- Oct. 22, 2010
When we lived in our tiny house in North Lawrence I complained all the time that I needed a house where I could entertain. It was not only a small house, but the back yard was, well, undesirable. Years of dogs, neglect, random ill-conceived gardening projects, and too much shade had wreaked havoc on what could have been probably a decent entertaining and playing place.
I didn't even like to go back there for an evening cocktail with my husband. I preferred to sit on the front porch and watch the cars fly by on their way to The Bird down the street.
I worried that our son would need a place to play that was not full of mud and trip hazards. I knew a better yard and bigger house had to be in our future. But I didn't anticipate this.
Since we moved in, just over a month ago, I have hosted no fewer than ten "parties" of varying size and kind in our back yard. If you are not strong in math, that equals about two a week. This week it will be more like four. And I just sent out invitations to various kid birthday parties, my own birthday party, and a going away party in the coming weeks.
People are getting sick of me.
But I'm sort-of in "make hay while the sun shines" mode. And when that sun is shining down over 100 degrees most days, I can't think of anything else to do, but get in the pool and invite a few friends to join us.
All of this activity in and around our home has made me learn a few lessons.
1) My mom was right that cleaning-as-you-go is easier. I stay on top of the picking up and the dishes and the laundry much better now, and I never feel a huge sense of cleaning disaster impending.
2) Decorating is over-rated. Art can go on the walls and new furniture can be picked out when the snow is falling and we are trapped indoors.
3) Swimming with a toddler is a two man job. We need one person outside the pool to chase him if he toddles toward the deep end or to run in and retrieve a snack, and one person in the pool - you know, to make sure he doesn't drown.
4) Because of #3, entertaining becomes a one -man job. Since one person has to be in the pool with the baby at all times, entertaining duties fall directly to the other.
5) Because of #4, gone are the days of elaborate meal planning and complicated dishes. Can you throw it on the grill or serve it cold? Then yes.
6) If you offer people food, a swimming hole, and a cold beverage, they don't care what the food is or that there is no art on your walls.
Mama's always right
Don't sweat the small stuff
All photos by Trina Baker of Gallery 32
This weekend I proudly participated in something called Chicken Sh*t Bingo.
I kid you not.
My friend Lulu's husband's band was playing in Tonganoxie at the Annual Helen's Hilltop Biker Bash, and in order to entertain herself during their part of the show (not that the music isn't entertaining enough, but you know, she hears them often), she decided to put on her own little game of Chicken Sh*t Bingo.
Lucky for Lulu, the event was for charity - namely, funds were going to BACA: Bikers Against Child Abuse, so she had a good reason to haul a couple of her yard birds out to The Hilltop and watch them pick a square on which to poop. I mean, a reason other than the entertainment factor, which honestly would have been enough on its own. But this? This was FOR THE CHILDREN.
Lindsey and I were happy to assist Lulu, as we will do anything for children. Also, we like to be in the presence of bikers. And chickens. And there was beer. Pretty much, we'll go to anything if there is one of the three, so this was really a trifecta for us.
So we recruited folks to pay $5 a square which was really just a gambling situation, only this time you were betting on which number upon which a chicken was going to relieve itself. Watch out, Vegas. I think this is sweeping the nation. Our slogan will be "Don't be a chicken sh*t!"
The Biker Bash was a huge amount of fun and we saw all manner of folk in all manner of dress and undress, and the music was good and the people were generous and I believe a good time was had by all. And when I say all manner of folk, I mean it. Lulu's parents, who are both over 80, showed up to hear the band and donate a few dollars to chickens pooping, and this, for me, was the most impressive part of the day.
Lulu's parents are conservative, small town folk. Her dad is the town doctor. They are respected pillars of the community. And there they sat, in their lawn chairs, listening to songs about redneck mothers and drinking beer, as if such activities are de riguer for them. But really, they are. Lulu's parents have come to events of varying degrees of sanity for us for years. They go to Sunday band shows at the Replay with regularity. They have come to our fundraisers featuring belly dancers and silly, somewhat naughty story telling. So they don't blink an eye when they're invited to a Biker Bash where they'll sit in slacks and dress shoes near bikini-clad women washing Harleys and chickens popping for money.
And this, my friends, is what I call a role model. Doctor and Mrs. Stevens have six children and those are six interesting, smart, grounded individuals. Their children are MD's and PhD's and therapists and filmmakers and photographers and health care workers and all are admirable, thoughtful, and unique. Doctor and Mrs. Stevens lack pretense, but are kind, show class, and most of all, compassion. They might go to an opera one weekend, and a Biker Bash the next. They accept their children and their children's friends unquestioningly and encourage all of us in whatever endeavors we might be embarking upon.
And this is the kind of parent I hope I can muster the courage to be. The kind who is unabashedly accepting of my boy, who isn't afraid of the unknown, and who still likes bluegrass music, bikers, and beer (possibly among other things) even when I'm 80.
I get the emails all the time. I see the Facebook posts. The ones about how "When I was a kid I didn't wear no stinking bike helmet, or a life jacket in the swimming pool, or use hand sanitizer, or ride in car seats, or get filtered water." And while I get the sentiment and I agree with some of it, I'm all about bike helmets, and car seats, and life jackets in swimming pools. No, I didn't die in a pool or in a car or on my bike, but you know, I'd rather not risk it for my kid when these easy protections are available.
I'm the mom who hides carrots in my kid's juice and slathers him with 50 SPF at a glimmer of sunlight. I'm against motorcycles and scared of half pipes. So it surprised everyone, myself most of all, when my husband suggested we remove the diving board from our backyard pool, I defended the honor of the board. I want to keep. that. board. And it's not because I am a fabulous diver and want to show off my Triple Lindy or my Gainer.
It's because the thing is FUN. I love to see the kids dive and splash and catch a little air.
We had a shindig on Father's Day and I won't lie and say I didn't get the urge to hide my eyes once or twice as kids and adults alike bailed off the board, but overall they were having so much fun, I couldn't imagine taking it away. The thought of having it taken out made me feel like the proverbial mean old man neighbor who shakes his fist and mutters "Damn kids!" under his breath.
However, I am much more comfortable when little ones wear life jackets in our pool, and I don't care how dorky they look.
They can call me mean and hateful all day when I tell them to walk, not run, around the pool.
I've considered getting a whistle. But for some reason I have a soft spot for that diving board. Call it a double standard. Call me nostalgic for the neighborhood pools and diving boards of my youth. Heck, I'm even thinking of getting a slide.
I'm sure it won't be the last double standard I'll maintain as a parent. I know half of parenting is about consistency, and I really do try, but sometimes, it seems, fun has to win. Just once in awhile.
*All photos by Trina Baker of Gallery 32
Tell me I'm not alone, people.
You see, we moved over the weekend, and I just couldn't figure how all that was gonna work with a toddler underfoot, so off to Grammy's house he went for 3 nights. Naturally, I was worried. Would he behave for her? Would he eat? Would he sleep? I wanted him to make a good impression. Plus, I really really want him to be invited back. Often.
He'd been okay at his grandparents' for overnights before, but he's getting older, and, well, more toddlerish, if you know what I mean. Hence, my concern. What if he bit her? He's never bitten anyone to my knowlege, but still, he could bite her. Or he could cry all night and keep everyone up. Grandpa still farms every day and needs his rest. What if he tortures the cat or throws up on her rug or won't let her hold him or cries for me the entire time?
I'll tell you what happened, though, and it was worse than any of my fears. HE WAS AN ANGEL. Nary a tear. Slept all night ever night, twelve-plus hours. Ate whatever she gave him. At the end, when she handed him over to me in the parking lot of a Turnpike McDonald's, he cried. He didn't want me or his dad; he clung to Grammy and hugged her neck. In a word, he was PERFECT.
This situation could not be worse. I mean, really. What does this mean? A) He hates us. B) He knows what to do, he just won't do it for me. C) My mother is clearly the superior parent. D) He hates us.
It's not that he's particularly bad for me, but he's a toddler. He sometimes cries when he doesn't get his way. He's a picky eater. He wakes up too early in the morning. BUT NOT FOR GRAMMY. No, for Grammy he takes LONG naps, and sleeps late, and goes to bed without a fight. For Grammy he doesn't wrestle around while she tries to dress him or kick her in the abdomen like he's been known to do in our house once or twice.
I know, I know, I should be counting my blessings. He loves his Grammy and she loves him. He made it easy for her and so he'll be invited back. It's good that he wasn't scared or traumatized by the fact that we virtually abandoned him for the better part of four days. At one point during his stay, I called to check on him and his Grammy said - and I quote - "You know, I bet in few more days he'd forget all about you guys." YES. SHE. DID.
We are disposable, apparently. Crushing.
And, get this. He can go sleep at her house with cows moo'ing outside and in a strange little crib with none of his usual stuff and only his monkey as a reminder of home, and he will sleep through the night as if drugged. But bring him home to our new house, with his own room full of his familiar stuff, down to the sheet that I didn't wash over the move because I wanted his familiar smells on it, and he can't sleep. Going to bed requires at least two tries, and he wakes up screaming and terrified at 2:00 in the morning. WHAT GIVES, GRAMMY?
Surely she drugged him. It's okay, I just want to know the truth! So I can copy it!
Toddlers. Man, are they confusing. I brought that kid home to a house with a pool, which in his parlance is just a giant "LATH!" (Read: Bath, with an L, and a lot of spitting at the end.) You would think he'd be appreciative, happy, content with his new digs and the parents that bought it for him.
Yeah, not so much. I believe this is what they call a Life Lesson, and a foreshadowing of things to come. Welcome to reality, Parents. You Will Never Be Good Enough. Good thing we'll never stop trying.
Johnny turned 21 months old, and went on a hunger strike.
Just like that, he stopped eating. This is not to say he was a tremendous eater before, but he did okay on his diet of usual stuff. My friends all think this is hilarious, because I was the mom who swore I'd never feed my kid a frozen chicken nugget and I was going to do EVERYTHING. IN. MY. POWER. to ensure he'd never be a picky eater. Ah, the dreams of the pregnant and uninformed.
Let's just say this: Johnny's repertoire of acceptable foods has not been expansive for the last three or four months. He gave up almost all meats, is iffy on eggs, doesn't like anything red (read: spaghetti, pizza, ketchup, etc.), is picky about fruits, and is virtually waging war on vegetables. I'd go near him with a bite of peanut butter on a cracker and he'd screw up his mouth and hid his face.
And then the few things he liked - cereal bars, chicken nuggets, deli ham, clementines, graham crackers - disappeared from his palette. It became a steady diet of mac and cheese and hot dogs. I'd drump some cheese on some veggies and he'd eat two peas. He gave up oatmeal, quesadillas, and even pancakes with syrup.
I. WAS. LOSING. MY. MIND. Truly, it was driving me to distraction. People, of course, are always offering advice. "Have you tried ice cream? Have you given him a cheese stick?" Of course it's all very well-meaning and while I do appreciate the concern, I often want to scream. I. HAVE. TRIED. EVERYTHING. If they sell it, I've bought it, tried it, and ended up throwing it away.
So one afternoon last week, mid-strike, we popped in to Capital City Bank to see my friend Deb and do a little home loan business. And she offered Johnny a Pop Tart. Not the most nutritious of food choices, but at this point I was happy if food - any food - passed his lips. And he ate the stinking Pop Tart, and asked for more.
The next day, I picked him up from daycare, and he got in the car and started chanting "Debi. Debi. DebiDebiDebiDebi." Luckily, I had some business I could do at the the bank, and so we went over the bridge to see Aunt Debi. And she handed him another Pop Tart. And he ate it, and asked for more. We started calling her Aunt Pop Tart.
If he likes Pop Tarts, I thought, Pop Tarts he shall have. And I went out and bought the EXACT SAME KIND, and made plans to make some homemade and hopefully mildly more nutritious ones from scratch when we get moved into the new house and I have a kitchen again.
So I gave him the precious Pop Tart the next morning for breakfast, and not only was it denied, he covered his eyes with his little hands as if LOOKING at the Pop Tart was painful, and he sobbed. He was victimized by the presence of the Pop Tart.
I notified Aunt Pop Tart that her reign was over.
UNTIL I TOOK HIM BACK THERE THE NEXT DAY. Aunt Debi couldn't resist trying. "Johnny, do you want a Pop Tart?" Him: "YEP."
My friend Lindsey says that toddlers are all schizophrenic, and I think she's right. She says growing up is a process of normalization and it's our job as parents to do our best to help that along. Not that we're going to bat 1000 or anything.
The best laid plans, and all that. My kid has a foodie mom and a big-eating, pizza loving dad. He could potentially eat a homemade, tasty meal every night. Instead, he prefers box mac and cheese, if you are lucky. Obviously the gene pool is not really a factor here.
The good news is, he's back on food. This week, he can't get enough of anything and everything. But he's started coloring on our walls. A decent trade? I think so.
Our little North Lawrence house, the one we're leaving for a bigger version on the south end of town, has some awesome neighbors.
When we moved in, there was a policeman and his wife living behind us. They moved out and were replaced with a retired fire captain who is just as nice and helpful as the prior occupants. We have a neighbor who kindly stops by with his Bobcat after a big snow and clears our driveway, and a neighbor who brings us produce and herbs from her garden.
People stop by and chat while they walk their dogs. The fireman brought Johnny an awesome fire truck toy at Christmas. One of our neighbors told another of our neighbors that we wanted to sell our house, and HE BOUGHT IT. Without a listing, a neighbor came over and said "I'd like to buy this house." Just like that. That is a damn fine neighbor if you ask me.
When we started looking for a new house, the neighborhood was just as important as the size or specs of the house. We wanted somewhere as cozy as our current 'hood, where people go outside and talk to neighbors and that would be a safe place for Johnny to ride his bike and explore as he gets older.
And we think we found it. We have driven around our soon-to-be 'hood several times, patting ourselves on the back for making a good choice. It's not a particularly new or fancy neighborhood. It's not a neighborhood full of perfect lawns or uncracked driveways. The houses all look clean and well-kempt, if not new or particularly fancy. But most importantly, we always see families outside. We see kids playing and people chatting or walking dogs and we feel like this is our kind of place.
We'll miss our old neighbors, but we've already met a few new ones - ones who are welcoming and festive just like the old ones. We're already planning pool parties and cookouts to invite our new neighbors to, and laughing when we look at the trails behind the homes where Johnny will probably make a hideout with his friends.
I remember the neighborhood I grew up in fondly. It was the sort of place where the mothers put us out like pets in the summers and told us to come back at dinnertime. We played tag and the moms sat on the patios and we swam in the neighbor's pool all. day. long. I don't expect life to be exactly the same as it was all those years ago, but it is my hope that this new house will provide a similar experience for our boy - a life of security, of knowing the neighbors, of bike rides and friends and icy-pops around every corner.
The Stuke family is moving. Never before, in all of my moves, has moving been this. much. work.
I moved in college what seemed like every semester. Throw it in the back of a friend's truck, half-unpacked. Find out who to write the rent check to. Done.
I moved into my first "real" house by myself - no husband or baby or trappings therein. It was pretty smooth going, and I had plenty of time to pack and prep, seeing as I only had myself and my one job to be concerned with.
This time, I'm juggling several jobs, a move to a bigger and more complicated house, a husband, a toddler, and the myriad of financial dealings that go into a deal like this. Needless to say, I'm stressed. I'm happy, excited, chomping at the proverbial bit to move into this new casa, but I'm also exhausted, nervous, and strung out.
There's a lot to do: banking, insurance, inspections, decorating, projects, purchasing of new stuff, the list goes on. But the thing that is stressing me out the most, at least right now, is day care.
Right now, we live right next to our daycare and it's a no brainer to drop Johnny off and pick him up before and after work. But in relation to our new house, his current daycare couldn't be more out of the way. Continuing to take him there would add minutes onto both of our days, and extra gas, and even earlier mornings than we're already enduring.
There is a daycare right by my work. It is run by the same folks who run his current place, so I know he'd be in good hands. It would be both financially smart and efficient to take him there.
And yet, and yet, I'm dragging my feet. He loves his teachers. He never cries in the mornings. When I ask if he's ready to get dressed for school, he brightens and says "Gogo?" which is his way of saying "Jojo" - his teacher's name.
This is one of the unexpected consequences of our move. We are moving so he'll be in a safer neighborhood and have a home that allows plenty of room to grow and play. We tell him all the time "Mama and Daddy bought you a new house." Really, this his house. We're just living in it.
But with that (good) decision, came other decisons. Would he get used to a new school? Yes. But he's going to be getting used to a new house, a new bed, a new yard and a new street. Is it fair to make him upend it all when I don't absolutely have to? Or, is this a case of Mama Frets Too Much?
Usually, I am ridiculously decisive. I usually know exactly the best course, what makes sense, what will be healthy and safe and best for us. Or, at least, I think I do. I don't much dither over plan A or plan B, and I don't usually struggle to see the forest for the trees. But on this one, I'm waiting. Maybe the best plan will come to me, or, maybe I'll take my favorite band, Split Lip Rayfield's, advice: "Sometimes you gotta do something, even if it's wrong."
Taking Johnny places, these days, is a crap-shoot.
I pine for the days when he would accompany us to Free State, happy to loll in his infant seat and linger while we had a long lunch.
Now, having a meal at a restaurant is often akin to putting a mountain lion in a high chair and asking it to have a civil meal. I mean, he does okay for awhile, but eventually that mountain lion needs to get up and move around, and he doesn't really care if Mommy is finishing her last four french fries.
Still, we are committed to keep on keeping on, because we will go insane if we never go anywhere on the weekends. Mama doesn't want to cook every single meal we ever eat. And, probably most importantly, we think he needs the practice. If we never take him to a restaurant because it's "too hard" it will only get worse.
I have the same theory about babysitters. I think it's a good thing for us to get a babysitter once in awhile and leave him at home with that person for an evening. If we didn't, he's be a hot mess when we finally had to. I make it a point to ask someone to come over in the evening at least every couple of months, even if we just go to the store or out for one cocktail.
Saturday is the Fire in the Hole BBQ competition at the Eagles Lodge (benefitting Visting Nurses and cases of children who are diagnosed with "Failure to Thrive"). I have the distinct pleasure of being a judge at said event, so I'll be there for a lot of the day. I know a lot of other kids and parents we know will be there, so I asked my husband if he'd bring Johnny up to play after his nap, and I saw the pained expression on his face. "Uhm, it hasn't been that fun to take him places, lately."
I reminded him that at this thing, he can run around and not be confined to a high chair. And there will be other little kids, which always seems to help the situation. Plus, there's a quarter cake walk. That boy needs to win his mama a freaking cupcake!
The challenges of being a parent are never-ending. When you aren't a parent, you see a couple with a kid screaming at the table, and you think "Why in the world would you bring your baby here?" Or you see the dad walking down Massachusetts with his kid on a leash, and think "FOR CRYING OUT LOUD." Now, I look longingly at said leash, wondering if it might be just the tool for getting him through this barbeque on Saturday. And I sympathize with the mom whose kid is screaming and throwing quesadilla bits at the neighboring table. "I get it, people," I think. "The game is now about survival." My friend Lulu once said there are times in parenting when we just have to be okay with a B-minus.
My kid might get a B-minus at the BBQ on Saturday. I might be getting a B-minus for not somehow better training him in how to behave in a restaurant. But at 20 months, he's not exactly a rational being. So B-minus is pretty good. It means he is still alive, and he's managed to get four bites of chicken finger in his mouth before the rest became a hat.
At the first sign of warm weather, my girlfriends and I announced to our families that we'd be having a day off.
We sent out an email to our extended group of women friends, inviting them to sit on one of our patios and have margaritas for an afternoon. Kids were welcome, but not encouraged. Not because we don't like having kids around - we actually really do - but because we figured this one was about the moms. So much of what we do on a daily basis is about the kids, we wanted everyone to have a day off, and that's hard to do when your 7 year old is complaining of boredom or your two year old is taking a dip in the koi pond.
We told people to bring either a dip or a bottle of tequila, or just themselves. I made a crock pot full of taco meat, and picked up a bag of tortillas.
Throughout the day, probably 30 women came and went over many hours. It was estrogen heaven.
I don't think anyone spent over 15 or 20 bucks for those hours and hours of peaceful sunshine and entertainment. No way could we even have gone out to lunch for the price we paid for that day. We didn't go overboard trying to have a million different food offerings, or fancy decorations or party favors. We just had a pitcher of margaritas, some non-alcoholic drinks (Crystal Lite, etc.), and a few taco fixings on hand.
As the weather gets warmer, I'm getting really excited about the social opportunities in store for us. In days of yore I'd have been looking forward to The Replay patio or the front porch at The Free State Brewing Company. I'd have fancied myself having a margarita on La Tropicana's patio or tooling around shopping districts in Kansas City.
These days, though, nothing gets my heart pumping like the prospect of a back yard gathering. Kids or no kids, they're the perfect way to release some stress. Let the kids run around, then put them to bed or let them collapse in a sun-beat pile, and enjoy your adult friends. Save your entertainment dollars by cooking your gourmet burgers at home, and save yourself the agony of waiting for a table to open up at your favorite bar. Other bonuses to the back yard: No one will likely throw up on your shoes. No one will likely overcharge you for your beverage. You can sleep on your friends' couch if necessary, and you might even get fed a good breakfast in the morning. You can pour your drinks how you like 'em, and fix your food to your specs, be they vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, or raw.
It doesn't take much planning, time, or stress to pull off a back yard of happiness, and people are usually more than happy to participate, in my experience. Life is busy, and it's hard to prioritize "downtime" and friends sometimes. But without the effort to make sure friends remain friends, quite frankly, they just often don't.
Do I have time to take a Saturday afternoon off to play with my friends? No. Do I occasionally do it anyway? Absolutely. I think that kind of thing is as important for my health as eating a balanced diet and getting exercise. My husband can attest that regular Friend Therapy makes me a happier, healthier wife and mother. Which is good for all of us.
Let's just admit it. Half the stuff we do "for our kids" is really for us.
Case in point: I was determined to dye Easter eggs with Johnny. Johnny, mind you, is 20 months old.
But last year, I flunked Easter. I had an adorable outfit for him, which he wore to my mom's church, and he screamed bloody murder through the whole thing. I was so rattled, I didn't even snap a photo of him in that precious blue sweater-suit. I didn't bother with a basket or gifts for him last year. I mean, he was an infant. I won't say I wasn't tempted but I feared ridicule from my very German, very practical family. I could just hear them, imagine the sarcasm. "HA! Oh, yes, those chocolate bunnies and boiled eggs are perfect for your infant. And the basket, oh yes, I can see he's thrilled with the quilted, handmade Easter basket you paid thirty bucks for. He's beside himself with what the bunny brought him."
So I skipped the whole thing last year. Picture and all. Whoops.
This year, even though he is still to young to understand, I cracked. I loved Easter baskets and egg hunts and dying boiled eggs and all that stuff as a kid, and I couldn't wait any longer to get Johnny in on the game. Basically, I wanted to dye eggs. I wanted to own plastic eggs in which I could place foil wrapped chocolate eggs or M and M's. Does Johnny give a whit about any of it? Heck no. I don't even let him eat candy (much).
Last night, I boiled up more than a dozen farm fresh eggs, excited to see what the dye would do to the light green and brown eggs. I put Johnny in his high chair to "participate" in the fun, thinking he'd like to see the eggs changing color and maybe stir one around. My husband had tried in vain days before to ask if I didn't think Johnny might still be a little young for such an activity, but I was undeterred. WE WERE GONNA DYE SOME EGGS, DAMMIT.
Mark it down, people. My husband was right. That's right, I said it. He was right. Johnny took one look at the coffee cup full of beautiful blue dye and started screaming. He wanted to drink it. He was tired, and he was going to drink. from. that. cup.
About the time the screaming went to full throttle, my husband walked in the door. "What happened," he asked, assuming the baby had gashed his head open, what with the volume and vehemence of the crying. "Oh, just dying some Easter eggs," I said, determined still to win the baby over with the extra-fun activity.
Todd picked the baby up out of the high chair and took him to the living room to have some chocolate soy milk and a nighttime story, leaving me in the kitchen with my eggs. Which, of course, I finished, and they are beautiful works of art. My husband reminded me again that he's probably too young and I just said "Hey, let's face it. THIS IS FOR ME."
Today I will put together Johnny's Easter basket and pack it with the rest of our things to take to Grammy's for the weekend, and I will force him to care about it and pose next to it for photos, and we'll read Easter bunny books and my husband will roll his eyes.
But I will be busily remembering the Easters of my past, where my mom made Easter baskets that held Dolly Parton albums and pretty little rings and Cadbury Cream Eggs. And even though my child is too young to understand, I'll still be living vicariously through him. Because, really, why else do we become parents? Reliving our own childhoods is one of the greatest perks.
I've worked for Ballard Community Services now for just a few days shy of a year. It's tough to get my mind around all that I've learned. It's been a crash course in the Lawrence community. I've been elbows deep in community resources, social services, families, and, well, love.
I'm constantly overwhelmed at what our community is willing to do to help its own. Our families benefit from the dedication of people they've never met and will never meet. They benefit from people who donate time and money, from people who work at community organizations who have dedicated their lives (usually for meager pay) to working behind the scenes and/or in the trenches for families and children in various states of need. They do it for the individual families, but also because they know what I now know: it's good for the community. Strong and healthy families are the key to a better Lawrence.
For example, check out our upcoming Family Health and Safety Fair. We began thinking about this project when we were discussing how to further the efforts at health and wellness we began when we were awarded the five Garden Incubator plots behind the Ballard Center. We are the happy recipients of a Root for Food curriculum provided by a grant through Farmers, Families, and Educators United and the support of the Douglas County Child Development Association. Through that group, we were also able to set up a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for our families through which to pick up bags of fresh, locally grown produce every week throughout the summer. So, we had the food angle pretty much covered. But health and wellness are not just about food. They're about adequate medical care, about mental health, about physical activity, and about economics. And we knew there were so many resources out there to help our families access the other realms of health and safety, we just had to put them in touch.
The Kansas Health Literacy Project donated some of their wonderful books, "What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick," which I'll be writing about in a later column. So we knew we'd be distributing the books to every family, and giving a brief tutorial on how to use them. But we wanted more, so we started making phone calls. And friends, it was easy. We used funds raised by The Lawrence St. Patrick's Day Parade to purchase some healthy snacks and buy a few prizes (like a FitBit!) to give away. Cottin's Hardware donated some tables. Pinnacle Career Institute said they'd be here to give some chair massages and talk about education and health. And the participants started just rolling in.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital, SafeKids of Douglas County, Heartland Community Health, Healthcare Access, Douglas County Dental Clinic, Genesis Gym, Body Boutique, Maggie's Farm, Douglas County Fire and Medical, Headquarters, Bert Nash... the list goes on. They all happily agreed to come share information and resources with our community. How cool is that!!
The event - on June 7 from 4 to 6 - is open to the entire community - we're not hoarding these resources just for ourselves. Please feel free to come experience the synergy of Lawrence, KS. All these people in one place, helping each other help the community. Brings a tear to my eye.