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Fun tips for fantastic family vacations

  • Written by BPT

 

Family vacations are always a great time for family bonding and exploring new places

With some careful planning, the trip can be packed full of fun from the minute you lock the front door to the minute you arrive back home — exhausted and ready to share stories of your adventures with friends and family.

Traveling with children does require careful planning, but taking a little extra time to plan ahead will make your time spent together that much more rewarding.

Take these ideas into consideration as you organize your family trip:

• Traveling organization - If you’re on a road trip this spring or summer, keeping track of all the snacks, games and travel necessities isn’t easy.

Put a few household items to use, and you’ll be able to keep everything where it belongs, instead of having it rolling around under the seats. For example, a shoe organizer hung over the back of the front seats helps to keep all children’s toys and activities within reach.

And a divided cardboard drink container is an excellent storage kit for needed items like snacks, tissues, hand wipes, etc.

For airline travels, the mantra "less is more" comes into play.

Have each child pack one carry-on, such as a metal lunchbox or a backpack, with all their traveling necessities. Crayons and coloring books, as well as small game books like crossword puzzles or word searches are recommended.

• Create "snacktivities" - Package the snacks you’ll be eating on-the-go with activities to keep the kids busy.

For example, a new coloring book with a juice box and a snack will help everyone forget they’re on a long trip.

Pack satisfying snacks such as Lance Xtra Fulls Toasty and ToastChee sandwich crackers, which are made with real peanut butter and deliver up to 6 grams of protein per serving.

• Make the hours work for you - If you have the ability, schedule your travel time during bedtime or nap time.

Plan frequent breaks where everyone can get out of the car and run around, releasing pent up energy. Try to avoid driving during rush hour traffic, which would add additional stresses to everyone in the vehicle. For airplane travel, avoid leaving on peak travel days if you can.

* Get creative with snacks - Mix up the traditional to keep the snacks interesting, which can help make the travel time appear to pass much quicker. Create your own trail mix with protein-packed Lance snacks of salted peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds and Star Bites.

Or give the kids paper plates, sandwich crackers, cheese and fruit to make their own "snack creations" in the shapes of animals. Visit www.lance.com for additional snack recipes and snacking ideas.

• Play together - When in doubt good old-fashioned car games such as "I Spy" can provide hours of entertainment for the entire family.

While in the car, ask kids to look at billboards, road signs, license plates and buildings to find the letters of the alphabet in order. For instance, to find an "A" the child might see Applebee’s and say it aloud, then move on to finding the letter B. You can also play counting games with younger children.

Count blue vans, find 10 horses, count rest stops or water towers. How many people pass you on the highway? Count those, too. There are endless possibilities.

Family vacations are a lot of fun, and if your trip is well-planned, everyone can return home with great memories and stories to share.

Simonton Windows Offers Window Safety Tips for National Window Safety Week, April 7-13

  • Written by Simonton

COLUMBUS, OHIO – When it comes to windows, homeowners need to be vigilant in making sure that children understand the importance of safety. As part of National Window Safety Week, April 7-13, 2013, the experts at Simonton Windows recommend parents of youngsters adopt an extremely cautious attitude with children and the windows in their home.

“Children should be taught at a young age to stay away from windows for their own safety,” says Gary Pember, vice president of marketing for Simonton Windows. “Parents can help safeguard children in the home by keeping furniture (including cribs) and anything else a child can climb on, away from windows. And, if your home has Double Hung windows, open only the top part of the window that children cannot reach, to allow for ventilation.”

Pember cites the freak accident in Spokane, Wash. in March of this year as an example of how parents must always be watchful of children around windows. “A 14-month-old toddler was jumping on a bed and bounced out a half-opened second-story window,” says Pember. “His mother, who leaped behind him and smashed through the window, caught his foot and was able to safely lower him to the grandmother who happened to be on the porch below. This one incident shows us that you can never take too many precautions when there are young children in the home.”

Pember offers these timely tips for window safety in the home:

Tip #1 - Remember the primary purpose of a window screen is to keep insects outside. Never push on screens, as they will not support the weight of a child or family pet.

Tip #2 - Lock windows when not in use to protect against intruders and make it more difficult for curious young children to open windows.

Tip #3 - Do not paint or nail windows shut. Every window in the home that is designed to be opened should be operational in case of an emergency.

Tip #4 - Refrain from nailing or attaching decorative lights to the interior or exterior of window frames.

Tip #5 - Plant shrubs or grass, and place “soft landscaping” like bark or mulch, directly underneath windows to help lessen the impact should someone accidently fall out of a window.

Pember also recommends that homeowners consult their window installers to make certain that their homes have windows with clear openings that meet egress requirements in the living spaces as required by state and local building codes.

“Egress windows provide emergency exits in your home during a fire,” says Pember. “Make sure your home has the proper amount of egress windows in every room used as a bedroom and on any floor or basement level with habitable living space.”

Families with small children should pay special attention to windows and patio doors. Start with practicing home emergency fire drills. Show them the fastest safety route to the outside and make certain children know under what circumstances to use a window to exit a home. Since small children tend to “hide” from fire, make sure they understand how important it is to safely and quickly exit the home should a fire occur.

“If a door is hot to the touch or not safe to exit through during a fire, then both children and adults should exit through an open window,” says Pember. “Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not to break the window glass. Doing so could cause injury. During family safety drills, show children how to operate windows and how to use chain escape ladders that should be kept in all bedrooms located above ground level. Also establish a designated meeting place for the family outside the home.”


For more window safety tips, call 1-800-SIMONTON to request a free copy of the easy-to-read, eight-page booklet, “A few things to think about when thinking about your home.”

from West Africa to Woodinville

  • Written by Henry Bischofberger, violin maker
It is imperative that you get a good instrument, even if it is a child’s size. Quality does not have to mean expensive. Many factory-made student instruments, if well “set-up,” will be of good quality for your student. Having an instrument “set up” means a qualified violin maker makes the final adjustments by hand. These adjustments include making sure the pegs fit properly, cutting the bridge to fit the instrument, putting on good quality strings and making sure the bow hair is clean and full. Proper set-up can make the difference between a good instrument and one that doesn’t play well. Your child is much more likely to stick with it if his instrument sounds and feels like it should. Read on to avoid the most common instrument problems.

The strings: Look closely for any fraying or imperfections.  Run your finger up and down each string and feel for bumps or divots, which indicate the string should be replaced.  Steel strings are the lowest quality. It is well worth the extra fuss to upgrade to Perlon core strings (Dominant brand). Old or metal strings will not make a clear tone and they are more likely to squeak or break. It is best to use Dominant for violin/viola, Spirocore or Jargar for cello and Spirocore or Helicore for Bass.

The Pegs and Tuners: Make sure the pegs fit snugly and turn easily but also stay without slipping. For all instruments except for the bass, the pegs should NOT be mechanical. There should be no screws in either end of the peg. Your instrument will have at least one (and often four) fine tuners on the tail piece.  Make sure these tuners turn easily and work properly.

The bridge:  The bridge is NOT glued down. It is held in place simply by the pressure of the strings. The feet at the bottom of the bridge must fit the top of the violin exactly.  The height of the bridge should also be correct. If it is too high, it will be very hard to press the strings down.  Bridges that don’t fit properly are much more likely to fall down. A continually falling bridge may cause the sound post to fall.

The bow: Good bows are made from wood or carbon fiber and real horse hair (not synthetic hair). Look over the hair from the top to the bottom. It should be white or slightly yellow in color with no dark spots. If the hair is thinning at the frog (the part that is held in the hand), discolored or dirty, ask for a different bow.  Make sure the screw works to easily tighten and loosen the hair.

The sound post: The sound post is a small wooden post inside the instrument placed almost under one foot of the bridge. Look inside your instrument and make sure it is there and that it is straight up and down. The sound post is very important for getting a good sound. If the sound post is down or missing, the instrument should NOT be played until a violin maker puts the sound post back up.

The case: Make sure the case is in good working order, all latches and zippers work properly. Make sure the instrument doesn’t rattle inside when the case is closed.

Instrument size: Make sure to get the right size instrument for your child. The violin shop owner can determine the right size. An oversized instrument is frustrating to play, and causes the student to develop bad habits.

The “Great Deal:” Stay away from instruments that are very cheap or seem like a great deal.

If you want to buy one of these instruments, let your teacher or a violin maker look at it before you buy. If you have an instrument from your grandpa or in your attic, take it to a violin maker to have it properly set-up and get fresh strings.

Your teacher will likely require you to return the instrument if it is not up to par.

A good instrument is a joy to play. Follow these tips to give your child the best chance for a great orchestra experience.

Henry Bischofberger is a third generation violin maker located on Seattle’s Eastside. He learned his trade at the Violin Making School in Brienz, Switzerland and has been in business for over 35 years. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (425) 822-0717, www.hkbviolins.com.

A strong financial education makes good ‘cents’

  • Written by BPT

1594057_webMillennials, also known as Generation Y or those born between 1978 and 1994, are money movers. They’re wielding more purchasing power, spending $200 billion annually, and are expected to outspend the baby boomer generation by 2017, according to Kelton Research. At the same time, they face an increasingly complex global economy that puts heavy responsibility on individuals to plan for and manage their own finances from pre-college years through retirement.

This overwhelming reality presents both an opportunity and an obligation to enhance the financial literacy of young people so they’re better prepared for the world they will encounter upon graduation. However, Millennials aren’t the only demographic that would benefit from more resources to improve financial knowledge. No matter your age or income, having financial literacy will always be essential to making smart money decisions. One family-friendly resource available is TheMint.org – a website that provides educational tools and resources about budgeting, saving, tracking and investing money.-

Financial literacy by the numbers

Young Americans are in a tough spot, financially. Today’s 20-somethings hold an average individual debt of about $45,000 between student loans, credit cards, car payments, mortgages and other sources, according to PNC Bank, a staggering burden for an unprepared young person to carry, exacerbated by an elevated unemployment level among this group.

Consequently, this group is significantly more likely to feel that financial planning is complicated and overwhelming, according to a recent study by Northwestern Mutual. The study found that young people rank “not falling below your current standard of living” as an important financial goal, but only 54 percent believe that they are on track to achieve this goal.

And it’s not just young people who feel they could be more financially prepared. The majority of Americans feel their financial planning needs improvement. In fact, Americans rated “improving personal finances” as their second highest annual priority, according to Northwestern Mutual’s study. They are also worried they’re unprepared to financially support themselves into their 70s, 80s and 90s.

Education is empowering

This month, get thinking about how you can improve your financial literacy and become better prepared for your future. You can use resources such as TheMint.org to re-teach yourself and your children how to manage money wisely. Understanding the fundamentals of personal finance is the first step to planning for the rest of your financial future. So why not learn more? It just makes “cents.”

For more information, and a variety of educational resources and interactive tools, visit-themint.org.

Executive Functioning: What’s All the Buzz About?

  • Written by Submitted by Dr. Melodee Loshbaugh, Executive Director, Brock’s Academy

We’ve all known students (or are possibly raising one) who are constantly running late, can’t remember what or where their homework is, or do the assignments but then forget to turn them in. They just can’t seem to follow through on things unless someone takes them by the hand and guides them gently through the process. Often this is chalked up to laziness or carelessness, but researchers who study this behavior believe it has more to do with a child’s executive functioning skills. It is possible for a student to really be doing their best and still not succeed in school if they have executive functioning challenges.

Executive functioning (EF) is a term that describes a person’s ability to follow through on tasks and think and act independently. While all of us have these abilities in varying strengths, a person with executive functioning challenges seems unable to do them at an adequate level. These struggles can become major road blocks in a child’s educational journey if they are not addressed. Doctors Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel are authors on the subject. They have provided the following list of executive functions to help us understand the challenges people may face when they are lacking these skills.

What are Executive Functioning Skills?

Inhibition – The ability to stop a behavior, action or thought at the right time, or to prevent an impulsive action from taking place.

Shift – The ability to think flexibly and respond appropriately to different and changing situations.

Emotional Control – The ability to understand and engage appropriately in group dynamics, including waiting turns during conversations.

Initiation – The ability to begin a task and independently generate solutions, strategies and ideas.

Working Memory – The ability to remember short term information for the purpose of performing a task.

Planning/Organization –The ability to think a task through from beginning to end and plan for potential course changes.

Organization of Materials – The ability to organize work and living spaces to promote success.

Self-Monitoring – The ability to evaluate past personal experiences and decide if behavior changes should be made; seeking out additional resources or asking for help when needed.

What can parents do?

Children with executive functioning challenges do not always know the next logical step in a process. Clear, sequential instructions are often necessary to help them be successful. Here are some suggestions provided by the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

• Provide visual clues and review them frequently.

• Make use of planners and calendars; they reduce stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.

• Use both written and verbal instructions.

• Create a daily routine; familiarity makes things easier.

• Create “to do” lists to help students visualize and plan appropriately.

• Divide big assignments into smaller tasks and make use of timelines to stay on track.

• Keep clutter to a minimum.

• If possible, have different work areas for different activities; stock each area with its own set of supplies.

• Frequently consult your child’s teacher and possibly bring in an outside tutor/mentor to help them stay organized and focused on homework.

Resources:

What is Executive Functioning?

Executive Function Fact Sheet

Additional Suggested Book Resources:

Teaching Teens with ADD, ADHD & Executive Function Deficits

Late, Lost, and Unprepared