Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Solstice - the Shortest Day of the Year

Winter Solstice - the Shortest Day of the Year
Kim @ Kids Matter
Winter or December solstice is coming to the northern hemisphere.   The December Solstice is when the earth is nearest to the sun and moving in its fastest orbit.  It is the time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon.

The word solstice comes from the Latin word “sol” meaning (sun) and “sistere” meaning (to stand still). During the solstices, the sun stands still as it moves down the seasonal movement of the sun's path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before reversing direction. At that time the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun.

A solstice occurs twice each year as the sun reaches its highest or lowest position, relative to the equator.  As a result, on the day of the solstice, the sun looks to have reached its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon, i.e., solar noon.

Time is measured as mid-day to the next mid-day which most of us do not know.  Days are counted by the earth’s spin and they are never exactly 24 hours.  Solar noon changes with the seasons.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  In 2012, the December solstice coincided with the end of the Mayan Calendar.  Many saw this as a prophecy of the end of the world.  We are still here and the winter solstice will be 12:11 p.m. EST Saturday, December 21.  The sun will be in the lowest point in the sky for the year and winter begins.  On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight.

Las Vegas Guardian Express

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Love Does Not End With Death: Coping Through the Holidays

Love Does Not End With Death: Coping Through the Holidays
Belinda @ Kids Matter

Never is anything related to death a pleasant and easy experience. But… we have to pick ourselves up and get through the holidays. Isn’t that what they would have wanted for us? Chances are your loved one was well aware of your love for them. I think that is the hardest part about grieving, beyond the actual physical missing of them. So many doubts run through your head. You wonder if they knew the depth of your love. You begin to go over every conversation you had with them, every fight, and each argument from small to great. This isn’t grieving. This is doubt, a seed you have planted in your own mind to prevent you from dealing directly with death. So, how do you cope with death over the holidays?

No, I’m not a certified expert, but I do have experience. The first step is allowing yourself to admit that your loved one was well aware of your feelings for them. There… doubt eliminated.  Secondly, your loved one would not want you to grieve through the holidays. They knew, as we do now, that holidays are for celebrating life. And lastly, with that being said, celebrate the life of your loved one over the holidays. Yes, they are gone, but… oh, what a wonderful life they lived and what glorious memories they left in our hearts. This is not the time to shut out memories, smiles, or happy feelings… this is a time for sharing all those wonderful things given to you by your loved one.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt said it best, “love does not end with death”. So, if it doesn’t end with death then we must celebrate love every opportunity we get and holidays are no exception to that rule. Odds are you are going to gather with family that loved this person as well. Take this opportunity to include the deceased in your holiday celebrations. One suggestion would be to have an object that meant something to the deceased at the family get together. Allow this object, or even a picture of the loved one, to be discussed openly among the gathered. Allow people to recall those memories, smiles, and happy feelings. Will this be easy for you? Maybe not, but I assure you, your heart will feel better.

The roughest hurdle in grieving is the feeling that you have to let go of this person you loved so dearly. Why? “Spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life.  The death of someone loved created opportunities for taking inventory of your life— past, present and future.  The combination of a holiday and a loss naturally results in looking inward and assessing your individual situation.  Make the best use of this time to define the positive things in life that surround you,” as Dr. Wolfelt advises. Keep in mind that you were most likely not the only person on this earth to care about the deceased. That means you should connect with those whom you have an eternal bond with through life and death. Don’t push people away because you are in so much pain that just the thought of taking one more breath seems like you are committing a crime against the one you lost. Stop that! The person you lost loved you just as much as you loved them. They want you to continue on your journey through life and be fulfilled by the things in life that made them happy the short time they were with you. Live for them. Celebrate your life and theirs.

Death Came December
Written by: Belinda

Winter comes,
An unforgiving season,
Hazards at every turn,
We are unprepared.

Days grow shorter,
Darkness looms,
Depression sets in,
Minds grow weary.

Holidays come,
Days grow frantic,
Bills pile up,
Stress becomes reality.

Life goes on,
We travel to work,
Accidents happen,
We aren’t prepared.

Bodies grow old,
Organs fail,
God comes to call,
Families left to mourn.

December came,
Took many we love,
Memories it left,
We must carry on.

The hole in my heart,
One day will be filled,
With memories of you,
Until I see you again.

At the Gates of Heaven,
Steadfast you stand,
Your hand guiding me,
Your light protecting me.

Death came December,
Holidays upon us,
Memories heavy,
Heart’s a blaze.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas… Truly the Busiest Time of the Year

Christmas… Truly the Busiest Time of the Year
Kim @ Kids Matter
Christmas is such a busy time, especially when you work full time.  Most moms have to cook dinner and attend to the daily routine. There is never enough time to shop, have pictures made, send Christmas cards, bake, decorate, yada yada yada. The list is long. 
When I was younger, I actually dreaded Christmas. It was so much work for one day (December 25th).  Now I reflect back and wish I knew then what I understand now.  Remember that old saying, “too old too soon, too smart too late”?   Yes, it is so worth it to run crazy for a month or more to prepare for that one day.   It isn’t until years later that the impact is understood through the memories of our children and what they have to tell us about yesteryear. 
My daughter made the statement; while she was dating her now husband that, “Mom transforms the house into a Christmas wonderland. It is so great. I love Christmas!”   My children appreciate the old Santa pictures and also tell stories remembering those special presents.  For me, over the past decade, I have grown to appreciate the family gatherings while watching the children grow. This year my daughter is the mother of a one year old.  She is experiencing the stress of all the Christmas chores, but she does it, as we all did, for the child(ren).   I do think she “gets it” even if she might complain a little. I have only heard her complain about the expense of it. She is beginning to think about maybe a scarf and gloves or a candle.  We found inexpensive toys for children at Walgreens too.  After all, it really is the thought that counts.
We have begun to draw names for children in the extended family.  My sister-in-law wished that we didn’t have to do that for our immediate family. She remembers going to Grandma’s for Christmas and having a stack of presents.  She wanted her children to have that same excitement and memories.   Times are not what they once were.  Things are so expensive.  She explained that the stack of presents could be a coloring book and crayons in one, or socks in another. It wasn’t the richness of the gift, but the excitement of receiving a gift.  She is so right.  We forget that children just love to open presents.  Ever watch children at a birthday party? They tear from one present to the next; barely even acknowledging what the present is at that moment.
So, I think we should remember it is all worthwhile, downsize our gifts, and that it’s the excitement of having the gift that is most important to children.   Christmas is all about giving and loving.  The Christmas “chores” we do might just be a gift of love.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Finding Christmas Spirit

Finding Christmas Spirit
Belinda @ Kids Matter
Oh, Christmas spirit… where art thou?? I seek you in the dark, in the light, through the ark, and with all my might. I cannot find you near or far, here or there, or anywhere. I beckon. I summons. I plead on my knees. Oh, the need to feel the reason for the season. How I long for the enthusiasm of thee. Each year races by quicker as age sets in. Frailty overtakes me. January to November passes with the brevity of a summer storm. Year after year, time grows shorter. I reach out, too slow, Christmas cheer sped right by. I lunge forward, too fast, Christmas emotions linger slowly. I stood, not with grace, but lifelessness on my face. Hopelessness doth quickly gait. In the distance… carried on the winds of bliss, drifting note by note into a joyful melody, came the sound of a Christmas bell. The heavenly tune inspired a growing light within. The light originated as an ember and grew hastily into a blazing flame thrusting Christmas cheer throughout mind, body, and soul. Hooray… it’s Christmas!  Laughter erupted from deep within; tears of joy streamed mercilessly over my cheeks. Dancing and singing burst forth with glee. Oh, Christmas spirit, there you are… in joy and in light, for good will and all right. You hug me tenderly and inspire me tremendously. You are ever so gentle, but ever so fierce, as you enter like a lamb, and exit like a lion. You are ever present but often hidden by our own hearts, through the reality of life the other eleven months. We seek you so hard, yet you come in as an ember, a melodious note, a tender hug, the smell of cinnamon, a special ornament, a favorite cartoon, or a handwritten card. We are the seekers but you are the finder. Oh Christmas spirit, Oh… Christmas spirit, what a wonder you are.
Often, we seek so hard for inspiration that it goes unnoticed as it glares us in the face. Our hearts are so blinded by the day to day realities of life that we don’t see those blessings or evidence right in front of us. We must force ourselves to push the pause button. STOP… breathe… listen… look… and smell the sensations around you. It only takes one small ember to build a giant bonfire within your soul. Here are some inspiring quotes to fan the embers of Christmas spirit. Enjoy!
Dale Evans: “Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.”
Alexander Smith: “Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”
Ruth Carter Stapleton: “Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”
Norman Vincent Peale: "Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold; everything is softer and more beautiful."
Edna Ferber: "Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling."
Dr. Seuss: And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Marjorie Holmes: “At Christmas… all roads lead home.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Early Childhood Education Scholarship

Early Childhood Education Scholarship
Blog Squad @ Kids Matter
The Child Care Council of Kentucky and KIDS MATTER® are pleased to announce two scholarships ($500 each) to students in the field of Early Childhood Education. 
One scholarship will be awarded to a student enrolled in college in the state of Kentucky and the other scholarship will be awarded to a student enrolled in a college outside the state of Kentucky. 
Applications are currently OPEN.
Applications will be accepted through January 18th, 2014.
Applications are available HERE.
Winners will be notified via phone or email.
KIDS MATTER® promotes education as one of its key components. 
Previous Winners: 
2012 KY - Jamie Hobbs, Other State - August Kummerfeldt (WA)
2011 KY - Marie Noble, Other State - No entries
2010 KY - Erin Wheatley, Other State - Melinda Emge (MO.)
Kids Matter® Invest Early, Invest Often

Monday, December 9, 2013

“Let’s PLAY!”

“Let’s PLAY!”
By: BA @ Kids Matter
I lived in a small town when I was growing up; in a quiet neighborhood where everyone knew each other. We moved to that neighborhood when I was about four years old, and lived there until the summer of my senior year in high school. It was a nice, new, white house with a big yard, driveway to ride my bike, and roller skate. There were kids to play with… and summertime was just the best.
In those days,  school got out at the beginning of June and did not go back into session until the day after Labor Day. Ah, those were the days, my friend. If you have never had the opportunity to have a summer break for that long you have really missed out on something great. Summers would stretch out in front of us like a long and winding road. It was the days of sleeping in, eating breakfast late, watching “Howdy Doody” and “Uncle Al” then hitting the great outdoors for endless hours of pure enjoyment, fantasy, and magic. I had to be  practically dragged in for lunch and supper. Often, my mother would let me eat lunch on the front porch. I couldn’t stand to miss a moment of what was happening outside!
Play was the name of the game!  My best friend lived down the street and we literally spent every waking minute together. I walked to her house or she walked to mine.. And, we were followed everywhere by our pets.  I had a beagle named Missy and she had a little bulldog named Skipper.
 At my house, we played dolls and each of us had a “house” on either side of the front porch.  We had tea parties and dressed up in our mother’s (donated) high heels, jewelry, and dresses.  If we played bride then sheer curtains were our dress and veil. We also played with our doll houses under the big tree in the front yard. Sometimes we were allowed to play in the sprinkler and would laugh and squeal as the cold water sprayed us.
 She lived on a farm (yes, there was one in town) and at her house we spent hours riding our bicycles up and down the long driveway, making a playhouse out of the chicken coop, looking for little fish in the stream that ran through the property, climbing trees, and putting on  talent shows on the loading chute.  We also mastered walking along the top rail of the horse fence surrounding the property.
At night, we played hide and seek and hunted lightening bugs. We walked the railroad tracks that ran through our neighborhood. Our mother’s didn’t worry about us because if we did anything wrong, a neighbor would be there to reprimand and then tell our parents! Neighbors were also there to lend a hand if we got hurt or when we needed someone to talk to. I was an only child and my friend had two sisters and a brother.  It seemed like one huge family. It was a great time to be a kid! 
We each had to be home by 10:00 p.m. to wash up and go to bed. There was no such thing as air conditioning so it was shorty pajamas and a black metal fan to cool me on those long hot nights. I would drift off listening to the sound of that fan. I never remember being uncomfortable (probably because I was so tired from playing all day). 
As we grew older our playtime changed; boys became part of our growing circle of friends. We played wiffle ball and had endless tournaments. We challenged kids from other neighborhoods to play against us.  At night we would play badminton, or my all-time favorite, croquette. We were allowed to walk to the library and stop for ice cream at the “ten cent store”. If it was a rainy day, we would meet on my friend’s covered front porch and play board games.  Anyone who came by would stop and play. 
Soon we became interested in those boys that we had been playing with for years.  They magically started to look different in our eyes and we developed secret crushes on a new boy every week. We walked to the local movie theater. The boys sat behind us and would later follow us to the drug store for a coke. We spent Saturday mornings at the local bowling alley.  The boys were there, too.  We went to the local pool and sure enough, those boys would show up and show off. If there was a slumber party, you could bet that boys would be hiding outside and tapping on the window until someone’s mother caught them and sent them running home.  Being a “tween” in the summer was so much fun. It was all so sweet and innocent. It was all so easy and peaceful.   
My friend and I shared many, many, many summers together… many good times that we will never forget. When we entered high school we each had different activities. She was a cheerleader and I was a color guard in the band.  Our friends grew to include lots and lots of other people and we slowly began to drift apart. Her life went one way and mine went another. The funny thing about it is that we are still friends, even though we rarely see each other. The impact we had on each other as we were growing up is still with us. We shared so much together back then… and now we have those fond memories to share. We could probably pick up right where we left off. I know we could.
Now that’s an idea… “Hey Carolyn, grab your dollhouse and come on over. I have a big tree in my backyard. Let’s PLAY!!”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thankful November to Giving December

Thankful November to Giving December
Belinda @ Kids Matter
Did you ever stop to think about how the months transition into feelings and emotions? Truthfully, I sure didn’t until I was pondering what the next blog topic would be and I realized it happens quite often. I think that’s called being aware of your surroundings. How’s that? Are you always cognizant of the ebb and flow of the calendar year?
Let’s take a look; examine the 12 months that make up our emotional rollercoaster. First up we have January with its new year’s resolutions and grandiose plans. As we put that month to bed with our less than anticipated results, we slip all into mush mode with February. From there we kiss the blarney stone and welcome spring. Yes, then the April showers that bring the May flowers and long Memorial weekend. June rolls quietly till near the end when summer emerges and vacations begin. July explodes with amazement and color as the heat peaks and moves us to August when vacations end and school begins. The work force celebrates September and October emerges with horror and fright into the lengthening nights.
Now, having just emerged from thankful November, we move eagerly into giving December where we give to those we thanked in the prior month and expand upon the giving by donating and contributing to those less fortunate than ourselves. Isn’t it odd that it takes us 11 months before we work up the enthusiasm to share and spread joy? That’s the ebb and flow of it. We just breathe and go with it… year after year.
Retailers know the ebb and flow, matter of fact that’s how they stay in business. They know when we are in mania mode. They target us with sales we can’t resist. So, if they know and we know, what would happen if we upset that ebb and flow? What would happen if we gave to the poor and fed the homeless all year long? What if we bought Christmas in June and were thankful every day? Crazy, right? Or is it?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Want To Make A Difference? Sure you do!

Want To Make A Difference?  Sure you do!
BA @ Kids Matter
Have you ever thought about how a small gesture on your part can make a big difference in someone else’s day and maybe even in their life?  It happens all of the time. Sometimes it’s deliberate, meticulously planned out, and sometimes it’s spontaneous.  You get on the elevator and smile at a stranger, you speak to a person on the street, or you throw a few coins into the cup of a street performer. Maybe it’s donating to the local food bank. You offer your neighbor a ride, read a child a story… the list can go on forever.  Most of the time, these deeds are just simple things that you would do normally.  This time of the year seems to bring out the best in people. 
People want to help… and generally, they just need to be asked.  The Child Care Council of Kentucky is asking you to spread some of your generosity to help provide quality education for children who are in early care (birth to age five).  The Child Care Council of Kentucky provides training to the teachers of young children in a large region of Kentucky. 
Many children, nowadays, spend the better part of their day with a child care provider.  These dedicated early care professionals are working along with parents to build a strong foundation of learning for those little ones in care, however, research shows that many children enter school for the first time unprepared to succeed.  Early care professionals MUST receive the education and training necessary to prepare children for school!
You know it and I know it… all children DESERVE quality child care provided by well-educated caregivers.  Take a moment on Giving Tuesday (Dec 3, 2013) and make a donation for the quality education of all young children.
Investing, even a small amount, can pay off with a big gain for our children.  Help the Child Care Council of Kentucky.  Make a deliberate decision, by clicking on the link below, to donate to a cause that will directly improve children’s school readiness:  
Thank you and always remember that KIDS MATTER®

All about the Butter on the Biscuit

All about the Butter on the Biscuit
Belinda @ Kids Matter
When life is just butter on a biscuit, you know your world is grand! BUT… when you find your biscuit is stale and your butter dripping all in your lap, what then? Yeah, what then, oh my! Let me tell you what you do. Been there, done that, and repeat it often, so I dub myself a pro. You step back, nuke the biscuit a couple seconds, don’t use so much butter this time, eat and enjoy! What? Why is this strange person talking about biscuits? Why is it even important?
Let me explain… biscuits are the equivalent to your life. If you don’t put a little excitement, fun, and joy in your life, life gets really stale… just like a biscuit. Now the butter… that’s the joy, fun, and spice you add to your life. If you overdo it you’ve got a nice mess in your lap, but with just the right amount… well you know… ummm butter on a biscuit!

Friday, November 29, 2013

World AIDS Day 2013

World AIDS Day 2013

Lynnsey @ Kids Matter

His name was Ben. I see his smile every time I look at the person I love. I see the pain he caused and the people he left behind. Ben had buried his truth so deep that his only option became to leave his family.  Years later, Elizabeth, his daughter, would meet him for the first time, and as they cried in each other’s arms, saying nothing, it became painfully clear that this tearful reunion would be short-lived. You see, Ben was dying of AIDS. And as his daughter watched him become an 80 pound shell of the man he used to be, she vowed to be his voice and to educate those around her about this horrible disease.

It is this passion that embodies the idea of World Aids Day. Originally conceived in 1988, it is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic worldwide. Today, more than 35 million people are living with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). It is an epidemic that, since 1981, has claimed the lives of more than 25 million people and has become one of the world’s most serious health and development challenges[1] Three decades ago, it was seen as a disease exclusive to a specific community, however, we know now that though people may discriminate, AIDS does not. It affects both men and women of every race and does not care if you are gay or straight or young or old. Some of the scarier statistics show that 95% of new infections (half under the age of 25) occur in individuals that reside in low- and middle- income countries particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where access to prevention education, care, and treatment is scarce.[2] Many who are infected with AIDS are unaware of their infection which can lead to unknowingly passing the virus to another person.

Many will ask, “What can I do to make a difference on World AIDS Day?” The answer is simple. AIDS is a preventable disease. Just making the personal commitment to yourself to never have unprotected sexual intercourse can save your life and the lives of others. If you wish to take it a step further, contact your local AIDS organization. Non-profit organizations are always looking for volunteers who are willing to participate in community outreach and other programs that help educate our communities about the prevention, care, and treatment of AIDS. If nothing else, start a dialogue with a coworker or change your profile picture to a red ribbon. Get the word out. Together, we can not only honor the millions like Ben who have succumbed to this disease, but also ensure that future generations have a brighter and healthier story to tell.

2.      Global Health Policy

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A History of Thanksgiving
A History of Thanksgiving
Lynnsey @ Kids Matter
Most of us have grown up on the classic story of the first Thanksgiving. You know, the autumn feast of 1621 that saw the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians peacefully come together to celebrate the harvest of that year. It was a rare example of two colliding civilizations that, for a brief moment, transcended the atrocities that were to define their relationship for centuries to come.  It began with a group of 102 separatists (those wanting to separate from the Church of England) who, aboard the Mayflower, made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to the New World in search of religious freedom and the promise of personal prosperity. After a brutal winter, which many of the original settlers did not survive, the settlers were helped by an English speaking Abenaki Indian named Squanto. Squanto would not only teach the Pilgrims to cultivate crops, but to survive in an environment different from everything they had ever known.  Most importantly, Squanto helped to solidify the alliance between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians.
And so you have the first Thanksgiving; a three day festival celebrating the autumn harvest.  It was a celebration that offered a menu very different from that of our Thanksgiving meals today. In fact, very little historical evidence exists that can tell us exactly what they ate, but historians generally agree that lobster, seal, swan, and corn were on the menu. Absent were the pounds of turkey and pumpkin pie that now fill our plates every November.
Truth be told, this was neither the first Thanksgiving nor the one that solidified the festival as an annual holiday. Harvest celebrations date back to the beginning of time throughout all religions. For many Americans, the tradition can be traced back to the time of the English Reformation when the idea of giving thanks for various reasons (such as the celebration after Queen Elizabeth’s defeat of the Spanish Armada) first took hold. Furthermore, after the 1621 celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Thanksgiving celebrations were often dictated by local leaders and individual communities. It was not until 1863, during the height of the Civil War, that Abraham Lincoln (click to see President Lincoln’s proclamation in its entirety) declared the last Thursday of each November an annual national holiday. Later, in 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the holiday from the last Thursday of the month to the fourth Thursday in an effort to boost an economy still recovering from the Great Depression by extending the Christmas shopping season by one week. Prior to this change, it was culturally frowned upon to advertise or shop for Christmas presents before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The history of this holiday is ancient and complex. It was celebrated across many generations, religions, and groups of people.  Factor in our modern consumerist culture and it can be difficult to always remember the true meaning of the holiday. Furthermore, as a history buff, it is hard for me to ignore the violence and genocide that would later erupt between the Native American’s and European settlers, so any talk of the first Thanksgiving is always met with my infamous brand of skepticism and dramatic eye roll. Now, with FDR’s economic recovery plan still in full swing, we see retailers opening their doors at 6:00pm on Thanksgiving Day. This strategy of pushing Black Friday back further and further each year in order to maximize profits at the cost of employees having a whole day with their families is just, for lack of a better word, unethical. We shouldn’t stand for it, but we do. Why? Because saving a few bucks is more important than the person at the cash register having a day off to be with his or her family. We tend to forget that the whole purpose of the first Thanksgiving was to come together as a community, not just individual families, and celebrate the teamwork, friendship, hard work, and, most importantly, the self-sacrifice it took to bring a group of strange looking settlers back from the brink of extinction.  Our lack of empathy for others and our inability to sacrifice our own wants for the good of all only showcases just how far gone we are from the original Thanksgiving. And so, on this day dedicated to giving thanks for all that we have (and we do have a lot), I urge all of you to reconnect with the true reason we set aside a day to give thanks because, trust me, not everyone is so lucky. As for me, I will spend the day giving thanks not for my material possessions, but for the people who mean more to me than any bargain television ever could. Unfortunately, I will have to do it from afar as I do not have time to drive home to be with my family and still make it to work by midnight where I am expected to serve the lines of customers camping out waiting for those bargain deals. Happy Thanksgiving, America.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cooking Safety Tips

Cooking Safety Tips
Robin @ Kids Matter
Home is a place of comfort where your children learn, love, grow, experience, and discover.   It’s a place where children should feel safe, but there are dangers that we don’t all realize. So, we need to do our best to make our homes safe and do what we can to prevent accidents.  Whether you are cooking that extravagant turkey dinner, a simple meal at any other time of the year, or anything in between, here are some kitchen tips to help your family be safe.  Please visit the Safe Kids website for more safety tips. 
o          Keep children at least three feet from the hot stove.
o          Cook on the back burners when possible.
o          Keep pan handles turned toward the back of the stove.
o          Stay in the kitchen while frying, broiling, or grilling.
o          Check on your food often when baking or simmering.
o          Wear short or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
o          Keep your stovetop clear from anything that can catch fire.
o          Use a timer to remind yourself that you are cooking.
o          Keep all cords coiled and away from counter edges.
o          Never hold your child while cooking.
o          Keep hot food away from counters and table edges.
o          Stay close by the grill or turkey fryer when in use.
o          Make sure you test those smoke alarms.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Decorating that Turkey Table on a Budget!

Decorating that Turkey Table on a Budget!
Julia @ Kids Matter
          I am literally salivating over Thanksgiving as we speak. I love Turkey Day for not just for the excuse to pig out on as many side dishes and as much turkey, gravy, and pies as I can. I love it for the décor! I am a huge fan of decorating for the holidays, and I always have champagne tastes on a beer budget! So, I try my hardest to have a new theme every year, but with things I can find around the house and yard. Check your yard for fallen branches. You can simply hang a branch over the table and from it hang pictures of past Thanksgivings (unless you have a chandelier there, then perhaps hang it somewhere else where it will be a focal point). This is such a warm, welcoming, and chic decoration that displays pictures of your loved ones.
          The table is my favorite to decorate! My favorite table linen to use this time of year is a rich golden color accented with bone white plates. Rust colored napkins with a leaf pattern sewn in them lay snuggly under my great grandmothers silver flatware that has been painstakingly polished to a gleam by yours truly! (A job I inherited at a VERY young age, to earn the right of inheritance of the said silver later in life.)
          Up next are simple accents of décor on the main table and buffet, or bar. I cut small round holes in the tops of squat round apples. Seal the holes with candle wax letting some wax drip over the bulb of the apples. I placed a tea light in each apple and line them up on the table.
          My center piece is a trio of gold, cream, and brown pillar candles that are on a trio stand with acorns tied in between each candle. I then sprinkle the fall leaves I had collected and cleaned earlier in the week on the table around the apples.
          I am a HUGE fan of smelly goods! I know the house will smell of turkey and pie, but give it a little boost! Make sure to put money in the Turkey Day budget for some good smelling candles or scented oils with aromas of fall. I personally love candles for ambiance and scented oil for fragrance.    With that being said, get yourself some decorative candles and holders from the Dollar Store to save money and spend that saved dough on scented oil and burners. My personal favorite place to get scented oil is The Body Shop. I have bought it at many places, but none of them can hold a candle to The Body Shop. I have just two burners for my 3500 square foot house; one for upstairs and one for downstairs and they cover the WHOLE house! The oil lasts a very long time and the Satsuma scent is a winner every time! It works for holidays and for summer.
          So take a look around your house for items to use as décor for Turkey Day. I am sure with a little imagination you can have a very festive day! Also, Pinterest is a resource that is a mecca for craft nerds like me. Start pinning and you don’t stop- it’s more addictive than raw cookie dough.
           Think of what you are thankful for and when you are about to pull your hair out this year with menu options, décor issues, Aunt Elsie and her horrid annual Jell-O salad (which you dread like the plague) remember, there are little ones out there who have no food. Take them something. Make it something good not just that can of old beans in your cabinet. Add a few extra boxes of instant mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, and chicken & stars soup to your shopping cart and know that a child is thanking you on Turkey Day.         
Have fun this year! Happy Thanksgiving and remember to thank someone every day. Thank your boss, your babysitter, your family, your waste management team, your mail carrier, and everyone!
Peace, Love, and Wishbones…

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Choosing a Life of Thankfulness

Choosing a Life of Thankfulness
Belinda @ Kids Matter
Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” ― John Henry Jowett
Who, among us, can fathom November without triggering a reminder of being thankful? Not those humble and appreciative souls who trudge through the day to day festivities of life and spend 365 days a year being thankful. Yet some others choose the 30 days that make November to express thankfulness. Sadly, there are still others who choose to use only one day, Thanksgiving, to be appreciative of those around them, what they have, and who they are. This is a personal choice we must all make. We can be appreciative 365 days, 30 days, or one day a year; but, I ask you… what void does the remaining 335 or 364 days create in you? Are you fulfilled in life, by life? Does each sunrise offer new opportunities and each sunset endless possibilities? Does the rain just cleanse the Earth and water the grass or does it purify the life that sustains you? Does the 4:00pm shadow over take and suffocate you or does the noon day sun light you within? Your perception of the life you lead can be changed in the blink of an eye. Outside forces come and go, leaving footprints deep within us. Yet, each day our eyes open, our feet hit the floor, our lungs fill with air, and we step into a new day.  
Life isn’t all about what’s given to you. Life is about living and appreciating everything, every being, sight, smell, light, and darkness. Be thankful for everything and everyone. Life is about realizing there must always be hope, faith, courage, and perseverance. Distance is a measure, not a metaphor, for life. Don’t separate yourself from the people in life who love you and are thankful for you. Realize that time passes quickly, except while you wait. Tomorrow comes because it’s an opportunity. Night falls because the body needs replenishing.  Being thankful happens because we realize that without what we have, who we have, and who we are, tomorrow means nothing. Your life is far greater than nothing. Be thankful every minute of every day because you are important and life is worth living to your fullest potential.
Long ago, there was a label on VHS tapes that read, “Be kind. Rewind.” I say, be kind, unwind. Give yourself time to relax and recall all those wonderful things you have in your life for which you are thankful. Without taking that moment, each day, life can overcome us. We can forget to be thankful. We can even begin to believe there is nothing to be thankful for. Stop! Breathe! As the air fills your lungs, be thankful.
Today, I am thankful for you. You took a moment out of your day to read this and to me that’s something for which to be thankful. As you venture through the rest of your day, make it a challenge to think about all the words you can use to complete this sentence… Today, I am thankful for _______________ because it brought ____________ to my day. Make this a daily challenge and feel the difference it can make in your life. What else can you do to increase the number of days you are thankful each year? Challenge yourself to delight in and be thankful for all that you have and all that you are… every day! Show your appreciation! Wear your thankfulness in the smile on your face.  Show it in hugs to those you love. Don’t be afraid to express it any way you can. It’s always good to know you are appreciated. A simple “thank you” may just be the ray of sunshine to clear a cloudy day.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Kim @ Kids Matter
In our family, as in most families, Thanksgiving, is a major holiday.  When I was young, Thanksgiving was so much fun because all the cousins played together the entire day.  Thanksgiving was about getting together with family.  Oh, okay, and the food. Yes, the food.  My mother was quite the cook.  She always bought the biggest turkey as the whole family was coming for dinner (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc).  She made the stuffing, stuffed the turkey (which was quite a production) sewed the turkey shut, and skewered the legs tight.  It was kind of scary the first time I tuned in to watch her do it. But oh, how the smell of that turkey cooking set in my memory, and ever after cemented the longing for turkey each Thanksgiving Day.  My mother began cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family when my grandmother, the matriarch of the family, was not able to cook anymore. 
I love a story she told about mashed potatoes while she was growing up and I have to share the story with you. In the early 1930s, my mother and her two sisters had to mash potatoes by hand until they were creamy, with no lumps.  It was quite a chore sometimes, especially if there were going to be many guests at the dinner table.  The sisters would take turns mashing to keep the arguing to a minimum.  One day my grandmother bought a MixMaster to mash the potatoes.  My mother tells the story about the night my grandmother brought the MixMaster home.  They were peeling potatoes for the evening meal, and my grandmother had to leave the house to run down the street to a neighbor’s home.  She told the girls not to use the MixMaster because she had not yet trained them how to use it.   Well, sisters will be sisters.  Of course they knew they could use the MixMaster, and have it back in the box before my grandmother returned.  So the sisters opened the box and set up the MixMaster.  My mother put the beaters in the potatoes, slid the switch to on, and WHAM potatoes flew everywhere!   The story goes that my mother was up on a chair with a mop wiping potatoes off the wall when my grandmother walked into the kitchen.  Such a great story!  I had the best laugh when she told it to me.
My mother and one sister have passed away. My Aunty Pat is still with us and she has always been a character.  She is very witty, funny, and enjoys life very much.  I was named after her and when I was young she took care of me, sometimes.  I remember one Thanksgiving… something about Lancers wine and “Hey Aunt Mary, the peas are green”, but that is another story to be kept in the family.
I also remember being so upset one day after my mother passed because I could not find her fudge recipe. Thank goodness, I eventually found it while looking through her many recipe books.  I now make many of my mother’s dishes and her turkey and dressing are a tradition carried on by my son and his wife.  We now celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents as well but still also cook at our house so we can savior Thanksgiving all weekend. 
As the holiday is fast approaching, I remember that my grandchildren are storing their family memories and traditions.  May each of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with great memories to store, and remember to grab those recipes to carry on your family traditions.   Also, remember your children are storing memories.  Make them wonderful.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Holiday Ch…Ch…Changes

Holiday Ch…Ch…Changes
Robin @ Kids Matter
Thanksgiving is one of the few times each year that my whole family gets together.  Add to that some good food, fun game playing, and Black Friday shopping, and you have my favorite holiday of the year.  Or, I should say, had.   Over the years it was my favorite holiday, but things are changing.  Have you noticed that Christmas preparations start earlier every year?  Black Friday shopping has also started earlier and earlier.   Some stores are open all day on Thanksgiving.  Last year, almost all Black Friday shopping started on Thanksgiving Thursday!  You may be asking, “What’s wrong with that?”  It takes away from family time.  And family time is very important, especially since families have less and less of it in the hustle and bustle of everyone having different schedules and priorities.  Some people say, “But we can shop together.”   Sure, you could, but do you?  Does everyone in your family like to shop?  Is everyone looking for the same item?  Are you able to communicate and have meaningful interaction in the middle of the shopping crowd?  I don’t think so…
Personally, I miss the challenge of Black Friday as it used to be.  I fondly remember those years of getting up at 3:30 AM to be at the store and in line by 4AM.  Sure, it was cold and exhausting, you don’t always get that sale item you are looking for, but, many times I got the great deals and had fun with whomever I was able to talk into shopping with me that year.  Now, with shopping starting so early, the lines are a lot longer.  Last year, I went to one store and found the item I wanted, but the checkout line was too long.  After standing in a line that wrapped around the entire store for 30 minutes without moving, I gave up and left.  I am not willing to give up 8 to 10 hours of my Thanksgiving to go stand in line.  That time is too valuable to me! 
Enjoy the time you have with family, because you may lose them before you know it.  My mother passed away last year, and believe me, it does make a difference.  I miss her every day, but I especially feel her loss during this time of the year.  I remember the fun we had of planning the menu together.  I was the cook and she was the organizer.  She was a terrible cook, but loved talking to everyone to make sure they were coming, what they were bringing, and just generally organizing it.  Every year, there would be an unexpected twist, whether it was a neighbor joining us who had no family to celebrate with, or helping cook and serve at a homeless shelter.  I would always go to her home the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, to start the turkey process.  We really enjoyed that time together before the rest of the crowd arrived.  One year, we ended up with 10 pumpkin pies and no other deserts, but that was ok because it gave us a good memory to laugh about. 
So, how do you deal with changes like this?  Last year, the loss of my mom was very fresh.  My family got together, but we had pizza instead of the usual Thanksgiving fare.  However, we were more focused than ever before on the thankfulness aspect.  This year, my first thought was to cancel the holiday, but that didn’t work.  So, we are planning Thanksgiving at my sister’s house this year.   She has started the menu planning, much as I tried to avoid it.  It’s not the same, but I’m sure that it will still be a good time with family and friends. 
As David Bowie said, “Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older.  Time may change me.   But I can’t trace time.” I leave you with a plea.  Thanksgiving is an important holiday.  Please don’t skip over it!