The Importance of Holiday Stories

Children with Santa

Source: Flickr, Bailiwick Studios

For many of us, Christmas is a special time of year when we get to spend time with loved ones and give back to our neighbors, family, and communities. For our young ones, it is quickly become all about presents. Especially when you consider how many toy commercials and catalogs they see starting back in September. The idea of Christmas being just about presents can quickly take over before we even realize it.

One way to balance the season of gifts is to talk to kids about giving back and sharing with others. With younger children this can be a bit hard since it’s natural at certain ages to “have a case of the gimmies,” but there are many children’s books that tell wonderful stories about loving one’s family, giving back, and coming together.

Holiday Children’s Books

Consider getting the classic that many of us knew growing up – The Berenstein Bears and the Joy of Giving. This book is especially good if you find your child is asking for every toy from the catalog or spending all day talking about what he or she asked Santa for Christmas. The lovely book tackles what Christmas is really about and helps children understand the ideas of giving and sharing. With a similar story of giving is Santa Mouse, who realizes that Santa is always giving gifts but never receiving them.

You can also trust that Scholastic has a large variety of holiday-themed books, many of which teach wonderful lessons. For example, Light the Lights tells a heartwarming holiday story of an interfaith family and The Mitten, which is adapted from an old Ukrainian tale about a boy and his grandmother.

All of these books make great options for engaging your children during the holidays and talking about giving and the joy of family. They can help balance the stories of gifts received and are easily accessible in most bookstores and local public libraries.

How Cooking Helps Parents & Kids Bond

With Halloween in the rearview holiday mirror, we are all turning our focus to the next big holiday – Thanksgiving! And what a wonderful holiday it is. With a focus on spending quality time with family, preparing and eating delicious food, and relaxing afterwards with a warm slice of pumpkin pie, it’s hard to find fault in the holiday about giving thanks and sharing with others. Our communal tables become full of smiling faces and sleepy, nodding heads after the meal. It’s a great time to give thanks for our children and parents and to come together over a meal that spans the day (if you count sneaking in tasty bites!). In addition to all of these wonderful aspects of Thanksgiving, it’s also a great opportunity to cook with your children.

Source: Flickr, Rachel Tayse

Source: Flickr, Rachel Tayse

Benefits of Cooking with Kids

Why would you want to cook with your kids? Well, it’s a great chance to talk to your kids about family history. When you pull out that weathered recipe card of your grandmother’s pumpkin pie, talk to your child about the grandmother. Share the family stories and your own memories of what Thanksgiving was like for you growing up. This can be particularly beneficial for adoptive parents whose child is growing up and becoming curious about family members, family history, and their own personal story. Use the recipes as a way to talk about traditions and create a chance for your child to ask questions and show you what they are curious about.

Parenting Help

Cooking isn’t just for stories, either. It’s a great parenting help, too! When kids help prepare food, they are more likely to eat it later on. So if you have a picky eater, make sure and have them snap green beans, peel potatoes, or sprinkle the brown sugar on the sweet potatoes. Any involvement will increase their interest and make them want to taste it later on. So while you bond over stories, you encourage your child to take an interest in their food and even learn about measuring, sharing, counting, and science, too!

Source: Flickr, Rachel Tayse

Source: Flickr, Rachel Tayse

Cooking with Young Children

There’s something for a child of any age, too, so long as you do a little planning. Preschoolers learn a lot from watching, so let them see how dishes come together and if they can feel, taste, and even play with some food parts go ahead and let them enjoy. Down the road, this may pay off when you try to introduce new foods to your child.

Cooking with Teens

We all know the occasional sullenness of teenagers who would rather be on their phones than participate in the family meal. If you are facing such a teen this year, consider letting them pick a favorite dish to have (even if it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving dish) so long as they do some of the prep work. That will help keep them in the kitchen and talking.

This year, enjoy some family bonding over Thanksgiving cooking and hopefully this will become a new tradition to be celebrated each year.

Fun Halloween Costumes

Here comes Halloween! Have you seen the orange and black displays all over the grocery stores yet? And the long aisles of candy stacked next to pumpkin buckets? Fall is ushering in the familiar and fun spectacle of trick-or-treating, along with crisper days and lots of apples. Not to mention lots of pie! If your young child is finally old enough to tag along and appreciate the joys of neighborhood carnivals and festive “boos!” down the block, then consider some of these costume ideas. Halloween doesn’t have to be just about the kids running up and down the street during a sugar rush. It’s also about family time, face painting, apple bobbing and so much more. Bring your entire family into the festivities this year and wow your neighbors while you create lasting memories.

Family Costumes

Source: Flickr, Lauren Kerns

Aye matey! How about a family of pirates? Most costumes can be put together with old clothes in your closet. A little shredding and layering, then add a pirate hat you can pick up in any costume or party store. Adding red sashes around the heads and construction paper peg legs and hooks will tie it all together without breaking the bank.



Source: Flickr, Vanessa Druckman

Be a superhero family! There’s something for everyone here, whether it’s Wonder Woman, Batman, or your kid’s favorite scientist.





Kid Costumes

Source: Flickr, Anne Jacko

Adorable witches – dress your young girls up with a little colorful tulle, a pointy hat, and some dark purple or green lipstick (non toxic, of course!) and they are ready to delight other trick-or-treaters.





Source: Flickr, istolethetv

Don’t forget the pets! Take your kids and the pets out for an evening stroll dressed as the fun members of the Incredibles. You can pick any other kids movie and make this work, so long as your dogs are willing to go along with the plan.

Fun Family Activities for Memorial Day Weekend – Kansas City Area

Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching and while we take this time to remember those who sacrificed their lives for this country, we often find ourselves spending quality time with our families and children. It marks the beginning of summer and is a great time to celebrate our family. Here are some fun suggestions for what you can do over the holiday weekend.

Celebration at the Station – Kansas City, MO

Celebration at the Station in Kansas City

Many of you may know this celebration, but for those new to the area you should check out the 13th annual Memorial Day Celebration at the Station that features music director Michael Stern as he conducts the Kansas City Symphony, complete with a grand firework display, a picnic on the lawn, and great entertainment for your kids. The concert starts at 8:00 pm, followed by fireworks, but there is plenty to do with your family earlier in the day. In the Family Zone you and your kids can explore instruments, have fun with face painting, meet Kansas City SWAT and Fire teams, and take fun family portraits.

Picnic in the park

Family Picnic for Memorial Day

This is a classic way to spend the weekend with your family. Just pack up some of your favorite snacks and hit your local neighborhood park. Be sure to bring lots of fun games, such as bubbles and Frisbees, or if everyone wants to go swimming then head for one of the many lake areas near you. With the swim beaches opening for the summer season, you can pair a relaxed picnic with lots of cool water time. Check out this list of lakes and parks near you.

Schlitterbahn – Kansas City, KA

Waterpark in Kansas City

If you are ready for some fun in the sun and lots of splashing around, then consider the Schlitterbahn waterpark that opens for the summer season at the end of May. Starting Friday, May 27th, the park will be open at 11:00 am (10:00 am on Saturday and Sunday) and the park features an American Heroes Week event starting on May 30th. This means that all members of the military, police, firefighters, and EMTs get free admission for that week. Additionally, tickets for spouses and dependents are available at 50 percent off. Simply bring your qualifying ID and enjoy the day with your family!

Outdoor movies for kids

Outdoor movies for kids in Kansas city

If you want to do something more classic for the holiday weekend, consider taking the family to a local drive-in or outdoor theater for a fun movie and some sweet treats. There are drive-ins located in Kansas City, Kanopolis, Paola, Dodge City, Wichita, Carthage, Van Buren, Lamar, and more! All offer different prices and options, so be sure to check out this website and call your local theater or go to their website for the most up-to-date information. Most drive-ins still support concession stands, cheap tickets or free admission for kids, and movies like The Jungle Book to give you a fun and old-fashioned movie experience.

The Best Christmas Picture Books

There are so many incredible Christmas books for children of all ages that we could never talk about them all! But here are a few of our favorite picture books for younger children. Fill your mug with hot cocoa, find a spot in front of the fireplace, and settle down with some of these fantastic books.

Christmas Miracle for Jonathan ToomeyThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – A Christmas miracle for a sad widower.

” If I could give this book a thousand stars, I would!  It’s just so beautiful the way the author wrote it and the illustrations are so gorgeous, they take your breath clean away!”
– Maddy on Goodreads



Room for a Little OneRoom for a Little One: A Christmas Tale – a sweet story of Jesus’ birth told from the perspective of a kind Ox.

“Beautiful telling of the story of Jesus’ birth from the viewpoint of the animals. I read this tonight, on Christmas Eve 2011, and I believe this is going to become a tradition for us. The illustrations add to the absolute charm of the story. Wonderful story!”
– Jen on Goodreads


A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree – a tall pine wants to be a Christmas tree and gets help from its animal friends.

“I love this story. The tall, old tree in the Christmas tree forest wishes a family would take him home. When his forest friends find out he feels like a dream has passed him by, they try to help and show him what he means to them. This is such a profound message at Christmas time and anytime.”
– Sarah on Goodreads



Snowmen at Night – adventures that snowmen go on at night!

“Great find! The snowmen books are a fun family read for the holiday season. Getting to see what the snowmen do while it is dark and the humans are sleeping is entertaining. To add to the fun, there are hidden pictures on every page. My boys enjoy finding them as we read.”
– Karen on Goodreads



Story of Holly and Ivy - Adoption book for Christmas

The Story of Holly and Ivy – a doll, an orphan, and a husband and wife have a shared Christmas wish.

“What a sweet, beautiful story! All about the magic of wishing, and of love and belonging.”
– Karthryn on Goodreads





ab-gift-of-magiThe Gift of the Magi – a classic story of selfless giving between a husband and wife living in poverty.

“Sweet short story about love, sacrificing for your loved ones, and the power of giving.”
– Shanda on Goodreads



Christmas Day in the Morning book

Christmas Day in the Morning – a boy finds the perfect gift for his father on Christmas Eve.

“This has become my favorite book to read each Christmas. It is a beautifully written book – a rich and thoughtful exploration how a boy learns that a thoughtful and unexpected expression of love is the best and most lasting gift we can give. I can’t make it through reading it to my kids without crying. This is a book to own and read to your family each Christmas.”
– Brennan on Goodreads


Traveling with Toddlers

Traveling Toddler

The holidays are sneaking up on us quickly. For parents of toddlers, this time of year can be terrifying for one major reason: Traveling. With Kids. Especially in the era of overcrowded flights and delays, the task of keeping a toddler (or two!) entertained can be daunting. At Adoption and Beyond, we understand your trepidation and we are here to help.

Allowing extra time is key when travelling with toddlers. It’s tempting to limit your time at the airport to the absolute minimum, but keep in mind that children prefer to move at their own speed. If your toddler is insistent on his or her independence, be ready to walk through the airport at their pace. They’ll be sitting for the entire plane ride, so giving them this time to work off energy is important.

Keep a variety on snacks on hand for easy eats and lasting energy. High protein snacks are ideal; try string cheese or small cuts of meat. Cut-up veggies, fruit and bagels are also portable and satisfying. Sweets aren’t a great idea; we’ve all seen a child on a sugar high bouncing in their long flight. However, lollipops are a good idea for relieving air pressure in little eardrums.

If you don’t already have a tablet, now is the time to invest in one. You can load up on apps for the kids and alleviate the back pain that comes with carrying all the toys in their playroom for the flight. A few toddler-friendly apps are Bubbles, Toddler Cars, Lazoo Art Box and Peppa Pig Happy Ms. Chicken. You can also rent or buy movies from ITunes, Amazon and other services. Be sure to download in advance! Don’t hop on the plane only to realize that an app isn’t working or the movie didn’t finish downloading.

To keep your kids busy on a longer flight when even a tablet gets boring, a few small toys will do the trick. Try wrapping them as a gift so your tiny companion feels like the toy is a surprise. Market it as a reward for sitting quietly for a set period of time. Finally, remember to pack toys that aren’t multiple pieces; Legos may be awesome for your destination, but are not so awesome for the flight.

What other tricks do you have for keeping your little ones occupied on a flight? Let’s chat about it on Facebook!

15 Great Quotes about Fathers

Here at Adoption & Beyond, we care about fathers as much as we care about mothers. With Father’s Day on Sunday, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every birth father and adoptive father who has worked with us in the past. You’ve truly made our journey an incredible one.

To keep the love going, here are 15 great quotations about fathers and fatherhood: one quote for every year we’ve been working alongside birth and adoptive fathers alike.

1. “I’ve had a hard life, but my hardships are nothing against the hardships that my father went through in order to get me to where I started.”
– Bartrand Hubbard

2. “Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventures, story-tellers, and singers of songs.”
– Pam Brown

3. “My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, ‘You’re tearing up the grass.’ ‘We’re not raising grass,’ Dad would reply. ‘We’re raising boys.'”
– Harmon Killebrew

4. “It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.”
– Johann Friedrich von Schiller

5. “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”
– George Herbert

6. “[He] adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector.”
– Tom Wolfe

father and son7. “[My father] didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
– Clarence B. Kelland

8. “To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word ‘boo.'”
– Robert Brault

9. “When my father didn’t have my hand . . . he had my back.”
– Linda Poindexter

10. “Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.”
– Bill Cosby

11. “A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart.”
– Unknown

12. “By choice, we have become a family, first in our hearts, and finally in breath and being. Great expectations are good; great experiences are better.”
– Richard Fischer

13. “Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.”
– Unknown

14. “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone can give another person, he believed in me.”
– Jim Valvano

15. “Nothing I’ve ever done has given me more joys and rewards than being a father to my children.”
– Bill Cosby

“Mother, A Cradle to Hold Me” by Maya Angelou

Mother, A Cradle to Hold Me

By Maya Angelou

maya angelou

“It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
I owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.

During those early, dearest days
I did not dream that you had
A large life which included me,
For I had a life
Which was only you.

Time passed steadily and drew us apart.
I was unwilling.
I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever.
That one day you would have to stand
And where would I be?
You smiled again.
I did not.
Without warning you left me,
But you returned immediately.
You left again and returned,
I admit, quickly,
But relief did not rest with me easily.
You left again, but again returned.
You left again, but again returned.
Each time you reentered my world
You brought assurance.
Slowly I gained confidence.

You thought you know me,
But I did know you,
You thought you were watching me,
But I did hold you securely in my sight,
Recording every moment,
Memorizing your smiles, tracing your frowns.
In your absence
I rehearsed you,
The way you had of singing
On a breeze,
While a sob lay
At the root of your song.

The way you posed your head
So that the light could caress your face
When you put your fingers on my hand
And your hand on my arm,
I was blessed with a sense of health,
Of strength and very good fortune.

You were always
the heart of happiness to me,
Bringing nougats of glee,
Sweets of open laughter.

I loved you even during the years
When you knew nothing
And I knew everything, I loved you still.
Condescendingly of course,
From my high perch
Of teenage wisdom.
I spoke sharply of you, often
Because you were slow to understand.
I grew older and
Was stunned to find
How much knowledge you had gleaned.
And so quickly.

Mother, I have learned enough now
To know I have learned nearly nothing.
On this day
When mothers are being honored,
Let me thank you
That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery
Did not bring you to
Discard me like a broken doll
Which had lost its favor.
I thank you that
You still find something in me
To cherish, to admire and to love.

I thank you, Mother.
I love you.”

Maya Angelou was a remarkable woman, poet, leader, author, and mother. May she rest in peace.

Poem source: Poetry Mala.

15 Great Quotes About Mothers

Here at Adoption & Beyond, we really care about mothers. We wouldn’t have gotten where we are today without the love and support of birth mothers and adoptive mothers who have come to us for guidance over the past fifteen years.

With Birth Mother’s Day on Saturday and Mother’s Day on Sunday, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every woman who has worked with us in the past. You’ve truly made our journey an incredible one.

mother and childTo keep the love going, here are 15 great quotations about mothers and motherhood: one quote for every year we’ve been working alongside birth and adoptive mothers alike.

1. “Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love.”
-Mildred B. Vermont

2. “The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.”
-Jane Sellman

3. “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”
-Abraham Lincoln

4. “The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
-Honoré de Balzac

5. “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”
-Sophia Loren

6. “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”
-Jill Churchill

7. “Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease.”
-Lisa Alther

8. “Mothers and their children are in a category all their own. There’s no bond so strong in the entire world. No love so instantaneous and forgiving.”
-Gail Tsukiyama

9. “It is as grandmothers that our mothers come into the fullness of their grace.”
-Christopher Morley

10. “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”
-Abraham Lincoln

11. The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.
Jessica Lange

12. “You count the hours you could have spent with your mother. It’s a lifetime in itself.”
-Mitch Albom

13. “Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.”
-Cheryl Lacey Donovan

14. “No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement.”
-Florida Scott-Maxwell

15. “However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.”
-Valerie Harper

We hope you have a wonderful weekend, filled with lots of love.

5 DIY Projects to Get Your Kids Outside

boy playing outsideWe like to peruse Pinterest every week to see what kinds of cool DIY projects parenting Pinners have been doing recently. With summer nearly upon us, we’re starting to come across a lot of projects for the backyard. And since we’ve been focusing on spending more time outside in our recent posts, we’d like to continue the trend to get you and your family properly prepped for the warmer days ahead of us.

Here are five of our favorite DIY projects that we’ve come across recently that will get your kids outside:

1. Make a sandbox with a tire. We love the design of this simple, low-cost sandbox project. It’s great for the little ones!

2. Make a fairy garden. This project is so easy that even this mommy blogger’s two daughters completed the garden in two hours and without any adult assistance. This project will get the kids interested in gardening, as well as stir their outdoors imagination after a winter of staying inside!

3. Make a giant outdoor water bed. This looks like so much fun. It’s a cool sensory project, and it’ll be great to get them outside during those warm summer mornings.

4. Make a giant splash pad. We have pretty hot summer days here in Kansas City, so this project is a great, cheap way to keep everyone cool during the big scorchers.

5. Make a kickball/croquet court on the lawn. For the not-so-scorching days, getting the kids active without taking a trip to the park is easy with this kick-croquet lawn game made with pool noodles!

These ideas and more can be found on our Pinterest page, so you’ll be sure to have a blast this summer. We’re clearly looking forward to the fun days and long summer nights. So however you choose to spend your summer, we hope you have a great time! And for any of your adoption-related needs, please contact us today!