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Free Car Seat Safety Check: Columbia, SC

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Need to have your child’s car seat checked in Columbia, SC? It’s true what they say, “You can never be too safe,” especially when it comes to your children! And car seat safety is absolutely no exception!

Columbia, SC Car Seat Inspections

Car Seats in South Carolina: Things to Know

Need help finding the right car seat? Or just need some guidance on getting started? The US Department of Transportation has a great resource to help you choose the right car seat and learn how to install it. (We still recommend having your car seat installation checked.)

If you want to freshen up on South Carolina’s car seat laws, be sure to read South Carolina Department of Public Safety’s guide to Child Passenger Safety. Or check out this helpful video from DHEC.

And, of course, when your child has outgrown their car seat, or when the car seat has expired, you can trade it in at Target. Target will recycle old, expired, or damaged car seats and give you 20% off another car seat, a stroller, or select baby gear. Read more about Target’s Car Seat Trade-In Program.

Statistics shockingly estimate around 80% of car seats are NOT correctly installed. Now is the perfect time to make sure yours isn’t one of them.

Where to Get a Car Seat Installation Check in Columbia, SC

Items needed when getting your car seat installation checked:

  • the owner’s manual for your car (if available)
  • the owner’s manual for the car seat (if available)
  • your vehicle
  • your child

We’ve listed the inspection stations near Columbia by county below.

Where to Get Your Car Seat Installation Checked in Richland County

City of Columbia Police Department
1 Justice Square, Columbia
803.545.3975
By appointment only

Irmo Police Department
1230 Columbia Avenue, Irmo
803.781.8088
By appointment only

Lexington Medical Center (Department of Public Safety)
115 West Hospital Drive, West Columbia
803.791.2373
By appointment only

South Carolina State Fire Office
141 Monticello Trail, Columbia
803.896.9800
By appointment only

SC DHEC
2100 Bull Street, Columbia
803.898.2767
By appointment only

The Therapy Place
3620 Covenant Road, Columbia
803.787.3033
By appointment only

Forest Acres Police Department
5205 North Trenholm Road, Forest Acres
803.782.9444
By appointment only

Richland County Sheriff’s Department
5623 Two Notch Road, Columbia
803.576.3000
*Multilingual

Irmo Fire District
6017 St. Andrews Road, Columbia
803.798.4979
By appointment only

Prisma Health Children’s Hospital-Midlands
7 Medical Park Drive, Columbia
803.434.2633
By appointment only

Where to Get Your Car Seat Installation Checked in Lexington County

Lexington Police Department
111 Maiden Lain, Lexington
803.359.6260
By appointment only

Lexington County Health Services District (Department of Public Safety)
115 West Hospital Drive, West Columbia
803.791.2732
By appointment only

Irmo Fire District Northlake
117 Lincreek Road, Columbia
803.781.7178
By appointment only

Cayce Public Safety
2 Lavern Jumper Road, Cayce
803.794.0456
By appointment only

West Columbia Police Department
200 North 12th Street, West Columbia
803.794.0721 ext. 825
By appointment only

Lexington County Sheriff Department
521 Gibson Road, Lexington
803.785.5646
By appointment only

Swansea Police Department
320 West 3rd Street, Swansea
803.568.3366
By appointment only

Batesburg/Leesville Police Department
660 West Columbia Avenue, Batesburg/Leesville
803.532.4408

The SC DHEC website has a list of available car seat inspection stations near Columbia, SC

Parenting in Columbia, SC

See all of Kidding Around’s Parenting Content in one place!

Parenting Guide

5+ Parent’s Night Out Programs in Columbia, SC

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Looking for a kid-free date night or just need some alone time but can’t find a sitter? Parent’s Night Out programs in Columbia, SC are the perfect solution! Check out our list for places to choose from. We’ve got gymnastics to cooking options; there’s something for everyone. Your kids are sure to have a great time, all while you enjoy the quiet. See details below for times, dates, and specifics that each program offers.

Parents night out in Columbia sc

Empire Gymnastics

Known as “Kid’s Night Out” here, Empire Gymnastics offers great fun for your kiddo – including pizza, free play, games, and crafts. Space is limited, and pre-registering is a MUST. So be sure to get on their list ASAP. They generally offer this program on the 2nd Friday of each month, but occasionally it changes. Check out Empire Gymnastics for more information.

Location: 116 South Lake Court, Lexington
Phone: 803.359.2420
Time: 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Cost : $25/child ($5 off if you bring a guest)
Ages: 5+ years

Palmetto Athletic Center

Palmetto Athletic Center offers everything from bounce houses to rope swings for their “Saturday Night Out” fun! Your kiddos are sure to get their energy out and have loads of fun while you enjoy a much deserved night away. They offer this program on select Saturdays throughout the school year. So check out Palmetto Athletic Center here for more information.

Location: 1193 North Lake Drive, Lexington
Phone: 803.951.2090
Time: 5 pm – 9 pm
Cost: $20 (includes pizza)
Ages: 5 – 13

Lake Murray Gymnastics

Lake Murray Gymnastics offers a 10,000 sq. ft. facility for your child to run, jump, and play in on Friday nights. Your child is sure to laugh and have fun while getting their wiggles out. Enjoy your evening, knowing that your child is safe and well-cared for – and filling up on some yummy pizza! Visit Lake Murray Gymnastics for more information.

Location: 110 Hunter Village Drive, Irmo
Phone: 803.233.1460
Time: 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm (Fridays)
Cost: $10 – Members/$15 – Non members
Ages: 4+ years

Flour Power Cooking Studio

Your child will enjoy all sorts of fun, themed cooking and baking activities when attending one of Flour Power’s “Kid’s Night Out” events on Friday nights! From whipping up a breakfast dinner to baking muffins and cookies, your child is sure to find a yummy treat to enjoy making. These tickets sell out fast, so be sure to get yours soon. Visit Flour Power Cooking Studio for more information.

Location: 4517 Forest Drive, Columbia
Phone: 803.231.9635
Time: 6 pm – 8 pm
Cost: $52
Ages: 5-12 years

Here’s an example of one of Flour Power’s Kid’s Night Out events.

Kids Play Garden

Ready for your child to be able to play, learn, discover, and be creative? Kids Play Garden is the perfect spot! Not only do they offer Parent’s Night Out on Saturdays, but they also offer drop-in afternoon enrichment classes, summer camps, birthday parties, and more. The Columbia location is coming soon! Check back for more information. In the meantime, check out the Kids Play Garden website here.

More Columbia, SC Parent’s Night Out Events This Month

Unique date night ideas: Columbia, SC

Planning a date night out? Don’t miss our list of super unique date ideas in Columbia, SC

How to Keep Your Kids Safe From Human Trafficking

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Concerned about the human trafficking stories you see in the news and on social media? We were too. KAG Contributor, Kristina Hernandez, visited with SWITCH, a nonprofit dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking and educating parents on how to protect their kids. She interviewed Jesslyn Griffith, the former Community Engagement Coordinator at SWITCH, and is bringing us tips for keeping our kids safe.

protecting kids from human trafficking

Maybe it’s because I’m a paranoid parent or because my work involves following the news – which is almost always bad – or maybe just because I watched Taken too many times, but sex trafficking is something that is consistently on my mind as I raise my two daughters. The fact that Greenville County leads the state in human trafficking cases has not escaped my notice either.

So I have a lot of questions, as I’m sure most parents around here do, about trafficking and I want – no, I need – answers. What is considered by law sex trafficking? What can I possibly do to shield my kids from being victims? What do I need to know about trafficking in Greenville and what do I need to watch for? Are my kids at risk of being snatched by traffickers in WalMart or someplace public?

Thankfully there is a nonprofit, SWITCH, in Greenville that works with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office to not only help victims of trafficking recover, but also acts as an organization that educates the public, works to decrease demand, and intervenes to help women get out of trafficking and counsel them in recovery. Since their inception of the restoration program in 2014, SWITCH has helped over 115 victims of trafficking,

Jesslyn Griffith, the former Community Engagement Coordinator at SWITCH, became my new friend when it came to learning everything I needed to know about sex trafficking here in Greenville. She answered all my questions patiently and thoroughly, which are below. You can watch our Facebook Live interview with Jesslyn below because you cannot have enough information when it comes to protecting your children.  

If you have questions you want answered that we didn’t ask, send us an email or message us on Facebook!

FAQ: How to protect your children from human trafficking

What is sex trafficking and human trafficking?

Kidding Around Greenville (KAG): What is the actual definition of sex trafficking?

SWITCH: Sex trafficking takes place when force, fraud or coercion is used to induce someone into the commercial sex industry, or when a person 18 yrs or younger is involved in the commercial sex industry.

KAG: What are the biggest misconceptions about human trafficking?
SWITCH:
Trafficking looks different internationally than it does in the U.S. and it looks different within different parts of the U.S. Because we often think it happens like it does in the movie Taken and involves international kidnappings, chains, and dark basements, we miss it.

It’s such an unseen enemy because it involves psychological chains of force, fraud and coercion. A person can be living at home with their parents but being sold by peers on the weekend. So many victims don’t even self-identify because they aren’t in chains. Also, part of training for traffickers is to try to convince the victim it was their idea or choice. A young person who runs away and ends up being trafficked for a place to sleep may think it’s their fault this is happening because they chose to run away. Traffickers will exploit any vulnerability they can.

Social Media and How Kids Are Recruited for Human Trafficking

KAG: At what age are kids commonly trafficked? What do they have in common?

SWITCH: Nationally, the average age is 12-13 years old; in SC, the average age is 14-16 years old.. Traffickers are so good at what they do – finding someone’s vulnerabilities and unmet needs and then meeting those needs to build trust and establish a strong connection for the sole purpose of exploiting that person through the vulnerabilities and unmet needs they have. It’s the highest level of manipulation and deceit.

The number one way traffickers are reaching youth is through social media. A young person will complain about their parents and the trafficker will jump on that, relating to the youth, becoming a trusted friend, They then begin the process of grooming the young person and isolating them from people they are close to so they can break and turn them out into the commercial sex industry more easily. In our country, 300,000 youth are lured into the commercial sex industry every year.

KAG: How are kids usually recruited into the trafficking industry? Is it in person, online, through friends?

SWITCH: In SC, most cases involve recruitment by a family member.

KAG: Wait, what?! A family member?

SWITCH: This is a hard one for me to understand as well. SC is the #1 state in the country for reported cases of familial trafficking. Recruitment is the way people are brought into the commercial sex industry. The sad thing is, it often becomes a normalized way of life for people eventually and sometimes the only way they know to survive. There are many things traffickers will do to keep victims trapped in this lifestyle as well: criminal records, ruined credit, and drug addictions. It’s often hard for people to escape the commercial sex industry once they have been forced, frauded, or coerced into it.

KAG: OK – back to the original question – how are kids recruited?

SWITCH: The second most common method is someone pretending to be a boyfriend which is known as a Romeo Pimp. Peer trafficking came in as the third highest method of recruitment. This could be someone already in “the life” of the commercial sex industry who is now recruiting for their trafficker or a peer who is using threats and blackmail to coerce a classmate to have sex with others. There are numerous tricks, traps, and schemes used to force and trick kids into this.

Keeping Kids Safe From Human Trafficking

KAG: What steps can parents take to educate themselves on signs that their child may be trafficked and educate their kids on the dangers of sex trafficking?

SWITCH: As part of our prevention program, we have a presentation for parents to help educate them on what to look for and how to talk to their kids about this. It’s important to be a safe person for your child to talk to. Be mindful of your reactions when your kids open up and share things with you. Keep an open line of communication with them and know who the influences are in their lives. Be so careful with technology and social media.

You’re trying to guard and protect your kids from as much of this as possible but they need to know what’s happening so they can help protect themselves as well. Love146 is a wonderful resource for parents as well and be sure to check out our website as we will be updating it to provide more information on all of this.

Kidnapping & Human Trafficking

KAG: Anyone on Facebook nowadays reads about moms who are followed at WalMart or someplace like that and are petrified that someone is trying to kidnap their child for trafficking. Are those legit concerns? Do pimps really prey on kids like that in public places?

SWITCH: Anything can happen and it’s always good to be aware and cautious. With that being said, our local law enforcement does not receive calls about this type of thing and they aren’t handling cases involving this type of situation. We’ve done a great job teaching our kids about stranger danger and that’s important. With sex trafficking, the exploiter is someone the young person knows and trusts which is one of the most difficult things about these situations. It’s really important youth understand their own vulnerabilities and also know what a healthy relationship looks like as well as red flags to indicate it might be turning into an unhealthy relationship.

Caring for Victims

KAG: Does SWITCH help victims escape or do you work with other organizations who do that and then you take over on the business and counseling side?

SWITCH: Escape is tricky and looks much different depending on the situation. Some are desperate for a fresh start and do the hard work necessary to heal and start a new life. Not all situations are like that though. For a girl being sold by the man she considers her boyfriend, the level of manipulation is so deep. Even though she is being mistreated and abused, she may be in love with him and willing to endure the situation. Sometimes, people are trapped by the circumstances created by their traffickers like ruined credit, criminal records and drug addictions which makes it harder to break free.

For all victims though, there is an incredible amount of trauma to work through. A person has to be ready to leave the life they know behind in order to pursue a healthier future. Healing is not easy though and there’s a great fear of the unknown. People know what to expect from their abusive situations and find ways to cope. It may feel safer to keep surviving what they are than to step into a situation where they don’t know what they can expect. Readiness for change is such a key to success though. We encourage them, love them, guide them, but it’s important they make their own choice.

Human Trafficking in Greenville, SC

KAG: Greenville County has one of the largest number of sex trafficking cases in the state. That’s concerning. Why is that and what is SWITCH doing to lower those stats?

SWITCH: We’re on the I-85 corridor connecting Atlanta, which is often the highest ranked city for trafficking cases reported and Charlotte, who is usually in the top ten. We’re a convenient location between the two. Also, we currently have two dedicated officers focused on sex trafficking. It’s possible the rest of the state has as much activity but not enough man power within law enforcement to expose what’s really happening.

KAG: What resources does SWITCH have for parents who are looking for help on learning about sex trafficking, especially locally?

SWITCH: In addition to the coming updates to our website, we’re glad to speak to groups in order to raise awareness and train in prevention practices.

About SWITCH

About SWITCH: SWITCH was founded in 2012. The idea behind our name is when you switch a light on, the darkness flees. We push back the darkness of sex trafficking through five programs: awareness, prevention, demand, intervention and restoration.

Through our awareness program, we speak to businesses, churches, and other organizations to help adults understand what sex trafficking is and what it looks like in the Upstate. Our prevention program takes Love146’s Not a Number curriculum into youth groups, schools, the department of juvenile justice and other organizations with children in the 7th grade or older. Demand is a group of male volunteers who work with men in the Upstate connecting dots between how online porn is fueling the commercial sex industry. They provide resources, accountability and mentors to help break the addiction of pornography so many individuals face. Intervention is a group of volunteers who go into the district and strip clubs to meet commercial sex workers where they are and offer friendship with no strings attached. When people are ready to leave the life, they know SWITCH is a safe place they can come for help.

Parenting

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The Christmas Season: How early is too early?

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The “how early is too early?” Christmas season debate is on. Decorations are going up all around the Upstate. Do you think November decorations are too ambitious? How about Christmas music? What album is Alexa playing on repeat at your house? Here’s Kidding Around Contributor, Taryn, with her take on the early start to the holiday season.

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Have we been trick-or-treating wrong all these years?

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An Amble with Gamble: Stories from the parenting trenches

Is your family getting ready for the Halloween tradition of door-to-door trick-or-treating? As you prepare, here’s a humorous reflection of previous Halloweens and the trick-or-treat experience.

-Come take a stroll down memory lane with me-

Another Halloween come and gone.

Halloween Chili- a new kind of trick or treat

I definitely would not put myself in the Halloween enthusiast category. I mean, I like dressing up my kids and eating 3 Musketeers as much as any human being should but hanging skeletons from my front porch and pretending to be an axe- murderer is just not my idea of a good time. To each his own, though.

I managed to avoid Halloween festivities for the last six years, but this year, the kids were adamant that they wanted to pick out costumes and join in the neighborhood excitement.

Fine.

But why do kids always choose the costume that suddenly doesn’t come in their size? My 8 year-old wanted to be Ironman which, to daft little me, seemed fairly mainstream. How hard could it be?

I could find every other superhero costume known to the galaxy in a size medium, but not Ironman. No.

One Halloween Express and two Walmarts later, we finally tracked down a size medium Ironman costume. The Lord was testing me. I don’t know if you’ve ever traversed a Halloween Express and two Walmarts in one afternoon with four children under 8 years old, but let me assure you, it’s above your paygrade.

Children in costume
My children looking despondent pre-trick-or-treating. Don’t let their expressions fool you. They were wildly excited.

My 3-year-old girl had her own hopes and dreams of being Spidergwen for Halloween. For the record, I was thrilled by her decision. The character of Spidergwen is pretty boss if you ask me, so my daughter’s spunky, ballet-dancing self would have been the perfect Gwen Stacy!

Alas. Let me tell you what I found: the only companies manufacturing toddler-size Spider Gwen costumes also seem like the type of factories heavy into human trafficking and slavery. I’m not even joking around here. The locations were highly suspect.

While I now realize that probably any costume I purchased from the big box store came from one of those locations, I couldn’t, in good conscience, order directly from the operation. There went my poor girl’s aspirations.

Don’t fret, though. She settled on an Elsa costume two sizes too small for her at Walmart—as one does—and could not have been more excited on Halloween night with her arms wedged into tiny glitter mesh tubes up to her elbows. Kind of reminded me of a burst can of biscuits, but in the cutest way possible.

While the five of us were out enjoying the cool night and gusty winds, we had the unique experience of being offered chili at two locations.

Chili. Like the soup with beans.

Now, I love chili—heavy on the sour cream, please—and it is certainly weather-appropriate this time of year, but how on earth am I supposed to consume a bowl of chili while keeping my children out of the street? This was all new to me. Do you just ladle it into the bucket? What’s the protocol here? Seemed unconventional, at best.

So what did I do? I took the ding-dang chili, of course!

And wolfed down three to four bites on each porch. Trust me on this one. WORTH THE CHALLENGE. While the threat of being poisoned by strychnine was certainly there, I took that risk because chili should never be declined.

Many a dad was nursing their own bowl of chili, so I was in good company—just missing a full beard and camo jacket. That Piedmont Life, I tell you. Several mothers looked at me like I was an imposter, but I suppose that comes with the territory when you’re clearly enjoying yourself with four happy, costumed kids in tow. We are a rare breed.

At any rate, the real case on the chili front is that I was so full when we arrived home that I didn’t eat a single piece of Halloween candy! Could this be because I had to give baths and put four kids on speed to bed? Highly probable. Could it also be that I hid the Halloween buckets in an inconvenient place upon our arrival home? Likely answers all around!

But I’m putting all my coins into the chili bucket–the unsung hero of Halloween in South Carolina. Friends, whip out those crockpots and styrofoam cups and be the toast of the town.

Chili 2022 for Office. Don’t even bother with cilantro. No one wants that when there are Reese’s Cups to be had.

Still Making Your Halloween Plans?

10 Parent-Hacks for Amazing & Memorable Trips to the Farm this Fall

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Want to make sure your family trip to the farm is amazing? Farms in the fall are perfect places for family fun and lots of memory-making. But, bringing your whole crew anywhere can sometimes be a little stressful, right? So, we have some tips to help you make your fall farm trip easy with nothing but fun and happy faces.

Parent tips for farm trips
Famoda Farm

Wear the correct clothes.

A farm is a great opportunity to take some adorable, matching farm-themed photos, but it’s important to realize that it is a farm. Farms have dirt, fire ants, and typically a lot of sun. Cute smocked outfits, warm “fall” clothes, and open-toed shoes might look great in photos but may not be comfortable, practical attire for having fun at the farm.

If your main goal is photos, consider either outfit choices that are comfortable and can get dirty or take your photos and schedule another visit for full farm activities.

We recommend wearing:

  • Clothes that can get dirty
  • Closed-toed shoes that are comfortable for walking such as tennis shoes or boots
  • Layers, even on cooler fall days it can feel really hot in the sun especially if you spend an hour wandering in a corn maze.
  • A hat or sunglasses if it’s a sunny day
Moo Cow farms cow cuddling
Moo Cow Farms

Bring snacks and water.

Most farms will allow you to eat on the property or at your car. Some serve food, but not all. Most do not have a place to refill water bottles.

We recommend making sure you have plenty of food and water.

There will likely only be porta-potties at the farm so plan accordingly.

Wear your sunscreen. It can get hot in October in our region.

Apple slingshot
Apple slingshot at McLadke Orchards

Go over farm etiquette before getting out of the car.

It’s important to go over basic farm rules with your kids if they are unfamiliar with farm etiquette. Farming is hard work and it’s important to respect the farmer’s property.

Follow all farm signs and rules.

Be sure to treat plants with respect. Only pick what you plan to pay for and don’t destroy farm property such as forming new paths in a corn maze.

Don’t throw produce such as pumpkins or corn unless it’s part of a farm-approved game.

Watch your kids closely. Farm equipment can be dangerous.

Don’t feed animals unless signs give permission to feed them and only feed animals food that is approved by the farm.

If you have the opportunity to touch or hold animals, remind your children to be gentle.

Feeding animals at Goat Daddy's Farm
Goat Daddy’s Farm

Be prepared before you get lost in the corn maze.

Corn mazes are fun but they also are in direct sunlight and involve a lot of wandering around trying to figure your way out.

Your kids will likely insist on picking all of the turns which often results in walking in circles for hours.

  • Make sure your preschooler/toddler understands that they have to stay with you because losing a child in a corn maze is more excitement than most of us want when visiting a farm.
  • Take a photo of the corn maze before you enter. That way if you get lost and tired, you can still find your way out.
  • If all else fails, follow the wall-hugger trick.
  • Make sure you have your water with you.
  • Go to the bathroom before your start the maze.
  • If your kids are little, they usually won’t know the difference between the entrance and exit so you can always have a short visit into the corn maze and just exit out the way you came before everyone gets tired.
Corn maze
Denver Downs

Pick the right farm.

If you want to pick apples or pumpkins, make sure the farm lets you pick them before arriving. Some orchards and farms only sell pre-picked produce.

Some farms allow you to enjoy all the activities for one price, whereas others charge per activity. If your main event is picking apples, paying once for the jumping pillow or hay ride might be the right choice. If your main activity is playing at the farm, consider one with an all-inclusive price.

Denver Downs Slide
Denver Downs

Check to see what forms of payment they accept.

Some of the farms in the region only accept cash or check. Make sure you are prepared.

11 Best Back-to-School Hacks Our Readers Swear By

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Make back-to-school time easy this year! Our readers are really smart, which is why we asked them about their very best back-to-school hacks.

Getting back into the swing of things for a new school year is no joke. It is hard. The early mornings, the bus schedule, the lunch packing, the homework, the extracurricular sports, the chalkboard first day or school photos. It can be overwhelming, which is why we turned to the most knowledgeable group of people we know to ask for tips: our readers. Here’s what they said.

Back to School Hacks from local moms

#1 Start the bedtime/wake-up time school schedule a couple of weeks before school starts

This was one of the top pieces of advice from our readers. Getting up early on day 1 is zero fun in and of itself. If your kid(s) has been doing it for at least a week or so, it’s a tad bit easier.

Consider planning a couple fun outings the week prior to school starting such as going out for donuts to make the earlier rising time an adventure.

Practice lunch by packing the lunch box and setting a timer for the amount of time that your child has for lunch at school.

#2 Pick out the clothes for school for the entire week.

Multiple readers said they help their kids to lay out clothes for the whole week on Sunday or tell their teens to do so themselves. One reader even had a brilliant idea to use hanging cubbies to put clothes for each day. And this is why we ask our readers these questions.

#3 Don’t buy a brand new “back to school” wardrobe

The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans with school-age kids are spending upwards of $867 per kid on back to school supplies and clothing. That number is enormous but can be cut back without going all out for a new wardrobe for your kids. There are tons of consignment shops and sales to make use of to help get your kids a new-to-them wardrobe.

Also, consider purchasing just a couple outfits at the beginning of the school year versus an entire new wardrobe. Your kids might change their mind on what they want to wear after seeing what other kids are wearing and the colder weather is just a couple months away.

#4 Meal prep

Many of our readers noted that prepping meals ahead of time for during the week is a lifesaver when getting back into the swing of things. One mom even prepares one big meal at the beginning of the week that can feed everyone for several nights and just switches up the sides to add variety.

Anything you can prepare the night before such as packing lunches will also make leaving the house on time in the morning much easier.

Setting up a breakfast station the week before with breakfast foods ready to go can also make the morning move smoother.

#5 Take the “first day of ____ grade” pictures the day before!

As yes, the First Day of __ Grade Back to School photos. You know, the ones where you’re desperately trying to get your kid to school but then remember you want to memorialize the occasion but need a chalkboard and pen and paper and nothing else that you have right then but are already late? Yeah, those. Do them the day before school starts. Reader Kerry says, “Just chill. The chalkboard thing doesn’t have to happen; neither does posting to social media. Let them dress for comfort instead of trying to dress to impress.” Another mom said she just has her kids hold up the number of fingers to correspond to the grade they are going into.

#6 Don’t schedule any appointments that first week of school

No doctor appointments. No dentist appointments. Nothing that will give you even more stress than you’re already handling. Schedule them for a few weeks out from the first day of school if you can.

#7 Use Alexa to help you remember things you/your kids need to do

One reader said she programs her Alexa device to set reminders about things her or her kids would likely forget like when the library book is due, what day of the week her kid(s) needs to wear gym shoes or a reminder to plug in the Chromebook.

#8 Plug in that Chromebook

Be sure to plug in the Chromebook on Sunday night because going to school with a dead laptop is no fun.

#9 Keep the social life to a minimum

One mom said she has found that restricting weekend plans for the first few weeks into the school years has helped her kids to get the relaxation they need and helps them to focus on the new school year.

#10 Use your calendar to keep up with events

One mom said she plugs all of the school events into your calendar on her phone before the school years so she knows what to expect and can plan for events.

#11 Keep all school-related things in one place

Mom Stacy has this amazing idea: “I have a back-to-school binder. It has the school calendar and sections for each child for their supply lists and forms teachers send home for platforms the kids use, passwords, usernames, etc and contact lists.

Anything important that’s sent home, especially those early weeks, goes straight in the binder. The supply list stays so I can touch base with the teacher through the year on possible extra needs or send in extras that are consumed quickly.”

What’s your back-to-school hack?

East school night dinners

And then there’s dinner.

Get some new ideas: School-Night Dinner Secrets from our readers

Private Breast Milk Donation Groups Share the Fruits of Their Labor: Columbia, SC

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Perhaps you’ve heard of breast milk banks, but have you heard of breast milk Facebook groups? There are Facebook groups worldwide devoted strictly to donating and receiving breast milk. There are two Columbia-area Facebook groups dedicated to doing the same. We’re here to provide details about these groups and even share stories from current group members who have benefited simply because these groups exist.

Breast milk sharing groups in Columbia, SC

Important Disclaimer: Kidding Around provides this article to share these mothers’ stories and for informational purposes about breast milk-sharing groups. Kidding Around does not provide healthcare advice, suggestion, or direction. This is not an endorsement or promotion. Always consult your child’s physician for health care advice and about what to feed your baby.

Donate and receive breast milk: Mother's Milk Bank of SC

Mother’s Milk Bank of SC is run by MUSC and provides pasteurized donated breast milk for babies. Check out our article on Mother’s Milk Bank of SC to donate to this bank.

Breast Milk Share: Columbia SC Groups on Social Media

If you search, you’ll find that Facebook breast milk donation groups are everywhere. But not just anyone can access these…including me. The two Columbia-area groups, Breast Milk Donations for Babies in the Carolinas and Human Milk 4 Human Babies – South Carolina are both private groups, meaning any person must be vetted before joining. 

Joining a breast milk-sharing group

Both groups require anyone interested in joining to first complete their question and answer section. The administrators of these groups then decide if the individual meets all criteria to join. Once approved, the individual can only then donate and/or receive breast milk.

*Full disclosure, For research purposes I tried joining both of these groups, one successfully, the other…no such luck. These groups are so selective that I was approved membership for one of the groups, yet denied access to the other. 

Because I am not currently interested in donating or receiving breast milk, I was unfortunately not granted access to the private group. The reason for my “declined request to join” was the following: “Issue with answers to question. Bystanders don’t really sound like a fit for our group. It’s milk sharing. Peer to peer. Requests and donations.” I, however, respectfully understand their decision and need for their members’ privacy. 

Stories of Donors and Recipients

Over the course of my research, I was fortunate enough to have several members of these private breast milk donation groups reach out to tell me their stories. From a group administrator to several donors and recipients, I’m here to share each of their stories and experiences with anyone who’s curious about joining one of these groups. 

Breast Milk Group Administrator and Donor

Kristen Killebew is the administrator of Facebook private group, Breast Milk for Babies in the Carolinas. Though she isn’t the original founder of the group, she was passed the reins after answering a call for a new group administrator. Killebrew says she initially joined the private group in 2016, with plans to donate her breast milk to other babies and children in need. 

Killebrew’s first experience in breast milk donation began when she answered a milk request for twin babies. “I started donating to a very nice lady who had a set of boy/girl twins when they were fairly young, and donated milk to them until they were weaned,” she says. 

The group administrator says groups like hers are invaluable. “I think resources like this are really valuable for parents who are passionate about the benefits of breast milk but are unable to do so for whatever the reason.” 

She adds, “Some women are on medication that prevents them from safely giving their littles their breast milk. Others just cannot produce enough milk due to low supply for various reasons.” 

Killebrew suggests that many women turn to these breast milk donation groups due to receiving poor breastfeeding support. In turn, she’s just happy to be able to play a small part in successfully providing breast milk to “all the littles” out there. She enthusiastically adds, “I love chunky babies!” 

Donor Breast Milk Recipient

Rachel Scarbrough, 29, is a member of both groups, Breast Milk Donations for Babies in the Carolinas and Human Milk 4 Human Babies – South Carolina. She says  decided to use donor milk after she was unable to breastfeed her son. “I love these groups because they helped provide milk for my children especially during the formula shortage,” says Scarbrough.

In fact, she has relied on donor breast milk for the past two years for both of her children. “My children are two and one. I decided to use donor breast milk after I was unable to breastfeed my son. I breastfed and supplemented with breast milk with my daughter,” says Scarbrough.

Scarbrough says she has cumulatively received over 5,000 ounces of breast milk over a two-year period. And the good news is, there’s no ceiling when it comes to how much or how long a mother can donate breast milk. “Any donation amount is a blessing. You can be a donor for as long as you would like to pump or donate for,” she says. 

Breast Milk Donor and Recipient

Lizzie Dixon, 28, is a member of Facebook group, Human Milk for Human Babies of SC. She says she first learned of breast milk donations when a woman she previously worked with had a devastating late term miscarriage. 

“Since her milk came in after delivering her baby, she decided to pump milk to donate to babies in the NICU for a while, rather than just letting her milk dry up. This struck me as so selfless to want to help others that way even in the midst of her loss,” Dixon marveled. 

Unbeknownst to her, Dixon would soon find herself on the receiving end of breast milk donation. Shortly after her son was born, he was placed in the NICU. “Due to breathing problems, he received donor milk through his feeding tube until I was able to pump enough for him,” says Dixon. 

In addition to being on the receiving end of breast milk, Dixon is also a new breast milk donor. “I donated for the first time this week!,” Dixon exclaims. She says so far she has donated approximately 72 ounces to another local mom who posted that she needed milk due to low supply.

And after a pleasant first experience donating, Dixon says she intends to donate again. “I plan to donate again whenever I have extra milk in the freezer that I am unable to use for my daughter,” she adds. 

In the Facebook group Dixon belongs to there are no minimum ounces required to donate. There’s also no particular vetting process or criteria for donating or receiving in this group either. She says she has, however, seen mothers in need of breast milk offer to pay for drug tests for potential donors. 

Dixon adds, “Recipients can request donations that meet certain requirements such as dairy free, no medications, etc.”.

Similar to other Facebook breast milk groups, the rules in Dixon’s group for storing breast milk are the same. Freshly expressed or pumped milk can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, in the freezer for  6 months, and up to 12 months is acceptable especially if stored in a deep freezer, she claims. 

There’s no money exchanged in the group in which Dixon belongs. She does say however that other forms of “payment” are acceptable. She clarifies, “The group I’m a part of doesn’t allow compensation aside from replacing storage bags and pump parts for the donor if needed.” 

Dixon says she has definite plans to donate breast milk again. She says, “I think it’s a great way for moms to support each other!” 

This group has made a lasting effect on Dixon, as she says it feels “really good to be able to help another mom and baby and for my extra milk to not go to waste!” 

NICU Breast Milk Recipient

Marisa Beard, 24, is a member of the Breast Milk for Babies in the Carolinas Facebook group. Her first experience with donor breast milk began when donor milk was given to her son in the NICU.

“We had to use donor milk until my supply came in because he was early…my body wasn’t ready yet to make the milk he needed,” she explains.

Beard says her son received 30ml of donated breast milk every three hours for about a week. But Beard says she stopped supplementing with donor milk once her supply came in. 

How does someone receive or request donor breast milk in the hospital? Beard says the option was suggested to her because of her strong desire to provide her son  

with breast milk versus formula. Beard says, “They knew I was planning on breastfeeding so they asked if it was okay to give him donor milk.” 

She recommends donor milk to any mother in a similar situation as her. Beard suggests speaking to lactation consultants should you find yourself not able to produce milk, “I would definitely recommend any mamas to always talk to lactation in the hospital about donor milk and don’t hesitate to ask for help or advice.”

Beard’s positive NICU experience with donor milk has inspired her to become a donor herself. She says once she increases her milk supply, she’ll be donating within her Facebook group Breast Milk for Babies in the Carolinas.

From recipients to donors to mothers of babies in the NICU, these private breast milk Facebook groups have become a haven for a variety of women seeking help. Whether you’re someone with a surplus of breast milk or struggling with your own milk supply, these local breast milk groups open a whole new window of options into a world you may never have known existed until now! 

Parents: You Don’t Need to do All the Christmas Things

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The Christmas season is supposed to be all about joy, peace, and a fleeting holiday spirit that seems to be gone quicker than a wispy trail of smoke once the dishes are done after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s all of a sudden a whirlwind of school holiday parties, making a list of gifts and going all out to fulfill that list, trying to create magic at home with an elf just because everyone else is seemingly doing it, taking a holiday overnight trip, and trying to see all the Christmas lights and displays because your family will be deprived if they don’t do that. 

This is for all you parents who are hanging by a thread trying to make this season the most spectacular of all for your kids and just don’t know if you can hang on much longer. To all of you: you don’t need to do all the things. 

Your Christmas tree doesn’t need a giant stack of presents under it. Your kids don’t need the latest toys. You don’t need to stretch yourself so thin trying to cram the most you can into this holiday season. You and your kids are not deprived if you don’t do it all, buy it all, and sacrifice your sanity for an experience, toy, or magical experience that will soon be forgotten. 

Easier holidays and low-key Christimas

You don’t need to do it all

Last year, parents estimated they would spend about $276 on Christmas gifts for each of their kids and a whopping 41% of Americans were willing to go into debt for gift-giving. Meanwhile, the estimated worth of unwanted gifts hovers around $15 billion. Those aren’t small figures, especially in today’s world where many families are struggling with everyday bills. Kids don’t need the latest toy, the most expensive phone, and all the other material things that they’ll forget in a month’s time. Smaller gifts or experience gifts, like memberships to places you and your family go often (hello, SC Parks Pass!) go a long way towards making great memories together all year long. 

I’m not sure why we parents sometimes feel like we need to do all the things during the Christmas season. Maybe social media, maybe endless ads, maybe just talking with friends about all the cool stuff they are doing, or maybe it’s what our parents did with us that we are trying to replicate with our own kids. Whatever the reason, it’s totally fine – more than fine – to back off from the deluge of activities that come with this season. 

You aren’t depriving your kids if you don’t do it all

Your kids will be okay if they aren’t doing everything their friends are doing and it’s a good opportunity for them to learn that not doing everything their friends are doing isn’t something to be ashamed about. We all have our own struggles and priorities and I think it’s good to learn early on that kids don’t need to fit in to have fun. I wish I would have learned that a lot earlier than I did in life. 

I didn’t grow up doing a ton of activities during the Christmas season. Sometimes our family would take a trip together, which was a blast. We would go during Christmas and experience it in another state or town and have fun together exploring a new city and making dinner together in a small kitchen in our hotel room. It was awesome.

We didn’t do parades but we did go drive around looking at Christmas lights in neighborhoods with popcorn that we cooked over the stove and tried not to let explode all over the kitchen. We had fun decorating our Christmas tree together. One year my dad found a tree that legit looked like the poor little tree from Charlie Brown’s Christmas and it turned into the joke that never ended year after year since we couldn’t do worse than that tree. 

I don’t remember the gifts I got or gave. I don’t remember sitting for Santa photos. The memories from the Christmas season that remain are those with my family. I do remember one gift: it was tickets to a New Jersey Nets (a professional basketball team) the day after Christmas or so. I had played basketball with a passion as a tween and teenager and that gift was special. That’s really all I remember in terms of gifts. 

Choosing sanity

Because of those memories and because I have zero desire to drive myself crazy during these weeks leading up to Christmas, I intentionally try to minimize what we do. While I love writing about new activities for Christmas for Kidding Around, aside from those excursions, I try to take these weeks of Advent to spend quality time together with my kids. We go look at Christmas lights, go ice skating, go to live nativities and remember the real reason for this season, take time to volunteer, and read books together on Christmas. And, I intentionally try to not go overboard on gifts for my kids. 

I want to get to Christmas and not be completely worn out or fed up or just plain unhappy. After all, this is indeed a season of joyful expectation. If you’ve got to seriously scale back your calendar to be happier and less stressed, then by all means, do it. You truly don’t need to do it all so your kids can experience the magic of the season. They will remember the special moments with you above all else and that’s what matters.