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!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Black Friday… The Mania

Black FridayThe Mania
Belinda @ Kids Matter
I have to say, up front, I am NOT a Black Friday shopper. I try to keep as far away from the hysteria as possible. In all my life, I have only done the Black Friday thing one time and that was not by my own choosing. About 14 years ago, I was one of the few people working that day. My supervisor insisted I take one of my co-workers to get a TV she had seen in the Black Friday ads. That was 10:00AM and we finally made it back to work at 1:30PM. Now mind you, the store was only 10 minutes away from work! I hauled this crazy lady, amped by the mere thought of grabbing a small TV for $25, to the shopping complex. Traffic was horrendous and parking was absolutely ridiculous! We had to park about two miles from the store, it seemed. By the time we got close to the door we could hear the screaming. People were yelling, “Watch where you are going!” Carts banging into each other... kids running amuck… My coworker darted through the doors. Barreling over people, hollering over the crowd to me, “Come on! Come on!”
Finally, I was through the door! No time to breathe a sigh of relief! I looked up and there she was across the store, arms waving like a mad woman. I caught up to her eventually after many “excuse me, pardon me, and I’m sorry” exchanges. She grabbed a hold of my arm and just pulled me through the crowd. I was bumped, pushed, cursed, and all the while she gripped my arm with a fist of iron. “TVs… I see TVs!” she yelled. We got to the TVs and low and behold there was not a single $25 TV in the store. She started yelling and screaming for a store clerk. A guy walked over to us (he looked as if he had been trampled in the crowd) and asked her what she was looking for. He confirmed what I had already told her, “sold out”. I closed my eyes and held my breath. Sure enough… she had a meltdown, right there in the store! Full blown meltdown with big ol’ crocodile tears and mumbling of words no human could understand.
I reassured her that her love was greater than any TV and the kids would be happy with anything she gave them. The closer we got back to the car the deeper those words began to sink in with her. I opened her door, she got in, and before I had walked around the car, I heard her screaming. She had seen a sign in another parking lot with TVs for $25. Oh my! We started the game over again three more times at three more stores, all with the same conclusion, “sold out”. I hauled her back to work 3 ½ hours later without a TV. In my mind… there never was a $25 TV! Oh, there were probably five in each store and if you were one of the lucky first five in the building, you got that $25 TV.
Like I said, that was 14 years ago. Today, Black Friday (November 29, 2013) shoppers have a bigger advantage. Some of the larger stores are now open Thanksgiving evening. There are websites where you can go and find coupons, store hours, secret sales, and much more. So, let me give you some info to spare you some of the havoc of which I got to partake in all those years ago. Go ahead and bookmark the sites and keep ahead of the game.
But don’t stop here! In addition to Black Friday, we now have Cyber Monday (December 2, 2013) which is the Monday after Black Friday and is the time to make all your online purchases!
And… if you haven’t been introduced to Small Business Saturday (November 30, 2013), please allow me the honor… as per Wikipedia, “Small Business Saturday is an American shopping holiday held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving during one of the busiest shopping periods of the year. First observed on November 27, 2010, it is a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which feature big box retail and e-commerce stores respectively. By contrast, Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize brick and mortar businesses that are small and local.”  View these links for more information:
Happy shopping! But… remember to be safe in your travels and be guarding of your credit card purchases. Shop smart! Support your local small business merchants and your community! Shop with at least one buddy, strategize and make a game plan prior to your journey, and be prepared for the weather as you camp out and stand in long lines. One last reminder… please be courteous! That person you are banging with your cart may not even be there by their own choosing. They mean you no harm. J

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran’s Day 2013

Veteran’s Day 2013

Belinda @ Kids Matter

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" ~ President Wilson

Originating as Armistice Day, November 11, 1919, Veteran’s Day is, “A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good” as per The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. This national holiday is not only a tribute to our fallen soldiers who paid with their lives for the freedoms we, as U.S. citizens, are afforded, but also the superior men and women who have chosen a life of honor and selflessness for which their lives are on the block in order to protect ours. These self-sacrificing service personnel are put through rigorous training every day in order to keep them prepared and motivated for the protection of our country. They endure sleepless nights, harsh weather, and intensive conditioning of which, if you aren’t a soldier, you could not possibly fathom. They see and experience tragedy that a civilian would never comprehend. These men and women have such a great respect for authority and chain of command that in return, they deserve the same. 

Men and women of the military (past, present, and future) be it Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard (fallen, retired, or active duty) deserve and command respect and appreciation from all of us. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the political factors involved in the military actions. What matters is that these service personnel are ready, able, and willing to give their lives to protect and serve YOU! It doesn’t matter one iota if these soldiers are on full-time active duty, Reserves, or National Guard. Each serves this country in a way that non-service people can only imagine. They are the top quality, front lines, of our country! They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, sons, daughters and friends. They protect us at home and abroad, near to our hearts yet far away. 

At this time I would like to take this opportunity to present a heartfelt thank you to my own friends and family who are or have served this country proudly.

Words can never express the respect and admiration I have for my son-in-law, Mason, who proudly represents the Army. Thank you! To my brother, Allen, and friend Dave, who boldly and bravely served our country through the Air Force, thank you! To Army Vets John (step-dad), Mike (brother), and Kim (friend and co-worker), thank you for your patronage and the services you contributed to our great nation. To my father-in-law, Gerald, brother-in-law, Jeff, and Uncle John, for the protection and services you provided through the Navy, thank you. In remembrance and honor of those passed; my Grandpa John, step-dad, Jimmy (Army), and Uncle Roger (Navy). Respectfully, I would also like to acknowledge and say thank you to all the military wives, husbands, and family members who support their soldier every breath; every minute of every day!

To all soldiers, on this Veteran’s Day, we salute you with a Bravo Zulu OORAH HOOAH HOOYAH and a sincere THANK YOU!!

If you would like to thank a soldier please see the information below. Don’t wait until Veteran’s Day 2014! There is no time like the present to say THANK YOU!

·         Write a letter or send a card to the service member.
·         Send a care package: through someone you know … the USO (, 
·         Send a handmade craft item such as a bracelet or a scarf.
·         Pray for them.
·         Thank a family member of the spouse who is here in the U.S.
Proudly display and honor the American Flag.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Memories of My Daddy

Veteran's Day 2013
Memories of My Daddy
By BA @ Kids Matter
I grew up during a time when people were, “dodging the draft” and protesting war. I have never spent a lot of time thinking about freedom.  I don’t know about you, but I kind of take it for granted. 

Recently, a simple request to write a paragraph about Veteran’s Day prompted me to think about the men and women who serve our country every day who are willing to give their lives so that we can keep our freedom. Would you be brave enough to enlist in the armed services during war time? My father was one of those brave young men who did that very thing.

At 17 years old, my father was too young to enlist and had to have parental permission to join the U.S. Navy.  Times were different then.  It was World War II and young men were longing to “march off to war” and protect those they loved.  The world was in turmoil as my father begged to be allowed to enlist.  His mother would have none of it.  After all, he was an only child and he had not been drafted.  Why would he want to do something so foolish?  He was just a child, she argued.  Over and over he pleaded and argued his point.  His mother was adamant that he was not going. After several days finally my grandfather signed the necessary paperwork and he was off to join the Navy.  My grandmother was devastated.

Underage, young, and impulsive, he quickly realized that he would have to pass the necessary requirements to become a sailor.  One of those requirements was that he would have to be able to the read the colorful signal flags that were flown on ships.  Not so hard you say? My father was colorblind but that was not going to deter him!  He simply memorized the flags (not by colors) and passed the test. 

He was sent to Chicago for basic training, where he trained on the Great Lakes.  After basic training, he was stationed on a large destroyer, the USS Rogers, where he served as a radar man. He was deployed to Hawaii sometime around 1943.  As the war progressed and the Japanese became more and more aggressive, my grandmother was in constant fear for his life. After Pearl Harbor, it became apparent that drastic action would have to be taken; the U.S. would have to join the war.  We all know from history what drastic measures were later used against Japan.  After the bombs were dropped it was days before Japan surrendered. 

My father was on one of the ships that went into Japan after the bombings.  He never talked much about the actual events.  There are a few souvenirs that he brought back: two Japanese rag dolls, old black and white photos, and his Navy picture in his dress blues, his white uniform, sailor hat, and his medals that are saved in a suitcase with his uniform. All of these are now simply memories of a young sailor who served his country alongside thousands of other young men, my uncles included, and women in all branches of the service. This suitcase holds a part of my father that I did not know but, having inherited these things after his death; it somehow makes me feel closer to that 17 year old.  I am proud to say that I am the daughter of a “Tin Can Sailor” who survived World War II.

Thank you, Daddy, and all of the other Veterans who will be honored on November 11th.  We can never, ever, repay you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

From The Director’s Chair: How to Cook a Turkey

From The Director’s Chair: How to Cook a Turkey
Julia @ Kids Matter
          As we all know, fall has come! Mother Nature has certainly changed from her short shorts and flip flops and brought in some seriously colder than normal temps! It is October, but we are having November-like weather here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Naturally being a HUGE fan of colder weather, I find myself daydreaming of all things fall and winter!
          I am even listening to Christmas music…SHHH! Don’t tell anyone! I am a bit ashamed of it personally, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the holidays! Halloween is upon us and Christmas is 2 months away! But wait! There is a very important fall holiday in between... The ever popular and important Thanksgiving. The American ‘My Diet can sit on a tack’ holiday where we eat, watch football, fight with family, and give thanks for all of the above.
          Now, while you are sitting there flipping through the latest Paula Deen or Martha Stewart mag for new recipes there is a very significant recipe you need to bring to your classrooms. How to Cook a Turkey!
          Preschoolers and Pre-Kindergartners absolutely LOVE this Thanksgiving project. When I was in the classroom, I did this activity every year. We always did journal entries in my classrooms before lunch.  Every day I would give them a topic for their journals. They would draw what their story or entry was about. They would then bring the picture to me or my assistant and we would ask, “Tell me about your picture?” It is vital that you know to ask that question.  Never ask a child, “What is this?”  A child sees it clear as glass for what it is, and they expect you, their mentor, to know as well.
          This now brings me to the journal entry I looked forward to all year. “Class, today’s journal topic is, ‘How to Cook a Turkey.’ I would like for you to think very hard about what you will need to stuff the turkey, how to cook it, and how long it will need to cook. Begin please.”
          For ten minutes, they would color, draw, giggle, and change paper, until they had the best recipe they could muster. I would await their pictures like a kid at Christmas. And soon, I would be awarded with the first drawing. I did this exercise for many years, but one child stands out as being my favorite. I still, to this day, remember every word. I know I must have read it half a million times, and it hung on my bulletin board until Christmas. Now, put those expensive holiday cooking magazines down and follow this recipe to the “T” for turkey!
“How to Cook a Turkey” By Andy, age four
Me: Okay Andy, tell me about your picture. And let me just say, it look fabulous.
Andy: Thanks Miss Julila, I have a feeling about this one.
Me: You do? How so?  Walk me through it, if you please.
Andy: Well, you have to cook a turkey in the oven at 7000 degrees. Then you have to yell at Dad to get off his duff and vacuum the living room already because his mother will be there soon, and the Packers will probably win anyway. See, there is Dad watching the Packers. Then you stuff it {the turkey} with chicken nuggets, gummy worms, cupcakes, catsup, French fries, pizza, and a sundae that comes in a small baseball hat. Then Dad comes in and smells it and says it’s perfect and it’s done.
Me: How long does it take to cook a turkey at 7000 degrees?
Andy: Ten minutes!
Me: Really? That’s it? Ten minutes?
Andy: That’s all buddy!
Me: What do you like to eat with your turkey for Thanksgiving?
Andy: Orange potatoes and eggs.
Me: Okay.
Andy: And pie.
Me: Do you have a favorite type of pie?
Andy: Apple is good, but only if it is cold.  I don’t want ice cream melting it.
Me: Well, is there anything else you would like to tell me about cooking a turkey Andy?
Andy: Yeah, it has to be ortantic {organic} or else my aunt will get fat.
Me: Awesome. You sir, are Awesome Sauce!
Andy: You are Awesome Turkey Miss Julila! Can I play Blocks now?
          Now, imagine that conversation about 24 times… It really doesn’t get much cooler than that. They have such a wonderful time with journals, but you have to write down everything they say! So, you must be able to write quickly! What they are saying is sheer gold!
          Next time, I plan on bringing a little décor and cooking tips. I love to cook/bake, and this time of year I start to try new recipes for T-Day. Until then, start journals in your classroom, get young minds creatively thinking, and ask a three or four year old how to cook a turkey. You will never laugh harder in your life.
Well, that is all for now from The Director’s Chair…