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10 Ways to Prepare Your Child for School

 

 

Starting school can be a difficult time for children. Every child is hesitant to go somewhere new and see people she’s never met before. Here are some helpful ways to prepare your child for her first day of school:

1. Let your child know what his schedule will be like. Tell him what time school begins and ends each day.

2. Ask your child about her feelings — both the excitement and the concerns — about starting school.

3. Visit the school with your child to see his new classroom and meet his new teacher before school officially starts.

4. Point out the positive aspects of starting school. It will be fun and she can make new friends.

5. Let your child know that all kids are nervous about the first day of school.

6. Leave a note in your child’s lunchbox that will remind him you’re thinking of him while he’s at school.

7. Reassure your child that if any problems arise at school, you will be there to help resolve them.

8. Try to have your child meet a classmate before the first day of school so she will already have a friend when school starts.

9. Arrange for your child to walk to school or ride together on the bus with another kid in the neighborhood.

10. Find out about after-school activities that your child can join. Will there be a back-to-school party? Can she join a sports team?

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5-12, by Edward L. Schor (Bantam, 1999)

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6 Weird Reasons To Wear a Menstrual Cup That Aren’t About Saving The Environment

 

 

 

By Gabrielle Moss

I’m sure that you’ve heard all the virtuous reasons that you should switch from tampons or pads to a menstrual cup — you’ll save money, you’ll help the environment, you’ll get to know your mysterious little lady flower a little better — but you might be surprised to find out there are some other, weirder reasons to make the switch. Because while all those usual reasons are valid, they also make menstrual cups sound like the kale of the period product world — something that’s good for you, but not particularly convenient or fun. This stereotype could not be more wrong, my endometrial lining-shedding friends — menstrual cups are convenient, comfortable, and ideal for the laziest and most absent-minded vagina-havers around. They are truly the ultimate in slacker period products.

If you’re rolling your eyes and/or doing the “jerk-off” motion while you’re reading this right now, know that I was once like you — I used tampons. I’d struggled with tampons since middle school — they seemed to always leak and irritate the inside of my vagina, no matter what I did — and never quite figured out how to wear pads in public after skinny jeans became a thing. But I thought a menstrual cup had to be a thousand times worse — if I was struggling with a tiny piece of cotton, how could shoving a contraption that looks like half of a turkey baster into my sexy bits be any better? I thought it was just another kooky health trend that my hippie friends were into, like avoiding refined sugar, or chiding me for eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos before 11 a.m.

But about six years ago, I worked at a store that sold Diva Cups, and saw how utterly devoted every woman who came in to buy one seemed to be. Surely they couldn’t all be deranged, right? I used my employee discount, tried it for my next period, and never looked back.

Here are the six practical reasons you should consider switching over to a menstrual cup — and none of them require you to squat over a hand mirror, I swear.

 
 

YOU DON’T NEED TO REMEMBER TO PACK AN EXTRA

 In my pre-cup life, I was the woman who was constantly wandering the halls of my office like a traveler who had lost her way, accosting any woman who crossed my path to see if she had a spare tampon. Because I was too scatterbrained to remember to pack a tampon half the time, and the office tampon machine was always broken (I have found that pretty much all tampon machines are usually broken), the first day of most of my periods were characterized by a hurried lunch hour trip to CVS, or an improvised pad made out of a quarter pound of layered office toilet paper. Neither option was a great way to start what was already the most annoying week of my month.

But with a menstrual cup, there’s much less to remember. Since you wear a menstrual cup continuously throughout your period, and remove it only to empty and clean it every few hours, there’s no chance of forgetting it when you head out somewhere where it will be hard to acquire or change a tampon (like, say, the beach, or a Van Halen concert). You only need to buy a new one once a year, so there’s no need to run out and pick up a new one at the start of every period; and since you reuse it, there’s no chance of getting your period early and being caught without anything to sop up your crimson tide.

YOU ONLY NEED TO CHANGE IT ONCE EVERY 10 HOURS


I am phenomenally lazy. Like “I am wearing stretch pants right now because I thought buttons were too much to deal with on a Monday” lazy. And cups are perfect for the lazy menstruator — on regular flow days, menstrual cups only need to be changed 2-3 times a day, and can even be left in place for 10 hours without leaking. On heavier flow days, they need to be changed a little more frequently, but they still hold one full ounce (around 28 grams of blood, which is a lot — we usually only produce two ounces of blood during an entire period). Your average tampon holds 6-9 grams of blood, which means a lot more time in the bathroom, trying to pull something bloody out of your vag.
Since I am such an outspoken evangelist for cups, I get a lot of questions about whether they’ll spill if you actually leave one in for ten hours. There are two parts to this answer: 1. you produce way less blood in any given day than you think, so the times that you actually fill your cup to the top are extremely few and far between; and 2. yes, if you get distracted and leave it in for ten hours while you’re on a very heavy flow, the cup will fill up, and you toilet will look like the elevator from The Shining when you empty your cup out. But in six years of cup usage, this misfortune has only befallen me twice, and believe me when I say I am the most distracted person alive, and way worse at paying attention to anything than you are. So while a cup brimming with blood can be a risk, it’s not a huge one.

IT WON’T DRY OUT YOUR VAGINA

 It seems totally counter-intuitive that your vagina could feel dry while liquid is pretty much continuously pouring out of it, but that’s what always happened to me with periods. The hormonal changes that occur during your menstrual cycle — primarily a drop in estrogen levels right when your periods starts — can lead to a dry-feeling vagina. Tampons can irritate a dry vagina, too — I spent many a pre-cup day wincing in my office bathroom, pulling out a tampon that seemed stuck to the walls of my vagina. Since a menstrual cup is made of silicone rather than cotton, it is less likely to feel “stuck” to the walls of your dry vagina— and since you change them less often than a tampon, it also cuts down on the irritation of taking things in and out of a dry vagina, too.

IT WON’T LEAK IN YOUR SLEEP

If you take the sheets off my mattress, it looks like someone committed a very sloppy and poorly planned murder on it. I’ve had it for about ten years, and in the first few years that I had it, nearly ever part of it got speckled with blood from tampons and pads that leaked while I slept. I’m a tosser and turner when I sleep, which meant that pads usually ended up balled into the back of my underwear, giving me a wedgie and letting blood drip through the front of my panties. And my tampons leaked through nearly every time I slept with them, even when my flow didn’t seem that heavy. It seemed like no matter what I did, I was doomed to live a life of scrubbing blood stains out of my pajama bottoms in my bathroom sink at 7 a.m.

This is where I am most devoted to my cup — it cut sleep leakage out of my life. Since a cup works by creating a seal inside your vagina, in my years of using one, I have been spared the indignity of having to explain weird mattress blood stains to gentleman callers and/or waking up most mornings of my period with bloody underpants. Ugh, I feel gross even typing that.

IT MIGHT MAKE YOU FEEL LESS SELF-CONSCIOUS WHILE HOOKING UP

 

As a tampon user, I was extremely uptight about the idea of fooling around while I had a tampon in — the idea that the guy I was with might accidentally touch my tampon string while probing my lady bits just kinda weirded me out. Someone else touching my tampon string felt too intimate, but not in the good way — it felt more like the kind of intimacy based around bodily grossness that you have with your gynecologist. I would get distracted by the idea of it, and then would begin wondering if my tampon was leaking, and before I knew it, I just wasn’t horny any more. I generally avoided a lot of sexual contact during my period for this reason, among others.

My switch to menstrual cups has totally turned things around for me. Not having to worry about my boyfriend accidentally yanking on my tampon string — or getting his hand covered in tampon leakage — has loosened me up significantly on the “third base while you’re on your period” front. I do still take my menstrual cup out to have actual intercourse — although there is a line of menstrual cups that you can wear while having sex — but just knowing that I can jump into fooling around without having to worry about some weird hand-string contact (or take it out too soon and accidentally bleed into my underpants while we’re making out) has been a relief.

IT DOESN’T GET PUSHED OUT WHEN YOU POOP

Okay, I should specify that this is just based on my own personal experience, not any kind of formal research — I’ve seen a number of women online say just the opposite, that pooping seems to squeeze their cup out of place. So this is just one vagina’s tale. But, personally, using a cup has been a pooping-related game changer.

I used to constantly push my tampons out when I pooped — not all the way out, but into that awkward halfway-out position, where the end of the tampon is irritating your vaginal opening, and the top of the tampon is poking something sensitive, and everything is awful. That would lead to me then pulling out a half-dry tampon — which is also a special kind of ladybit torture — and then inserting a new tampon into my now irritated vag, making the entire situation a triple crown of vaginal unpleasantness. Since using a cup, I’ve had the rare occasion where I didn’t insert it correctly beforehand, and pooping squeezes it into an uncomfortable position — but when it’s inserted properly, I can’t feel it, it doesn’t move, and I can finally focus on the important things while pooping (i.e. reading a three month old issue of Us Weekly).

 
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Winter Darkness, Season Depression

Winter depression is still a mystery to scientists who study it. But researchers agree that people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder are particularly sensitive to light, or the lack of it.

 

A wistful feeling comes over us in late autumn, as the last remaining leaves drop, morning frosts cover the ground, and the sun sets earlier each day. Hot cider and the warmth of a favorite old coat may be all you need to face the coming winter with good cheer, but for many people, fall melancholy deepens to winter depression.

Winter depression is still a mystery to scientists who study it. Many things, including brain chemicals, ions in the air, and genetics seem to be involved. But researchers agree that people who suffer from winter depression — also known as “seasonal affective disorder,” a term that produces the cute acronym SAD — have one thing in common. They’re particularly sensitive to light, or the lack of it.

Many studies have shown that people with seasonal affective disorder feel better after exposure to bright light. It seems simple enough: In higher latitudes, winter days are shorter, so you get less exposure to sunlight. Replace lost sunlight with bright artificial light, and your mood improves. But it’s actually far more complex. Alfred Lewy, MD, a seasonal affective disorder researcher at the Oregon Health & Science University, says it’s not only a matter of getting light, but also getting it at the right time. “The most important time to get light is in the morning,” he says.

He thinks seasonal affective disorder is due to a “phase-shift” of the circadian rhythm. The wall clock may tell you it’s time to get up and at ’em, but your body’s internal clock says you should be resting. Bright light in the morning resets your circadian clock.

This is relevant to the “fall back” time change, which happens in places that observe Daylight Saving Time. You might think that setting back the clock one hour would make seasonal affective disorder symptoms worse, because the sun sets one hour earlier. “Actually, I think it’s the opposite,” Lewy says. “The problem is waking up before dawn.”

Lewy says he suspects that “true winter depressives,” the people whose problem is biological and not related to other factors, might feel better after the time change. But the improvement would only be temporary, as days continue to shorten.

Arctic Winters

In Fairbanks, Alaska, in the dead of winter, less than four hours separate sunrise and sunset. With so little sunlight, it seems like no one could escape winter depression; but in fact, many Alaskans fare just fine. One study found that about 9% of Fairbanks residents had seasonal affective disorder. That’s about the same percentage another study found in New Hampshire.

Mark D., who lives near Fairbanks, says he doesn’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder, even though he rarely sees the sun. He pulls 12-hour shifts working in a power plant.

He stays active in winter, so “cabin fever” isn’t a problem for him, either. “If you sit around the house and do nothing all day I suppose it could eat at you,” he says. “But there is always something for me to do — snow-machine, cut firewood … or just going into town and have a cup of coffee with friends at the cafe.

There are people, though, that will have a ten-yard stare in a five-yard room,” he says. Some seek comfort from a bottle, too. “In lots of the smaller villages, that does happen. Drinking is a big problem.”

Seasonal affective disorder researcher Michael Terman, PhD, at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, offers some possible explanations for why seasonal affective disorder isn’t more common in the arctic. For one, people with seasonal affective disorder may be genetically predisposed to clinical depression and light sensitivity. Most people, in any place, wouldn’t have both genetic traits. “Another way to look at it is that those are the people who are still in Alaska,” he says. People who can’t cope might not stay.

But not everyone affected by seasonal changes has full-blown seasonal affective disorder, so estimates of how many people do have it may be low. “Winter depression is a spectrum of severity,” Lewy says. You may have trouble getting up, have bouts of fatigue during the day, or feel compelled to overeat, without feeling depressed.

These symptoms can be treated with the same therapy given to seasonal affective disorder patients. Bright light — generated by a special light box that’s much brighter than a normal lamp — is the first option. It’s proven to work, but not for everyone. Also, the right time for it differs from person to person, Terman says. For a night owl, taking light therapy too early could make seasonal affective disorder worse.

New Ideas

om Wehr, researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, has proposed a new explanation for seasonal affective disorder: It may stem from too much melatonin. When the brain‘s pineal gland starts pumping out melatonin, we get sleepy. During winter, animals secrete melatonin for longer periods than they do at other times of the year. Wehr discovered that people do, too — but only those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

Light therapy would still work if melatonin were the main culprit, because light controls melatonin levels. Researchers are also testing a drug called propranalol, which they hope will improve seasonal affective disorder symptoms by curtailing melatonin flow in the morning hours. Lewy is studying the effects of small melatonin doses given in the afternoon, hoping that they will adjust circadian rhythms.

Raymond Lam, MD, researcher at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and others are studying the role of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. “We know there are interactions between the serotonin system and the circadian system,” Lam says.

Some antidepressants like Paxil and Prozac work for some seasonal affective disorder sufferers. But Lewy says he prefers light therapy to antidepressants, which he says “are probably more of a Band-Aid,” because they’re not specific to winter depression.

Terman has been testing yet another new way to treat seasonal affective disorder. This therapy involves aiming a stream of negatively charged ions at a person sleeping on a special conductive bed sheet. The discovery that high-density negative ions (not the same ions produced by home air filters) helped people with seasonal affective disorder came accidentally from a previous study. A second study, which will end later this year, has also found a beneficial effect.

The air is full of negative ions in springtime, and not in the winter. But that doesn’t explain how ion therapy works. “We don’t yet have an answer to that question,” Terman says; nevertheless, “We’re now convinced that it’s real.”

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29 Tips and Tricks for Traveling the World with Kids

 

 

Pulling off a great family vacation requires a lot of planning, patience and effort. You get better at all this the more you do it. You stay more focused on what’s important — and less on what’s not. I’ve traveled a lot with my kids — and learned a lot of lessons — these are my top tips for having a great time while traveling with children.

Planning Your Trip

1. Check the validity of your passports. Be sure they’re good for 3 months after the day of your arrival home. Many people make the mistake of thinking that as long as they’re back home before their passports expire they’ll be fine. (It seems like common sense doesn’t it?) But not so. Authorities will often demand that your passport be good for several weeks — even several months for some countries — past the day of your arrival home. Some airlines will not let you board the plane if there is not enough extra time on your passport.

2. Scan your passports and email them to yourself, along with any other important documents — e.g. green card, birth certificate, the visa pages of your passport. If you ever lose your passports abroad, this will save you a ton of time and hassle when you have to replace them.

3. Notify your credit card companies before you leave. Banks are very careful about fraud nowadays — and run algorithms on your billing history to spot any irregularities. A charge from a country or city that you’ve never previously had a charge from could easily get your credit card frozen. And unfreezing your account from a foreign city in a different time zone, will be a lot harder than just calling your bank before departure.

4. Take more than one credit or debit card. Cards work differently in foreign countries, some will work at bank ATM but not at a corner store ATM, others will work in restaurants but not at an ATM. There are a number of complex rules and reasons but if you don’t work in the banking industry you’ll never know all of them. The best remedy is to take multiple cards.

5. Make an Out-The-Door list. Leaving for the airport — as your holiday starts — is one of the most stressful times of any trip. Have a list of things you need to grab as you’re leaving your home. I don’t mean a list of things you need to take (i.e. 2 pairs of pants, 3 t-shirts ). I mean a list of things you’ll need to physically grab. It should be a last minute checklist of all the little (and big) things you’ll need as you are going out the door. There will be the bags of course, the money belt, some water in the fridge for the airport, some snacks on the counter and sweaters for the plane. Plus all the indispensables you’ll want to double-check one last time before heading to the airport: passports, credit cards, cash. There’s a lot to remember — so have a list for it!

6. Put enough in your carry-on bags for the first day or 2 of your trip. This is good advice for anyone but especially when traveling with kids. If your bags are lost you don’t want to be hunting for diapers or a pair of shorts immediately after your arrival in a new city or country.

7. Count your suitcases, backpacks, handbags and keep the number in your head. This is simple and maybe painfully obvious, but it sure helps. You hop in a taxi, “bag count — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  — yep they’re all here”. Easy. (Bigger families may want to conduct a kid count as well.)

8.Use a small digital camera. The fantastic shots you think you’ll get of the Grand Canyon, or Taj Mahal or Great Wall of China will be left and forgotten. The really great photos that you’ll love and savor for years to come will be the up-close and intimate shots of your kids and your family. And the key to getting great family photos is to take a lot of them. A ton of them! And the way you do that is to take a small camera, have it with you all the time and take pictures as quickly and discreetly as possible. You might insist, I’ll do all that, but with a bigger better camera. But you probably won’t.

9. Book a hotel for your first nights of your trip — but then stay flexible. My advice for traveling singles (or couples) is always to book a hotel for their first night after arrival, then get your bearings, figure out where you want to go and just find hotels as you need them. I’ve upgraded this for traveling families — reserve the first 2 or 3 nights. I realize this advice won’t work for everyone. Some people need certainty and plans and dates. And having all your hotels reserved for the duration of your trip can make things easier. But you’ll also lose some flexibility. If something’s working — if you’ve found a great little beach resort or a really fun hotel with a friendly staff — you’ll have to say goodbye because you’ve already booked a room in the next town. On the other hand having the freedom to leave a place that isn’t living up to expectations is a great bonus and can make the difference between an average vacation and an unforgettable one.

Practicalities of Travel

10. Welcome — don’t fear — airport security. Security checkpoints force parents to be lean and efficient with their packing. Take what you need but don’t take what is unnecessary. Security can also be a good reason not to take stuff on the plane that you don’t want your kid to have (i.e. your kid’s new water gun). And insisting that you keep all your little bottles and creams in a Ziploc bag — what a great idea!

11. Don’t line up early for trains and airplanes or anything where you have a reserved seat. If you’re one of those people who like to maximize their time on the airplane, by all means, board early, get that seat warm, burn through all your snacks before anyone else has even boarded. How great!  You’ll have enough time on the plane without artificially extending it. As my son said on our return trip from Tokyo, “We have to go when they say final call right Papa?” Right!

12. One parent in charge. Don’t share the burden of any one duty while traveling. Packing for example. One person packs and knows where everything is. Two people pack and no one really knows where anything is. Same with hotels. One person plans them, arranges them, and books them. Do you have that confirmation email or do I? Na-Uh!

13. Get online storage for photos. Besides losing the kids, my photos are what I’m most concerned with losing. Forget your bag on the train platform and there goes your camera — and your photos. You can get free online storage at Adrive (50GB) or SkyDrive (25GB). (You will need a laptop, of course, to upload your photos.) Upload your pictures every night or two and then when you take your camera out on that fishing trip you’re not worried about dropping your camera and losing the last 2 weeks of photos.

14. Hire a car and driver. If you’re traveling in an inexpensive or developing country consider getting a driver instead of driving yourself. Prices are usually reasonable and they’ll know the ways and customs of the road better than you will. (Tip: have the address of your destination for longer distance trips. When you start your trip the driver will inevitably say, “Oh yes, I know where that is”, which translates to “I’ll ask for directions when we get there”. An address, instead of just a name, will help speed the process.)

Being There

15. Beat jet lag: stay up late the first night. Get outside and do something active. Long walks are good. Parks and playgrounds are great. Kids are usually so excited by their new environment you can get away with doing a lot that at home might not work. One caveat: most people forget — or don’t realize — that meal times can be way off as well in a new time zone. If your child usually eats a big breakfast and lunch but a small dinner at home. This can translate into no appetite at breakfast or lunch and then ravenous hunger at 7pm and midnight. Have a good array of healthful snacks in your hotel room on the first night.

16. Have a plan for the day. It doesn’t need to be cast in stone – stay flexible and easy going — but you should walk out the hotel door in the morning with a plan of where you’re going, what subway or bus you’re taking, what attractions do you have planned for the day? Perhaps obvious and natural to some but for me it wasn’t and once I took the time to plan the day on the night before, everything became a lot easier.

16. Check the website of the attraction just before your visit. It’s amazing how often museums will have closed for renovations, changed their schedule, or have a visiting show in place of its usual exhibits. Sometimes these changes can be nothing more than a nuisance. Other times they can ruin your plans for the day. Checking the website in the days before your visit eliminates most of this uncertainty.

17. Ask your hotel concierge for suggestions. Another obvious one that you nonetheless might skip because it sounds so touristy and lame. But they often know little tips and tricks for getting around the city and visiting attractions that can make your life a lot easier. Depending on the style of hotel asking at the front desk will often get you the owner or management who might have a monetary interest in directing you towards a certain establishment or tour group. A concierge usually has no connections at all and just give good advice.

18. Don’t do too much BUT don’t do too little either. I think the biggest mistake parents traveling with kids make is doing too little not too much. Get out there. Enjoy. Experience. Wear the kids out and get them tired.

Things to Pack

This could be a long list. I’ve picked 6 essentials.

19. A swim shirt. These make applying sun lotion so much easier. The back, shoulders and face burn the easiest and this takes 2 of those 3 out of play. But they’re not useful just on hot sunny days. If you’re swimming slightly out of the summer season — or even at a temperate swimming pool — they help keep some heat in and delay those chattering teeth for a little longer.

20. A great baby carrier or backpack. These are life savers in airports, train stations, cobblestone streets and hotels without elevators. Strollers are something to consider but if you have a little baby with you, a good carrier is close to a necessity.

21. A fabric high chair. These wrap around pretty much any type or size of chair and hold the baby in place so they can sit at the table. (There are many on the market but Totseat is a good one if you’re looking for names.)

22. A flashlight and a nightlight. Street lighting might not be as consistent as in your hometown and you’ll probably have a few nights returning to your hotel down a quiet road or path. A torch or flashlight can come in very handy. And a nightlight for the bathroom: Hotel rooms are unfamiliar and finding a bathroom in the middle of the night can be tricky. If your child — or even you — have to turn on a light it makes it much more likely they’ll have trouble getting back to sleep. A stumble over an unfamiliar ledge in a dark bathroom could make for a midnight visit to the hospital — or at least a lot of tears. A nightlight (with plug adapter if necessary) can solve these problems.

23. First Aid Tape— aka surgical tape. This stuff is great. Adhesive tape that is so much easier to apply than a band aid and actually sticks to fingers, toes, and the places kids really get cuts.

Staying Safe

Most things you do won’t make any difference. The top 5 that might:

24. Know the fire escapes. A good practice at any time but especially in foreign countries where the exits and escape routes might not be as well marked.

25. Drill your kids on swimming pool safety. When staying in a hotel with a swimming pool remind your young kids that they don’t go in the pool without telling mom or dad. Make it the first thing you do after you put down your bags in the room.

26. Get the necessary vaccines and get them early. Check with the CDC or NHS and get the relevant vaccines and anti-malarial medicines well before departure — some vaccines can require multiple visits and can take a few months to get the entire series of shots. Many adults haven’t had their booster shots, so get those as well. There’s nothing worse than getting a deep cut in place far from a hospital and then having to worry about whether your Tetanus booster is up to date.

27. Fly longer distances and avoid the highways. Flying is the safest mode of transport. There can be many reasons to drive instead of fly but don’t ever not fly and choose car or bus for safety reasons alone. The attacks on 9/11 killed almost 3000 people. Unknown to many, it also resulted in the death of another 2100 in the months that followed because people stopped flying and chose the road instead — a much more dangerous mode of transport. And that’s in the U.S. — if you’re traveling in a developing country the disparity in road and flight safety rates will be even higher.

28. Play act out unusual or worrisome scenarios. If you’re concerned about your child being lost in a busy market, then act out the scene and what they should do. If you tell a kid what to do when they’re lost, they’ll probably forget it. If you act out what they should do they’re much more likely to remember it. (There’s a reason employers do fire evacuation drills — they work!)

Last Word

29. Stay Positive! Be Happy! This can mean many things. For starters, you need a keen eye for what’s important and what’s not. With the typical boundaries and rules turned up side down, it’s very easy to become a “No, No, No, No” parent. Focus on the important stuff. Things that make your day easier and keep everyone safe. Try to hear yourself talking — you should be saying far more positive things than negative things.

Like at home, praise effort not results. Praise the process not the outcome. Comment on how hard they worked or how patient they were, not how well they did a task or how good they are at something.

And finally it means, living in the moment and taking everything in that you can. Live it! Experience it! Try new things and get out of your comfort zone. Become a kid again — explore, investigate, ask questions — and your children will come right along with you.

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The Day My Life Changed – The day I lost my sight

I get asked a lot about how I lost my sight and the group it has the most impact on are young school aged children. This is not a story to engender pity, but to educate, to drive home that tragedy/accidents can happen anywhere.

As a child we always think nothing bad can happen to us. We go through life thinking that anything bad will happen to everyone else and that there are no consequences to our actions.

I remember the age of when my life changed forever! I was 12 years old when my world was turned upside down. A teenage boy was dared by another teenager to push me off the top of a slide. One of the very tall twisty ones. During this time slides were on concrete and not soft sand. There was no where for me to go. I heard the dare, flying through the air and then waking up in the hospital.

I woke up strapped down in a hospital bed and everything was black. I panicked! I called out and no one answered for at least 5 minutes. When they finally did I was told what happened, that I had patches on my eyes and was strapped down so that I wouldn’t try and take the patches off. Of course this just made me more upset and I panicked even harder.

For a long time after that event I was severely depressed. I had no idea how I would cope. For me my life was over! Thanks to 2 very good friends of mine I was made to see that I could still do all the things I loved. I just had to find another way of doing them!

As you can see my story was not an accident, but done on purpose. Maybe that boy didn’t know how bad things would turn out, but he had to know what he was doing was wrong somewhere. All the times adults say “don’t rough house in the playground” is for a good reason.

Tragedy/accidents can happen anywhere!

 

May

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Anna Nicole Smith – Legend of the month

 

Born on November 28, 1967, in Mexia, Texas, Anna Nicole Smith rose to fame as a model. She was named Playboy‘s Playmate of the Year in 1993. In 1994, she wed 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, who soon died. Smith spent years fighting for a share of her late husband’s estate. She starred in her own reality show from 2002 to 2004. Smith died of an accidental drug overdose in 2007.

Early Life

Anna Nicole Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on November 28, 1967, in Mexia, Texas. A high school dropout, Smith’s dramatic life began quietly in the small Texas town of Mexia. She had a difficult childhood, growing up without her father who left the family when she was only a baby. 

As a teenager, Smith worked at a local fried chicken restaurant. There she met cook Billy Smith, and the pair married when she was only 17 years old. The couple had a son named Daniel in 1984, but the marriage later broke up. Not content with small-town life, Smith dreamed of becoming the next Marilyn Monroe.

Before her big break, Anna Nicole Smith worked numerous jobs, including as a Wal-Mart employee and a dancer. She left her son in the care of her mother, Virgie Arthur, to work in Houston at a strip club. In 1991, Smith met Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II while working at a club. She soon had her own reversal of fortune.

Fight for Fortune

Smith married Marshall in 1994. At the time, she was 26 and he was 89. The tremendous age difference between the couple surprised many, and Smith endured allegations of only being after Marshall’s sizeable fortune. According to People magazine, the bride took off for Greece without her groom shortly after the wedding. The pair also weren’t living together in Marshall’s final days, and the unusual union ended with Marshall’s death in 1995. 

Smith claimed that Marshall had promised a share of his estate, but he had not put her in his will. She spent years fighting his son, E. Pierce Marshall, in court. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006, with the court’s decision opening the door for Anna Nicole Smith to collect money from her late husband’s estate, though the case was not yet settled. 

Reality Star and Spokesperson

In 2002, television viewers got an inside look at Smith and her wacky, quirky ways with a new series. The Anna Nicole Show, a reality program, followed her through her daily activities. At times, the show was difficult to watch as Smith seemed disoriented or confused, but the audience continued to tune in to see what Smith might do or say next. She was often shown in the company of Howard K. Stern, her attorney. While the show went off the air in 2004, Anna Nicole Smith remained popular with the American public.

Having struggled with her weight on and off for years, Anna Nicole Smith became a spokesperson for a line of diet products in 2003. She lost a significant amount of weight and did some modeling and acting. In 2006, Smith starred in the science fiction-comedy Illegal Aliens. Her son Daniel also worked on the project with her.

Personal Problems

While her professional life appeared to be on the rise, Anna Nicole Smith experienced both joy and tragedy in her personal life. She announced that she was pregnant during the summer of 2006, and gave birth to a daughter on September 7, 2006, at a hospital in Nassau, Bahamas. She named her child Dannielynn, and was thrilled to be a mother again. But her happiness was short-lived. Her 20-year-old son Daniel died only three days later from an apparent drug overdose. Later reports indicated that the interaction of methadone and two different types of antidepressants may have caused his death. Anna Nicole Smith never truly recovered from the loss.

Smith found herself in the middle of media frenzy with reports on her son’s death appearing on entertainment news programs on an almost daily basis. She also became embroiled in a paternity lawsuit regarding her daughter. Her ex-boyfriend, photographer Larry Birkhead, claimed to be Dannielynn’s father. Smith stated that her attorney, Howard K. Stern, was the child’s father, and he is listed on the child’s birth certificate. In the midst of all this heartbreak and legal battles, Smith and Stern held a small commitment ceremony, after which they ate fried chicken and drank champagne. While the event symbolized their devotion to each other, it was not legally binding.

Death and Legacy

Anna Nicole Smith died on February 8, 2007, at the age of 39, after being found unconscious in her hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. In death as in life, Anna Nicole Smith made headlines around the world. As a tribute, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner told the press at the time: “She was a very dear friend who meant a great deal to Playboy and to me personally.”

After Smith’s death, there was much speculation regarding the paternity of her daughter, including one claim made by Prince Frederick von Anhalt, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband. He told the Associated Press that he had an affair with Anna Nicole Smith and believed that he was Dannielynn’s father. In April 2007, it was determined by DNA test results that Larry Birkhead was the biological father of Dannielynn. Howard K. Stern did not contest this ruling and legal custody was granted to Birkhead.  

There was also speculation over the cause of the reality star’s death, with authorities eventually announcing that it was an accidental drug overdose. Smith had been taking nine different kinds of medication in the days before her death. Stern and two others were later found guilty of crimes associated with her death. All of these convictions were thrown out in 2011 except for a misdemeanor against Smith’s psychiatrist.

That year, the battle over Smith’s claims on Marshall’s estate once again made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. This time, it was determined that the earlier Texas probate court finding against Smith would stand. Legal proceedings would continue until 2014, with a judge ruling against another lawsuit brought forth by Smith’s team.

In 2012, Stern again faced legal consequences for his alleged role in supplying Smith’s prescription drug habit. The Second District Court of Appeal objected with the vacating of these convictions against Stern. The court stated that it believed that Stern may have “knowingly participated in conduct designed to avoid detection and scrutiny” in regard to the prescription drugs used by Smith, according to Eonline.com.

While ridiculed by some for her spacey persona, Smith was also admired for her rise to success despite so many personal obstacles. Perhaps the quintessential underdog, Smith had lots of fans rooting for her to overcome the recent tragedies. Unfortunately, that was not to be. After her death, she has been compared to many of Hollywood’s beautiful women who died too young, including Jean Harlow and Anna Nicole Smith’s personal favorite, Marilyn Monroe.

Smith continues to be a subject of great fascination and speculation to this day. Her life and sudden death has inspired numerous books, documentaries and movies. In 2011, an opera entitled Anna Nicole—telling Smith’s tragic tale in song—debuted in London to mostly favorable reviews. In 2013, Lifetime TV network released The Anna Nicole Story, with Agnes Bruckner starring as the troubled pin-up and Martin Landau portraying J. Howard Marshall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Financial help and benefits for single parents

 

By Karen Holmes, Welfare Benefits Specialist at the charity Turn2us

According to official statistics, over a quarter of households with dependent children are single parent families and there are two million single parents in Britain today.*

Sadly, children from single parent families are twice as likely to live in poverty as children from families with two parents.** With the rising costs of food, energy and childcare placing increased strain on household budgets, it’s more important than ever that those families who are struggling can claim the financial help they are entitled to.

The following guide explains the financial support that could be available to single parents and how they can access it.

Benefit entitlements

The first thing parents can do to see if they can maximise their income is to check which welfare benefits and tax credits they might be entitled to.

Whether you are working or not, if you are on a low income you might be eligible to claim Child Tax Credit which helps with the costs of bringing up a child. The amount you could receive is made up of different elements based on your personal circumstances including how many children you have, and whether or not they have any disabilities.

If you are working and on a low income, you may also be entitled to Working Tax Credit, a benefit that includes a Childcare Element to help with the costs of registered or approved childcare. Single parents must work at least 16 hours to qualify.

Single parents, who are responsible for a child under five and are not in work, or working less than 16 hours a week, may be entitled to Income Support.

Other benefits you may be eligible for depend on your household income and situation. Even if you have checked your entitlements to benefits in the past, it is important to check again, especially if you have recently experienced a change in your circumstances. The free and easy-to-use Turn2us Benefits Calculator will help you work out what you are entitled to, the amounts you could receive and how to make a claim.

If you are a single parent with a child about to turn 16, you may also like to try this tool from single parent charity Gingerbread to work out if your welfare benefits and tax credits will be affected when they reach their next birthday.

Charitable grants

There is generally low awareness of charitable grants, and research by Turn2us found that nine out of ten people on low incomes had no idea that this help may exist. Yet there are over 3,000 charitable funds available which help people in different circumstances including single parents.

The funds award one-off grants for educational and welfare purposes, as well as other forms of support to those who meet their eligibility criteria. 

Turn2us has a free and easy-to-use Grants Search tool which provides access to all of these grants so you can find ones that best meet your situation. This also includes details of each fund’s eligibility criteria and how to apply. 

Other financial help

Claiming certain welfare benefits may make you eligible to receive other help with the costs of raising a child.

For example, if you claim one of the following: Income Support; Income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; and in some cases Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, and are pregnant or have a child under four, you may be entitled to receive Healthy Start Food vouchers, which can be exchanged for free milk, fruit or vegetables, or free vitamin supplements. Claiming some of these benefits may also make you eligible for free school meals for your children.

Depending on your circumstances, you may also be able to receive help with school uniforms and free school travel for your children. You can find further information about all of these benefits on the Turn2us website.

Further information and tools

Single parents who would like help with budgeting can try Money Advice Service’s budget planner tool and if debts are becoming a worry for you, the Money Advice Trust offers online debt service My Money Steps and National Debtline, a free confidential helpline (0808 802 4000).

Gingerbread, the charity that supports single parents provides money advice and support through its website and helpline.

Jane’s story

One person to have benefited from accessing support is Jane, a single mother of three who was out of work and struggling to cope with everyday costs.

By using the Turn2us Benefits Calculator, Jane identified that in addition to the Housing and Child Benefits she was already receiving; she was also entitled to Income Support at just over £70 per week.  Her eligibility for this benefit meant that she could also apply for free school meals for her two eldest children.

Jane, who is now working part-time, said: “Income Support made all the difference and helped me through a very difficult time. My job at a children’s support centre means I now get the opportunity to help other parents in a similar situation.”

* Office for National Statistics, 2012

** Households Below Average Income (HBAI) 1994/95-2011/12. Department for Work and Pensions, 2013

Booking.com

Vindictive people – It is all mums fault

What makes people so vindictive and so willing to hurt others, especially those that have a connection with one another such as children? Do you get a thrill of knowing you know how to push just the right buttons to cause emotional pain to that person?

You have situations such as couples having a child together, all the family members and friends get along to some degree and things are going great. Then *bam* everything starts to fall apart and the couple is no longer a couple. Uh oh, what happens now?

Well, it’s definitely not the parents sit down as adults and work out how to raise their child and who does what when and how. No no, the father of the child has to bring up something that happened years ago that the mother did and clearly never forgave her for and starts to tell everyone how unfit she is to raise the child. The father then starts trying to take steps to cut the mother out of the child’s life, but also telling the mother of the child that he would do everything possible to make sure she gets to spend time with their child even though they aren’t together. Mixed signals much? Lets make matters even worse and now throw in the family members of the father of the child. Since the couple is no longer a couple then *hey* who cares about the mother of the child. You’re no longer with our son so we’ll just help try and keep our grandchild away from you.

Seriously are these people not thinking of the child? Is all that goes through their mind is how best to hurt the mother?

What about married couples that have children and things fall apart?

Sadly you get the same thing and sometimes even worse! Mothers that use their children as weapons to hurt the father by turning the child against their dad. They’ll tell them things like your dad doesn’t love us or want you and that’s why he left or you’re dad’s a bum and we don’t need him.

There’s cases where you see joint custody with the parents and the grandparents for whatever reasons, best interest of the parties involved at the time of the family dynamics falling apart that also can turn ugly. Life moves on, the parents mature and grow in their new situations and it’s time to explore outside of everyone’s comfort zone. *whoops* the grandparents don’t like this idea very much and start making up lies and twisting facts to try and prevent this from occurring.

Again I ask do the vindictive ones not stop and think of what harm they are causing? Do they really not care? Is it really all about them?

Congrats on baby number 4, Ayda and Robbie

Ayda and Robbie Williams celebrated Valentine’s Day in a very special way as they announced the birth of their fourth child.

“On this Valentine’s Day, we would like to celebrate love in the most awesome way… Beau Benedict Enthoven Williams,” Ayda wrote in an Instagram post, sharing the couple’s good news with her followers.

“As with Coco, he is biologically ours, but born via our same incredible surrogate. We are so blessed to have our healthy son safely in our arms and are officially complete as a family.”

Golden Globes 2020: Full list of winners and nominees

The winners of this year’s Golden Globe Awards have been announced at a ceremony in Los Angeles, California.

Here is the full list of winners and nominees:

Best motion picture – drama

  • WINNER: 1917
  • The Irishman
  • Joker
  • Marriage Story
  • The Two Popes

Best actress in a motion picture – drama

  • Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
  • Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
  • Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
  • Charlize Theron – Bombshell
  • WINNER: Renée Zellweger – Judy

Best actor in a motion picture – drama

  • Christian Bale – Ford v Ferrari
  • Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
  • Adam Driver – Marriage Story
  • WINNER: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
  • Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

Best motion picture – musical or comedy

  • Dolemite Is My Name
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Knives Out
  • WINNER: Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
  • Rocketman

Best actress in a motion picture – musical or comedy

  • Ana De Armas – Knives Out
  • WINNER: Awkwafina – The Farewell
  • Cate Blanchett – Where’d You Go, Bernadette
  • Beanie Feldstein – Booksmart
  • Emma Thompson – Late Night

Best actor in a motion picture – musical or comedy

  • Daniel Craig – Knives Out
  • Roman Griffin Davis – Jojo Rabbit
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
  • WINNER: Taron Egerton – Rocketman
  • Eddie Murphy – Dolemite is My Name

Best motion picture – animated

  • Frozen 2
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • The Lion King
  • WINNER: Missing Link
  • Toy Story 4

Best motion picture – foreign language

  • The Farewell
  • Les Miserables
  • Pain and Glory
  • WINNER: Parasite
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Best actress in a supporting role in any motion picture

  • Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
  • Annette Bening – The Report
  • WINNER: Laura Dern – Marriage Story
  • Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
  • Margot Robbie – Bombshell


Best actor in a supporting role in any motion picture

  • Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
  • Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes
  • Al Pacino – The Irishman
  • Joe Pesci – The Irishman
  • WINNER: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best director in a motion picture

  • Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
  • Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
  • Bong Joon Ho – Parasite
  • WINNER: Sam Mendes – 1917
  • Todd Phillips – Joker

Best screenplay – motion picture

  • Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story
  • Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won – Parasite
  • Anthony McCarten – The Two Popes
  • WINNER: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
  • Steven Zaillian – The Irishman

Best original score

  • Motherless Brooklyn – Daniel Pemberton
  • Little Women – Alexandre Desplat
  • WINNER: Joker – Hildur Gudnadottir
  • 1917 – Thomas Newman
  • Marriage Story – Randy Newman

Best original song – motion picture

  • Beautiful Ghosts – Cats
  • WINNER: I’m Gonna Love Me Again – Rocketman
  • Into the Unknown – Frozen 2
  • Spirit – The Lion King
  • Stand Up – Harriet

Best television series – drama

  • Big Little Lies
  • The Crown
  • Killing Eve
  • The Morning Show
  • WINNER: Succession

Best actress in a drama series

  • Jennifer Aniston – The Morning Show
  • WINNER: Olivia Colman – The Crown
  • Jodie Comer – Killing Eve
  • Nicole Kidman – Big Little Lies
  • Reese Witherspoon – The Morning Show

Best actor in a drama series

  • WINNER: Brian Cox – Succession
  • Kit Harington – Game of Thrones
  • Rami Malek – Mr Robot
  • Tobias Menzies – The Crown
  • Billy Porter – Pose

Best television series – musical or comedy

  • Barry
  • WINNER: Fleabag
  • The Kominsky Method
  • The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
  • The Politician

Best actress in a television series – musical or comedy

  • Christina Applegate – Dead to Me
  • Rachel Brosnahan – The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
  • Kirsten Dunst – On Becoming a God in Central Florida
  • Natasha Lyonne – Russian Doll
  • WINNER: Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Fleabag

Best actor in a television series – musical or comedy

  • Michael Douglas – The Kominsky Method
  • Bill Hader – Barry
  • Ben Platt – The Politician
  • Paul Rudd – Living With Yourself
  • WINNER: Ramy Youssef – Ramy

Best television limited series or motion picture made for television

  • Catch-22
  • WINNER: Chernobyl
  • Fosse/Verdon
  • The Loudest Voice
  • Unbelievable

Best actress in a limited series or TV movie

  • WINNER: Michelle Williams – Fosse/Verdon
  • Helen Mirren – Catherine the Great
  • Merritt Wever – Unbelievable
  • Kaitlyn Dever – Unbelievable
  • Joey King – The Act

Best actor in a limited series or a motion picture made for television

  • Chris Abbott – Catch-22
  • Sacha Baron Cohen – The Spy
  • WINNER: Russell Crowe – The Loudest Voice
  • Jared Harris – Chernobyl
  • Sam Rockwell – Fosse/Verdon

Best actress in a supporting role in a series, limited series or a motion picture made for television

  • Meryl Streep – Big Little Lies
  • Helena Bonham Carter – The Crown
  • Emily Watson – Chernobyl
  • WINNER: Patricia Arquette – The Act
  • Toni Collette – Unbelievable

Best actor in a supporting role in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television

  • lan Arkin – The Kominsky Method
  • Kieran Culkin – Succession
  • Andrew Scott – Fleabag
  • WINNER: Stellan Skarsgård – Chernobyl
  • Henry Winkler – Barry

CONGRATULATIONS!!!