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A “Spooktacular” Classroom Party

  By Pam Molnar   Halloween classroom parties have always been a special time for preschool and elementary students. My children especially enjoyed wearing their Halloween costumes and participating in an all-school parade. As the years passed, however, my kids started to complain when a craft or game was repeated from a previous year. If you are looking to bring some new life into your child’s classroom party, check out these fresh ideas for crafts, games and activities.   Craft 1: String Pumpkin Door Hanger Purchase a 6-inch wooden embroidery hoop for each student along with a skein of orange yarn. Cut 10-foot pieces for each child. Secure the end of the yarn at the top of the hoop and randomly wrap the yarn across and around the hoop to create a unique pattern of orange. Tie off to secure. Cut out a foam stem and hot glue it to the top of the embroidery hoop along with foam leaves. Provide a foam sign and self-adhesive letters for the kids to spell out “Happy Fall” and glue it to the bottom of the hoop. Make a hanger out of ribbon or leftover orange yarn.   Craft 2: Fall Coasters Purchase four 3 x 3 tiles for each student. Mod Podge colorful leaves over the coasters and set out to dry. Add felt circles on the bottom of the tile to keep it from scratching wooden surfaces. When the tiles are dry, stack and tie with a ribbon to make a coaster set to enjoy for the rest of the season. (Hint: It is best to let the tiles dry...

This Mom Got Fit!

By Sandi Haustein When I was in college, I was the skinny girl who could eat whatever she wanted and not gain a pound: bottomless chips and queso, huge bowls of pasta, bloomin’ onions—you name it, I ate it. But ten years, three pregnancies, and three dress sizes later, I struggled with my self-image for the first time in my life. I constantly compared myself to other young moms wondering how they had lost their baby weight while I still carried mine around. I hated going home to my small town because people I had known my whole life didn’t recognize me. Then, to make matters worse, a difficult loss plunged me into a deep depression, and I gained an extra ten pounds on my already overweight figure. My overeating and obsessive soda drinking was damaging my body, but I didn’t know how else to deal with the grief. I needed to exercise, but in my depression, the last thing I wanted to do was put on my running shoes. I couldn’t start eating better, losing weight and feeling healthier unless I made a change, but I knew that I didn’t have it in me to do it alone. I decided to develop a competition with friends who wanted to not only lose weight but also build life-long healthy habits. I came up with a list of rules, hoping for three or four women to join me in accountability. To “qualify” for my competition, participants had to be at least 20 pounds overweight and willing to donate $10 towards a prize pot. During a period of 15 weeks, we...

My Mom’s Legacy

  By Nicole Cundiff Life is made up of tiny moments. In 2007, a shocking moment changed my life and the life of my three sisters when our mother, Colleen, received a late-stage ovarian cancer diagnosis. The diagnosis would send us into an unfamiliar world of invasive procedures, harsh treatments and uncertainty. My mom was a young, vibrant 52-year-old woman who was traveling the world one summer when the classic signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer presented themselves. She was proactive and visited three different doctors, but each of them failed to recognize her symptoms as ovarian cancer. When she was finally ordered a CT scan, she had a football sized tumor and thousands of smaller tumors occupying her abdomen. We felt helpless but wanted to do something. My three sisters and I started blogging about our mom’s journey with the intention of keeping family and friends informed about her health and treatment progress. Before long, her amazing spirit and infectious personality poured through the blog, and people all over the world were listening. During our mom’s five-year battle with ovarian cancer, we learned a lot about the disease and felt an increasing duty to use our platform and connections to make a difference. We began hosting fundraisers and donated the proceeds to ovarian cancer research. In 2011, my husband, Billy, a 12-year veteran kicker for the NFL, had an amazing opportunity with the Baltimore Ravens, his team at the time, to start a 501(c)(3). Our path became clear and Colleen’s Dream Foundation was established. By November 2012, the foundation received nonprofit status. My mom, who proudly served on...

Mom’s Night Out

Compiled by Kim Heitzmann It’s no secret that being a mom is a tough job: it’s 24/7/365 and the break time is minimal. While motherhood is absolutely amazing and the perks are well worth it, every mom needs time to relax, rejuvenate and refocus. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will? That’s why it’s important for moms to get out of the house and have fun with their friends and significant others. Whether you want to be a kid again, have fun with your best girlfriends, or enjoy a romantic date, we’ve rounded up some of the best places in the Valley to enjoy a Mom’s Night Out. So, book the babysitter and head out. You’ll be glad you did.   Adult Fans of LEGO® Night There’s no place like LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Arizona to embrace your inner child, and Tempe’s newest and hottest attraction will let you do exactly that when it hosts its monthly Adult Fans of LEGO® nights. Set for once a month at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Arizona’s home at Arizona Mills mall, guests will enjoy uninterrupted access (translation: no kids) to the facility in its entirety, and an assortment of themed events offering opportunities for healthy competition, model-building and raffle prizes, among other draws. The Adult Fans of LEGO® Night promises fun for all. For more information, visit LEGOLANDdiscoveryCenter.com/Arizona. Creative Fun Pinspiration is an ultimate date night destination for couples or for a fun girl’s night out. Pinspiration is a DIY art studio and bar to make a mess and socialize, whether you are artsy or a newbie crafter. Pinspiration’s hip...

Five Ways Your Vote Impacts Education

  If you’re a registered voter, it’s important to understand how your vote may impact your child’s educational experience. We’ve outlined five ways your vote has the potential to change the education landscape at your child’s school, in your community and statewide. For a more in-depth look, check here.   Determination of school district board members: In your neighborhood, governing board members hire the district superintendent, set salaries for teachers and other staff, approve disciplinary policies, and manages district budgets and property. School board members also weigh in on policies, including the schools’ curriculum (which stipulates how educators teach the state-determined standards).   Selection of state legislators: The 90 members of the Arizona state House and Senate control a sizable portion of education funding through our state’s budget. They also pass laws regulating everything from the minimum length of the school year to issues of school choice and access to programs like full day kindergarten.   Passage of bonds and overrides: This additional tax revenue is an important source of funding for school districts in every corner of the state. Passage of bonds and overrides make so many improvements possible, including purchase of updated textbooks, upkeep of school infrastructure and educational initiatives such as full-day kindergarten. Bonds are generally used to fund projects that have a lifespan longer than five years. This might include new or improved buildings, updated technology and buses. Overrides provide new funding to support teaching and learning. These funds could be used to increase teacher salaries or benefits, purchase classroom supplies, add new programs (such as art or P.E.) and purchase furniture or equipment.  ...

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

What parents and caregivers should know about Pokémon Go By Michelle Talsma Everson It just debuted two months ago but Pokémon Go has become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, according to a recent infographic released by Touchstone Research. With millions of youth striving to “Catch ‘Em All,” what should adults know about the game? We talked to the experts to find out. What is Pokémon Go?  In Japanese, “Pokémon” means “pocket monster,” and the Pokémon franchise has been around for years in the form of TV shows, comics, card games, and more. “Pokémon Go is a free-to-play mobile app that you can download for iOS or Android. It’s free to download and start playing, but you have the option to use real money to buy in-game currency called PokéCoins,” cites a recent article on LifeHacker.com. “Those PokéCoins are used to purchase Pokéballs, the in-game item you need to be able to catch Pokémon.” “The game works by using your phone’s GPS for your real-world location and augmented reality to bring up those cool-looking Pokémon on your screen, overlaid on top of what you see in front of you,” the article continues. “And you—the digital you—can be customized with clothing, a faction (or ‘team’ of players you can join) and other options, and you level up as you play.” Physical Safety Jeff Shultz, M.D., an emergency room physician at John C. Lincoln Medical Center, says that he has seen injuries happen when Pokémon Go players aren’t paying attention to their surroundings. “Players of all ages need to be aware of their surroundings at all times; there have been...

Teens Making a Difference

This past spring, 32 Arizona teens took home the highest award in Girl Scouting: the Gold Award. “One of the most impactful parts of Girl Scouting is earning the Girl Scout Gold Award,” said Tamara Woodbury, CEO of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council. “This prestigious award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting and challenges girls ages 14–17 to initiate meaningful, sustainable change locally, nationally, or globally through unique ‘Take Action’ projects of their own creation.” According to Woodbury, 2016 is extra-special as the Girl Scouts are celebrating the milestone 100th Anniversary of the Gold Award. Earning the Gold Award is somewhat comparable to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout. While both achievements require developing and completing a service project, Girl Scouts must create a project that is sustainable and continues to give back to the community long after she moves on. Overall, the process usually takes 18 to 24 months and often involves seeking in-kind donations and recruiting volunteers. “Empowering girls to lead is one of the greatest investments we can make,” said Woodbury. “When women adopt leadership roles, they contribute a unique set of skills, ideas and life experiences that enrich and strengthen communities. Girl Scouts, and the Gold Award specifically, gives girls the support and guidance they need as they step into impactful leadership roles.” Here is a snapshot of our local honorees’ good works: Ariana Schein: Prom Closet Ariana Schein has been a Girl Scout for 14 years in the Pima neighborhood. As a student at Desert Mountain High School, she joined a peer leadership club whose purpose was to participate in extracurricular activities with special needs...

Missing School Matters

How do you know if your child is missing too much school? It only takes two lost days per month to be considered chronically absent. That’s about 10 percent of the school year in Arizona, and while two days per month doesn’t seem like much, it can have a big impact on learning. In fact, students who are are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade score lower on third grade reading tests and are more likely to repeat a grade. By the time a student gets to sixth grade, attendance rates are a key predictor of whether they’ll graduate from high school. Missing a few days a year for illness or travel is inevitable, but how can you minimize the impact of lost class time for your child? Here are some ideas: Start out right. Studies have shown that students who miss more than two days during the first month of school are likely to miss up to a month during the year. By creating positive patterns early in the year, you’ll set your child up for success. Plan ahead. Check your school’s calendar for holiday breaks and use the dates to minimize foreseeable absences related to family travel. Make appointments for early morning or late afternoon so that planned activities don’t interfere with learning. Manage habits. To keep your budding scholar attentive and engaged, ensure that they get adequate sleep and a healthy breakfast. What’s more, creating a schedule for study time and free time can emphasize the priority that homework should be afforded. Communicate regularly. Keep in close touch with your child’s teacher to track absences...

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