QAF_Q3_Issue 3_March 2024

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MEET OUR LOCAL Difference Makers



Great Wolf Lodge

a note from the editor

As we enter the Spring season, I can’t help but be excited for the changes and new beginnings that Spring brings each year. I’m not one for cold weather, so these warmer days have made me happy. I hope Mother Nature doesn’t decide to drop snow on us in April this year. I’ve seen it happen. It’s not cool, but hopefully, it won’t this year.

Publication number three launches our Spring 2024 issue, and we have some great articles to prepare you for the season. Some may think it’s time for spring cleaning while I’m here, hoping my allergies don’t get too bad this year. If you and your family suffer from seasonal allergies, check out the article in our Health & Wellness section on seasonal allergies. You might find some great tips to make it through.

Going back to the warmer weather we are having, hop on over to our Kids Corner to see a few great ideas for outdoor activities. One popular outdoor activity is riding bikes. We have an article on bicycle safety for all ages. It’s always a good idea to refresh your memory on precautions you should take when riding a bike.

Food Talk has a couple of yummy spring-style meals and a way to make adorable bunny pancakes. The pictures alone make my mouth water. If you decide to make any of the recipes we have in our issues, take photos and send them to us. We would love to drop a shout-out to you on socials.

I want to remind you that we are spotlighting local Not-For-Profit organizations, and in this issue, we have Sod Busters Classic. A fun putt-putt fundraiser held the third weekend in March each

year. I don’t know about you, but I might have to sign up for this event next year. It looks like a lot of fun, and it’s helping raise money for their cause.

Lastly, I want to thank my advisory board again for always helping and guiding me through each publication. Without them, this idea would never have come to light. As a family and community magazine, we welcome content submissions from everyone. Anything from local stories to fun family trips to your favorite recipes. Please send them our way. And please reach out if you have any questions.

3 CONTENTS localstories 6 St. Patty’s Day - Drink Responsibly 8 Local Not-for-Profit Spotlight Sod Busters Classic health&wellness 36 Seasonal Allergies kidscorner 28 7-Kid Friendly Outdoor Spring Activities 32 Bicycle Safety 35 Funny Things Kids Say familylife 18 The Transformative Power of Reading: Nurturing Minds, Hearts, and Bonds 22 Family Weekend Getaway Great Wolf Lodge 26 What does Mom want for Mothers Day? differencemakers 12 Jason Watkins foodtalk 14 Strawberry Salad w/ Arugula & Salted Caramel Walnuts 16 Bunny Pancakes P.O. Box 3080 Quincy, IL 62305

QAFMBoard Members

My name is Allison and I am a board member and content creator for The Quincy Area Family Magazine. I moved to Quincy in 2015 with my husband Mitch and we now have two boys ages 4 and 1. I am passionate about The Quincy Area Family Magazine because I grew up in a broken family with parents who focused on their addictions and not their children. Being a parent is a privilege I am always working at improving upon and not something I take lightly. I am striving to raise good humans who know they are valued and will always be supported. They are my “why” and I am thankful to get to parent and grow in such a wonderful community.

Family picture courtesy of J. Ashley Photography

I am Nicole Eddy and I’m an Advisory Board Member and Writer for Quincy Area Family Magazine! I grew up in Quincy and graduated from Quincy Senior High School, I moved away for college and the beginning part of my career and moved back to the area about 10 years ago. I have an amazing husband, Nick and two beautiful kids, Piper and Keagan. I am excited to share my experiences and thoughts with you, the readers of QAF and learn a lot along the way too.

Photo credit Stacey Milks Photography

My name is Lisa Freed, and I am an insurance agent who is enthusiastic about protecting families when circumstances happen. My wonderful husband, Sterling, and I have combined, four amazing adult children: Timothy, Jessica, Samantha, and Josh. Having spent ten years in the U.S. Navy, becoming an award-winning writer and public speaker, I joined the QAF team aspiring to share my experiences about family life, military parenting, travel, single mom life, women dealing with trauma, and sharing the loving advice from my parents. I enjoy spending time with my family and pets, visiting with other veterans, learning from other parents and grandparents, spending time with friends (especially their children,) strengthening my relationship with God, and sharing His message with others.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
- Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

My name is Sarah Nolinwinkler (Garriga) and I am honored to be working alongside Brandy Owens (Editor of QAF) and the QAF Board as we begin this journey to bring a little more “family” back into your home. I am a mother of two beautiful tiny humans (Harrison Gray 6, Abigail Mae 3) whom are my true purpose in life and are also the very reason why I consume coffee in the mornings and perhaps a little occasional wine in the evenings. We all strive to be better today than we were yesterday because let’s face it there’s no rulebook or “How To” guide for life/parenting and the best thing we can do is try again tomorrow. That right there is my reason for joining the Quincy Area Family Magazine. It is to help families find their groove even if it’s only for that one moment where core memories are captured or to encourage parents that it is totally normal to have those guilty feelings at the end of the day but use those for inspiration to do better in your tomorrows.

HI, I’m Jessica Speckhart, a Venue Manager and Coordinator at Pointe D’Vine Venue & Vineyard, the home and property of my in-laws. I’m a business graduate with extensive corporate experience and have been a part of the venue management team since the family began hosting events almost 12 years ago. I enjoy serving others and making the most of life’s special celebrations. My husband, Aaron, and our 3 children inspire me daily. I enjoy traveling, playing board games, and staying active in my free time. I decided to join the QAF board to give helpful advice and guidance to new moms and those with special needs while teaching acceptance of neurodiverse individuals.

Photo credit J. Ashley Photography

St. Patty’s Day Drink Responsibly

Everyone wants to enjoy the Saint Patrick’s Day holiday, whether you are Irish, Catholic, or neither! For a nice dinner with friends, alcoholic beverages may be consumed in moderation well into the night. But don’t put yourself or others at risk by overconsumption. You can celebrate the holiday or any outing with friends by choosing to drink responsibly, knowing your limits, and overall having an enjoyable dining experience.

The term drinking responsibly means understanding how alcohol affects your body and overall tolerance and then using that knowledge to moderate your intake.

Picture a busy night at a drinking establishment where the workers perform multiple duties to serve their customers and earn their tips. On any given night, you will see workers taking orders, handling the cash register or credit card machine, and pouring and mixing drinks.

In addition, they must also engage in responsible beverage service. Bartenders and servers must monitor their patron’s alcohol consumption and be alert for any signs of intoxication and behaviors where they have to discontinue service. If you are visibly intoxicated, understand that a business has a right to refuse service. Serving such customers is illegal, regardless of whether or not they have a designated driver. To do so would be a violation of state laws, punishable by fines, penalties, or even jail

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time, depending upon the state. Servers and other personnel will closely monitor the situation.

Businesses selling alcoholic liquor to the public have an obligation to operate a safe business, and such businesses are the first line of defense in the deterrence of violent acts.

Everyone wants to prevent alcohol-related mishaps. Do not put a bartender in an awkward or dangerous situation by careless behavior and overconsumption.

Do your part!

Accept the care of food or water offered to help keep sober. Be grateful for the high degree of caution and concern for the safety of others around you. If your designated driver is absent to care for your party, have a plan B for transportation.

We are lucky to live in a world where a ride is only a tap of your finger away.

Transportation available in Quincy:

Quincy Community Cab Co. / 217-577-1355

Quincy Transit Lines / 2020 Jennifer Road / 217-228-4550

Rideshare: /


Not-For-Profit SPOT LIGHT

Irecently got the chance to visit with Blake Duesterhaus, Sod Buster Classic Committee Member, regarding the Sod Buster Classic and how this yearly fundraiser gives back to the community. The Sod Buster Classic came to fruition in 2013 and was inspired by a similar fundraiser in Greene County, Illinois. A group of now committee members attended that fundraiser and were inspired to start something similar locally that gave back to the community and did not have predetermined candidates. The Sod Buster committee takes great pride in being able to select candidates and present their donations. Blake was gracious in answering all my questions surrounding the Sod Buster Classic.

Q: What is the Sod Buster Classic?

A: The Sod Buster Classic is a putt-putt golf fundraiser that raises money for families in need and organizations in the Quincy/Mendon/Ursa, Ill., area.

Q: How often does the Sod Buster Classic happen?

A: This fundraiser takes place on the third Saturday of March every year. On the day of the event, teams will meet at the Ursa Farmers Coop Administrative Office located at 2397 IL-96, in Ursa, IL.

Q: Who makes the Sod Buster Classic a reality?

A: The Sod Buster Committee, a group of local farmers, business owners and other community members, come together to plan and coordinate each event. The Sod Buster Classic would not exist without the determination of our over 20 committee members that go above and beyond. We all must work in coordination to make sure

the event is a success and lives up to the expectations of the Sod Buster community and those we have had the privilege to help along the way.

Q: What are the criteria around applying for funds and how is the decision made to fund requests?

A: There is no direct criteria for applying for a Sod Buster donation. Many of our potential recipients have been found by committee members. This could be a personal or professional relationship with them, it could be a social media post, or another fundraiser that was brought to our attention.

Q: Is the Sod Busters Classic the only fundraiser or how is this non-profit funded?

A: The putt-putt event is only one of the fund-raising efforts that go into the Sod Buster Classic. We have other fundraisers that go towards the setup, organization, and donations of the event. These include, a $50 raffle ticket drawing, 50/50 drawing sales the day of the event, multiple “side hustles” at select locations, and a list of sponsors that will provide anything from monetary donations to food and support items that help the event succeed.

Our $50 raffle is a limited quantity raffle that allows three winners, each for one of the raffle

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items. These items often include cash, Cardinal’s tickets plus cash and a firearm specifically elected by the Sod Buster Committee.

Our putt-putt holes have gotten more creative over the years. This has allowed for side games and raffles to help offset some of the set-up costs and put more towards our potential donations.

Q: How much money has Sodbusters raised to date?

A: The Sod Buster Fundraiser has raised over $330,000 for local families and organizations over the past 13 years.

Q: How can people donate or request funds?

A: We do have points of contact that potential donors or recipients can use to contact us with their inquiries. Our most easily accessed points include our website, https:// or a Facebook message, https://www.facebook. com/SodBusterClassic. Our Sod Buster continued on page 10


Committee is also a main point of contact for sponsors, donations, and potential recipients.

Q: Anything else you want to include?

A: The Sod Buster Classic is a community-driven event crafted to create meaningful impact. We don’t only view our committee members as an integral part to our community, but also everyone who participates, donates, or relies on our support during times of need. We can’t wait for this year’s event and hope to continue to expand our community further, fostering ongoing positive change.

The 14th Annual Sod Buster Classic is scheduled for Saturday, March 14th. Teams of 4 are welcome to register ahead of day and even day of. This year’s theme is Putt Putt in your Pajamas.

For more information on this event and more please visit their website or facebook page.




Jason Watkins

Jason Watkins has been a difference-maker for as long as memory serves. Immediately upon graduating from Quincy Notre Dame, Jason agreed to sacrifice everything and enlisted in the Army. It was during his basic training that the unspeakable events of September 11th, 2001, occurred. Jason left for Iraq in April of 2003 to do what he had set out to do: defend freedom. Now, it is safe to say that in 2001, Jason set the tone for how he would continue to live the rest of his life.

Fast-forward 23 years. Jason is husband to Emily and father to Austin (11), Chandler (9), and Margaret (5). He has owned his own business consulting firm, Strategic Management Consulting, since 2023. Jason assists businesses of all kinds, but he specializes in helping fellow veterans advance their careers and better their personal lives. Jason can also be found teaching at Quincy University as an adjunct professor.

Needless to say, serving in Iraq created lifelong challenges that Jason was not immune to. As

difficult as the years following his deployment were, he will happily sit down and share his story with anyone who asks. Jason’s family never ceases to be amazed at his strength and resilience. His ability to use his story to help others is beautiful.

Outside of work, Jason is working on a Doctorate of Education through Western Illinois University. His focus in these studies is the four pillars of success: God, Self, Family, and Work (in that order). Jason plans to graduate in 2026 and use his studies to help businesses and individuals further themselves professionally and personally.

Don’t be fooled by his busy workload; most days of the week, you will find Jason serving in other ways. One area of service his family is particularly proud of is his work at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Quincy. Jason connected immediately with this group upon returning from overseas. He credits the VFW for giving him a safe space and helping him adjust upon his return to the civilian world. He spends much of his time at the VFW wearing many hats. He spearheads many fundraising activities and events. Funds raised by the VFW support Veterans from all walks of life in our community. This includes anything from supporting the Great River Honor Flight to sending comfort items to the military serving overseas.

Two years ago, Jason joined a group of ladies and gentlemen who decided more needed to be done in Adams County to support Veterans. Over the past two years, they established the Veterans Assistance Commission of Adams County (VACAC), for which he remains on the board. The VACAC helps meet veterans’ longterm and short-term needs. This includes any-

thing from helping file claims with the VA to helping Veterans ensure they have food on the table and a roof over their heads.

More recently, Jason has been involved in starting the American Warrior group through the local ACA. This group meets the second Tuesday of every month and is open to Veterans and First Responders. These community members meet to discuss challenges in business and personal life.

Jason and his family have been proud members of the Lutheran Church of St John since 2013. Over the years, Jason has served in many capacities at the church. He is proud of its mission, which is to overflow God’s Grace into the community around us.

Though he spends so much time helping others, Jason is a devoted husband and father. Despite his endless supply of corny “Dad Jokes,” his family is so proud of him. He can often be found at a School Program or in the stands at a wrestling tournament. His family is beyond proud of him, and he likes to “brag” about all he does in the community. He doesn’t always see how incredible a difference-maker he is and prefers to let the recognition go to someone else. Those around him realize how incredible he is and what he means to us.



Strawberry Salad with Arugula and Salted

Caramel Walnuts


4 big handfuls of fresh arugula

fresh strawberries, about 12, hulled and halved

About 1/2 cup crumbled sheep’s milk feta cheese

Caramelized Walnuts

1 cup walnut halves

3 Tbsp brown sugar

pinch salt

1 tsp butter


1/4 cup walnut oil or any oil you prefer

3 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar

1 tsp hot pepper flakes, or use more to your taste

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp Colemans mustard salt to taste


To make the caramel walnuts, put the nuts, sugar, butter, and salt into a small sauté pan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until everything melts and coats the walnuts. Turn them out onto parchment or foil to cool.

Make the dressing by putting all the ingredients into a small jar and use an immersion blender to emulsify into a smooth dressing. You can also do this in a small food processor, or with a whisk, but an immersion blender is perfect. Be sure to taste the dressing to adjust the ingredients to your liking.

To assemble the salad lay the arugula in a wide shallow salad bowl, and top with the strawberries. Crumble the feta over everything. Give the walnuts a rough chop and add them to the salad. Dress, toss, and serve.


Don’t dress this salad until the minute you are ready to serve. You might also consider serving the dressing on the side, for people to help themselves.

Recipe from:


Lemon Garlic Butter Salmon Asparagus



1 medium salmon fillet, cut in 3 or 4 chunks

2 bunches of asparagus, rinsed and trimmed

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup (125ml) low-sodium vegetable broth (or white wine)

1/2 stick butter

1 tablespoon hot sauce, optional (we used Sriracha)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon minced parsley (or cilantro)

Crushed red chili pepper flakes, optional Slices of lemon, for garnish Recipe


1. To make the salmon and asparagus: Season salmon with salt and pepper. Let sit while you prepare the asparagus.

2. Wash and trim the ends of the asparagus, then blanch them in boiling water for 2- 3 minutes then soak in ice water to stop cooking. This way they will cook faster and evenly in the skillet. You can skip this step if you have very thin asparagus. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Gently cook salmon on both sides until golden brown. Remove the salmon fillets from the skillet and set them aside to a plate.

4. In the same skillet over medium heat, add minced garlic then deglaze with vegetable broth (or wine). Bring to a simmer. Add butter, lemon juice, hot sauce, parsley. Give a quick stir to combine.

5. Add the drained blanched asparagus and toss for 2 minutes to cook it up. Add salmon back to the pan and reheat for another minute. Garnish with more parsley, crushed chili pepper, and lemon slices and serve the garlic butter salmon and lemon asparagus immediately. Enjoy!


Easter Bunny Pancakes

Prepare your favorite pancake batter as directed on the package

Prepare four round pancakes in varying sizes (i.e. 2 small, 1 medium, 1 large) to give you what will become the head, body, and two paws of your bunny pancakes

Prepare two oblong pancakes to give you what will become the ears of your bunny pancakes

Assemble your pancakes to look like the backside of a bunny (see photo)

Give your bunny a tail by using whipped cream or a jumbo marshmallow, cut in half

Give your bunny its toes by using three chocolate chips on each paw

Tip: Put some pancake batter in a plastic squeeze bottle to create the bunny ears a little easier! You may need to cut the tip larger to allow more batter to pass through.

Chocolate Cheesecake Easter Dirt Cups

Prep time: 15 mins

Total time: 15 mins

Serves: 8 – 10


1 package OREO cookies, crushed

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/2 cups milk

2 packages (3.4 oz) JELL-O Chocolate pudding mix

2 tubs (8 oz) COOL WHIP Topping, Cheesecake Flavor

Marshmallow Bunnies

Orange Candy Melts

Edible Easter Grass


Mix butter, cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy.

In a separate bowl, mix the milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes until smooth. Pudding will be thick. Fold the COOL WHIP topping into the pudding and then gently add that to the cream cheese mixture, folding to combine.

To assemble the dirt cups, add a little of the crushed OREO cookies to the bottom of a cup and top with some of the pudding mixture. Top with additional crushed cookies, a carrot top and a marshmallow bunny.

Serve and enjoy!


To make the carrot tops, melt the candy melts according to package instructions.[br]Pipe a mound onto wax paper and add a couple of pieces of edible Easter grass to the top to resemble a carrot. Chill until set.

The Transformative Power of Reading: Nurturing Minds, Hearts, and Bonds

Are you a busy mom juggling multiple responsibilities? In the whirlwind of motherhood, where every day is a balancing act of endless tasks and obligations, moments of peace can feel like a distant dream. Yet, amidst this chaos lies a sanctuary waiting to be discovered – the timeless joy of reading. Research confirms that reading isn’t merely a pastime; it’s a powerful tool with the potential to shape our children’s futures and strengthen our bonds with them. But how does this simple act hold such transformative power? Let’s explore the profound impact reading can have on our lives and the lives of our little ones.

Building Bright Minds

Early exposure to reading lays the foundation for cognitive development in children. Through stories, they encounter new concepts, vocabulary, and ideas, stimulating their minds and fostering curiosity. Research shows that children who are read to regularly demonstrate improved language skills, critical thinking abilities, and academic performance.

Nurturing Empathy and Understanding

Reading cultivates empathy, emotional intelligence, and social understanding in children. Immersed in stories, they connect with characters, learning to understand and empathize with diverse perspectives and emotions. This enhances their ability to navigate social situations, resolve conflicts, and forge meaningful relationships with their peers.

Creating Precious Moments

Sharing stories creates precious moments of connection and intimacy. It offers quality one-onone time away from the distractions of daily life. Through these shared experiences, we strengthen our bonds with our children, fostering trust, communication, and a sense of security that lasts a lifetime.

Fostering Fluent Communicators

Reading aloud exposes children to rich and diverse language patterns, expanding their vocabulary and language skills. It helps them develop fluency, expression, and comprehension – essential components of literacy. Children exposed to a variety of texts from an early age are more likely to become confident and proficient readers themselves.

Igniting Imaginative Adventures

Reading sparks the imagination and ignites creativity in children. It transports them to magical worlds, distant lands, and thrilling adventures, fueling their curiosity and encouraging imaginative play. Through storytelling, children learn to think creatively, solve problems, and explore endless possibilities.

Practical Strategies for Busy Moms

As busy moms, finding time for reading may seem challenging. However, integrating it into our daily routines can help us unlock its benefits effectively. Here are some practical strategies to seamlessly incorporate reading into your busy schedule: continued on page 20



“Self-Care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you.”

As I sit here on a Sunday evening before the start of another work week, I’m torn between feeling grateful for all the time I got to spend with my boys this weekend and also bummed I didn’t get to finish my to-do list or spend any time by myself. You see, it’s ok to feel both. Being a mom is hard. Regardless of whether you work inside the home, outside the home, or a little of both, taking care of everything and everybody can be draining, and yet somehow you are supposed to find time to fill your own cup as well. We allow ourselves and society to place some lofty standards on us, moms. I don’t know about the rest of you, but as a mom who works full-time outside of the home with two young boys (ages 4 and 18 months), most days I am trying to survive, not thrive. Yes, I chose to become a mom, and I would not change it for the world, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to have time or goals for myself.

Spring is the perfect time to reevaluate our needs and goals. As the temperatures are warming up and the sun is making more and longer appearances it can give us a renewed energy and fresh desire to do more (however that might look for you). Spring brings new life, fresh blooms, and a reprieve from cold weather and constant illnesses (or so we hope), but it also brings spring activities for our children, yard work, and spring cleaning. If we don’t continued on page 21


• Bedtime Ritual: Transform the end of your day into a tranquil and bonding experience by making reading a part of your bedtime routine.

• Morning Moments: Kickstart your day on a positive note by introducing a peaceful reading session over breakfast.

• On-the-Go Options: Embrace the flexibility and convenience of audiobooks to weave reading into the fabric of your busy life. Don’t forget about those waiting moments – at soccer practice, during doctor appointments that get lost in the day.

• Library Visits: Make regular trips to the library a fun family outing. Let your children explore and choose their own books, fostering a sense of independence and excitement for reading.

By prioritizing reading and seamlessly integrating it into our daily routines, we not only enrich our children’s lives but also create invaluable moments of connection and enrichment for ourselves. It’s about making the most of the time we have amidst our busy schedules, savoring the joys of reading together as a family. These moments strengthen our bonds, create cherished memories, and offer a rejuvenating escape for our spirits. Let’s embrace the joy of reading and watch as it transforms our lives and the lives of our little ones.


identify and earmark time for ourselves now, then before you know it, three months have come and gone, and you never met that friend for lunch or cleaned out the hall closet you were hoping to get to.

We are constantly caring for others, thinking of others, and planning for all scenarios, but it is ok to care for ourselves as well. You are worthy and deserving of your own time. Read that again. You are worthy and deserving of self-care. Self-care looks different for everyone and doesn’t have to be expensive or an all-day activity. Maybe you just want to finish that craft project you started years ago, order updated pictures for frames around the house, or take a walk a couple of times a week by yourself – whatever it is, I want to challenge you to identify what would help you to be a better version of yourself for not only you but your family and make a plan on how to obtain it. If time to yourself is truly a challenge, maybe you are a single parent with little to no support, or your partner works odd hours or is out of town, try to find a way to include your family in an activity you enjoy.

At the end of the day, just remember to give yourself grace because being a parent is not for the weak. You are a better parent than you give yourself credit for, and each day is an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.

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Family Weekend Getaway Great Wolf Lodge - Kansas City

Looking for a getaway close to home? Our family enjoys visiting the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. While they currently have 22 locations in North America, this is the only location my family has been to so far. It is an easy 3.5-hour drive from Quincy and offers something for the whole family. Not only is the lodge packed with a fun activities but this location is close to lots of shopping, restaurants, a huge Bass Pro Shop, Legoland and more.

Each Great Wolf Lodge location offers an indoor waterpark amongst several other activities. From what I understand, the additional amenities vary by location. The Kansas City location features an indoor waterpark, an outdoor splash pad area, mini golf, Build-A-Bear, an arcade, and more. My family visited in February and November, so I cannot speak to the outdoor water area or the outdoor mini golf course. One thing I love about GWL is the number of free activities they provide daily. These include craft time, yoga, bingo, dance

parties, character visits, bedtime stories, and more. When we visited just after Thanksgiving, they had an activity called Snowland Celebration twice a day that included a fun activity, and then they would release “snow” from the ceiling onto us all. GWL offers several packages as well to help you maximize the activities that cost at the lodge. However, with my children being so young and the amount of free activities I have been able to avoid the activities that cost. My son also enjoys the Great Wolf Lodge cartoon that airs on the televisions in your room at the lodge (Mom tip: you can also find this on YouTube!)

I am one for bargains, so I suggest joining the private Facebook group called Great Wolf Lodge HOWLING FANS discounts, codes, tips, and tricks! This is a great platform to ask about specific Great Wolf Lodge locations, get the best codes for booking, and honestly has been a great resource for people who have been at the same lodge and have been able to assist each other

with lost items, forgotten items, or passing along food at checkout. Like most hotels you will get the best pricing for a stay between Monday and Thursday and if you book at least 90 days out. One thing to keep in mind is that GWL price matches with Groupon if you find a cheaper rate for your booked timeframe, and if you find a different promo code after booking that knocks more off your total, you can reach out to their customer service, and they will adjust your rate. Both times we have visited, we have stayed Monday through Wednesday in a standard room and have never paid more than $99/night before taxes and fees.

Another way to get the best bang for your buck is to take advantage of the times you are allowed to use the waterpark before and after checkout. If I recall correctly, you aren’t guaranteed a room until 4 pm. However, you can start utilizing the water park at noon on the day of your check-in. Also, on the day of check-out, you must be out of your room by 11 am (unless you pay for late check-out). However, you can stay and use the water park until closing. This is a great way to get a 3-day visit while only paying for two. These times and rules might vary per location, so I would just double-check with the specific lodge you are going to visit.

Another thing that sets GWL apart, in my opinion, is the cleanliness of the facility and how helpful the staff are. From the rooms to the lobby to the water park, everything is very well maintained. The staff are all super friendly, and the check-in/check-out process is super easy with their mobile app and texting app called Willow. You truly get the sense that everybody there wants you to enjoy your stay and is happy you are there.

Their app also makes it easy to order food at the on-site restaurants if you want to take it to-go. It’s important to note that all Great Wolf Lodge locations are cashless. Your wristbands are tied to the card on your account, or you can purchase Great Wolf Lodge gift cards ahead of time if you want your children to have a controlled spending option.

continued on page 24

Lastly, I just want to note that the atmosphere and environment at Great Wolf Lodge is so much fun. Following check-in, every person in your party gets a free set of wolf ears at the gift shop, and that is where the fun begins. From matching family pajamas to wolf apparel, it is such a family-friendly environment where everybody can just be comfortable and enjoy time with their loved ones. My 4-year-old son is constantly talking about how much he loves Great Wolf Lodge and how much fun he has at the waterpark and asking about when we are going again.

What are you waiting for? Book a visit to a Great Wolf Lodge location and have a HOWLING good time!!

family life family life e family life family life family
family family life family life family

What does Mom want for Mother’s Day?

As a Mother of two kids, I probably could have written about this without anyone else’s input, but I wanted to poll the Mothers in my friends and family. What would they say when asked how they would ideally like to spend Mother’s Day? I was surprised at how similar and yet different the answers were.

1. She does not want to do chores- this is likely an obvious one, but one thing that was reiterated over and over by many women was that SOMEONE would do the tasks, just not her. This would make it so they wouldn’t be waiting for her to do when Mother’s Day ends. I think this is often forgotten. If you’re giving Mom a “day off,” make sure you know what she would usually be doing and do those things; that way she doesn’t have to do them later otherwise, you’re just giving her delayed work and not a day off.

2. She might not want to spend it with the family. It’s crucial to ask Mom how SHE would like to spend the day because it might not be how you might think. Some moms said they preferred to have a spa day, pedicure, or a day shopping out-of-town rather than spending it with the kids. If Mom’s answer is spending the day relaxing at a spa or shopping to unwind, she also wants to know that everything is going to be OK while she is away, so don’t call her every 10 minutes to ask her where your left shoe is or if she can pick you up more deodorant, let her relax.

3. She doesn’t want to schedule stuff-If she has to make a reservation, find a babysitter, or schedule the pedicure appointment, it’s less of a treat, so if it’s taken care of, it just makes it perfect. Personally I have a tough time using gift cards for massages, pedicures, a car detail or things like that because, by the time I get around to scheduling the appointment, I forget about the gift card, so I’ve told my husband to go ahead and schedule the appointment for me. Then I’ll use it right away, and I don’t have to worry about scheduling the appointment, win/win!

4. Don’t forget to make time for YOUR mom tooI’d be willing to bet if you asked your mom what her ideal Mother’s Day entails, it would just be spending time with her adult children (and perhaps grandchildren if that applies). All the moms I talked to with adult kids said they want to see their adult children or as many of them as they can on Mother’s Day.

5. Eat as a family: Mom wants to eat all together for at least one meal. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, making the meal together or going out, she likes to eat it as a family, so sit down, break bread, and enjoy each other’s company.

6. Warm weather, flowers, and nature- I am bundling this together because, let’s remember, it’s spring, the weather is warmer, the flowers are starting to bloom, and it is nice to be outside

again! Most moms mentioned wanting to walk with family in the park, planting flowers, or sitting out in the sun when it’s warm—a few, including me, like picking out and planting flowers on Mother’s Day. There’s nothing quite like seeing all those fresh blooms around your house to make you smile.

More examples from my friends and family poll are below-Happy Mother’s Day and enjoy the Spring!

+ Church with family

+ Dinner with adult kids

+ Long relaxing spa day

+ Come home to clean home

+ Quick no-mess dinner

+ Pedicure

+ Lunch with family

+ Run fun errands I want to do alone

+ Come home to clean house

+ Dinner ready with flowers

+ Brunch somewhere I love

+ Nap

+ Favorite coffee

+ Massage and nails done

+ Video messages from family members to keep and replay

+ A family get-together planned and carried out by the dads

+ Kids pick out flowers and plants and plant them together

+ Hotel just for mom to relax and sleep in and read a book

+ Hang out with my mom and plant some flowers

+ New baby: Dad to trace baby’s hand/foot for card

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7 Kid-friendly Outdoor Spring Activities

The weather is turning warmer, and the sun is starting to shine, so we want to get out of the house and enjoy it. One of the best things about spring is that it’s warm enough for my kids to go outside and make a mess instead of doing it inside of my house! A lot of these activities are general enough to allow them to explore and have fun.

Water- Whether it’s with a water table, a baby pool, or just some measuring cups, plastic bowls, and colanders, kids love playing with water. Pouring it from different vessels, seeing how it moves, and splashing each other is a great way to enjoy the warm season. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can drop a few differ-

ent colors of liquid food coloring in some of the different tubs so they can also see what mixing colors can do!

Make a bird feeder- One of my favorite things about spring is when the wildlife that seemed dormant and dead during the winter months comes back to life. You hear the birds chirping in the morning sun and the squirrels barking at the neighbor’s dog. Why not make a different kind of bird feeder to celebrate this new life?!

+Apple core bird feeders: Cut apples in half and scoop out the core and seeds. Stuff the hole with a mixture of peanut butter and seeds. Hang the stem from branches using twine. You can use apples with bad spots or that are getting soft, as the birds aren’t picky.

Plant a tree-Springtime is the best time to plant a tree because it gives the tree plenty of time to establish its root system before winter. Earth Day is April 22nd, and Arbor Day is April 26th, It’s no coincidence that both land in spring!

Bubbles- Kids love bubbles, but one thing that is inevitable is that there will never be enough bubble solution. No matter how many jugs of solution you buy or how many tubes with wands you have, your toddler will bend over to pick something up and spill the entirety of the tube on the ground before blowing a single bubble. So, the best solution is the solution you make yourself! Below are two recipes: one simple (that I have used for a few years and keep

kidscorner Photo from:

in an old rinsed-out milk jug in my garage) and one that claims to make huge bubbles and has more complicated ingredients. I recommend you write the recipe you use on the outside of the milk jug so you don’t have to look it up every time you go to re-make it.

+Simple solution: makes 1 gallon

2c Dish soap

¾c Corn syrup

5c Water

+Giant bubbles solution: makes a little over a half-gallon (

Dish soap 2c

4T Corn Starch

4T Baking Powder

6T Glycerin (3 fl oz)

½ gal Distilled water

The best thing about giant bubbles, though, is having something they make giant bubbles with! You can go as simple or as complex as you’d like to with this.

(photo and idea from https://runwildmy

(photo & idea from:

Some suggestions:

-Hula hoop

-Pipe cleaners are bent into different shapes. Use small cookie cutters to help kids bend them into clean shapes if needed, as the picture shows below.

-Yarn with straws strung through to hold onto (into the shape of an O)

-Or build your own giant bubble wand in any variation shown below.

Giant bubble wand building guide:

2- 2” dowels

Drill with ⅜” drill bit

2- ⅜” eye bolts

½” cotton rope or thinner if needed Washers

Drill holes in one end of each dowel and screw in the eye bolts. Cut a 3’ length of rope and attach it to each end of the dowels. Cut a 5’ length of rope and attach the washers to the middle of the rope to use as a weight; attach the rope to the other dowel, and you’re ready to roll! continued on page30

You can use anything from a cookie sheet with a lip to a plastic tub for your bubble solution, just anything that will allow you to dip your wands in to get coated. Don’t add too much solution at a time to get sloshed out, kicked over, or get dirt in it when someone comes back with a dirty wand. You’ll be thankful not to put too much in because, in my experience, when bubble time is over, it’s over quickly and with little notice, and the last thing you want to have to do is pour bubble solution back into the container from a cookie sheet.

Nature Confetti- If your kids are anything like mine, they love to make a mess. Springtime is the best for making messes outside AND for making biodegradable messes out of already natural items! Take some hole punches or any kind of fun-shaped punches you might have, find some dried springtime leaves, and let them get to punching until their hearts are content. Use as a table decoration for a backyard BBQ or just for fun to throw around the yard (or at each other!) Yay, spring!

Sidewalk Chalk Fun- If you do not have paved driveways or sidewalks around your house, I’m sorry, but if you do, then go wild! Every spring, I get the giant pack of sidewalk chalk for my kiddos, and they burn the whole pack down to the nubs. I think it is their favorite outdoor activity to do together. Obviously, you have the old standards of hopscotch and drawing, but let them get creative and try to paint! Give them some stiff bristle brushes and water bowls; they can mix colors together and make a masterpiece in each square of the driveway. Another fun thing you can do is draw out an elaborate obstacle course or map across your driveway (hop over this, skip here, crawl to here, crab walk to here, run here, moonwalk here…). Can you say hours of fun for adults and kids alike?

(photo & idea at:

Grow your socks- a fun springtime science experiment for yourself and your kids is to grow your old socks! The idea behind this experiment is to show your kids how seed germination works, so wait until it is warm enough that the grass has turned green and dandelions have started to sprout up before attempting.

What you’ll need:

An old pair of cotton socks

Zip top bags

Water Tape

1. Have the kids put on the socks and get them wet, either by dipping them in a bucket of water or spraying with a hose (this will help the seeds to stick to the socks).

2. Run around! The idea is to get as many seeds to stick to the socks as possible, so run through dandelion patches, step through untrodden underbrush of bushes and trees in your yard, or go for a hike in the woods (you

may want to put the socks over the top of their shoes if your choosing to go for a hike).

3. Once you feel there’s been a good amount of exposure to seeds have them step into some dirt, this will help the seeds to germinate.

4. When they are nice and filthy, take them off and place them each into separate zip-top bags. If they aren’t still wet from the initial soaking, add a bit of water, but just gently sprinkle lightly, you don’t want to wash off any of the seeds or dirt! Seal the bag and tape the bags to a window so that they get plenty of daily sunlight.

5. They should start to sprout within a few days and have blooms within 2 weeks! If they don’t, give it another try.

Try something new and enjoy your springtime with the kids in your life!

Take care! Nikki

(photo & idea at:

Bicycle Safety

We are nearing great weather for bike riding. It is fun and an excellent way to get around while staying in shape. People are increasingly using bicycles to commute, exercise, or just for fun, to see the sights, and to reduce their carbon footprint. However, bicyclists face a swarm of vulnerabilities. They often must share the road with vehicles, and injuries can happen even on a designated path.

Bicycle Safety may not be the most exciting topic, but bike accidents can be extremely serious if you’re not careful. Many states consider a bicycle a vehicle when operated on the road — and bicyclists must follow the same rules.

With about 80 million bicyclists sharing the road with motorized vehicles, it is vital that bicyclists—and drivers—take some safety precautions.

You should begin with the right bike for you. Ensure you have chosen the right bike for the surface you plan to ride on and adjust your bike to fit.

Before you hop on your bike, check the weather. You should always avoid riding in harsh weather or when roads are slippery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state bicycle trips make up only 1% of all trips in the United States. However, bicyclists account for over 2% of people who die in a crash involving a motor vehicle on our nation’s roads. Nearly 1,000 bicyclists die, and over 130,000 are injured in crashes that occur on roads in the United States every year.

Ensure you wear the proper safety gear, particularly for your head and hands. Cycling goggles can be helpful for bugs, sun, road debris, or dust. Not all states require helmets, but you should never ride without one, regardless of whether you are an adult or a child. Check out the NHTSA’s guidelines for properly fitted helmets. https://www.nhtsa. gov/sites/

Give your bicycle the proper pre-ride checklist. Are the tires fully inflated? Do your brakes work properly? Are your lights or safety reflectors in the right place and working properly? Do you have a horn? What about your mirrors and headlights? Do you have a small first aid kit on your bike? It’s time to hit the road. Make sure drivers can see you. Wear bright or reflective clothing or accessories, depending on the time of day you are riding. Whenever possible, avoid riding at night.


Many cycling accidents happen when cyclists ride through red lights and stop signs. Cyclists share the road with motorized vehicles, and traffic lights and signs should be obeyed just as vehicles are required to do.

Texting, taking phone calls, or listening to music while riding are distractions that can lead to severe injuries to others, including the cyclist. Keep your hands on the handlebar unless you are signaling to other vehicles.

Always ride with traffic rather than against it. Cars come at you much faster when doing so. Riding in groups can also be helpful. Larger packs are easier to see than one lone rider. This is also helpful if something should happen to you. Someone is near to help.

Common safety tips:

+ Do not ride too close to curbs or on sidewalks

+ Use hand signals in traffic

+ Busses and large trucks have blind spots. Do not try to pass.

+ Be aware of your surroundings and not just what is in front of you.

+ Plan your route by staying on roads with dedicated bike lanes.

+ Things you don’t always think about -Parked Cars (sudden opening of doors)

-Cracks in the road or potholes

Each state has its own rules for bicycling. Get acquainted with your state laws. A useful resource would be the League of American Bicyclists at https://bikeleague. org/bike-laws/state-bike-laws/

May is National Bike Month

Make May the month you review the state rules with your family. Visit https:// for more information on Bicycle Lanes.


Funny Things Kids Say

• If you say that to me one more time you’re not getting a coffee!

• I’m feeling a little cranky, I might need a nap.

• I’ve had enough of this, you need to take me home before I get angry.

• Sorry I got angry with you, I think a little snack would help.

• Mom: This is for looking, not touching! Son: Oh! Thanks for the tip!

• While picking my son to sleep he said to me, “Mom, do whatever you need to do to change the smell of your body. You smell like a hamburger.

• “Mom, why are they going to make me scream?” Had to clarify it was a pre-school screening not a pre-school screaming.

corner kids corner corner


kids corner kids corner kids kids corner kids corner corner


Allergies Seasonal

“Spring. When your nose does more running than you do.”
- Unknown

Sniffles, sneezes, and itchy, watery eyes are on the horizon as the warm weather starts to scoot in. Weather change this time of year is a very welcomed shift; however, for some, seasonal allergies bring about a whole different layer to the season. So, is there a secret to warrant off these pesky symptoms? Unfortunately, it’s not a black-and-white treatment plan, and what works for some may not work for others. There are so many choices: prescription, holistic, over-the-counter, and the do-nothing option is also a thing nowadays. Below are some low-cost options that may help you or someone else enjoy the season change more easily.

+Sinus Rinsing (Saline Nasal Irrigation) – helps to clear out mucous and flush out debris and allergens by pushing the water solution through one nostril and out the other. Irrigation devices: neti pots, squeeze bottles, and rubber nasal bulbs. Make sure to use saline, distilled water, or boiled water – avoid tap water due to the risk of infection.

+Vitamins – taking your vitamins is, in fact, really good for you and not just because Mom/Grandma told you so. Vitamin C is known as an antioxidant (defense in your body to help keep your radical cells in check) and boosts the immune system while helping with inflammation. Some research shows that inflammation contributes to allergy symptoms; reducing it can help your

symptoms. Vitamin D is also an inflammation reducer and aids in allergic reactions, especially if you partner Vitamin D with antihistamines (allergy medications).

+Honey - a very debatable allergy remedy, and we all could likely be swayed one way or another, barring the research rabbit hole we land in. Many believe that consuming local honey allows your body to create an immunity against local pollens, thus lessening or even curing seasonal allergies. Just a teaspoon a day keeps the sniffles away (they say). *Please check with your pediatrician before giving honey to tiny humans*

+Water – believe it or not, simple hydration can go a long way in aiding seasonal allergies. Dehydration can actually worsen allergy symptoms, so adding extra water into your daily plan thins out extra mucous that comes with this season.


+Air purifiers – can remove allergens from your surroundings. When used correctly, a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will remove pollen, dust, and even mold from indoor air.

+Furnace Filters – be sure to change your filters regularly per manufacturer recommendations, as this will keep your air clean within your home.

+Essential Oils – oils are great for many holistic approaches to health. For allergies, menthol-based oils such as peppermint, spearmint, and eucalyptus will be the best to clear out your sinuses. Smelling and diffusing are two great options for relief. You can also rub a few drops on your wrist or put some drops in your bath or hot shower. Either way, your sinuses will be cleared up in no time, and you’ll hopefully be breathing easier, too!

+Clean Your Home – seasonal allergies are linked to changes in nature, so it is very likely that you may be bringing in allergy-inducing pollens into your home. Dust everything, vacuum everything, wash everything – your sinuses will thank you later.

+Acupuncture - yes, this medicinal approach has been scientifically proven to reduce allergy symptoms (runny nose, itchy eyes, congested sinuses, etc.). It also ails many other health-related conditions, so this could be a multi-condition life changer.

There are so many more low-cost ways to approach this allergy season so you can enjoy the beauty of the blossoms. As always, please speak to your clinician and develop a plan that works for you.

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