neighborhood is nice.

What about you?  How do you take advantage of the warm weather? Post a comment!
Thanks so much,

The Houston and Katy areas offer many fun (and sometimes free!)options for families.

Earth Day would be great time to take your children to a local Katy park. You can search for the one nearest you right here on the Katy Magazine site http://www.katymagazine.com/parks.htm. Fly a kite, take a walk, enjoy the beautiful Katy weather before things get too hot!

If you want to tie in a little more education into your Earth Day celebration the short drive into Houston can provide you with many options. Today you can celebrate Earth Day at a most appropriate venue, the Houston Weather Museum. From 10am-4pm the museum will celebrate the Earth and the museum’s birthday. Admission is free. For more information visit http://www.wxresearch.com/earth/index.html.

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is also always a great place to go to be close to nature. It also is free! Enjoy walking the trails and coming face to face with wildlife. The Arboretum also has many great programs that you can learn about on their site at http://www.houstonarboretum.org/

If you want to celebrate Earth Day this year in the comforts of air conditioning Disney is debuting their documentary, Oceans in theatres today. This is a great way to show your children some of nature’s masterpieces! You can read more about this at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0765128/.

Even with these options if you want to stay home there is always a way to incorporate a love for nature in what you do. Channel surf the National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet stations. There is bound to be something on that will peak your family’s interest.

Earth Day is a great time to have family discussion about what you love most about the Earth and how you can help to make a difference. Discuss the importance of conserving electricity by turning off the lights in rooms when you leave them. Come up with a family recycling plan or decide to help through volunteering. If your family is doing something fun and unique for Earth Day please share it in a comment!

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!

Creating space to play and be together with your Katy family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips on creating a fun date night for you and your significant other in Katy

It’s not easy for parents to get out on a date night, but it is possible–and necessary. Planning is key. My husband and I love to get out of the house for a little while at least once a month. At times we have to cut out of work early or go in late to make use of our son being in school. We will go out for a leisurely breakfast or brunch. If we leave work after lunch, we can usually find a movie or have fun just getting out to some stores without the responsibility of watching our two-year-old.
 
But, when we can manage going out at night, we usually head to Alamo Drafthouse (531 S. Mason Rd., 77450). Here, it’s like a one-stop date night venue. First of all, the Alamo’s policy of no children under six years of age really makes a romantic difference. (I’ll tell you later about their great Baby Days, though!) All children under the age of 18 must be with parents. Nice, huh?
 
When we arrive, we try to stop at the bar for a drink that we can bring to our movie seats. There are also comfortable chairs in the lobby if we are very early. There are two pages of drinks on the menu. The choice is yours. We usually head inside the theater to watch the corny clips from old movies and the funny commercials played before the movie starts.
 
We don’t have to worry about finding a restaurant. The Drafthouse has a full menu from appetizers like popcorn, fried pickles, and chips to hearty meals. My husband and I usually get one of their pizzas or a burger. We never leave hungry.
 
It’s a fun experience. We write our selections on a piece of paper, and our waitperson comes right to us. Halfway through the movie, you’ll be asked if there’s anything else you want. The bill is brought to you, and that’s it. No hassles. My only hint for you is to arrive early enough so you’re not trying to read the menu in the dark. Cell phone lights help tremendously!
 
Like I said, date nights are important. And to have an avenue right here in Katy that is so convenient really makes it easy. Where do you and your date like to go? Let us know!

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 mom discovers the philosopy of motherhood

Some of my greatest learning moments have occurred as I have talked with other women about motherhood and life in general. Often, these conversations happen spontaneously. Sometimes, they occur at times most unexpected. Years ago in a neighborhood park, I learned a lesson on motherhood.

Children really seem to be in their element when they are given the freedom to run and play to their heart’s content. On one particular day, the weather was perfect and we decided to pack a lunch to eat at the neighborhood park that was close to our home. The land on which the park was situated was really quite beautiful with rolling hills and large, majestic trees. A walking trail surrounded the entire park and the flowers and shrubs were abundant in their variety.

My son, Brandon was five years old and my daughter, Melissa was two- definitely fun ages for picnic and park play! I inhaled the smell of lilac and freshly cut grass as we wound our way to the park on the trail. As we moved closer to the park, I found a flat spot of grass that looked like the perfect spot for a picnic. I opened our picnic basket, found the red and white checkered blanket and spread it on the grass. It seemed that most days, p&j sandwiches and fruit was the lunch of choice. Today was no different, but I had also packed chocolate chip cookies and juice boxes. We sat down on the blanket and I began to distribute the food.

After enjoying the last of our picnic lunch, the children were off to play on the play set. I lay back on the blanket and inhaled the clean, fresh air. Relaxing on the blanket, I watched a young mother push her little girl in a stroller along the path. Within a few moments, the mother came over to the blanket while her daughter raced to the play structure.

Leena and I sat and talked of many things that peaceful summer afternoon, but, one topic stands out in particular. As we discussed the many demands of motherhood, I learned an important philosophy.

“Motherhood”, Leena stated, “Is not so much what is easy for me, but rather, what is best for my child. I figure, I will have to temporarily put aside quite a few of my wants while I am doing my best to raise my children.”

Her wisdom and candor have stayed with me and I have used this notion in my decision making as a mother.

Maureen Hawkins:
Before you were conceived I wanted you
Before you were born I loved you
Before you were here an hour I would die for you
This is the miracle of life.

Please share any insights you may have related to balancing the damands of motherhood.  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 family’s first trip to the annual celebration did not disappoint

This is the first year that we are members of the Houston Zoo.  On a recent trip, we calculated how many times we visit the zoo, and becoming a member suddenly made financial sense.

A couple of bears at the Houston Zoo showing off for their spectators.

My girls are ages 18 months and 3 ½ years, so it is especially nice not to worry about how much each zoo trip costs.  Some trips, the girls are ready to stay all day, but on other occasions, 2 or 3 hours is all they can make it before we have to head home.  I never worry about if the trip will be an all day event or a quick stop now that we’re members, since we don’t pay per visit.

One of the perks of being a member of the Houston Zoo is Zoobilee, an annual event for members only.  Two nights a year (this past Thursday and Friday were the chosen nights this year), the zoo closes to the public at 4:30 and from 5:00 until 8:00 pm, members roam the zoo, filling their “passports” with stamps of chosen animals, watching the animals come out to play at night, and even getting to touch a snake and an enormous rabbit.  There were dancers dressed as animals (a crocodile, zebra, lioness, and even giraffes on stilts!), snacks, and carousel rides. 

We had never been to Zoobilee before and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the zoo takes online reservations and sets a limit on people, so the crowds were mild.  The animals were either enjoying the time of day or the weather, because they were more active and alert than we’ve ever seen them before.  The bears swam and rough housed, the mountain lion prowled, the otters swam and pushed at each other.  It was a wonderful evening for the children, and a special chance to spend an evening as a family of four doing something just for them.

What about you?  What local memberships do you enjoy?  If you are a member of the Houston Zoo, did you get a chance to head to Zoobilee this year?  Post comments below!

New Health Care Law Hits Katy

It has been an interesting time for Katy residents as the Health Care and Reconciliation Act bills recently became law. Below is a list of provisions in the new legislation that all Katy residents should know.  The following items will be implemented throughout 2010. 

To be implemented immediately:

  • Employers with 50+ employees must provide breast feeding breaks to new mothers.
  • Small Business Tax Credit (for businesses with less than 50 employees) of up to 35% of employer’s contribution to health insurance. 
  • Medicare Part D rebate of $250 after you spend $2,830 in total drug spending to help fill the  “doughnut hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage.
  • Adoption Tax Credit and Adoption Assistance increase of $1,000.
  • Temporary credit to organizations for investing in new therapies to prevent, diagnose and treat acute and chronic diseases.
  • Tax relief for health care professionals who work in underserved or shortage areas and have state student loans.
  • Establishes a National Health Care Workforce Commission for Health Care professionals.
  • All new health plans must provide coverage for preventative care without co-pays.
  • Requires group health plans to cover dependent children up to 26 years old.
  • Requires Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to States to create health insurance consumer assistance to receive and respond to inquiries and complaints regarding health insurance coverage.
  • Requires better screening of health care providers to reduce fraud.
  • Creates a federal council to promote healthy policies.
  • Extends Medicare payment protections for small rural hospitals.
  • Establishes a private, non-profit institute to identify national priorities and provide for research to compare the effectiveness of health treatments and strategies.
  • Offers an option to allow States to cover parents and childless adults up to 133% of the poverty level.
  • Creates new requirements of non-profit hospitals.
  • Expands and improves low-interest student loan programs, scholarships and loan repayments for health students and professions.
  • Requires BCBS organizations to have a medical loss ratio of 85% or higher to receive special tax benefits.
  • Insurers cannot cancel policies to avoid paying medical bills if a person gets sick.
  • No more lifetime limits on benefits.
  • Creates a grant program to help the States in requiring health insurance companies to submit justification for all requested premium increases.

To be implemented July 1

  • Eligible people cannot be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • Indoor Tanning Services will be taxed an additional 10%.
  • Creates a temporary reinsurance program that helps companies provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55-64 to help with the expense of the coverage.
  • Requires the HHS to create a website for people and small businesses to find affordable state health insurance.  It will also give information regarding reinsurance for early retirees and small business tax credits.
  • Creates an investment fund for prevention and public health programs.

To be implemented by October 1

  • Insurance companies cannot cancel coverage when a person gets sick.
  • No lifetime limits on benefits.
  • Requires new group health plans to provide an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.
  • Children cannot be denied for pre-existing conditions in employer and individual plans. (Will be effective for all plans by 2014.)

My future posts will describe what the law provides from 2011 – 2020.

So how does this new law affect you and your family?  Are you happy about the new health care bill or does it cause you great concern.  Let me know what you think.  Email me at lmcland@mclandhr.com  I am running an unofficial survey and will publish the findings in a future blog.  I look forward to hearing from you.

One Katyite’s top 5 favorite spring time picture books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katy kids get ready for Senior Prom

I recently went to Katy Mills Mall and noticed so many young ladies and young men shopping for their upcoming prom. There were alot of young ladies that were shopping with excitement for that special dress that they would be wearing for prom and not to mention those special accessories as well. Many of them debating whether to have a knee length dress or a long length dress. Many of the girls showed themselves different colors of dresses and wanted to know each others opinion. Many of the young men looked for that perfect suit to fit for that special night as well those perfect shoes. This was going to be a special night with so many memories to be remembered for their entire life.
Many of the young ladies and young men were talking about their budget. They each had a different budget to spend for many of those items to be bought for prom. So that is when I remembered my budget when I was shopping for my prom. So many things have increased in price back when I was shopping for my prom. So how much money should we give our children to budget for their prom? Is their a limit on how much to spend? Should we start a prom account just for them? These are so many questions I ask myself because soon my child will be a senior in high school and will be getting ready for his prom.  I find myself excited for them because it brings back memories of when I went prom. I still remember all the fun we had with our friends shopping for that special dress, accessories, getting hair done and nails done just for that special night. Do you still remember that day? What was your memories of your last prom? Do you encountered yourself also being excited for your child by shopping for their prom? Please share your insights with me.

As summer approaches, this Katy mom knows how to plan

As the chill of winter melts into spring, there seems to be a certain feeling of excitement in the air.  Color emerges from every yard as the grass turns green and the trees and shrubs blossom with new growth.  Families can be seen working in their yards- trimming bushes, clearing fallen leaves, spreading mulch, planting flowers- creating a natural work of art.  Flowers fill the medians as care is taken to beautifully adorn the city of Katy. 

Yes, spring has arrived.  Cool breezes float gently into homes as air conditioning is postponed for a brief time.  We have the desire to sort closets, clean out the garage, dust the blinds, and get rid of some of the clutter.  The inside, as well as the outside of our homes, emerges, new and improved.  Birds sing happily and create a symphony of melodious harmony, and we try to savor every last minute of the cool, temperate weather.

What is it about spring that gives us the desire to create, explore, renew and prioritize?  Is it the warmer weather?  Is it the knowledge that summer is around the corner?  Is there something in the air that motivates us?  Well, frankly, I don’t know what it is, but there is something magical about spring that causes us to act.  It is a time to pause, take note of all the beautiful and sublime, and then work to make things better.

So, while we have the added energy to clean, sort, and decorate, let us also take time to prioritize the fun activities that we can enjoy in the spring.  It is a great time to take the children to the park, go for a bike ride, take a family walk, pack a picnic lunch, plan a barbeque with the neighbors, shop at an outdoor shopping center, and visit the zoo (just to name a few).    

Happy Spring to all!  I will be looking at your beautiful yards as I drive around town and will be admiring the beautiful city of Katy in all of its spring glory!

What are your favorite spring activities?  Have you started your spring cleaning?  What tips do you have for making the most of spring?  Post a comment below.

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. 

When you are running on low, this Katy mom knows how to relax

For the most part, I tend to be a fairly up-beat person. In fact, most days I wake up with a sense of anticipation for the day ahead. The one exception, however, is when I am sick. I learned early on in motherhood that gone are the days when someone waits on me hand and foot when I am under the weather. In fact, it seems fair to say that mothers simply aren’t allowed to be sick. There is no such thing as taking a sick day, calling in sick, or taking a leave of absence. For, there is always a fire to put out, a heart to cheer, a kitchen to be cleaned, a meal to prepare, and an extra-curricular activity to attend.
 
So, when one day, I found myself sick with a horrible case of the flu, I was grumpy. My muscles ached, I had no energy, and of course, my husband had to work late. By the time I was giving the children a bath, reading to them and tucking them in bed, I felt absolutely horrible. I feared I was feeling what it must be like to get old. Every step hurt. My neck and shoulders throbbed, and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable. Suddenly, I felt angry.
 
Just as I was about to sink into despair, I remembered that we had a jacuzzi tub with jets in the master bathroom. I shuffled into the master bathroom and started the steaming water. While I waited for the tub to fill, I found some forgotten bath salts hiding in my bathroom cupboard that I had received for Christmas from my sister. I poured a generous amount of salts into the tub. Within moments, I was soaking in the tub with jets shooting my stiff muscles into submission. I had found heaven.
 
Had I ever used the jacuzzi tub? No, I didn’t think I had. Why not? I wondered. Well, probably because I never wanted to take the time. Suddenly, I realized how silly I had been. I spent hours meeting the needs of others, but, when I needed something, I simply ignored it. Why didn’t I consider myself and my own needs?
 
Much of the tension in my muscles began to ease. Closing my eyes, I made a silent commitment to listen to the little voice inside my head. Oh, how life would be better if I learned to rest when I was tired, treat myself to an oreo milkshake when I was down, and ask others to pitch in when I needed it.
 
How do you spoil yourself when you are running on fumes?  Post a comment below.

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.

Searching for good bluebonnet photo locations in and around Katy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Waters Church’s Annual Easter Fest had fun and surprises for Katy families

Avery on a pony ride at Easter Fest 2010.

We attended the 2nd Annual Easter Fest event last night at a local church, The Waters Church, located on 2710 North Mason Road #145 in Katy.  We arrived slightly early since my children are young and would need to head home to sleep before the event was over.

When we arrived, everything was being set up: no less than 4 bouncy houses, a pony ride, a balloon artist, a petting zoo, popcorn, hot dogs, and 2 brand new 2010 fire engines (one with a ladder)!  Chuck E. Cheese was there as well, and for the lucky early birds, he had cotton candy that he was handing out.  Within the first 30 minutes, we had already enjoyed our hot dog dinner, 2 of the jump houses, and were waiting for a turn on the pony rides.  After watching my 3 ½ year old ride a pony and marveling at how big she is getting, we headed to the balloon artist for our own personal Easter Fest tradition: a pink and purple butterfly balloon.  My daughters were in carnival heaven!

One exciting element that I am certain the church will not want to add to their annual tradition of Easter Fest is their Lead Pastor’s trip to the ER.  Apparently, right before the festival began, Lead Pastor Clint Paschall was doing tricks on his skate board and fell pretty hard on his arm.  He didn’t seem to show much evidence of being in pain throughout the first hour or so of the festival.  He was on the microphone and chatting with people as if everything was fine, but apparently he was in a good deal of pain.  At some point in the evening, he headed to the hospital, and, as it turns out, has a broken arm. 

Even without the lead pastor, the festival was a lot of fun and seemed to be a great success.  We plan on being back again next year for our annual pink-and-purple butterfly balloon and jumping house fun.

What about you?  Were you able to make it out to Easter Fest?  If not, what Easter activities have you enjoyed or are you looking forward to?

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.

Some simple steps to become a stress-less Katy mom

Is it just me, or has this week been particualarly busy?  Not that this week is much different from any other week…I do thrive on a fast-paced life and enjoy the activities that comprise my existence. However, throw in some sick children, random stresses, and some additional activities, and it suddenly becomes too much.

Featured Katy Magazine blogger, Megan Lewis, knows what it takes to stress less.
The life of a mother is unbelievably busy. It doesn’t matter whether a woman has one child or ten, her time is filled. So filled, in fact, that she sometimes forgets to take care of herself. 

There are days that feel like I am running a marathon. I wake up running, and don’t stop until I drop into bed at night. These are magical, fun and beautiful times, but boy, it takes all of my strength to keep up!

I find that in the midst of being a homemaker, wife and mother, I often put my own needs on the back burner. And, despite having a husband who is willing to do anything to help me, I find that many days, after I have met the needs of each of my children, I feel completely depleted.

So one day, I decided to make a “To-Do List”. It is a mommy-preservation list that I vow to do my best to heed. I don’t always take care of myself as I should, but, the list exists and I know when I try to do the things on the list, I am a better woman for doing so. Here is the list:

My To-Do List

-Deflect Stress
-Listen to my body
-Rest when tired
-Allow messes to wait

-Get enough sleep
-Eat well
-Exercise
-Learn new skills and develop talents
-Play hard and be silly
-Slow down
-Breathe Deeply
-Practice positive self-talk
-Accept an imperfect world
-Focus on what I have accomplished in a day rather than what I haven’t
-Create
-Serve others
-Set and accomplish goals
-Communicate with other women
-Keep marriage strong
-Treat children lovingly
 
What is on your mommy to-do list?  Post a comment below.

One Katy wife shares her secret for a happy marriage

I knew I had found Mr. Right when, after a fun evening together, my date asked if he could give me a kiss.  As I nodded and prepared for our first awkward kiss, my date then proceeded to pull a bag of Hershey Kisses from his pocket.  He didn’t kiss me that night, but we had a good laugh!  I fell in love with this funny man and today, after nearly sixteen years of marriage, laughing is still one of our favorite shared pastimes.  Laughter is truly the perfect medicine.  It is not only fun and free, but there are many physical, mental and social benefits.

Physical Benefits
A good, hearty laugh can actually relieve stress and cause the body to relax for up to forty-five minutes.  Laughter boosts the immune system, decreases pain, and can prevent disease.   

Mental Benefits
Laughter adds joy to life, improves one’s mood, eases anxiety and fear and boosts resilience.

Social Benefits
Shared laughter is the best form of laughter.  Laughter is contagious and is infectious to all.  Laughing with others strengthens relationships, decreases conflict and promotes bonding.

Life, with all of its ups and downs must be laughed about.  I must confess that some of the most embarrassing moments have turned into some of the most humorous, due to my husband, who loves to laugh.  I am reminded of one particular time when our entire family showed up Sunday morning at another family’s home for breakfast.  We found it odd that they came to the door in their pajamas, but walked in and thanked them profusely for the invitation.  After about a half an hour of conversation, we realized that they weren’t the family that had invited us.  Being new to the neighborhood, we had confused them with another family, who had the same last name.  Though it was an embarrassing situation for both families, we have laughed about this incident time and time again.

Another time, my husband awoke early for work and, trying not to disturb me, left the lights out while grabbing his shoes.  Later that day, he discovered he was wearing two completely different shoes.  I will never forget the look on his face as I delivered one shoe to his office.

Some of the best humor is had in reflecting on past humorous experiences.  Finding humor every day creates a never ending bank of fun from which one can withdraw at any time.  So, go ahead, laugh!  And, while your add it, infect someone else! 

What humorous situations have you found yourself in?  Please share below!

One Katyite has found a way to ‘give back’ on a global scale

Movies like Hotel Rwanda and Slumdog Millionaire have always been an issue for me.  On the one hand, I’m glad truth finds it way into pop culture, but on the other, I spend a lot of time wondering what truth is really worth when there is little I can do about problems so huge. 

I’ve known of Compassion International my whole life but it has never been very real to me.  I mean, it sort of seemed like a “good” thing to do.  

But suddenly all I could think of was movies like Hotel Rwanda and The Constant Gardener and even dear ole Jack Bauer in 24: Redemption.  I mean, there is so, so much pain in the world and here I am, somehow, just by coincidence, born into the wealthiest nation in the world.  I mean, who am I that I was born into such wealth?  I could just as easily have been living among the millions and millions all over the world who starve to death and die of things like diarrhea because they drink bad water.  

The way Compassion International works is you pay a set fee per month to sponsor one child in a third world country.  The monthly fee provides this child with food, clean water, medical care, and an education.  The sponsor and the sponsored child exchange letters as well.  There are other charity organizations out there that do amazing things for children as well.  This just happened to be the organization I was most familiar with.

So, we decided to sponsor a kid.  I guess I thought it would cost a lot.  $32 ya’ll.  $32.  I mean, we’re on a pretty tight budget and $32 is half of what we spend on date nights each month.  And – get this – it is MORE THAN what our new child’s dad makes in a month.  When he can find work every day.  Which he sometimes doesn’t.   Suddenly our “tight budget” seems like extravagance.

We went online, filled out some info, and got to the part where we get to select a kid.  You can choose a child based on birth date, country, whatever.  Or you can choose to sponsor the kid whose been waiting to be sponsored the longest.  Which of course brought to mind images of those beautiful starving kids in all of those movies.  So I picked that. 

My husband and I have been joking around, wondering if our new kid is a boy or a girl.  I mean, we reasoned, with two girls of our own, we’re so good at girls.  But, we thought, maybe this is our chance to have our boy.  Haha.

Our Compassion information came today, and I’m excited to announce: It’s a Boy!  We’re proud “parents” of Aravind, a little man from India.  I have to be honest here, I wasn’t sure how much this little guy would really mean to me.  I mean, really.

Oh, man.  I love him.  I love looking at his sweet little face.  I’m hooked.  I am already thinking of ways to cut our excessive American budget more so we can sponsor another child.  This is what life is about!  I’m just so excited about Aravind.  Our little man.

 One Katyite looks back on a great day with her family at the festival   

This weekend we were looking for something special to do to spend time with our 3 ½ year old daughter, Avery.  Since we’re fans of Katy Magazine on Facebook, we saw a few of the posts about the KVPAC Arts for All Festival sponsored by Katy Magazine.  Avery is just now getting old enough to appreciate everything a festival like this has to offer, so we decided to take her.

Avery making a coffee filter butterfly at one of the booths at the KVPAC Arts For All! Festival.

We spent about 3 hours at La Centerra, walking around and enjoying the booths.  We visited the Katy Magazine booth and Avery had a great time dancing to the 60’s themed music, but was too shy to get her photo taken.  Hopefully she’ll be ready by next year!  We watched a performance of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by KVPAC, enjoyed a live band, and participated in many “projects”, as Avery likes to call them.

The entire square of La Centerra was bustling with activity and booths.  Children were singing karaoke, playing games and petting some lovable dogs.  There was even a bounce house for jumping! 

When we first arrived, we did a lap around the booths to take it all in.  After Avery warmed up to the excitement and after she realized that each booth had something special for her to see or do, she really came alive.  She was able to make a coffee filter butterfly, a marble-rolled painting, a shaker egg, and a stone tile decoration, among other things.  She was having so much fun that after every project, she’d look up at me and beg, “I’m not ready to go yet!  Just one more project… please!”  We were an hour late getting home for nap time, but spending such a special day with my daughter was completely worth it!  I cannot wait for next year’s Art for All Festival!

What about you?  Did you get a chance to get out and experience the Art for All Festival?  What was your family’s favorite activity?

One Katy mothers shares her favorite summer hot spot.

March 29, 2010 – Katy, Texas – One of Katy’s hidden gems is Mary Jo Peckham Park (5597 Gardenia St., 77493). Parents of children of all ages and developmental abilities will find it a joy to visit before the weather gets too hot. Bring some bread with you if you’d like to have some huge ducks come close. My two year-old son gets excited when we go to the pond area. Besides the ducks, we usually see some cranes and sometimes even large goldfish and turtles. My son is delighted to see people fishing, since he has not had that experience, yet. Around the pond is a lighted walking/biking trail. There really is something for everyone!
 
The park is also home to a miniature golf course that is child-friendly and a large playground. This is the location of the community center which houses an indoor pool and exercise facility. Harris County residents can take part in these activities for free!
 
One of the best things about this park for our family is that a short walk or drive down the road is the new “train” playground which is a hit with all children. This playground is a reward for my son–he loves to climb the rope, plastic, and metal structures, slide quickly down the metal slide with multiple tracks, as well as hide out in the tube slide. Children will love to hear the different tones of the bells and try to climb the tall rope structure. The park offers swings for children and infants of all physical abilities, and the bathrooms are clean! Older children will appreciate the large basketball court right behind the train park.
 
This is where you can find us on a summer morning or evening. I hope Katy residents will make use of this free, family-friendly place. Where does your family like to go on a lazy summer day? I would love to hear from you.

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!

Encouraging your Katy Toddler’s Healthy Eating Habits

March 24, 2010 – Katy, Texas – My first child, Madeleine, was an eater. From the day she tasted rice cereal at 4 months old, that child ate just about anything we put on her plate. Or her soft-bite Gerber spoon, as the case may be.  One of our favorite stories about Madeleine:  As a two-year-old, she threw a tantrum at McDonald’s because they didn’t serve broccoli.  The wide-eyed cashier couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  Now that she is eight, broccoli is still one of her favorite foods. 

Featured Katy blog writer, Lerin Wheeless, give her daughter, Lucy, her first teething biscuit.

Bragging about that McDonald’s meltdown, I was sure I’d done something right. My friends complained about their picky toddlers, while mine was eating everything from green beans to salad.  I doled out the unsolicited advice at every opportunity.  I had the simple answer: all they had to do was to serve a variety of foods and not make any alternate meals.  Their problem would be solved, I assured them!  Kids will eat whatever you put in front of them, as long as you don’t allow junk food, right?

Not necessarily.  God put me in my place with my next two picky eaters.  The only vegetable Ben (3) will eat? Ketchup.  Yes, I know that ketchup is not a vegetable, but he treats it like a side dish.  Rather than dipping food in it, he eats it from the spoon!  This always triggers my gagt reflex, so we only give him a little with his meat.

I’ve tried everything.  I’ve tried begging, bribing, threatening, punishing, and sticker charts.  What I’ve learned from these fruitless and frustrating efforts is, what your child chews and swallows and keeps down is ultimately up to them! 

I’ve stopped letting myself tie my mood to what my children do or don’t eat.  I’ve surrendered in the meal-time battle, and am taking a much gentler approach these days.  Our meals havbe an extra helping of joy, now.

I think the most important thing is to make meal time a happy time.  We all come together at the dining room table, and share not just a meal, but ourselves.  We take turns going around the table talking about our day, and sometimes answering creative questions.  I make one healthy meal, and put a little of everything on their plates.  I give them a cup of V-8 Splash instead of apple juice.  I give them children’s chewable vitamins, make chocolate milk with Carnation instant breakfast, and sneak veggies into our sauces. 

My children are not required to finish everything on their plates, but are required to take one bite of each thing.  Sometimes, they are surprised that they actually love a new food!  Most of the time, they take one bite and make horrible faces… followed by chugging from the sippy cup.  We make sure to give lots of attention and praise for each bite of a new food.  My children eat up the positive attention… even if they don’t eat up the food every time.

But I have to say… I’m encouraged.  After serving broccoli to Bella (4) at least once a week since she was a toddler, she finally took a second bite yesterday.  She has tried broccoli many times, but this time she proudly announced:  “Mommy, I like broccoli now!  It’s not yucky anymore… it’s like a tree!”

Do you deal with finicky eaters?  What are your tips and tricks?  Post a comment below and share your ideas with me!

Featured blog writer, Angela McClinton and her husband. KPhoto by Kristin King Photography

How one Katy couple Makes the Most of their Time Together

March 23, 2010 – Katy, Texas – Before we were married, my husband and I heard the same bit of advice over and over: “Don’t ever stop dating.  Don’t ever feel guilty for spending time and money on dates.  Be purposeful about dating each other.” 

We’ve taken that advice to heart.  Who doesn’t love to be instructed to do something fun like dating?  Before we had children, we picked one night out of every week (it was Sundays for us) and went somewhere together.  Once our children were born, date night became a once-a-month thing.   Dating monthly is less often than we were challenged to, but nevertheless, it is one of my favorite family traditions. 

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that not every date is romantic-movie spectacular.  Sometimes we’re so worn out that a movie is all we care to do.  And after a long week with two young children, we might not be feeling creative so we’ll eat out and head back home to catch up on our DVR’ed shows. 

But some months are different.  Sometimes we’re really good at dating.  Once in a while, we’ll have a surprise date: one of us will plan the entire night, from start to finish, and leave the other guessing.  The fun is in the suspense.  I love listening to my husband out loud about where he thinks we might be headed as I pull our car out onto the Grand Parkway. 

This month we’re trying something new: the date box.  I’ve collected a whole slew of ideas for inexpensive dates, and once the children are dropped off with their favorite babysitters (my parents), we’ll draw an option out of the box.   Whatever we pull out of the box will be our date plans for the night.

Some ideas I’ve included in our mystery date box include:

*Bike ride and picnic around our favorite pond

*Head to the grocery store and choose ingredients for fondue

*Window shop at La Centerra

*A “progressive” dinner: appetizers, main dish, and dessert each at a different local restaurant

*An ice cream sundae challenge: each of us build our partner’s favorite ice cream sundae and then reveal them to each other.  No matter who gets the sundae favorites right, we both win!

*Rock wall climb at Katy Mills Mall

*Bowl

*Movie – my pick

*Movie – his pick

*Drive out towards the country and star gaze; look for small diners to eat at along the way

*Go geocaching

*Get in the car and let the flip of a coin decide which direction to head.  See where it takes us.

*Coffee and a good magazine or book

*Paint a piece of pottery together

*Random deeds of Kindness night: Make cookies together, wrap them up on several small plates, and then drive around sharing them with friends and neighbors.

The most important part about dating my husband is the time spent together.  When I have nothing else pressing on my mind but being with him, I’m able to refocus and spend time falling for him all over again.  On the date nights when I’m too tired to think straight, I’m still able to appreciate the silence alongside my favorite man.  And when we have the energy to be really good at dating – on those months when we’re trying something new or surprising each other – the thrill of being different or creative together makes it even sweeter.

I’m always looking for new ideas for our date nights!  How do you make your date nights special?  What great ideas have you found?

How Katy Parents Can Manage Cell Phones And Teens

March 23, 2010 – Katy, Texas – Sign Up Features- Many cell phones and cell phone providers offer features such as texting,video, and camera options. The privacy of the child is always at risk when they are allowed certain freedoms they don’t exactly know how to manage. As a parent, instead of offering your child the unlimited cell phone plan, request the text and call only plan or call only plan. The child’s privacy is protected to a greater degree and you’ll be saving more on a monthly basis.

Check The Cell Phone Daily– Although as parents you may feel the need to warrant a certain leniency towards your children, when it comes to a child’s public protection sometimes what seems like a “breach in privacy” is nothing but a parent being a parent. Checking the child’s cell phone for suspicious texts or videos or pictures at times can be a viable option when it comes to evaluating whether or not the child is responsible with something you as a parent had purchased.

Helping With The Purchasing Of Mobile Phones– Most children after a certain age will independently choose to buy products. The parent should always be with the child in the purchasing of any product that seems controversial. The child most likely is not business savvy and will need assistance in determining what features, rates and plans are economically and personally reasonable.

Prepaid Phones- Many retail stores sell prepaid mobile phones that feature text and call only options. These phones are inexpensive and are easy enough for teens to buy ($50-$70 per phone) without parental concern for their child’s well being.

Although this focuses on children transitioning into the teenage years, these tips can be used to help any parent with a child of any age.  When it comes to privacy and protection, as a parent you are in control not vice versa. 

Do you have any tips on managing your child’s cell phone?  Please 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 mor