Grizzly Bears and River Otters

By: Leah Prescott

If you have visited Riverbanks Zoo recently, you have noticed lots of changes. Always a destination for locals and visitors alike, the zoo is currently in the midst of 36 million dollars of improvements and additions. Construction is underway for a spectacular new entrance, a vast children’s garden, and, eventually, an interactive sea lion habitat that my family is already anticipating.

Riverbanks Zoo

The kids and I were recently excited to visit Riverbanks Zoo to experience the opening of the Grizzly Ridge and Otter Runs. During the construction, Riverbanks grizzly bears Butch and Sundance were relocated to the Tulsa Zoo while their new bigger and better habitat was created. North American River Otters Divya, Savannah, and Sophia Grace joined them from their home at Miller Park Zoo and are now happily exploring Riverbanks Zoo.

Riverbanks Zoo Grizzly Bears

The new exhibits are amazing. The grizzly bears have always appealed to my children, but we have never seen them in such close proximity. The bears are very close to the glass and the height is perfect for kids and adults alike. The bears were clearly enjoying their new habitat and were both lounging in the sunshine when we visited.

Riverbanks Zoo Otters

We fell in love with the sea otters at the Georgia Aquarium last year, so we couldn’t wait to see the three river otter sisters at Riverbanks Zoo. Otters are just such cute little entertainers and really interact with the crowd. My three little ones loved the “rocks” you can stand on for the perfect view into the otter run. I finally had to drag our family away from the glass to visit the rest of the zoo. We will definitely be visiting the river otters again soon.

To read more about Riverbanks Zoo’s latest news, click here.

The Louder I Speak, the Less They Hear

By: Lara Winburn

getting kids to listenHave you ever witnessed a conversation between two people that speak different languages, and one of them continues to say the same thing over and over just louder? It is as if increasing their volume will make them bilingual. Lately at my house it appears that my children and I are speaking different languages and all I am doing is getting louder and louder. Perhaps instead I need some version of Parenting Rosetta Stone.

Here is a perfect example of the less-than-perfect nightly occurrence at my house:

Me: “Hey, precious daughter of mine, please go put your pajamas on.” (This is said in my sing song mother-of-the-year voice.)

Daughter dances, plays, skips etc.

Me: “Hey Bud, put your pajamas on.” (This is said in my less sing-song, but still light tone.)

Daughter continues to dance, play, skip etc.

Me: “Pajamas now, please.” (Firm, but friendly, and saying it for what seems like the 3,498th time.)

You know what my daughter is still doing ….

Then I speak my best English in what seems like a very loud, rather harsh voice because surely she just doesn’t understand what I am saying and if I say it louder she will finally get a rough translation of Mommy-Talk to 4-Year-Old Talk.

Me: “PAJAMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please.”

I know this is not the answer and I have admitted in the past how tone deaf I try not to be. But seriously, just put on your pajamas. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be some screechy mommy over something as minimal as pajamas.

Surely, these small people that inhabit our home must just need a translator. Sometimes daddy is an effective translator because he has not repeated himself as many times and he still has a singsong or a joke left in him. Or maybe sometimes I just need to stop, take a breath, count to ten, and refer to my mommy-to-kid translation dictionary that gives me the many tenses to ask for pajamas in their language. And if all else fails I try to remember the wise words of Mary Poppins:

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!”

Or, as a last resort, but also in the words of Mary Poppins: Try RUM PUNCH.

If You’re Happy and You Know It

By: Chaunte McClure

As soon as you read the title, I’m sure you had a flashback to your childhood. Or, if you’re a mom, you might have thought about the times you sang the familiar song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” to your little ones. Regardless of which thought you had, one thing’s for sure: Now the song is on repeat in your mind. Go ahead and admit that you paused between the first two sentences to sing it out loud. It’s okay! If you’re happy and you know it sing the song! Now your face is really showing it because there is something about that song that makes you happy.

There’s a similar effect when I hear Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” My head begins bobbing, my right foot starts tapping, and if I’m driving, my right hand leaves the steering wheel and lands on my left thigh to repeatedly move to the beat of the sound. Why? Because no matter what mood I was in prior to the song coming on, at that moment, I’m happy. Or am I?

social media competitionI used to ask that to myself in regards to others. Are they really as happy as they portray on social media? I don’t even ask anymore because it really isn’t my business, but I think I can easily discern that people can put a lot of time and energy into pretending to be happy.

I’m all for sharing positive stories and I believe we need more of it. But when our “positive” stories are lies, they can have a negative effect on the reader and the writer. It has to be draining to live a lie, and just like it drains pretenders to report false emotions and exaggerated stories, it’s equally draining to read them.

At some point, everyone has issues. Let me use myself as an example. It might seem crazy what I’m about to say: Yes, I have issues. No, I most likely won’t share my issues on social media, but I will share inspirational posts and, every now and then, what I think is a good photo.

Here’s where you or someone you know comes in … (I have no knowledge of this ever happening to me, by the way.) Because you see my positive posts or my photos that show me having fun or maybe just looking good, now you have to make your life seem a little better than mine by posting what you think is better than how you see my life online.

Social media façades! There are so many people with great jobs, great families, great social lives, great businesses, great opportunities, and great success – well at least that’s their life in the virtual world.

Be yourself, stop competing with others who might be pretending too, and if you have issues, deal with them and heal from them instead of acting like you’re so happy. It’s okay to just scroll. You don’t have to post what’s (not) going on in your life. Fake happiness is the worst sadness.

P.S. One of my Facebook friends, who always shares messages that uplift, educate and empower, inspired this post. Earlier this week she shared this quote: “Fake happiness is the worst sadness.” And thus my two cents that you just read. My opinions. My observations.

Saying Goodbye

By: Shannon Shull

I experienced a bittersweet week recently in which I had to say goodbye to my students from this past school year and pack up my entire classroom. The middle school that I have the honor of teaching at is splitting into two schools – an intermediate school and a new middle school. I get to move my drama department to the new middle school. In preparation for this big move, I had to pack up literally everything.

my empty classroom

My empty classroom

es, I admit, my Thor poster had to stay up until I was ready to walk out the door that final time! ;-)

Yes, I admit, my Thor poster had to stay up until I was ready to walk out the door that final time! 😉

As I taped up the final box and checked out with administration, I took a moment to reflect. As I gazed upon the small, emptied space, I thought about all the incredible experiences I have witnessed and been a part of over the past two school years. Trials and tribulations galore! If the walls could whisper, I’d hope they’d say there was once a woman here that accomplished great things for and with her students. A woman who made big sacrifices to be an outstanding teacher of Drama.

A student note.

A student note.

Student notes

Student notes

It’s not until the room is quiet that some teachers will realize how much they will actually miss their students. Though we all desperately need a much-deserved break, there’s still a part of us that will miss some of our precious students. Only the day before, on the last day of school, my classroom was packed with energetic students singing and dancing, celebrating the end of a long school year. My honors students filled my room and as the last afternoon announcements of the school year ended, they literally recreated a scene from High School Musical II, in which they chanted “Summer, Summer, Summer…!” and then broke out into the song “Summertime” from the movie. What fun! And what a glorious, super-fun exit! Tearful hugs and best wishes for all things created a sweet final goodbye.

Precious Note from one of my 8th Graders

Precious Note from one of my 8th Graders

My wish is that we all have a productive, restful, and fun summer that reinvigorates us all! And I know this lady here will be happy to see some of those precious, smiling faces next school year who appreciated and adored their teacher so much!

Baby Sign Language

By: Brady Evans

Did you know that babies can do sign language? They can communicate with sign language well before they can with words.

baby sign language

We started signing with Benjamin when he was just a few months old – right when we felt he could focus on our hands and mouth. We’d say the words out loud and give him the hand motions and then feel like fools for doing so. And then one day, when he was about six months old, he gave us the “milk” sign while nursing. That’s when we knew this was going to be a great thing. A 6-month-old with a specific communication for his hunger!? Amazing.

Our caregivers and I used for signs. These signs are simplified versions of American Sign Language. There are videos and cards you can use with your child but we never took that route. We just say the word and use the sign. Now at 13 months old, Benjamin signs “milk,” “eat,” “more,” and “wait.”

It truly is an amazing experience having a child that purposefully asks for what he desires instead of screaming out of frustration. You don’t need to worry about using signs inhibiting language development. My child has 4 distinct verbal words at 13 months old in addition to his signs. Signing simply enhances the language we use. It really is a fun and rewarding way to interact with your baby.

For more information, read these articles from BabyCenter and psych central.

Straight Talk about Sleep

By: Crissie Kirby

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the worse my sleep habits have become. I’ve always been an “early to bed, early to rise” sort of person; however, over the last few sleeplessyears, this has evolved into a sleeping pattern/cycle that, frankly, stinks.

I swore I would never let my children sleep with me; and yet, sometimes, they do. Even worse, sometimes I fall asleep with them. I will go in to read to them and, more often than not, I fall asleep before they do. It is not uncommon for me to fall asleep between 9:00 and 9:30, then wake around 1:00 or 2:00 am and fight getting back to sleep for upwards of 2 hours; thus leaving me only about an hour or two before the alarm is calling me to get up and start my day. This all leaves me feeling exhausted most days.

Part of my issue is ADHD-related, and part of it is being the single head of my household. Regardless, when I wake up at those random hours my mind is usually racing. What can I fix for supper? Did I leave that load of laundry in the washer (again)? Did I finish grading those tests? Do the boys have clean underwear? Where are the dogs and cats? Did we remember to feed said dogs and cats? What bill(s) do I need to pay today? Did I remember/forget to get gas in the car? The list could, and often literally does, go on for hours.

What is a sane person to do?

Fortunately, on one of those sleepless nights, I happened upon an article that discussed different apps one might use to help himself or herself fall asleep and stay asleep. As a direct result of that app, I have become a fervent believer in one of those apps ~ Relax Melodies by Ipnos Soft. Consistently, when I have trouble sleeping, I can turn on this app and be asleep in less then twenty minutes; often less. And I stay asleep as long as I just let it play. The beauty in the app is that it is essentially a sound machine, but one with endless possibilities as it provides you with a plethora of sounds that you can mix and match and save as favorites. You can upgrade to the paid version, but I’ve had great success with the free version. My “go-to” sound is one I created that I call Stormy SC Day – lots of rain sounds, mixed with some thunder and lightening. Sometimes, when I remember, I will have the app play on my alarm clock through the bluetooth wireless connection.

Do any of you suffer with lack of sleep or lack of quality of sleep? If so, what are some of your tried and true methods for getting that oh-so-important 7-9 hours each night?

Boardrooms & Boobs: Making Breastfeeding Work at Work

By: Sarah McClanahan

Making Breastfeeding Work at WorkDISCLAIMER: These posts will talk a lot about my boobs. That’s how you breastfeed, by the way. With your boobs. If you’re not interested in boobs, or breastfeeding, you may want to read something else.

Jodi Picoult once wrote, “24/7. Once you sign on to be a mother, that’s the only shift they offer.” And it’s true. Motherhood is a full time job.

I’m the proud mother of two little boys. Super Colin turned 4 in February, and Sweet Baby Ethan is 6-1/2 months old. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, my husband and I both work full time. Oh, and I’m breastfeeding.

Feeding a baby is a full time job in itself. Most of the time, I feel as if I work three jobs. There’s my professional job, the one where I parent two kids and run a household with my husband, and the one where I’m the human equivalent of a dairy cow.

How do I do it? I have no idea. When you’re sleep-deprived and juggling a slew of deadlines, things can get a little fuzzy. What I do know is that it’s not easy being a nursing mother, let alone one who works outside the home. There are times when it’s frustrating, exhausting and downright comical, but it has always been worth it.

It’s funny. Before I became a mother, I never thought I’d breastfeed my children. It just wasn’t for me. When I became pregnant with Super Colin, I figured that I’d give it a shot. After all, I worked at a hospital and knew the spiel. If it worked out, great. If not, that was OK, too.

Little did I know how natural breastfeeding would be for me, and how much I would love it. No latch issues, no infections. With Colin, I went back to work full time after an eight-week maternity leave, and I managed to exclusively breastfeed him for nine months, supplemented for another month and made the switch to formula at 10 months.

Making Breastfeeding Work at WorkI went from completely disinterested in breastfeeding to “breast is best” within hours of meeting my firstborn. I loved nursing Super Colin, and when I became pregnant with Sweet Baby Ethan, I knew that we would do everything possible to make breast best again.

And so far, it is. We’ve been exclusively breastfeeding for a little more than six months and Ethan is thriving on Mommy’s milk.

By no means am I an expert on breastfeeding, but I hope that these posts will help expectant and new families as they figure out how they want to feed their children. Whether it’s with your boobs, formula or some combination of the two, or you stay at home or work out of the home, we’re all doing the best we can for our kids.

Find out how we’ve made breast best for us in my next post!