Tag Archives: Steer Me in the Right Direction

Looking for a Dallas VBS?

My friend and I were talking the other day about summer plans, and I mentioned that I’d be helping out at my church’s Vacation Bible School. When she mentioned her church didn’t have a VBS, I was slightly shocked. 

Growing up, I can remember spending several summers attending Vacation Bible School at my cousin’s church Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Dallas. We’d spend half a day learning about a bible story, having a snack time, playing in their gym, and participating in arts & crafts. Until I moved out of parent’s home, I still had a matchstick cross hanging on my wall that I made one summer. 

My husband has even more amazing memories of Vacation Bible School. While he was growing up at Richardson East Church of Christ, there were several years where the entire church would pull together to recreate a Biblical town. For a few days, they’d wander around hearing Bible stories from dressed up church members, were able to pet live animals that you’d find in some of the stories, and also had amazing arts & crafts. 

When I think of how my children are going to spend their summers, I can’t imagine Vacation Bible School not being a part of it!  So to help out my friends that attend churches that don’t participate in a VBS, I’ve come up with a list of places you can take your children this summer!

 Just click on the image and you’ll be taken directly to that Church’s VBS page.  

And remember, you don’t have to be a member to attend a VBS! The whole point is to draw in visitors and meet new people!

*Online Registration ended, but you can still go on June 4th and sign up!

Park Cities Baptist Church’s VBS is for children ages Kindergarten through 6th Grade. 
Begins Monday, June 4 to Friday, June 8th from 9am-12pm.
Cost: FREE!

Begins Sunday, June 10 to Wednesday, June 13 from 6pm-8pm.
Preschool to 4th Graders are welcome! It’s FREE!
Available at all 3 campuses (Plano, Dallas, & Prosper), children ages 3 to 6th grade are welcome! And it’s FREE for all!
Begins Monday, June 25th to Thursday, June 28th for ages 4 to 6th grade!
Meets from 9am-12:30pm with a special 5:30pm wrap-up party on June 28th.
Cost: Free! T-Shirts: $10

Children ages 4 to 6th grade are welcome, and will meet from 9am-12pm 
on Monday, July 9th to Friday, July 13th.
Registration is $10 per child ($20 max per family).
All children ages 4 to 6th grade are invited for FREE!
VBS will take place Monday, July 16 to Friday, July 20 from 9am-12:30pm
KidsVision for Life will also be offering free eye exams and glasses at this event!
 Open to ages 4-12, and will meet daily from 9am-12pm.
It’s FREE!

Does your church have a Vacation Bible School you want to share? 

Top Android App Picks for Toddlers

My son has reached an age where he’s now obsessed with my phone. Before I was a parent, I thought it would be so easy to keep my phone away from him. It’s an adult object that costs money, and I didn’t want my kids to destroy something that was important to me. 


Around the time my son turned 9 months, my hopes of keeping my phone out of his reach became almost impossible. It has buttons. It lights up. It plays music. Sometimes it even vibrates. Cell phones are literally the perfect child’s toy. So, of course, on several occasions I would pull it out to try and entertain him when all toys had lost their appeal; doctor’s appointments that were running long, on car trips or even in the grocery store. I’ve come to learn that it’s portable entertainment, and it’s time I accept that technology is everywhere. Just because I didn’t have it growing up, doesn’t mean it’s wrong for him to have. 


I do want to limit him to when he’s allowed to use it. He doesn’t play with it when we’re at home. When he does get to use it, they’re apps that I think will help him learn (No offense Angry Birds!) 


Up until this point, I’ve pretty much just been downloading Free apps on the fly, and there have been quite a few interesting ones that were deleted pretty quickly. (Baby Bus would be one of them! It’s a well done app, but I’m not sure how my son is supposed to learn words when the app’s speaker has a HEAVY Japanese accent.) 


Since we’re about to go on another trip tomorrow, I thought today would be the perfect time to download thoughtful apps that I could preview before we hit the road. Here’s a few that I’ve found and like: 





Five Little Monkeys by Loeschware
 “Five Little Monkeys” is one of my son’s favorite songs! This app allows you to hear the song being sung in country, rock, or pop. With a simple tap, you choose when the monkey’s fall off the bed, and sing along! Cost: $0.99

Itsy Bitsy Spider by Duck Duck Moose
 This is an awesome app! As the narrator since “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” you follow the spider through the difference scenes with lots of interaction as you go. There’s a squirrel that helps your toddler learn 1-10, a little fly with information about objects on the screen, and your toddler can watch a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. What’s even better about this app is that you can record your own voice singing the song to replace the narrator’s. My son can watch this app for a long time! Cost: $1.99

Toddler Tapping Zoo by Tipitap
 This app reminds of me picture cards. Your toddler can scroll through very colorful and vivid photographs of animals and hear the sound each animal makes. There’s all sorts of animals from cats to zebras. Did you know a Koala makes a noise?! Cost: $0.99
Toddler Cars by Russpuppy
This is a fun, simply app that gets your toddlers attention. By pressing on the different types of transportation, they can hear the name of the vehicle, the sound it makes, and a little background music to go with it. All they have to do is tap! Cost: Free

What other apps have you tried that I should download?

Guest Post: A Selfless Sacrifice

In honor of Good Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about sacrifice. 

But rather than bore you  write about all the sacrifices I make being a mom,
I thought this would be a good opportunity to open up my blog to others who know about real sacrifice. 

Meet Ashley

She’s the Dallas Outreach Coordinator of Reading Partners; an Oakland, California based non-profit organization. 

As a former teacher, I frequently had volunteers (both men and women) in my classroom helping mentor and partner with students who needed additional help with reading, writing or other subject areas. These volunteers provided help to teachers when one-on-one time wasn’t available and helped boost TAKS scores on more than one occasion.

When Ashley described her organization to me, I knew it was something I wanted to share with you in case you were interested. Being a volunteer is a sacrifice; of your time and energy, but the difference you can make in a child’s life is truly worth it. 

Here’s Ashley’s story!

. . . 

Some of you may know them, some of you may be their moms and dads and you know the struggles they face each and everyday when trying to read a book, or even a mere sentence.  You know their confidence gets lower and lower with each word read in front of the class.  Some of you have been those kids.

I never realized how much I have taken reading for granted. Growing up I never had any academic difficulties, reading included.  If anything, the only time I struggled with reading was when comparing myself to other kids who I felt were more articulate and could read faster than I could, and I would try to imitate their graceful (or so I deemed, graceful) reading style.  It didn’t really work, I guess I had my own style.

A few books later (and a little lesson on self-esteem) I find myself here, writing this article working as an outreach coordinator for a literacy non-profit organization, whose mission is to instill a lifelong love of reading in all children, but specifically for those who unlike me, don’t take reading for granted.  They struggle with pronunciation, with sounds, with comprehension.  

Ultimately these kids are not only at-risk of being embarrassed by poor reading skills, but they are at risk of becoming statistics. Third grade literacy scores predict high school drop out rates by 70%. According to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, in the state of Texas, only 30% of fourth graders in low-income families are reading at grade level.  That’s a lot of high school dropouts!

There are a few outliers, but for the most part, high school dropouts, unfortunately have less financial stability, and more criminal history. A child’s future can be foretold by third grade, but not always.  Although there are numerous reasons as to why children do not receive a quality education, the one truth is that every child deserves a quality education. 

So then, what’s the solution to this problem? Well, I don’t know, but I know that a little bit goes a long way.  The organization that I work for, Reading Partners is an educational non-profit organization that tries to solve the problem of illiteracy and low self-esteem in kids.  I know I’m biased, I work for the organization, but I am also a tutor.  I hear the stories of student’s whose confidence levels rise, of volunteers sharing their gifts and their talents to help kids that are not their own.  I see kids coming into the classroom where they are tutored with a smile from ear to ear, and teachers who need the help….Everyday.


Third graders don’t have to be statistics. A one-on-one tutoring relationship could be the very thing that turns a potential high school dropout into a future college graduate, entrepreneur, businessperson, world changer, or a smart and savvy stay-at-home parent.

Reading Partners matches community volunteers with at-risk K-5th grade students who are ½ – 2 ½ reading levels below grade level.  Students are tutored twice a week, at no cost to them or their families.  The program relies solely on fundraising, school and community support, and volunteers to operate in each of its partner schools.  On average 88% of students in the program accelerate one reading level with 26 hours of tutoring.


This semester is our first semester in Dallas and we have partnered with DISD to open tutoring centers in two schools, Roger Q. Mills Elementary in Cedar Crest neighborhood of Oak Cliff and George W. Truett Elementary in the Casa Linda neighborhood of East Dallas.

Volunteers give 45 minutes, one day per week to participate in one-on-one tutoring at one of our centers.  Tutoring opportunities are available Monday – Thursday 8 am – 5 pm. Most volunteers have no previous tutoring or teaching experience.  
. . . 
So, if you’re looking for an opportunity to show your servant heart, need a service project for your high school student, or you’re a senior citizen looking to make a difference in your retirement, contact Ashley Richard at 214-980-8232 or e-mail arichard@readingpartners.org for more information on how to volunteer. 

Have a wonderful Easter weekend! 

*This was a non-paid post!

It’s Our Pleasure!

After 15 years, I’ve finally come around to the side of Chick-fil-A

Amen!

Why did it take me so long? For the first 5 years I knew anything about Chick-fil-A it was simply another fast food chain inside Richardson Square Mall. In high school, I had a few friends who worked there, so it became my go-to dinner spot when I also began working in the mall. But after eating Chicken Sandwiches 1-2 times a week, I gave up on Chick-fil-A. With the exception of a visit here or there, I really haven’t eaten there much in the last 10 years. . . until now. 

Since the Little Man was born, I’ve only taken him to Chick-fil-A once about 2 months ago. He’d just started standing on his own and was barely toddling. He seemed to really enjoy standing near the playground, but it was more work on me to make sure he wasn’t getting toppled by the older kids. Well, last night was a whole different experience. 

Being a solo parent this week, I’m trying to come up with fun and unique ways to make the day go by faster entertain the Little Man, so I thought I’d give it another try. We headed out at 6:45pm for dinner. I’d hoped going later to avoid all the kids would work, and it did! When we arrived, there was only 1 other family eating outside, and they quickly finished up so we had the whole place to ourselves. 

But let me start back at the beginning! When I arrived, as always, the employees were super friendly. I’d decided to take a chance and order my first kid’s meal. I was hungry and knew I’d probably eat my whole sandwich, so I figure it was worth the $3 for him to have his own. Plus he’d get his own drink and (if rumors are true) a dessert at the end. I ordered him a 4 piece grilled chicken nugget meal (It’s new!) with a side of fruit and an apple juice. 

Again, the sweet employee saw I had my hands full and offered to bring my meal out to meal, and did so very quickly. I was so impressed when his meal arrived and it came with a disposable place mat! It made eating outside so much easier since I didn’t have to worry about what was on the tables (not that they were dirty!). The Little Man gobbled up about half his meal and his entire box of apple juice, so I let him go play. 

I loved that everything was kid safe, and I didn’t have to worry about him while I finished up my meal; even the asphalt was spongy, soft, and clean. 
We stayed and played for almost 30 minutes before I decided it was time to go. On my way out I grabbed a refill and sure enough, the rumors about trading in his toy were true! Chick-fil-A gives parents the option of trading in their kid’s meal toy for a board book or a child’s size ice cream. I wasn’t prepared for the board book option, so I asked to trade in my toy for an ice cream. I decided we could head back to the playground one more time and eat our ice cream before heading out. 

I’d never understood why so many moms always hung out at Chick-fil-A, but as I said, I get it now. I’m sure many moms will find this post “old news,” but if you’re a new mom without a lot of connections (like me) I hope you’ll find this post helpful! I definitely be a return customer for life!


On a side note: Did you know the Chick-fil-A at Collin Creek Mall offers Tiny Tot Time? Every Thursday from 10-10:30am on April 12th and 26th, there’s stories, dancing, singing, crafts, and snacks! Also, look for Tiny Tot Time at Camp Wisdom & 360 in Grand Prairie

Are there other great family friendly restaurants I should know about?
Where’s your favorite fast food playground? 

*This post is not sponsored. All thoughts and opinions are completely my own and weren’t paid for. Although they should be! 😉

DMB Friday: Filling Your Child’s Piggy Bank

Psst! I’m over at Dallas Moms Blog today talking about money.
Sounds boring, but I promise you’ll want to read it! 

Dallas Moms Blog: Filling Your Child’s Piggy Bank

Behind the scenes, I did a lot of research for this blog post, and I was quite proud of myself! When it comes to financial matters, I’m usually pretty clueless. I can pay the bills and keep a budget, but as far as investments and financial planning, it goes in one ear and out the other. 

When Mark received money for his birthday, I really wanted to be purposeful in what we did with it. People were trusting us to make sure it went to him or towards him even though he’s not old enough to use it on his own yet. So, I took to the internet to find the best way to invest his new savings, and revealed my findings on Dallas Moms Blog. 

I hope you’ll read over the article carefully, and find that investing in your child’s future is something to stop and, at least, think about! 

For those of you who are curious. . . we went with a 529 plan. But once again, I leave up how the money is invested in that 529 to Tim. Some things never change! 

Dallas Kids Expo

Before having a little one, my weekends were precious. Every hour was carefully calculated because we only had 2 days to get everything done. More often than not, we’d spend most of our Saturdays and Sundays at home doing chores around the house or laying around avoiding the chores that needed to be done. It was our only down time. 

Now that most of my chores get done during the week, I’m still purposeful on the weekends, but I try and incorporate as much family time as possible. And since we spend most of our days during the week at home, I search website after website for events in Dallas we might find fun. 

This weekend we decided to head downtown to the Dallas Kids Expo. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew we’d made a good choice when we arrived and found hundreds of other families chose to do the same thing. 

When you walk in, they provide ID bracelets for all of the parents and children to make sure when leaving you leave with the right child (and it’s enforced!) On all sides of Market Hall, bounce houses cover the walls, and in the center are 3 aisles of booths for parents and kids to browse. From birthday party ideas to dentists to summer camps, all the booths are there to help you discover new opportunities for your kids. Not to mention, most of them give cool toys away for the little ones! Some of the booths we stopped by were AT&T Performing Arts Center, Bahama Beach Waterpark, Museum of Nature and Science, Michael’s, and The YMCA. I was also really excited to find the pediatric dentists at A Tooth Doctor for Kids were doing quick check-ups. We found out a lot of really good information about finding a dentist and how to take care of the Little Man’s teeth at his age. 

Although Dallas Kids Expo has come and gone for 2012, make sure you keep your eyes out for other expos similar to this in your area, such as DFW Family Expo in Fair Park. They’re worth checking out! 

You can also check out these sites for kid-friendly activities around the metroplex. But make sure to follow them on Facebook or Twitter for up-to-date information!

*This post was not sponsored, and all thoughts, ideas, and photos are completely my own!*

It’s All In the Details

I have a problem with expectations. 
(My husband will laugh hysterically at this understatement.) 

The Little Man’s first birthday was a huge learning experience for me and a lesson in dealing with expectations. Now that the wrapping paper has been cleaned up and the dishes have been loaded into the dishwasher, I can look back and shake my head at all the silly things I’ve been stressing over the last week. 

From the beginning, I knew that he wouldn’t remember ANYTHING from this party, but in my head I wanted to make it special for me, Tim, and all of our family that has been through this last year with us. I envisioned Martha Stewart worthy decorations, appetizers that would be pinned for years to come, a picture-perfect homemade smash cake, and a home filled with family and friends. 

What I got was this  . . . 


This is my homemade smash cake. 
Uneven fondant circles, rough butter cream icing, and leaning like the Tower of Pisa.

I don’t think anyone will be pinning this anytime soon. 

But that’s okay. Because what I learned today is that it doesn’t matter what the cake looks like. It’ll get eaten. And it doesn’t matter if the cookies I baked weren’t perfectly round because they still tasted amazing. And even though only 12 of 30 family members are able to come, the house was still filled with laughter and love for my son.  

Just like pregnancy and having a newborn, I wish I’d listened to the advice I’d been given about throwing a birthday party for my child. And just like our next child, the next birthday party I’ll do things differently.

My Advice for Your Child’s 1st Birthday 
From Someone Who’s Been There

1) When it comes to decorating, Dollar Tree is your friend. 
They have a whole aisle dedicated to party supplies. You might pay $2.99 for a brown plastic tablecloth at Party City, but you’ll pay $1 at the Dollar Tree. And just like Party City, they’ll have plates, napkins, silverware, and cups to match your table cloth. 

2) Stick with recipes you know, or at least test them in advance. 
Pinterest is awesome for discovering new recipes, but don’t expect them to always work. When trying out new recipes, go with a trusted source like Allrecipes.com or TasteofHome.com. When nap times are all the time you have to work and bake, don’t waste your time with recipes where the only comments are “Those look so delicious!” Look for ratings and comments from users who have tried the recipe before you. It will save you a lot of precious time! Then you can pin the recipes and let others learn from you!

3) Stick to a budget.
Party planning and decorating can get expensive and fast. Basic supplies like balloons, ingredients, invitations, food and party favors can easily add up to $100. Then when you add decorations, bakery cupcakes and/or cakes, drinks, etc. . .it adds up! Come up with a plan, draw out what you want your party to look like, and stay with it! 

4) Stop and smell the roses. 
Remember, when it’s all said and done, you want your memories to be of your child’s happiness on their special day; not slaving away in the kitchen throwing cookie dough at your husband when something doesn’t go right. (Did that happen?)  If it doesn’t all get done, don’t worry about! Your child will be just as thrilled that they’re being celebrated and won’t noticed the little touches you didn’t have time for.

I’ve walked away a better person for having experienced all the trials and tribulations that go into a first birthday, and now that I can take a deep breath and brush all the drama away, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. 
Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies / Gift tags by Whimsical Occassions / Turtle fonts & images by Little Prints Parties
Cake Mix Cookies / Caesar Salad Bits
Banner by Whimsical Occasions / Photo Frames – Dollar Tree

Dallas is Blooming!

Dallas Blooms began this weekend at the Arboretum!
This is one of those days where I’m so thankful that I’m a stay-at-home mom! 

I can remember when I was working down in the Design District, we’d have beautiful days like today and all we could do to soak in the weather was to open the huge garage door in the back of the studio. Having the sunshine pouring in would completely make up for the smell of the trash cans lofting in from the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant behind our building and the sound of a drifter talking to themselves in the alley.

Now that I can venture outside of a building, I can take in the sunshine with a much prettier view!

But I’m not the only one who’s now in love with the arboretum. . . 
 With no weeds or dog messes to worry about, the Little Man has free range of lawn after lawn with beautiful, soft, green grass to practice walking in. 

I even found the perfect spot. 
With a view of downtown on one side and White Rock Lake on the other, next time I’ll make sure to bring my Tuffo BlanketKindle, and lots of snacks so we can make a full afternoon out of it.
 
Oh! I didn’t mention the best part of today. 

A quick stop at our favorite bakery for some delicious cookies! 
If you’ve never been to Casa Linda Bakery, don’t let it’s run down appearance fool you! Just 2 miles down the road from the Arboretum, Casa Linda has the best cakes and cookies in Dallas. I discovered this little gem when I married into the Hurst family, and we’ve been getting our sweets there ever since!

You’re Bored Already?

Around the time my little guy turned 9 months old, I remember being so excited that he was getting to the stage where he could start to play independently for 20-30 minutes at a time. He would sit on the kitchen floor or in his room and move about without straying too far. On a good day, he’d even sit for an entire Baby Einstein or Baby Signing Time video. I was able to get the dishes done, pick up his room, and even start on dinner without feeling like I was having to constantly stimulate him.


Now, he’s walking and things aren’t so easy anymore. We’ve managed to contain him to the front room that we’ve somewhat converted into a toy area, but even then he’s not entertained for very long. Toys are apparently boring after 5 minutes! 


Now I’m not a completely ignorant when it comes to independently play. I have a few tricks in my back pocket. 


For example, Tupperware Explosion
We have the unfortunate situation where most of our cabinets are below the counter tops, so for safety, he’s not allowed in most of them; with the exception of 1.  

This turns into . . .

This. 


I told you . . .I’m crafty. 
You never would have guessed that I was a teacher, would you? 
=)

Another idea I’m contemplating is a Busy Box; a box he can go into with different objects (Popsicle sticks, straws, plastic spoons, etc.) and activities (ie: rice noise maker, family picture matchup). I’m just going to have to be okay with finding objects randomly thrown about the house. 



It hasn’t taken me long to realize, I need something more for him to do. After looking on the internet for some inspiration ideas, I’ve discovered many of the “ideas” aren’t age appropriate. A paintbrush in my 1 year old’s hand? Glue sticks & scissors? That’s a recipe for disaster! 


I’d almost given up when Dallas Moms Blog decided to do an Activity Link-Up. Parents submit their ideas on ways to keep their little ones active and engaged by linking up blogs. It’s Perfect! I could really use some great ideas on ways to entertain my toddler and keep his attention, so please. .. please link up your ideas here. I’m desperate! 

DMB Friday: Picking a Preschool

Today’s my Friday to write for Dallas Moms Blog
so I’m taking a T-Shirt Mama writing break for today. 

I know. . .you’re disappointed to not be able to read my words of wisdom before the weekend, but never fearHead on over to DMB and check out today’s post!

Also, a BIG Thank You to those of you who contributed to my preschool research. 

I had so many great responses, 
and there were a lot of really awesome preschools I didn’t know existed!

I was hoping to use clippings for each of your responses, 
but I had so many that I ended up going over my word limit. 

But please, take the time to leave a comment the way you left one for me.
(Especially Brooke C., Mandy, Mary Helen, and Britt!)

I think all of your responses will provide new opportunities to those parents who didn’t know those businesses existed. 

THANK YOU!