Make These Monster Cookies

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It was time for a new cookie recipe and I remembered these super addictive and delicious monster cookies my brother had shared a few years back.


You’ll need:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 12 ounces creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1/2 C M&M’s
  • 1/2 C chocolate chips
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 4 1/2 C quick oatmeal (not instant)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Line cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or if you don’t have one parchment paper will do just fine.
  • In your kitchen aid bowl add eggs and sugars, mix well.
  • Next add salt, vanilla, pb and butter.
  • Next stir in M&M’s, chocolate chips, baking soda and oatmeal.
  • Use a cookie scoop to place onto your lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool for 2 minutes before moving them or they will fall apart.

I have to warn you, you may want to eat the entire four-plus dozen cookies within a few days. In fact, it may have made 5 dozen but I think we ate a dozen cookies worth of the dough. We shared some with family and was a fun activity to do with the kids!


What’s your favorite cookie recipe?

 

The Four Values Needed for Winning An Odd 2020 School Year

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I am a planner.

I thrive when things are consistent and predictable.

I tried to be spontaneous once, and no one was available to do anything with me — it was a major disappointment!

Back in July, when the school district announced it was creating an online academy option for this school year, and by enrolling in that we would know our daily schedule, I knew that was the best choice for our family.

Would it be the same as school in years past? No. Would there still be challenges we faced? Yes. My children were apprehensive about how it would go, as anyone might feel about a new experience, but we were ready.

Or so I thought.

The week before school was scheduled to start, my email inbox exploded with emails and links and names. It was so much! Having four children across all school levels in the district basically means we are connected to more than 30 different teachers, secretaries, principals, plus the district communication. I was invited to many zoom webinars.

I did not feel popular — I felt completely overwhelmed.

It felt like the entire relaxation element we had experienced during this strange quarantine time had popped like an overinflated balloon. I was not looking forward to this continuing for the next nine months.

I added every class time to each google calendar so I could tell who needed to be where this trimester. The junior high schedule is the most confusing with A/B days and Wednesday early out times, and different number of periods each day compared to the high school.

Thank goodness once I added it to the calendar, it just appeared when it was time.

The first day of school was hectic, too, because we lost power mid-day. We had made plans — what should we do?!

I had to remember to breathe; we were doing OK. Everyone is in the same situation.

The next day, everyone got up and logged in without needing any assistance from me at all. I realized I had forgotten to trust my children and their ability to manage this on their own. My own anxious feelings got in the way, and I was disconnected from them. They graciously reminded me when they said, “We know, Mom!” to my third question of whether or not they remembered what they needed to do.

It has basically been smooth sailing ever since!


I am constantly reminding myself of the values our principal shared in one of the webinars I attended.

This year, the focus is on flexibility, empathy/grace, trust, and collaboration.

This is to be modeled and expected between teachers, students, parents, and the school administration. This school year is an adventure we never imagined we would be required to take.


Flexibility

Sometimes the power goes out. Sometimes one class releases early, and we get absorbed in our book and miss our next class. Being flexible is probably the hardest for me, because I really appreciate consistency. My trick is to consistently be flexible. Routine is great, but learning to adjust as things outside of our control happen is a life skill that everyone benefits from knowing.

Empathy/Grace

Sometimes we get multiple emails from a school we don’t attend. Sometimes we get the wrong link to log into class. This is new for every single person. Recognizing that we are all doing our best in our unique situation allows us to accept other perspectives as true. Empathy is similar to a muscle — it exists inside all of us, and it can grow or atrophy as we use or don’t use it. Let’s get stronger this year!

Trust

Sometimes we don’t have age-appropriate expectations of our children. Sometimes we don’t have the right resources or knowledge we need. Open and honest communication is the greatest foundation to trust, and then we practice behaviors like listening first, keeping commitments, and clarifying expectations to maintain that trust. Modeling and practicing these skills now will grow a great generation through this difficult season.

Collaboration

Sometimes we need others to help us. Sometimes we do better in a group than on our own. Being open to working with others, seeing our teachers, students, and parents on the same team working toward the same goal, is so important. We may need to do things in a different way than we are used to doing them. We may need to speak up more for what we and our children need. We can continue to have a great educational experience as we work together.


How have you experienced a moment that tested one of these values: flexibility, empathy/grace, trust, or collaboration? We’d love to hear your stories.

Crash Course in Engineering: The Latest Iowa Children’s Museum Play Pack

Many of us are still being cautious about venturing out during this strange time of COVID-19. While I find myself missing movies, sitting in the library reading a book, and enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shops, my son misses places like play areas and the Iowa Children’s Museum.

The Iowa Children’s Museum is open, but what if you don’t feel comfortable taking your kids out and about yet? Or you may need some activities on days when your children are at home.

The Iowa Children’s Museum has you covered!

In August, the children’s museum rolled out Play Packs — curated boxes of activities to entertain and educate your children. The first box, Out of This World, features a variety of hands-on activities centered around all things space, like stars, the moon, astronauts, space flight, and more.

You can still purchase the space box, and now a second box is available!

Iowa Children's Museum play pack

My son and I had the chance to try out the latest Play Pack, Crash Course in Engineering. I have long known I have a budding engineer on my hands, so this activity box was perfect for us!

Watch his excitement as we made our own unboxing video!

 

As you can tell, my son was super-excited! Each of the activities includes all the materials you need to complete it. You’ll just need scissors and tape!

The projects in this box include:

  • Tallest Tower: Learn about structures, then use cups, blocks, and other craft supplies to build the tallest tower.
  • Engineer a Bridge: Be a civil engineer! Design and construct a bridge that bears weight.
  • Puzzling Mazes: Make and master a maze that will puzzle your friends.
  • DIY Roller Coaster: Create twists and turns in your very own marble run roller coaster!

In addition to the detailed instructions and materials, there is a notebook containing graph paper for your engineer to sketch ideas, make designs, and plan enhancements. The notebook also has some good general engineering information about building with different materials.

Iowa Children's Museum play pack 2

So, what age is this box geared toward?

I would say it can be enjoyed by kiddos from toddler to teen! The projects can be modified to suit the age. For the littlest ones, the activities will probably be done collaboratively with you. The elementary crowd can likely do most of these independently (I found I was needed for things like holding materials together, tearing off tape, and reading directions while my 9-year-old son assembled things). And for tweens and teens, the projects would be engaging, and your kids may implement the designs and then use their creativity to expand on what they’ve started building.

Each project is well organized and labeled so you know what pieces go with what activity. Another bonus is the dress-up hard hat included in the box! In addition to the four main projects, there are some “extra” related activities. We actually started with one of these, an Eiffel Tower made from vellum paper. And it glows with the addition on a battery tea light!

Iowa Children's Museum Play Pack 2

We continue working on the Crash Course in Engineering projects — there are plenty of things to do to spread out over several days. Another cool thing about these Play Pack boxes is that you use ALL of the materials, even down to the box they come in!

Iowa Children's Museum play pack 2

You guys, these boxes are awesome!

Not only does each box come full of materials and project instructions, each one has a resource page with additional interactive content like educational videos, more projects, books, downloads, and more! But wait! There’s more! (Yes, that was meant to be read in your best infomercial voice!) The museum also has a private Facebook group you can join after purchasing a box. You can share your child’s projects, ask questions, see how others are using the materials, etc.

How can you get your own box or boxes?

You can then order online with options to pick up or have your box mailed. (Maybe a gift idea for out of town nieces and nephews, too?) Not only will you be providing your kids with hours of fun, screen-free, educational activities, but purchasing a Play Pack from The Iowa Children’s Museum supports this amazing resource in our community! These packs are one way that The Iowa Children’s Museum is working to sustain its mission and continue being a resource for families during this challenging time.

So order your Out of This World and Crash Course in Engineering ICM Play Packs today! And stay tuned for next month’s debut — a “magical” pack in time for Halloween! Additional themes are in the works for the upcoming months.

I can’t wait to see what the Iowa Children’s Museum team comes up with!


Other Ways to Play at the Iowa Children’s Museum!

Plan Your Visit

The Iowa Children’s Museum reopened its doors in mid-July with a number of new policies and procedures designed to protect the health and well-being of visitors and staff.

  • Admission is limited to less than 10 percent of regular capacity. Exhibits have limits for how many playgroups can use the space at one time.
  • Face coverings are required for guests ages 6 and up. Children ages 3-5 years old are also encouraged to wear masks.
  • The entire museum team, including front-line floor managers and PLAYologists, are required to wear masks and to complete daily health check-ins before starting their workday.
  • High-touch areas are sanitized throughout the day. A thorough, museum-wide sanitizing process is completed between each play session.
  • Additional safety infrastructure includes hand sanitizing stations, physical barriers at the front desk, directional signage, and virus-mitigating air purifiers in the HVAC system.

Online Ticketing

Online ticket reservations for a specific play session are now required for all guests, including members. Learn more or purchase your tickets  Play sessions are:

  • Mondays: Closed
  • Tuesday – Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

MyICM

Facility rentals are also available for small groups through the MyICM program. This one-of-a-kind play time is great for families, small groups, and to celebrate special days in a safe way.

ICM2Go

For families who are not yet ready to return to The Iowa Children’s Museum, the museum has also launched a new ICM2Go program. These free and low-cost resources help families explore nature, learn about STEM, create works of art, and more from the comfort of their home.


This post was sponsored by the Iowa Children’s Museum. At The Iowa Children’s Museum, children can take an imaginary trip to the moon, explore the science of skateboarding, create messy masterpieces, and explore a pirate’s ship—all in one afternoon! Our learning laboratory is a unique space where kids and grownups can be silly, make mistakes, and create lasting memories.

15 Picture Books for Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month

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September 15 – October 15 is Latinx Heritage Month, also known as National Hispanic Heritage Month, a period to formally recognize the contributions and influence of Latinx peoples to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

But these picture books by Latinx authors are great to share with the children in your life anytime!


Alma and How she Got her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

When Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela asks her father why she has so many names, she hears the story of her name and learns about her grandparents.

Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez

When a boy’s abuela accuses him of being careless with his beloved Bongo, he devises a trap and catches the toy thief red-handed!

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

An illustrated picture book autobiography in which award-winning author Yuyi Morales tells her own immigration story.

15 Picture Books for Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month

Islandborn by Junot Diaz

Lola was just a baby when her family left the Island, so when she has to draw it for a school assignment, she asks her family, friends, and neighbors about their memories of her homeland . . . and in the process, comes up with a new way of understanding her own heritage.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her. But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise

An inspiring picture book biography of storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature.

Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raul the Third

Little Lobo, a Mexican American, and Bernabé, his dog, gather tacos, frutas picadas, cuernos, and more and deliver them to los luchadores preparing for Lucha Libre 5000!

15 Picture Books for Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month

The Boy Who Touched the Stars by Jose M. Hernandez

Every night when he was a boy, José M. Hernández would look out the window and stare at the stars. They were different colors: blue, yellow, and white. Some were larger and brighter than others, and some twinkled as if they were alive. Later, when he saw man land on the moon on TV, he knew he wanted to be an astronaut.

Salsa Lullaby by Jen Arena

Parents put their young daughter to sleep with the help of some music and dancing.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez, an eight-year-old girl of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, played an instrumental role in Mendez v. Westminster, the landmark desegregation case of 1946 in California.

Imagine! by Raul Colon

When a boy visits an art museum and one of the paintings comes to life, he has an afternoon of adventure and discovery that changes how he sees the world ever after.

15 Picture Books for Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month

Rita and Ralph’s Rotten Day by Carmen Agra Deedy

Rita and Ralph live on neighboring hills and they are best friends, until a silly accident while goofing around ends up with both of them angry and unhappy — and they both need to find a way to heal the break in their relationship.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle

Follows a young Cuban girl in the 1930s as she strives to become a drummer, despite being continually reminded that only boys play the drums. Includes a note about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who inspired the story, and Anacaona, the all-girl dance band she formed with her sisters.

Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes

Easy to read, rhyming text about Halloween night incorporates Spanish words, from las brujas riding their broomsticks to los monstruos whose monstrous ball is interrupted by a true horror.

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina

When Mia’s Abuela comes to live with Mia and her family, she helps her learn English while Mia learns Spanish, both with the help of a parrot named Mango.


Do you have any book recommendations for celebration National Hispanic Heritage Month?

Where to View Colorful Fall Foliage Near Iowa City

The air is growing crisper, mornings are cool enough for a sweatshirt, and the smell of pumpkin spice is in the air.

a graphic of fall foliage in the Iowa City area
As with everything 2020, many of the fall traditions that we are used to may be more difficult to enjoy in our current climate of social distancing and isolation. However, we can still view the special show that mother nature puts on each year as the leaves transform from green to a magnificent splash of fall color.

Use this guide brought to you by our friends at Montessori School of Iowa City to start generating ideas for places to view fall foliage near the Iowa City area!


When to Go

The peak of fall colors changes from year to year, based on weather patterns, rainfall, humidity, and other factors. In Iowa, fall foliage generally peaks around mid-October, but keep an eye on local weather forecasts or websites that may be able to offer a more accurate prediction. Generally, the southernmost counties will peak earlier then the northernmost counties. The Iowa DNR website is a great resource for predicting when peak colors will occur in different areas of the state.


How to Go

My favorite way to enjoy fall foliage is on a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive. Remember to enjoy the fall colors only with members of your own immediate household, as the enclosed space of a car would make for a hospitable vector for virus transmission. Remember your masks and hand sanitizer in case you need to stop for food or gas.

You can also take family bike ride, or a walk or hike through a local park or nature preserve. If you’re truly adventurous, you could try a kayak or canoe ride along the Maquoketa or Wapsipinicon Rivers.


Where to Go

You can find beautiful fall colors in a number of places — including state parks and scenic old roads and highways.

A forest view of fall foliage

State Parks

Iowa features many state parks that offer an abundance of fall color, and the best part is that many are an easy day trip from Iowa City! Note: This year, some of the area parks that are well known for their foliage (such as Lake McBride and Palisades Kepler) are partially closed  due to damage from the August derecho that swept through the state. Check local websites for current, local conditions before heading out.

Pikes Peak State Park
2 hours from Iowa City
Map

There are more than 11-miles of hiking trails available at Pikes Peak State Park.  If you are driving, you can follow County Road X-56 out of the town of McGregor. You can view a 500-foot bluff as well as the bridge connecting Iowa and Wisconsin over the Mississippi River.

Bellevue State Park
1 hour, 45 minutes from Iowa City
Map

Bellevue State Park lies right along the Mississippi River and offers breathtaking views of the water, bluffs, and fall colors. There are hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and nature areas, as well as a butterfly garden open to families. US Highway 52 runs right along the east edge of the park and is a great driving route to see foliage.

Maquoketa Caves State Park
90 minutes from Iowa City
Map

Maquoketa Caves State Park is a gem in Iowa. Although the limestone caves are currently closed to the public, the park includes more than 6-miles of interconnected hiking trails.  Caves Road runs along the east edge of the park and State Highway 428 runs straight through the park.

Wapsipinicon State Park
45 minutes from Iowa City
Map

Wapsipinicon State Park is one of Iowa’s very first state parks. The park includes trails, picnic shelters, and caves for exploring. Within the park, Lower Park Road and Upper Park Road create a driving loop that is beautiful for viewing fall colors.

Lake McBride State Park
25 minutes from Iowa City
Map

Truly in our own backyard, Lake McBride State Park is a great place to view fall foliage.  Some of the trails and recreation areas are closed due to tree damage from the August derecho, but many areas are still open.

You can hike on trails, or drive through the road that twists through the park. The boat rental area is closed for the season, but if you have your own kayak or canoe you can use a public boat ramps and then view the colors from the calm and placid water.

Wildcat Den State Park
1 hour from Iowa City
Map

Wildcat Den State Park has a well-developed system of trails leading to both natural wonders and historical sites. 181st St., runs north to south through the park, while New Era Road runs along the southern border.

Scenic Byways

A car driving to view fall foliage

Another option for viewing fall colors is simply to hop on one of the old highways that are sometimes forgotten as we zip along the interstate to reach our destination quickly.

These old winding roads often travel through small towns, or wind along rivers, lakes, and streams. Here are a few possibilities that are easily accessible from Iowa City:

For more information about Scenic Byways and attractions in the state of Iowa, visit the Travel Iowa website.

Do you have any other favorite places to view fall foliage? Tell us!


About Our Sponsor

Montessori School of Iowa City

Montessori School of Iowa City is one of the oldest Montessori schools on the continent. The school is comprised of pre-primary (2-3 year olds), primary (3-6 year olds), and elementary (1-3 grades). Each classroom is built on the foundation of respect for ones’ self, respect for others, and respect for the environment. Peaceful environments are created by meeting physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual needs. Children are guided by individual, small group, and collective lessons that are followed by practice and lead the child to mastery. All classes have music class and Spanish class each week. Before school program and/or after school programs are available. For more information, please visit the website or call 319-338-9650. The school is currently enrolling — tell them Iowa City Moms sent you!

RIP RBG: What An Icon Meant to Iowa City Moms

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We’ve all heard the news by now — Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as RBG, died Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.

The news devastated many, including moms right here in the Iowa City community.

Moms feel heartbroken about the death of RBG
Ginsburg was more than a judicial figure. She was a trailblazer who simply “changed the way the world is for American women.” When she began her professional career, women were not treated equally under the law as state and federal laws blocked women from professional opportunities, basic rights, and even the ability to serve on a jury.

Several Iowa City Moms’ contributors took a moment to reflect on the life and legacy of RBG and what her work meant to them. This is what they said:


“The news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing cuts deep for me.

As I sat reading the news, I couldn’t help but feel an enormous weight. The tears started to pool as I thought about this significant loss. Not only was she a legal, cultural, and feminist icon — for me — she was also a role model. As a working mom she showed us that we could have both worlds and be good at it. Heck . . . we can be great at it. She proved that we can have it all: a successful career and a happy family.
In her own words, “I am a professional success because I am a mother, not in spite of it.”
These words ring so true to me. Mothers are some of the most hardworking women that I know — both in the home and outside of the home. I hope to honor her by continuing my life with a similar outlook. That when things are difficult, to keep going with class, determination, compassion, and strength.
Thank you to the “Notorious RBG” for being a pioneer and showing women just how strong we can be.”

“What did RBG mean to me?

As a woman, she was an inspiration.

As a working professional, she was a mentor.

As a mother, she was a beacon. She was everything!

I hope we can be half as good in continuing the fight for equality and representation.”


“I cried when I heard that RBG had passed. I barely even know why. It felt incredibly heavy.

Losing someone who has tirelessly worked for the good of those without a voice is sad. Losing someone in our current climate of division is overwhelming and scary. I will keep learning and working to do better in honor of her legacy.”


“RBG once told the story of how her baby Jane was the real reason she made it through law school.

In her words, “Each part of my life provided respite from the other and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates trained only on law studies lacked.”

In one sentence, she not only validated all of us working moms, but she also suggested that we are even more qualified as a result of our pursuing both our career goals and our family goals simultaneously. Thank you, Ruth, for paving the way.”


“One of my favorite RBG stories comes from a college friend.

Her daughter dressed as RBG for her school’s superhero day after being inspired by the children’s book, I Dissent.

After hearing about this from a staffer who saw it on social media, Justice Ginsberg sent a handwritten note on SCOTUS stationery to encourage her. I felt like that just went to prove all the things I already believed about RBG as a caring and kind person, in addition to being one of the most brilliant legal minds of our lifetime and a feminist icon.

Amidst what must be an insanely busy schedule, she found time to inspire a little girl, helping lift up the next generation, who will no doubt accomplish great things and become other little girls’ superheroes some day.”


How will you remember Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

 

6 Made-Up Holidays to Celebrate This September

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This year is hard.

Everything is just too much. My coping skills were maxed out back in early April, so add online school into the mix, and WOOF. My writing skills have clearly taken a hit as well. 

When I am seeking peace and calm in my life, purposeful celebrations that are simple and fun give me something to focus on, something to smile about, and something to do with my family that doesn’t involve arguing about screens. Just because we can’t get together and throw big parties right now, doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate. 

Here are 6 fake holidays to celebrate at home with your family this September.

Pick one, pick a few, or go all out and celebrate them all! Tag @IowaCityMoms and we’ll be celebrating together from afar.

First Day of Fall

September 22


Hawkeye Game Day Tailgate

Any Saturday – but keep an eye out for the TBD Iowa football schedule

  • Get the whole family decked out in all your best black and gold gear.
  • Start your favorite crock pot recipe, fire up the grill, make homemade chips and salsa, or try one of these 5 easy game day recipes.
  • Play some yard games like bags, red-neck golf, or croquet. Or, if the weather doesn’t cooperate, play some family board games inside. 
  • Teach your kids the Iowa Fight Song and the Victory Polka.
  • Put on an old Hawkeye game video and relive the glory days!

National Pancake Day

September 26

Make pancakes.

Eat pancakes.

Enough said.

Here are some great recipes for both homemade pancakes and syrup. Be brave, and see if you can make your pancakes into some fun shapes! This is a fake holiday, after all, so live it up!


National Be A Good Neighbor Day

September 28

Do something nice for a neighbor. Rake leaves, bake cookies, write a note, bring them flowers, make sure your dog doesn’t bark all night . . .


National Coffee Day

September 29

Y’all. This is what we’ve trained for! THIS IS THE DAY!

Corridor-wide coffee date! Take a selfie with your perfect cup, and share it far and wide on your social media channels. No shame in your ‘gram game! Treasure your roasted bean water and celebrate it for all it has done for you. Tag us @Iowacitymoms and we’ll join you in a virtual cheers. Consider supporting local and grabbing some java to go from any of these Iowa City area coffee shops.


National Hot Mulled Cider Day

September 30

Nurse your coffee hangover with some warm and spicy mulled cider. There’s nothing better than apple cider from Wilson’s Orchard, but you can make it extra special by heating it on the stove in a pan with some mulling spices. It will make your whole kitchen smell divine and put you in the fall spirit (if you weren’t there already!). 

Pro-tip: even after you have strained the spices out of your cider, they will still smell great, so throw them back in the pan with some water and use them as potpourri!

Mulling Spices Recipe

To a half gallon of apple cider, add the following spices. (If you like it less spicy, use the same amount of spices for a whole gallon of cider, or just halve the recipe.) 

Heat it all in a pan, and let simmer on low for at least 10 minutes. Strain spices before serving. 

1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 whole cloves
3 whole allspice berries
3 peppercorns
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger
Optional: A thinly sliced cross-section of orange, lemon, or both.

Happy celebrating! And know that other moms and families around the corridor are celebrating with you in spirit. Snap some pics of your celebrations and tag @iowacitymoms, and let’s celebrate these made-up holidays together.


 

Four Silver Linings of Virtual Kindergarten

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Well, I think it’s safe to say that the 2020 school year didn’t start the way anyone would have imagined.

My daughter started kindergarten in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) this year, and the first day of school was not like anything I pictured when I looked forward to this milestone over the last couple of years.

My husband and I enrolled our daughter in the standard enrollment option at ICCSD, due to our work schedules, young age of our learner (and minimal experience with a computer and the expectations of schooling), and no immunocompromised family members living in the house (there are definitely strong reasons for choosing either virtual or standard!).

Standard Enrollment is the A/B hybrid option with possibility of all virtual depending on local COVID-19 case rates. The school year was set to start on September 8, with my daughter being in group B, so her first day in the physical classroom would have been September 10 — and she was so ready to go!

However, before the start of the year local positivity rates rose high enough for ICCSD to be granted a two week all-virtual waiver from the state. So, we started this milestone year online.

As understanding and supportive as I am about the reasoning behind an all-virtual move considering the circumstances in Johnson County, I couldn’t help but to be a little bit bummed (about the scenario we’re all in) that my only child’s kindergarten year started so differently than planned. I’m sure we all feel this way — nothing about what’s happening is an ideal situation for anyone, whether the family opted for all virtual or not.

Nothing compares to how your typical school year feels.

For the last couple years, my daughter has been so excited to start kindergarten, and learned all about things like the school cafeteria, gym class, and the library while in preschool.

But as much of a letdown as it is that she still hasn’t experienced any of that yet, I’m choosing to see some of the silver linings in our temporarily virtual scenario:


I get a glimpse into her classroom

I log her into her morning full-class Zoom meeting at 8 a.m. This is as close and I’ll ever be to physically sitting in the room with her. In a normal scenario, I never would have such an intimate look at the workings inside the classroom on a regular weekday. Now, I watch how she begins her day having shared time with their friends and going through the calendar. We also get to debrief right after classes are over and she can share what she learned while I give her a snack.

I’m much more involved in the learning process

When my daughter was in preschool, we worked with her at home on reading and some other activities, and I always went through the items in her take-home folder to see what she’d been working on. However, none of that compares to how deeply I already know the content that she’s currently working on and what products and services the district uses for instruction. If she started any other year, it would have likely taken me longer to become comfortable with all the programs and workbooks because I’d just be looking at them a little bit at a time after school hours. Now, I deeply understand how to work through programs like SeeSaw and I know the exact content of her core activity lessons. I think this crash-course in instruction will aid my ability to assist with her homework for the long haul and I’ll be able to provide assistance that meets her where she’s at in terms of learning style and ability level.

Mornings can be a little slower

Getting to preschool and the office was always such a mad rush in the morning, and preschool didn’t even start that early. It was always a blur of locating shoes and coats, and getting everyone into the car with all the things they need. It’s nice to temporarily enjoy a slower pace because I know one day we’ll be back to the chaos. We sleep a little later, dress a little slower, and just head down the stairs to start our day. My daughter also enjoys breakfast a little more leisurely because she doesn’t have to rush to eat before jumping in the car for the school day.

We’ve set up a schedule where I work from home and facilitate kindergarten with my daughter and a neighbor in the morning, and then my daughter goes to the neighbor’s house in the afternoon while I have some undivided time to focus on my job. Every day feels a little bit more like a circus, so I really appreciate that at least the mornings can be a bit more low-key and we aren’t rushing to jump in school traffic.

I’m learning about flexibility

I can be pretty “type A” and there is nothing I like more than having an organized, detailed plan laid out ahead of time. Well, the ability to even do that is completely nonexistent this year, as the reality we’re facing essentially changes by the minute. We chose the standard enrollment option because it would work much better alongside our jobs — but then we just had to figure out how to manage all-virtual anyway. A dose of learning how to adapt and adjust has been good for uptight me, and I’m sure I’ll have to continue to be flexible as she continues from K through 12th grade. My future of carpooling back and forth to activities; keeping track of spring concerts, back-to-school nights, and picture days; monitoring homework; and more will benefit from my new found flexibility.


What are some of the silver linings you’ve experience with virtual learning?

Halloween in Quarantine: Ideas for a Spooktacular Time at Home

Halloween and trick-or-treating go hand-in-hand.

Halloween in QuarantineHowever, this year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, neighborhood knocking may not be something you and your family are up for doing. Use this guide brought to you by our friends at Montessori School of Iowa City to start generating ideas for Halloween in quarantine. This list includes some creative ways to dress up in costume and celebrate this creepy holiday at home!


Trick-or-Treat at Home

One of our contributors came up with this idea early in quarantine when she and her family were looking for some unique things to do at home. Her sons knocked on every interior door in the house and she and her spouse answered the door with treats. Just be sure to run ahead before they knock!


Haunted (Candy) Hunt at Home

Consider creating a candy scavenger hunt. Hide the goods, flip off the lights, and have your kids hunt for sweets with a flashlight. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, but with a spooky theme.

Halloween Movie Night!

Depending on the age of your kids, consider having either a scary movie night, or a Halloween themed movie night. Pop some popcorn, order a pizza, or make some of the ghoulish goodies featured below.

Halloween Treats and Sweets

From healthy snacks like clementines dressed up as pumpkins and bananas that look like ghosts, to devilish themed desserts of cookies, candy, and cupcakes — set aside time to make several of these 14+ Halloween themed snacks and goodies for kids.


Creative Creepy Crafts

From painting pumpkins to ghastly garland, browse through these more than 40 Halloween craft ideas. There is something for every age in this impressively, expansive list from Good Housekeeping.

How are you celebrating Halloween this year?


About Our SponsorMontessori School of Iowa City

Montessori School of Iowa City is one of the oldest Montessori schools on the continent. The school is comprised of pre-primary (2-3 year olds), primary (3-6 year olds), and elementary (1-3 grades). Each classroom is built on the foundation of respect for ones’ self, respect for others, and respect for the environment. Peaceful environments are created by meeting physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual needs. Children are guided by individual, small group, and collective lessons that are followed by practice and lead the child to mastery. All classes have music class and Spanish class each week. Before school program and/or after school programs are available. For more information, please visit the website or call 319-338-9650. The school is currently enrolling — tell them Iowa City Moms sent you!

 

10 Empowering Latinas You Should Know

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September 15, 2020, marks the beginning of what I call Latino Heritage Month, but also known as National Hispanic Heritage Month.

As I reflect,  I feel like this year I’ve finally come into my own in embracing what it means to me to be Latina. In many ways, it almost felt necessary as certain terminologies and practices seem to erase Latinos from mention. If one issue really stood out to me during this period of self discovery, it’s the lack of awareness of Latino history and historical figures.

Even for myself, I was largely unaware of important Latina figures until this past summer.

In my home, we embraced white culture in an effort to protect us from hate and intolerance. Standing out was simply not an option and that included being proud of a history I didn’t know. Latino heritage classes and materials are almost non-existent in our local schools, so my opportunity to learn through the school system was absent. I went through 1/3 of my life not knowing those who have defied the odds so that I could achieve the same or even more.

I knew that needed to change, and that change started with me.

This summer — better late than never — I poured myself into research of my own. During my research, I came across many remarkable Latina women who are pioneers of change and have made positive contributions to the world we live in today.

For me, it was eye-opening. I was amazed to find so many strong Latinas throughout history. Instantly I resolved to teach my daughter about them. I hope stories like those I’ve included here will inspire her to find strength to make a mark on the world as a Latina.

I’m starting with my daughter, and passing to others in hopes more will learn about the struggles, triumphs, and achievements these strong women represent. I also resolve to fight so that someday, my history, will be taught as equally as others. That Latinas will grow up learning their history and knowing, without question, they belong.


10 Empowering Latinas You Should Know

Sylvia Mendez (1936-present)

Photo via http://sylviamendezinthemendezvswestminster.com/

Roots: Mexico and Puerto Rico

About: Mendez is a civil rights activist. In California, those of Hispanic and Latin descent were not allowed to attend schools designated for “whites.” Instead they were sent to “Mexican schools.” Mendez was one of those denied enrollment to a “white” school, which led to her parents filing a lawsuit for her right to attend school as an equal. At the age of eight, Mendez played an instrumental role in Mendez v. Westminster. That case was a landmark desegregation case in 1947 that successfully ended de jure (by choice) segregation in California and would pave the way to end the era of segregated education for others. On February 15, 2011, Sylvia was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor given in the United States.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa (1958-present)

Photo via NASA.gov

Roots: Mexico

About: Ochoa earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from San Diego State University (1980), master’s in science degree (1981), and doctorate in electrical engineering (1985) from Stanford University. In 1990, Ochoa was accepted into the NASA space program, became an astronaut in 1991, and on April 8, 1993, was the first Latina to fly into space aboard the shuttle Discovery on a mission to study the Earth’s ozone layer. Ochoa completed four total space missions during her NASA career, totaling 1,000 hours in space. In 2013, Ochoa again made history when she became the first Latina director of the Johnson Space Center.

Dolores Huerta (1930- present)

Photo via https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/02/dolores-huerta-to-receive-radcliffe-medal/

Roots: Mexico

About: Huerta co-founded, with Cesar Chavez, the National Farm Workers Association. This association would eventually become the United Farm Workers (UFW). The UFW worked to unite farmers into a union that would fight to protect their rights. Huerta also coined the term “¡Sí, se puede!” in 1972. This rallying cry was later used in President Obama’s 2008 campaign and can still be heard today. She is a labor leader and civil rights activist that advocated for immigrant and women’s’ rights. She has been awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She still fights for justice to this day via the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Selena Quintanilla (1971-1995)

Photo via https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin/9346525/selena-quintanilla-legacy-timeline

Roots: Mexico

About: Quintanilla was a singer, songwriter, spokesperson, model, actress, and fashion designer. She was best known as “The Queen of Tejano” and helped put Latin and Tejano music on the map. Her contributions to music and fashion made her one of the most celebrated Latinas in the late 20th century. She won several awards including a Grammy (1993) and a Gold Record (1994). Her life ended tragically in 1995, but she still inspires young Latinas today. A major motion picture featuring the story of Quintanilla’s life was made in 1997, and this fall, Netflix will debut a series chronicling her coming of age and chasing her musical dreams.

Sonia Sotomayor (1954-present)

Photo via https://www.biography.com/law-figure/sonia-sotomayor

Roots: Puerto Rico

About: Sotomayor is the third female and first Latina justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Raised by a single mother in the Bronx, Sotomayor went on to earn a scholarship to Princeton University and graduated summa cum laude in 1976. She then went on to earn her law degree from Yale. Sotomayor served as an assistant district attorney in 1979, which paved the way to her becoming a U.S. District Court judge. In 1997, Sotomayor made her way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In 2009, she was nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. During her time as a justice, Sotomayor has built a reputation of advocating for criminal justice reform and women’s rights.

Ana Mendieta (1948-1985)

Photo via https://m.theartstory.org/artist/mendieta-ana/

Roots: Cuba

About: Mendieta fled her country of Cuba and the Castro regime to Dubuque, Iowa, when she was 12 years old. She attended the University of Iowa and earned her MFA in 1972. The focus of Mendieta’s artwork during her bachelor’s was showcasing the midwest’s scenic landscape. In 1973, Mendieta was deeply affected by a fellow classmate’s brutal rape. That event influenced her subsequent work of using the female body within nature as seen in her Silueta Series.

Photographs from Ana Mendieta’s Siluetas series via https://www.sleek-mag.com/article/ana-mendieta/

Mendieta’s life ended tragically in 1985 when she fell from her 34th floor apartment in New York City where she lived with her husband. Although there is controversy surrounding her death, with her husband’s acquittal, it does not overshadow the impact she made for female artists in the 20th century. In 2009, Mendieta was posthumously awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Cintas Foundation.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (1952-present)

Photo via https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ileana-ros-lehtinen

Roots: Cuba

About: Ros-Lehtinen was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States when she was eight year old, fleeing the Castro regime. Ros-Lehtinen attended Florida International University and earned her Master’s degree in Education. Ros-Lehtinen was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1982 and then to the Florida Senate in 1986, becoming the first Latina to serve in either body. In 1989, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Latina and first Cuban American to serve in the United States Congress in the House of Representatives. In 2011, she became the first female to manage a regular standing committee — the committee on foreign affairs. During her career she has fought for women’s rights, while breaking barriers herself, and continues to advocate for women in the military, education for all, and marriage equality.

Rita Moreno (1931-present)

Photo via https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/rita-moreno

Roots: Puerto Rico

About: Moreno has built an award-winning career spanning over seven decades in television, film, and theater. Moreno is most famous for her role as Anita in the film adaptation of West Side Story (1961). In 1993, she performed at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. In 2019, Moreno was recognized for her achievements as the first and only Latina to have won a Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (PEGOT).

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957)

Photo via https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1945/mistral/biographical/

Roots: Chile

About: Born in 1889 as Lucila Godoy, she wrote her poetry under the pseudonym Gabriela Mistral. Her life experiences inspired her lyrical poetry with themes of tragic love, childhood, piety, sadness, bitterness, and politics. In 1945, she became the first Latin American female poet to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her works include Sonetos de la Muerte, Desolación, and Ternura.

Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002)

Photo via https://www.biography.com/activist/sylvia-rivera

Roots: Puerto Rico and Venezuela

About: Rivera, a transwoman, was a pioneer activist for the  LGBTQ+ community and fought for trans rights. Rivera partnered with Marsha P. Johnson to create the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970. STAR provided help for trans individuals who were living on the streets in New York. In the 70’s she organized many gay rights protests in New York City. Rivera’s legacy lives on through the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Sylvia’s Place, both work to provide safety and rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Her life is honored in the musical Sylvia So Far.


These are just some of the amazing Latinas who have broken barriers and affected positive change. I hope this post helps inspires continued learning about Latinas past and present, who have and are working toward a better future for the Latinx community.

Hopefully, it will also garner support for more Latino history being incorporated into the education system. We deserve to learn our history as much as any one else — not just during heritage month – but as often as the opportunity presents itself.

¡Sí, se puede!



September 15, 2020, marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Johnson and was expanded by President Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
The purpose of the month is to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

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Crash Course in Engineering: The Latest Iowa Children’s Museum Play Pack

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Many of us are still being cautious about venturing out during this strange time of COVID-19. While I find myself missing movies, sitting in...