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The Fine Print on Vegetarian Options

At my son’s school, today was orientation day for returning families. When it came time to talk to the lunch coordinator, I asked the same question I’ve been bombarding her with since the year began: Why aren’t there more vegetarian options? My 7-year-old chooses to avoid meat, and I dutifully support him, but with only two or three meatless meals offered over the course of a month, and peanuts off the table as an option due to allergy concerns, I wind up packing a LOT of cheese sticks and crackers.

She replied that it depends on your definition of vegetarian – some pizza companies still use mozzarella and parmesan made with animal rennet, so technically that wouldn’t really be vegetarian either. As I sat pondering how to respond to this non-answer, the mom next to me paused in her paperwork and asked, “What’s rennet?”

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Not All Presents Have to be Plastic

Throughout the summer, our weekends are packed with birthday parties, including those of the little Ps.

Our toddler’s first birthday is just around the corner, and our families have been asking what they can get her for the big day. I’m at a total loss – we don’t even know what to get her. Not only does she have boxes of hand-me-down toys from her sister and cousins, but I myself get the shakes every time I see the plastic avalanche in the closet ready to engulf us when we open the door. Barbie and Polly Pocket are packed in there like it’s ladies’ night at a martini bar. 

So I started asking around to see what other options might be good for our little one as she approaches the big 1 and to help other parents facing the same dilemma.

Give unto others

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the gift of compassion. Instead of drowning your child in toys and gifts, give him one or two and let him choose books, art supplies and DVDs he can donate to a children’s nonprofit. For example, Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center's Patient Wish List outlines some great donation ideas. Or select a foster child through the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition’s Birthday Buddy program and ask your party guests to donate gifts to a child in need in honor of your son or daughter. Either way, your child can help brighten another kid’s day.

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Safe Sleep for Little Babies

Over the past two decades, infant deaths due to Sudden Infan

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Behind Peanut, Pumpkin and Pooh-Bear

A couple of years ago, my friend started calling his 3-month-old Matthew “Money” after the Weird Al Yankovic lyric – “I call him ‘Money’ for short.” The name became so engrained in the family’s life that one day when my friend’s wife mentioned planning a party for Matthew, my friend was confused for a moment who Matthew was.

As parents, we all come up with silly little nicknames that bond us to our kids, from the pointless (my husband and I call our 3-year-old by her initials although she already has an insanely short name. Three letters are a mouthful, man!) to the warm and fuzzy (my best friend calls her son Sam, Sam-a-Lam-a-Ding-Dong).

So why do we reach for nicknames after spending nine months choosing the perfect names for our little ones? It’s pretty simple, according to Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard and the brain behind “Baby nicknames are more for the parents than the babies," she said via e-mail. "We're expressing our emotions through the names. Also, a grown-up name like Sebastian or Victoria can be something you have to grow into. If your baby is being giggly or wiggly, a more giggly-wiggly name may fit the moment better. And the babies like that we're making silly sounds with big smiles on our faces!”

I love hearing how people come up with their nicknames, so I asked some friends to share the stories behind their choices.

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Mom Athletes Share Their Secrets

Think battling for dominance on the soccer field or roller derby rink is tough? Try following up two hours of heart-racing competition with a load of laundry, a stack of bills and two little ones needing baths. 

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Finally, Sunshine! Are Your Kids Ready for It?

On Saturday we headed out to play in the bubble jets at Tower Grove Park. In our eagerness to get out and enjoy the sunshine, I completely forgot to pack sunscreen.  During the summer I keep tubes and bottles of it everywhere – the car, my purse, the swim bag – but with the rainy spring, I was slow wrapping my head around the usual summertime routines. Luckily the boys didn't burn, but I sure did.

Turns out that more than two-thirds of youngsters are like mine were Saturday, playing in the sun without being adequately protected.

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Education Word of the Week: Summer Slide

A big question looming in many parent’s minds this time of year is “What can I do to help my child retain all the knowledge he gained this school year?” Educators call this loss of information summer slide, or summer setback.

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The Beach is Back

St. Louis is a wonderful place to live, but there are a few drawbacks to living in the middle of the country. Like no beach. But you don’t need to go all the way to Florida to enjoy a little sun and sand. The Magic House is making all our dreams come true with Sandcastle Beach! Ten truckloads of sand are transforming the backyard of The Magic House into a beachfront park. Take a stroll along the boardwalk, cool off under an ocean mister or relax under a beach umbrella while the little ones search for hidden shells. A world-champion sand sculptor is building a gigantic 75-ton sandcastle along the beach’s shore. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

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There is Much to Learn When at the Park

The experience that often makes me feel alone in my role as a stay-at-home father is when I take my daughter to the park on weekdays.

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Things to Do

Omnimax Movies at the Saint Louis Science Center

Catch a movie or two at the Saint Louis Science Center's OMNIMAX Theater, where films are shown featuring the IMAX with Laser. This state-of-the-art theater provides the sharpest images, unmatched sound quality and 40% greater color range than traditional theaters. The five-story, 80-foot-diameter dome will fill your entire field of vision providing a truly immersive experience. 

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Water Waddlers Indoor Drop-In Swim

Stop in and have some fun in the indoor pool at the Lodge of Des Peres with your little one at this drop-in swim time for kids up to age 6. No pre-registration is needed; Water Waddlers is open to residents and non-residents of Des Peres.

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Open Gym at Miss Kelly's Gym
Friday, March 31, 2023
Saturday, April 1, 2023
Friday, April 7, 2023

Kids can work on existing gym skills, learn new skills or just play around during Open Gym at Miss Kelly's Gym. Reservations are not necessary.

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Life Lessons Learned at Overnight Camp

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Day or sleepaway summer camp is the perfect place for teens to transition to the world of the employed. The paycheck is nice, but being a summer camp counselor has other rewards, too.

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Drawn In: The New Animated, Literacy-Boosting Series that's Made in STL

Tyler, Nevaeh, Jadyn, and Grace – the fearless foursome of the new animated series “Drawn In” – have captured the imagination of viewers in St. Louis and ignited their love of learning with every new adventure. The show was conceived, created, and produced in St. Louis, and the majority of voice talent is based in the metro area. You can catch it on Nine PBS.

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