Friday, August 12, 2016

August is Family Fun Month

As parents prepare to send the kids back to school, make time to enjoy some family time together during August, celebrated as Family Fun Month. Enjoy backyard kickball or pull out the sprinkler for some family water fun. These 10 suggestions will help you celebrate Family Fun Month with your little ones.

Go Fishing. Grab your fishing poles, head to the nearest lake or river and spend a lazy day fishing together. It doesn't matter if you catch anything or not -- it's all about making memories.

Take a family bike ride. Check the air in the tires and hit your favorite bike trail. Don't forget to wear helmets for protection.

Visit a children's museum. Hands-on fun and learning go together at children's museums. Your kids will love being able to touch everything. You'll love to see them learn as they play.

Bake cookies or cupcakes. A little treat now and then is fun for all ages. Find a kid-friendly recipe on my Pinterest Cupcakes board or pick up a box mix.

Play a board game. It may be old school, but the kids will love playing a family game of Monopoly, Life, Candy Land or Chutes & Ladders. Begin a game night tradition in your family.

Go camping. Head to your nearest state park for a camping adventure. All you need is a tent, sleeping bags and a cooler filled with food. Add a lantern and deck of cards for fun after dark.

Visit a park or playground. It's free to enjoy your local park or playground. See who can swing the highest, slide down the slides together and enjoy fresh air family fun.

Go skating. Many skating rinks offer beginner classes for all ages. Our local skating rink also rents Skate Mates that make it easy for the little ones to skate "all by myself."

Enjoy a last blast of summer water fun. Head to the beach and bring the buckets. Visit the ocean or a nearby lake. Spending a day at the beach is a great way to bid summer farewell.

Take a family road trip. Visit your favorite amusement park, your state's capital, a nearby zoo or relatives who live out of town. Bring along some kid music to listen to in the car and play travel games while you're on the road.

Whether you hit the road or stay close to home, enjoy family fun with your little ones during August and celebrate Family Fun Month.

Friday, August 5, 2016

10 Tips to Help Your Child Succeed in School

As another school year begins in school districts across the country, parents everywhere hope their children will enjoy success in the classroom this year. Being an involved parent will help your child be successful in school. Here are 10 practical ways parents can help their children succeed in school. 

Visit the school's website to be prepared for registration day. In Central Virginia, Lynchburg CitySchools will hold registration on Aug. 9 with the first day of school on Aug. 15. Your school's website probably lists documents you need for registration, supplies your child needs for school and other important information parents and students need to know. Attend registration and read all of the paperwork you receive. 

Discuss the school's policies and rules with your child. The most important contribution every parent can make to their child's education is to encourage their child to learn. Provide opportunities for your child to learn outside of school hours, not just be entertained. Take your child to the library, museums and other places where he will learn new information or skills. Provide reference books and educational computer programs for your child to use.

Talk to your child about expectations and setting goals. Help your kids plan academic goals for the new school year. Put your child's goals in writing and hang on the fridge in the kitchen or in your child's bedroom. Just as your child's skills in sports improve with practice, your child's academic skills will also improve with practice. 

Reading is one of the most important building blocks your child will use in school. Kids who can read well perform better in the classroom and on standardized tests. Encourage your child to read at least 15 minutes each day. If your child is too young to read alone, read aloud each day. Even after your child can read alone, spend time reading aloud as a family to improve reading skills.

Pick up a math activity book and encourage your child to work a few pages each day. This is a great tool for days when there's no math homework. Pick up math flash cards and work on addition, subtraction, multiplication or division skills with your kids. There are many websites suitable for kids where your kids can practice math skills at all levels. The more your kids practice, the more prepared they will be.

Help your kids decide the best time of day to get homework done. Some kids prefer studying right after school. For other kids, a little break after school before starting homework works better. In some families, more difficult homework waits until after dinner when parents are able to help kids if needed.

Set up a quiet place where your child can work on his homework. Stock the homework area with school supplies, reference books and everything he will need. Turn electronics off while your child works on homework. Although homework is your child's job, offer your guidance and assistance as needed.

Adjust your child's bedtime during the last week or two of summer. Moving bedtime 15 to 30 minutes earlier each night will give your child time to adjust to the school year schedule. Wake your child up earlier each day and practice your school-year morning routine. Set bath or shower schedules if there are more people in your family than bathrooms in your house.

Stay in touch with your child's school and teachers during the school year. Sign up to volunteer in the classroom if you can. Getting to know your child's classmates and teachers will make it easier to relate to your child's day. If you work during the day, ask your child's teacher how you can help at home. 

Attend conferences and voice concerns about your child's education with the teacher. Send requested supplies to your child's classroom. Volunteer for big events at your child's school and chaperone field trips, parties or other school activities.

These tips will help your child prepare for success in and out of the classroom. Being a supportive and encouraging parent will help your child succeed now and in the future.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Cool Down in the Dog Days of Summer with Peanut Butter

The steamy, sultry days of July and early August are known as the "dog days" of summer. If you're looking for a creative way to cool down this summer, Southern Peanut Growers wants to help with your favorite ingredient: peanut butter.

Yup, PB is more than just something to add to bread and jelly. Your littles will love these yummy recipes and you'll delight in knowing that they're getting extra nutrition in every delish bite.

From Veggie Sammies with PB Satay Sauce to Creamy PB Banana Popsicles, there's a recipe to curb every craving. Start with your favorite brand of PB, add a few ingredients and create a new family favorite.

Creamy PB Banana Popsicles 
These smooth, and sweet, dreamy popsicles will melt in your mouth on a hot summer day.

4 large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
12 oz. frozen whipped dessert topping
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds. Freeze until firm.

Serves 12.

Peanut Butter Strawberry Pineapple Smoothies 
These fabulous smoothies combine the deliciousness of peanut butter with the sweetness of strawberries and pineapple to create a healthy and yummy mid-day treat.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Makes: 2 to 4 servings

1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
1 cup plain, fat free Greek yogurt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp honey (approx.)

Place the strawberries, yogurt, milk, pineapple juice, peanut butter and honey in a blender. Puree until very smooth. Adjust honey to taste. Serve immediately. Make 2 to 4 servings.

Calories per serving: 236, Fat 12g, Cholesterol 3mg, Sodium 159mg, Carbohydrates 20g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 16g, Protein 13g

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches 
Skip the ice cream parlor and make your own super sweet ice cream sandwiches to help you cool down after some fun in the sun.

Makes 12 ice cream sandwiches

24 fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, cooled (about 3 inches in diameter)
1 1/2 quarts vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups creamy or crunchy peanut butter
Toppings of your choice (ie. chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, toasted coconut)

Spread layer of peanut butter on 12 cookies and add a scoop of ice cream. Create a sandwich by topping with the remaining cookies. Roll edges of the ice cream in toppings of your choice. Place on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Serve slightly frozen.

Veggie Sammies with PB Satay Sauce
Put a nutty twist on your picnic lunch. Pile fresh summer veggies onto your favorite bread and top with creamy PB sauce.

4 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sriracha
2 six-inch French baguette rolls
1/2 cup sliced cucumber
1/2 cup white onion
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1/2 cup purple cabbage
1/2 cup fresh cilantro


Combine peanut butter, lime juice, water, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and sriracha in in a small bowl. Mix well.

Spread sauce on both sides of bread, then layer with cucumber, onion, and bell pepper. Top with cabbage, and cilantro leaves.

Serves 2

All too soon, school buses will be making the rounds in your neighborhood. Before summer slips away, whip up some tasty and nutritious peanut butter treats and keep it cool.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer Fun for Kids of All Ages


As the days of summer slide by, take time to make summertime memories with your family before school time rolls around. Whether you enjoy a morning walk on the beach, a picnic lunch at your favorite local park or an afternoon hike in the mountains, spending time together can be as much fun for mom and dad as it is for the kids.

These fun summertime ideas will help you with your late summer family fun planning.

Hit the pool. Spend a hot summer day at your favorite municipal swimming pool. Relive your glory days by jumping off the diving board. Teach your kids to swim underwater or show the little ones how to dog paddle. After a day in the sun, be sure to enjoy a frozen treat before you head home.

Blow bubbles. Pick up a few bottles of bubbles and spend some quality time in your own backyard. See who can blow the biggest bubble, the smallest bubble and the bubble with the most parts. Let mom and dad take a turn too.

Play at the park. It may be hot outdoors, but your kids will still enjoy time at their favorite local park. If it's really hot out, visit the park early in the morning to beat the summer heat or wait until later in the day.

Cool down inside. Visit your nearest children's museum and enjoy the AC on a hot summer day. Kids love hands-on fun and they're learning as they play.

Take a hike. It's cooler under the trees out in the woods. Grab hiking sticks and hit the trail. Enjoy nature and see what interesting things you can find.

Go fishing. Head to the nearest lake or river and teach your kids how to catch the big ones. If there's a fish hatchery near you, take the time to learn how rangers supply local fishing spots with fish to catch. Many fishing sites have catch and release programs if you don't want to take your catch home.

Hit the road. Take a family road trip to somewhere you've never been. Whether you visit a historic site, explore your state or head to the beach, mountains or lake, spending time together is priceless.

Celebrate summer with ice cream. Visit your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt shop or make your own ice cream cones at home. Ice cream treats will light up your child's eyes and make happy memories of summertime fun.

Summer will be over before you know it. Gather the kids, make a list and get out to enjoy some late summer family time together this week.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Top Ten Stress Busting Tips for National Stress Awareness Day

Photo credit: Phlebotomy Tech
November 4 is National Stress Awareness Day. When you're dealing with difficult situations, people or changes in life, stress can affect you in ways you may not realize.

These top ten stress busting tips from the International Stress Management Association will help you fight back against life's stresses and reclaim your life.

1. Learn to manage your time more effectively. We waste a lot of time doing unimportant tasks, especially when stressed, so prioritise your day and do the important jobs first. The unimportant ones can wait, and often they will disappear completely leaving you time to do other things. Also, do not put off the unpleasant tasks – avoidance causes a great deal of stress. Give unpleasant tasks a high priority and do them first.

2. Adopt a healthy lifestyle. If we eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and ensure we get adequate sleep and rest our body is better able to cope with stress should it occur. If this is not the case, then this may be a warning sign so don’t ignore it. Engaging in some form of physical activity may help you by working off the biochemical and physical changes that occur within your body due to stress. Relaxation also helps your body return to its normal healthy state. Good relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, massage and a variety of complimentary therapies.

3. Know your limitations and do not take on too much. We can cause ourselves a great deal of stress because we do not want to let people down. We then end up doing more than we should. Learn to delegate effectively and be assertive so that you can say ‘No’ without upsetting or offending.

4. Find out what causes you stress. Take time to discover what is worrying you and try to change your thoughts and behaviour to reduce it. A stress assessment can help you to fully understand the causes, the implications to your health and how to manage, cope and make necessary changes.

5. Avoid unnecessary conflict. Do not be too argumentative. Is it really worth the stress? Look for win - win situations. Look for a resolution to a dispute where both parties can achieve a positive outcome. Find out what the real cause of the problem is and deal with it.

6. Accept the things you cannot change. Changing a difficult situation is not always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on all that you do have control over. Managing change effectively is essential or else performance will be reduced.

7. Take time out to relax and recharge your batteries. You will perform more effectively during work if you regularly take a short 10 / 15 minute break, easily making up the time you used relaxing. Alongside this, at least one annual break of at least 10-14 continuous days is recommended,

8. Find time to meet friends. Friends can ease work troubles and help us see things in a different way. The activities we engage in with friends help us relax and we will often have a good laugh. It boosts the immune system that is often depleted during stress.

9. Try to see things differently, develop a positive thinking style. If something is concerning you, try to see it differently. Talk over your problem with somebody before it gets out of proportion. Often, talking to a friend/colleague/family member will help you see things from a different and less stressful perspective. You may also need to consider professional help in order to achieve the desired outcome and prevent ill health and / or burnout.

10. Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine as coping mechanisms. Long term, these faulty coping mechanisms will just add to the problem. For example, caffeine and nicotine are stimulants - too much and the body reacts to this with the stress response increasing or even causing anxiety symptoms. Alcohol is a depressant!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

dear soon to be single mom

Dear soon to be single mom, I'm sorry for what you're going through. The tears. The uncertainties. The "what ifs" and "if only" thoughts that run through your brain. Endlessly. At 3 a.m.

Divorce sucks. No matter who wants it. No matter if he started it or you started it. No matter who's at fault. Even if nobody is to blame.

You made plans. You had dreams. Your little family was happy -- or maybe not so happy. You married for better or worse. This is worse than worse. 

Fun times with kiddos...not so much when you're going through a divorce. It feels like your whole life is ending...and it is. The life you knew and embraced is no more.

Divorce is hard. Harder than you think it will be. Hard times a million. Saying good-bye to your littles every weekend, every other weekend or every day hurts. A lot. Deep in your heart.

Watching the love of your life go forward without you is no easier. 

Just when you thought you were so over him -- you will realize that you still love him. It hurts.

You tried your hardest to keep it all together. But it broke anyway, shattered into a zillion unfixable pieces.

You see the pieces when you look into the mirror. And when you look into the eyes of your little ones.

Your heart is broken. Even if he treated you terribly. Even if he cheated on you. Even if you hated him at the end.

Because there's still that little piece of you that loves him. You see him in your littles. In their smiles. In their tears. In their faces that scrunch up just like his.

You meant it when you said "for better or worse." Maybe you still mean it. 

It's okay to grieve. Divorce is a kind of death. It's a death of your dreams. A death of your goals.

A death of your future. The future you thought you'd share. The future that now seems so uncertain.

It's okay to cry. To scream. To feel sad. And lonely. And maybe a little hopeless.

It's okay to be angry. To feel hurt. These are all normal emotions that serve you well during this abnormal time in your life.

You didn't think it would end this way. You didn't think you'd be one of "them" -- those single moms you see alone at the park with their little ones. 

Those moms without partners that order their food to go at restaurants. Who don't want to sit and eat alone in a world that's sorted by pairs.

Those moms who celebrate their kids' big moments alone instead of sharing with the other parent. Who sit alone at PTA meetings and soccer games. Who don't get a break. Ever.

You wanted a love that would last forever. You thought you had it. But it's gone. And it hurts. You thought you'd grow old together. But you won't. And it's not fair.

The big D. You never thought it would happen to you. You thought your marriage was strong enough. Why? Who knows. 

But better days are coming. Not today. Not tomorrow. Maybe not even soon. But they are coming. You can't get around the fire without walking through it.

It's a hard journey. But you can do it. You're strong enough. You love your kids. Nothing will change that. No matter what. Through sleepless nights and moneyless days. You'll make it.

Trust yourself. Trust God -- whether or not you believe. Trust your friends. The true ones. Who don't talk about you behind your back. Trust your family. They love you. Always and forever.

And trust your kids. You'll get through this. Together. Hand in hand. Side by side. Hold them tight and wipe their tears. Tell them you love them. 

Tell them their dad loves them too. They need both of you. They need your permission to love both of you. They are a part of both of you. 

Sometimes when you're doing it all, it seems like you deserve all the credit. Maybe you do. But let him have some of the credit too. He loves them too. Even if it doesn't always seem that way.

I'm sorry for your journey, dear soon to be single mom. I've walked it too. It gets better. And sometimes it gets worse. But you can do it. 

Your kids are counting on you. To give them strength. To show them how to get through it. To help them say good-bye to someone they love. Over and over. Trust yourself. You've got this mama.

Friday, October 23, 2015

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month: Safe Sleeping Suggestions for Babies

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month, created to help prevent the nearly 4,000 unexpected and unexplained infant deaths that occur in the United States each year. Hindi Zeidman, creator of The Ollie Swaddle, wants to help parents keep baby safe and comfortable while sleeping:
  • When room sharing, it is best for your infant to sleep in a separate sleeping area to avoid the risks of rolling over or suffocation, which can occur with bed sharing.
  • The supine (or laying on the back) is the safest sleep position for your infant, unless otherwise directed by your infant’s pediatrician. Unaccustomed tummy sleeping increases the risk of SIDS by 18 times over babies under 12 months old who are used to sleeping on their backs.
  • Your infants sleeping area should be clutter free (free of blankets, pillows, or plush toys) and sheets should fit tightly around the mattress. Steer clear of using a pillow top mattress or mattress pads, as it could lead to suffocation if the baby rolls to his tummy. 
  • Your infant should sleep in a safety approved crib with a firm mattress. Do not use items like wedges or special sleep surfaces that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. 
  • To protect your infant, only use bedding and clothing made of non-toxic flame-resistant materials free from drawstrings and ribbons that might catch.  Buttons and snaps should be securely attacked to prevent choking hazards.
  • Avoid overheating baby. Insure the room has good air flow.  If the room seems stuffy, use a small fan or open a window to provide fresh air. Keep the room temperature around 70 degrees.
  • If you use a pacifier at nap or bedtime, make sure it doesn’t have a cord or clip that might cause choking or strangulation.
  • Avoid using blankets at nap or bed time, babies should sleep in a wearable blanket or similar.  Swaddling is a safe way for your baby to sleep and has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Babies should sleep in a smoke free environment.  This includes not sharing a bed with an adult smoker.  Smoking increases the risk of SIDS.
  • Educate people who care for your baby about safe sleep practices.  You have every right to insist family members and care givers follow your instructions.
The Ollie Swaddle was named after and invented for a baby boy named Oliver, a foster baby that wasn’t thriving until Ollie Swaddle founder (and his foster mom) Hindi developed The Ollie Swaddle. It improves quality and duration of sleep for all babies (including preemies and high risk), reduces fussiness and helps babies self-calm. Its elasticity allows for freedom of movement, while the opening at the bottom makes it easy to change diapers. The custom developed moisture wicking material reduces overheating promoting physiological regulation. Perfect for ages 0-4 months.

These safe sleeping suggestions from Hindi Zeidman are reprinted with permission, in the interest of teaching parents the importance of safe sleeping habits for their babies and in loving memory of all babies lost to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.