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Cookies and Cupcakes and Then Some

I have a friend who says there are two kinds of people in the world: cooks and bakers. And while my daughter is more of a cook (she prefers her more imaginative concoctions), she loves to help with the baking - cracking the eggs, using the electric mixer, spooning batter into muffin cups. Her interest is beginning to range beyond muffins and brownies these days. In an effort to encourage this, I sought out a good children’s baking cookbook for her - a task that proved more difficult than I expected.

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A Recipe for Creating Traditions from a St. Louis Master Chef

The smells of gingerbread and chocolate chip cookies wafting through house officially signal the arrival of the holiday season. Baking absolutely stands out as a cherished holiday tradition, albeit one that some of us must moderate in order to stay in our current jean size.
 
Vicki Bensinger, a local cook who also teaches in-home culinary classes and has her own cooking blog, says that cooking with your children provides lots of benefits during the holidays and throughout the year. “What I found was that it creates tremendous bonding among all of us,” says Vicki. “My children (now 21 and 24) wouldn’t bicker with each other during our baking times. They would be focused and creative in their own way and have fun together.
 

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When Your Personal Chef Takes a Holiday

The holidays are a busy time for us parents. If shopping and decorating weren’t enough, now you want us to bake?

We all have these perfect Norman Rockwell holiday dinners in our heads. But the truth is, those dinner tables loaded with a glistening ham and homemade eggnog are hard to achieve for any one with toddlers underfoot – unless Ina Garten invades our kitchen or we steal Jessie Spano’s caffeine pills.

In the quest for perfection, we often neglect to focus on what’s really important during the holidays – spending time with family instead of the stove. So instead of stressing, follow a few tricks to ease the baking rush.

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The Developmental Benefits of Baking Cookies

As my fellow blogger Andrea mentioned yesterday, baking with kids is messy. A one-hour cookie project can easily take just as long to clean up!  I thought it would get better when my boys got older, but it hasn’t. Every time they master a skill, like measuring, they want to do something tougher, like separate eggs.

The upside to all the cleanup is that baking is excellent for kids’ healthy development.

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A St. Louis Mentoring Program on the National Stage

It’s incredible how the dream of one woman can make dreams come true for hundreds of St. Louis kids.

For 15 years, Christine Reams, the force behind the Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri (LFCS) Children’s Alive Learning Leadership (CALL) program, has made an impact on the futures of area children. An impact so strong that it earned her national recognition as an Encore Careers Purpose Prize Fellow for 2010, an award that honors those who make a difference in their communities in their second half of life.

CALL has been a labor of love for Reams. As a social worker with LFCS, Reams spent much of her time providing families in need with one-time financial assistance. However, it was the children of these families she felt lacked a solid foundation — both from an educational and a social aspect — to build the diverse skills needed to be competitive in today’s global economy. Reams believed a mentoring program could be the solution these children needed.

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New Dance Company Hits the Local Art Scene

For art lovers in St. Louis, the region offers a vibrant array of opportunities to find our creative fix. Now we can boast one more incredible organization. In 2011, St. Louis Dance Theatre, the region’s first professional jazz dance company, will kick off its inaugural season, introducing audiences of all ages to dance and offering local dancers a new stage on which to showcase their talents.

Like many dancers from St. Louis, Morgan Cameron trained for years to perfect her craft but eventually joined dance companies in other cities due to limited opportunities in the St. Louis region. After returning to St. Louis, Cameron started a family and a business with her husband and founded a part-time dance company. However, beginning in 2011, StLDT will allow her and her fellow dancers to fulfill their dreams full time right here in the region.

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Yes That Was Me Crying at Steak n Shake

Eating out just isn’t what it used to be now that we have two kids in tow. Two very, very energetic kids.

As parents we have two choices. 1) We could hibernate and eat at home until the 17-month-old hits 3 years old, but that would necessitate either me or Mr. P cooking every night, and that’s no fun. Or 2) Take the little ones out once in awhile so they can strengthen their eating-out-in-public skills.

Every so often, we go with #2 because we are insane. However, #2 comes with a very tight set of rules:

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Four Siblings Find a Home for the Holidays

Jeremy and LaShandra Cheuvront have a lot to be thankful for this season.

Last year, the St. Louis area couple celebrated the holidays with one another and their two dogs. This year, their house is much fuller – both with people and with love. Thanks to a partnership between Jefferson County Children’s Division and the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, the Cheuvronts are ringing in the holidays with their four children – 13-year-old Autumn, 12-year-old Amber, 9-year-old Angie and 7-year-old John – siblings they adopted in August. Siblings that for the past two Christmases had no permanent home.

In February, although they had never met them and knew little about them, the Cheuvronts welcomed the children into their home. Six months later, the siblings became permanent Cheuvronts through adoption – a wish come true for Jeremy and LaShandra Cheuvront.

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A Healthy Way to Kill Time

I love pulling out of the driveway headed for a long road trip – there’s such a lovely illusion of abandoning all my work and worries for the duration of the drive (in the case of our Thanksgiving trip, 14 hours). But I’m just as over-connected as the next mom, and I usually wind up checking my e-mails in the car. Or searching out apps for my Droid, something I never have time for in day-to-day life. I could easily have spent all 14 hours this way. Unfortunately, Nebraska is not particularly well supplied with 3G networks!

Before I lost coverage, I made a find that will come in handy when my kids are killing time back in St. Louis. Apps for Healthy Kids showcases winning entries in a U.S. Department of Agriculture contest to develop tools and games that teach kids about healthy eating and/or exercising.

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Bling for Tweens

Finding the perfect holiday gift can be tricky, especially when you’re shopping for a fashion-forward tween.

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Safety Tips for Novice Parents

At a baby shower for a first-time mom over the weekend, my fellow guests got onto the subject of product recalls. The mom-to-be mentioned that her sister-in-law had offered a used stroller, but that it had been recalled due to a problem with the hood and she wasn’t sure whether she should accept it or not. Since the sister-in-law had used it for a good many years without losing one of her fingers to the potentially faulty hood, she wasn’t all that worried about the recall. As it happens, she also has two kids, so she had the wisdom of experience on her side.

It’s not that first-time parents shouldn’t worry about potential dangers to their baby (or, in this case, themselves). But a study done last year found that they are not very good at spotting true risks to in a mock home setup – and they tend to think that their child is smart/coordinated/lucky enough to avoid risks in their own home. Consequently, their risk assessment for their child tends to be all out of whack.

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Hide or Confide a Growing Belly

My friend came to me recently with a dilemma: The opportunity for her dream job opened, but she was four months pregnant.

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Tis the Season to Eat

Cue the carols on the radio — it’s the holiday season. If you’ve been in a store in the past 10 days, you’ll know retailers are not letting us dig to the bottom of our kids’ Halloween bags for those last few Milk Duds before they start tempting us with candy canes and tinned popcorn.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot Thanksgiving. When the average person manages to cram away between 3,000 and 7,000 calories. In one day.

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Is TV Helping or Harming Our Kids

I love TV. In fact, I’ve written posts for this site declaring my love for reality TV junk and pretending I’m BFFs with Sue Sylvester and Pam Beesly-Halpert.

But I’m an adult and have come to grips with my weakness for Glee. When it comes to choosing appropriate shows for my impressionable kiddos, however, the waters become muddied. Am I selecting the right programs? Am I banished to mom purgatory for letting them watch at all so I can get a bathroom break?

A couple of months ago, my colleague, Sharon, wrote a great article on the controversy surrounding the Your Baby Can Read DVDs. Then lo and behold, last week, a national debate began pinning those against the system versus those who swear by its effectiveness. While many parents understand that TV can’t replace human interaction when it comes to teaching our children, they wonder if a middle ground exists.

Dr. Sophia Pierroutsakos, child development expert, associate professor of psychology at St. Louis Community College-Meramec and mother of an 8-year-old and 15-month-old, noted that researchers don’t fully know what the long-term consequences are for toddlers who watch TV, mainly because things like Your Baby Can Read and 24-hour kids’ networks are relatively new phenomena. However, she referred to studies that showed babies from 8 months to 17 months of age who watch TV an hour a day average a 17-point decline on a cognitive and language development scale. Children the same age who are read to every day see a 7-point increase over the average on that same scale.

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I Will Grow Up

Growing up is not exactly a pleasant experience for any of us. Except when it is. Mo Willems Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion, the last installment of his beloved Knuffle Bunny series, captures this double-sided reality perfectly. While comic in a way that is signature Willems, the story is also a touch sad and maybe best read sometime other than bedtime.

Knuffle Bunny Free opens on Trixie’s ever-expanding world. She, her parents and Knuffle Bunny are taking a trip to Holland to visit Trixie’s grandparents. As usual, Knuffle Bunny gets lost – only this time, he winds up much farther away than another neighborhood. He winds up in China.

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I Am Lame According to Toyota

Earlier this summer, I wrote a post about how I love the Toyota Sienna Swagger Wagon commercials. I crave them like I do 30 Rock and Modern Family. I think they’re a riot, and they give me a hankerin’ for a minivan.  In fact, I draw hearts and NP + TS on Sienna pictures I rip out from magazines before I tape them in my locker.

Then Toyota rolled out the campaign for the Highlander featuring some snarky little smart aleck, and I hit the brakes on my Toyota girl crush.

Now, I love the Highlander. My dad, Big Al, drives one, and I think it’s fabulous.

What I don’t like is a snide, too-hip-for-the-room elementary schooler talking smack about his parents.

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Refusing to Switch the Skinny Jeans for Mom Jeans

At the end of summer, my friend and I were discussing our fashion needs for fall and mentioned our mutual desire to pick up some skinny jeans. While I didn’t think the skinny jeans/flats combo worked on my body, I was excited to pair them with some knee-high boots I had stuffed away in the closet. All was right in Mommy Land.

However, a couple of days later, my friend went on Facebook and questioned her decision to purchase said skinny jeans. That’s when the floodgates opened and all hell broke loose in Mommy Land. By the responses she received, you would expect my friend to be parading down the street in a Lady Gaga meat dress. Almost all of our fellow mommies rallied against the purchase of the skinny jeans and noted how silly they look on women our age.

Yikes! My friend and I both flew into a tizzy (yes, I said tizzy) which fueled our nonstop skinny jean debate – “Should we buy them? Will we look dumb? Maybe I’ll just purchase a cheap pair from Old Navy and see how they work.”

I know, I know. Stressing over a stupid pair of jeans – it’s ridiculous. But it got me thinking – why can’t a mom still follow fashion trends, within reason, after the baby arrives?

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How Sick Is Too Sick for School

The first rounds of seasonal colds struck our household last week. I try not to be a worrier when it comes to colds, but one son is prone to ear infections and the other to asthma-like breathing problems, so we are no strangers at the doctor’s office.

This time, although our nurse practitioner confirmed that my 7-year-old had indeed brought home a viral cold, there was no ear infection, and she was ambivalent about whether he should stay home from school the rest of the day. That response seemed a little peculiar until I looked into it, and it turns out the medical community is pretty much in agreement that kids are going to get colds, so if they are energetic enough to follow through with the normal school day, a sniffle or a cough need not keep them home.

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Things to Do

Toddler Tinker Time
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Bring your little ones to Toddler Tinker Time at The Magic House for special experiences designed especially for preschoolers. Weekday mornings, families will enjoy hands-on activities in the Art Studio, plus private playtime featuring limited capacity in Wonder Works and Wonder Why.

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Snow Town at The Magic House

Plan your visit to Snow Town, an outdoor adventure at The Magic House complete with a Snowball Carnival, featuring whimsical winter outdoor games, a variety of snowball-themed carnival booths, snowball putt putt and lots more! This completely outdoor experience is SNOW much fun!

 

 

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Open Gym at Miss Kelly's Gym
Friday, February 26, 2021

Kids can work on existing gym skills, learn new skills or just play around during Open Gym at Miss Kelly's Gym. Space is limited to 10 kids per session. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

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Spring Break Camps Offer a Variety of Activities for Kids and Teens in St. Louis

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SLSO's Soundlab for Families Offers an Exploration of the Power of Music

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