Get Your Home Ready for Work and School this Winter
Although preparing your home for winter is a fairly consistent process year-to-year, many homes have seen significantly more use this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. If your home will serve as your office or school throughout the winter months, it’s important to address issues that may have been noticed but tolerable during winters past.
Consider these tips from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry to help ensure your home is ready before winter weather strikes.
Improve Indoor Air Quality
Beyond proper physical and structural considerations of winter preparations, the increased daily usage of your home naturally increases the importance of indoor air quality. Since windows and doors will likely be closed more often, moisture levels within your home can be significantly affected. Use a humidifier, if necessary, to maintain a relative humidity between 45-50%, which is healthier and can feel more comfortable. It can also keep wooden doors and windows functioning properly and wood furniture and floors looking good.
Get Your Furnace Checked
To keep your furnace from failing when you need it most, get it inspected by a professional before you need to rely on it to heat your home in the dead of winter. If you’re not leaving the house and turning down the thermostat each day, this will be especially important this year. Regular tune-ups can prolong your furnace’s life, help prevent carbon monoxide leaks and ensure your unit is working at maximum efficiency. If a whole-house humidifier is included as part of the heating system, also inspect the humidifier and replace the element, if necessary.
Seal Leaks Around Windows and Doors
Air infiltration is one of the largest culprits of reductions in a home’s efficiency. Small air leaks can add up to significant heat loss and a corresponding increase in energy consumption. If replacing window screens with storm windows and installing a storm door on your house isn’t realistic, increase energy efficiency by sealing gaps around window and door moldings with caulk to help keep heat from escaping. If any pipes or ducts travel through an exterior wall of your home, you can also use caulking and weather-stripping to help block potential entry points for cold air.
Check Your Gutters
Improper drainage away from the home is one of the biggest causes of water leaking into basements and crawlspaces. Gutters and downspouts have the single purpose of routing water away from your home to help prevent damage to your foundation. Once leaves have fallen and before the first snow, ensure your gutters are properly secured and clear of debris. Clogged gutters can lead to improper drainage and potential overflow, ice damming or other water-related issues. Also adjust downspouts so they direct water at least 5 feet from the house to help minimize the possibility of water run-off back toward the foundation.
Prep the Plumbing
When water freezes, it expands. Any residual water in pipes that is exposed to freezing temperatures, including interior lines located in exterior walls or unheated areas, can burst. Start by disconnecting hoses and shutting off exterior faucets, draining any water that remains in them and storing hoses indoors to prevent cracks. Drain any other pipes, valves or in-ground sprinklers that may be exposed to the elements and, for an extra layer of protection, wrap water spigots with covers to prevent damage. Sometimes a simple trick like keeping a cabinet door cracked open to allow warm air into the space can prevent frozen pipes.
Find more expert tips to get your home ready for winter at RemodelingDoneRight.com
Build Heart-Healthy Behaviors for Preschoolers at Home
A pressing concern like a global pandemic can quickly overshadow other important health challenges facing families. One is the issue of childhood obesity, a problem the slower pace of life brought on by COVID-19 could exacerbate.
Numerous cardiovascular and mental health risks are associated with childhood obesity, and many experts expect to see increases in both mental health challenges and obesity as a result of COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity impacts 40% of children between the ages of 2-5, increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes, asthma and depression.
Data from a study published in the “Early Childhood Education Journal” from the American Heart Association shows children diagnosed as overweight between 7-13 years old may develop heart disease as early as age 25. However, preventative steps taken in early childhood can help reduce this risk.
Keeping young children healthy while at home during the pandemic requires extra attention to their nutrition, physical activity and screen time. Programs like the American Heart Association’s Healthy Way to Grow, a national, science-based, early childhood technical assistance program, provide educational resources to help communities, educators and caregivers improve practices and policies for obesity prevention.
These tips from the program can help early childhood professionals and caregivers promote best practices into the daily lives of children.
Less than 1% of children have ideal diets, and under 10% have reasonably healthy diets, according to the American Heart Association. On any given day, 27% of 2- and 3-year-olds don’t eat a vegetable; among those who do, fried potatoes, which are high in fat and lower in nutrients, are most common. In fact, data shows kids eat less nutritious foods up to age 19.
Children should consume a variety of foods daily, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairies, lean vegetable or animal protein and fish. At the same time, kids should minimize trans fats, processed meats, refined carbohydrates and sweetened beverages.
Consistently timed meals and pairing new foods with choices they already enjoy are two ways to help form healthier habits. Be aware that healthy choices should apply throughout the day, not only for meals but also snacks and beverages. Eating together as a family provides an opportunity to model healthy eating and encourage children to try new foods. Also make water available and accessible to children throughout the day.
For infants, feeding provides nutrition for their physical and mental growth. Healthy babies usually double their birth weight between 4-5 months of age. Infants and children with congenital heart disease and congestive heart failure or cyanosis (blueness) tend to gain weight slower. An 8-ounce-1-pound gain in a month may be an acceptable weight gain for a baby with a heart defect.
Only about 20% of kids perform enough activity to meet physical activity recommendations. Whether you’re working with children in a childcare setting or at home, look for ways to incorporate lesson plans that offer learning experiences about healthy eating and physical activity, and ensure the daily schedule includes ample active playtime.
The Healthy Way to Grow program recommends all children, including infants, have at least two outdoor active playtimes daily, weather and air quality permitting. Toddlers should engage in 60-90 minutes while 120 minutes of daily active play is recommended for preschoolers. Half the time should be structured and led by a teacher or caregiver while the remaining playtime should be unstructured and up to the child.
Learn more about protecting the health and wellness of children in your home and community at healthywaytogrow.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Ease Into Education
If there’s one constant this year, it’s change. With another school year comes even more change, but you can help your family make a smooth transition with some planning and preparation.
Allow time for adjustments. After months of later bedtimes and laid-back schedules, kids and parents alike need a little time to adjust to a new mindset. Start gradually dialing back bedtime and scheduling time for educational activities and lunchtime a few weeks before school begins. This gives you plenty of time to work out any glitches while avoiding the resistance and disruption that more abrupt changes can bring.
Map out a visual guide. Especially after spending more time at home, having everyone headed in different directions may feel a bit overwhelming. This may be particularly true if your school model requires non-traditional scheduling or if you’re making a return to a more rigorous extracurricular activity schedule. For younger kids and those who learn better by seeing than hearing, a visual representation can help illustrate how schedules will be changing. Color coding by person or activity can help everyone understand who should be where and when.
Make evenings easier. A household with school-age kids is seemingly bustling all the time, but evenings are often especially busy with activities, homework and other commitments competing for attention. Gathering everyone around the table for a meal may be a challenge, so when you do succeed, give yourself permission to shave time where you can. For example, keeping disposable tableware on-hand lets you skip the cleanup on nights you don’t want to do dishes and spend more time assisting with science projects and cheering on athletic teams. Premium options like Chinet Classic White plates are strong enough for the heaviest, messiest meals so you don’t have to worry about spills and leaks.
Set a positive tone. Transitions happen more easily when the destination is exciting and appealing. Help kids get excited about a return to school by talking about what they’re looking forward to and offering reassurance about their concerns. Allow kids to put a personal touch on supplies they’ll be excited to use, such as a new backpack or headphones for online learning. Put simply, model positivity for students to mirror as they head into a new school year.
Spend family time together. At the end of each day, once everyone is done with school and work, make some time for a physical activity the whole family can participate in. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air or a game of tag or soccer in the backyard, getting active together can be an easy way to spend time winding down and bonding.
Look for more inspiration to ease your family’s return to learning at MyChinet.com.
Enjoy More Convenient Mornings
How you begin each day sets the tone for the hours that follow. Put yourself on course for a successful, stress-free day by eliminating hassles and introducing some tricks to make each morning as convenient as possible.
Find a routine that works: Numerous parenting experts recommend routines for children, but they’re beneficial for grownups, too. A regular routine takes the guesswork out of what comes next so you can go through the motions of getting ready before your brain is fully engaged. There’s no perfect order for getting things done, just find what works best for your family. With a little trial and error, you can create a system that gives you peace of mind that every box gets checked before the family scatters in different directions each morning.
Wake up prepared: Even the best routines sometimes go awry, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and minimize the impact. Using the evening to ensure each student has everything he or she needs for the next school day eliminates a lot of commotion in the morning. Designate a place for school items, whether it’s a hook or spot by the door for backpacks or a cubby near the home school space. Use the same approach to select and lay out clothes for everyone before bed.
Rev up all your senses: Creating positive energy can be a whole-body experience. Add some upbeat music, throw open the blinds and get that coffee brewing. Signaling to your senses that it’s time to take on a new day can help you shake off any lingering drowsiness and shift into a more productive mode. It’s an approach that is both practical and fun, so you’re setting a positive tone for the whole family.
Take your java on the go: It’s not always realistic to sit and savor your first cup of coffee, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your morning energy burst. Many experts suggest avoiding coffee on an empty stomach, so taking it on the go and using your limited time to grab a bite to eat is a better alternative. Brew your cup and go with an option like the Chinet Comfort Cup insulated hot cup, which has double-layer insulation and an easy fit snap-and-go lid to make taking your coffee on the road (or around the block on a morning walk) convenient and comfortable.
Savvy tips to kick off a new school year
Returning to learning may bring more new experiences this fall than anyone ever imagined. Regardless of the learning environment, there are some tips and supplies that can make it easier on the whole family to restart curriculum.
Whether your kids will be at home or in the classroom, making education easy is likely a top priority as you plan for the weeks and months ahead. These supplies and ideas can help you get organized and ready to tackle a new school year with confidence.
Find more back-to- school tips and solutions at eLivingtoday.com.
Calculate Your Way to School Success
Whether learning from home or the classroom, Texas Instruments has students covered with new additions to its colorful collection of TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculators. Available in colors like “Rose Curve Gold” and “Measure Mint,” these math and science machines help students grasp important STEM concepts and succeed on exams. The super-sleek graphing calculator can take students from middle school through graduate school, and can even help them learn to code. Find more school solutions at education.ti.com.
Don’t Overlook Organization
Staying organized during school season is a goal for many families, and one of the best ways to do so is with an option like ClosetMaid Mini 6 Cube Organizers, which are refreshed versions of old favorites. Use these organizers, also available in matching offset designs, on flat surfaces or mounted on the wall to store, organize and display any number of small items. Find more solutions for the school year at closetmaid.com.
Make Lunchtime Easy
You can make lunchtime fun, flavorful and easy for your little learner with Sabra Singles, a plant-based snack perfect for kids. Pair with classics like carrots, cucumbers, tortilla chips or pretzels. They’re available in varieties like Classic and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and allow kids to help themselves to make lunchtime a cinch. Find more inspiration at sabra.com.
Better Organization with a Bookshelf
A new school year and the learning it entails calls for plenty of books, which means organization is paramount. Store your student’s books and more, like picture frames, with an option such as the Wide 3-Shelf Ladder Bookshelf from ClosetMaid. These sleek and modern units, available in multiple finish colors and sizes, can be easily assembled and quickly ready for use anywhere in your home. Visit closetmaid.com to find additional organization solutions for this school year.
Enjoy a Delectable, Better-For-You Dessert
A long day of reading, math and more deserves a treat to end the school day on a high note. For a delicious option you can feel good about enjoying and serving to your kids, consider fairlife’s Light Ice Cream, expertly crafted with ultra-filtered milk and natural flavors to deliver a lactose-free treat with a rich, creamy texture and 40% less sugar than traditional ice cream. Find more information at fairlife.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Creating a Stable Back-to-School Routine for Children
If there’s one thing parents know, it’s children thrive on routines. When it seems like everything is changing, routines can create stability.
“When children know what to expect, they don’t feel powerless and out of control,” said Rashelle Chase from KinderCare Learning Centers’ education team. “Children like to plan just as much as adults do. When they know what will happen next, they can set their expectations.”
Routines can also help children regulate their emotions – and avoid meltdowns or outbursts – because their days follow a pattern and are predictable. There’s typically a sense of comfort in knowing what comes next.
Whether your child’s back-to-school routine includes actually going to school or distance learning, consider these tips to help create a sense of stability.
Set a schedule
Talk with your child about his or her school day and how it will be different. Work together to come up with ways you can both ease into the new routine, whether your child is attending school part time, learning at home or going to a childcare center or program. Remember, little things can help create a sense of routine and stability. Even if your child is learning at home and could stay in pajamas all day, something as small as getting dressed in school clothes and brushing teeth before sitting down for lessons can signal it’s time to study.
The things that make school fun – whatever that may be for your child – aren’t at home. However, there are some things you can do at home, like eat a snack while studying or play with toys, that you cannot do at school that make learning more enjoyable. Be sure to build breaks into your child’s day. Knowing there will be something fun after the next lesson can give your child something to look forward to and help him or her settle down to complete the task at hand. Plus, those breaks can be an opportunity for parents to get some work done, too.
Talk with your child and with his or her teachers: Perhaps those 30 minutes of reading don’t have to be done midmorning when your child is restless. Instead, maybe your family could do 30 minutes of reading before bed when your child is calmer.
Talk it out
Nearly everyone is experiencing strong emotions right now whether it’s in reaction to an abnormal start to the school year or other factors that impact daily life. The difference is adults can contextualize a situation and adjust their reactions. Children haven’t yet mastered those skills, so they react based on whatever nugget of information they have.
Home is a safe place for most children, which means they know they can express their feelings freely. That may mean slamming laptops or books down in frustration, yelling or using hurtful words. Your child might be upset because he or she doesn’t understand the schoolwork or might be afraid for safety or the safety of loved ones during these uncertain times. Talk with your child about his or her feelings and work together to find healthy ways to express those emotions, like taking three deep breaths or using a physical activity to vent, instead of keeping those feelings pent-up inside.
Difference and change don’t have to mean chaos and uncertainty. With a bit of thought and a stable routine, parents can help their children have an enjoyable, productive school year. Find more tips for creating stable routines for children at kindercare.com.
Try a New Way to Travel
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, families are still finding ways to make the most of unusual schedules to plan a getaway. With more flexible work and school arrangements, many families are embracing the idea of a “flexcation,” an emerging travel trend where families rent vacation homes later in August, September and October, consider staying longer to mix work and play, and often get better value in high-demand locales.
“Though this year has been incredibly difficult for families, it’s inspiring to see how they have become resilient and resourceful by choosing alternative ways and dates to take vacations,” said Lish Kennedy, vice president of brand marketing at Vrbo. “More flexibility in our work and school schedules is allowing families to enjoy a welcome change in their surroundings and a relaxing break together.”
If you missed out on your family’s annual summer trip this year or just want to take advantage of more flexibility in your work and school routines, consider these reasons to take a flexcation.
Save money and avoid crowds. Prices for vacation rentals typically drop during shoulder season, the time period after Labor Day and before the holiday travel season. Families not tied to strict in-person school or work commitments can benefit from fewer crowds and lower prices by choosing later travel dates. For example, you can find drops of at least 20% in average nightly rates for vacation homes in popular destinations like Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Cape May, New Jersey; and Ocean City, Maryland, through October compared to prime summer travel dates.
See familiar places in new ways. Traveling during a different time of year lets you see favorite destinations from a different perspective. It’s a chance to create new family experiences together, like seeing the leaves change colors or visiting the beach when temperatures are milder.
Stay longer. Travel data from Vrbo indicates families want to take longer vacations. With the ability to work remotely or complete online assignments anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi connection, there’s no need to cut a weekend trip short to get back in time for class or punch the clock on Monday morning. If a full week isn’t realistic, you might consider an extra-long weekend, extending your trip from Thursday-Monday instead of the more traditional Friday-Sunday.
Enjoy a change of scenery. According to a study from New York University, people feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines, such as going to novel places and having a wider array of experiences. After months of sheltering in place, a flexcation may be an ideal way to reestablish a healthy sense of balance.
Before you go, be sure to research how COVID-19 might affect your travel plans, including any travel restrictions, quarantine policies or changes in hours and access to popular attractions in the area. It’s also a good idea to make sure you understand and verify details about your accommodations before you make reservations, such as enhanced cleaning procedures at the property and flexible cancellation policies.
Start planning your next trip at vrbo.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Tips to Get the Whole Family Moving at Home
With many families stuck at home juggling working remotely, homeschooling and trying to keep everyone happy and healthy, it can be easy to let an otherwise active lifestyle fall by the wayside.
Regardless of age, being physically active provides numerous health benefits. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity for adults each week, and 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for kids between the ages of 6-17 each day. Finding ways to move daily can help everyone in the family maintain their health – and prevent them from going stir crazy.
Although prioritizing activity in a quarantined environment might be one of the last things on your mind, parents who model healthy behaviors can inspire their kids to do the same.
When you sweat during family activities, don’t forget to stay hydrated. An option like Propel Flavored Electrolyte Water can help parents replace electrolytes lost in sweat. With zero calories, no sugar, and nine fruit flavors, it can help keep you hydrated and moving at home or outdoors.
Consider these tips to keep the whole family motivated and moving – you might be surprised to find that exercise can be fun.
Go for a walk or bike ride. Incorporating walks or bike rides into your family’s daily routine can help get everyone moving as well as create quality bonding time. If your family is more on the adventurous side, consider venturing outside your neighborhood to find new trails or rougher terrain to explore nature while getting active. While your annual family vacation might’ve been canceled, there are likely hidden trails within a short drive from home.
Take a virtual class. Many fitness instructors and gyms are sharing free classes online designed for the whole family. Simply connect a streaming device to your television and search for virtual classes that are geared toward getting families moving, regardless of fitness level. Fitness instructors and studios are also sharing a variety of workouts – from family yoga to dance cardio in various time increments – on social media that you can find by searching various fitness-related hashtags.
Play a family game. Playing games together is an old-fashioned way to get the whole family moving and having fun. An activity as simple as tag or racing around the house, or even a game that requires some equipment such as soccer or basketball, can get everyone’s heart rate up. You can even create a fitness deck or activity dice to turn working out into a fun game.
Build your own obstacle course. Set out hoops, pillows, rope, ladders, cardboard boxes and other items you find around the house to create a fun and challenging obstacle course either indoors or out. This can be easily adapted to varying levels of difficulty to meet each family member’s level. Don’t forget a stopwatch to see who can complete the course the quickest.
Get your family moving and find more hydration tips at propelwater.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Support Students Through Community Programs
As kids prepare for the upcoming school year, school supplies remain critical to their success. While school districts struggle with the challenge of delivering education and resources to students amid a pandemic, many parents are working to determine how they will ensure their children have the necessary supplies.
Community youth programs are innovating to fill gaps and ensure kids from low-income families in particular are equipped with learning materials and supplies, enrichment activities and food. For example, when schools closed, local corps of The Salvation Army started adapting creative alternatives to their youth programs to provide activities, snacks and educational materials like coloring sheets, scavenger hunts and more to keep kids entertained and learning.
If you’d like to make a similar impact in your community, consider lending a hand in one of these ways:
Tutor or mentor students. Although most kids across the nation face the same challenges with academics, some are at more of a disadvantage because their access to remote learning resources is limited or parents are unable to assist at home. You can help by volunteering to tutor students as they practice learned skills and get back into the swing of a new school year.
Donate supplies. There are 30 million children in the United States whose parents will have to choose between buying school supplies or other necessities like putting food on the table. Consider adding extra common items like crayons, markers and glue when you shop for your own children and dropping them off at your local youth center. Campaigns like The Salvation Army’s “Stuff the Bus” events allow shoppers to purchase and drop off requested items at collection bins located at the front of participating retailers.
Get involved with extracurricular activities. If you have a particular skillset or experience, for example as a high school or college athlete, lending your knowledge to a local youth group can help provide a constructive outlet for kids while enriching your own life.
Volunteer for meal distribution. Many children rely heavily on schools for meals; in fact, the food some students receive through their schools’ breakfast and lunch programs may be the only meals they get in a day. Across the country, organizations have partnered with local school districts to provide meal kits, coordinate food distribution routes and pickup locations to get meals to kids and families. Depending on the needs in your area, you may be able to donate food, assist with organizing the meal kits or help coordinate deliveries.
Help fund youth programs. Uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has many people reconsidering their finances, and that means the donations and contributions many programs rely upon have slowed. If your situation allows, consider a monetary contribution to a youth-oriented cause, which can help deliver programming even if you’re not able to volunteer in other ways.
Learn more about getting involved in your community at salvationarmyusa.org.
Purposeful Youth Programs
While many children from low-income families rarely experience life outside of their immediate neighborhoods, youth programs can help kids discover new skills, passions and hobbies while connecting with others in a safe, healthy way.
Along with community centers dedicated to supporting the physical, emotional and spiritual growth of moms, dads and kids, organizations like The Salvation Army provide after-school programs for students of all ages and numerous music, art and athletic programs at its 7,600 centers across the country.
The organization’s “Stuff the Bus” program also helps make activities and programs more accessible to low-income youth in local communities, including:
After-school programs offer homework assistance and counseling for children of all ages, as well as one-on-one assistance with homework, study skills and literacy advancement. Dance, art and music programs are offered in no- or low-cost environments. Classes range from choir, band and dancing to drawing, writing and acting.
Sports, clubs and extracurricular activities give children from low-income neighborhoods a chance to play team sports and learn valuable athletic and life skills.
Parental involvement coaching equips parents with the skills needed to support and sustain their children’s educational needs.
New Food Trends Can Save Time and Money
As families continue to adjust their meal routines amidst a worldwide pandemic, there are trends you and your loved ones can follow to improve your general health, maintain a budget and spend more time together.
Home cooking: According to a study conducted by Hunter Public Relations on how COVID-19 has changed home cooking, 54% of Americans are cooking more and 50% have more confidence in the kitchen. Many, perhaps for the first time, found that cooking at home and learning cooking techniques could be a fun family activity.
Trusting frozen: Frozen foods have seen a renaissance in 2020. Many families discovered that new technologies allow frozen foods to deliver innovations in flavors, recipes, authenticity and affordability without compromising taste. For example, Aqua Star’s frozen Cutting Board Meal Kits are available at grocers nationwide and feature full chef-inspired meals like Chipotle Shrimp Street Tacos and Southwest Chili-Lime Tilapia.
Saving money: It’s common knowledge for many consumers that eating at or ordering takeout from a restaurant is more expensive than cooking at home. Eating at home showed families just how much they could save, and this trend is likely to continue. According to a Simon-Kucher Restaurants Survey, 26% of consumers who ate meals from casual restaurants before the pandemic anticipate eating meals primarily at home for up to a year after lockdown.
More seafood: According to a national survey by Aqua Star, one of the country’s largest seafood companies, 75% of Americans want to eat more seafood. Seafood provides nutritional benefits for a multitude of recipes, but many people don’t know how to prepare it. One of the easiest ways to introduce your family to seafood is through familiar comfort food recipes and convenient one-pan meals.
Online grocery shopping: Nearly daily trips to the grocery store can be an expensive habit since impulse buying is a bane to healthy eating and saving money. As online grocery shopping grows in popularity, it provides families with a convenient, time-saving way to keep must-haves on hand without overspending at the store.
Dinners with family: After years of families grabbing meals on the run, sheltering in place has brought many back to the dining room table. For a simple family meal that focuses on frozen seafood and pantry staples, try this recipe for Shrimp Scampi that involves just a few steps of preparation that can even allow kids to help in the process. If you don’t have time to cook, Aqua Star’s Shrimp Scampi MicroSteam Bowl is a simple way to enjoy the same flavors in minutes, from the microwave, with no clean-up required.
Find more at-home seafood solutions at aquastar.com.
Cook time: 20 minutes
8 ounces pasta linguine
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine or seafood broth
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 dash crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 pounds large or extra-large Aqua Star shrimp, shelled
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon, juice only
Cook pasta according to package directions.
In large skillet, melt butter and oil. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add wine or broth, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Bring to simmer and reduce by half.
Add shrimp and saute until shrimp turn pink and opaque, approximately 2-4 minutes depending on size. Stir in parsley, lemon juice and cooked pasta.
Emotionally Preparing Your Children for Back-to-School Season
(Family Features) Between sheltering-in-place, online learning and time away from friends, many children will need a little extra support as they head back to school this fall.
Consider these tips from the experts at KinderCare to help you emotionally prepare your children to return to school with confidence, optimism and excitement.
Address your feelings (and theirs)
Children often take cues about how to react from their parents. Think about what it takes for you to feel calm and prepared (or even excited) for the start of a new school year. That could mean talking with your child’s teacher or school about the safety precautions they’re taking so you can feel more at ease, taking a few minutes to establish a morning routine or stepping away from news that makes you anxious. Focus instead on the positive aspects of school, like the opportunity your child will have to learn, make friends, interact with others and grow into his or her own person.
“Children need a sense of belonging, and school provides an important connection point for them,” said Dr. Elanna Yalow, chief academic officer for KinderCare Learning Centers. “Nothing builds a sense of community like personal contact with friends and teachers. That connection is essential in supporting a child’s growth and development.”
Set expectations about what to expect before the first day
Some children may feel ready to go and eager to explore, while others can be more reserved or even fearful of new places, faces and routines. When your child knows what to expect, it can go a long way in soothing any worries he or she may have about leaving home and going to school.
It’s also important to respect your child’s growing independence and empower him or her to help others. As you explain safety precautions like covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, or proper hand washing, emphasize how your child’s actions can help keep family, friends and teachers safe.
“Children may already be apprehensive about returning to school, let alone trying to cope with new safety practices,” said Dr. Joelle Simpson, a pediatric emergency medicine physician and medical director for emergency preparedness at Children’s National Hospital. “Explaining these precautions ahead of time can help your children see them as part of the school day routine instead of something to fear. For parents, remember that while children can get sick from this virus, it occurs less frequently than in adults and at lower rates than the flu.”
Celebrate the start of a new school year
Try to plan a special activity or some extra family time the week before school starts and encourage your child to participate in the planning.
“Remember, children didn’t have time for a clean break and celebration at the end of the last school year, and this can help your child mentally adjust to a new routine and schedule,” Yalow said.
Let your child know how proud you are to see him or her growing up, learning how to be a good friend and exploring and learning about the world. Be sure to talk with your child each school day – what was learned, funny things friends said, the things that seem little but are important to your child.
For more tips about how to help your child prepare for the new school year, visit kindercare.com.
Create a Family-Friendly ‘Staycation’
5 ways to fill your home with happiness
With summer vacations looking a little different this year, infusing new energy into playtime – and making it a family affair – can turn time at home into a fun “staycation.” Both kids and adults can quickly grow tired of the same scenery and activities, but new ways to engage together can help bring back excitement for making the most out of summer.
Help battle boredom and get the whole family involved with these fun and engaging activities from DQPlayAtHome.com. To celebrate the summer season, the family-favorite soft serve destination is helping fans create some of summer’s most iconic experiences right in their own homes and backyards. From a DIY backyard water park to a playful, treat-inspired coloring book and lighthearted challenges, there are a variety of downloadable games and activities to help fill your home with happiness:
Camp-In: Bring the great outdoors into your own living room with camping themed playtime. Set up a tent, roll out the sleeping bags and get ready to tell silly stories around a make-believe bonfire. Even forest animals can join in on the fun through a shadow puppet adventure. All you need are your own hands, a flashlight and a little imagination to create easy animal- and nature-themed characters on the wall.
Happy Chats: When the answer to “did you have fun today?” is always the same, it can be hard to keep the conversation flowing. Entice little ones to speak up at the dinner table by taking turns drawing cards from the Happy Chats card set, which is filled with unique prompts, questions and interactive challenges. Inspire their imagination by asking kids to dream up a new ice cream creation or describe a pretend mission through outer space. Invite friendly competition by seeing who can recite the alphabet backward the fastest. Encourage kids to learn about the past when they draw cards asking parents to share stories from their own childhoods.
Playbook: Sometimes all you need is a fresh take on classic fun to get excited again. Using common household items like utensils, you can easily turn down time into game time for the whole family. Merge timeless entertainment like spoon relay races and obstacle courses to create a competition zone in the backyard. From a living room game of hot potato to hallway bowling, your home can become smile central.
Coloring: There’s a reason even adults have coloring books these days; it’s a chance to tap into your creativity and focus your attention on the simplicity of creating a work of art. Printable coloring books encourage fans to show off their art skills by coloring joyful scenes and iconic treats.
A Sweet Surprise: Make memories with an occasional shift in routine by surprising the family with dessert after they’re in their pajamas. Have one parent tackle bedtime and send the other to a local favorite like Dairy Queen for some drive-thru treats. Sweet moments with family are some of the best ways to celebrate the season.
Visit DQPlayAtHome.com to find more inspiration for summer family fun.
A Backyard Bonanza
Recreating summer fun at home can be as simple as changing into swimsuits and turning on the sprinklers, but you can take your backyard waterpark to the next level with these tips:
• Start by blowing up an inflatable pool
• Use goggles for underwater fun and splashing safety
• Add pool noodles and floaties for a realistic feel
• Remember to apply sunscreen as recommended and wear hats for added protection
• Include snacks and treats like soft serve for an additional cool-down in the summer heat
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Why the Graves’ Disease Community Should Focus on Eye Health
People living with Graves’ disease have a lot to focus on. The disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes an overproduction of the thyroid hormone, causes a variety of troublesome symptoms, many of which can happen with other diseases, leading to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. Some common symptoms include anxiety, tremors, heat sensitivity, weight loss, hair loss, change in menstrual cycle and irregular heartbeat.
A related, yet separate condition that is important for people living with Graves’ to focus on is Thyroid Eye Disease (TED), a serious, progressive and vision-threatening autoimmune disorder affecting up to half of the Graves’ community. In support of Graves’ Disease Awareness Month, Horizon Therapeutics and patient advocacy organization, Prevent Blindness are working together to help people living with Graves’ understand their risk for TED and how to manage symptoms if they appear. Spotting the signs and symptoms of TED early can help decrease the chances of serious, and potentially permanent, eye damage.
If You or Someone You Love Has Graves’ Disease, It’s Time to Focus on Eye Health
The first step is to understand your risk for TED. Primary risk factors include gender, age and smoking status. Women are five times more likely than men to develop TED, but men are at greater risk for more severe symptoms. The disease also occurs most often in people between the ages of 40-49 and 60-69 years old, and people who smoke are eight times more likely to develop TED.
The next step is to observe the symptoms. TED causes inflammation and pressure behind the eyes that lead to symptoms such as sensitivity to light, a feeling of grittiness in the eyes, excessive tearing, swelling of the eyelids, redness and irritation. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include eye bulging, eye misalignment and double vision. All of these symptoms can reduce a person’s independence, ability to work and self-confidence.
“The profound physical changes to my appearance were devastating,” said Christine Gustafson, who has lived with Graves’ and TED for more than 10 years. “I did not recognize myself and actually frightened others as my face was transformed by TED. After years of living alone with this rare autoimmune disorder, I discovered a community of others with TED. Connecting with the right specialist and other TED patients was life-changing in the absolute best ways.”
Getting the Care You Need
If you have Graves’ disease and suspect you might have TED or notice changes in your eyes, you should contact an eye specialist who has experience treating TED. These include ophthalmologists, neuro-ophthalmologists and oculoplastic surgeons.
After receiving a TED diagnosis, resources can be used to stay informed and take action. For example, a symptom tracker can help monitor disease progression and alert your doctor to any changes.
It is important to be your own best advocate and speak up for the care you deserve. Tips for getting the right care include not downplaying symptoms when at the doctor’s office, asking questions to ensure all treatment options are presented, and bringing a friend or loved one along to provide support and help take notes during the appointment.
To learn more about TED and access resources like a symptom tracker and the TED Specialist Finder, visit ThyroidEyes.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
7 Steps to Prepare for a Home Remodel
A homeowner’s motivation for taking on a remodeling project can vary greatly, but there’s one universal rule of thumb: home upgrades should add value, function or both. This step-by-step guide can help ensure you get the maximum return on your investment and make the most of your remodel.
Step 1: Identify Reasons for Remodeling
Deciding whether to undertake simple aesthetic changes or a full remodel can be difficult. One of the best ways to decide is to figure out why you are remodeling in the first place, whether it’s to make your new house feel more like home or to update an outdated kitchen.
Step 2: Consider Timing
Many variables can impact the timing of your project, including the climate and exact nature of the job. For example, foundation work is easier when the ground is cold during winter. Spring tends to be busy for the construction industry, so you might pay premium rates for labor and materials, but it’s also the perfect time to get a project done that you can enjoy throughout the summer. Summer months are ideal for indoor projects out of the heat. Also consider factors such as personal or professional obligations, or even an event for which you need the project completed.
Step 3: Set Your Budget
Every home is unique in structure, age, quality and craftsmanship, which all impact the price of a remodel. Since no one can see through walls before demolition, the quote you receive may not be 100% accurate. However, a qualified remodeling company will be forthcoming about potential challenges. Account for these adjustments by planning for a 10% cushion, just in case.
Step 4: Hire the Right Team
To help ensure you find the right company for the job, do your research. Referrals from friends and family are one way to find a remodeler. Resources like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry provide unbiased information that can help you find qualified, certified remodelers in your area. With more than 5,000 member companies, the organization represents professional remodelers who adhere to a strict code of ethics. Many hold certifications in remodeling, kitchen and bath design and lead carpentry.
Step 5: Establish a Written Agreement
Most companies insist on a contract to protect their own interests, but if they don’t, you should. In addition to defining the scope of work and budget, a contract ensures all parties are on the same page with expectations about factors like timing, liability in the event of an accident and other practical matters. Contractors also often provide guarantees of workmanship, so find out what they cover for how long and include this information in your work agreement.
Step 6: Understand the Plan
Keep the lines of communication open between you, the remodeling contractor and the work crew. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let them know your family’s schedule and circumstances that may affect their work, such as pets. Make sure to specify the best way to reach you and how often you wish to communicate about your project.
Step 7: Complete the Project
When the remodel is almost finished, walk through the area and note any adjustments that need made while the contractor is still on site. You should also take another look at the contract and confirm you have signed permits, receipts, change orders, lien waivers, warranties and manufacturers’ guides at your disposal.
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