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By Courtney Corbridge

 

By the time summer rolled around each year, the only things left in my trick-or-treat pillowcase at the base of my closet were a few rolls of Smarties and a bunch of empty wrappers. Summer popsicles and ice cream cones set my sweet tooth at bay, but by September, when I found myself back in school, I often had one thing on the edge of my mind—Halloween. I dreamed of dressing up, bringing home my weight in chocolate, and then trading out treats with my siblings on the living room floor. It was one of the great meccas of childhood.

 

But not for everyone. In fact, while almost all of my friends loved dressing up and going from house to house, a few of them got the short end of the stick when it came to trick or treating. And the biggest setback was typically allergies! One of my closest friends was actually allergic to chocolate! Can you imagine? Others had peanut allergies, and others weren’t allowed to have sugar. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common thing for a lot of kids. The most common kid allergies include milk, eggs, nuts, and wheat. So how can we help those deserving kids find the magic in Halloween and trick or treating as well? Here are a few alternatives you can consider to your typical candy-in-a-bowl routine.

 

--Mini Nail Polish

--Spider Stamps

--Hair Accessories

--Crazy Straws

--Small Bags of Legos

--Mini Whistles

--Mini Bubbles Bottles

--Foam Masks

--Yoyos

--Halloween Cookie Cutters

--Finger Puppets

--Mini Notepads or Coloring Books

--Temporary Tattoos

--Bouncy Balls

--Mini Slinkys

--Halloween Rings

--Halloween Erasers

--Mini Playdoughs

--Glowsticks

--Sticky Hands

--Stickers

--Fake Dracula Teeth

--Mini Flash Lights

 

Last year Food Allergy Research and Education, Inc. (FARE) started an awareness program for kids with allergies called The Teal Pumpkin Project. Families who are committed to giving healthy alternatives on Halloween can put a teal pumpkin by their doorstep so that trick or treaters and their parents can identify allergy-friendly homes. If you would like to join in, please visit http://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project#.VfhBtxFVikp to learn more. 

 

Article sponsored by Lakeside Dental.

Find them on the web at: http://www.lakesidedentalsmiles.com

 

 

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By Marlena Rice

 

Fall is finally here: Hello cooler weather, back-to-school, and football! Parents who have gotten all too familiar with the easier flow of traffic from home to work are now readjusting their morning schedules to entertain the influx of school buses and University traffic that were easily forgotten during the summer months. As parents, as we adjust to our new schedules, our little people are adjusting as well. But with new schools, new classrooms, new teachers and new friends comes butterflies and anxiety that we may not be used to seeing in our children. See below a list of ways to combat “school refusal,” a common form of anxiety that many of our children experience, whether it is easily recognizable or not. 

 

So what is school refusal? I think all parents have experienced excess clinging during morning drop-offs to school, avoidance, flat-out defiance and the good old-fashioned tantrum. In older children, this refusal may occur in terms of “not feeling well” in attempts to stay home, away from all things that are causing their anxiety (the fear of not knowing the correct answers in class, having to meet new friends, or even worries about who to sit with at lunchtime), as well as real physical symptoms, like stomachaches, or nausea.*

 

Usually, these childhood fears dissipate over the course of learning a new routine. We have to wake up a little bit earlier to avoid the additional school traffic on the road in the mornings, and our children have to adjust their minds to what is new in their lives before becoming comfortable.

 

How can we, as parents, help to combat school refusal?

 

·       Don’t rush your mornings. Prepare lunches and backpacks the evening prior to bedtime and wake up just a little bit earlier in the mornings. This gives you time to eat breakfast with your child, talk about the day’s expectations and gives the child a chance to voice any concerns they may have.

 

·       For little ones entering a schooling environment for the first time, adjust them to school in small doses. Once assigned a classroom and teacher, ask if you can start dropping your child in for a few hours a day to help them adjust.

 

·       Talk with your children about their fears and feelings, and find solutions together for things that may cause them stress or concern. A good time to do this is during a family dinner when your child is relaxed and comfortable.

 

·       Encourage playdates for little ones and extracurricular activities for older children. This will help them relax while being around people their age in a similar environment. Having your child build excitement over activities that are school-related will not only encourage them to like attending each morning, but it may very well make them more in tune with the classroom aspects of school.

 

·       Most importantly, make yourself known at your children’s school. Know your child’s principals, directors, teachers and part-time aids. Not only is this a great way to let educators know just how involved you are, but your child will be proud that you are involved.

 

*While some of these symptoms are normal and affect a large majority of children, should you notice 

 your child not getting better, consult a mental health professional.*

 

Marlena Rice is a local mom and author. Her new book, Pacifiers, Flatbeds and Barn Wood Thingamajigs, a 'Come to Jesus Guide' for the New, Southern Mom,” will be available on Amazon.com this fall. Follow Marlena on Instagram at marlena_rice.

 

Article sponsored by ERC Roofing and Construction.

Find them on the web at: http://alabamaroofingexpert.com

 

By Ben Talmadge

 

The area of prayer can be a tricky one. While the idea of talking to God is thought-provoking, it also feels kind of strange to talk to someone you can’t see, hear, or touch. I have found that the times I pray most consistently is when I am keenly aware of needs in my life which are beyond my ability to figure out on my own. Parenting is a great example of this, for it is an area which can often be frustrating and taxing. Here are three lessons I’ve learned about prayer through my own journey of parenting:

Prayer is illustrated by children. Interestingly, Jesus uses the example of children to help explain what God desires from people. He tells his followers, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). So, why does Jesus use children to explain how to best approach God? Most likely, Jesus is expressing his desire for us to come to him in the same way that little children come to their parents. They do not come with everything figured out but rather simply as who they are in each and every moment. As we observe this in our children, Jesus intends for us to assume this posture before him. Ultimately, he desires to be with us through every parenting experience, as we learn to be honest with him through both the good and bad times.

Prayer matters more than principles. If you peruse any bookstore, you will find no shortage of books which contain a plethora of parenting principles. While some of these can be helpful, we need to be careful not to make too much out of principles. Becoming too dependent on good principles can give us the illusion that we are the ones who are in control of the task of parenting. If we are the ones in control, it means that we are not allowing God to be in control. While principles may help in some moments, there are inevitably moments that come when we have no idea what to do or say. If principles alone could produce successful parenting, then God is not needed. May we learn to pray through our parenting as much as we attempt to apply the right parenting principles.

Prayer challenges our view of God. If many of us are honest, it just doesn’t feel like God is very involved in our lives. Accepting the idea that God is far off is dangerous, because it produces a dogged cynicism in our lives. We begin to think that life is up to us, that God is not really doing a whole lot to help us. And there is nothing in life that can feel more like a struggle to simply survive than parenting. Often times, we may feel like we have no idea what we’re doing as a parent, and it is in these moments that it is imperative for us to understand that God actually desires to be intimately involved in our parenting. In fact, I have found the task of parenting to be the birthplace of prayer in my life, realizing that without God’s personal involvement, my best efforts to parent will ultimately fall short.

Admittedly, prayer can be challenging. But if we can learn to view it as an invitation from God to enter into relationship, then it can become an opportunity to experience relational transformation with our children. Perhaps God is wanting us to learn how to relationally pursue our children as we simply experience how he relationally pursues us.

Ben Talmadge serves on staff of Youth For Christ and Grace Church. He and his wife, Anna Grace, have two children, Jem and Hazel Jane. 

 

By Tori Linville

 

1.     Make a roommate agreement immediately

While taking time to get to know your roommate can be fun, drawing some clear and concise boundaries ahead of time will save some heartache if you’re out a pot and pan set because said roommate can’t cook. After you both know what each other likes and doesn’t like, you can face the semester together with less to worry about.

 

 

2.     Don’t over-commit…

The famed interest fairs with free t-shirt giveaways can have you slingin’ your email at every honor society and club that throws you a complimentary cup. The best thing to do? Take the shirt, but only leave your email and contact information at the clubs that really strike your interests. That way, you’ll be able to spend your time on things you actually care about, instead of spreading yourself too thin!

 

 

 

3.     But don’t be a hermit!

On the other hand, staying inside your dorm room while binge-watching Netflix isn’t too healthy either. So either add some friends to your binge spree, or get out and about. Just don’t end up stuck to your bed to where you’re in a daze and don’t know what day it is.

 

 

4.     Get to know campus (and the city) before classes begin

This is where the whole ‘out and about’ thing comes in. Knowing the campus cuts down on the stopping-staring-you’re-definitely-a-freshman-move. It also saves time and keeps you from getting lost. Once you’re familiar with campus, branch out to the remaining town around you in order to know the best places for shopping, coffee and more.

 

 

5.     Avoid the freshman fifteen

One of the best things you can do is to remember to take care of your body. While unlimited fried foods at the dining halls will always be tempting, exercise can give you more energy for class, studying and friend time.

 

6.     Hunt for textbook bargains    
Be aware that the campus bookstore might not have the best prices for your textbooks. Shop around and spend the extra time comparing prices in order to save your wallet some pain.

 

 

7.     Find a study space that fits you
It might be the campus library, or it could be the coffee shop clear across town. You won’t know it until you find it and when you find it, it can make all the difference.

 

8.     Don’t forget to breathe (and have fun!)
College is a time to learn, grow and have fun. Don’t let the stress get to you

 

 

Article sponsored by DCH and First South Farm Credit.

Find DCH on the web at: www.dchsystem.com

Find First South Farm Credit on the web at: www.firstsouthfarmcredit.com/home.aspx

A summer past time everybody remembers is taking a huge, refreshing swig of water from the water hose while playing outside. Nowadays, there’s more than one way to catch that refreshing swig all over again. We’ve listed some virtually inexpensive water games that don’t even require you leaving the driveway to cure the summertime boredom we all face. Other than slip ‘n slides and water balloon fights, these fast and easy games will offer a quick way to cool off without breaking the bank.

 

Cold Potato

Unlike hot potato, cold potato is considerate of the summer heat. Using a pin to poke a small hole in a water balloon, the ‘cold potato’ is passed around in a circle before it runs out of water. The idea is that every one cools off, but not too much.

Add a twist: The player who catches the balloon as it runs out of water gets an entire leaky water balloon squirted at them.

 

Marco Polo – without the pool

The idea is the same but instead of treading water, the infamous Marco is blinded and strapped with a water gun to seek out his or her Polos. Mixed with a bit of hide and seek, Marco counts to ten with his or her back turned, and then calls Marco. When a Polo is successfully drenched, switch roles.

Add a twist: Add some water balloons to the Marco’s arsenal.

 

Splat

Maybe one of the easiest water games ever. The goal? To make the biggest splat with water balloons. Just throw them in the air. The higher the throw, the bigger the splat. Winner is the player with the biggest splat.

Add a twist: Challenge players to create a shape from their splats.

 

Bobbing for Apples

A carnival tradition, bobbing for apples is a perfect way to chill down. Just stick your face in the water and try your best for a fruity prize.

Add a twist: Switch up fruits and turn the edible prizes into smoothies.

 

Article sponsored by Alabama Power and Tuscaloosa Environmental.  

Find Alabama Power on the web at: http://www.alabamapower.com

 

Find Tuscaloosa Environmental on the web at: http://www.tuscaloosa.com/recycle

By Tori Linville

 

Back to school isn’t just about backpacks and new classes. It’s the one time of year that a student’s immune system is re-exposed to millions of germs after a three month break. It’s back to the cafeteria for school lunches instead of food at home. It’s back absent-mindedly touching doorknobs and noses. If you’re not too grossed out, here are some reminders and tips to helping the transition from home to school easier on the whole family.

 

Stress the importance of common sense when spreading germs, meaning:

 

·      Washing hands after using the restroom to reduce the spread of sickness. For little ones, reminding them to wash their hands through the duration of the Happy Birthday song two times in their heads can be a helpful tip.

 

·      Cover mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing

 

·      Keep hands away from eyes and mouth

 

·      Regularly use hand sanitizers and disinfectants, especially after touching eyes, mouth, keyboards, community tools such as scissors, etc.

 

·      Don’t share food, drink or personal items with classmates in order to reduce illness and other possible contagions

 

·      Double check for possible sicknesses before arranging any play dates or sleepovers

 

·      Pack a lunch complete with more whole grains, fruits and veggies. Low-fat dairy products and low-sodium and low-fat choices are best along with portion control to make a healthy meal

 

·      Ensure plenty of exercise and sleep for a healthy body

 

 

Some products that are backpack and pocket-friendly and can help slow down sickness include:

 

·      Pocket sized Germ-X

·      Personal Tissue Packs

·      Tea Tree Oil (to prevent lice)

·      Sanitizing Wipes

·      Vitamin C Drink (or drink mix)

 

Photo Credit: Barterco.com

 

Article sponsored by Med Center Urgent Care.

Find them on the web: http://www.medcenterurgentcare.com

By Tori Linville

 

The smell of pencils and excitement will soon fill the air for students and summer break will end. This doesn’t have to mean the end of fun altogether, as some would have you believe. Back to school shindigs to celebrate the coming of a new school year are the perfect re-introduction to academia that will have your guests ready to go. We’ve scoured blog after blog for some of the best back to school party ideas so you don’t have to. The simple, must-have ideas are below, with more resources and how-tos for your unforgettable celebration!

 

·      Create a cute tablescape that ties into your theme

 

Glue a some felt leaves onto a red plate to make an apple plate. Throw in a cute table runner to add. See how Spaceships and Laserbeams rocked these ideas.

 

Feature a centerpiece with composition books as a platform, pencils as the flowers.

 

·      Add some back-to-school inspired edibles

 

Some created their own custom cookies that look like chalkboards, pencils and more. Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish are perfect snacks or even some alphabet cupcakes could do the trick. Checkout these ideas in action at Pizzazzerie.

 

·      Handout some crafty invites

 

Stun all your guests with your craftiness before the party even starts. Using file folders like this blog did will stand out as thoughtful and will list everything they need to know. If you’re not feeling like going the extra mile, that’s okay too. They have free, printable invitations anyway that will work in a snap.

 

Checkout these diy invites that are also free and printable. While they are pretty specific, you can use them your own way for your own invites. Additional supplies such as stickers, note cards and more are also available.

 

For a back to school party with a bookworm theme, check out the party courtesy of Giggles Galore. Or for another full-fledged party scheme to follow, visit this blog for ideas too.

 

Article sponsored by Tuscaloosa Tire and Service Center.

Find them on the web at: http://tuscaloosatireandservice.com

By Tori Linville

 

School is almost in session for another year. Teachers will be sending home assignments to complete and requests for classroom supplies. Children will be stuffed with knowledge and lunches. To survive the back to school daze, we’ve got some great ideas to try that will supply smiles all around. Good grades not guaranteed.

 

Teacher Survival Kit

 

A great way to get on a teacher’s good side is an unforgettable survival kit. The start to the new school year requires tons of supplies that teachers need for the day to day of operating a classroom. Grab a small dollar store basket and line it with some tissue paper. Then, load it up with some of these goods:

 

·      Germ-X or any type of hand sanitizer

·      Post-It Notes

·      Pens

·      Pencils

·      Printer Paper

·      Notebook Paper (wide ruled)

·      A box of tissues

·      Paper Clips

·      Binder Clips

·      Dry-Erase Markers

·      Dry-Erase Board Cleaner

·      Candy

·      Stickers for grading

 

Back to School Candy Pencil

 

Send your kiddos back to school with these treats to hand out to classmates. They’ll be sure to be a class favorite and allows for a quick break from all the learning!

 

What you’ll need:

            Rolo candy

            Hershey Kisses

            Yellow scrapbook paper

            Pink scrapbook paper

            Metallic of foil scrapbook paper

            Paper cutter (optional)

            Markers, black

            Glue Stick

            Scissors

            Ruler

            1 piece of lined paper (to guide)

            Large skewer or scoring tool

           

What you’ll make:

1.     Cut Paper

Yellow paper: cut 3.5 in. by 4.5 in.

Pink paper: cut .5 in. by 3. 5 in.

Metallic paper: cut 3.4 in. by 3.5 in.

 

Cut a circle from another piece of pink paper by tracing around the rolo candy and cut out.

 

2.     Using the lined paper as a guide, score the long side of the yellow paper every two lines.

 

3.     Write a fun, nice message in the middle of the paper. Fold the paper on each of     the scored lines.

 

4.     Attach the pink and metallic paper to the end of the yellow with glue.

 

5.     Carefully remove the white paper from the Kiss and color the tip with a black marker.

 

6.     Using glue, wrap the Rolo candy with the paper and secure, then add the Kiss.

 

7.     Attach the circle of pink paper to the end of the candy with glue.

 

Check out this website for more fun school-themed craft ideas.

 

School Countdown/Art Display

 

Using a simple picture frame and some twine, you can generate excitement about the upcoming school year by displaying a countdown and then displaying any artwork the children come home with during the year.

 

Just take a large picture frame and wrap it with twine. Start by tying a secure knot with the twine at the top right of the frame, then wrap around the frame.

 

Hang a fun, festive countdown by securing sheets that display the days with a clothespin. After school has started, use clothespins to hang artwork and enjoy!

 

Article sponsored by Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Find them on the web: http://www.hschurch.com

 

By Marlena Rice

 

It is officially summer. Parents of older children probably just said a prayer of relief after that statement. For them, this hiatus in classroom learning means no more dropping off to school before work in the mornings, and no more late work lunches in order to make plays, parent teacher conferences, and holiday classroom parties. I just heard multiple sighs of relief, because although we enjoy all of these things and love watching our little people discover themselves as they participate in their activities, my goodness, it gets exhausting!

 

But what happens when your child goes to school year-round?

 

I have a preschooler. And, although my son’s official preschool session has ended, as all preschool mothers know, the summer leaves us with 2 and 1/2 months of preparation for the next “big boy” and big girl” class come the fall. So, while our babies are attending preschool day camps full of movies, water days and other hot weather fun, it is up to us to continue enriching their learning experiences as they grow.  Here are some great ideas:

 

Visit the Zoo

 

Taking your child to the zoo can result in multiple lessons about a wide variety of land and sea animals. Take photographs, and afterward your child will have pictures to reference as he learns the animals’ names and about the habitats in which they live.

 

Hit the Blue

 

Go to the pool, the river, the beach or play around in the sprinklers in your front yard. It is never too early to teach our babies to enjoy and not to be afraid of the water. Visit a local department store, get some fun water floats and toys, and work on everything from counting multiple buoys to learning to differentiate varying colors as you play together.

 

Flashcard Fun

 

You know what your child loves more than anyone. “M” is for Mickey Mouse, and “P” may be for Popsicle. Your next step? Hit up your computer with your little one and find pictures that match your alphabet. Make flashcards. Sit together for 30 minutes to one hour each day and you will be surprised what can happen during summer break.

 

Explore the Outdoors

 

If you live in a wooded area with lots of greenery or near a walking trail or park, grab your child’s stroller or wagon and go on a nature walk. Be on the lookout for flowers and plants, bugs, rabbits, and creepy crawlies that your littles ones might love (even if you don’t) and combine your exercise session with a lesson about plants and wildlife.

 

Take Up a Shared Hobby

 

Despite the fact that most of us working parents don’t have a summer break like our children (and yes, I’m extremely envious of all my teacher friends), our kids’ summer freedom often means just a little more free time for us as well. If there is something that you love doing, whether it’s picking up the old guitar in your spare bedroom or taking photographs, incorporate your child into your hobby. Teach them a little more about the fun side of yourself.  

 

Pictures are always fun and are such an easy and fun way to document our memories. Pack a picnic one day, grab your camera and buy a disposable one for your little person and have a photo day! Once you’re done, visit a crafts store and build your own scrapbooks or make a collage of your memory together.

 

Whatever you do, have fun with your kids this summer!

 

Photo: Marlena Rice

 

Caption: Beaux William watches the giraffes at the Birmingham Zoo.

 

 

By Marlena Rice

 

My nearly two-year-old son, Beaux William, tends to wake up with demands on Saturday and Sunday mornings. His first words to me will either be “juice” or “milk,” or, if I awake to a pair of his tennis shoes on my face, I know that immediately after milk, juice and breakfast, there will be a walk, a wagon ride, or a trip to the playground in our near, early-morning future.

 

One morning, I noticed something just a little bit different. After our typical exchange of baby demands (and Mommy accepting and meeting said demands), my little man handed me my glasses – and my cell phone. As I thanked him, I immediately began the internal parenting skills debate all mothers have: Have I done something wrong? Have I ignored him too many times in lieu of a cell phone conversation? No. But it’s easy to question these things. Our little people are impressionable and, as their first teachers, we teach them some of their most important lessons.

 

Since that moment, I’ve made more of an effort to make sure that my social media posts, text messages and calls are kept to a minimum during family time. And I’ve also taken note of what other parents are doing, sometimes with great dismay. One recent morning, I watched as a father took his child out of the backseat of his car – a normal thing to see. What was unnerving, was that the father was talking not to his child, but into an ear device that seemed to be attached to an even larger device protruding from his pants pocket.

 

Today’s new generation of parents are extreme multitaskers who thrive in a fast-paced, online-centered and social media-driven world that our parents didn’t have. Our time is limited, and in an attempt to live “full” and do all of the things we aspire to do, we do it all at once. We go to work and work, talk with old friends on Facebook messenger on our smartphones all while watching, responding and fielding texts from our children’s teachers as they notify us about school things. And let me tell you, it is exhausting.

 

Cleary, this is a problem. What’s the solution?

 

Here are some tips on how to multitask and stream your two lives together – and I’ll keep it brief, since we’re all busy enough!

 

Start rebuilding “old-fashioned” relationships

 

The next time you think about beginning a stream of social media conversations with your friends, ask them to meet you for lunch. It will save you some email time, and you can have an interaction with another human being that isn’t family or work-related.

 

Limit your time on social media

 

If you’re addicted to reading Facebook posts about what your friends are going through in their daily lives (minute by minute), let it be something you only do during your alone time: on your lunch break or right before bed.

 

Incorporate your children in your online expeditions

If you like to shop online, let your children shop with you for some of their items and you will kill two birds with one stone; spending time with your babies while getting your shopping fix! Also, if you like to listen to music, juice up your iPod or cell phone and play it for everyone. Move furniture around if you have to, but DANCE! Little ones love this because not only does it shake away any and all structure for a few minutes but its good exercise, and it’s fun.

 

Maximize your car rides

 

When you have little people, driving them around is a great way to make them listen to you. The next time you’re headed to the grocery store, or school and work, sing together, ask questions and just talk without worrying about making that telephone call or checking that email. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn, and how many laughs can come of it.

 

Turn it off

 

This is hard for some of us because our work is not the typical 8-5 but is more like the typical 24/7. But, if you have the opportunity to turn off your device without worry that you’ll miss something more important than the people you love, turn it off, enjoy the internet silence and make noise with the people in your life instead.

 

Photo: Marlena Rice

 

PHOTO CAPTION:

 

Beaux William is learning to use his play time wisely.



 

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