Wednesday, September 17, 2014

9 Home Remedies For Seasonal Allergies

Source: Pixabay

The faucet turned on at 5am. My nose started running and has not stopped all day. This is the time when “if it's growing, I'm a'blowin'” with seasonal allergies. I'm far from alone. 26 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies (source). And the symptoms aren't just a an inconvenience. Studies have shown that during ragweed season, those of us who suffer experience physical and mental fatigue, making concentration hard and increasing irritability. We're prone to sadness and are up to 14 times more likely to experience migraines than those who don't have allergies. 


... “if it's growing, I'm a'blowin'” with seasonal allergies...


Mine flare up anytime the wind blows or we have wet weather. My 9-year old's have been acting up the last few weeks, but just in the morning. Sure, we could take over-the-counter medicines, but I noticed last year that Children's Claritin made my daughter CRANKY, and, honestly, I'd rather go with natural measures to control our allergy symptoms. Here's what I'm doing and what you might try if you're fighting seasonal allergies, too. (Please note that I am NOT a medical professional. This is just stuff that works for me and my family.)

  1. Keep the windows shut. Yes, it's gorgeous out. Yes, it's cool. But open windows mean pollen sweeping through my house and my car. I'd rather run the air conditioner a little longer and keep allergens out.

  2. Wash your hair or at least wipe it down with a baby wipe. Pollen gets all over your hair and transfers to your pillow at night. Wiping some of the residue out of your hair before bed can help control your nighttime sneezies.

  3. Use a Neti pot or saline nasal solutions. Both will get the irritants out of your nose. Just be careful to use pure saline solutions – those with antihistamines can make you drowsy and cause other unwanted side effects. Besides, pure saline is far cheaper than the medicated stuff.

  4. Take a few teaspoons or tablespoons of raw, local honey. Note: do not give babies under 12 months old since honey can contain the spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which causes infant botulism. Since Lily is 9, we just put the honey in our tea.

  5.  #
    Add some spice to your food. Cinnamon supposedly eases breathing and hot spices will get the mucus flowing and get those allergens out of your body. Something as simple as adding red pepper to your pizza can be helpful.

  6. Drink more water, tea and seltzer. Staying hydrated helps thin secretions so they're easier for your body to get rid of and helps with that dry, scratchy feeling. 

  7. Eucalyptus and lavender oils. I put either one or the other on our pillows at night. The lavender calms us down and helps us breathe better while the eucalyptus stops our coughing. 

  8. A cold compress on itchy eyes feels good and washing your eyes out with cool, clean water also washes the pollen out of them. 

  9. Hyland's Complete Allergy 4 Kids is a homeopathic allergy formula for children and it's been working for Lily. It doesn't make her drowsy, works within 20 minutes of her taking it, and stops her nose from watering. 



Until the first frost comes or an asteroid wipes every bit of ragweed off the planet, I'll be dripping. Using the methods above will get me through the next few weeks. Here's to a ultra-brief allergy season!

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If you're interested, here are the links to the rest of the sources I used for this article.

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Thanks for reading!  




Monday, September 15, 2014

3 INCREDIBLE Rosh Hashanah Recipe Sites

Challah - Yummmmm....

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am Christian while my husband is Jewish. Growing up, I didn't know anything about Jewish culture or holidays until I got to know my future husband. In fact, the first time I cooked for his mother for one of the holidays, I made a meat lasagna. Dairy and meat – a MAJOR no-no! No wonder my mother-in-law isn't fond of me.

Raising the kids interfaith, we celebrate both Christian and Jewish holidays, so I've relied on the Web for much of my holiday information. And with the the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah (click here to learn all about it: ) starting next Thursday, September 25th, I thought it fitting to share three of my favorite online holiday recipe resources.

  1. Aish.com (http://www.aish.com/h/hh/r/Easy-to-Make-Rosh-Hashanah-Recipes.html) – This site has simple, freezable recipes to make holiday cooking more manageable.

  2. About.com (http://kosherfood.about.com/od/roshhashana) – You'll find wonderful recipes plus info about 10 symbolic foods for Rosh Hashanah and a nice section on Kosher basics.

  3. Allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipes/holidays-and-events/rosh-hashanah) – You're mouth will start watering the second you visit this site. There are so many recipes here, you'll have trouble choosing which dishes to make!

    Honey Cake

Sure, I could buy a lot of the holiday food pre-made. But part of celebrating my husband's traditions is taking the time to make the holiday personal and special, plus it's important for my children to know all about Judaism and savor the wonderful foods that are a part of that culture. Now pardon me – I have a shopping list to prepare!

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Thanks for reading! Please check back in for some of my favorite Rosh Hashanah resources for kids.
Shalom!








Friday, September 12, 2014

Chores For Teens: They NEED Them



Since a very young age, Junior has been EXPECTED to help around the house.  We always figured that maintaining the house was a group effort and there was no reason even a little kid couldn't help.   As he's grown, his list of chores has varied, primarily due to his time constraints and my low level of patience in getting them done. My son used to be in charge of emptying the dishwasher until I got tired of having a sink piled with dishes awaiting my trusty “emptier.” Some of the tasks he's done or is still doing include:

  1. Matching socks
  2. Vacuuming the first floor of the house
  3. Shoveling snow
     
  4. Raking leaves (which even his little sister helps out with)
  5. Babysitting (since age 13)
  6. Cooking microwaveable meals                                                                      

  7. Dusting
  8. Helping his father assemble things (furniture, our gas grill, toys, etc.)
  9. Taking out the garbage

  10. Taking the recycling to the curb
  11. Wheeling garbage and recycling containers back to the side of the house
  12. Clearing the table after meals

  13. Helping his little sister with her homework

This year, we're giving him even more responsibility. He spent weeks complaining about how our Wifi is “lagging,” so last night, when it crashed, we had him call the cable company. He spent 30 minutes on hold before speaking to the firm's representative; then he had to give the rep our account number, etc., and go through the directed diagnostics to fix the problem. When the call was over, Junior said to me, “Mom, NOW I know how much time you've spent on the phone and why you've been so frustrated calling companies over the years! Now I get it.” Next week he'll start making his own appointments: barber, dentist, doctor, etc.

Other benefits of giving your teens more and more to do include:

  1. It helps them prepare for being on their own.
  2. Kids develop confidence in themselves.
  3. They empathize with you for doing it for them all these years.
  4. It helps them acquire a sense of responsibility and pride in their accomplishments.
  5. Chores help them see themselves as important members of the family.
  6. It helps them give back to the family.
  7. It frees you to other things.
  8. It provides a positive model for younger siblings.
  9. It gives them a chance to fail and learn from their actions.
  10. It emphasizes the need for order and keeping things clean. 


    GIVING THEM THINGS TO DO HELPS THEM BECOME MORE INDEPENDENT AND RESPONSIBLE. 

Sure, he complains about some of his chores and I sometimes have to repeat myself a bit more than I'd like, but overall, the kid is rising to the various challenges. I make sure that I'm flexible and sensitive to his schedule and that I praise him when he's done. Junior is earning his money, but more importantly, he's becoming more assertive and independent. And that's a process I'm privileged to watch. 

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Thanks for reading!  Come back again, won't you?  

 



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

8 Tips For Going To Sleep & Getting Back To Sleep






 
One thing I never realized until I became a parent is that, for me, parenting affected the quality of my sleep. From the first night I brought Junior home, I became attuned to every little noise he made. I'm still attuned to my kids' voices and now, with menopausal hot flashes waking me up every night, I sometimes don't get much sleep at all. Recently, I discovered several things that actually help me get the number of hours of rest that I need to function. Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is just stuff that works for me. Please talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.

Tip 1: Time your caffeine intake. Menopause does tricky things to your body including influencing how certain substances, like caffeine, affect it. I've found that drinking any kind of beverage containing this stimulant after 12 p.m. influences my sleep. Thus, after noon, I switch to seltzer, water, or decaf green tea. For more on caffeine and what it does to your brain, visit this article.

Tip 2: Stop all electronics and television use an hour or two before bed. The blue light from your phone and tablet negatively influence your sleep (for more on that, click on this article from Harvard Health. This was hard for me, but it helped.

Tip 3: Read a book. It relaxes the nerves and calms the mind. (For more on the benefits of sleep before bed, click here.)

Tip 4: Cultivate a sense of gratitude. Instead of worrying at night, I mentally list all of the things I'm thankful for. It relaxes me and gives me a sense of peace.


STOP ALL ELECTRONICS AND TELEVISION USE AN HOUR OR TWO BEFORE BED.  


Tip 5: Sleep in a cool room with some type of white noise. Your body needs to cool down in order to fall asleep and stay asleep. I use a fan which not only helps with the hot flashes, but fills the room with a nice, calming hum. I also use my Chillow when I have hot flashes (to read my review of the Chillow, click here.

Tip 6: Consider melatonin. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I sometimes use a low dose of melatonin with the blessing of my doctor. It helps me go back to sleep and doesn't leave me with the grogginess in the morning that over-the-counter medications did. For more on melatonin, click here.  

Tip 7: Clean your room. I'd heard that de-cluttering helped, but since I'm not the tidiest person, didn't believe it. Yesterday I actually did it and WOW! It did help! I look at my dresser and feel like I'm in a hotel. Apparently looking at the mess caused some stress. Now, no mess, less stress.

Tip 8: If you can't fall asleep or back to sleep in about 15 minutes or so, get out of the bed and go somewhere peaceful to read. 


 

Studies have proven the incredible benefits of sleep. It's essential to health and mood. If you can't sleep, try some of the above. They're working for me!

DO YOU HAVE ANY SLEEP TIPS?  I'D LOVE TO HEAR THEM!

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Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Snackeez! Here's What You Need To Know


Please note: although I was given this product at no-charge in exchange for writing a review, the opinions expressed are purely my own.


My daughter wanted Snackeez! in the worst way, especially when she saw that the product arrived in her favorite pink/blue combination. I'd not gotten her one because the price point ($9.99 and above for one cup) was prohibitive, but how could I deny her this one? Besides, this would be a fine lesson in what a manufacturers and marketers promise versus the truth of the product.

Snackeez! is “your snack and drink in one cup.” It features a flip-top snack lid, a straw, a 4-ounce snack cup which fits snugly into a 16 ounce drink cup, and a non-slip grip. It is supposedly top rack dishwasher safe and designed for kids 3+. One guy on the TV commercial kind of sheepishly says that it's a “party in a cup.” Here's what Lily and I found.

The cup itself is a solid, hard plastic and the item itself is quite attractive. The non-slip grip is a good one, not a flimsy piece that will fall off. The straw slips through the snack cup into the main cup and has a little stopper ring on the bottom that prevents MOST, but not all spillage. When we tipped it over, nothing came out, but if a child holds the cup upside down, liquid will come out through the straw. And although the Snackeez! packaging says it's for kids 3+, the actual product instructions say its for kids 6+. Remember that if you're tempted to purchase this for your toddler.


...IF A CHILD HOLDS THE CUP UPSIDE DOWN, LIQUID WILL COME THROUGH THE STRAW.  


The first problem is the snack cup. While the company's video claims it will hold “a whole bag of chips” and the commercial shows it holding a bunch of chicken nuggets and french fries, the cup, in reality, holds far less. I was able to fit about 2 ounces (or a small packet of Cheerios) in the snack section comfortably. There's no way you're going to be able to fit more than maybe two chicken nuggets and four or five fries in that cup – and it's not designed to keep anything warm or cold since the product does not have any insulation. Still, I can live with that.

The second, and for me, major difficulty, is the snack cup lid. Sure, it flips up easily for kids to access their snacks, but it does so far too easily to keep snacks inside the cup in case of spillage. When we knocked the cup over on the counter, the Cheerios went flying. There is no way the inside of your car is going to stay crumb-free if a kid knocks the Snackeez over.

THE SNACK CUP LID FLIPS UP TOO EASILY TO KEEP THE SNACKS INSIDE THE CUP IN CASE OF SPILLAGE.

Two more, FYIs: the actual drink cup does not hold 16 ounces. If you've got a 16-ounce cup with a two-ounce snack cup sitting in it, you've got 14 ounces of space left for liquid (as indicated by the top of the rubber grip). Also, although the product is supposed to be dishwasher safe, I read at least one review on Amazon claiming that her cup was warped after she washed it that way. I'm not taking any changes – I think hand-washing is the way to go.

STILL, I LOVE THIS PRODUCT!

Still, I do love this product! The idea of an all-in-one snack and drink cup is neat and except for the lid, it's a sturdy item. We're using it to hold Lily's snack and drink on the way back from gymnastics and it's perfectly fine for that. It's also great for TV watching since it minimizes, even if it doesn't eliminate, crumbs. And the spill-free design means I can give the kids a drink while they're working on the computer with the fear that they're going to fry my electronics.

If the price comes down, this will be my go-to birthday party gift. I can fill the inside with some candy and it would definitely make an attractive gift for any kid 6+ and I could even put a gift card in there for the teen's friends.


My daughter is delighted she has a Snackeez! and I'm, overall, very happy with the product.  With realistic expectations, you will be, too.

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Thanks for reading!  





Thursday, September 4, 2014

How Was Your First Day Of School Without Kids?




Mother, Baby, Hands, Birth, Love, Child 
Last night, the one before the kids went back to school, my husband asked, “Is this like Christmas Eve for you?” He's referring to the fact that I recently wrote about how I am DONE with Summer Vacation (to visit that post on Jersey Moms Blog, click here). I love my children, but I need to get stuff done without hearing, “MOM!” every time I sit down to do something.

No, last night was not like Christmas Eve. As anyone with school-age children knows, there's a lot of prep work to get kids ready for their first day. There are lunches to pack, snacks to prepare, forms which need to be filled out and placed in backpacks, supplies to send, etc. And, of course, Junior, who is starting high school, realized at the 11th hour that he needed to get his 3-ring binder in order. Then I needed to make sure both kids were showered and had their clothes ready for the early-morning wake-up call.

Hourglass, Time, Sand Glass, Hour, GlassAfter all that was done and everyone, including hubby, was asleep, I could not. Like a movie, every time I closed my eyes, I saw my kids, at various ages, flash before my eyes. I watched my son, who every day gets closer to leaving the nest, progress from kindergarten up to 9th grade. I saw my daughter standing on the blacktop as Junior stood in line for first grade. Then I viewed her progress through pre-school up to 3rd grade. Like an hourglass, I could feel the sands of time slipping through my fingers.

As I went downstairs to escape the movie playing in my head, I felt guilty. I've done quite a bit of complaining about the kids this Summer. I've played social director, taxi, maid, referee, tour guide, laundress, and many other roles throughout the hot months. I've honestly tried to give them a good vacation, despite their reluctance to go anywhere that would take them away from either a computer or television screen. I reviewed schoolwork with Lily (who has asked that she not be called Diva in any of my blogs anymore) to keep her sharp and encouraged Junior to keep up with his clarinet playing. And I did all that while trying to stay within our budget. Still, since my husband works late and I'm essentially a single mom during the week, I was stretched to my limit. I yelled waaaay too much, explaining to the kids how frustrated I was. As good as I was, I feel I could have been better. Wracked with so many thoughts, sleep did not come for more than 2 hours.

After getting them to school this morning, I thought I would miss them, but was so busy during the day that I barely did. People often wonder what I do during the day with both kids in school. Plenty! My house has many, many projects I could not do with kids underfoot. It, along with my sadly-neglected car, needs a thorough cleaning. Closets need to be organized, toys must be purged, the garage needs organizing, I'm woefully behind with scrapbooking, and there's so much writing to do since I write for four blogs.

Today, after they came home, there was a mountain of paperwork to be signed and initialed. Lily has gymnastics, dinner has to be made, and things made ready for the morning. Of course, Junior just handed me a list of supplies he needs by tomorrow, so I've got to figure out which store I'll visit tonight that won't have me waiting on line at the register for more than an hour.
 
Last night lacked the anticipation of Christmas Eve. But it did hold religious meaning. I am eternally grateful to The Almighty for giving me these children, these miraculous human beings who make my life so rich and drive me crazy in the process. They make me happy in ways I never could have imagined. Now, their growing gives me time to get things done I could not while they were here.


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Thanks for reading!   

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Back To School Time: 5 Tips To Avoid Being Taken Advantage Of

Hand, Palm, Fingers, Spread, Silhouette

 
With school starting, many of us will be interacting with people who will be looking for help, namely PTA organizations and school personnel. They have needs to be met, whether it's filling a less-coveted leadership position, buying school supplies, fundraising, recruiting committee members, or helping out in some other way. Sure, their motives may be altruistic (they're helping out at the school, after all), but the pressure they put on us can be relentless. I've dealt with folks who have outright tried to bully me into doing more at school because, “You're a stay-at-home mom. You have nothing to do all day.” Yeah, right.

So how can those of us who don't want to make enemies and be “nice” avoid being taken advantage of? Here are some tips:

  1. Understand the truly negative consequences of being a chronic people-pleaser. It's stressful and frustrating. It leads to resentment. You may find yourself blowing up at family and friends over minor matters that have nothing to do with those people at all. It also models negative behavior for our children, especially our daughters. Do you really want to do that?

  2. Pick your battles. It's one thing to be asked to bring in store-made cupcakes to an event and quite another to be asked to chair a year-long committee. Some things are intrusive; others are not. 

  3. Use “I” statements to minimize confrontation and keep the other person from getting defensive. When someone is defensive, confrontations get ugly. “I” statements tell the person that you care about the matter at hand. At the same time, you can set your limits. For example, “I know you'd like me to be at that meeting (you're being empathetic), but I can't (asserting yourself).”

  4. Learn to say “no.” This is something many women have trouble with because we want to avoid conflicts. However, a firm, polite “no” that you stand behind is the best way to avoid being taken advantage of. Decline simply and without embellishment. No long explanation of why you can't do something is needed. 

  5. If you feel put on the spot but don't want to give an outright “no,” it's perfectly okay to say, “let me think about it.” You can always get back to them later and politely decline.

No one likes being a patsy, but unfortunately, there are people who will disregard your feelings in order to get their needs met. Sure, we all want to help, especially when it comes to school matters, but often we can't assist as much as organizations or their representatives would like us to. Setting limits, drawing that line in the sand, allows us to help out as much as we want and permits more people to volunteer as well.

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Thanks for reading! 






Sunday, August 31, 2014

What Happens To Your Online Life Once You Die?






We all have digital lives and, obviously, those lives continue as long as we do. But what happens to our online presence once we die?

Check out this great graphic from webpagefx.com which answers just that question:



WE’RE IN CHARGE OF NOT ONLY OUR DATA, BUT THAT OF OUR KIDS. WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE PHOTOS, VIDEOS, AND INFORMATION ONCE WE’RE GONE?

Interestingly enough, there is now a law in Delaware that authorizes executors, guardians, etc. to access the online accounts of the deceased, much like fiduciary trustees can access monetary and medical records “subject to a will, trust, or power-of-attorney.” Individuals can also specify that their heirs “never open or change their digital assets.” For more on that law, click here.

Until the whole country adopts or copies Delaware’s law, it might be something to think about the next time you make out your will or update your existing will.  And if you haven’t considered making out a will, read here for why you should.

Our online presence is important while we’re alive. We, especially as parents, who are in charge of so much online information for not only ourselves, but our children, need to think about what happens to it and who will have access to it once we’re dead.

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 Please note:  This article first appeared on The Geek Parent


Friday, August 29, 2014

A Parent-Child Contract For When A Child Takes A Sport

Girl, Gymnastics, Exercise, Training 

 
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that my daughter not only takes gymnastics, but competes in meets as well. It's a huge time commitment for not only her, but me as I schlep her to and from the gym. Plus, it ain't cheap. Last year toward the end of the season, she decided on more than one occasion that she “didn't want to go.” Each of those time slots was a big waste of money, not to mention the emotional toil it took on me as I tried to get her to go. Diva's father and I decided that those fits are NOT going to happen this year!

The first thing we did, was review with her the pluses and minuses of gymnastics. I've mentioned the minuses, but the pluses are she thinks it's fun, great exercise, the coaches are loving, the sport demands that she respect her body with good nutrition and she's delighted that she's made some good friends as a result of her involvement with the team.  We asked if she really, deep in her heart, wanted to continue.  She assured us that she did.

Secondly, my husband and I thought about what behaviors we wanted to encourage and discourage. I considered what needed to be done before I even get in the car to take her to the gym. Then, I drew up this contract:



Diva's Contract For Being On The Gymnastics' Team


  1. All playdates, whether you've played or not, must be over by (time specified) so that we're not late to practice.
  2. All schoolwork must be done before leaving for the gym.
  3. Dinner must have been eaten before leaving for the gym.
  4. If you miss more 3 practices during the Season, for any other reason than illness as determined by Mom, you will be off the team.
  5. If you have any fits/arguments about going, Mom will inform the Coach. YOU can then tell him why you're not there.
  6. If you are late, you will still go because you have a commitment to the team and understand that showing up for practice is very important.
  7. You must be in bed by (time specified) – no arguments, please.


I understand that taking gymnastics is a privilege, not a right. I agree to the conditions above.



________________________________                                                ________________________
Signed                                                                                                     Date


I presented the contract to Diva and she, on her own, reviewed each point, considering it carefully. She brought up her objections to several and I calmly explained why those points were being included. I told her that that if she did not agree to the contract, I would not pay for her gymnastics for the upcoming month. It was not a threat - it was a fact.  She read the contract meticulously, once more before finally signing it.

The contract now hangs on the refrigerator. The beauty of it is that it clearly states what Diva's commitment is and what happens if she doesn't follow through. Since she has signed it, she can't say later on, “No, I didn't agree to that.”  The proof is on the fridge.  

Is it guaranteed to eliminate any tantrums?  No, but it gives me an out if she does resist on any of the points made. There will be no yelling or manipulating, on my part, to get her to go. As in the real world, if the contract is broken, the privilege will be pulled.