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Dieting Was Never About Your Health: Diet Culture Lies We Believe

“You do not win by struggling at the top of a caste system, you win by refusing to be trapped within one at all.” – Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf

In college I remember trying everything I could to make my body smaller. Laxatives, Atkins diet (basically keto), excessive exercise, diet pills, trying to become vegetarian, binging and purging, smoking cigarettes to curb my appetite. But the end result was always the same, whatever weight I did lose I would eventually gain it back. I knew this because I would get on a scale multiple times per day as a way to try to keep myself motivated. Surely if I could just become smaller I would be prettier and then I would be happier. The goal was always a vain attempt to look like the other girls in college that seemed effortlessly tiny and beautiful. Unfortunately this vicious cycle did not stop in college, in fact it only got worse after each pregnancy until finally I had to look inward and do the real work…but we’ll get that in a minute. 

Unfortunately my experience with disordered eating and overexercising is far from unique. According to the National Association of Eating Disorders (NEDA), “91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting.” This means 9 out of every 10 women have thought about or have tried some type of diet to obtain society’s view of perfection. It is not surprising that girls and women feel extreme pressure to try to achieve the “ideal body” portrayed in the media. Some estimates show that young girls are subjected to 400-600 images of beauty every single day through different forms of media. 

However, as I write this article, I want to make it very clear that I am writing from a “thin privilege” lens. Unsure what that means? Let’s break it down in simple terms, and if you feel defensive about this, please try to keep an open mind. Thin privilege means that you have never experienced discrimination, shaming, or access to resources based on your body size.

Now, does this mean that you’ve never struggled with your relationship with your body? No.

Does this mean that you even like your body? Also, no.

But it is vitally important that we are capable of acknowledging these injustices so that we can move toward more equitable treatment to folks in ALL bodies, and not just those in smaller bodies. 

So the question becomes, what is the root of this problem and how can we begin to work toward change? To answer the first part of this question, I present you with two words: diet culture. Christy Harrison is an anti-diet registered dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, and weight inclusive provider, defines diet culture as the following: 

“Diet culture” is a system of beliefs that…

  • Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
  • Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
  • Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this, I completely understand. There is so much to unpack and unlearn because the truth is that for many (most?) diet culture is so ingrained in our way of life that it’s hard to step away and see just how pervasive it has become. But there is another way and while that path is not easy or linear, I do promise that it is worth the time and energy.

Stepping away from diet culture demands that we stop equating thinness with healthiness and take a long hard look at the true markers of health. I often wonder, what would we accomplish if spent less time simply trying to make our bodies smaller in an attempt to upload an unattainable societal standard?

My reason for being passionate about dismantling diet culture will always be multi-factorial – for my children, for myself and for all the women that have never felt the freedom to show up just as they are, without apology or explanation. What if we stopped talking about diets, stopped talking about shrinking our body, stopped lamenting over clothes that no longer fit, stopped pouring money into diet products that only hope we “fail” and prove to ourselves that we are more than a body? What if we really understood that our body will change many times over our lifetime and this has absolutely nothing to do with our worth?

We are more than the form that we present to the world. We are thinkers, lovers, mothers, friends, world changers, and the shape of our body has absolutely nothing to do with how well we do any of these things! I challenge you to take baby steps towards moving in ways that bring you joy, learn to eat all the foods without labeling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, practice giving yourself a bit more grace, and spend more time doing things you actually enjoy.

Please hear this: YOU ARE WORTH IT. 

Your Neighborhood Is What You Make It

For years (even before we had kids!) I had dreamed of living in a neighborhood where kids played outside together, neighbors got to know each other and became friends, and there was a real sense of community. Funny enough, my husband and I viewed one particular Wichita neighborhood that way starting when we were just dating in high school and had friends who lived there. They had all kinds of neighborhood amenities and the kids who had grown up living there all seemed to be close friends. When a house came up for sale in that neighborhood two summers ago with all the things we wanted, we jumped on it. We went to the open house, scheduled a showing for the next day, and put an offer on it without our families even knowing we were looking!

Shortly after closing, I had my girls at the playground and ran into another mom with kids who were similar ages. We started chatting and she said, ‘I wish there were more opportunities to meet neighbors! I feel like we don’t really know anyone!’ Wait, what? To be fair, the HOA had continued the sweet neighborhood traditions of annual Easter egg hunts and 4th of July parades (long after their own children were too old to enjoy them) and there are great common area amenities, but clearly that wasn’t enough.

That conversation got my wheels turning, and I decided I was going to help make this neighborhood the one I’d dreamed about.

Let me preface with this – I didn’t expect change overnight and I knew I would need help. I was already stretched thin with my own kids, running a small business, and having a husband that travels for work, but this was also so important to me. I was able to find a girlfriend in the neighborhood who was dreaming of the same thing and she and I started forming a team of other women who could help. Our first step was making a private Facebook page for neighbors to join and communicate with each other – People share neighborhood concerns, post about pick up sand volleyball games, ask for recommendations, and pass on items their kids have outgrown. It’s also the easiest way for us to post about neighborhood events. We did end up getting HOA approval, but we were also sure to clarify in the group description that the group is not affiliated with our neighborhood HOA (although the board members are part of the group!).

Once we had the group and everyone was adding neighbors near them that they knew, we had a way to share about upcoming neighborhood happenings and started planning. We started with a summer kickoff party last May on the last day of school with baby pools full of shaving cream and water beads, water gun fights, a big slip and slide, and popsicles. It was a huge hit and we had a great turnout! From there we started dreaming about and planning more fun events – an outdoor movie night with a projector and blow up screen on our tennis courts, an adult swim night at the pool, a mom and me craft afternoon at the clubhouse where we made alcohol art tile coasters, pizza and showing off costumes at the clubhouse before trick-or-treating on Halloween (huge win for parents since they don’t have to make dinner!,) and a women’s favorite things party in December!

This spring was hard without any in person events, so we adapted our annual Easter egg hunt to work with social distancing, took part in the area scavenger hunts, and had a couple fun food trucks (donuts and sno cones are always a hit!) come through the neighborhood.

In the works still – and dependent on what social distancing guidelines end up being for the rest of the year – are a doggy swim the day the pool closes, a progressive dinner throughout the neighborhood, bingo/bunko/wine nights for the ladies, craft beer and poker nights for the guys, a fun fall football afternoon with the games on, grilled food, and yard games, and a chili competition. The options are endless, and they don’t have to be anything that requires a lot of planning and/or money. Our HOA was thrilled we were taking this on and graciously offered to help cover each event, but even without that, so many of these are easily doable – especially if you’re spreading the cost between several people!

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking it seems completely overwhelming. Just start small! Strike up conversations at the playground or when you’re on a walk – Be a friendly face for another mom! Keep your garage open when you get home and see if any of your neighbors are outside and introduce yourself. Have your kids play in the front yard and meet other kids playing outside – Kids are the best ice breaker! Like I mentioned previously, you probably won’t see a change overnight. There have been events we planned that only a few neighbors showed up to – but they’ve also been neighbors I may not have otherwise met, so I still think they were worthwhile! I truly think you’ll be surprised to find how many other people are seeking community in their neighborhood and sometimes you just have to take the first step to create it!

Breastfeeding Triplets: Sharing Our Journey

When we first discovered we were expecting triplets, besides the joy of becoming an instant family of five, we were overwhelmed with doubts and concerns. Trying to figure out if breastfeeding triplets was a real option or just a dream filled us with even more doubts and concerns. 

I started reading whatever I found about breastfeeding multiples, mostly from books because 11 years ago you couldn’t just google your questions. Soon I realized that what I needed to do was to reach out to the world’s experts in the subject: Multiple Moms!  As H1N1 was hitting hard, and social contact was not recommended for pregnant women, I joined a Yahoo group for multiple families -that was technology in 2009. The response I got from that group was amazing. The experiences shared were so many and so different from each other. Some moms told me they weren’t able to breastfeed their multiples at all because of stress, lack of help, or the need to go back to work just after a couple of months. Some moms did a mix of breastfeeding and formula, others recommended pumping and giving bottles with their milk to all the babies at the same time. All of them were eager to share their experience, their tips, their lives rising more than one baby at the time. And even when I never got a unique answer about anything I asked, not a single one of those moms told me that breastfeeding was going to be impossible for me.  

Our triplets: a couple of weeks old in the left and three months old in the right.

Our babies were born after 36 weeks of pregnancy, weighing 5, 5, and 6 pounds. They were healthy babies but small enough to spend some days in neonatology, so they were first fed with pumped milk through very smalls syringes. They were three days old when I started breastfeeding them: I felt so blessed, so grateful, so connected with my babies. They were so tiny and still not completely mature that they took 45 to 60 minutes to finish each meal. As I was not allowed to feed more than one baby at the time – a weird rule at that hospital- when I finished with the third baby, the first one was crying again! No one can breastfeed 24 hours a day, and I wasn’t the exception. I continue pumping so my babies could have my milk whenever they need it, but I also could be able to sleep and take a shower from time to time, you know, all that luxury things new moms naively expect to do!

Things changed as soon as we left the hospital. I remember it like it was yesterday – the first hour at home with our three babies, they were all three of them hungry at the same time. My wife fed one of the babies a bottle with the milk I pumped the night before and I breastfed the other two in tandem for the very first time!

After that, tandem breastfeeding was the rule. We were very careful that the babies were rotating so they could not get used to only one side and also that everyone has their chance to breastfeed alone from time to time. We used a special pillow to help with the babies’ position, which was particularly helpful as the babies grew heavier. I found out that one of my babies was struggling at having enough milk in a reasonable amount of time if he was alone, but having another baby breastfeeding at the same time helped him a lot: the stimulus produced for the more mature baby improved the amount of milk for both of them! 

It was not so long when we needed to complement maternal milk, but we always prioritize breastfeeding.  During the first months, we fed them at night using bottles: when one of the babies woke up, we woke up the other two and fed them at the same time, so everyone could have at least 2 hours of continuous sleep. As the babies grew older and everybody became more experienced, the meals were shorter and more efficient and I stopped pumping. At that point, breastfeeding them at night was the easier and simpler option: I never left my bed, my wife could go back to sleep as soon as she brought the hungry baby to me and no one was woken up if it wasn’t necessary. 

These are the shareable pictures I have breastfeeding my babies. The first one was taken at the hospital, and the other two at home. The pump I was using is visible in the second picture.

My babies stopped breastfeeding when they were 10 months old. I was sad at that time and took me a while – you can count that while in years – to realize that far from failing to my children for being unable to continue producing milk, my body had made an incredible job for a very long time. We moms are often so hard on ourselves! 

Breastfeeding triplets was hard and exhausting. But without a doubt, it was an amazing journey. And even when I was the one physically doing it, it was not a personal but a team’s success. If you are a multiple mom, or you are becoming one, the best thing you can do, no matter if you want to breastfeed your babies or not – that it’s up to you and your circumstances! – it’s to create your own tribe. Of course, you will want your partner, your family, and your friends at your side, but be sure to make enough space for other moms.

Believe me, having the support of others that have experienced what you are about to live it’s extremely helpful and from the emotional point of view, it’s just priceless. I made great lasting friendships from the group of multiple moms I joined during my pregnancy. And even when with most of them, we never met in person, I will be forever grateful for the presence of every and each one of those moms in my life, and for the love and support they offered.

Everything You Need to Know Before You Get Hair Extensions

One gift we all received this spring was plenty of time to think about our next hair appointment. Other than some temporary color, I did not attempt any salon-level experiences at home. I didn’t cut my split ends, I didn’t color my roots, and I somehow never gave in to the urge to cut my own bangs! Instead I’ve been planning all the things I can have done to my hair once salons reopen and it’s at last my turn in the stylist’s chair.

I have been wearing my hair chin-length with the ends straight and blunt. But now that I’ve got some unanticipated extra length, I’m remembering the fun of having longer hair. Over the holidays I rocked some mid-length hair extensions that matched my current color and gave me some dramatic volume and a few extra inches of length.

In all honesty, despite being excited about the whole idea of mermaid hair for Christmas pictures, I nearly canceled my appointment and definitely asked for a shorter style completely out of fear. I hadn’t done much research going to my appointment (despite promising I would) and I had a lot of concerns about headaches and style restrictions.

Blessed with an excellent stylist (who is also a good friend), she was able to answer my questions, adjust the original plan, and she gave me extensions that really worked for me. If you too have been thinking about hair extensions, here are a few things I learned. My stylist, Hali McCord, helped me out with the technical stuff.  Her responses are included.

Before Your Appointment

  1. Find a stylist who is certified. And while we are on the subject of stylists, find one who isn’t pushy and who listens to what you want and can recognize uncertainty on your face!Hali: A certified stylist is important because this means they have physically put in the hours, expense, and oftentimes travel in order to invest in learning a new method. There are far too many stylists claiming to be educated in various extension methods but have only watched a YouTube video.
  2. Make sure you are comfortable with the source of your extensions. Quality extensions are made from human hair. It was important to me that the hair being sewn onto my head was sold and purchased fairly and ethically.Hali: Women, children, and even sometimes men can be targeted, assaulted and even sold for their hair as well as trafficked for other physical desires.
  3. Ask your stylist how long you’ll be in the chair, I was surprised that it was several hours to apply, cut, and style. I actually took the morning off work.Hali: Every extension installation should include a blending haircut to give you the most natural blended look, and an informative styling session so that you are prepared to take care of your new hair at-home.
  4. Make sure you have clear expectations and your stylist knows your hair extension goals.  Do you want length and volume, or just a little extra fullness?
  5. Extensions are not cheap. If they are sourced ethically and applied correctly, they will set you back. And you should have good products and shampoo to keep them healthy.  Ask before you book so you don’t end up with sticker-shock at the register.Hali: If you intend to invest in hair extensions plan to also invest in QUALITY products suggest by YOUR stylist that installed the extensions. Not some know-it all on the internet. Your stylist is investing in you by giving her time to provide a lengthy service- trust his or her product knowledge and recommendations.

After Your Appointment

  1. Be prepared to not wash your hair every day.Hali: This is much healthier for your hair and helps your natural hair to grow out and be nourished by the natural oils on your scalp.
  2. Be prepared for the tightness at first. (no high ponys or updos for the first few days/weeks) And maybe a slight headache from carrying the weight. I adjusted very quickly.Hali: Adhering to this will help give you longevity between installations and reduce tension at the scalp.
  3. Check on texture. I straightened or curled my hair when I had extensions but did not air dry because my extensions were much smoother than my natural hair. I did have the added benefit of going days between washes and my hair still had lots of body.  Even in a low pony, my hair was full and shiny. 
  4. Have excellent products. Extensions are being fed and nurtured only by what you put on them. This isn’t the place to save money. Get the good stuff and support your investment. Also be sure you have a quality brush with looped bristles that cannot catch on the extension seam.

 

Follow-Up & Maintenance

  1. Ask questions. I have zero hair skills but I asked about the application process, the certification process, and exactly HOW these were going to stay in my soft, fine hair.Hali: There are many different extension installation methods but as Kristina’s stylist I decided that the JZ Styles beaded row technique with a Co-Z weft was the best for her hair density, texture, scalp health/ integrity, and maintenance level.  
  2. I do not have a “tender head” and I have a very gentle stylist.  But be sure if you’re in pain, you say something so they loosen up the tension a little bit.Hali: Amen, hallelujah. We want this to be exciting not painful – communication is KEY.
  3. Keep any and all follow up appointments and stay in touch with your stylist. I had a little plastic end that needed to be re-tucked after a few nights’ sleep. I was tempted to suffer though it but instead called my stylist and asked if this was normal. She fixed it right away and this made styling my hair much easier.Hali: Sticking to the maintenance schedule will maintain the integrity of your scalp and the extensions, as well as making the move-up appointments faster and keep your hair feeling and looking fabulous.

Extensions might not be right for you if you plan to spend all summer at the pool, lake, beach, or otherwise in a wet environment, which is something I didn’t know at first. But if your summer is looking a little different this year, this might be the perfect time to try something new and fun. 

Practical Advice for the Exclusively Pumping Mom

A week after my twins were born, the only thing holding them back from being able to come home from the hospital was being able to eat without being fed breastmilk through an NG tube. They were not strong enough to be successful at nursing at this point, so we decided to introduce bottles, assuming we could work at figuring out the boob thing once we got home. Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen. One of them would literally turn her head away when I’d try to get her to latch. After a few visits to the lactation clinic and realizing the logistics of the “feeding-twins-who-don’t-care-to-participate” debacle, I decided to just continue pumping and bottle feeding. I was so fortunate to have established a great supply, and their pediatrician encouraged me to continue providing them breastmilk for as long as possible because they were born premature in the middle of flu season. Over the course of the next eight months, I experienced a huge spectrum of emotions and learned a few lessons along the way. While the technical aspects of exclusively pumping will vary from person to person – like which pump is right for you, what schedule to follow, how to increase supply, etc., I’m here to share my practical advice for the exclusively pumping mama.

First things first, let go of the guilt and look for the silver linings. Whatever the situation was that led you to the pumping route, know that your baby is so lucky to have a mommy who is doing whatever it takes to make sure that they are fed – be it breastmilk straight from the tap or from a bottle, or with formula or some combination of the three. Fed truly is best, and you truly are enough. Plus, there are some awesome perks to exclusively pumping that shouldn’t be overlooked! Bottle feeding means that your partner can have an equal hand in mealtime, which was especially important with two babies. You’re also saving money, since you aren’t buying formula (but don’t worry, you’ll make up for the money savings with the amount of stupid stuff you buy online while browsing your phone in the middle of the night after you buy the hands-free bra mentioned later). Perhaps the biggest perk of all, however, is having the perfect excuse to get out of nearly any situation. Do you have guests over to see the baby and you’re feeling a bit irritable or overwhelmed? Sorry guys, the boobies are calling. Gotta duck away for a bit! Then proceed to lock yourself in a quiet room for half an hour and listen to a podcast, or watch the show nobody else in the house wants to watch. This is your new form of self-care. Milk it for all it’s worth.

Next up, get a hands-free bra. I’m not exaggerating when I say this is a GAME CHANGER. I tried holding the flanges in place, which was a total fail. Then I took the frugal route and tried cutting holes in an old sports bra, which didn’t work in the slightest. The flanges wouldn’t stay in place or maintain a good suction. When I finally purchased a hands-free pumping bra, it was like angels descended from the clouds, singing sweet songs. The way the holes are reinforced kept the flanges perfectly placed, and by doing so created enough pressure and suction so that my output increased significantly. On top of that, now my hands were freed up for things like feeding both babies when I was home alone, or tryign to catch up on dishes or laundry if they were sleeping (LOL still hasn’t happened). When I returned to work after maternity leave, I was able to shut my door and work through the pump breaks.

Speaking of returning to work – if that will be your reality, be upfront with your employer about the situation and what you require. At my original job, I had a private office and didn’t have to worry about anything except closing the door, hooking up to my gear, and getting back to work. Then I switched companies after a few months back to work, which had a very different setup and I was too embarrassed to advocate for myself (present-me wants to kick past-me for that). In a nutshell, that’s what led to the end of my pumping journey, so please learn from my mistake, and know your rights and what you are legally entitled to.

On a final note, one thing that new moms forget is to take care of themselves. I’ve said it time and time again, but you can’t pour from an empty well. Or in this case, you can’t get milk from an empty body. Make sure you’re staying hydrated and eating nourishing, nutritious, calorie-dense food. Now is not the time to diet or restrict your eating. I’d notice the biggest dip in my supply when I didn’t actively monitor my water and food intake – it got to the point where I would set reminders on my phone so I wouldn’t forget (I never, ever thought I’d be the kind of person who would FORGET TO EAT, but I also didn’t know the level of exhaustion that a newborn or two would bring). Make sure you’re taking care of yourself emotionally as well – which I know is so much easier said than done, but make it a priority to check in with yourself and find small things that bring you joy. The times where I felt extra-tired or extra-stressed manifested in a drastically lower supply – which is just another point of proof that babies need their mamas to be happy and healthy.

It’s been a while since this season of life for me, but exclusively pumping was such a huge piece of my postpartum journey. Like any part of motherhood, it wasn’t easy, but it was something I was happy to do for my babies and was genuinely sad when our time came to an end. Hopefully this advice from a veteran EP-er will prove to be valuable to someone in the trenches! Please feel free to reach out, I would be happy to share my experience.

6 Mountain Getaways Near Wichita (Under a 5 Hour Drive!)

I don’t know about you, but being quarantined has me jonesing for adventure — a picturesque landscape to visit and explore. I love the mountains, but living here in central Kansas, it’s pretty flat. 

Luckily, there are several areas within a few hours drive that can satisfy one’s longing for the mountains. I’m not talking big as the Rockies (those are an easy 8 hour shot due west) but some lower-scale, yet beautiful, ways to absorb cascading views in under 5 hours from Wichita.

*Be sure to check websites or call locations to check COVID 19 closures and restrictions.

Glass Mountain State Park, OK – 2hr 45min from Wichita

Nicknamed “Glass Mountains” for their shiny, glass-like composition, this is an easy drive and worth a day trip for the scenic views and good hiking. Picnic areas and restrooms are onsite, but no camping or lodging available, so make it a day trip, or choose to stay in a nearby community.

Also, be sure to make the short drive over to Alabaster Caverns State Park to dive into one of the largest gypsum caves in the world! 

Wichita Mountains, OK- 3hr 30min from Wichita

I am an Oklahoma Native, and this has been of my favorite quick getaways. This range in Southwest Oklahoma boasts a beautiful, western hills landscape, and it’s an easy drive! There are numerous campsites, lakes, rivers, and hiking areas to explore.

Be sure to visit:

  • Medicine Park, OK – a quaint, cobblestone community with shops, restaurants, cabin and room rentals. The Medicine Park Aquarium is a new attraction to enjoy!
  • Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge – wild buffalo, elk and deer, longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, and other animals can be observed in their habitat.
  • Holy City of the Wichitas – hike to the ruins of a city nearly 100 years old, built in tribute to biblical times.
  • Meers Restaurant- grab one of their famous long horn burgers while in the area!

Arbuckle Mountains, OK- 3hr 45min from Wichita

Just south of the OKC metro lies another beautiful terrain waiting for adventure offering lakes, waterfalls, camping, hiking, and ziplines.

Where to visit:

  • Turner Falls Park – a natural 77 foot waterfall lands in a pool good for swimming, relaxing and exploring.
  • Chickasaw National Recreation Area – a valley with plenty to do from wildlife viewing, picnics, hiking, camping, history tours, swimming and much more.
  • Arbuckle Wilderness – a drive through safari where you can feed the animals from your car!

Quartz Mountain Nature Park, OK- 4:30 from Wichita

This area also lies in Oklahoma’s southwest Wichita Mountains, but on the western edge. It offers several hiking trails, camp sites, golfing, and local lake. Both Quartz Mountain and Baldy Point offer rock climbing for the adventurous.

Where to visit:

  • Quartz Mountain Resort – visit the area and stay at here for a more posh mountain getaway with the family. 

San Bois Mountains, OK – 4hr 30min from Wichita

A good area to hunt, fish camp, and hike. The woodlands in this area add it its scenic wonder.
Where to visit:

  • Robbers Cave State Park – this area offers most of the outdoor activities you want to enjoy such as hiking, camping, picnic areas, and horse back riding. Two lakes are in the area, Lake Carlton and Lake Wayne Wallace. 

The Ozarks 

The Ozarks actually span 4 states: Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and even a small bit of Kansas, so there are plenty of options and locations to visit, some a bit further out however. I’ve listed ones worthy of a trip, within the 5 hour drive time frame.

Where to visit:

  • Devil’s Den State Park, AR, 4hr 30min from Wichita- this is one for hikers offering many trails ending in panoramic views. Plenty of camping and lodging nearby to enjoy.
  • Eureka Springs, AR, 4hr 30min from Wichita- a town nestled in the Ozarks that offers so much from dining, spa retreats, shopping, and of course, mountainous adventure in its surroundings.
  • Table Rock Lake, MO, 4hr 45min from Wichita- all the adventure that the mountains bring, plus a beautiful sprawling lake to enjoy. Visit to hike, fish, boat, and stay at an area resort or campsite.Happy trails to you! Wishing you and your family adventurous getaways!
 

25 Books your Preschooler Will Ask for Again and Again



As parents we are always looking forward to these glorious summer months….well, maybe not as excited as previous summers (thanks, COVID). But summer is here and it’s the perfect time to continue to foster and grow your child’s love for reading. Sometimes reading is dreaded and not something all kids enjoy. Knowing just how impactful reading is and how important it is even during the summer months, I’ve placed together a list of some of the top reads for our preschool kids. These books will captivate, engage, and keep your child wanting to read over and over again…even during all the summer fun!

Here are 25 amazing books that your preschooler will ask for again and again:

1. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: This book is such a classic. It holds their attention, makes them giggle, and you can even pair it with a fun activity to do in the kitchen.

2. Chicka Chicka BOOM BOOM by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault: This fun rhyming book is perfect for your preschooler who is working on mastering their ABCs.

3. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae: This amazing book is all about not putting limitations on yourself. This book is all about telling yourself that you can do it no matter what!

4. Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr.: Such a good book that helps with color and animal recognition.

5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: A classic that allows for your preschooler to interact, count, and to memorize and reach back to you (time and time again).

6. Lift The Flap, My Busy Day by Holly Bathie (Usborne Publishing): The perfect book for your preschooler who doesn’t handle transitions well. The perfect book for a preschooler starting preschool, or one who likes to visually see how a day will go. Little flaps that allow them to learn and read independently.

7. You Choose by Pippa Goodhart: A crowd favorite. This book allows for preschoolers to use their imagination, to dream, and to tell their own story. This book is truly one of a kind and is captivating.

8. Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney: You can never go wrong with any Llama Llama book. They all have the cutest stories to keep your child captivated and always a nice little “lesson” to go with!

9. The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen: A fun rhyming book that has the cutest under the see illustrations. A book that they will want to giggle to time and time again!

10. Fingertrail ABC by Felicity Brooks (Usborne Publishing): Is your child a hands-on learner? Do they need to see it, do it, and hear it for it to sink in? Then they will love this unique hands-on learning book. This book allows them to learn their ABCs in a new way.

11. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann: A classic book that your preschooler can read to you. They can also imagine and make up the words as they go based on the illustrations. Have them act like a Gorilla or pretend they’re the zookeeper. 

12. Lifesize Dinosaurs by Sophy Henn: Who doesn’t want to compare their teeth to those teeth of a dinosaur. This book is one of a kind! Your child is able to compare their features to the different dinosaurs within the book. Such a fun read and one they won’t want to go a day without reading. 

13. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: A beautiful story that has rhythmic text and beautifully expressive illustrations on every page. This book truly comes to life and will captivate your preschooler.

14. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin: This book has such a beautiful and loving message. This book encourages kids to be kind and to always be themselves, no matter what. A beautiful book with a beautiful storyline.

15. How to Make a Monster Smile by Tomi Schwandt (our very own local Author): This is a MUST read. Every home needs a copy of How to Make a Monster Smile. Not only will this book bring your child out of their funk but will turn any frown upside down.

16. Boy by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries: Truly a book that is perfect for any and all ages. This book is all about more communication and less fighting. The lead character in the book lives in silence. Even though he cannot hear the fights going on between the king and the dragon, he shows them in a profound way how to communicate.

17. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen: A classic book that will take the whole family on an adventure.

18. 1001 Things to spot on a Farm by G. Doherty: Any search and find lover will love this book. This book is perfect for car rides, appointments, and to have on hand so you can cook dinner in peace!

19. All Better by Henning Lohlein: This book is so unique and perfect for every preschooler. This book has reusable (laminated band-aids) stickers that match to the certain animals throughout the book. Not only can the work on animal matching but also color matching.

20. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett: A great book to read first and watch the movie second. Love how kids can use their imagination and giggle along the way.

21. I am Enough by Grace Byers: Every home needs this beautiful book. This book is all about loving who you are, being kind to others, and always showing respect.

22. Pete The Cat and the Missing Cupcake by James Dean: All of the Pete The Cat books are hilarious and captivating. The perfect books for those preschoolers that don’t like to sit still.

23. Good night, Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle: Do you have a truck or car lover? This fun picture book that has easy rhyming vocabulary will be perfect for them.

24. Unicorns in Uniforms by Russell Punter: This book is part of the Usborne Phonics reader family. A great book for the early stages of pre-reading and early reading that helps in developing phonemic awareness. Each phonics style book in this set has a parent guide at the end along with a QR code to listen to the book online.

25. Happy Pig Day by Mo Willems: The perfect first chapter book. Have a reader that wants to start reading chapter books? Start here! These books are perfect with short words and a silly storyline.


The above books are just a few of the amazing books that a preschooler will love to read this summer. Some amazing resources and places to find these amazing books are:


www.amazon.com
www.thriftbook.com
www.barnesandnoble.com
www.epic.com
www.vipbookworms.com

Why You Should Learn A Foreign Language

English is the most spoken language in the world. If your native language is another one – Spanish, Hindi, Russian, you name it – you have probably studied English since you were a child. Becoming proficient allows you to access better jobs, makes traveling a lot easier, and gives you a ticket to continue your studies abroad.  

You don’t question it, you know it will pay off sooner or later.

But what happens with native English speakers? If we do reverse thinking, you could arrive at the conclusion that learning a foreign language for English speakers is just a waste of time and money. But is it true?

I don’t think so.  

For starters, there are many jobs in health care, education, international business, tourism, national security, and social work among others, where being able to speak a second language makes you a more attractive candidate and a better-paid worker. But it’s not only that. Learning a foreign language will provide you with benefits that will make worthy the investment, no matter which language you speak at home, which age you are, or which are your career preferences.

It will boost your brain

When you learn a foreign language, you can’t avoid comparing, finding similarities and differences and establishing all kinds of relationships between your native language and the one (or ones) you are learning.  Some languages give objects gender and very often the assigned genders are different from one language to another (“the car” is “el carro” masc. in Spanish, and “la voiture” fem. in French). Some languages use one word to name very different things and its meaning is related to the context (“manzana” would be more usually an “apple”, but it also could be a “block”  if you are talking about the neighborhood).  You need to adapt your way of thinking about things.

Studies show that using your brain in this way makes you more focused and perceptive of your surroundings, more likely to perform better in standardized tests and remembering lists or sequences. You become more creative and able to develop solving problem skills – you are thinking out the box constantly and need to make decisions about which word to use or how to accommodate the grammar rules to the phrase you want to build in the new language.

It will delay aging decay

Kids are great at learning new languages and being completely fluent in them, the earlier they start, the better. I have the proof at home: my kids learned how to speak in English by immersion when we moved to the US during their second grade, three years ago. Six months later, they didn’t tell anybody at their summer camp they were not English speakers – and there was no need for that. The following year they met the requirements to exit the ESL (English as a Second Language) program at their school.  People who listen to them speaking in English often get surprised when I mention that their native language is, actually, Spanish.

But if you are an adult, even a senior adult, you still could get amazing benefits of learning a foreign language, and the good news is that you don’t need to be fluent to better avoid cognitive decay: you only need to try!  A scientific study, whose purpose was to determine the association between bilingualism and age at onset of dementia, showed that bilingual patients developed dementia 4.5 years later than the monolingual ones.

It’s not the good memory but the attention to the details what plays a more important role in dementia-delaying effects: it’s not the results but the process what benefits you!

It will deepen your connections and broaden your vision of the world

Being able to communicate in other people’s languages will deepen your connection and understanding of them. You will gain cross-cultural knowledge, as different words, metaphors, and frames, not only tell you about the language but more importantly, about the culture and the people behind that language.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf schools, believed that learning a foreign language was crucial in education. In his own words “Each language penetrates us differently and reveals human nature in a different way, which is why we must complement the effect of the mother tongue with other languages” in order to have a more integral perspective and ultimately developing as a complete human being.  

Empathy is improved by learning a foreign language, as you are more likely to consider someone’s else perspective. That was particularly demonstrated by Katherine Kinzler, professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, in a study conducted with monolingual and bilingual kids from ages 4 to 6.   In her new book How You Say It, she proposes a remarkably interesting theory on how language -and learning a new one- could help us overcome our deepest social divides. How cool that would be!

To wrap up, why not just try?

You don’t need to be fluent, just trying to learn a foreign language will improve your cognitive and social skills and will delay aging decay. 

There are many apps to learn languages at your fingertips range: some of them with free versions as Duolingo and others that are paid, as Mango Languages, to which Wichita Public Library cardholders have access to the full content.  According to the experts supporting the Microlearning Theory, you will only need between 5-15 minutes a day to learn a new language through a mobile device. If you want to take it further, now it is easier than ever to be in contact with native speakers of all over the world through the multiple communication tools available.

Top 10 Lakes with Swimming Beaches for Kids Around Wichita

Kansas summers are H-O-T, and what better way to stay cool than to splash around, take a dip in a local pool, or head to the beach! The Wichita area has some great lakes to explore with the family, and we have rounded up those with kid-friendly swimming beaches. 
 
Two things to consider if you are not from Kansas:
 
1. The lakes in Kansas are not clear, and this takes some getting used to if you are not from here. They are still safe and cool and so much fun!
 
2. Before you go, make sure to check the KDHE’s  algae advisories. *As of July 2020, Cheney Reservoir has a label of “Warning” meaning it is not safe to swim. 
 

Lakes with Swimming Beaches for Kids In and Around Wichita

Santa Fe Lake – 25 minutes from Wichita

– Amenities include: boating, fishing, two swimming beaches, camping, picnicking, biking, hiking, waterfall. 
– $8 day pass or $50 season pass 
– 11367 SW Shore Drive Augusta, KS 67010

Lake Afton – 30 minutes from Wichita

– Amenities include: 3 swimming areas, amenities include: boating, skiing, fishing, and camping. 
– $5 day permit.

– 24600 W. 39th St. S. Goddard, KS

Harvey County Lake – 35 minutes from Wichita

– Amenities include: camping, fishing, boating, two swimming lakes, playgrounds, trails, hiking, biking, horseback riding. 
– no fee for swimming only
East Lake
314 N East Lake Rd

Newton, KS 67114
West Lake
2733 West Park Rd.
Burrton, KS 67020

El Dorado – 45 minutes from Wichita

– Amenities include: hiking trails, camping, fishing, swimming, two beaches: Walnut River Beach and Bluestem Point. 
– $5 day permit. 
– 618 NE Bluestem Rd. El Dorado, KS

Cheney Lake (Reservoir) – 45 minutes from Wichita

– Amenities include: sailing, wind surfing, fishing, wildlife watching, swimming (stay close to the west shore lines). 
– $5 day pass. *swim beaches as of July 2020 closed due to algae
– 16000 N.E. 50TH ST., Cheney, KS 67025

Fall River – 1 hour and 17 minutes from Wichita

– Amenities include: beach in Quarry Bay, playgrounds, 6 hiking trails, camping, fishing. 
– 2381 Casner Creek Rd Fall River, KS 
 

Kanopolis – 1 hour and 50 minutes from Wichita

– Amenities include: hiking trails, swimming at South Shore and Langley Swimming Beach, fishing, camping, beautiful site-seeing, playgrounds, kids fishing pond. 
– 200 Horsethief Rd, Marquette, KS 67464
 

Elk City State Park – 2 hours from Wichita

– Amenities include: boating, a swim beach, camping, playgrounds, and hiking trails. The lake area offers picturesque views ranging from open prairie to wooded hills and limestone bluffs.
– 4825 Squaw Creek Rd, Independence, KS 67301
 

Wilson State Park – 2 hours from Wichita

– Considered to be “one of the most beautiful in the state of Kansas”
– Amenities include: trail, camping, boating, swimming beaches located at the Minooka Park Beach and Lucas Park Beach.
– No fees.
– 3 State Park Road, Sylvan Grove, KS 67481

Tuttle Creek State Park – 2 hours and 24 minutes from Wichita

– Amenities include: boating, picnicking, fishing, camping, hiking, biking, cabins for rent. River Pond Area has swimming beach. 
– 5800 River Pond Rd A, Manhattan, KS 66502
 

Five Waterfalls to Visit Near Wichita

Waterfalls in Kansas? Yes! There are waterfalls near Wichita. You may be surprised to hear there are many gorgeous waterfalls you can visit across the state. In fact, there are five that are two hours or less away from Wichita. So if you’re looking for a little day trip and an adventure, look no further!

Five Waterfalls to Visit Near Wichita

Butcher Falls  1hr 45min drive Southeast of Wichita

West of Sedan, Kansas, just off County Road 14, west of the fork where 14 meets Kansas Road. This waterfall is open to the public during daylight hours and limited to 100 yards above and below the falls.

Chase Lake Falls

Chase Lake Falls – 1hr 15min drive north of Wichita

This three tiered waterfall is east of Cottonwood Falls. You enter the Chase State Fishing lake east of town and park along the dam to walk over to the waterfall. We recommend taking the turnpike and get off at the Cassidy exit so you can take the scenic byway through the Flint Hills.

Cowley Lake Waterfalls – 1hr 15min drive south of Wichita

This waterfall is only 30 miles away from Butcher Falls, so you could make a day out of checking out both.  This waterfall is located 16 miles south of Arkansas City, off of Highway 166 at the Cowley State Fishing Lake.

Based on feedback from Facebook, this waterfall can be a steep hike to get to the bottom of it. Also there is a lot of broken glass on the ground, so good shoes are needed.

Cowley Lake Waterfall

Geary Falls – 1hr 45min drive north of Wichita

This is considered one of the best waterfalls in Kansas. It’s six miles south of Junction City off of Highway 77 inside Geary State Lake. This waterfall is said to be best in the spring or after big rains.

Santa Fe Lake Falls – 25 minute drive east of Wichita

These are the closest waterfalls near Wichita and worth going to check out. It’s inside Santa Fe Lake near Augusta. You do need to buy a day pass or annual pass to enter the park.  But once inside, you can hike to the waterfall and other areas, plus swim in the lake. It’s an easy getaway. Santa Fe Lake is also a great spot for an outdoor adventure! The falls here typically flow only when the lake is over full (April/May) so be sure to call before you visit.

16 Best Kid-Friendly Outdoor Adventures Around Wichita

There’s nothing we love more than getting outside, especially when it involves exploring, hiking, or biking around the Wichita area. We asked dozens of Wichita families, and below are some favorite kid-friendly outdoor adventures and spots local parents take their kids when they need to get out of the house.

Kid-Friendly Outdoor Adventures Around Wichita

Before visiting any parks or trails, we recommend checking their social media or websites to confirm they are open. 

EAST WICHITA

Chisolm Creek Park– East Wichita, entrances off of Woodlawn and Oliver
– K-96 Bike Path runs around the park
– Nature Trail 
– Great Plains Nature Center within the park
– Island Pond for fishing
 
– 1.25 mile walking path around the lake
– Lake stocked with fish
 
Red Bud Trail– Andover, East Wichita
– Hiking
– Biking
– 11.27 miles 80th St. and Perry Creek Road (Andover) and I-135 west of N. Minneapolis St. (Wichita)
– Trails are part concrete/paved, part gravel

WEST WICHITA

Pawnee Prairie Park – Southwest Wichita (Tyler Road entrance)
– Nature & hiking trails
– Bike path
– Dogs allowed
Swanson Park – West Wichita off of Maize Road
– Nature Trail
– Wildlife Habitat Area
 
Sedgwick County Park– West Wichita, near the zoo
– 4 miles of paths for walking/running 
– 4 miles of bike path

DOWNTOWN WICHITA 

– Walk the trail along the Arkansas River, starting near Exploration Place by the Keeper
– Bonus fun: find Wichita’s troll
– Other really great walking trails in downtown Wichita here

NEAR WICHITA (LESS THAN ONE HOUR DRIVE)

Santa Fe Lake Trail– Augusta 
need annual pass for $50 during CoronaVirus Crisis
– we recommend hiking to the waterfall (near the first parking lot)
– little beach for swimming
– hiking, biking, and dogs allowed
– 5 miles of walking trails
-woodlands, tallgrass prairie, and beach
 
Dillon Nature Center – Hutchinson
– 100 acre “wild arboretum”
– 3 miles of trails

NEAR WICHITA (MORE THAN ONE HOUR DRIVE)

– 40 miles of hiking trails
– Southwind Nature Trail 1.75 miles
– Fox Creek Trail 6 miles (possible turkey/deer sightings)
– potential for bison sighting 
 
Cowley State Fishing Lake – near Dexter/Ark City
– waterfall to hike to and several mini falls
– Recommendation to “wear shoes” and no pets
– Fishing allowed
– Near Dexter, home to Henry’s Candy Factory (where you can watch ribbon candy being made and taste test)
 
Geary State Park– Junction City
– beautiful waterfalls
– Fishing at Geary State Fishing Lake
 
Kanopolis State Park – near McPherson
–  25 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking
– Buffalo Track Nature Trail 1.5 miles with plants and wildlife (look for the caves!)
– Fishing
Butcher Falls – Sedan
– Located on Red Buffalo Ranch (open to public)
– Mini water falls and swimming hole with cliff jumping
 
Elk River Trail – Independence
– 15 miles of “the best hiking” in KS
– woodsy, streams & ravines, caverns
– near the edge of the Ozarks (and beautiful)

SCENIC DRIVES

– beautiful tallgrass prairie
– deep winding valleys carved by streams
– property off the roads is private
Gypsum Hills or Red Hills of Kansas – Medicine Lodge
– region of rolling hills, canyons, and buttes
– surrounded by red cedar trees
– “two of Kansas’ most picturesque landscapes”

Other Helpful Adventure Resources

 

Best Kid-Friendly Day Trips from Wichita

We are often asked for our favorite weekend getaways and day trips from Wichita, so we have compiled a list of suggestions straight from local moms. We love nothing more than to shake things up a bit by hopping in the car and hitting the open road. These would be great for the weekend or spring or summer break if you are hoping to stay nearby. 
 
To narrow it down, we decided to keep trip ideas to under a five hour distance, both inside and outside of Kansas. Additionally, many of the destinations mentioned offer far more than the things we’ve listed, but we’ve included those things recommended straight from Wichita moms. 

Day Trips from Wichita

Day Trips from Wichita: Kansas

Lindsborg, Kansas

(1 hour north of Wichita) known as “Little Sweden USA”, Lindsborg is a quaint town with art galleries, boutiques, and eateries. Recommended often when asked about day trips from Wichita. 
 
Outdoors + Parks  
Mushroom Rock State Park *technically Marquette, KS off of Highway 40, 5 acre park with sandstone concretions (large rocks that took the shape of mushrooms).
Coronado Heights (closed when flooded), includes a scenic overlook, fireplace in a “castle”, 3 mile bike trail, and picnic tables. 
Swensson Park – let the kids hop out and play on the Viking Valley Playground. 
Eats + Sips
Swedish Crown Restaurant – known for their authentic Swedish food and crepes, yum!
Ol Stuga Pub – the local Swedish pub that claims to serve “the best deli sandwiches in the midwest”
White Peacock – local coffee shop on the charming main street

Day Trips from WichitaSalina, Kansas 

(1 hour 20 minutes north of Wichita) We hear to make it a full day by combining Lindsborg and Salina and that the Rolling Hills Zoo is awesome! *And you get 50% off admission if you have a membership to the Sedgwick County Zoo. 
 

Day Trips from WichitaAbilene, Kansas

(1 hour 30 minutes north of Wichita) This is a great option to take the kids on a day trip, perfect for museum learning and wild-west reenactments. 
 
Attractions
Eisenhower Museum – If you grew up in Wichita, this was likely a field trip spot at one point or another, really great for WWII and history enthusiasts. 
Seelye Mansion – Named one of the 8 wonders of Kansas – architecture, it has preserved the historic home furnishings from 1904 (including original Edison light fixtures). 
Old Abilene Town – in the summer months, Historic Abilene has old western can-can dancers, gun fight reenactments, and more. 
Outdoors

Brown Park Waterfall – this would be a nice pit stop on the way home, previously an old mill, this land now has a waterfall (no signs leading to the waterfall as it is off the beaten path).


Day Trips from Wichita: Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma

(2 hours 30 minutes southeast of Wichita) It would be impossible to sum up all there is to do in Tulsa, so you can check that out the Tulsa Travel Guide here. But below are some of our favorites for a one-two day trip. 
 
Attractions 
Gathering Place – you could spend more than one day playing at this beautiful, FREE, riverfront park. It’s been voted as America’s best new attraction by USA Today, one of the World’s Coolest Places by Time Magazine. And did we mention there is no admission fee? *Our best tip is to arrive right when the park opens (9 am) on a Sunday to avoid the large crowds. 
Oklahoma Aquarium – technically in Jenks, OK, this aquarium is a family favorite! With a 300 pound sea turtle, shark tunnel (that you can walk under), and feeding schedules – this is easily a day trip as well. And there is a really great coral-themed playground when the weather is nice.
Eats + Sips
Bohemian Wood Fire Pizza  – this is such a cool lunch spot with delicious pizza, calzones, and cocktails. The ambiance is fun, and we suggest eating on their patio when the weather is nice.  
El Guapo’s – also a great option with a patio, delicious margaritas, and perfect to quench Mexican cravings. 

Day Trips from WichitaDay Trips from Wichita

Day Trips from WichitaOklahoma City, OK

(2 hours, 30 minutes south from Wichita) OKC is such a favorite for so many reasons – namely, it’s close and there are so many great things to do for kids of all ages. 
 
Attractions
Oklahoma City Zoo – a family favorite for sure, and a must-do is petting the sting rays and watching the sea lion presentation! *50% off admission with SCZ membership
Science Museum – 350,000 square feet of science, art, and history – this museum is every child’s dream *Free with Exploration Place Membership
Outdoor + Parks
Myriad Gardens – tour the beautiful gardens and also enjoy the surrounding splash parks and fountains *Free with Botanica Membership
Scissortail Park – the ultimate playground for children of all ages, water fountains, seasonal roller rinks, and more – this is a great way to get out energy. 
 
For more in-depth details about Visiting OKC – see below:

Day Trips from Wichita

Day Trips from WichitaDay Trips from Wichita

Little Sahara State Park (Waynoka, Oklahoma)

(2 hours 30 minutes southwest of Wichita) the central plain’s states very own “little desert”, this destination is a unique and fun option for families with older kiddos. 
 

Little Sahara State Park (Sand Dunes of OK) – voted the best riding spot for ATVs in the midwest, you can rent ATVs from private vendors and spend the day exploring the desert-like terrain for only $10/day.

Turner Falls (Davis, Oklahoma)

(3 hours 30 minutes south of Wichita) south central Oklahoma is a great place to explore with the entire family and is a true hidden gem. It could be a day or weekend trip – and if you choose to stay, we recommend staying in Sulphur, Oklahoma. 
 
Attractions & Outdoors
Turner Falls Park – this is such a unique and beautiful spot with hiking around the falls and all-day swimming adventures, perfect for a day trip.
Arbuckle Mountains – beautiful, wooded hikes great for the whole family (not too difficult for young children). 
Chickasaw Country – several from our team have stayed in Chickasaw Country (Sulphur, OK) and had great experiences.


Day Trips from Wichita: Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri

(2 hours 45 minutes northeast of Wichita) there is so much to do in Kansas City and surrounding suburbs from the downtown Plaza (especially during the holidays), restaurants and shopping, Crowne Center Plaza (ice skating), and more. Below are some of our reader favorites. 
Attractions
Union Station – an old train station, there are fun spots to eat, catch a movie, or traveling shows (it’s especially festive and fun during the holidays). 
Science City – this is an indoor and outdoor science center with maker studios, playground equipment, crafting, science, and more. *FREE with Exploration Place Membership.
Crown Center – a family dream with outdoor ice skating, shopping, dining and an art-loving kid-favorite: Kaleidoscope.
Sea Life KC Aquarium – sea dragons, an ocean tunnel to walk underneath, Sting Ray Bay, and more *50% off with SCZ membership.
Eats & Sips
Fritz’s – the restaurant where you order your food by phone, and an overhead train delivers your meal. 

Buca di Beppo – suggested over and over in our community groups, this Italian restaurant on the Plaza is a fan fave.

Day Trips from WichitaDay Trips from Wichita

Springfield, Missouri

(4 hours, 20 minutes east of Wichita) Near the beautiful Ozarks and considered the “gateway to the great outdoors”, there is plenty to do for families in Springfield. Because the distance is a bit further, it would be a great getaway choice – probably best for a weekend as opposed to a one-day trip. 
 
Attractions
Fantastic Caverns – enjoy a 55 minute ride-through cave tour via Jeep. 
Wonders of Wildlife – take the entire day to enjoy this part aquarium (1.5 million gallons!) and part wildlife gallery (3-D dioramas of wildlife habitats). 
Bass Pro Shop – you can spend hours in the national headquarters, or as they have deemed themselves the “grandaddy of all outdoors stores”.
Discovery Center – interactive hands-on science museum *Free with Exploration Place Membership

Day Trips from WichitaBranson, Missouri

(4 hours and 40 minutes southeast of Wichita, 50 minutes south of Springfield, MO) Branson is full of activities for families, both in warm and cold months. It definitely deserves a resource of its own as there are shows, museums, and tons of outdoor attractions including Table Rock Lake. 
 
Outdoors
Table Rock Lake – this lake is known for its clear waters, perfect for boating, water sports, swimming, fishing, and so much more. 
Hiking Trails – Branson is surrounded by beautiful, green wooded areas perfect for hiking and exploring. 
Top of the Rock Tour – take a top of the rock tour to experience the full view of the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake. 
Attractions
Silver Dollar City – a theme park complete with rides, a family raft adventure, shows, and tours of the Marvel Cave. 
Eats
Lambert’s Cafe – between Springfield and Branson, this restaurant is fun for the whole family and is known as “home of the throwed rolls” (where they actually throw rolls to you while you dine). We hear to go early, and there will still likely be a wait.
 


Day Trips from Wichita: Arkansas

Bentonville, Arkansas

(4 hours southeast of Wichita) Home of the Walmart Headquarters, we see this one recommended a lot in community groups. With it being a four hour drive, you could make it a day trip if you woke up early enough, or would be a great weekend trip with plenty to do. 
 
Attractions
Crystal Bridges Museum– with drop in art-making, preschool activities, and workshops for children, this art museum that combines art and nature is a must-visit for the family. And it’s connected to a 120 acre park with over 4 miles of walking paths.
Amazeum –  hands on learning activities throughout this museum *FREE with Exploration place membership
City Square – middle of the town near shopping, dining, parks, trails, and the Walton Five and Dime Museum. 

Fayetteville Arkansas

(4 hours 25 minutes southeast of Wichita) Home of the University of Arkansas, this quaint college town is great for a “daycation” or an extended stay for the weekend after visiting Bentonville. 
 
Attractions
Botanical Garden of the Ozarks – twelve themed gardens, a native butterfly house, and hands-on learning for children of all ages. *Free with Botanica Membership

Lake Fayetteville – rent a boat or bikes and explore the beautiful outdoors at Lake Fayetteville with a 5.5 mile nature trail surrounding the lake.


Other Helpful Resources:

 
 

Free Wichita Splash Parks and Fountains for Kids

Sedgwick County officials have announced that Wichita public pools and splash parks will likely not open until 2021, however many splash pads in towns surrounding ICT are up and running!

5 Reasons to Visit a Wichita Splash Pad This Summer:

1. The price.  You can’t beat free!

2. Safety. Splash pads are ideal for moms like me who are out-numbered by non-swimmers which make pool trips tough. {Any other moms out there think they need an extra pair of arms?} Once your kiddos are sitting solidly they can get in on the fun. If you have a child who is hesitant getting their face wet, splash parks are a great, fun way for them to ease into that too.

3. The schedule.  Unlike pools which have a shorter season, most splash pads will start operating mid-May and run through September. We all know that it can be scorching beyond Labor Day, so a splash park is a welcome opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, but still stay cool.

4. Flexibility.  Splash parks also have longer hours than most area outdoor pools which means you can fit in water fun before lunch without sacrificing the afternoon nap.  Or go for after dinner fun on those long summer nights.  Wichita Parks & Recreation water features operate from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.; other hours are noted below.

5. Variety.  Every splash park has something different to offer.  Do you want a standard synchronized geyser splash pad? Head to Riverside or New Market Square. Looking for more activities like water cannons and dumping buckets?  Try Osage or Fairmount. Are you choosing your splash pad based on proximity to dessert (no judgement!)? Visit Old Town and get a bowl of fro-yo at YO-B’s or gelato at Allegro Cafe.

Grab the suits, sunscreen, flip flops & towels – you’re ready to go!

 

Augusta

El Dorado

Goddard

Haysville

  • Haysville Splash Pad – 525 Sarah Lane Haysville, KS (9am-10pm)

Hutchinson

  • Avenue A Spray Park – Avenue A & Main Street, Hutchinson, KS (9am-9pm)
  • Fairgrounds Water Park – Severance & 23rd Avenue, Hutchinson, KS (9am-10pm)
  • Rice Park Splash Pad – 2112 N. Hendricks, Hutchinson KS 

Maize

Valley Center

 


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Everything Moms Need to Know About Fortnite

Three years ago, Fortnite was launched to become a worldwide phenomenon. As of 2019 there are over 250 million players and the game boasts the single-month record of players with 78.3 million in August 2018.As of 2019 there are over 250 million players and the game boasts the single-month record of players with 78.3 million in August 2018. I have been hearing and learning about Fortnite from my 2 sons who have been playing since the beginning.

Here is everything I learned from an in-depth interview with my 13 year old son:

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is a free to download game for PC, gaming consoles, iOS, and Android. Once downloaded you can play using the default options or you can spend money to purchase V-Bucks to purchase additional dances, skins, pick axes and gliders. The game has 2 options to play, Creative or Battle Royale. Creative is a map that you spawn and is a free-for-all. This is a great place to start as a beginner because you can practice building and fighting without playing against hard-core gamers. In Creative mode you are able to have friends join you and all can practice fighting and perfecting those sick dance moves we see on Tik Tok.

How do you play?

When you are ready to battle it out you can join a Battle Royale. There you will battle against other players to see who is the last person(s) standing. In non-competitive (read: not for money) you can play solo, duos or squads (4 person). In each Battle Royale you are playing against a total of 100 people and each battle is against you and your teammates. Arena is the competitive game and depending on the event you can win cash prizes.

During Battle Royale you skydive into the map to either a point of interest or a house. While battling to stay alive against the other players or teams, there is a storm circle that slowly closes in on the map causing damage points and killing players stuck in it. If you prefer to work smarter and not harder, you can build in the world instead of fighting to the death. You can use building materials to create shelters or places to hide in addition to walls and stairs to climb for better vantage points to view and shoot your enemies.

To start as a new player you automatically are at default. You have 1 skin, dance, pick axe and glider. You have the opportunity in each new season to buy the Battle Pass. This gives you additional skins and dances along with challenges to level up and earn additional items throughout the season. You can also use V-bucks to buy things from the item shop. All weapons, heals and shields can be found throughout the map and as you kill opponents you can collect their loot that they had found during the game.

One nice thing about Fortnite is that there is no blood or gore. When you die your character gets sent back to the lobby where you can start a new game or you can finish watching the match through the point of view of the player that killed you. If that player dies, your POV goes to the player that killed him.

As of July 2020, Fortnite has had 2 chapters; One chapter with 10 seasons and a second chapter with 3 seasons. Each season lasts roughly 10 weeks and includes a loose storyline and a major event that changes the map for the next season. In addition to the large events there are also minor events. These have included concerts by Marshmello and Travis Scott and crossover events with movies like Star Wars, Avengers and Ralph Breaks the Internet.

While the premise of the game is very simple, I have found my kids can spend hours playing every day. Because the players you face each game changes you have a different game every time you play. As you get more skilled you can level up and earn additional items and have the chance to win money and that is huge to kids. While the likelihood of that happening is minimal it gives them something to strive for and keeps them occupied when I need a minute.

Terminology:

Battlepass: Extra items to help the player in each season

Default: A new player who only has the original items provided at the start of the game

Loot/Loot Crate: Weapons and heals that are spread across the map to be found during Battle Royale

Skins: Costumes and characters you can buy or earn

Supply Drops: During Battle Royale games there are occasional supply drops that will fall from the sky with heals and weapons

V-Bucks (aka Vinderbucks): The electronic currency used in Fortnite

 

 

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