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The Little Things Getting Me Through the Pandemic Summer

Nothing screams summer in Texas during a pandemic like blazing temps and nowhere to go. To say that we’re all over this would be the understatement of the millennium. And honestly, sometimes it feels like my family is the only one that’s still not out and about. I’ve done a lot of reflecting about the last few months and I’ve come to realize that the “big” things won’t be remotely normal for a while. So here are the little things getting me through the pandemic summer.

Good, Old-Fashioned Consumerism

I’m not proud to say it, but this is one of those seasons in life where USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL have become my lifelines. It’s a cornucopia of acronyms! I wish I could tell you that this time has been one of sacrifice and paring down, but the collection of cardboard boxes in my entryway would suggest otherwise… Here are the best “little things” I’ve gotten my hands on so far.

  • A mug that keeps your coffee warm. Extravagant? Yes. Overpriced? Maybe. Imperative to improving my quality of life? Definitely. Listen, when you have an infant and a preschooler and very little help, coffee is life. And I got sick of finding my half-drunk mug of tepid coffee at 2 p.m. So I got this mug. And I am happy.
  • Workbooks. So many workbooks. My older son is on the cusp of 4, and I’m trying my hardest to reserve the use of screens for those moments where I just can’t anymore. So I’ve been relying heavily on workbooks of every type and size to keep him busy. These are my favorites: 1 (scissor skills), 2 (writing skills), 3 (general), 4 (tape).
  • Tape. Yes, tape. The amount of tape we have gone through in this house is astounding. Tape is the MVP of this summer. My preschooler uses tape for everything. Sometimes I find tape in my hair, but it keeps him so entertained, I’ll allow it. Trust me, get your hands on some immediately.
  • Splash pad. This splash pad has kept my kiddo happy and cool all summer. If you don’t have a pool at your house, consider getting this.
  • Luxury self-care items. When you’re washing your hands 68 times a day and there’s not a manicurist in sight, you do the next best thing and find yourself an amazing hand cream. This one is my favorite. And this exfoliator and body wash make my 5-minute showers feel as luxurious as they possibly can.
  • Happy water bottle. I need to hydrate, and this water bottle keeps my water cold and makes me smile. Enough said.

The Little Moments

And here are the other little things that have been getting me through, the things that don’t cost a dime.

  • Morning walks with my crew. Early morning walks with the kids in our new neighborhood are wonderful. The fresh air, the sunlight, and the physical activity are good for the soul.
  • My kids making each other laugh. Now that my baby is over 5 months old, he and his big brother are quickly developing their rapport. They make each other laugh and it’s the sweetest sound!
  • Watching my kids master new things. One of the beauties of parenting is watching your kids learn new skills and gain self-confidence. And it never stops.
  • Connecting with friends. If there’s one good thing about this pandemic, it’s that we are doing a better job of staying connected even though we are physically far apart. Unexpected phone calls, Zooms, and FaceTimes keep me going. This is something I’d love to continue even after all this craziness is over.

So that’s it for my favorite little things getting me through the pandemic summer. What are yours?

Back-to-School Gift Box for Virtual Learning

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school supplies

My son is starting 2nd grade and my daughter is starting kindergarten this year. Usually, we would be talking to them about transitioning from our summer days at home to the classroom. We might go backpack shopping or get new lunch boxes. This year is different. I have been thinking about ways to help them transition from summer life at home to school life at home.

When the school year starts, my children will be stationed at the table with their school device and the school supply boxes I’ve put together for them. My goal is to have this transition feel fun and exciting even if I’m internally anxious about my ability to help both of them while also getting my own work done. My husband is a teacher. He will either be tucked away in his home office or in his classroom teaching high school students. So, like so many of you moms, I will be doing my best to help my children as needed while also trying to get my own work done. I’m extremely grateful that I am able to work from home this semester.

school supplies in a box

I want the start of this academic year to feel exciting for our little ones, so I’ve put together some fun back-to-school gift boxes. I spent about $15 per child for everything included and they should have everything they’ll need to be off to a good start.

I wanted to use something functional as the container and found plastic dishpans for $2 that are the perfect size to hold all their supplies and keep everything in one place. I found notebooks in their favorite colors for under $1 each and stocked them up with new Crayola products – always exciting no matter how old you are!

The day before school starts, I’ll present them with their new school supply boxes. And the next day, I’m hoping those boxes will help them feel excited to be “in” school (at the dining room table). It won’t be the same as going to our awesome public school but the pandemic won’t last forever.

school supplies in a box

Parenting during a pandemic has shaken up a lot. Many parents who lamented it in the past have now embraced screen time. Working from home is more common. And almost nothing about the start of another schoolyear feels normal or predictable. But I am confident that we will get through this.

Children are resilient and so are moms. We will all find ways to make this work, whether that means adjusting to new decontamination routines after in-person school or whether it means trying to keep our children from taking their entire class on a virtual tour of our messy homes.

To everyone caring for school-aged children during this pandemic: May your WiFi and your coffee be strong.

What You Should Know About Your Child’s First Ear Piercing

Last summer our three-year-old had taken a huge interest in my earrings and started asking if she could get some. I kicked myself for not having taken the plunge when she was a tiny baby. But we did a little crowdsourcing and research and took her to get a little bling after we were certain she was ready. If you’re looking into the ideal time and tips for your child’s first ear piercing, here’s what I learned.

It probably is easiest to do it when your little one is tiny and before they might be tempted to tug at their ears or be exposed to more germs where they could touch the earrings and infect them. One of my closest friends, who is also a nurse and one of my go to’s for mom advice, waited until her daughter had her four-month shots to get her piercings and she had no problem. She nursed her right after the piercings to calm her down and has had no issues since. Plus, no complaints when she cleaned the piercings twice a day. That age is truly a good window. And, babies look so cute with tiny earrings, right?!

Even if you missed that window, don’t stress. Our experience was sweet but it did hurt my mama heart to see her sad from the pain. We chose to go to La Lobe because of how many great recommendations we had heard about their process, which is actually a needle piercing instead of a piercing gun.

They took their time and explained everything to our daughter. You can tell they are experts with any age! They even offered her a stuffed toy to snuggle. And, her favorite part was “the Elsa ice spray” which is a “quick freeze spray” to ensure the piercing is less painful. A few tears came but afterward she was excited once she looked in the mirror and saw her gold studs. Immediately following, we rewarded her bravery with sugary treats at Susie Cakes across the street and she turned that frown upside down.

From my perspective, the good part about waiting is that we allowed it to be my daughter’s choice and part of her becoming a BIG GIRL! The hardest part was seeing her go through a little pain but frankly, she broke her leg in a freak accident when she was two-years-old so I know this kid is brave and quite the trooper. Our biggest struggle was cleaning every morning and night. If your toddler battles the morning or bedtime routine and fights to brush their teeth or taking a bath, you may be in for a struggle when you add cleaning their ears to the list.

In my book, the most important things to think through as you decide the right time to get your child’s ear pierced are:

Safety and Care

Expect 12 weeks for their ears to heal. You’ll need to clean them twice daily until then. 24 karat gold is the best metal to choose from. If not pure gold, allergies or infections are a real possibility. Yes, those posts will be more expensive. But, it’s worth it. Infections can cause fevers and you obviously want to avoid a fever if you are considering piercings for an infant. It’s always a great idea to discuss this with your pediatrician if you want more details or insight into what is right for your little one.

Convenience and Timing

While taking showers is fine, we were told not to go swimming for 3-5 days to avoid any issues. In the middle of July in Texas during our family staycation, that was a bit of a bummer. Take a moment to think through that as well as the next 12 weeks of cleaning. If you’re sending the kids to grandma’s for a week, you just need to ensure the cleaning routine continues.

Know Your Childs Behavior and Temperament

Will the pain be too much for them at this age? Will they want to touch their ears often or tug at their new jewelry? Will they be comfortable with the cleanings or if they are an older child, can they manage the cleanings on their own? Make sure to have conversations in advance so they’ll know the process.

Our little girl has loved her earrings and any inconvenience was temporary. Thoughtfully consider what’s best for your kid’s ear-piercing experience and enjoy a sweet milestone of growing up!

The Back to “Middle” School Manual for Moms

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Middle School is tricky in a normal year, and the added stress of starting in the middle of a global pandemic has altered our expectations of what this school year will bring. Middle school is typically 7th and 8th grade, although some districts include 6th graders. Adolescence is a tough stage of human development, and shoving 1000 tweens and teens under one roof can be quite interesting.

In the Education world, middle school teachers are typically looked upon as being either crazy or superheroes and sometimes both. Adolescents are moody, unpredictable, and amazing. They never fail to surprise even the most seasoned educator. In a previous life, I was a middle school counselor. I can honestly say that it was my favorite job in my 20 years as an educator. As much as I did love it, I do wish there were some things that parents of middle schoolers knew before the school year started.

Here are just a few suggestions to help with Back to School planning for your Middle Schooler.

  1. Attitude is everything –  For most of us, school will be virtual in the beginning. We all know this isn’t ideal for students or teachers. Teachers are just as unhappy about not seeing students in person as parents are. Start now on helping mentally prepare your child for virtual classes. Yes, it’s hard not seeing your friends every day, and yes attendance still counts. Starting the year with a positive attitude and helping your child through some rough days is much easier than trying to turn around a negative attitude. Remember that you and your child will get out what you put into it.
  2. Give your schedule a chance- As a counselor, I used to get a million requests for schedule changes, and it was overwhelming. Some of the requests were legitimate, but mostly it was that the student didn’t think they were going to like the teacher, or didn’t know anyone in the class. Make sure your child actually attends their classes (whether virtually or in-person), and is able to articulate why a schedule change is best.  If a schedule change is required, make the request as soon as possible and be patient. But please don’t ask for a schedule change on the first day of school, unless there is an actual mistake with the classes.
  3. Be Open to Making New Friends –  Leaving elementary school often means leaving behind friends you’ve had since Kindergarten. Fortunately, in middle school, there are hundreds of new kids every year. Students should be open to making new friends. For students who struggle with this, middle school is often a time when they flourish. Being surrounded by new students gives some kids an opportunity to start fresh with making friends, free from any hangups leftover from elementary. Middle schools also have lots of clubs and organizations for students with common interests to gather. Encourage your child to take a risk, and try out for athletics, or try out a new hobby. There should be plenty of options.
  4. Self-Advocacy – As a parent, it’s easy to make an angry phone call or fire off an email when your child comes home upset. But it doesn’t teach your child how to advocate for him/herself or how to problem solve. So when trouble happens, please give the school a chance to help your child navigate through it. That’s not to say that you should never call the school with an issue. If something happens that endangers your child, or is negatively impacting their mental wellbeing, please don’t hesitate to call the school immediately. But if the issue is less serious, help your child come up with a strategy that they can do on their own, and if that doesn’t work, then by all means contact the school.
  5. Communication is Key – Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your middle schooler will be critical during middle school. Sometimes it might seem as though your child is trying to push you away, but s/he certainly still needs you. You might have to get creative in how you connect. Instead of asking “How was school today”, try something more specific. One question that I ask my daughter to spark a conversation is, “What is one funny thing that happened today?” I found more great questions on the Edutopia website. And when you do ask one of these questions, DON’T INTERRUPT! Finally, if you child has social media, make sure that you are following those accounts. You can learn a lot about what goes on at school through social media, both good and bad.
  6. Tips for In-Person School – If your child will attend school in person this year, there a few additional things to do before schools starts. If this is a new school, try to get a map of the school beforehand to help learn where everything is. Bathrooms are important. Passing periods are short, and tardies are taken seriously. Your child also needs to learn how to open a combination lock if students will be issued lockers. Buy a cheap combo lock and practice, practice, practice. I’ve opened more lockers for crying, frustrated students than I can count. Finally, make sure your child has memorized his/her Student identification number. That number is used on almost every document, and it’s much easier if students know their number without having to look it up.

Hopefully, these suggestions help as you and your middle schooler plan for the first day of school.

Most importantly of all this school year, we must adjust our expectations. This is not normal, and it is not fair to our students and teachers to pretend that it is. Districts, schools, teachers, and families are trying to simply do the best they can until the situation changes and we can do better. School this year is going to bring unique challenges, whether it is in-person or virtual.

Rules for Breastfeeding through a Pandemic

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I can’t call this anything except “pandemic breastfeeding”. I never expected to EBF (exclusively breastfeed).  Had life after baby remained normal, he would have spent time in our church nursery, spent the night with grandparents, and would have experienced a night away from mom with a baby sitter. With baby #2, it’s been anything but. If you are expecting a baby during this pandemic, and aren’t sure what to do about nursing or pumping, or both, I’ll try to steer you through a few of the potholes.

breastfeedingRules for breastfeeding through a pandemic:

When you’re with the baby, nurse the baby. It’s a good rule for if you have time away from the baby. With baby #1, I worked full time.  I pumped at work to make sure he had enough milk for the next day. These days, there isn’t much time spent away from baby #2. We’ve had a few opportunities for bottles to be given, and even a little weekend away for mom and dad after “lockdown” lifted. I’m still trying to find ways to create a little distance when mama needs a break. However, since I am truly breastfeeding on-demand, I feel his growth spurts and when his needs change, unlike I did with baby #1. I know when I need to eat more calories or even sleep more in order to properly provide for his nutrition.

Build a milk stash. If you hope to sneak away for an extra hour or two, it would be beneficial to build up a small milk stash. You don’t need to store gallons and gallons of breast milk, but a few extra bags will give you what you need for your mama-break. Pump in the morning after your baby’s first nursing session for a few extra minutes to build your milk stash. At the end of April, life didn’t seem to be changing much, and after a series of unfortunate events, I gave up my morning pump session. The few times we’ve needed a bottle, we have lived off the stash I produced January-April.

If you have a problem, call a lactation consultant. They can seriously help with any issues you’re having. This round of breastfeeding, I feel like I’ve dealt with it all: mastitis (3 times), clogged ducts (weekly), overproduction, refusing a bottle, and currently, I’m managing through a nursing-strike on the left side. When I haven’t been able to figure it on my own, I’ve called my doula for help, and she always offers valuable advice. Your lactation consultant will schedule a virtual or a socially-distanced appointment to help you with the issues you are facing with your little one. There are even a few Latch Clinics taking place to answer questions and provide support!

Breastfeeding is no easy task, and whether you make it 1 month, 6 months, 18 months, or more, you are working hard to provide for your baby!

Back-to-School Sleep Tips to Start the Year Off Right

Every year around this time, parents start reaching out to me worried about how to get their kiddos back on a good sleep schedule in order to return to school in the fall. Now I know the topic of returning to school in the fall of 2020 has many considerations, but regardless of whether you return to school in person, begin a full-time homeschooling curriculum, or your child is participating in online distance learning, they will benefit from getting back on track with sleep as the school year begins.

It’s completely normal for sleep schedules and routines to slip up a bit during the summer, and I know this year has been what feels like a never-ending vacation from school, so giving this some thought this year is more important than ever.

back to school sleep tipsSo, here are my greatest tips to get back on track and start the year off right.

Don’t procrastinate

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of finishing your back-to-school shopping and labeling everything and then get to the night before school starts and face total meltdowns as you attempt to get your kids in bed early for that first day of school. Start getting that bedtime scooted earlier a week or two before school starts, for fewer protests and overwhelm when the time comes.

Keep it Consistent!

Once you’ve got that bedtime back in place, keep it consistent! Body clocks are smart, for one, so the more consistent you are with bedtime, the more their bodies will learn when to be tired and when sleep is expected. This will also help to have a more consistent wake-up time each day. Remember, preschoolers ages 3-5 years need 11-13 hours of sleep, children 6 -13 years old need 9-11 hours, and high schoolers ages 14-17 still need 8-10 hours overnight. Set your bedtime based on this information and what time your child needs to get up for school.

Be Strategic with Extracurricular Activities!

If your child participates in extracurricular activities that occur in the evenings, try to choose opportunities scheduled earlier in the evening, to preserve bedtime. When that isn’t possible, space out the nights you have to have a later bedtime so they aren’t back to back nights. Sleep debt accumulates, so you’ll want to allow your child to make up that lost sleep the following 24 hours with an earlier bedtime the next night.

Routines are Key!

Develop, or get back on track with, a regular bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is not just a fluff word, it is a cueing system to the body and brain that sleep is coming. Children thrive on predictability and structure, so having a consistent and predictable bedtime routine each night will help prepare their brains and bodies for sleep. They’ll know that at the end of that bedtime routine, they’ll be tucked in bed and expected to sleep. Even encouraging your teenager to have some bedtime rituals will be helpful to their sleep.

Timers for Transitions (and shut off those SCREENS)!

If your child struggles with transitions, like most kids, use a timer. A few places this works great is to indicate how long each step of the bedtime routine lasts if you have a child who loves to stall when it comes to preparing for sleep. Or for when it’s time to shut off the screens for the night, which should be at least an hour before bedtime as the blue light they emit interferes with the body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone…plus they are too stimulating before sleep and can make it harder to fall asleep for that reason, as well.

With the ever-growing regularity of online schooling, I realize screens are a critical piece of education but aim to have all screens, even those for schooling, off an hour before bedtime. Have your older children plug their phones into a charging station outside of the bedroom at the end of the day, so they are not tempted to scroll while they’re supposed to be sleeping.

Create a Sleep Sanctuary!

Finally, take a look around your child’s room and make sure you have set up a sleep sanctuary for them, or an environment that promotes sleep. Make the room as dark as you can possibly make it (my favorite resource for this are shades from www.blackoutez.com). This helps children fall asleep before the sun has set in the summer months and helps prevent early morning rising when the sun starts peeking in around 5am. Remove any light enhancing objects (example: glow stars on the ceiling), distractions like toys that your child may get out of bed and play with when they are supposed to be falling asleep (or even a TV), a cool temp (ideal sleeping temperature is 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit), and a white noise machine to block out environmental noises that could wake them (even for older kids, this is great).

It’s expected (and encouraged) to bend the sleep rules a bit on summer vacation, but getting back on track with sleep for the school year will make everyone’s lives easier and more restful (yours included) and will promote learning and retention for your child. Welcoming structure back into sleep will help them ease back into the structure of the classroom, even the virtual one. 

Summer 2020 Send-Off Bucket List {FREE PRINTABLE}

Summer 2020, quite possibly the craziest summer some of us have ever experienced is coming to a close. I think it’s safe to say that the world is bubbling with anticipation for a change on the horizon with school start dates looming on the calendar. But we still have some summer left to savor!

No matter your opinions on school in the fall, I think we can all agree that the days among us have a special feeling. The last few days before a big change and a summer that wasn’t like any other before makes me feel a need to bottle this time up so that my kids and I remember them in their simplicity fondly. 

Even though these pandemic summer days can feel tragically long. It does seem like the summer sort of flew by. Maybe it was the monotony of doing the same thing day in and day out or the relief from a crazy semester of emergency distance learning but it does seem sort of insane that it is already August! I have put together an end of summer bucket list for you and your family to participate in together as we close out such an unforgettable summer. 

End of Summer Bucket List

1. Yes Day

One day and let your kid(s) take the reins on your daily activities! Say YES to any and all of their ideas!

2. Ice Cream Crawl

Visit a handful of local ice cream shops and get a sweet treat or some pints to go! Dallas Moms recently curated a list of local sweet treat stops that you can find here.

3. Bend Bedtime

Make some space in your schedule one evening and let your kid(s) stay up a little bit past their bedtime! Watch the sunset and catch some fireflies.

4. Go H20

Indulge in your favorite water activities one more time from the summer before they become a distant fall memory or try something new! Get a slip-n-slide or a new pool float which will probably be marked down come August!

5. Dear Me

Have your family write a letter to your future selves next summer. What you hope the world will look like, or memories from summer 2020 you want to remember come the summer days of 2021.

6. Power Down

Log off social media or make a plan to be screen free as a family for one whole weekend!

7. Take It Outside

Take one of your favorite activities outdoors! Set up an easel and paint outside with your kids, fill up the sidewalk with chalk art and summer memories, or take your family movie night outside!

8. Friendly competition

Create a family contest! Board games, baking, outdoor races, lego building – you name it! Make it a competition and the winner gets to pick dinner or dessert that night!

9. Picture perfect

Make a scrapbook of this unforgettable summer. Upload some of the pictures from your phone and create a photobook that will provide nostalgia for your family from a summer like any other. Chatbooks, blurb, and mpix are great options.!

10. Summer Sendoff

Plan a special end of summer dinner. Grill, try a new recipe, dress up your table with your finest china! Send off summer with a bang and take some family time around the table to talk about your favorite moments from the past few months and thoughts about the school year to come.

Here is a printable you and your family can use to keep track of everything you do as you wind down summer and celebrate in style! 

“Mama, Heed Me” : A Breastfeeding Reflection

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My baby turned two last week and with that major milestone, we ended our breastfeeding journey. Never did I ever think I would nurse a baby for this long!

A little history: I have three children. I nursed my oldest son for just over twelve months (made that 1-year goal!), before he basically self-weaned. My second son did not want to give it up, but after 14 months I was ready to have my body back. At least for a little while because we knew we wanted more children.

This time was different though. She is likely our last baby and maybe that’s why. She was a late walker and felt like a baby a little longer in some ways. Maybe because I know a little better how quickly they grow up. Maybe I wanted to hold onto some alone, quiet time away from big brothers. It’s hard to have on-on-one time with any one of my kids, so continuing to breastfeed guaranteed that just a little bit longer. But, whatever the reason, I wasn’t as anxious to stop nursing as I was the first two times.

My daughter turned 18 months in the middle of cold and flu season and I figured I should keep giving her those awesome breastfeeding antibodies. So we kept nursing. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I started thinking: I should keep giving her these antibodies, right? It’s not like we’re going anywhere anyway. So we kept nursing.

Well, we’re still not going many places, but as my daughter’s 2nd birthday approached, I set that as our target. 24 months of breastfeeding – wow! 50 months of breastfeeding between all three of my kids – 50 months of nursing bras, rocking chairs, spit up, and snuggles. It’s hard to believe that it’s over. It’s hard to believe that I did it!

In the beginning, when I would think about breastfeeding my babies, I always had in my mind that we would stop before they could ask to nurse (with words, not the adorable baby bird face of newborns). Of course, as my daughter got closer to two years old, she learned more words and could vocalize a lot of her thoughts. She asked to nurse by saying, “Mama, heed me.” She is still having trouble with that “f” sound. Such a profound request out of my little one’s mouth.

“Mama, heed me.” It’s just the perfect summary of toddlerhood, isn’t it? So while our breastfeeding journey has ended, the time of heeding my children is far from over. “Heed Me” is just starting to look a little different now. And that’s okay. That’s the job.

 

Lactation Cookies

For those of you still on your breastfeeding journey, here is a link to my favorite lactation cookies. I’ve made these countless times over the last 5+ years (and gifted them to many new mama friends). They are delicious even if you aren’t breastfeeding!

Dallas Moms Need to Know :: A Guide to the Month of August

Welcome to August, everyone! Remember what a cool breeze feels like? I sure don’t! Let’s try to make the best of these dog days of summer though, because school starts up again in about five minutes. Before we get into that whole thing, check out our guide below for the best family activities around Dallas this month!

things to do in dallas augustAs usual, we maintain a full calendar of events here, and when you subscribe to our Newsletter, you’ll get this list sent straight to your inbox.

And of course, it’s important to remind you that things are changing quickly! Check the Dallas County Coronavirus website to be “in the know” about risk levels before you plan any outings in public with your family. And be sure to double check in advance for cancelations or changes to activities.

All Month :: It’s not too late to make use of our 2020 Socially Distant Summer Bucket List! Lots of great ideas in here. I really need to get my kids into geocaching, like, yesterday.

All Month :: August Dollar Days at the Arboretum means $2 admission and $5 parking (note: the Rory Meyers Children’s Garden is closed at this time). See here for COVID accommodations, including a “Know Before You Go” FAQ. 9am-5pm.

All Month :: What about a kayak or canoe rental over at Lake Lewisville? The Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area doesn’t rent them directly, but they link to several options on their site. Park hours: 7am-7pm. Entry fee of $5 per vehicle.

All Month :: Check out this really cool interactive map of Dallas outdoor art. Put together by the DMA, the map includes background information on each piece and tips on where to park and walk (particularly for the downtown ones). Free! 

All Month :: Amaze Your Brain at Home with The Perot. You’ll find videos and activities on a variety of topics. Kids can explore science concepts using common household items. Content is organized by age group, from early childhood to grades 6-12. Free!

All Month :: Marvel HQ on YouTube has lots of cute content like their “How to Draw” videos and Marvel Read! (I love Andy Daly, so I’m recommending his read-aloud of Mealtime Mayhem). Free!

All Month :: We can’t travel but we can Window Swap. Open a window somewhere in the world!

All Month :: Some of you may be feeling a little better about the Dallas Zoo, considering all the outdoor space and opportunities for distancing. They’ve made a bunch of operational changes, which are detailed here. If you aren’t comfortable heading over there in person, don’t forget about their Bring the Zoo to You program!

All Month :: Take a look at Dallas Public Library at Home for details on all their latest virtual programming including interactive storytimes, digital puzzle rooms, on demand content, and more. Hint: scroll to the bottom of this link to access virtual experiences from a bunch of local institutions.

All Month :: The State Fair may be cancelled but they’ve still got a few things going on, like the Youth Arts & Crafts Contests. Lots of categories for entry, open to any child over the age of 6, although most sections have dedicated groupings (7-12 and 13-17 years old). Register at the link by September 1; drop off work by September 13. Entry fee from $3.

All Month, select dates :: Speaking of the State Fair… Fletcher’s Corny Dogs will do pop-up dates around the metroplex, so you can get your fix of funnel cakes, corn dogs, curly fries, and lemonade. They’ll continue this through the fall, so check the link for a spot near you.

Saturdays, through August 22 :: Coppell Arts Center finishes up their Summer Drive-In Movies series with Grease (8/1), Detective Pikachu (8/8), Annie (8/15), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (8/22). 8:30pm. $10 per vehicle.

Daily, through August 23 :: Wynnewood Village hosts a Contactless Treasure Hunt while you back-to-school shop. Participate through Facebook on your mobile device for a chance to win $10-50 gift cards to Wynnewood Village stores or the $250 grand prize. Each person can participate twice (and you need a Facebook account to play). Free!

August 1 :: National Farmers Market Week will look a little different at the Dallas Farmers Market this year, but they’ve arranged safely distant, family-friendly activities for the annual Watermelon Festival, including a Little Farmers scavenger hunt and kids goodie bags (while they last). 9am-5pm. Free!

August 3-7 :: The Dallas Museum of Art has Virtual Summer Art Camp this week. Choose from Nature Explorers (ages 4-5) or Picture Perfect (ages 6-8). Both camps are 10am-12pm. Register at the link, DMA member discounts apply.

August 6, 9 :: Irving Arts Center conducts their Jumpstart Stories & Art and Second Sunday Funday virtually these days. Guided craft projects plus all old “episodes” available at the link. Free!

August 14, 28 :: The Holocaust and Human Rights Museum may be closed, but you can join them virtually for Empowerment and Inclusion Through Storytime. Recommended for toddlers through Kindergarten, the featured books instill young children with lessons on diversity, tolerance, and empowerment. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed (8/14) and She Persisted (8/28). Space is limited, please register at the links in advance. 9:30am. Free!

August 14-15, 28-29 :: Addison Weekend Drive-In brings you live music from the comfort of your vehicle. Lots of details at the link, including a schedule of bands. Grab some takeout from an Addison restaurant and enjoy! All ages. Gates at 7:30, but space is limited so don’t be late. Free!

Stay well! Let us know if you have any other fun ideas for August!

Be Their Calm

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Looming, it towers; casting a chilly shadow. A monster wave of desire unmet. Instead of reaching for the buoyant boat of self-control, a tiny human will tugs the monster down, relishing in the momentary release of its torrent. Quickly, it overpowers as the icy water of unchecked emotion batters and pulls, twists and tosses.

You see your child flail as his piercing screams erupt through salty tears. The water is deep and the drag is strong. You too could be swept away. Except your sea is not desire, it is comparison.

Your waves are built upon the thoughts in your head. “What do the other mothers think of me?” and “why is her child always so well behaved?” The temptation of your current, it sings, it screams, “stop crying now. This is ridiculous.”

If you choose to refuse the riptide, pausing to take a deep breath, you will find you can float. And floating makes you a life raft, rising above comparison, rising even above the severest tantrum. Calm and aloft, you become your child’s calm.

Folding down to their level, you gently pull your tiny toddler up out of their turmoil. Your voice soothes away the ominous roar of the storm. Your arms warm and pat dry their shaking body. Your rocking restores balance.

The sun has now reappeared, shooting an array of diamonds on the water. You look in your child’s eyes and see brilliance. Awestruck by the moment, you wonder how they came to be yours. You grab them back, shoving your face in their hair to suck in the sweetest scent. Joy is here. The kind of joy that cannot be given or bought, but only won on the other side of a raging battle you didn’t flee.

Motherhood requires navigation in deeper waters than we have ever dared to dip. As we voyage with our miniature crew there is no shortage of things to dread and certainly no lack of vexation. But there is raw beauty. Salt in your face and color on your cheeks. Be brave, mama. Turn your face upward and take a moment to delight in the journey, because we are on it together.

Votes for Women: Fun and Easy Kid Activities to Celebrate the 19th Amendment

“Don’t forget to be a good boy.

A predictable “momism” we utter without thinking every time we drop our kids off for a playdate or school or leave them with a sitter. “Being good” meaning remember to say please and thank you, share the toys, and for goodness sake don’t pick your nose.

One mom spoke these words to her son, and it changed the course of history. For women.

In the summer of 1920, Phoebe Burn’s son Harry was a member of the Tennessee state legislature, the youngest in fact at 24. The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was nearing the end of the ratification process. 35 states had voted yes, 12 states voting no, bringing it one vote short of the required 36.

It all came down to Tennessee…and Harry.

Harry was the deciding vote. He had made up his mind to vote no until he received a letter from his dear old mom urging him to “don’t forget to be a good boy” and vote yes for the amendment.

Clutching his mom’s letter, Harry cast the deciding vote to pass the amendment. And then jumped out a 3rd story window to escape an angry mob. Don’t worry—he was okay.

Moms give the best advice.

August marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, the end of a 72 year battle for women’s equality.

Yes, 72 years of women lobbying, marching, picketing, and protesting for the right to vote. 3 generations of women leaders. The first generation didn’t live to see the end, and the last generation wasn’t born when the fight began.

While many of the public centennial celebrations have been canceled due to current circumstances, there are plenty of fun activities you can do at home with your kids to celebrate and learn more about the suffrage movement.

Learn about Susan B. Anthony and make a Flat Susan B.

Ask someone to name a suffragist, chances are they’ll say Susan B. Anthony. Ask them to name another, you’ll probably hear crickets. No worries if you can’t name someone else. By the end of these activities, you and your kids will know about some of the other great women leaders.

Susan B. Anthony was an incredibly important figure in the suffrage movement and is a good one to start with. 

The PBS Kids show Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum has a great episode featuring Susan B. Anthony. Here’s the link.

You can also find a viewing guide and activities for kids on the PBS Kids’ website.

A fun follow-up activity to do after the kids have learned all about Susan B. Anthony is to make a “Flat Susan.” You can find the template here. Have the kids decorate their own “Flat Susan” and use it as a mascot for all of your suffrage learning activities.

Explore Suffrage Movement Sites with the National Park Service

While this is probably not the summer to travel far and wide to the suffrage movement sites, the National Park Services is bringing those sites (and their stories and activities) to kids virtually.

Check out the National Park Service’s website (here’s the link) for a variety of suffrage-related activities and stories, including some pretty cool photos and videos of everyday women (and their kids) marching, picketing, and protesting for votes for women.

Storytime

Remember what I said about learning about great women leaders other than Susan B. Anthony? Here’s your chance.

Here are some of my family’s favorite children’s books about women’s suffrage:

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble, by Doreen Rappaport. This book is a great overview of the significant events of the women’s suffrage movement, including leaders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abigail Adams, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Amelia Bloomer.

Miss Paul and the President, by Dean Robbins. With beautiful illustrations, this book tells the story of how Alice Paul fought to secure President Woodrow Wilson’s support for women’s suffrage through parade protests and picketing.

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, and 10,000 Miles, by Mara Rockliff. A beautiful little picture book tells the story of suffragists Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, who in 1916 toured over 10,000 miles of bumpy, muddy terrain in a little yellow car to spread the message about equal voting rights.

The Voice That Won The Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History, by Elisa Boxer. Learn more about the story of Phoebe Burns and her son Harry.

Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote, by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. An inspiring picture book to introduce young readers to the bold and brave women of the suffrage movement, including well-known names like Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Sojourner Truth and lesser known women such as Jovita Idár and Mary Church Terrell.

If you would like some else to do the reading, the American Library Association has put together a wonderful digital storytelling series, Herstory Time. Here’s the link.

Additional Resources

For more suffrage activities, be sure to check out the following resources:

 

 

A Letter to my Oldest Starting Kindergarten During Covid-19

Photo from Unsplash

Dearest boy,

As I write this, you are napping with your younger brother, something I had hoped you would’ve grown out of by this point into summer but here we are. You don’t quite know the severity of coronavirus, other than a lot of fun places are closed, people are getting really sick, and we have all been at home a lot more than usual these last several months. You do know that Kindergarten starts in just a few weeks and, oh my word, it’s half of what you talk about. You are so excited to come to school with Mommy.

To be honest, by the time this post is published, news about schools reopening will probably have changed. It’ll change like it has changed many times over the past month and it’ll probably change many more times before the official first day of school actually happens. Then, lots will change again and again as the school year progresses.

I’ve envisioned your first day of Kindergarten dozens of times throughout your 5 years of life. I’ve pictured taking you “back to school” shopping with me. I wouldn’t just be buying pencils and highlighters to fill my classroom this time. This year, we would also be shopping for your school supplies, too. I’ve imagined getting you a haircut and a totally Pinterest worthy “first day of Kindergarten” shirt or letter board for front porch photos for the big day. I’ve over thought about what cheesy traditions we’d start now that we as a family would be entering the school years. Oh the joy I always felt when I imagined my biggest boy going to “big” school with me. And my heart would always beam with pride at all you’ve overcome in your short little life to prepare you for this next stage. You are so ready. And your time has finally come!

I have to be honest, I’m a little bit sad now that it’s actually here. Not just for the obvious reasons of feeling that time has gone by too fast, but because my heart doesn’t quite feel the excitement that I thought it would all those years of picturing this season. Along with trips for new shoes, we are facing the reality that you may be spending weeks at a time of your first year of school at home due to outbreaks. Your daddy and I haven’t just had the conversations of figuring out after school care, we’ve discussed what we would have to do if both of us were asked to work in person while schools remained closed to students for weeks at a time. I’ve had to accept the possibility that watching you walk into your new classroom on Meet The Teacher Night may not happen or that you’ll start your Kindergarten year in front on a laptop instead of in front of a live teacher. 

And then I think, “Are you really ready?” What will you even be going into with all the new social distancing and masks at school? And shutdowns. Are you ready for the back and forth of school in the building with spontaneous shutdowns intermixed? Would you transition well to seeing your teacher and friends solely on a computer screen? Transitions aren’t really a strength that 5-year-olds come with. Would all that instability be too much to bear? And what about all the social-emotional learning that is so crucial for the primary years? Are we making the right decision here? Do we really have any other options?

I don’t have all the answers and I’m sure there are more questions I haven’t even thought to ask about what this next year will look like for all of us. But I do know one thing for certain. You and I? We’ll be okay. We know that our faith is set on something higher and that we were made for such a time as this. Whatever life throws at us, we will take it and we will find joy. We will grow in ways we never thought we could. We will take things day by day and choose to not be weighed down by what we do not know and what we cannot control. And the best part of all this is that whatever happens, you and I will get to navigate this together.

I wish you the very best this year, little man. May you grow and learn in ways that surprise us all. You are brave. You are strong. You are kind. And God loves you.

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Welcome to August, everyone! Remember what a cool breeze feels like? I sure don't! Let's try to make the best of these dog days...