Spring Break Family Activities – Kansas

Source: gfpeck, Flickr

Source: gfpeck, Flickr

Spring break! Spring break! Can you hear the cheer of the students as they run out of school on a Friday afternoon, ready for the first big vacation of the year? With unusually warm bouts of weather this year, spring break might even prove to be a bit warm with flowers blooming and sunshine to bathe in. On a more serious note, spring break is often a difficult week for parents because the children are looking for entertainment and fun. And they are looking to you – the parents – to provide it. Thankfully, we’ve compiled some great ideas for you and your children this spring. No more boredom or lazy days in front of the television. Try some of these fun activities and enjoy the gift of time with your kids.

Kansas City

For those of you in the big city, check out this great blog from KC Parent. It has so many ideas and thousands of families use the blogged last year to plan their spring break trips. We’ve pulled a few notable mentions below.

Open Jump at Urban Air – If you have kids with lots of energy, then this is the place for you. Much more than a simple trampoline spot, Urban Air incorporates fitness, climbing, building, and so much more. There’s something for kids and adults, not to mention nearby parks for picnics and a little respite.

Ernie Miller Nature Center – The Center is putting on all sorts of special events for spring break. With a fee of only $3 per person, you and your kids can enjoy the aquarium and trails all week long. Plus, park staff have special events, too, like animal stories, Celtic tales, and live animals!

Wichita Area

Wichita Art Museum – The museum hosts a special event every spring break and this year it’s an Art-vacation. Children of any age, including college students, can get in for $1 and enjoy art activities every day.

Downtown Pop-up Park – Combining food trucks and a beautiful park, you can come downtown Monday through Friday of spring break to enjoy a gorgeous lunch outside and some running around fun for the kids.

There are many more events and spring break camps happening in the greater Wichita area. Check out this handy website with a comprehensive list.

Your Local Public Library

Libraries all across the state will have free events including science classes, story times, magic shows, and more. Check with your neighborhood spot for their calendar of events and don’t forget to check out some books for the break, too.

 

Supporting Your Spouse During the Adoption Process – Part 2

Holding hands

Source: Flickr, Nita

Last week we posted a blog on supporting your spouse through the adoption process. We focused on activities you can do together, from exercising and prayer to relaxing baths and having fun. Be sure to check it out and we hope you find it helpful. This week, the focus is on supporting your spouse’s self care needs. This means making sure that your spouse is taking care of him- or herself, even when you’re not around.

The Importance of Self Care

In order to reach the end of the adoption process healthy and happy, it’s vital that people make sure to take care of themselves. Stress, worry, and frustration can take a physical toll if you’re not careful. Focusing on self-care simply means focusing on your well-being, both mental and physical.

To support your spouse in this effort, come up with a “feel better” idea board. If your spouse is frustrated working on paperwork or simply feeling down about the process, then have that idea board handy. It should include things like “Take a Walk” or “Eat a Piece of Candy.” You can also place prayer reminders around the house for your spouse to see when feeling discouraged. Anything to remind your spouse that it’s important to take care of themselves so they can be strong and ready to open their hearts to a new member of the family when the time comes.

Easy Ways to Lighten the Load

Source: Flickr, Donnie Ray Jones

Source: Flickr, Donnie Ray Jones

If time management is getting the better of your spouse, suggest ways to lighten the load so the days don’t feel so burdened with tasks. If you have children in your family who can take on chores, ask them to share some extra chores to relieve your spouse for a bit. This could be taking out the trash, washing dishes, raking the yard, etc. Even the smallest things will feel like a weight has lifted. And your spouse may not think to ask for help, so it’s up to you to see when the need arises and spring to action.

Outsourcing Tasks to Make Room

Source: Flickr, Meal Makeover Moms

Source: Flickr, Meal Makeover Moms

If it’s not possible to have immediate family help out, then reach out to your larger family and friend circles. You’d be surprised how eager people will be to help. Have a big week ahead that you know will be difficult? Ask your friends to bring by a few casseroles so your spouse doesn’t have to worry about food that week.

If the budget allows, consider hiring someone to help with house cleaning or lawn maintenance to lighten the load and make time for self-care and adoption support group meetings. If you can tell your spouse not to worry about mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathtub, then there’s time to go to a support group. And just like that, things start looking up and feeling less overwhelming.

It’s important to make room in your day-to-day life for the adoption process, so get creative and trust that any support you offer will make a huge difference in your spouse’s life.

 

Supporting Your Spouse During the Adoption Process – Part 1

Holding hands

Source: Flickr, Nita

Whether you are just beginning or are starting a second adoption process, stress and worry are part of adoption day-to-day process. Many people, even those who do not consider adoption, have heard tales of the struggle and the anxiety. Embarking on the adoption process is a big decision for couples and families and it requires continued support and dedication.

So when your spouse feels overwhelmed by the paperwork, what can you do to help? Or if you both are just exhausted, what can fix that? Ho do you help your spouse through the process and make it to the end happy and healthy? These aren’t easy questions and of course there is no fix-it for everyone, but we’ve compiled some easy ways that you can support your spouse during the adoption process.

Activities to do Together

Source: Flickr, Guppydas

Source: Flickr, Guppydas

Prayer and Meditation – When stress is at all-time highs, the benefits of prayer and/or meditation are well proven to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. In order to make this a routine, suggest to your spouse that you take part together. Picking a set time is a good way to turn this into a habit and it only takes 5 – 10 minutes. Create a comfortable and quiet space and then pray or meditate together. Suggest that the two of you read your favorite Bible passages together or perhaps you share your adoption goals for the day. Centering your minds and hearts before embarking on a day full of adoption paperwork or questions will help you get through it much easier. And you start the day by being supportive and in tune with each other. Win win!

Have Some Fun – Go see a comedy at the movie theater or take in a local theater production. Anything that will make you both have a good, hearty laugh. Just getting those giggles started will really help ease tension and bring perspective. If getting out isn’t too easy, then rent that comedy you’ve been meaning to watch for months, make a big bowl of popcorn, and then turn off the lights and recreate the movie magic at home.

Ways to De-Stress

Source: Flickr, Fit Approach

Source: Flickr, Fit Approach

Exercise – If your spouse is looking particularly overwhelmed or worried, suggest going for a walk. Exercise is the easiest way to relieve stress and feel better! And it doesn’t have to be anything too intense. A long walk around the neighborhood will do just fine. Or, the two of you can go for a jog around the park or perhaps go for a swim at the community pool. Any activity that gets the body moving will help distract the mind from worries. Set up regular walk or workout times with your spouse and make it a habit. This way you can bond while you help each other feel better.

Relaxing – You can also draw a wonderful, indulgent bath. Light some candles, get some fresh flowers, and make the bathroom a peaceful sanctuary. Even if it’s a short bath, taking a few moments will help tremendously. And if you can spare a shoulder rub, even better! Most people store tension in the neck and shoulders, so just a brief massage will help release that stress. While your spouse is relaxing, throw in a load of laundry or take care of the dishes. When even the smallest tasks can fall off the to-do list, the load will feel much lighter.

Check back next week for our next installment on this same topic. We will cover how you can help your spouse focus on self-care and time management.

Adoption and Taxes

Tax word and money

Source: Flickr user 401(K) 2012

As January of 2017 kicks off and we all get back into our regular school and work routines, we are reminded that tax day isn’t too far away. As the W2s start to come in, it’s time to turn our attention to the complex tax law and adoption. Not a terribly exciting topic, but one that is important for adoptive parents (current and future) to know. Thankfully there is a wealth of knowledge already out there, but we have compiled some of the best information sources for you. If you still have questions or concerns, you should reach out to the agency and a tax specialist. Don’t let questions go unanswered and don’t be afraid to ask!

At Adoption & Beyond, we offer free access to an experienced financial coach and system to make sure families are prepared financially. Reach out to us if you have any questions.

Adoption Credit Information

As with any tax question, you can always turn to the source – the IRS. The link provided gives all of the major details, as well as links to relevant forms and instructions. If this page looks overwhelming, or if you’re new to learning about this topic, then check out the frequently asked questions page at the North American Council on Adoptable Children. This will pose many of your major questions and provide some quick answers.

Another site for information about the permanence of the tax credit can be found here, where they update regularly regarding any new legislation that takes place. For a more engaging approach that weaves in useful information, check out the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Once you are all caught up on learning about the credit, consider reading this Adopt Help site that is already updating and providing information for the 2017 tax returns. This is a great spot to bookmark!

The adoption community builds success on sharing information and offering support. Hopefully these pages will answer questions, but if any remain be sure to contact us or your adoption agency to make sure you and your family are secure when it comes time to submit those tax returns.

Parent Support Group Series, Kansas City

Source: Flickr user Janita

Source: Flickr user Janita

In September, we started a blog series to help bring parents, especially stay-at-home moms, together, city-by-city. We started with Wichita, Kansas then we reached out to those of you in St. Louis, Missouri. Now, we want to reach readers in Kansas City who may be in need of additional support. With the holiday season upon us, many people find themselves extra stressed out between gift shopping, kids out of school, and a growing “to do” list. You are not alone if the holiday time makes you feel overwhelmed.

Below, we share ways that you can meet other parents in your area and find like-minded friends. Friendship is vital to living a full life and it shouldn’t stop when you become a parent. This is especially true for adoptive parents who need to build support circles of all kinds. From swapping parenting tips, to sharing recipes and enjoying each other’s company, friends make life more complete. During this holiday time, be sure to reach out to others and engage with your community. ‘Tis the season for giving, and that includes supportive hugs from friends!

Online

As mentioned in our last blog, be sure to check out the MeetUp website. This is a central place where people can post and create meet-ups for parents. It is an easy way to start, so give it a try if you want to test the waters.

There’s one group that’s been active since 2012 with a focus on friendly, fun, and frugal good times. Activities are often kid and pet friendly, so jump on in and join the group.

Blogs

Kansas City Moms Blog – a great space for finding activities, tips, crafts, and so much more.

KC Parent – tackling all kinds of parenting issues, this site includes education and holiday sections, along with all things Kansas City.

In-Person Groups

MOMentum – this group is especially helpful for moms looking for supportive relationships, adult conversation, and regular discussions. It’s an active support group that meets the first Tuesday of every month and helps moms connect. Check it out at the Richmond First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall.

Friends of Adoption – this is a local group that offers support at all stages of the adoption process.

If you’re considering home school and want to find a support group, check out Midwest Parent Educators site for a group that meets regularly.

Be sure to look at the entire KC Kids Fun website for a full list of parent groups to check out in your area.

 

 

Fun Halloween Activities for the Family

A few weeks ago, we posted about exciting and creative Halloween costumes to suit the entire family. Hopefully you and yours are planning to hit the streets and enjoy some sweet treats at the end of this month. Even if walking the neighborhood is not a good fit for you or your children, there are many fun activities around Kansas and Missouri. Take a look at the list below and be sure to enjoy some quality time together with your kids. There’s nothing quite like laughing and bonding with your children over silly face paint and fun games.

Local Zoo

Nearly every zoo hosts fun events for the entire family the weeks leading up to Halloween. Activities often include face painting, learning about animals such as bats and jaguars, hayrides, and so much more. This year the Kansas City Zoo has the Hoots & Howls fun weekend packed with tractor rides, sing-alongs, crafts, smashing pumpkins and so much more. The activities run from 10 – 3, so be sure to check it out.

The Kansas City Zoo also offers trick-or-treating at the zoo on Halloween weekend.

The St. Louis zoo offers Boo at the Zoo nights, which is non-scary and entirely kid friendly. Starting tomorrow and running until the day before Halloween, children even receive a treat bag! This zoo also offers a free day on October 29th called Spooky Saturday. Children get to learn about animals all while they receive surprises and goodies along the way.

City Events

If Kansas City is close to you, don’t miss the city’s Halloween Extravaganza on October 22nd. It’s a benefit for children’s hospitals that offers one big Halloween party for the entire family. Music, balloon artists, activity booths, and candy are just some of the surprises that await. You can also check out the Brick or Treat event at Legoland Discovery Center. Kids build pumpkins while in costume and can compete in the costume contest.

If Lake Saint Louis is closer to you, then make your way to the Founders Park area for the Lake Saint Louis Mother’s Club annual Halloween party featuring a DJ, flashlight candy hunt, hayrides, and a raffle.

If you aren’t closer to a larger city, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Most public libraries hold special events where they present fun tales for kids. Also look for local pumpkin patches and farms offering hayrides and trails, most of which can be done in costume, too.

The Importance of Family Bonding

 

Source: Flickr, user guilherme jofili

When the alarm goes off in the morning and you drag yourself out of bed to start the regular routine, it’s hard to think of fun. That long morning list that begins with feeding the dog and ends with rushing through school traffic to drop the kids off doesn’t leave much room for creativity or even laughter (much less packed lunches for the parents!). Our lives are so often full of “To Do” lists and laundry weekends that we forget to stop and make plans together.

Setting aside special time to simply have fun and enjoy the company of family proves to be an exception and important bonding experience and brings families closer together. This is especially true for families with recently adopted children or families experiencing stress or emotional upheaval. Even the U.S. Department of Health developed a program that focuses on the importance of family bonding to reduce emotional and behavioral problems in children. The Child Development Institute has a brief piece on this topic with directions on how to navigate to the US program information if you are interested in learning more.

It’s nearly fall and we all know that means family-friendly fun well into the holiday months. Make some time to laugh together and explore some of the local family activities below.

Some of our top picks for family fun going on this month:

Missouri

Dancefestopia – Kansas City, MO – Sep 9 to Sep 11, 2016
This event features several days of music, helicopter rides, art, camping, and so much more.

Jesse James Festival – Kearney, MO – Sep 9 to Sep 18, 2016
For those wanting some BBQ, be sure to stop by this festival. It also features a carnival, crafts, rodeo, and demolition derby.

Kansas City Chalk & Walk Festival – Kansas City, MO – Sep 10 to Sep 11, 2016
A FREE art festival with painting and workshops.

National Harvest Festival – Branson, MO – Sep 14 to Oct 29, 2016
This is a must see event. From wild mustangs to the cowboy life and a wild west show, there is something for everyone.

Kansas

Kansas State Fair – Hutchinson, KS – Sep 9 to Sep 18, 2016
Well-known to most Kansas residents, this fair boasts a carnival for the kids and car show for the parents. A petting zoo, tractor pull, and pig races round out the fun.

Derby BBQ Festival – Derby, KS – Sep 10 to Sep 10, 2016
A chocolate chip cookie bake-off for kids and a regular cook-off for parents. Come for the food, stay for the fun!

Spring Hill Fall Festival – Spring Hill, KS – Sep 17 to Sep 17, 2016
A long-running event with a parade, crafts, food, and music.

Kincaid Free Fair – Kincaid, KS – Sep 22 to Sep 24, 2016
Explore this small town and enjoy their annual carnival.

 

For a complete list of festivals, check out Funtober.

Finding Creative Outlets for Children

Source: Flickr, SanShoot

If you are an adoptive parent to an older child, such as a preschooler or elementary-aged child, or if you are currently a foster parent, then you may face the challenge of figuring out what excites your child. What makes him or her light up with imagination? Or inspires them to tell stories to family members? It can be frustrating to try and find that very thing when it seems like the internet makes everything available to our children and possibilities are endless. Below are a few tips for adoptive and foster parents to consider as they face the challenge of finding a child’s individual creative outlet.

After School Programs

For many parents, after school programs are essential to keeping the family flow together. Especially for those who care for children released from school well before the end of a workday. Some after school programs are geared toward a daycare-style system, where they mainly provide general play, exercise, and snacks for children. If your child seems restless after such a program, consider looking for ones with a focus, such as music, art, or sports. There are programs for helping children learn instruments, baseball and flag football, and get their hands dirty with clay and painting. Explore offerings at your neighborhood church and don’t be afraid to ask your adoptive or foster child what sounds most fun to them.

Missouri After School Programs
Kansas After School Programs

Options at Home

Getting to know your adoptive or foster child is a long process, but many of us know the power behind a simple box of crayons and some paper. Art is a wonderful form of expression, as is reading, singing, and running in the backyard. Being physical and engaging the brain can bring about a lot of positive change and growth, so it’s important to provide many creative options at home. Go ahead and buy markers and paints for your child to try out, but also have physical sport options outside, too. It can be as simple as throwing around a baseball or setting up a small pool. And while it may be tempting to encourage one option over another, try presenting them at different times and see which one your child naturally gravitates to.

Visit Fun Places

If your child doesn’t seem interested in options presented at home, then a great way to engage them is with trips to the local zoo. But don’t just walk the grounds; make them stop and read the signs about the animals and turn it into a fun learning experience. You can also try library trips, where your child can explore books on their own, or take in a hometown football game. Sometimes being out in the world is most stimulating for children and can help parents hone in on interests.

Whatever avenue you take, just remember that presenting many creative options will help your child feel more comfortable and encourage them to express themselves in ways that will only bring the family closer together.

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.

Family Road Trips in Missouri

Summer is winding down, but there’s still time to have fun and make some great family memories. We recently posted some ideas for a Kansas road trip. But for Missouri folks, you don’t even have to venture outside of the Show Me State to have a fun trip. We’ve got the run down on a few great weekend or day trips for you and your kids!

Silver Dollar City!

Silver Dollar City Flume RideSilver Dollar City is a uniquely Missourian outing. Their rides, shows and attractions are a nod to Missouri’s pioneering past. The size of the park is perfect for a family: big enough to keep the older kids entertained and small enough that the younger kids can go all day. If the day is especially toasty, take the kids over to Whitewater to chill out and splash around.

 

 

Table Rock State Park

Table Rock State ParkWant to spend a few days around Branson? Table Rock State Park is just 10 miles from Silver Dollar City and a wonderful place to set up camp. If your family loves the water, Table Rock Lake is the right spot for you.

There is swimming, snorkeling, fishing and more! The lake has its own marina so you can bring the family boat or everyone can go out on a day cruise with a local tour guide.

Hannibal, Missouri

If you have teens that are literature buffs, or WANT your teen to be a literature buff, take a trip over to Hannibal, Missouri. The hometown of Mark Twain is chockfull of museums, sites and excursions. Children can see and learn about the town and its residents that served as the basis for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

If the family needs a break from Twain mania, there are many other diversions in Hannibal. Visit the historical Rockcliffe Mansion to admire the beauty and be charmed by the history of the home. Hannibal is right on the Mississippi River, so riverboat cruises should certainly be on the tourist to do list.

Kansas City Attractions

Legoland Kansas CityWant to stay in town and still escape from everyday life? Kansas City is ready to serve. If you haven’t already taken your kids to Legoland, make time for it! Been there before? There’s always something new. Kids can take classes with a Master Builder or see a movie in the 4D cinema.

The Sea Life Aquarium is also nearby, so you can make a day of visiting Crown Center for Legoland and the aquarium. Have the kids ever eaten a hamburger delivered by a train? No? Don’t forget to stop for lunch at Fritz’s, a Kansas City institution.

If you are looking for something incredibly specific and interesting, try The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Give your kids a taste of the history of toys they still enjoy today and let them feel like giants among the miniature collection. If you go in the month of August, you’ll catch the Pedal to the Metal exhibit- a history of kids and wheeled things.

The countdown to school begins! Make the end of summer count! We are sure that there are many more fantastic outings in Missouri. If we missed your favorite, fill us in on Facebook!