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Holiday Traditions

Compiled by Michelle Talsma Everson   While I can remember some of the wonderful presents I received over the holidays as a child (I looked really cool in that “life size” bright pink Barbie car!), now that I’m an adult—and a mom—what really stands out are the holiday traditions. Big family breakfasts, opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve, baking cookies, these are all of the memories I pass along to my son year after year. Recently, we asked our readers on social media what some of your holiday traditions were and received many wonderful responses. Read on to see how other local families celebrate the holiday season and maybe find some inspiration to start some new traditions of your own.   “The day after Thanksgiving we deck our halls—outside lights, indoor décor, light village, etc.—and then end the day with a family viewing of Christmas Vacation while indulging in eggnog. It kicks the season off right!” – Heather   “When my sister and I were kids, my mom started this tradition with us. Every year on Christmas Eve we would get new pajamas and slippers or fun socks. She saved the gift bags and used the same gift bag for each of us every year so we knew which pair was ours. It was always a lot of fun to see what she picked out for us. My sister and I would pick out a pair for mom to wear so she could have new pajamas on Christmas morning too. After we opened our pajamas, we tried them on and took pictures in front of our Christmas tree. We...

The Busy Family’s Holiday Survival Guide

By Denise Morrison Yearian   If December seems like a month-long marathon of activities that leave you feeling frazzled and fatigued, restore the season’s peace, hope and joy with these 12 holiday survival suggestions.   Pencil in and prioritize. With calendar in hand, write in regularly scheduled activities—haircuts, housework, sports practices, etc. Then pencil in specific days for holiday to-dos. If you see a steady stream of busy days, replace low-priority items with rest and relaxation. Make popcorn and watch White Christmas with the kids, take the family for a post-dinner drive to see holiday lights or have a date night with your significant other.   Sweet options to social events. If you don’t want to attend a social event but fear you may offend the host, drop off a box of chocolates to say, “I appreciate the invite but . . .” When you purchase the candy, pick up an extra box for days you need a little personal appreciation.   Consolidate holiday obligations. Host a cookie exchange so you can visit with friends and avoid baking multiple batches of goodies. As you plan the event, reward yourself for this time-saving endeavor by indulging in a cup of hot cocoa with a peppermint candy cane stir and a dollop of whipped cream.   Wrap it up. Designate a specific holiday wrapping station in your home and keep the area stocked with supplies so you can wrap gifts without having to retrieve paper goods. Choose a specific paper print for each child so you don’t have to attach tags.   Stock up and save time. Purchase baking supplies in...

Child Abduction in the Digital Age

  Alicia’s Story By Nora Heston Tarte   “My captor broadcast my abuse online, via a webcam, and another viewer saw the video, and after recognizing me from my NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) missing person poster, contacted the FBI.” Today, Alicia speaks publicly about her abduction and abuse. Her goal is to prevent teens—the most common age group to experience abduction—from suffering the same fate. “I think one of the most important lessons to take from my experience is that this can happen to you, and it can happen to your family,” Alicia says. “Predators do not discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status, income or religion. It can happen. It does happen. It is happening.” There are, however, steps parents and teens can take to prevent cyber luring. “It’s important to understand that grooming is subtle and slow-paced, and is as simple as pretending to be a child’s friend, and telling the child what they want to hear, versus what they need to hear.” Through speaking engagements, television appearances, written retellings and her website (www.aliciaproject.org), Alicia has created a platform to educate others about the dangers that exist online, and explain firsthand how predators use the digital world to lure victims. Since her rescue, Alicia has become an international advocate for preventative safety education and effective legislation. She started speaking publicly about her experience when she was just 14 years old. She later created Alicia’s Law (her namesake), which provides funding, resources and training to the Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Alicia’s Law has passed in 11 states and Alicia hopes to see the...

Eating Disorders

By Miachelle DePiano Eating disorders are more commonly known today, but they can still be difficult to identify early in their manifestation. If not recognized, the long term consequences are not just unhealthy, but can also be deadly. Understanding what the eating disorders are and when to seek help is crucial in raising today’s teens. Sufferers of eating disorders use food as a means of having emotional control in their life. While eating disorders are most often associated with girls, the reality is they affect both boys and girls. According to notmykid.org, boys comprise 25 percent of those with anorexia nervosa, and 40 percent of those with bulimia. Additionally, 50 percent of girls and 33 percent of boys use unhealthy weight control measures such as skipping meals, fasting, vomiting, smoking cigarettes and taking laxatives. According to experts, sufferers of these disorders share common roots, behaviors and feelings. There may be a family history of eating disorders. “Our children are watching us,” says Dr. Dena Cabrera of Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders. “We are the role models. How we talk about our bodies sends a signal.” For many, there is an inability to express feelings, and withdrawal from family, friends, and activities is common. Falling outside of the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) ranges or sudden change on the growth and development chart ranges may also be an indication. “If your child has been within a certain percentile on the growth chart, and then stops growing, that is a good indicator,” Dr. Cabrera says. Understanding the different disorders is important to determining if your teen may have a problem.  ...

STEAM Activities

By Dena Milliron – Curator of Education for the i.d.e.a. Museum Early experiences shape how your child’s brain gets built. During early development, your child’s brain grows rapidly. Toddlers and preschoolers naturally touch, taste, view, listen and smell to learn. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities provide a variety of sensory experiences to support brain development. STEAM activities encourage children to explore their world, develop their curiosity, observe, question and practice. Ultimately, it builds problem-solving skills. Parents and caregivers can support a child’s natural curiosity by providing STEAM experiences that stimulate their senses, engage their mind and encourage their imagination. Read on for some ideas to engage your child’s brain at home. Science: Experiment with shadows. You need a light source (sun or flashlight), some objects and a place for the shadow to fall (sidewalk, wall, sofa). Ask: What do you need to create a shadow? Does your shadow move? What does it look like? Tips: Using a flashlight, move the light closer and farther from the object. Ask your child to predict what will happen if the light is close and far from objects. Try tracing an outline of the shadow to create an artwork. Fun with water. Fill a large container with water and add measuring cups, basters and other household items. Encourage your child to scoop, pour and measure the water. Ask: What happens if you pour water from a large cup into a smaller cup? How many cups will you need to fill a large cup using a smaller cup? Tips: Provide your child with any size paintbrush. Use the water to create...

The Trials and Triumphs of Adoption

By Denise Yearian There are many reasons why people consider adoption. For some, it’s a result of unsuccessful fertility efforts. For others, it’s a desire to enlarge their family and make life better for a child. But for all, it’s a way to bring people of diverse culture, race and heritage into the bonds of a loving family. Tony and Nancy Rivera is one couple whose reason for adopting was to enlarge their family. “When our son Tony was eight, we went through the state foster-adopt program to find a playmate for him,” says Nancy. “We told them we wanted a child near our son’s age, but when they contacted us, it was for a two-month-old boy named Alex.” At first the Riveras declined the agency’s request, but when subsequent phone calls came in, Tony and Nancy reevaluated their decision. But the Riveras got more than they planned for. “Two months later, the agency called again. This time they said Alex had a two-year-old brother named Alfonzo who was in foster care and asked if we wanted to adopt him. So we did,” says Nancy. “Then a year later, we found out the boys had two sisters, Candice and Anastasia, so we decided to adopt them to keep the family together.” John and Jo-El Azato took a different adoption route and went through a private agency to find an international child. “We had seen an ad in the newspaper about a seminar on domestic and international adoptions, so we went,” recalls Jo-El. “We knew we wanted an international child. And after doing research, we decided to go with a...

Questions about Healthcare

  By David Allazetta CEO of UnitedHealthcare of Arizona Q: “It seems that health plans are getting more and more complicated every year. What do I need to know and are there specific things I should be looking for before I select a new plan?” –  Sarah from Gilbert A: Selecting the right health benefits can feel challenging, but reviewing the available options and choosing carefully can help you find solutions that can work for you and help you make more informed choices that may improve your health and even save money. Take time to review your options: Don’t wait until the last minute to make your benefit elections or rush through the process. Instead, start early and get your questions answered. Your employers and health plan representatives are available to help with the process. Remember there’s more to each plan than co-payments, deductibles and premiums. Take a few minutes to check if your doctor is in the plan’s care provider network and that your prescriptions are covered. Look for incentive-based wellness programs: Some health plans, including UnitedHealthcare, offer wellness programs that enable people to earn financial incentives – such as lower premium costs or deductible credits – for completing health assessments, signing up for a health coaching program, lowering cholesterol, going to a gym or even using a fitness tracker to monitor daily walking patterns. These incentives can help save you money, in some cases up to $1,500 a year, and encourage you and your family to practice healthier behaviors. Take advantage of health care apps and online tools: Many health plans have created apps and online resources...

The New SAT

By Michelle Talsma Everson The SAT test is practically a high school rite of passage. According to the College Board—described as a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity—the SAT test measures what a student learned in high school and what they need to succeed in college. As education has changed, so has the SAT test, so it’s helpful for parents to know what to expect from the new SAT. What is the SAT? “The SAT tests students’ math, reading and writing skills, with an optional essay section,” explains Linda Jensen, director of the Arizona College Access Network. “Not every college or university requires an SAT, but many require either an SAT or an ACT score. Having an SAT score on file can give students a competitive edge in the application process. It is a good predictor of how well students will do in college, and high scores can lead to scholarship opportunities. A high SAT score can also help balance out a lower GPA.” An Evolving Test Both Jensen and the College Board agree that the SAT test has changed over the years. “One of our biggest goals in changing the SAT was to make sure it’s highly relevant to your future success,” cites the College Board on their official website, collegeboard.org. “The new test is more focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education.” According to the College Board, the newly updated SAT encourages students to take charge of their own learning experience. “If you think the key to a high score is memorizing words and facts you’ll never use in the real...

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