Want to raise kids who are open minded? Hand them a map.


In my son’s room, there are two world maps – one large paper atlas of the world, longitudinal and latitudinal lines criss-crossing the flattened globe; and one, a laminated, cartoonish version with small pictures of animals and names in whimsical font. The second one arrived with a dry-erase marker, and my son and his friends have put that to use, “decorating” it with toilet humor words and adding the word “butt” to random locations from sea to shining sea. It’s a map only an 8-year-old could love.

But underneath the scribbles and the silly defamation of country names, there is learning going on, and discussions begun. He has learned where China sits in relation to the US on the map, and knows that Togo is a real country. He knows that Alaska looks like it is part of Canada, connecting us with our neighbors to the north.

He hasn’t traveled out of the country, yet, but that is my goal for him… to see and experience other cultures outside of his own. I want him to understand that the US is not an isolated island at the top of the food chain and that all the other countries in the world are significant in their own ways. To me, it’s important that he learn why we are all interconnected and how his heritage includes ancestors who came to America after traveling far and wide.

“Travel changes you,” said the late world-traveling chef Anthony Bourdain. “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.”

Travel isn’t cheap, though, and not all families have the means to take their kids on a whirlwind 10-country trip to Europe in the summer. Some families can’t even afford to take their kids out of their home city.

Perhaps it’s enough to learn and dream and place pins on a map in your bedroom for all the places you wish you could go. And perhaps it’s not. It’s definitely not enough for the next generation to understand that we are not the star country on Earth and all the others, simply bit players.

Bourdain realized this more than most, and he made it his mission to educate through travel journalism. Immersing himself in the local ways of life through food, he showed the world, and especially his biggest fan base in America, how to open their collective eyes to the rich tapestries of people much different from ourselves. When I was a kid, it was a National Geographic subscription that gave me dreams of global travel. Bourdain was a National Geographic issue come to life.

Even within the United States, each state has a flavor different from the one next door, especially from region to region. Louisiana, for example, has a lexicon unlike any other. In New Orleans, the state’s most colorful city, the French Cajun influence manifests in food, street signs, and even the way the city is sectioned into parishes. Massachusetts is steeped in early Americana and history. Wyoming bears traces of the old Wild West.

Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa look similar on the surface but have differing views on family, politics, and conservation. Indeed, the Midwest “fly over states” contain much of the farmland and grain Americans consume every day. If city kids don’t have a chance to see the lush beauty of a field of tall corn stalks in July or rolls of hay at harvest, they may think those who live there are only nameless, faceless farmers.

Back when my great-grandparents moved to America, Italians were considered second-class citizens. They banded together in communities where they felt safe and insulated themselves from those who hated them. They had it easy compared to the Black community, however, which was trying to climb out of the hole slavery had created for them.

My grandparents’ generation – even, in some parts, my parents’ generation – saw “whites only” water fountains and segregation. In some parts of the country, the resentment and fear of change hasn’t yet disappeared. When parents don’t give their kids a chance to open their minds to other people and cultures, racism festers like an open wound. It stays raw and painful, and the children raised with those feelings learn to fear and hate, too.

Fear of the unknown is a primary reason people lash out against others, and that drives parents to pass those fears down to their kids. “Frightened people become angry people—as history teaches us again and again,” Bourdain said.

Even if you don’t have the disposable funds to travel, get your kids a map. Get a subscription to National Geographic (or go to the library and get them there). Learn a language together. Host an exchange student.

Consider stretching your kids’ minds by exposing them to different accents, languages, foods, sights, and sounds. Be uncomfortable. Listen. Watch. Learn. Introduce yourself to people along the way. Take the advice of the locals. The earlier, the better. Because if we introduce children to people, places, and things different from what they know, they will be less afraid. They will be more understanding. And they’ll be more likely to reach out across any divide and improve the world for the next generation.

Our back-to-school to-do list: Sleep in. Throw water balloons. Eat ice cream.

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Some of my friends' children are already in school, their bright and shiny faces posing with memorable first-day-of-school signs. I have seen the posts from parents who are excited for school to start so they can get back on track. As a working mom, I get it. There's no question that it's easier to get things done when the kids are on a predictable schedule (with bus service!).

Here, we have a few days left of summer, and the air feels...well, it's hot, of course, because it's Texas. And underneath the heat that will stretch on to October, the swirling atmosphere of pencils, papers, and books is picking up energy.

I don't feel ready for it to sweep us into fall. 

We have not bought a new backpack - last year's works just fine. We haven't gone to the mall for clothes shopping; he has plenty of clothes that fit (for now). We have done no school shopping, which is thanks in part to the fact that my son's school offers back-to-school supply packets for all of the kids to pre-purchase. It's brilliant, actually, so thanks to whomever came up with this idea.

I admit, it's easy for me to be casual about the return to school with an only child. We just returned from our annual stay with my family in my hometown in Indiana, where we spent hours on the road, driving across the Midwest. We landed at beaches in Michigan where my son could dig a hole up to his waist in the sand, we ate ice cream at every stop, and enjoyed priceless, quality time with my parents, my sister and her family, and friends from as far back as kindergarten. We're still unpacking, honestly. My heart is still there, immersed in memories. 

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It's impossible to keep the new school from starting, or for time to stop marching on, faster and faster and faster as I watch my son grow. It was a startling awakening this morning when I dropped a vase on the kitchen floor and stepped into my son’s flip-flops to protect my feet from broken glass; they fit me.

In some ways, maybe it feels to me that if I embrace the next chapter, I'm hastening it to my door. And I don't want to speed the year along any more than it does. 

Instead of early bedtimes and cursive practice or math facts, I'm opting to squeeze every last moment from this amazing summer. You don't have to tell me that at almost 9, we are at the halfway point for our summers with our son at home. For a few more years, perhaps, he'll want to still play with us, snuggle with us, and spend time with us above everyone else. 

You'll find us at the local ice cream shop down the street. Or maybe we’re jumping in the lake. Walking to the park. Sleeping in, when we can. Throwing water balloons.

And when Wednesday arrives, I’ll paste a smile on my face and brace myself for the beginning of the next hill of this roller coaster. We’ll take pictures and commemorate the kickoff of another sprint through the school year. He’ll be excited to see his friends, maybe a little nervous, and as he walks away from me and into his classroom, I’ll probably be thinking about how much I loved this summer, and pray for another one just like it next year.

Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I’d always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life
— Bryan Adams



Christopher Robin is in Theaters Next Week! These Printable Activity Sheets Will Help Get You Ready.


When I was a kid, I loved Winnie the Pooh. Well, actually, I loved Eeyore. For some reason, his forlorn demeanor made me want to envelop him in my arms and hug the sunshine back into him. My son, on the other hand, likes Tigger. No surprise for an 8-year-old boy, right? 

Next week, we're looking forward to the opening of Disney's new movie, Christopher Robin, which brings all of the characters to life! It will be in theaters August 3. 

In the new live action adventure, the young boy who shared countless adventures with his stuffed animal friends in the Hundred Acre Wood has grown up and lost sight of what’s important in life. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasure in life once again.

Check out the sweet trailer: 

We can't wait to see it! In the meantime, Disney provided some fun coloring pages and activity sheets to share. Print and enjoy. 


My son's big summer adventure is on the TODAY Parenting team page!

He is no longer the tiny boy who gripped my neck before preschool for a time, refusing to enter the room. We would sit outside the door and talk and I would hold him until he was ready. I had the unfettered luxury of doing that, then.

He’s big and small at the same time, and he reaches milestones faster than I can keep up.

This summer, he’ll be taking a trip with my husband on a father-son fly fishing trip a few states away from where we live. His grandfather will be there and two of his great-uncles, and they will dote on him and love having him there with them. It’s a rite of passage; my husband started traveling with his dad on this annual week-long fishing trip when he was 8 as well.

Read the full story on the TODAY Parenting team page!

My son's summer adventure is about to begin and I'm the one who needs to be brave


Dream Kitchen Goes High Tech with LG and Best Buy


When I bought my first house, it was a modest bungalow out in a newly-developed area north of Atlanta, Georgia. It was cookie-cutter and ready-made for us to move in, my then-boyfriend and I, and it felt like home. I was young – still in my mid-20s – and I had a lot to learn.

One of my first big decisions was to buy a couch, a washer and a dryer, and a refrigerator. I have to tell you, it was my dream growing up to have a refrigerator with a water and ice dispenser, and I was determined to have that for myself in my new grown-up life. I was so excited to pick out my own appliance with my own money.

Now, 20 years and a few houses later, I have not on the refrigerator I always wanted, but I have a kitchen where I love to talk to my family (and watch my husband cook – lucky me!)  and a small but effective laundry closet where the sounds of the washer and dryer are so rhythmic that my little boy used to laugh and dance to it.

That little boy is now 8 – nearing 9 – and one of the phrases he uses to describe himself is “always hungry”. Now my dream is to not only have an ice maker and water dispenser, but a window that will reveal what’s inside without him standing there allowing the cool air to deplete, putting all of our groceries at risk.

At the Mom 2 Summit a few weeks ago, I spent some time with the representatives for Best Buy, and they had my dream fridge on site: the LG Instaview Door-in-Door. Their whole kitchen setup was displayed in matte black, which is LG’s new exclusive collection. It’s stainless steel with a low-gloss matte finish that reminds me of the new automotive matte paint jobs. Of course it does, if you know my passion for cars.  

Yes, the LG units are envy-inducing sleek. And they’re also tech-savvy: these LG smart kitchen appliances are wi-fi and voice-enabled, allowing you to control your kitchen appliances remotely, from changing settings, to checking the status, or turning them on or off. These smart appliances would make my life easier, for sure. Especially that little knocking-on-the-glass feature to let me see what’s inside without letting all the good, cold air out.

Maybe the next model can make dinner for us, too. A woman can dream, right?

LG washers and dryers with SmartThinQ® technology will change the way you do laundry. You can start and stop wash cycles remotely, get updates when laundry is done and even receive reminders about scheduled maintenance.

If you have an Amazon Echo, or Google Home Alexa (or Hey Google) can interact with your appliances and help you run a more efficient household.

Here’s just a few examples of LG’s Smart Appliance Capabilities:


  • "Alexa, turn on ice plus for my party tonight"


  • "Hey Google, how much time is left on the range?"
  • (Or use your SmartThinQ app to check the time remaining)


  • Receive a notification that the cycle has finished

If you’re in the market, you may be interested in these offers from Best Buy (which is, incidentally, where I bought that first refrigerator, washer, and dryer so many years ago):

Summer Kitchen Bundle (5/10 – 7/11)

  • Purchase a 4-piece Kitchen Bundle and receive up to $400 INSTANT rebate.  LG and LG Studio models are eligible for this offer.
  • The offer covers both Memorial Day and Independence Day.

LG Ultimate Laundry Room Rebate (5/10 – 7/11)

  • Purchase a qualifying laundry bundle and receive up to a $400 rebate

Drop in at your nearest Best Buy or visit BestBuy.com to learn more about these LG Matte Black Kitchen Appliances. The next time I need to heat up the oven and I’m racing home to make dinner, I can call it in remotely. Now, that’s what I call smart.

* * * 

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card

And the winners are...

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When I was called up to the stage at #Mom2Summit, I had no idea what to say. I truly thought that one of my fellow nominees with much bigger fan bases would win the Iris Award, so I made myself content with the honor of being in their company. When I reached the microphone, I said that I'm just lucky to do what I love.

I do feel lucky. I dreamed of being a writer since I was a kid, so I still want to pinch myself sometimes. But even when you get to pursue your dreams on a national platform, it's still work that consumes you, and constantly thinking about how to improve, and finding ways to be as open and thoughtful as possible. It's worth the time to be the best I can be, and there is always room to be better.

I love working with a team made up of women who not only value what I do, they encourage and support me and my writing and they care for my words in a way that speaks to the parenting themes of their site.

Yes, there will always be people who don't believe in you, don't value you, and would rather see you fall. Don't spend your valuable time worrying how to win them over. Let your work speak for itself and focus on those who lift you up, elevate you, motivate you, and inspire you.

Thank you TODAY Parents for featuring me on your site after the Mom 2.0 Summit Iris Awards. I feel so grateful to have the support of the TODAY Parents team along with all of YOU.


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You are Not Too Much


Sometimes you can see the path ahead of you unfurling like a magic carpet. You know that you have to work hard and it’s going to be painful at times.

You know that not everyone wants to see you succeed. You know that not everyone wants to come along on the same route but may meet you at the end. You are derailed when a childhood friend quietly unfriends you and you don’t know why but the story you make up in your head is that you have been TOO MUCH. Too excited. Too self promoting. Too selfish.

So you look at the friends who are flanking you on every side and won’t leave you even if you lose your ever-loving mind. Because they love you even though you can’t seem to catch your breath and don’t have enough time to take care of everyone the way you want to.

You know that the work is going to be worth it. You know your dreams are ahead, just past that door. But right now the end point looks far away.

I don’t know how I’m getting there yet. But I’ll get there. And I am so grateful for the tide of love that sweeps me along when I’m feeling lost.

Broken bowl... and whole parenting


This morning, my son spilled his bottle of juice all over the table. We were running late and I had to be at a local TV station to promote a charity event; somehow, I kept my cool, tossed him a towel, and helped him clean it up. 

"We all make mistakes," I said. 

And it's a good thing I said that, because not two minutes later, I dropped a bowl and it shattered all over the kitchen floor. What can you do at that point but sweep it up and move on, right? 

I haven't always been patient with him when messes happen, and I certainly haven't ever been a perfect parent. But when there is a small victory like that, when I can stay calm, I can remind myself that I'm doing a good job. With parenting, there is no formal assessment or annual review with a bonus; there is only the small moments day to day. 

Shattered bowl ----> whole parenting. I'll take it.

Glaring Airing: 2018 Television Shows Air Dates (Guest post by Madison Ward)


Editor's Note: Madison is our entertainment guru, keeping us up to date on the latest books, TV shows, and movies. She loves to cover pop culture and I'm glad to have her voice in this capacity.

{This post written by Madison Ward, Superstar Intern}


I don’t know what it is about this year--maybe it’s the particular shows I have begun watching or maybe it’s just a busy year on TV--but I have never had to wait so long for all the episodes of a season to come out. Many of the television shows I have been watching have been skipping week after week, creating a very inconsistent viewing base and driving me off a cliff. My favorites, like Lethal Weapon, Supernatural, and The Good Doctor are prime examples. Sundays I go into the week prepared to be disappointed, not knowing if this week the next episode will be on, or if I will have to wait one or two more weeks. And these aren’t even the winter breaks! Winter breaks are one too two months and then the second half of the season is wrapped up. However,  that first half and second half of the airing season has been incredibly inconsistent on it’s own: playing an episode, and another episode, then nothing, episode, nothing, nothing, episode, episode, episode, nothing, nothing, episode.

Some people I know have even had to change the way they watch TV, just to soothe their irate attitudes towards the gaps. Many have resorted to binge watching after the ENTIRE season has aired, waiting even longer because of the hassle of figuring out the complicated schedule of the airing of their favorite shows.

My shows this year that should have taken four months have transformed into six or longer. I have some amount of patience (some might disagree), but I for sure have no patience to wait this long and other viewers agree. Television shows such as Game of Thrones, True Detective, Stranger Things, and Fargo are so intricately made that they take forever to air. Not weekly, but season by season, according to Entertainment Weekly. Because of heavily computer-animated shows and Netflix Originals, some series have taken more than a year before another release. And sometimes, on the very edge of not even being able to air, because the length of the off-season left viewers lacking enthusiasm and drive to get invested in them again.

There is a specific amount of time with movies, TV series, and books with which one must deliver some type of consumption to tide over an audience before they lose interest--just like airing too frequently can easily bore fans with lack of anticipation and suspense. If one steps too far into one of these zones, not finding a happy medium with releases, then there is limited hope that that series will stay successful, no matter how good it is.

In regard to the shows I watch, I do love them enough that I am willing to wait for them, but it is still an inconvenience and an irritation. Others don’t possess the extreme obsession I have with TV entertainment. This year has some promising TV entertainment, but the year has been dreadful in consistency and if it is not careful, will lose audiences interests exponentially.

I am not an expert, but if I were these television series creators, I would set my schedule way in advance to make sure nothing veers off course. There will be always be weird instances of political disaster or weather emergencies that may interrupt a well-laid plan, but at least we have a well-laid plan, because it doesn’t feel that way right now. These rocky releases make the shows seem messy and can affect audience’s interests, and in my opinion, networks should think about that well before and create more routine than is being represented in today’s TV.

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Join me in Buda at the 21st annual wiener dog races!

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Have you ever seen a wiener dog race? Here’s your chance! "Wonder Wieners" is the theme of Buda's annual dachshund race, and every spring, people come to watch from all over the area.

The 21st annual Buda Lions Wiener Dog Races is super-fun family event, and tickets are only $5.00 per person over 12, and FREE For kids 12 and under. The annual races, which are in their 21st year, are April 28 and 29 at Buda City Park. Festivities start at 8 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., while the wiener dog races begin at 10 a.m. All proceeds go toward the Buda Lions Club. Want to enter your very own wiener dog? The entry form can be found on the Buda Lions Club page

The money raised at this event goes right back into the community. The Buda Lions Club supports kids’ vision screening events at the local schools, donating funds towards local school scholarships, and helping out the Texas Lions Camp, which is a camping facility for children with physical disabilities. 

Also at the event, you’ll find Arts & Crafts vendors, an assortment of food vendors, kids games, a BBQ cook-off, and a bake-off. New this year is a separate mixed-breed set of races. 

Firehouse Animal Health Center is the official event vet, and they are a full-service veterinary hospital with five locations in Central Texas. They combine state-of-the-art medical care, innovative design, thoughtful communication, excellent client service and a focus on total wellness to create comfortable, stress-free experiences for people and their pets. Want to give them a try? We have a $55 coupon right here.

You’ll find the full schedule of events here. Mosey on down and park at Cabela’s, which is free, and complimentary shuttles will be provided to Buda City Park. See you there!

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Make someone's day today

Photo by  Lina Trochez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

I wrote a note to the boss of a member of my son's school staff today to report her... for being awesome. Try it! You'll make someone's day.

"I'm sure you already know this, but I wanted to commend Amanda for being such a wonderful representative of the community in the front office. My mother was a school secretary for an elementary school for 25 years, and I was always in awe of how she knew every kid and teacher and greeted each person with a smile. Seeing Amanda every time I come to the office reminds me of my mom, and it makes me feel good. She has a stellar attitude and energy about her, and I feel lucky to volunteer in the office under her supervision."