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(Family Features) Back-to-school season means it’s time to get back to the business of learning. This year you can ace your back-to-school shopping excursion with these time- and money-saving steps that can make getting the whole family ready for a new school year a breeze.

Start with a list.
Walking into the store without a list is an open invitation for impulse buys and forgotten items that end up costing you more time and money with a return trip. Create a thorough list by categorizing all the items you’ll shop for, such as supplies, electronics and clothing. If you want to take an extra-organized approach, try color coding items by the section of the store where you would expect to find them.

Set a budget.
Knowing what you can afford to spend ahead of time can save regret and returns after you shop. Calculate how much you’ll need to cover all the items your students truly need, then tack on some room for wants. One must-have is a high-quality backpack, like the High Sierra Access Backpack, which includes a dedicated storage area for your child’s laptop, among other features. If your total budgeted expenses exceed your available funds, consider browsing weekly circulars to keep your budget in check.

Explore your inventory.
It may be buried under a summer’s worth of knick-knacks, but digging out the supplies your child cast aside at the end of the last school year may be worth the effort. Items like scissors, rulers and protractors may not need to be replaced every year if they’re still in working condition. Assess what items you have that can be reused and those that need to be replaced for the new school year.

Cut extra stops.
Dashing all over town to find all the items on your supply list is not only time-consuming, it’s unnecessary. At stores like Office Depot and OfficeMax, you can find all the academic tools and supplies your student needs to head back to the classroom. What’s more, a store that specializes in school supplies will have a broad selection and ample stock of the essentials.

Try online shopping.
When you know exactly what you need, shopping online is a great time-saving solution. Online shopping makes it incredibly simple to keep tabs on your budget before you make purchases and easily keep track of the items in your shopping cart. If you need to hand-select a few items in person, you can always take advantage of a “buy online, pick-up in store” option. This service lets you do your shopping from home with just a quick stop in-store to pick-up your purchases.

Buy in bulk.
It may seem counter-intuitive when you’re trying to trim your spending, but if you can swing it, go ahead and buy extra items that you’ll likely need to replace mid-year. The sale prices during the back-to-school season aren’t likely to repeat during the school year, so in the long run you’ll save money and avoid a last-minute shopping trip on a busy school night in the future. Items like Stellar fashion notebooks, which give note-taking a fashionable twist, are great to have on hand throughout the school year.

Research specials and promotions.
For many stores, the back-to-school shopping season is second only to the holidays. This means you can expect widespread sales, promotions and special deals, such as “deals as low as a penny.” Some states also offer tax-free holidays near the beginning of the school year, which are honored at multiple retailers and generally restricted to school-related purchases like clothing, supplies and some technology.

Weigh quality vs. quantity.
When you have a lengthy list of items to purchase for each child, it can be tempting to cut corners and skimp on spending. In some cases, being cost-efficient is smart, but do your research beforehand to avoid selecting items based solely on price. Value and quality don’t always go hand-in-hand and if you buy an item that falls apart or breaks down quickly, you may end up spending more to replace the items later. While it may be simpler for students to use printers and other machines at school, an all-in-one Epson Expression EcoTank Wireless Printer at home can be a convenient solution when late-night homework is bearing down.

Make dollars do double duty.
While most families expect to spend a sizable amount on back-to-school purchases (nearly $700, according to a 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation), making that money go a little further can soften the blow. You can help improve education in your community by shopping at stores that give a percentage of proceeds back to local schools. Programs vary; in some cases, you can even designate proceeds to the school district of your choice.

Take more notes on smart back-to-school shopping ideas and deals at officedepot.com.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Office Depot

SWE Engineering Expo takes place Saturday

WichitaSWEThe Wichita Society of Women Engineers is gearing up for a special event on Saturday.

This free event features hands-on activities for kids in grades K-8 to learn how engineering relates to the world around us. It is presented by the Wichita section of the Society of Women Engineers and by Spirit AeroSystems.

The event starts at 9 a.m. and wraps up at 2 p.m. at Century II Exhibition Hall in Wichita. The public is welcome to stop by at any time.

The activities are intended for girls and boys in grades K-8. All participants must have a parent or guardian present during the Expo. We also have workshops during the event specifically for kids in 6th – 8th grade. They are free, but you do need to sign up in advance at http://wichitaswe.org/expo/.

More information is at http://wichitaswe.org/expo/.

Trick-or-Treat, Learn Halloween Safety Tips

halloween-1563652Join Wesley Children’s Hospital and other community sponsors at this year’s sixth annual Halloween in the Park. Come rain or shine, children of all ages are invited to join us Friday, Oct. 23, from 6-9 p.m. at Edgemoor Park, 5815 E. Ninth St., for a free night of trick-or-treating and Halloween fun.

“Halloween in the Park is such a great family event for Wichita,” said Mollie Triplett, Wesley pediatric trauma coordinator. “The event provides a fun trick-or-treating experience while educating kids on how to have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.”

Children will have the opportunity to get a free bear at Wesley’s Teddy Bear Clinic, trick-or-treat at various booths, participate in a Halloween craft project and tour an ambulance, police car and fire truck. There will also be a photo booth for families to take fun Halloween photos.

Halloween in the Park is supported by several community sponsors, including the City of Wichita, Wichita Park & Recreation, Wichita Police Department, Sedgwick County 911, Wendy’s, EagleMed, 100.5 The Wolf, Pepsi, Farmers Insurance, BOB FM 97.1, the Wichita Fire Department, Superior Rubber Stamp & Seal, Cox Farms, Davis Moore, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and many more.

“It’s great to see so many community organizations and businesses come together to support this safety event,” Triplett said. “It just keeps getting bigger and better every year.”

For more information about Wesley Children’s Hospital or Halloween in the Park, please contact Mollie Triplett at 316.962.8291.

The Season of Pumpkin Spice

By Kendall Vogts

KendallEssay“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” While I am one to sing this from the mountain top, while wearing a turtleneck with graphics of fall-colored leaves and scarecrows, sipping on my pumpkins spice latte from Starbucks, others might disagree. As the stores pump out fall-themed decorations, halloween costumes, spooky movies and children’s books, pumpkin spiced cookies, Pop Tarts, cupcakes, pudding, and coffee, I can not help but get excited! Fall is my favorite season. I love the cool weather that allows me to wear boots and scarves, and as a teacher and coach, there are many things that fall brings to the school year that fill me with so much joy!

I find myself getting lost in coaching cross country and doting over my runners, and I love celebrating the victories of my students who play football, volleyball, and cheer. Also, as a wife to a high school teacher, I find myself enjoying the triumphs of his students, as well! In all of the excitement, I think it is easy to ignore, or completely cover up, anything negative. However, it has been brought to my attention that in all of the joys of fall and the ever-busy school year, there are students at every level who are struggling.

While many students try to cover up their struggles by internalizing them, the honesty and bluntness of students, at least my students, bring all of their daily pains into clear view. I gave my eighth grade students an assignment to write a personal narrative essay. The topic for their personal narrative was a memory from their past that impacted their life in a positive or negative way. Some chose topics like: an incredible vacation, the day their siblings were born, or the first time they went hunting with their dad. Others chose things like: the days leading up to my parents’ divorce, my nanna getting cancer, family members dealing with drug abuse, or moving in with my foster family.

In their innocence and honesty, which I’m sure most people speculate as to whether those qualities truly exist in kids today or not, they have bared their souls to me. They have entrusted me with memories so personal, so negative, and it makes me want to just stop what I am doing and hug all of them. Many of us see middle school students, grade schoolers, or high school age students as difficult, shallow, rude, out of control, entitled, or any other stereotype that these age groups have, but for many of the students, there are reasons as to why they are the way that they are.

I became a teacher, not because of the “great” salary that I would receive for the rest of my life, but because I wanted to make a difference in my students’ lives the way a particular teacher from high school had influenced mine. However, the longer I teach and coach, the more I realize that I am a teacher because I need to know that at least the 125 students and 30 athletes at my school that I see everyday, which is still only about ⅓ of our student population, feel loved. My heart aches for my students every day; not only for the students who are clearly going through something difficult, but every single kid. I want them to feel love, I want them to know that they are cared for, that they can be and do anything that they could ever want, that they are my “kids” and I would go to battle for them, and that for this year, I want to be around no one else but them.

Fall, the time of the year when nature feels its death creeping up, slowly, crawling across the land, I feel life! The crisp air and warmness of the fall colors fill me with joy, eagerness, and I am revived. That is what I hope to give to my students. May I be their pumpkin spice, their fall-themed decorations, the jack o’lanterns, and the leaf piles that fill them with the wonder of, “I’m a kid, and I’ll jump into this wonderful unknown when I am ready.” And let me be, for them, assurance of, “If I am positive, there can only be good things to come!” Fall, the back to school season can be torturous for students, or it can be safe and inviting, and I am hoping that in my classroom, my students feel nothing less that genuinely loved.

Kendall Vogts lives and teaches in Central Kansas. She is married to the luckiest man alive, Wichita Family Magazine publisher Todd Vogts.

Christian Camping

By Todd Vogts

Wichita resident Jennifer Farley, a former Kanakuk staffer and camp director, poses with Kanakuk campers.
Wichita resident Jennifer Farley, a former Kanakuk staffer and camp director, poses with Kanakuk campers.

Summers of generations past meant spending time outside to climb trees and ride bicycles. The youth’s skin tanned to a golden, sun-kissed brown. When the street lights came on, it was time to head home, even if you were in the middle of an intense game of pick-up basketball or touch football.

However, nowadays, when youth aren’t in school, they aren’t as likely to be outside enjoying nature. Nowadays, they are usually glued to a screen. Maybe it is a cellphone, or maybe it is a television. Maybe they are surfing social media, or maybe they are playing video games.

Don’t you wish this generation could experience summers like before the influx of electronic devices?

One summer camp offers just that.

Kanakuk, which bills itself as “developing next generation leaders,” is Christ-centered sports camp, offering campers the opportunity to learn new skills and enjoy the outdoors in a safe and supportive environment with God at the forefront.

Wichita resident Jennifer Farley, a former Kanakuk staffer and camp director, is now a mother to children taking part in the transformational experience the camps offer.

“It’s a very encouraging environment,” she said. “It encourages a kid to reach his or her fullest potential, and it provides a summer fun camp experience.”

Farley said Kanakuk is one of the largest Christian sports camps in the country, and it serves children from the age of 6 to 18 years old.

Kanakuk offers opportunities in nearly every sport your child could want, such as baseball, basketball, cheerleading, cross country, dance, golf, football, soccer, tennis and volleyball. There are also opportunities for watersports such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

With so many offerings, Kanakuk is a great option to help your child learn skills or develop further skills in the various sports, but Farley emphasizes the point that the camp is about more than athletics.

“Sports is just a vehicle. It encourages the kids to have fun,” she said. “For some kids it’s just a great time to try new things, but it is a Christian camp, focused on Christian-spiritual training.”

Farley said the focus is family, fun and faith, and the staff camp counselors are intent upon encouraging the campers to have fun and develop their spiritual walk with Christ and their character.

“Camp is set up in a way to encourage the kids,” she said. “The staff is encouraged to get to know the kids and encourage them to be who God wanted them to be. They make sure their words are always positive and encouraging to the campers.”

Counselors are with the same group of campers for the duration of each camp. Camp programs can last one week, two weeks or an entire month.

The length of stay can vary depending upon the age of the camper and the family chooses for the camper, Farley said.

Campers are split into camps based upon their age and length of stay, and when they are older, all the campers get to interact with each other during some events. However, they only stay in cabins with people who are the same age and staying the same amount of time. When the campers are younger, they are only with campers their own age.

Junior high and high school campers are mixed a bit more, but they are given a schedule and get to choose which activities they want to take part in at any given time.

Farley compared it to getting to choose electives at school.

“You get more freedom when you get older,” she said.

There is also a family version of the camp where the whole family unit can attend. Farley said it is a good choice because it comes along side with what is happening at home, and it allows families to all experience Kanakuk together and grow as a group.

And if your child isn’t quite ready for an overnight camp, there is a new offering called Kanakuk Kampout. It is a day camp that travels from town to town. One stop is Wichita.

Farley got started with Kanakuk as a camper. She attended for seven years, and she said she is excited for her son to experience it as well.

“It was great for me to have a Christian role model,” she said, “and it’s fun to have that generational experience of my son attending as well.”

Farley said it is a chance for her son to “fly on his own” and be encouraged in his faith.

Being around older people who showed their faith lead to her working at the camp.

“There was this cool college kid who loved Jesus,” she said of her time as a camper. “I wanted to be that for someone else.”

Farley said being on staff was just as transformational as being a camper.

“It’s an experience where you get to see kids grow and take that next step in their faith,” she said. “It really develops kids into leaders. I really saw what camp did for kids in developing Christian leaders.”

And that is why Farley sends her son to the camp.

“I really believe in what Kanakuk’s camp experience can have for a child or teenager,” she said.

Farley said her entire family attends camp as well, and she highly recommends it for other families.

“It’s really exciting and fun for our family,” she said. “Kanakuk says a lot of what is being said at home, but it sounds coolers from a college student.”

For Farley and her family, they treat attending Kanakuk camp as their family vacation. Though she admits it’s even better than what they could do on their own since there is no activity planning or meal preparation needed because the camp is all-inclusive and handles all the events for every day.

“What vacation can you get that?” she said. “It’s so much less stress.”

Though the prices vary depending upon the camp chosen, ranging from a little more than $1,000 to just shy of $4,000, Farley said it is worth it if for nothing else than the Christ-centered experience.

“It’s an investment in our kids,” she said. “It’s pretty comparable to what it would cost to go to Disneyland.”

Because Kanakuk has such a stellar reputation, Farley said spaces fill up fast, so she encourages being proactive in getting your children signed up.

“If you are even thinking about the camp, sign up,” she said. “The later you wait to enroll, you’re pretty limited in what is available.”

If you are on a tight budget but still want to make this investment in the growth of your children, Farley said Kanakuk can still be an option. You can make monthly payments, and the deposit isn’t very much. What’s better is you can get your deposit back if your summer schedule gets too hectic.

Of course, you and your children have many camp options to choose from, so why pass on the others and go to Kanakuk?

Farley said the answer is simple because of the camp’s commitment to developing Christian leaders by using college students who are really encouraging, living what they believe and sharing Christ while helping the campers in their spiritual walks.

“I really think what sets Kanakuk apart is the staff,” she said.

For more information about everything Kanakuk has to offer, visit www.kanakuk.com.

Defining and Redefining Love

Guest essay by Ian Anderson

HeartMy wife and I are in the stage of life where the most romantic gesture comes in the form of sleep, with sleeping in as the red rose. Three boys, seven and under, have remade our romance; they’ve done so unwittingly, and they have given us a gift we didn’t expect.

As a younger man, I had certain ideas about what my marriage would be like, as well as ideas about what father- hood experiences would bring me.

Perhaps some were more vague than others.

Thoughts about spending time with my wife certainly outnumbered thoughts about my children. And then, three years into our marriage, our first boy crashed into our world (literally, in a sense — he was born five and a half weeks early in the middle of a winter hail storm).

Never had I experienced such a rapid life change.

All our priorities shifted, as they must when babies arrive, and my ro- mance with my wife was no exception.

My wife and I found ourselves in deep, uncharted waters, our maps of previous journeys of little to no use. The way we spent time together, the way we communicated (and what we talked about), and what we valued in one another grew from a two- to a three- person affair.

It was messy . . . still is.

Could it be we often let our concept of love remain fixed throughout our ever changing lives?

How is it that we could ever grow older, add responsibilities, add little ones (and one day send them off on their own), and not expect to have to al- low our love to also grow and change?

Maybe it’s that taste of romantic love.

I Never Knew How Selfish I Was

The first shock of marriage was to adjust to living with my wife — the daily things I used to do because I was alone, such as reading or watching a game
at my own leisure, had to be planned around her, or given up for her.

And that’s painful; routines die hard. And yet, that’s love, isn’t it?

It’s not so much the flowery notes and chocolates, it’s the willingness to show another person they are worth the interruption.

The word interruption feels cold, but we feel that way about, well, people.

The ones around us have that frus- trating habit of usurping our plans. And I can always choose to watch the game instead of talk to my wife, yet if we allow the tug of love to get to us, the interrup- tion is no longer an interruption — it is, the people are, exactly what you and I need to grow out of our old, self-serving ways.

The effect is, of course, much more powerful with little ones.

Infants can’t tell time; two a.m. is not 2 a.m., it’s snack time. They will have their snack, and they tell us so with a volume better suited for outside play.

I don’t know when the growth happened, but I know it came and I know it was — and is still — painful.

Every little part of me that died went howling and fighting to its death.

Sometimes those parts are resurrected, and I have to cut their throats anew. The bloodbath rages on weekends when the boys want to build, pretend, wrestle, read, talk, talk, talk, eat, build, pretend.

Often when they sleep, and are finally still, I stand and watch their chests rise and fall, their contented breaths wrecking me; maybe it’s in those moments love tries to seep in and hurt me again, because I’m reminded of all the times that day that I was not savage enough to kill my own desire on their behalf.

Or on my wife’s behalf.

I’ve had more practice with her, yet I fail just as often as with the boys.

So, What About Romance?

Those ideas I had as a single man about romance, yes, they had to die.

At first, they had to die the death all self-serving desires need to die in order for romance (or any love) to work; if I refuse to speak my wife’s romance-language, it’s not romance (or love) at all.

I learned and continue to learn (and relearn) to think of her needs as more important than my own. Indeed, it’s when I do this that I find I’m in the right mindset to receive love as I’m giving it.

This is when I no longer see my wife as an interruption; I see her as she is — she is lovely, and she is my opportunity to express love.

And so it was that when the boys were added to our number, my love for my wife had to become new once more.

I was aware, and knew deeply in many ways, that other loves existed; my mother and father showed me great love as a child, I have many great friendships, and my God has expressed His (un)dying love for me — and He continues to do so in all the “interruptions” He sends and redeems before my very eyes.

Yet, until I became a father, I didn’t know the depth of what marriage meant. Children brought along another death, and in its shadow I learned my wife was a friend, an encourager, a blessing beyond romance I am still discover-

ing. Now, romance comes to our marriage like the prom- ise of a long-awaited holiday: the work weeks flow one into the other, yet the calendar still whispers of the rest and joy to come.

This Valentine’s Day, I’ll thank my boys for showing me a rose does smell as sweet with another name — sleep- ing in on Saturday morning.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.