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Archive for November, 2012

10 Safety Concerns for Parents Installing a Trampoline

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The trampoline is a backyard fixture for many American families; however, their popularity doesn’t mean that they’re completely safe. For parents that are considering giving in to the begging, pleading and bargaining from their kids by getting them a trampoline, here are a few things to think about.

  1. Proper Placement – Though avoiding buildings and low-hanging tree branches is a given, it’s important to note that a child can jump up to 10 feet or more into the air with the aid of a trampoline. It’s best to place the trampoline in an area completely free of obstacles, even high ones.
  2. Cover All Metal Fixtures – Springs, hooks and metal framing should all be covered with a specially-designed foam pad to prevent pinching, scratching and injury from impact with the frame. Some trampolines come with this padding, but you still want to make sure that it fits securely before turning the little ones loose.
  3. One Jumper at a Time – Most injuries sustained while using a trampoline result from two jumpers colliding; one of the best ways to keep kids as safe as possible is to insist on only one jumper at a time.
  4. No Acrobatics – Unless your child is a trained gymnast with trampoline experience, he or she should be instructed never to attempt somersaults or other acrobatics, especially if there is no adult present. Even if your child does have gymnastic training, they should still never practice at home without a spotter.
  5. Install a Net – Though nets designed to contain jumpers will almost always prevent their hitting the ground, it won’t prevent all injuries. Opting for the containing net will, however, make a difference, and will often reduce the severity of injuries greatly.
  6. No Jumping Without Supervision – One of the most important – and most frequently broken – trampoline rules is that children should never be allowed to use a trampoline without adult supervision. Though it’s certainly not convenient to drop everything in order to supervise a trampoline marathon, it is very important and should be an ironclad rule for when kids use the trampoline.
  7. Daylight Hours Only – As the sun goes down, visibility is reduced and the chances of a trampoline-induced injury rise. Kids should never be allowed to jump after dusk.
  8. Keep Your Homeowners Insurance Up-to-Date – Having a trampoline is likely to make your house a favorite destination for neighborhood children. While this might be great fun for your kids, it can lead to serious headaches if your insurance policy isn’t up-to-date and a child is injured on your property.
  9. Stay On Top of Maintenance – At the first sign of fraying fabric, rusting springs or other wear and tear, the trampoline needs to be decommissioned until it’s back in top shape. These aren’t just cosmetic concerns; they’re signs of compromised structure in an already-risky toy.
  10. Go Overboard – Shock absorbing materials for the ground surrounding your trampoline may seem like an overprotective safety measure, but they can significantly reduce the severity of any injuries sustained from a fall.

It’s not uncommon for parents to be vigilant about trampoline safety for the first few months, but then to gradually become more lax as time passes. Unfortunately, that’s when injuries are more likely to happen: after the rules become more lenient. It’s best to stay vigilant and insist on all safety rules being followed to the letter all of the time.

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5 Easy to Make Advent Candles

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Now that the holiday season has arrived, the kids are probably so excited about Christmas that they are likely about to burst! One fun way to help build up the anticipation for Christmas day is through Advent calendars.  An Advent calendar is a way to celebrate the days leading up to Christmas, and the kids can open up a new day on the calendar everyday during the month of December. There are commercially available Advent calendars, but why not create your own?  Here are 5 easy to make advent calendars.

  1. Envelope Advent- Use colored A2 size envelopes for this project; you will need 24 of them.  You will also need a roll of red or holiday ribbon, and mini clothespins (available at craft stores).  Label the envelopes 1 to 24.  Insert activities or a promised goodie inside each envelope.  Use the clothespins to secure each envelope onto the ribbon and hang the ribbon along a wall in the kitchen where everyone will see it every morning.
  2. Cardboard tube Advent- For this calendar you will need 24 toilet paper tubes, white paint, security envelopes, a snowflake punch, a stapler, cork board, a glue stick, mini clothespins, ribbons, fabric to cover the board, and number stamps or stickers.  Staple the bottoms of 24 toilet paper tubes closed.  Cover your work surface with newspaper and paint the tubes white, then let them dry.  In the meantime: open up a couple of security envelopes and punch snowflakes out of them using the blue lining of the envelopes.  Wrap the cork board with some fabric of your choosing and staple it to the back.  Staple 4 pieces of ribbon across the cork board like mini clotheslines.  Glue the snowflakes to the cardboard tubes.  Stamp one number per tube according to the days left until Christmas.  The first tube will have a 24 on it, the second 23 and so on until the last tube will have a 1 on it.  Fill the tubes with little chocolates, notes, activities and so on.  Use the mini clothespins to pin the tubes in order onto the ribbons on the cork board.  Six tubes per ribbon will work out perfectly.
  3. Tree Advent- Gather a nice branch from your yard and spray paint it white.  Using a coffee can and some plaster of Paris, stand the branch up in the can.  Fill the can with plaster and allow it to harden.  Cover the plaster with some green crinkle fill.  Wrap up 24 small gifts and write 1 to 24 on the packages using a permanent black marker so you have one gift for each day of Advent.  Hang the packages on the tree using Christmas tree hooks and some tape.
  4. Garland Advent- Gather up 24 paper sacks with handles. Using a stencil, cut out large numbers 1 through 24 to glue on each bag for the days of the Advent.  Let the kids decorate the other side of the bag any way they like.  String some cording across the room like a garland and pin the handles onto the cord to make a garland of bags with regular clothespins.  Put light weight things in the bags so the garland doesn’t sag too much.
  5. Popsicle tree Advent- You will need 24 craft sticks, green and silver paint, a paintbrush, a hot glue gun and glue, 24 2×2 boxes, 2 rolls of ¼” red ribbon, red twine, adhesive numbers or stamps and scissors.  Hot glue craft sticks together end to end overlapping about ½ an inch.  Make one with 6 sticks, 5, 4, 3, and 2 sticks.  Glue the last 4 sticks across each other like an asterisk.  Hot glue the “branches” onto the “trunk” of the tree.  The longest length is the trunk.  At the intersection where the craft sticks overlap is where you will glue your branches.  The largest one at the bottom working up to the smallest at the top.  Cover your work surface with newspaper and paint the tree green and the star silver or any other color you have.  Wrap the boxes with red ribbon and tie a bow.  Slip some twine under the bow and create a loop to hang the box.  Add the number stickers to the boxes and hang the boxes on the tree in order from 24 to 1, with 1 being at the very top left branch.  Your branches will be even, one on each side at the top, two on each side on the next branch and so on.  Fill the boxes with candy or whatever you want and you are done.  Glue the star to the top of the tree.  Stick the tree to your wall using some foam tape at a couple points along the tree.

Half the fun of Christmas is the anticipation of the big day, so why not celebrate each day leading up to Christmas with the kids?  Include activities like lighting the tree, working at a food bank, looking at Christmas lights and other fun, rewarding activities, like making these easy Advent calendars.

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10 Free iPhone Apps You Will Use Every Day

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Few mobile devices are as relied upon and heavily used as Apple’s wildly popular iPhone, thanks largely to their marketing departments and the power of the App Store. While there are a variety of paid applications on the market for iPhone users to use that perform all types of different wonders, many of the best and most regularly used apps powered by the iPhone are free. These are 10 of the free apps that people tend to use on a daily basis:

  1. SoundHound – You’ll never have to struggle to find the name of a great song you hear in passing ever again with this incredibly useful and free app, which automatically detects the song that you’re listening to in as little as four minutes. With the world’s fastest music-recognition capabilities and a LiveLyrics feature that turns your iPhone into an impromptu portable karaoke party, you’ll definitely use SoundHound heavily.
  2. Dolphin Browser – Ranked number two on CNET’s 100 list, Dolphin Browser is a powerful and effective free iPhone browser that allows you to navigate the many features of your mobile device quickly and with relative ease. Drag-and-drop speed dial customization, gestures, and a Dolphin Sonar feature that allows you to access voice recognition capabilities are only a few of the reasons why you’ll find yourself using this little gem on a daily basis.
  3. Personal Finance – Managing your finances can be quite a challenge, especially if you don’t have the proper tools at your disposal. Thankfully,’s Personal Finance app will help you manage your accounts without breaking the bank through all of the different budgeting features that come to you free of charge.
  4. Words With Friends Free – Even the busiest iPhone user has a bit of downtime on occasion, which is why one of the most popular games in the mobile-device world is Words With Friends. Addictive and interactive, Words With Friends lets you pass the time spent waiting in line and in sitting in waiting areas by playing a game that looks suspiciously like Scrabble.
  5. WebMD – Whether you have children, health problems, or simply an overly curious nature, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in the WebMD app. Search for the symptoms you or a loved one have to find a variety of options for discussion with your doctor.
  6. Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal – If you’re watching your weight but can’t afford an expensive weight-loss club or support group, Calorie Counter might be just what you’re looking for. My Fitness Pal pulls from the single largest food database of any calorie-counting app on the market, ensuring that you’ll have no problem finding and entering what you’ve been eating.
  7. Trapster 5.0 – From providing a three-dimensional map populated with road hazards and speed traps to plotting the quickest and most efficient travel route using GPS information, Trapster is one of best mobile commute and travel resources out there.
  8. WeatherBug – Determining the weather requires a bit more than sticking your head out the window to find out if it’s raining, which is where WeatherBug will come in handy each and every day. Plan your wardrobe choices, afternoon appointments, and weekend drinks, all from one app.
  9. Flashlight by Rik – Most people find themselves in need of a flashlight far more often than they would think they would, and usually don’t actually have one in their possession. That’s where this free little app really shines, and will prove to be useful on a very regular basis.
  10. Wi-Fi Finder – Finding a Wi-Fi connection for your laptop or Apple mobile device is exceptionally easy with Wi-Fi Finder, which absolutely lives up to its name. Never struggle to find web access again, just power up this powerful little app and watch the results roll in.

Despite the overwhelming usefulness and convenience of having such a powerful piece of handheld equipment literally at the tips of your fingers, it’s important to keep in mind that driving while managing an application is just as dangerous as drinking or texting while driving. Wait until you arrive safely at your destination or pull over to access the wonders of the iPhone at the App Store safely.

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10 Common Reasons Why Teen Siblings Fight

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

If you have teenagers, then you know that there are a lot of ups and downs with raising them.  They are pushing the boundaries and getting ready to leave the nest.  They are often rebellious and will fight with you and their siblings over the silliest of things.  But in a time when you think that your teenagers should be getting closer, why do they still have such big fights?  Check out 10 common reasons why teen siblings fight.

  1. Inequality: Often sibling fights start because one sibling doesn’t feel they are being treated fairly by the parents.  The oldest usually gets more privileges and can stay out later than the younger.  Maybe the oldest is involved in sports while the youngest isn’t so they feel like the world revolves around the schedule of the older child.
  2. Jealousy: One sibling might be jealous of what the other sibling has.  Maybe one teen has a phone and the other doesn’t have one yet.  Or maybe one got a car when they turned 16 and the other didn’t because the car was meant to be shared between the teens when the time came that they could both drive.
  3. Hormones: Everyone knows that teenagers have raging hormones and not just the kind that are aimed at members of the opposite sex.  Hormone imbalances can cause irritability and just make them short tempered so any perceived slight will set them off on a rant.
  4. Unmet expectations: Sometimes teens think that they have each other’s back, but then the sibling will rat the other one out if they broke the rules.  Expectations are a big deal, but are often assumed and teens need to realize that no one reads minds and that if they don’t express their expectations then theirs sibling won’t be able to meet them.
  5. Frustration: Being a teen is frustrating enough.  School is harder and more stressful.  Members of the opposite sex enter into the picture and cause their own drama.  Teens can be frustrated with each other for nothing more than eating something too loudly.  If things don’t go their way in one aspect of their world they may take it out on their sibling.
  6. Feeling of betrayal: This is more likely to happen when there are teens of the same sex in the household.  One sister dates the boy the other sister liked and now she feels betrayed by her own sister.  Or one brother gets into an argument with another guy and his brother sides with the other guy instead of him.  Siblings feel like even though they fight that they should stick together on the important stuff and that just doesn’t always happen.
  7. Competition: Who’s the biggest, skinniest, prettiest, fastest or most talented?  Siblings will compete with each other and results of the competitions most always cause a fight.  The other person had to have cheated or somehow rigged the contest.  Maybe it’s not a looks contest, but a contest to see who’s smartest?  Who gets better grades?
  8. Need for space: Teenagers seem to do a lot of deep thinking and they need their space.  When a younger teen interrupts an older sibling’s private time or invades their space there is likely going to be fireworks and not the good kind.  This also includes sitting too closely to them in the car.  The whole fight about who’s touching whom will ensue and you’ll want to pull your hair out, but keep in mind this too shall pass.  
  9. Touching or taking their stuff: Another thing that teenagers are is possessive of their things.  They don’t want their sibling to use, touch or take anything that belongs to them.  If their sister borrowed their favorite shirt without asking and now it’s dirty and they wanted to wear it to the game there’s going to be a lot of fighting.  As soon as kids get something they consider to be their own, these kinds of fights start and it doesn’t stop when they become older teenagers.  It just gets louder and the stuff gets more expensive.
  10. Insults flying: Sometimes teenagers just fight because they can.  Perhaps they get bored and just feel like picking a fight, but it’s often just stupid stuff that they fight about.  Siblings know how to push each other’s buttons and they will do it just to get a rise out of their sibling.  There’s just something about irritating each other that’s part of the growing up process.

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How to Decorate Your Entrance for Halloween

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

As the air turns cool and crisp, thoughts naturally begin to gravitate towards the fall season and its spooky holiday, and what better way to usher in the new season than to decorate your house’s entrance for Halloween? Whether you are having friends over for a party or are creating the perfect scene to greet young trick-or-treaters, you can create a festive entrance with some well-placed decorations.  Here are some ideas on how to go about creating a spook-tacular Halloween entrance.

Door decoration- You will need white crepe paper streamers, white cardstock, black cardstock and double-sided tape.  Cut out 2 large circles from the white cardstock.  Use a 9” plate or something similar as your template.  These are the whites of the eyes.  Next, cut out 2 medium circles from the black cardstock.  Use a bowl or a dish that is about 5” in diameter.  Tape the black circle to the white circle to create a set of eyes.  Place the black circles closer to the bottom of the white circles for a more natural looking eye position that will look like a mummy looking down on the trick-or-treaters.

Wrap the white streamer around the door, using the double-sided tape to hold it in place.  Take the streamers in different directions while you are wrapping.  Start wrapping in one direction and then tape down the end, then start wrapping in another direction.  After you have wrapped the top portion of the door you can tape the eyes on the door, making sure the black part is at the bottom.  The eyes should be in the top third of the door.  Wrap some additional streamers over the edges of the eyes so it looks like they are peeking out from under the bandages.  Continue wrapping the whole door.  Your mummy door is complete.  If you’d like, you can hang a door hanger that says, “Trick or Treat” or “Happy Halloween”. This might be where you decide to stop when it comes to decorating if you live in an apartment or condo.

Entryway props- Expand out from the door to encompass the entryway by using props.  These can be any decorations that fit with your theme.  Look around your house for things that can be used to stage your front entryway.  An old kitchen chair, a wooden crate or box, a small table or other various items can be used to give height to the arrangement.  Set out your decorated pumpkins.  On top of one of the pumpkins put a black crow (available at craft stores) that looks like its pecking on it.  Cut out some simple bat shapes out of black paper.  Fold them in half and stick them on the house around the door using some rolled up tape under the center of the bat. Don’t tape down the wings so that they are able to stick up.  Arrange them as if they were flying in a flock at an angle across the door.  Hang a few from your overhang if your door has one.  This will add to the 3D effect.  If you don’t feel comfortable cutting out the bat shapes free-hand, you can always purchase them from a craft store.  Tape some big black plastic spiders walking across the ground and have a few climbing up the wall.  Use some inexpensive fake cobwebs to add cobwebs to the doorway and surrounding objects like a bush or plant.  Feel free to sit the pumpkins on the crate or chair if you have these items to give varying height to the props.  Now your entryway is completely decorated and pretty spooky.  If you don’t have a sidewalk coming up to your door you can stop here and still have quite the enviable entryway.

Walkway- Greet your guests or trick-or-treaters by lighting the walkway.  You will need black lunch sacks (10 to 12, depending on how long your sidewalk is), some sand, 10 to 12 tea light candles (real or battery operated), scissors, white tissue paper, tape and a pencil.

Draw a simple shape on the sack using a pencil, such as a bat, a bird shape, or a witch’s hat. These are all simple to draw, easy to cut out, and festive and fitting for the holiday.  Put the shape toward the top of the bag to allow room for sand in the bottom.  After you draw the shapes on all of the sacks you’ll need to cut them out.  Cut and tape a piece of white tissue paper over the cut out shape from the inside of the sack.  Continue in the same manner until all of the bags are completed.  Add about two cups of sand to each lunch sack.  Push the tea light into the sand so that they stay stable.  Put your luminaries along both sides of your sidewalk.  Typically luminaries are set out one to two feet apart.  Light or turn on your tea lights 15 minutes before guests arrive or at dusk.  Note: A votive candle can also work and will last at least four times longer than a tea light.

Creating a mood is simple to accomplish when you have a beautifully decorated entryway or door.  Without spending a lot of time or money you can create a spectacular entryway. Involve the kids and make it a group project in which everyone can feel proud.

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