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Three unique ways to help kids embrace a blended family

  • Written by BPT

About 1,300 new stepfamilies form each day in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And of the 60 million American children younger than 13, half are currently living with one biological parent and that parent’s partner. As a result, couples are trying to find ways to include their stepchildren in the marriage ceremony and commemorate the union of all members of the new blended family.

Andy Netzel of Geneva, Ohio, turned to Things Remembered, the nation’s leading retailer of personalized gifts, to find something unique and meaningful to commemorate the special day he married his wife, Margie, and became stepfather to Emily, 4.

During the couple’s ceremony, instead of naming Andy and Margie husband and wife, Pastor Michael Meranda paused after the couple kissed and asked Emily to step forward. The couple hadn’t prepared the little girl for this moment. If she knew about it ahead of time, they knew she’d be anxious throughout the entire ceremony.

Andy took the microphone and told his stepdaughter-to-be that it wasn’t just he and Margie who were joined, but rather all three of them. He opened a jewelry box with a Things Remembered bracelet inside. It was engraved with "Mom, Emily, Andy."

"To me, this wasn’t just about Margie and I getting married. This was a lifelong commitment to our new family," he says. "Margie had a ring. I wanted Emily to have something she could remember this day by, even when she was getting married herself." It appears to have worked. Emily now refers to the wedding day as "the day we all got married."

Personalized treasures

More couples are turning to personalized gifts to commemorate the occasion, says Amy Myers, vice president of Creative Services at Things Remembered. The retailer has seen a steady increase in the number of couples coming in to commemorate the occasion.

"We began noticing couples using commemorative gifts about 10 years ago," Myers says. "Our store managers were the ones who pointed it out to us. We began including engraving suggestions for stepfamilies about five years ago. We have a lot of people come in, not knowing exactly what to say." Myers says the message seems to drive the gift. Once they find the right words, finding a gift is usually the easy part.

Community bricks

Many families have also purchased engraved "community bricks" to honor the day they became an official family. Bricks can be purchased through churches, schools, civic organizations or even to support a special landmark that is special to the family. Online retailer, Cut In Stone, specializes in engraved bricks of all shapes, sizes and materials.

The symbolism of creating a cornerstone to celebrate the day a blended family came together has a powerful impact, as does the permanence of placing the brick in a prominent part of the community.

Many families make a family event out of visiting the location of their brick on their anniversary. When purchasing a brick, families should inquire about purchasing a second one to keep in addition to the one that becomes part of the community landscape.

Handwritten letters

Some stepparents use the occasion to create a time capsule of sorts with a handwritten letter. In addition to writing a letter to the child about the formation of their family, stepparents can write about what this new family means to them and their hopes for their future together. This further emphasizes the transformation from a couple to an official family.

The letters are often stored in a special box with a few photos and other mementos from the wedding day. Even if the child is quite young on the wedding day, they’ll see the effort that went into making them a big part of that day - and the couple’s life.

Just as a first-time wedding is cause for celebration, the coming together of two people and their children to create a blended family is an extraordinarily special event.

By taking a moment to recognize and pay tribute to the children in a blended family, couples help children realize they are not losing a parent, but rather gaining another person or group of people to love and support them throughout their future.

Surviving summer vacation: 5 tips for an enjoyable season with family

  • Written by BPT

With summer ahead, parents are busy making plans for camps, sports and vacations. This time of year can be challenging, but there are ways to make it more enjoyable.

Learn to love this summer with your family using these five easy tips:

1. Eat foods that keep you going

Nutrition has a way of impacting almost everything we do. Not getting enough water? Expect to feel a little off. Not eating enough or eating the wrong kinds of foods can impact your energy levels. This summer, take advantage of the season’s offerings; focus on meals featuring nutritious foods like fresh vegetables, fruits and protein to keep everyone active throughout the day.

Keep convenient snacks on hand

When traveling or for busy days when there’s little time between activities, pack convenient, portion-controlled snacks like ZonePerfect nutrition bars. Featuring protein, and a variety of great tasting flavors to choose from –such as Chocolate Peanut Butter, Perfectly Simple Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and the newest additions Kidz ZonePerfect Yellow Cupcake and Greek Yogurt Vanilla Berry – these bars are a nutritious snack to keep the family fueled.

2. Communication is key

Keep a schedule on a large calendar that everyone can access. Write down all activities, times and locations. By organizing activities at the start of the week, you’ll save time and reduce misunderstandings.

3. Get everyone involved in housework

Summer activities are plentiful, which usually means that housework takes a backseat. Get the kids involved by having a designated space for each child to put their things and charge them with keeping it tidy and taking necessary items to their bedroom. This will eliminate clutter around the house and lessen your cleanup responsibilities.

4. Plan activities

While it may seem counterproductive to put more events on the schedule, it will help keep kids focused and entertained. Schedule activities that allow you to enjoy the season and provide an outlet for kids to release energy. Good options include a day at the pool or a trip to a local park or zoo.

5. Never turn down help

Take advantage of car pools and play dates, and make sure to return the favor. This could be the perfect time for you to enjoy a night out or start on that important project.

For more information on the full line of ZonePerfect Nutrition Bars, visit zoneperfect.com.

Don’t Snooze, You Lose

  • Written by Maren Schmidt

After reading John Medina’s book, 12 Brain Rules, and William DeMent’s The Promise of Sleep, I began to see sleep as an important way to maintain optimum health.
Medina tells us that people fall into three kinds of sleepers: Larks, Hummingbirds and Night Owls. Dement says that adults need 7 to 10 hours of sleep per day. Children, depending on their age, need 10 to 13 hours per day.  
Larks often get up before 6 a.m. and report feeling more alert and productive before lunch. Breakfast is usually listed as their favorite meal.  Ten percent of the population are larks.
Night owls make up 20 percent of the population while reporting being most alert around 6 p.m. and having their highest productivity in the late evening. Dinner is their favorite meal and they rarely want to go to bed before 3 a.m., or get up before 10 a.m.
Hummingbirds make up the other 70 percent of our world and cover the spectrum of waking and sleeping hours between the lark and night owls.
Since I’m a lark — early to bed, early to rise — I’ve always wondered why some people who tend to be chronically late or tired, just don’t go to bed earlier or get up earlier.  Most of my life I’ve thought it was a matter of self-discipline. Perhaps, instead, our sleep habits reflect a built-in biological device to make sure that someone in our community or “tribe” is always awake and on “guard.”

It may be that humans are designed to work in shifts and that’s the reason 20 percent of us are night owls, meaning people who prefer going to bed as the sun, and the larks, are getting up.
 

As we look at children in our classrooms who tend to fall asleep during the school day and who appear to become more alert after lunch, 20 percent of the population would translate into being five night owl children out of a classroom of 25. In a school of 600 students that translates to 120 students — four to five classrooms. With a million people, we could have a city of 200,000 night owls.  
 

Most teenagers tend to be night owls to some degree.  Teens also need more sleep than an elementary-age child.  Circadian rhythms in teens tend to be off the normal 24 hour cycle by around one hour, meaning that a teen has a sleep cycle that is continually changing from lark, to hummingbird, to night owl status, every 24 days.  It’s amazing that any of us make it to adulthood.
 

In our world, night owl adults can choose work or college classes to fit their natural biorhythms. Night owl children, though, may struggle through their school days having trouble focusing, attending to the tasks at hand and keeping their sleep deprived selves under control.  Loss of sleep affects attention, executive function, working memory, mood, the ability to work with numbers, use of logic and motor dexterity.
 

Research shows that night owl adults who try to fit into an 8 to 5 world suffer ill health affects, such as a higher incidence of high blood pressure, obesity, a weakened immune system and other health issues related to sleep deprivation.
 

Is it time to think about creating systems that take into account these different natural sleep cycles?  Could many of our chronic health issues be related to being a night owl, or living in a night owl family and not being a night owl, or some combination of lark, hummingbird and night owl sleep habits?  
 

What we do know: Restful sleep is important.Don’t snooze and we all lose.

Kids Talk TM is a column dealing with childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt.  Ms. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over 25 years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Visit MarenSchmidt.com.  Copyright 2013.

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.”