Road Safety: Setting a Good Example for Your Kids as a Good Driver

Remember way back to drivers’ ed and that long checksheet you had to go through before even starting the car? (Adjust all the mirrors? check. Put your seatbelt on? check. All passengers properly situated> check.) These days we just get in the car and go without thinking twice (or maybe even once) about the little things that keep us safe when we’re on the road.

Every year there are millions of car accidents, many of which are brought to you by driver who aren’t paying attention. Doing a safety check takes only a few minutes and it’s well worth it. We may think that we’re focused on the job at hand when we’re behind the wheel, but we’re often a lot more distracted than we know. For that reason, it’s never a bad idea to take a look at our habits and see whether there are any ways to improve our safety on the road.

Staying safe is everyone’s responsibility, but not everyone takes that job as seriously as they should. And even when they (and we) do, momentary lapses in judgment still happen.

1. Buckle Up
Maybe the easiest ways to improve safety is to wear your seatbelt. Yes, this seems like common sense, but as we’re backing out of our driveways or pulling out of our morning coffee stop, it’s easy to forget. A huge percentage of accidents happen in parking lots or very close to where at least one of the participants lives. Yes, they’re often pretty low speed, but without seatbelts, there’s still a lot of potential for serious injury. So before you put your car in drive, make sure everyone is buckled up.

2. It can wait
The number of accidents attributable to distracted driving is growing every year–and so is the number of fatalities. As a result, lawmakers around the country are coming up with new legislation designed to limit the use of mobile devices while in the car. Support the “no texting and driving” initiative by using a magnetic sign to show your support of the campaign. This also helps remind other drivers how dangerous it is to take your eyes off the road for even a second.

3. They’re watching our every move
Set a good example for your kids to help improve safety for the next generation of drivers. Technology will only increase how much activity can be performed while driving, so it’s important to let your young ones know that inattentive driving is dangerous. This includes not just texting, but messing with the radio dials or even using your hands-free phone devices while driving. Make your calls, enter addresses into your GPS, and send your texts while you’re parked.

4. It can wait–again
How many times a day do you check for email or texts or look up something on Google or Facebook? Those things are all fine and dandy when we’re sitting at home or at the office or standing in line at the post office. But when we’re moving a two-ton chunk of metal down the road, they’re anything but fine. So stand for road safety and make sure your kids see you doing it. The life you save could be theirs.

Finally! Science Proves That Pizza is Good for You

Pizza contributes to higher calorie, saturated fat and sodium intake in children’s and teens’ diets. And as the second largest contributor to calorie and nutrient intake in children’s diets, its impact on maintaining healthy weight is important. The authors of the study, “Energy and Nutrient Intake from Pizza in the United States,” appearing in the February 2015 issue of Pediatrics, (published online Jan. 19) examined dietary recall data from a period of several years for children age 2 to 11 and teens aged 12 to 19. On the days pizza is consumed, it makes up more than 20 percent of the daily intake of calories. Plus, overall calorie intake for that day is much higher. Since dietary counseling is more effective if focused on specific foods, rather than overall nutrients, and pizza plays a prominent role in children’s overall diet, the authors suggest that pizza be directly addressed in nutrition counseling. And because pizza is available from multiple sources (restaurants, fast food, stores and schools), efforts should focus on improving nutritional content and marketing.

Tips for Dads: Discussing the Tough Topics

Daddy talking to his son about serious things

Daddy talking to his son about serious things

It is a complex world in which we live and, for young children, certain complexities are difficult to comprehend. Communication with your kids evolves as they get older, challenging us to figure out the best way to talk about important topics. But this is all new territory and you’re not sure how to explain “the bird and bees” to an eight year old in an appropriate way.

So, Dad, it’s time to learn the rules for talking to your kids about the tough stuff.

Make it Age-Appropriate

There is a joke where a little boy asks dad, “Where did I come from?” Dad pulls out books and diagrams, launching into the entire birds-and-bees lecture. When he is done, the horrified son looks up and says, “Billy said that he came from Miami.”

[Read more…]

Special Father-Son Activities for a Memorable Valentine’s Day

Happy father and son with love cloud at beach

Happy father and son with love cloud at beach

On a day devoted to love, why not spend some special one-on-one time with your son? After all, love isn’t just for couples, it’s for everyone from parents to siblings to kids to friends and even pets. Below are a few ideas for a Valentine’s guys’ day with your son.

For younger boys

If your son is in preschool or elementary school, prepare a homemade lunch for two with a heart-shaped theme. Kraft Recipes has a tasty heart-shaped pita sandwich recipe. Of course, the pita can be subbed for any type of bread, as we all know kids are picky eaters. Make or buy heart-shaped cookies for dessert and then give your favorite guy a little token of your love, even if it’s as simple as a small stuffed animal. Then, after lunch, head outdoors for a walk or bike ride.

For middle school boys

If your son is between ages 10 and 14, he probably likes crafty activities. Make Valentine’s Day bags and develop a plan of action to drop the bags off at his friends’ houses. Boys at this age inherently love the whole concept of Ding Dong Ditch, so channel your inner merry prankster and talk with him about what you might want to give your friends and neighbors. Go shopping together for candy, inexpensive goodies and small red paper gift bags with handles. After you fill the bags, set aside an evening so the two of you can carry out the mission. When you reach the destination, pull over and let him quietly walk up to the door, leave the bag, ring and bell and scurry back to the car. This adrenaline-filled evening is sure to be lots of fun. When you are finished delivering all of your mystery bags, head out for ice cream or frozen yogurt together.

For high school boys

Your teenage son might not want to admit this to you—he is practically a grown up and everything—but he really loves spending time with you. Let your teen know that in honor of Valentine’s Day, you want to spend an entire afternoon with him…and he gets to choose the activity. This could range from playing video games together to jamming for a couple of hours on your guitars.

If your son is into sports, the NBA All-Star game just happens to fall on Valentine’s Day weekend this year, from Feb. 13-15. Clear your schedule as much as you can and get comfy on the couch with him for a weekend full of basketball. Make it even better by ordering in a ton of food (pizza, wings, sodas) and stocking up on other snacks he loves, so once you’re on the couch, you don’t have to go anywhere except the kitchen. If you love popcorn, order a giant variety tin of gourmet popcorn from an online retailer (suggested: check out the Popcornopolis Gourmet 3-Flavor Popcorn Tin from FTD). Kettle corn, caramel popcorn and cheddar cheese popcorn in a tin that serves 20? It may actually fill up your teenage son’s stomach for an hour.

Family Camping Never Loses Its Magic

Camping is one of those great family activities that requires everyone to sacrifice a bit of their time to open a window of opportunity for some real family bonding. Often times, parents take cell phones and keep them somewhere safe on camping trips, so that the members of the family can communicate and bond without outside interference.

So why doesn’t every family go camping? Well, depending on several factors, camping can be expensive, time constraining, or unsafe. However, these are very special circumstances. For the average family, camping can be done without spending a ton of money, during a time that’s good for everyone, in a completely safe and fun way.

The most common reason for not camping is the expense factor. Camping can be extremely expensive, depending on your requirements. However, camping is about “roughing it” a little, and not having to worry about a little dirt under your nails. Tents and sleeping bags are typically the largest “required” expense for camping. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, though. For a summer camping trip, summer equipment will do just fine. You can find quality summer tents, with rain flies, big enough to sleep 4 people and their gear for as little as $80. Sleeping bags can be expensive, but, if you are summer camping, you don’t need a -40°F bag. A simple 20°F sleeping bag will work perfectly. You may even find yourself not using it at all, depending on the temperature. These summertime sleeping bags can be found for as low as $30. All together, that puts you at $200 for quality reusable gear.

Other gear you will need depends largely on the type of camping you want to do. Coolers for food can be expensive, but many campgrounds have small “general stores” to buy food from. Obviously, one of the most important things to bring is water. There are several options for water supply for a camping trip. You can bring bottled water, but there will be a lot of trash and weight. There are water-purifying bottles, but these can be very pricey. There are survival-style items, such as iodine tabs, that can be used, but most folks aren’t this into camping. There are pros and cons to each of these options. Be sure to choose the one that’s right for you.

Where camping tends to get expensive is in all the outdoors activities there are to do while camping. Typically, the price goes up with the intensity level of the activity. For example, bird-watching is only as expensive as a set of binoculars, but zip lining can be very expensive. It’s not a bad thing to spend money on things that will bring you and your family closer to each other, but you have to ensure that the things you purchase are worth the price.

ATVs, for example, aren’t exactly cheap, but they can supply 10+ years of fun for you and your family. They can bring an experience that not much else will give your family. Plus, there is a cheaper alternative; trail-worthy go karts! While not as inexpensive as a pair of binoculars, go karts will offer so much more, in terms of excitement and thrill. To top it all off, they are probably cheaper than you’d think. A good quality go kart can sell for as low as $564.77 with a company like Killer Motorsports. Just be sure to do your online shopping to find those companies that offer good products at a great price.

Remember, though, that the best part of camping is not what you bring along; it’s how you use the things you bring to create opportunities for family bonding. Kids and parents can come together, around a warm campfire, and truly learn about each other in ways that sitting in separate rooms throughout the house just can’t offer. Camping is a time that the family will cherish and remember for the rest of their lives.

Military Families: New Articles for February

The latest batch of great articles for military families just went up.  Here’s what you’ll find this month:

  • Information on how to transfer military education benefits. If the servicemember can’t use them, it’s now possible to transfer them to the spouse, a child, several children, or any combination. But restrictions apply, and it’s important to know what they are.
  • Creative ways military families can reduce their tax bills. There are a lot of programs that aren’t available to civilians. You’ll learn about the most important ones here, including a situation where you can actually end up paying less tax by declaring more income.
  • Strategies to steer clear of the biggest financial pitfalls many military families fall into, from having to live on one income (because it’s so hard for spouses to find and keep work) and relocation expenses, to insanely expensive childcare and predatory lenders.
  • Advice on how to weigh your options when you’re faced with a “should-I-reenlist-or-should-I-get-out?” decision. There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to both civilian and military life. We’ll help you make the choice that’s best for you and your family.
  • A guest post on the ins and outs of the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). What you don’t know could really hurt your chances of finding that perfect home.