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Hanukkah Movies and TV Episodes

Finding a list of favorite Christmas shows is as easy as finding your identical princess twin in a Hallmark movie.  Looking for Hanukkah movies or TV episodes for kids is like trying to find an A-list actor in a Hallmark movie.  As a 90s child, there was an episode of Rugrats that talked about Hanukkah.  Then in 2002, Adam Sandler’s film Eight Crazy Nights came out and earned Sandler a Golden Raspberry nomination for “Worst Actor in a Film”.  Fortunately, there are a lot more options for families celebrating Hanukkah who would like to see their holiday represented on the TV.

Full Court Miracle

This is my favorite Hanukkah movie to watch with the kids!  A young Jewish boy, Alex, wants nothing more than for his terrible basketball team to win a tournament.  They find a down on his luck former basketball player who is willing to coach them.  The film takes place during Hanukkah, and creates a really simple allegory for kids about Juda Maccabee and the oil meant for one night, lasting for eight.  Mix in a little Mighty Ducks style sports movie, and you’ve got a pretty good time!

An American Tail

While not exactly a Hanukkah movie, 1986 An American Tail follows a family of Russian, Jewish mice as they travel to America.  They hope to find a land with no cats and roads made of cheese!  The opening scene shows the family celebrating Hanukkah together.  Most of us remember the rest of the movie as Fievel is separated from his family, and must sing sad songs until he finds them again.  A lovely movie that still holds up with its great music and sweet story.

Love, Lights Hanukkah!

If you feel your kids must get their Hallmark fix, there actually is a Hallmark Hanukkah movie!  The 2020 Hallmark movie tells the story of a young woman named Christina who finds out she’s half Jewish.  She decides to reach out to her Jewish relatives and finds a family and, of course, a secret twin.  Just kidding, it’s love, she finds love!

Rugrats Hanukkah Season 4 Episode 1

“Hanukkah is that special time of year, between Christmas and misgivings when all the bestest holiday shows are on TV!”  The Rugrats Hanukkah episode features Tommy’s grandparents reading the story of Hanukkah.  It is told in such a charming and classic Rugrats way!  While Rugrats Passover episode is most remembered and (rightly) praised, their Hanukkah episode deserves just as much credit for it’s silliness and storytelling.

Elena of Avalor:  Festival of Lights Season 3 Episode 18

I’ve had the theme song of this show stuck in my head for about three days.  Feels only right that I give it some recognition for its Hanukkah episode.  In this episode, Elena helps Princess Rebecca throw a Hanukkah party.  The episode doesn’t feature any back story on Hanukkah.  Elena doesn’t get on her flying jaguar (yes, a flying jaguar) to go help the Maccabees defend their temple.  But we get a Jewish princess, classic Hanukkah imagery, and a new song to get stuck in your head for a few days! 

Nina’s World:  Nina Save Hanukkah Season 1 Episode 27

In this episode, Nina and her friends go on the hunt to find oil for their Hanukkah recipes and their menorah.  It once again is a very simple story.  They focus more on the symbols of Hanukkah then the actually history of the holiday.  Which can be perfect for the little kids who mainly associate Hanukkah with presents and chocolate gelt!

I’m happy to say there are so many more Hanukkah themed TV episodes.  I’ve not personally seen all of these but there is a great list below.  Get the family together and enjoy some Hanukkah stories with your kids’ favorite characters!

Bad Words

It’s bound to happen.  As many times as you try to say “shoot” not “s***”, or “fudge” not “f***”, you will inevitably use some bad words in front of your children.  Which your children will inevitably use in the worst place possible (school, church, visiting grandma).  I have taken care of a lot of kids and had some pretty fabulous moments listening to kids drop some word bombs! 

While kids will sometimes throw out a word they hear because they are looking for a reaction, the best times are when kids actually use curse words correctly.  Once while taking care of a four-year-old, she very sweetly asked me if she could carry her ice cream into the living room and eat it in front of the TV.  I told her that was fine, but walk very slowly and use both hands.  As she slowly approached the living room, being very careful to take her time and watch her step, she carefully placed her bowl on the table and it slipped off the edge and crashed to the floor.  The four-year-old let out a heavy sigh and said “well, s***”.  I stifled down a laugh as hard as I could and corrected her, “we say shoot”. 

Cursing is pretty easy to correct.  If you don’t make a big deal about the word they used and substitute it with an age-appropriate word, you can clean up your kid’s potty mouth.  Some of my favorite replacements are “shoot”, “fudge”, “oh my gosh”, “hot as hades”, and my personal favorite “cheese and rice” for Jesus Christ.

What is interesting is when kids use normal words that for some reason just rub me the wrong way.  Like “shut-up”.  Not a bad word, but when you hear a little one say it, it feels just as bad as cursing.  One of my little boys went through a “shut-up” phase around age three.  I was concerned because he had started pre-k and I didn’t want him telling friends or teachers to “shut-up”.  I had asked him to replace “shut-up” with “hush” and then went to talk to the teachers.  I walked into the three’s classroom full of boy wrestling and saying “you shut up”, “chair shut up”, “door shut up”.  I asked the two teachers “so when did this shut-up become a thing.”  The poor sleepy-eyed teacher said “I have no idea how this became a thing.  It has taken on a life of its own.”  One group email later, all parents agreed to try help our poor teachers out by recommending “hush” to all our shut-up-saying boys!

Another word that surprisingly rubbed me the wrong way was “whatever”.  For some reason the five-year-old came home and responded “whatever” to everything I asked him to do.  He still did everything he was asked but it was like he had a “whatever” tick now.  Finally at the end of the day I decided to squash the “whatever” use.  I asked him to please not use that word anymore.  He nodded knowingly at me and said “is that a grown-up only word?”  Yes.  Yes it is.

Once you have control over the inappropriate words and the annoying words, then you have to be ready for the potty words.  Good lord help me once kids start potty training.  Then everyone is a “poop-head” or a “pee-pee head”.  Then they start learning the proper terms for their body parts.  Once I picked up the four-year-old from pre-k.  He was in my car, buckled and ready to go.  As we were driving away, he spotted one of his little friends from class.  He asked if he could roll down the window and yell bye.  I said of course, and the four-year old proceeded to roll down the window and shout “HEY CHARLIE!  YOU’RE A PENIS!”  Charlie, unfazed and to the horror of his nanny screamed back, “YOU’RE A VAGINA!”  I quickly rolled up the window and sped away in shame.

We do the best we can!  We unfortunately can’t ask all adults to watch their mouths as we are out and about.   We also can’t expect all the videos they watch will be age appropriate.  You just have to do the best to keep it clean.  If there is any advice I could give about keeping kids from using bad language it would be DO NOT LAUGH! 

I Love Fall

This past Saturday, October 30th, I made a trip to the store to buy some last-minute Halloween napkins for a party.  I walked to the seasonal aisle and see a tiny section of Thanksgiving decorations, and an employee unloading piles of Christmas decorations!  It wasn’t even Halloween, and Christmas had officially walked into the store, and kicked all the fall décor to the curb.  The day after Halloween, my Facebook flooded with people asking if it was too early to decorate for Christmas. Christmas is a very fun time of year.  And I understand people wanting to start celebrating as soon as they can.  But this November, get all your fall experiences before the Christmas takeover begins.  Fall is a great time of year!  I know we all can’t wait for Christmas, but let’s show some appreciation for Fall!

Hiking and Camping

Central Texas has some amazing hiking trails and camping spots.  With the summer heat gone, fall is the best time to go camping and get outdoors.  It’s more fun to roast marshmallows by the fire when you can’t fry an egg on the sidewalk.  If you don’t feel like planning one giant camping trip, get out on the trails!  There are so many amazing hiking trails around Austin.  Without the heat suffocating you, you can actually enjoy being outside!.  Grab some water, snacks, maybe a fun scavenger hunt, and enjoy the fall weather!

Fall Festivals

October is not your only opportunity to enjoy a fall festival!  Pumpkins are still in season even though we won’t use them for Jack-o-lanterns!  All the wonderful farms surrounding this area have fall festivals going on through Thanksgiving.  It’s the perfect time to head out to the farms and enjoy some rides, pick some fruits and vegetables, and get into the season.

Drive-In Movies

The drive-in movies are a lot of fun here in central Texas.  A cool night, with a classic film, is a great way to enjoy the season.  Plenty of the drive-in’s offer smores packages.  Have some hot chocolate while watching a throw-back movie with your kids.  The Blue Starlite Drive-in is showing Friday Night Lights, The Goonies, and Adams Family Values this month.  The Globe Drive-in in Pflugerville is showing more mature movies but is screening of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Paw Patrol Movie, and Enchanted!

Fall Flavors

While pumpkin-spiced flavored things get all the credit this time of year, fall has some of the best flavors to enjoy.  I am a firm lover of all things apple-cinnamon.  And I have always found it incredibly offensive that pumpkin spice has become the flavor champion of fall!  Try out some of these amazing apple recipes!  Besides pumpkin, other squashes like butternut and spaghetti squash make some amazing recipes to enjoy.  Try some of these delicious uses of butternut squash while we actually have some cold weather!  But of course, do not forget the pumpkin.  Heck, they’ve got pumpkin flavored cheerios these days!

Feeling Thankful

With Thanksgiving upon us, teaching kids to be thankful and grateful is always good practice.  There are lots of ways to make kids grateful for the things they have. A big one is teaching kids how to donate.  Especially before they are about to get a lot of new toys for the Holidays.  Teach your kids the healthy practice of going through their toys and clothes and giving away things they no longer use or want.  Look at local churches, daycares or children’s hospitals for ideas of places to donate.  For clothes or toys that are in rough shape, there are great toy recycling programs through Hasboro.  Also look for “Buy Nothing” groups on Facebook.  It is amazing what people will take off your hands!

It is crazy to believe we are almost through fall and about to enter the Holiday season.  The last two years have felt like a big time-suck for a lot of us.  You have to work really hard to enjoy time before it flies by.  Let’s enjoy the fall while we have it!

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Ghost Stories

Halloween weekend is upon us!  Some good, old fashioned, scary story telling never ages.  I asked around friends and family for their favorite ghost stories from their childhood.  The nice thing about most of these stories, we have all heard them enough that we can put our own spin on it!  You can creep it up or creep it down.  Just remember, you reap what you sew with scary stories and kids.  You creep the story up, you will have a bunk mate for the evening.  Happy Halloween! 

La Llorona

  Once there was a beautiful woman named Xochitl.  She fell in love with a wealthy rancher.  They were married and had two children together.  One day Xochitl saw her husband kissing another woman.  In a fit of rage, she drowned her two children in the river by their house.  Realizing what she had done, Xochitl flung herself into the river drowning.  When Xochitl went up to heaven, they would not let her in until she finds her children.  So now she spends her days by the river, forever weeping and forever looking for her lost children.

Bloody Mary

There once was a little girl named Mary who lived in a cemetery with her family.  Her father was a gravedigger.  When he buried a body, he would always leave a string leading into the grave with a bell on the other end.  That way if anyone was buried alive, they could ring the bell and the gravedigger would be able to dig them up.

One day a terrible disease swept through the village.  It would cause people to fall into a deep sleep before dying.  They would check to see if the person was alive by placing a mirror under their nose.  If the mirror fogged up, then they were still alive.  Mary came home sick one day and fell into a deep sleep.  Her parents were devastated when they place the mirror under her nose and no breath fogged up the mirror.

They buried Mary behind their house in a grave with a string attached to a bell.  Shockingly, Mary wasn’t dead.  She awoke inside her coffin.  She pulled the string on the bell, but she pulled too hard and the string yanked the bell off its hook.  Days later her mother went to visit her grave, and saw the bell on the ground.  Realizing what happened they dug up Mary’s grave and found she died with a petrified look on her face and scratch marks on the ceiling of her coffin. 

To this day if you light a candle in your bathroom with the lights off and call Bloody Mary three times, Mary appears and scratches your eyes out!

Hook for a Hand

Once there was a teenage couple who went out on a date.  At the end of the night, they decided to go drive into the woods and gaze up at the stars.  As they are parked, they heard a radio story about an escaped inmate from the nearby insane asylum.  This inmate had previously killed several teenagers with his hook he had instead of a hand.  The girl got scared and decides she wants to go home.  The guy starts his car and pulls out of the woods when he hears a long scratching noise down the side of his car.  They continue home and when he gets out of his car to check the damage, he sees a hook stuck in the car door handle.

Babysitter ghost story

A young woman decided to take a babysitting job on Halloween night.  When she gets to the house the parents let her know the kids are already asleep.  She is welcome to watch TV until they get home.  The parents leave and the babysitter goes to check on the kids who are sound asleep in their beds. 

She comes downstairs and turns on the TV.  The house has a lot of odd collectibles all over the shelves.  The oddest being a statue next to the TV.  It appears to be a large gnome dressed in overalls and a small red hat.  Even though the gnome is just a statue, it makes her feel really uncomfortable.  She feels like it’s watching her.  She decides to take a blanket and place it over the gnome.  Then she plops on the couch and turns on a scary movie. 

After the movie is over, she gets a call from the parents checking in on their kids.  The babysitter goes upstairs, and the kids are still sounds asleep.  She tells the mom the kids are asleep and that everything is okay.  She asks if she can move the gnome statue because it is kind of creeping her out.  The mom pauses on the phone and says “we don’t have a gnome statue.”  The babysitter rushes down stairs to where the gnome statue was sitting next to the TV all night.  But all that is there is the white sheet on the floor.

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Nanny Tales: Potty Training

In my time as a nanny, I have had the pleasure (cough) of potty training four children.  I would never describe myself as an “expert in potty training.”  Mainly because it is a weird thing to brag about.  But I do have some hysterical stories from my attempts to help toddlers through this major milestone. 

Sam

When I started working for Sam’s family, he was about to turn three years old.  He had fully mastered peeing in the potty, but pooping was not going to happen.  Sam’s older brother Adam had been potty trained for several years.  The boys’ parents had used pennies as a way to encourage Adam to use the toilet, and were doing the same with Sam.  A common theme throughout all my potty training experiences is bribery.  More importantly, the right kind of bribery.  Now while Adam had been cool with getting a penny every time he used the potty, Sam didn’t really see the value in money.

I made the strategic decision to switch from pennies to M&Ms.  Sam would get one M&M if he peed in the potty, and two if he pooped.  After one day, Sam stomped into the kitchen and demanded “I WANT MY M&MS!’.  I calmly explained, he would have to go poop on the potty.  Sam turned on his heels, stomped into the bathroom, and let out a deafening trumpet of success.  He came stomping back out of the bathroom and declared “THERE”, and pointed to his masterpiece.  He received 2 M&Ms.

Lizzy

Sam’s little sister Lizzy had a different kind of adventure toward potty training.  Suddenly Lizzy would be missing for long stretches of time, and inevitably I’d find her in her mom’s closet pooping in her diaper.  It felt like it was time to start potty training.  We got out all the books, all the potty chairs, and the giant bag of M&Ms.  But as much as we talk about it, and sat on the potty, Lizzy would somehow disappear to go poop in Mom’s closet.  One day I even tried not putting a diaper on her, and watching her like a hawk so she couldn’t escape.  But somehow, she escaped from my site, and YES I had to clean poop off of the closet floor. 

As luck would have it, we were seeing her pediatrician that week.  I asked the doctor what the deal was.  Lizzy showed all the signs of being ready, but wouldn’t do the deed!  The pediatrician simply told me, Lizzy wasn’t ready.  Even though she was exhibiting the signs, Lizzy was still too scared.  I decided to leave all the potty-training things out, but I completely backed off.  We didn’t talk about it.  We didn’t practice it.  We just left everything alone.  Then one day, I was getting Lizzy ready for a bath.  I was focused on getting the water going when Lizzy gasped!  I turned and there she was sitting on her potty.  Her eyes were as big as saucers as we both listened to the pee go in the potty.  I screamed with excitement and showered Lizzy with kisses.  Adam and Sam ran in and we all had a big celebration around a little toilet filled with pee. 

Peter

I started taking care of Peter when he was eight weeks old.  I had learned by then to take my time with potty training.  When he is ready, he is ready.  Peter started showing the signs of being ready to potty train.  I’d come to get him at nap time, and would be greeted by a bare butt and a wet diaper dramatically flung across the room.  I lost Peter in the park for a few minutes and found him hidden behind a bush to pee.  It was obviously getting close to time.  I advised Peter’s mom to just buy a little potty to have for when Peter was ready.  That night when Peter’s mom showed him the potty, she simply explained that when he needs to poop and pee this is where he sits.  Peter shrugged and said “okay”, and proceeded to sit on the potty and pee and poop.  What.  The.  Heck?  It is never that easy.  NEVER!!  His mom and I hypothesized that at Peter’s Mother’s Day Out, there was a little girl in his class potty training.  We think he must have seen her and gotten used to the idea of using a potty before we even brought it up!  Maybe the universe decided to give me a break on the third toddler.  They knew I’d be potty training a lot of kids and thought “Make this one super easy to potty train.  Give her a break.  But then make him wet the bed for like four more years.  Don’t let her get cocky.”

Josie

Peter’s little sister Josie was my most recent potty trainee.  When you get to the fourth one, there just aren’t that many surprises.  Oh, you’re hiding behind the couch to go poop.  Oh, when I put you on the potty you hold it in because you’re afraid for it to come out.  Oh, there is a soaked diaper wedged in the back of your drawer.  The routine becomes the routine, and you just wait until they are ready to take the plunge.  She did ask if she could sit on my lap while she went to the bathroom.  That was a new one.  The one thing we had working for us was Josie’s love of accessories.  The idea of having her own princess underwear was a big selling point for potty training.  Then the understanding that if she peed, she would be peeing on one of her favorite characters!  Heck no, give me that potty chair!

Potty training is a literal dirty job, but I’m happy to do it.  If I could give any advice to parents, I’d say that potty training is like the weight loss secret of the kid world.  No you can’t do it in a weekend.  No there is no quick fix or easy way to do it.  It takes time, it takes patience, and if you keep at it you will reach your goal!

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I Forgot About That Part

One of the best things about Halloween is movies! We all have fond memories of watching classic Halloween films. It is natural to want to share these movies with our kids. Surely if we love these movies, they will love them too! Then you sit your kids down to watch a movie, and a scene comes up you forgot about. Maybe a joke you didn’t get as a kid, bad language you’d forgotten about, or a scene filled with nightmare fuel you repressed. Well I am here to help! Below is a short list of classic, family Halloween movies with some questionable humor. Humor that can lead to some interesting questions from your kids you may not be ready for! Now you can prepare yourself for those questions!

“What’s a Virgin?”

We are starting off strong with a Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus! The movie has a few sprinkles of adult humor. We all remember wondering what “yabbos” are, and the joke about the Sanderson sisters wanting to have children with the bus driver. But that main joke that permeates through the entire movie is about a teenager’s virginity. By the time you reach the end of the movie, it would be weird if you’re kids didn’t ask what a virgin is.

“Did Casper die?”

Casper is still a really fun movie to watch as a family. But it does offer a nice kick in the emotional gut when you learn Casper’s back story. Casper was a little boy who died. He then haunted his dad to the point of insanity. The littlest kids may miss this entire premise, buuuuuut it is pretty gut wrenching when you truly deal with the concept of ghosts.

“Are those yabbos?”

There are several amazing stop-motion animation films that are synonymous with Halloween. The Nightmare Before Christmas, Paranorman, Frankenweenie and Coraline all are about the same level of scary. All of these movies are a too scary for your littlest kids, but they are pretty age appropriate for upper elementary. BUT, while reassuring your kids the spooky images in these movies aren’t real, Coraline give you one (really two) more thing to speak to your children about.

“Uuuum, I have a lot of questions”

Beetlejuice is a hilarious movies. Michael Keaton is absolutely hysterical and I find something new to laugh at every time I see it. But to be honest, I don’t even understand how Beetlejuice is always on the list of “family friendly movies”. There are some funny visuals for kids. But between having to explain about suicide, to what a whore house is, leave this one on the shelf for the kids!

“Is she gonna marry that old man?”

Oh Labyrinth. How poorly this movie has aged. Not that the movie isn’t enjoyable. It certainly has great visuals and fun songs. It is a great choice for Halloween with its solid creep factor. But you can’t help but squirm as an adult, when 39 year old David Bowie keeps trying to seduce 16 year old Jennifer Connelly.

There are so many great Halloween movies to watch with kids! It can be tough to hold back on your favorite movies. We watched them when we were a kids, and we all turned out just fine. I mean, we were the people that made Fifty Shades a Grey a bestselling series. But those can’t possibly be related!

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A Trip to Mesa Rosa

I put out a post on Facebook asking for parents’ favorite place to take their kids for dinner.  This particular TexMex restaurant popped up several times.  I grabbed the six-year-old and the four-year-old and gave Mesa Rosa a try! 

I am a big weirdo because I love taking the kids out to dinner!  But I have very specific qualifications for restaurants I go to with the kids.  It must be a noisy restaurant.  Nobody wants to be that person with the loud, obnoxious kid in a restaurant.  But in noisy restaurants, if your toddler decides to hate the world, you only feel vaguely like you want to crawl under the table and hide. 

Having an outdoor section is also a big plus.  Sitting outside with kids, even when there isn’t a world ending pandemic, can help save a life!  Outside there are more things for kids to look at and enjoy.  They can be super noisy and you won’t be disturbing an entire restaurant.  I don’t think you need a playground to have a kid friendly restaurant, but I really appreciate how many Austin area restaurants do.  It’s nice to have a restaurant experience, that isn’t fast food related, where you can sit and enjoy your meal while the kids play on the playground.

It can’t be a breakable restaurant.  There are some great kid friendly restaurants that have good food, and a great atmosphere for kids.  But any place that brings us glass cups for our drinking water, is just asking for trouble.  We need plastic cups, cups with lids, and if you have some plastic plates wrapped in bubble wrap, we can probably get through a meal without breaking anything! 

I took the kids during the week to Mesa Rosa.  We went right around five, so it was pretty dead in the restaurant.  The inside is your standard TexMex style.  Fun pictures and bright colors cover the walls.  We heard there was great playground so we asked to sit on the patio.  The patio is fabulous!  This is the type of patio that Covid conscious people wish all restaurants had.  It is a huge patio with tons of room!  It opens up into a truly awesome playground.  It can be tough to see your kids from certain areas of the patio.  But there is still enough space for them to easily run back and forth from your table to play.

The playground itself is pretty awesome.  Lots of room for the kids to run.  They even have a water cooler to the side, with little paper, cone cups for kids.  Do the kids just end up pulling out all the cups to play with them?  Yes, they do.  But it is still a nice gesture from the restaurant.  The kids were on the playground the whole time.  When the food came, they’d run back to get a small bite, and chug some water.  Then it was back to the playground.  You’ll definitely be able to enjoy your meal and a few drinks without having to worry if the kids are having a good time. 

If I’m being honest the food is only so-so.  It is your average TexMex cuisine.  The kids ordered burgers and fries and only ate a few bites because the portions are HUGE!  You can certainly find better TexMex food in this area.  But overall, it’s an enjoyable outing with your kids.  You can sit back and enjoy some chips and queso, let your kids run around on the playground, and then wonder how they got a giant bruise on their head in under five minutes.

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The Great Snack War!

The great Snack War has been waging in American kitchens for years!  Kids and adults need snacks throughout the day.  But while we all know we need the healthy snacks, the bad snacks are just……so good!  How do we help not only ourselves to be better eaters, but our kids too?  I have several strategies below to help you win your next Snack Battle!

Don’t Buy It

There is a reason why people are very disappointed when they raid my pantry for snacks.  I have not bought cookies or chips in years.  Why?  Because they last about five minutes once they enter my house.  Self-control is difficult for most adults.  It is next to impossible for kids!  If you don’t want your child to eat the unhealthy snacks, do not buy them. 

Look Out For “Healthy”

The food industry is really good at making bright colorful packaging, slapping some buzz words like “real fruit juice”, and convincing you it is healthy.  But we all know the truth.  Veggies Straw are just skinny potato chips.  Fruit Snacks are just gummy bears shaped like fruit.  It can be hard to market healthy food, because actual healthy food is boring to advertise.  A banana is just a banana.  I suppose they could put some more fun stickers on bananas!  Brand bananas for boys called “The Ultimate Banana” and for girls like “Princess Banana”.  But at the end of the day, there is only so many ways to make healthy food look “cool”.

Snacks For Home

Snacks at home are a lot easier to plan.  You have good storage and are able to prep snacks for the week!  Fruits and vegetables should always be your number one choice for snacks.  Always have a fruit bowl filled with easily accessible apples, bananas, etc.  If your kids don’t like certain fruits, don’t give up!  There are a lot of fruits out there to try.  Great vegetables to have on hand are pickles, carrots or celery.  Dips like hummus or guacamole are filling and perfect to have with your vegetables.  Great items to have stocked in the refrigerator are things like yogurt and string cheese.  Healthy pantry snacks for kids, who need something to crunch, are items like nuts, trail mix, or plantain chips.

Snacks For School

Snacks for school can be a little bit trickier.  It can be tough to plan ahead and schools often restrict certain snacks kids are allowed.  Here in Texas the heat can also play a big factor in what snacks are best for kids to take to school.  While yogurt and cheese are great snacks, school lunch-box ice packs only do so well for a long school day.  Fruits and vegetables should once again be your top choice.  Dried fruits and vegetables are a great option if your kids don’t keep their lunch boxes indoors during a school day.  If nuts are allowed in your school, trail mix is your new best friend!  If not try some popcorn for your kids who need that crunch! 

Controlling The Snacking

While in a perfect world, you’d have a house full of healthy snacks and your child would skip merrily home from school and say “dear mother, might I please have an apple before supper?”  But life happens and we all just do the best we can to keep our household happy and running.  There are other ways to keep the unhealthy snacking at bay.  Having snacks be a part of your normal routine is a good way to start.  If children have expectations of one morning snack and one afternoon snack, the angry demands for more snacks goes down.  Also keep in mind, kids get ravenous when they go through growth spurts.  This is when begging for snacks is at an all-time high!  Best way to see if your kid is going through a growth spurt, offer your kids a healthy snack, if they take it, vacuum it down and immediately ask for more, then it’s a growth spurt.

Another good trick to control snacking is a snack box.  Make a nice box for each one of your children.  Every day fill the box with the number of snacks your children are allowed to eat.  Tell them they can eat these snacks whenever they want.  But once the box is empty, that is all the snacks they get for day.  It helps give some control to the kids.  They pick what snacks are in the box and when they can eat them.  Also take the blame off of you when they eat everything in their box! 

The Snack War is one we all battle.  Best we can do is try and give our kids the tools to fight that battle as well.     

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Volunteering with Your Kids

Volunteering may seem like an activity for older children and adults.  Many volunteer projects involve large scale clean ups, or manual labor that are next to impossible for the younger crowd.  But while it is easier to get your middle school and high school kids into volunteering, it is not impossible to get your elementary and even preschool kids into the practice of helping their community.

Knowing where to start can be one of the hardest parts.  If you are members of a church or any other religious organization, you are already ahead of the game.  Even if there aren’t programs specifically for younger kids to be a part of, plenty of people within your community can do with some help.  Helping an individual can be just as rewarding as helping a large group.  Your neighbors are also a great source of volunteer opportunities.  Reaching out to elderly neighbors or people who need a helping hand are great ways kids can help people around them.  Below are some other ideas that even your toddlers can do!  It can be a struggle to teach toddlers independence let alone helping out other people.  But simple things can imprint those lessons early. 

Donating Items

You know that thought you have every year?  The thought that your kids have way too many things they never play with?  Here is your solution.  Before every Christmas or birthday give your child a box and ask them to fill it with toys they don’t play with anymore.  Even little kids have items they don’t really like.  It can get kids in the habit of giving away things they don’t need, as well as clear out space for new toys! Send your gently used toys to your local daycare, hospital, or children’s center.  It is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about children who are less fortunate.  It also teaches children to treat their toys with better care and respect.

Helping the Homeless

Here is Austin we have a large homeless population that is very visible.  It naturally brings up questions from kids.  There are great ways kids can help the homeless community.  One of those ways is making small kits to pass out to homeless neighbors.  Head to your local store and get several large Ziploc bags.  Then go pick up some travel sized items for the homeless.  Some of the best items for the homeless are chap stick, deodorant, sunscreen, socks, tooth paste, tooth brush or any other small toiletries.  Have your children fill up the bags and then pass them out!

Cleaning up Your Local Park

When taking kids to the park, I’ve gotten in the habit of picking up random trash I see on the playground.  It has always been a pet peeve of mine when people throw trash on the ground when there are trash cans close by.  After doing this for a while, my little one came up behind me with an empty juice box she’d found on the playground.  People think of park clean-ups as a big weekend project.  And while those projects are great things to do, park clean ups can be made way simpler for little kids.  Simply acknowledging that we should pick up trash will encourage kids to keep an eye out for litter in the park. 

Fun Run

We live in a great city for runners.  There are so many great races to enter with your kids.  Look for races that specifically host fun runs.  Also look for races that allow strollers.  Your little ones can dress up and relax in the stroller while enjoying the spectacle of a race!  If there are charity runs that are too long for kids in a stroller, make your own water or snack station.  Kids get a big kick out of passing out water and treats to runners zooming by. 

These are just a few ideas for getting your littlest family members in the habit of volunteering.  It is such a rewarding thing to do as a family.  There is no shortage of volunteer opportunities especially around the Austin area.  Our kids are a part of our community and it’s important to teach them to make it better too!

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Pinballz Arcade Lake Creek

If you are looking for an activity to escape the heat this Labor Day weekend, try a trip down memory lane to Pinballz Arcade!  Pinballz’s Lake Creek location has expanded from their namesake pinball machines, to an epic play zone with go-kart racing, ax throwing, bowling and other awesome activities.  You will probably enjoy this place as much as your kids do!

Getting to Pinballz Lake Creek is pretty simple.  It is tucked back from the highway, but very easy to get to and find parking.  Once you get inside, you are pretty much left to your own devices.  Kiosk machines line the front where you can get your gaming card for the day.  If you want to do the go-karts or any of the other larger games, you do have to sign up with someone.  Otherwise, you are on your own! 

All of your standard arcade games and pinball machines are to the left of the entrance in a bright colorful line!  It may be hard for you or your kids to keep your focus with all the bright lights beckoning you to each game.  A lot of the games you can play with your kids, which everyone gets a kick out of.  If you’re a competitive parent, you might need to continuously tell yourself, “It’s only a game.  It’s only a game.”

Past the first round of arcade games is the eating area.  It is nice and spread out.  It is easy to move tables for the size of your group.  The food is standard concession stand food.  It is not good or bad, and it keeps you full.  One nice accessory I have always appreciated about Pinballz, is the cup holders at every single game! 

If you really want to be nostalgic, past the eating area is a large cluster of classic arcade games like Asteroids or Galaga.  It is pretty cool to see what old school games they have collected.

Tips:

Cost  The nostalgia of playing arcade games comes with the cost of playing arcade games.  Remember as a kid your parents would give you some money and tell you not to spend it too fast?  Then the money was gone in about 15 minutes!  Pinballz is unfortunately not immune from the arcade money vacuum.  Every so often they have deals with two hours of unlimited playtime or half off games.  But every game play cost money, and they don’t have an unlimited gaming card like Dave & Busters or Chuck E Cheese.

Meeting Spot  Pinballz at Lake Creek has gotten huge over the past year.  Even before they added their go-kart racing, it was hard to keep track of little ones running by arcade games.  The large eating area is where most parents set up camp.  It is a good idea to stake out your meeting place before you wind up the kids and let them go!

Food and Drink  No outside food or drink is allowed at all!  I walked in with a Gatorade bottle and they made me throw it away.  There is pretty good food and drink to buy.  But don’t expect to bring water bottles or snacks for the day.

So should you make the trip to Pinballz Lake Creek?

0-3 (Proceed with Caution)

Pinballz Lake Creek does have a really nice play area for the smaller kiddos.  The games are their size and easy to navigate.  It is only one little section in a giant area.  While they can definitely accompany their older siblings and have a good time, outside of this little area there isn’t a lot for this age group to do. 

3-6 (go now)

While this age group may also be too small for a lot of the activities, there is still plenty for them to do.  Lots of games for them to try or lots of claw machines for them to get frustrated with.  This age group will have a blast!

6-10 (go now)

Head to the bank, pull out that pesky retirement fund and go!  These kids will be in heaven!  They can do so much throughout this whole area.  They can do almost every single activity available.  They might have to wait a while before they can do ax throwing, but most parents are okay with that.