It’s Time to Talk Summer Camps

Source: susanrm8, Flickr

Source: susanrm8, Flickr

We know, it’s just now spring break. And the snow is still falling over much of the central and eastern parts of the country. Even with all of that, summer will be here in no time and it’s time to think about summer camps for your children. Often, specialty camps fill up very quickly so the sooner, the better.

Camps for Adopted Children

The good news is that summer camps have such variety now that they include nationwide camps for adopted children. You can find general lists, such as this one, that showcase camps across the country with the specific goal of meeting the needs of adopted children. Some highlights include the Heritage Camp in Grand Rapids, Michigan that is open to adopted children ages preschool through ninth grade. This camp is designed to help adopted children experience and learn about the culture of their birth countries. There is another Heritage Camp in Denver, Colorado that runs for four days in early August. In it’s seventh year, this camp helps families celebrate their unique beginnings and it is, essentially, one big celebration of adoptive families.

Kansas and Missouri Camps

If there isn’t an adoption-specific summer camp near you or a relative, general summer camps can be fantastic ways for your children to grow and learn about themselves. There is a very large variety, from sports to arts, cooking, outdoor adventure and more. There’s a handy list for Kansas that grows by the day and for Missouri, too. Talk to your children about what interests they would like to explore and surely there is a camp for it! Many summer camps offer need-based sponsorships and scholarships, too.

Volunteering at a Summer Camp

If you want to be an active volunteer for foster children, or are active in the foster care system, Royal Family Kids offers summer camps in nearly every state. In Missouri, there are 4 camps that serve approximately 45 – 50 children each year. Incredible volunteers make these camps a true success. Their current program locations include Cassville, Saint Joseph, and Springfield. What’s even better is that you and your community can even plan or sponsor a new camp in your area.

For our readers in Kansas, Royal Family Kids offers camps in Great Bend, Lenexa, Manhattan, Topeka, and Wichita. There are 6 camps in total and volunteers work hard to reach foster children. You and your family could easily start a new camp and help make a special summer for a child.

Spring Break Family Activities – Missouri

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

We have another blog that focuses on Kansas for this very topic, including Kansas City. Check out that blog if you’re in the greater Kansas City area and are looking for fun spring break adventures.

Branson

Silver Dollar City – With over 40 rides and attractions, you and your family are sure to have a fun-filled day. Not to mention there is live comedy and music from local artists. And don’t forget the ice cream and funnel cakes, too!

Branson Ballknocker – A great option if you and your kids are looking for thrills. The Ballknocker is a 12-foot tall clear ball with a large inner chamber that seats up to 3 people. Surrounded by a giant air cushion, be prepared to go on the ride of your life!

Springfield

Dickerson Park Zoo – A classic spring break favorite, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the zoo. To make it extra special, you can opt for behind-the-scenes tours or participate in some of the art events the zoo sponsors during spring break. It’s a great way to combine learning and fun.

Explore the Caves – This part of Missouri is known for the many wonderful caves and spring break is the perfect time to explore them as a family. Fantastic Caverns and Talking Rocks Cavern are right around Springfield. You can also travel to the Marvel Cave at Silver Dollar City for an extra-special outing. Marvel Cave opens on March 15, 2017.

And don’t forget your local public libraries! As we mentioned in the Kansas blog post, most local branches all across the state will have free events all week long.

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.

Parent Support Group Series – St. Louis, MO

Source: Flickr user Janita

Source: Flickr user Janita

We are starting a blog series to help bring parents, especially stay-at-home moms, together, city-by-city. We started with Wichita, Kansas and now we are reaching out to those of you in and near St. Louis, Missouri. 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.

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.

Blogs

Nifty Mom – a lifestyle blog from a local who also addresses parenting issues and provides tips from raising her own kids.
STL Motherhood
Circle of Moms

In-person groups

St Louis Catholic Moms – This group offers a wide variety of events and meetings for moms. Whether you need support with a newborn or new addition to your family, or want likeminded women to enjoy a night out with, this group can help. They also offer a book club and playdates.

Keep in mind that most churches offer events and support groups for parents, so don’t be shy about asking what is available.

Parents as Teachers (PAT) – If you live in St. Louis, you are in luck as the PAT headquarters is there! These groups are meant to be informal ways for children to play and parents to meet and have social experiences with adults and for their kids. Check with your local public school for details about groups or call the office and ask for more information.

Missouri History Museum – They offer a Parent & Me program for families with children ages 2 – 5 that encourages free exploration of the museum and a chance for parents to meet.

BILY Parent Group – Although this group is in St. Charles, it may be useful for some parents who are struggling with behavioral issues with their children. The group can help with any crisis issues and create action plans.

Additionally, be sure to check out storytimes at your local public library. These are great opportunities to meet other moms nearby.

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.