Telescope available for check out from Missoula Public Library

If you can’t reach the stars, you can at least feel like you can, thanks to the Orion StarBlaster telescope that is available for check out from the Missoula Public Library.

“A lot of people get intimidated by telescopes,” said Nick Wethington, who coordinates the spectrUM museum next door to the library and is president of the Western Montana Astronomical Association. “They think about the computers attached to them, and how much they cost. But with this program, you can get a telescope for free and get used to it. You don’t need something that costs thousands of dollars to look at the sky.”

The telescope comes with operating instructions, as well as various guides to help viewers navigate the skies — and avoid summer break boredom.

Check out all the details in Rob Chaney’s story!

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$60k awarded to 16 schools for breakfast programs

This just in from Helena about nearly $60,000 in privately funded grants that will help fund breakfast programs for healthier, more-focused students:

Sixteen Montana schools are about to take a very important step for the health and future of their students and their communities – and it all starts with making sure that every day starts with a healthy breakfast.

Governor Steve Bullock and First Lady Lisa Bullock announced today that a total of $59,600 in privately funded grants have been awarded to 16 schools across Montana to assist them in starting new breakfast programs and expanding participation in existing programs. All of these schools have pledged to adopt innovative approaches to school breakfast, such as serving breakfast in the classroom or offering a “grab-and-go” style that appeals to teens on the go.  These grants will help make healthy school breakfast accessible to the 7,000 Montana students who attend these schools, more than 60 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

“Every Montana student should start the school day with a healthy breakfast that ensures they’re ready to learn. We are thrilled to see that so many Montana educators are recognizing the value of making breakfast a part of their school day, and that private businesses are stepping up to make this a reality for Montana students,” said Governor Bullock. “Breakfast at school is an important step we can take in our fight against childhood hunger.”

These schools are about to join more than 90 other Montana schools that make breakfast a part of the school day, whether they serve it in the classroom at the start of the day, or from a hallway kiosk between school periods. Participation in these innovative, accessible breakfast programs is more than twice as high, on average, than when breakfast is served before school in the cafeteria. Montana teachers are already seeing the difference in their students’ behavior, attendance and ability to pay attention during morning lessons.

These observations align with national studies that have found that school breakfast is associated with lower rates of tardiness, fewer referrals to the school nurse, and fewer disciplinary incidents. Research also shows that students who eat breakfast at school perform 17 percent better on math tests compared to those who eat at home or do not eat breakfast at all.

The 16 schools that were awarded grants in this grant round are:

  • Browning Middle School (Browning) – $3924
  • Browning High School (Browning) – $5000
  • Washington Middle Elementary (Miles City) – $2711
  • Longfellow Elementary (Great Falls) – $5000
  • Whittier Elementary (Great Falls) – $5000
  • Cornelius Hedges Elementary (Kalispell) – $5000
  • Elrod Elementary (Kalispell) – $2129
  • Lakeside Elementary (Somers) – $4998
  • Columbia Falls High School (Columbia Falls) – $1000
  • Troy Junior-Senior High (Troy) – $5000
  • Stevensville Elementary (Stevensville) – $2675
  • Billings West High School (Billings) – $2600
  • Riverside Middle School (Billings) – $4964
  • Elysian Schools (Billings) – $4000
  • Canyon Creek School (Billings) – $666
  • Custer School District (Custer) – $4910

The grants were made possible through generous donations from the Walmart Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Share our Strength, AT&T and a personal donation from Harald Herrmann with Round It Up America. Award funds are intended to help schools to pay for essential equipment and infrastructure such as grab-and-go kiosks or carts for delivering meals to classrooms; programs are expected to be self-sustaining thereafter. This is the second round of school breakfast grants. Last November, the Governor and First Lady awarded $55,000 to 20 Montana schools.

The Bullocks launched the Montana Breakfast after the Bell initiative to increase participation in school breakfast and make it a part of the school day by serving it after the school day begins. The initiative aims to ensure that all kids can have a healthy start to the day by helping schools adopt proven breakfast models that increase participation, such as breakfast in the classroom and grab n’ go breakfasts. One of the most effective ways to significantly boost school breakfast participation is to make it part of the school day.

Schools interested in starting a new breakfast program and/or making breakfast part of the school day can contact the Montana No Kid Hungry School Breakfast Coordinator, Rosie Cody at RCody@mt.gov or by phone at 444-3925.

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Missoula Baby Bistro breastfeeding support group

Going back to work after having a baby can be difficult emotionally and logistically. Toss breastfeeding in and moms not only have to worry about when to drop off and pick up their kiddos but when to pump so their kiddos have a supply of milk when they’re not around to give it to them from the source.

So where to look for support and resources? The Missoula Baby Bistro is a good place to hear from certified lactation counselors and other moms about returning to work and a host of other breastfeeding-related things.

The breastfeeding support group meets from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at Zootown Brew, 121 W. Broadway.

And if you’re like me, it’s an opportunity to upgrade from sweatpants to yoga pants and get out of the house and talk with other moms about everything from what worked for them when they tried to get baby to take a bottle to sleep habits to just how you’re feeling. I went to the group almost every week when I was still on maternity leave and it was definitely helpful to hear from other moms and lactation experts — without having to make an appointment. I also gleaned all sorts of nuggets of info, like how socks stuffed in bras do in a pinch when you’re out of nursing pads and how you can make your own hands-free nursing bra by cutting slits in a sports bra.

The group began last August after members of the Missoula Breastfeeding Coalition decided to have one support group instead of the various ones hosted by different organizations. Coalition members take turns facilitating so there’s always an expert, or two, on hand.

During a recent session, Jennifer Stires, who owns the Nursing Nook, gave some tips on how to make the transition back to work easier for mom and baby while still breastfeeding.

• Give your chosen childcare a trial run for a few hours the week before you return to work.

• Pump once every day if starting to pump two weeks before going back to work; pump every other day if starting four weeks before your return.

• Store milk in 2-4 ounce increments so it can be warmed up in small amounts and waste less.

• Make sure the room you pump in at work has a lock for privacy. Don’t pump in the bathroom. (Would you eat in there?) Be near water so you can rinse your breast pump parts after each use.

• Drink lots of water, exercise and get fresh air. Keep healthy snacks available (oatmeal helps with milk production).

• Have a feeding plan on file with your childcare provider and ask to have a synopsis of your child’s day. When did they nap and for how long? How much did they eat and when?

The law is on your side, too, ladies.

According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers — with some exemptions — must give nursing mothers reasonable break times to express breast milk for up to a year after birth and are required to give mothers a place — other than a bathroom — in which to do so.

If you need some advice or just an encouraging smile from another mom who is going through the same thing, check out Missoula Baby Bistro in person, or find them on Facebook.

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Parents of Multiples group forms

Ever feel like all the baby-care hacks are geared toward one baby at a time?

You’re not alone and to help families with multiples (i.e. twins, triplets) a new group has formed.

Missoula Parents of Multiples was formed by Emma Hunter and Cerisse Allen – both parents of twins and certified lactation consultants.

The group meets the first Thursday of each month from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Missoula Public Library. (Although Hunter said they are open to meeting at a different time if it will be easier for families to attend.) The gathering is a judgement-free zone for families to share experiences and support each other, Hunter said.

“I feel like you don’t realize until you have more than one baby what a large part of all of our available parenting advice is specifically geared toward one mom and one baby,” she said.

“It’s nice to be able to chat with people who have made it through the first year of two or what have you to be able to bounce ideas off of,” she said.

Especially when children are younger, it can be reassuring to see other moms and families handling the demands of multiples and still managing to enjoy them, she said, adding she and Allen became friends after bumping into each other when walking their children and then again through mutual friends.

Basic needs are the same for all babies, Hunter said.

“It’s just more relentless,” she said about caring for multiples.

“It’s just keeping up without really getting much of a break very often,” she added.

Being pregnant with and giving birth to multiples also presents challenges and moms can’t legally have a home or birth center birth experience. Cesarean sections also are more common and it’s not unusual to spend active labor in the operating room just in case, Hunter said.

Sometimes, moms have a vaginal delivery for the first baby and a c-section for the second, which means they recover from both types of delivery after, she said.

Neonatal intensive care unit stays also are more prevalent for multiples, she said.

“It seems like something most of the moms don’t really get an opportunity to talk about much but then given the opportunity they were eager to,” Hunter said about the first group meeting earlier this month.

“It seems like the desire to be kind of proactive and provide support in turn to someone going through a similar difficult situation is definitely there,” she added.

For more information, or to make suggestions about what meeting time would be best, find Missoula Parents of Multiples on Facebook.

 

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Mountain Home Montana celebrates 15 years

Since Mountain Home Montana began helping young mothers get off the streets and learn parenting and life skills, the organization has grown to include apartments and mental health services. Each year 45 families are helped through the program, and there’s a much longer waiting list.

Here’s more about the organization from their webpage:

We are a nonprofit in Missoula where young mothers between the ages 16-24 who are pregnant and/or parenting may access housing, supportive services, and mental health services.  We help these vulnerable young families with their basic needs, including safety, shelter, food, educational and employment opportunities, and access to mental health therapy and medical care.  Our organization utilizes best practices to provide individualized support and case management that teach our moms the parenting and life skills necessary for independent living!

Mountain Home Montana’s mission is to provide a safe, loving home where young mothers can discover their strengths and their children can experience the joys of childhood.

Community members have been invited to help Mountain Home celebrate their successes today from noon to 6:30 p.m. at 2606 South Ave. W. If you haven’t seen how the program has grown since it began as a three bedroom residence, now’s a good time.

If you can’t make it to the open house, you can learn more about what they do to help young families by attending a screening of “Gimme Shelter” at the Crystal Theater later this month.

The film screening is a fundraiser and will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Mountain Home workers and former clients. More here.

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Parenting fails

What are these? Jared asked this morning as he picked up a pile of flashcards.

I had pulled them out for a little light reading with Baby Girl and left them on the chair.

Jared, being a teacher and all, used some of the parent prompts on the back of the cards, which included how to say the object’s name in five languages.

Buh – nah – nuh, Jared sounded out.

Oh, that’s the English, he said, setting off peels of laughter from both of us.

Lately I’ve been feeling a little too serious about parenting and worrying that we’re not doing enough to promote Baby Girl’s development. This morning was a good reminder that we’re all just doing the best we can and sometimes it’s OK for our best to be flawed.

Laugh. Move on. Repeat.

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Have your ice cream for breakfast and Super Bowl too

The Children’s Museum Missoula is hosting its fifth annual Ice Cream for Breakfast this Sunday, Feb. 1., and don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to eat ice cream AND catch the Super Bowl kick-off. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Ice cream will be served from 9 a.m. t0 11 a.m. at the Wilma Theatre downtown. There will be a complete ice cream buffet, including waffles and bacon. There will also be Mismo Gymnastics on hand to offer tumbling and Childbloom Guitar music provided. For quieter morning types, a family-friendly movie will be playing in the small theater.

While the children’s museum is always happy to accept donations, this event is 100 percent free and open to all families, thanks to the sponsorship of these fine local businesses: The Wilma Theatre, ZillaState, Mismo Gymnastics, Childbloom Guitar, Zoo City Apparel, Black Coffee Roasting Company, Scotty’s Table, Posh Chocolat and Big Dipper Ice Cream.

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Balancing act

Babbling baby has become the soundtrack of my sanity these past few weeks (and no, I’m not a glutten for punishment).

Deciding to come back to work was agonizing. Thankfully I have a supportive boss and have been able to work out a schedule that allows me to be both a reporter and a mom. A chunk of my day is spent in the office and then I can fill in with extra hours making calls or writing from my kitchen table.

I worried I would feel like I wasn’t doing either job well and that I would be constantly distracted by the one while doing the other.

But having Baby Girl spend at least half of her day with me instead of at daycare means I don’t feel like I’m abandoning her.

The downside is that sometimes she gets vocal when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone on the phone – like yesterday when she sang away during two separate interviews.

I gave her a card and that entertained her for awhile as she tried to stretch it and eat it and had a lengthy conversation with it (I imagine she said things like: “Get in my mouth” and “Boy, you taste good”).

babycard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the novelty quickly disappeared and she became frustrated (the card must have said “No, I will not get in your mouth”). Her cooing turned into the sounds that signal an impending major crying fit, which would have drowned out the voice of the person I was trying to interview.

Balancing her in my lap while I used my shoulder to hold my phone to my ear and typed notes wasn’t the most graceful thing I’ve ever done, but it got the job(s) finished. Neither person on the other end of the line minded Baby Girl’s noise either, or at least they said they didn’t. And I’m feeling accomplished for writing two stories and having time to read to Baby Girl in between interviews.

The other downside is that she likes to eat things, and by things I mean everything, including notes and my laptop screen. At least I know I have a smile built into my day ‘cause she sure is cute when she does it.

babycomputer

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Changing tables … and laps and tailgates

This. Is. Beautiful.

IMG_3140

 

Baby Girl wasn’t with me on this particular outing, but she’s been with me many times when there was not such a nice option.

Sometimes, even if a changing table is available, it’s so dirty or rickety that we opt not to use it anyway. Often, Jared’s or my legs are the changing table and she’s had her diaper changed in a middle school hallway, on a ski lodge table, on toilets, on gym bleachers, in dressing rooms, in between sinks on wide counters, on top of a cooler, on the car hood, on the tailgate, and on old faithful — the back of the car.

So when I saw this I did a happy dance.

I may or may not have poked my nose in the men’s room, but suffice it to say that they have a similar version.

Other public places take note: men’s restrooms should have changing tables too. Let’s reward them for being involved by making it a little easier on them!

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Heartbreaking work

 

Welcome back to work! How are you doing? my coworkers asked.

I tried to put on a brave face, but I still cried.

Brokenhearted is how I had described how I felt about going back to work to Jared.

While working as a reporter fulfills me, motherhood is me.

But if I stay home, I give up an enjoyable career I spent years building, and once Baby Girl goes to school I won’t be content at home. In the meantime I won’t be contributing to the household income. I already took four-and-a-half months off for maternity leave.

But am I being selfish by not taking the chance that I would find a similar job later? Am I shortchanging Baby Girl at a time when she needs me most?

Just as much as I want to be with her, though, I want to show her how she can do anything and the value of meaningful work. I want her to shape the world and not be hindered by guilt for having priorities in addition to having a family.

I won’t lie to her, though. Having priorities in addition to the priority of family is gut wrenching.

I’m filled with grief for the once-in-a-lifetime moments I likely won’t experience and I’m jealous that Baby Girl will look to someone else to soothe her discomforts and for guidance.

My heart seizes in my chest every time I leave for work and I blink away tears caused by uncertainty about my decision and just plain missing her.

I’ll try to focus on the positives, like a supportive husband, a flexible workplace, coworkers who also are friends, a job about which I am passionate, and knowing that my sister-in-law loves Baby Girl and is happy to spend the day with her.

And I’ll hope fervently that those are enough to stop my heart from breaking anymore.

 

 

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