Monday, September 29, 2014

Parenting Pointers: College Prep Tools

Anxiety often runs high when applying colleges. Getting kids ready to apply to and attend college is a year round, full time undertaking with lifetime consequences. Some families start game-planning a good college in pre-school. But most families can’t afford that kind of thing - or the private tutors and admissions coaches which can provide a real edge. (If you’ve got $300,000, this  guy  will guarantee your child gets into an Ivy League school).

For the rest of us, there are some great, free tools out there that can help you – and your kids – plan and prepare to make a good college impression and decision.

Here are five essential digital tools that will help calm the nerves of parents (while saving bank) and will help seamlessly guide college -bound kids to the coveted acceptance – yes!

1)    Admittedly: Every family preparing to send their child to college deserves access to the same college prep tools usually reserved for the top-paying clientele. Admittedly has it.  

It was founded by a former director of an elite test-prep company and Admittedly is the ultimate, free college advisory platform that uses OKCupid-like algorithms to match students to their ideal schools. It also includes an innovative college prep curriculum to help perfect the college application to land a dream school.

2)    GoEnnounce: While saving for college used to largely the duty of parents, it’s now essential for both parent and student. And tactics such as fundraising, scholarship hunting and cutting education costs are getting more and more essential.

GoEnnounce is a social educational network that not only encourages students to ‘ennounce’ and track academic achievements and projects with teachers, mentors and family members but is also a crowdfunding platform to fundraise for tuition, textbooks and to receive the financial help needed these days to pay for college.

3)    Scholarship Advisor: Finding scholarships can be stressful process. Scholarship Search (powered by StudentAdvisor.com) is an exclusive app designed to make it easier to find money for college.
Browse handpicked lists on topics including academic, athletic, health care, military, and more. Discover unique and relevant scholarships that you may not have even known about.
With easy search navigation, it’s possible to find and even apply for millions of dollars in scholarships right from your smartphone. Add important dates to your calendar and never miss a scholarship deadline again!
4)    The College Abacus: Financial aid offers are confusing and many parents just want to find out their EFC (Expected Family Contribution). However the answer can be complicated and it’s tricky to figure out if the offer includes room and board, all fees, or just tuition. And sometimes schools don't identify loans as loans but insist on calling it "financial aid."

College Abacus is a useful tool to compare financial aid offers and helps to demystify the process.

5)    Quad2Quad: Take the hassle out of college visit planning with Quad2Quad mobile app, which is a virtual travel assistant, curating and assembling the most important college data for the user. Quad2Quad allows families to plan college visits without spending hours combing multiple college websites.

Pet Pointers: Encouraging Children to be Responsible Pet Owners

Every parent has heard the words "I want a dog!" from their kids, to which parents reply with "you have to feed it, walk it and play with it." Although parents may believe getting a pet will help instill responsibility into their children, it is imperative to properly prepare both yourself and your children for the responsibilities that come with having a family pet.
To help prepare families and children everywhere, Heidi Ganahl, CEO and Founder of Camp Bow Wow, the nation's largest pet care franchise, has provided helpful tips on how to educate children to become responsible pet owners.

  • Proper Feedings: Dogs need food, too! Dogs need to be fed two times per day. If dogs aren't fed, they get hungry and can become ill. This means that you will have to wake up in the morning to make sure they have breakfast and feed them dinner before you take them on an evening walk.
  • Exercise: Dogs need walks! It is best for dogs to be walked twice a day, for at least 30 minutes per walk. There are days that it will be rainy and yucky, but you still have to take your pup for a stroll. You might be tired after school, but you are still going to have to take your dog out and get them exercise.
  • Dog Waste: Dogs need to go potty, and you'll need to clean it up. Just like humans, dogs go "poop." If you are on a walk, you will need to carry bags to pick it up after they go. If the dog goes potty in the yard, you will have to make sure you pick it up and throw it away. Although it is not a fun job, it is a basic part of being a responsible pet "parent."
  • Cleaning & Grooming: Just like you need to take a shower or bath because you get dirty and stinky, so do dogs. You will need to make sure that your dog gets a bath regularly, that you clip their nails so they don't get long, and that you comb or brush them regularly. If they get in mud, dirt or something else, you will need to give them a bath right away. You can't wait until your favorite TV show is over or until you are ready to.
  • Training is Essential: Are you ready to take your dog to training once a week? Dogs have brains just like humans do, and they need to be given time to do some thinking. From proper sitting, petting and behavior around children and guests training your dog, or bringing them to a professional trainer will allow them to become a well behaved pet that you can bring around others.

Best and Worst States to Have a Baby

With September being the most popular month to have a baby and the United States having the most expensive birthing costs in the world, the leading personal finance social network WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2014’s Best and Worst States to Have a Baby.

To enlighten expectant parents on the costs and conditions they can anticipate with respect to where they live, WalletHub examined 22 key metrics such as delivery costs, access to pediatric services and the number of child care centers per capita.
 

Best States to Have a Baby Worst States to Have a Baby
1 Vermont 42 North Carolina
2 Maine 43 West Virginia
3 Oregon 44 Georgia
4 Connecticut 45 New York
5 New Hampshire 46 Nevada
6 Wyoming 47 Pennsylvania
7 Iowa 48 South Carolina
8 Massachusetts 49 Mississippi
9 Alaska 50 Louisiana
10 Utah 51 Alabama

Key Stats

  • The average annual infant care costs in the District of Columbia are 4 times higher than in Mississippi.
     
  • The infant death rate in Mississippi is 3 times higher than in Alaska.
     
  • The number of child centers per capita in Vermont is 9 times higher than in Utah.
     
  • The rate of low birth weight in Mississippi is 2 times higher than in Alaska.

  • The number of OB-GYNs per capita in District of Columbia is 9 times higher than in West Virginia.

  • California has the best parental leave policies, whereas 17 states tied for the worst.

  • The number of pediatricians per capita in the District of Columbia is 92 times higher than in Pennsylvania.
For the full report and to see where your city ranks, please visit:
http://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-to-have-a-baby/6513/

Smart Safety: Child Seat Installation

I recently had a chance to interview Evenflo’s Safety Expert Sarah Haverstick about car seat safety.

1.       Why do you think so many car seats are installed incorrectly?
Approximately 70% of car seats are installed incorrectly. There are many common misuses. Many car seats are not tightly installed. With a correct, tight installation, the car seat will not move more than 1” from side to side or front to back when you test it at the belt path (grabbing the car seat where you have it installed to do this test). A lot of parents also fail to use the tether strap. That strap, which is generally attached to the back of a car seat, hooks to the tether anchor in your vehicle – and when properly installed, can help reduce the distance a child’s head moves in a crash by up to 4 – 6 inches! Frequently, we see parents using both the seat belt and lower anchor attachments at the same time, but that method of installation is often not approved by the car seat manufacturer. Also, when using a seat belt to install a car seat, many parents do not realize that the seat belt must be locked for proper installation.

Car seats can be confusing – especially for a first time parent. The biggest mistake that a parent can make is not reading the instruction manual. That is probably one of the leading causes of all misuse we see in the field. As soon as you take that car seat out of the box, you should find and read the instruction manual. And when you are finished with that, find your vehicle owner’s manual and read through the sections related to child passenger safety. It might take you a little bit of time on the front end, but will likely save you many headaches as you try to work through the installation.

2.       How can parents be sure they do have their car seats installed the right way?
First, don’t be afraid to ask questions!  If you are unsure of whether the installation of your car seat is correct, or your child’s fit is appropriate – find a nationally certified car seat technician near you. There are over 35,000 certified car seat technicians across the country that are ready to help! Car seat technicians provide education about child passenger safety and can assist parents with the installation of their car seat. The goal is to empower parents so they are confident enough in their own installation skills to do it the next time on their own. You can find a car seat tech in your area: http://cert.safekids.org/find-tech

You can also reach out directly to your car seat manufacturer. The manufacturers take child passenger safety very seriously and often have multiple certified car seat technicians on staff. At Evenflo, we have over 25 technicians and 2 instructors on our team!

3.       How do new features on the Evenflo Symphony with SureSafe help parents?
As mentioned earlier, seat belt installations of car seats are often incorrect because parents do not understand what type of seat belt system they have in their vehicle and how to lock that seat belt when installing their car seat. The LATCH System (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) was developed to eliminate the need for using the seat belt. The Evenflo Symphony with SureSafe Installation includes new LATCH Guides and lower anchor connectors making it easier to install the car seat using LATCH. The LATCH Guides attach to the lower anchor bars in your vehicle. They can stay in the vehicle once attached (even if you are not installing the car seat). The guides make it easier to access the lower anchor bars by creating a tunnel in between the vehicle seat cushions. No more digging around to try and find the anchors in your vehicle! The new lower anchor connectors push onto your lower anchor bars and have a quick-release loop to make it easier to uninstall the next time you need to move the car seat into another vehicle. This type of lower anchor connector is two times easier to install correctly than the traditional lower anchor hook.  The Evenflo SureSafe Installation System increases the ease of a proper installation to keep your child safe and give you peace of mind.

Shopping Savings: Spa Week

The arrival of fall brings colorful foliage, warm aromatic flavors and, the best of all, Spa Week. As spa goers fall deep into sweet autumn bliss, they can get fresh for fall from October 20th – 26th with $50 treatments like Pumpkin Peel Facials, Cinnamon and Ginger Root Body Scrubs and Cranberry Mandarin Oil Massages, to name a few. There are endless options to hydrate the skin, relax the senses and experience complete soul warming spa services, all of which you need to prepare for cold days ahead. Whichever treatments you choose, it’s all about letting the stress slip away.

This fall, Spa Week Media Group celebrates a decade of inspiring America to experience the relaxing and restorative benefits of spa services. Having enjoyed 10 years of wellness, we are proud to present the 10 Commandments of Spa Week that you can use to guide you to a state of relaxing and restorative bliss:

1. While it is always sad to bid summer farewell, Spa Week makes fall a season worth celebrating.  Thou shall take the vow of wellness, and get fresh for fall.  Enjoy various spa and wellness services normally valued at $100 to $500 for just $50. Spa Week is the only time you can book appointments such as a 50 minute De-Stress body treatment or an 80 minute pumpkin spice spa manicure and pedicure for $50. Embrace the health and happiness you can only experience after your favorite $50 spa and wellness service and skip through the rest of your week.

2. Thou shall take advantage of Spa Week. During the summer months, wellness routines are simplified so it is only natural that fall months are a time of transformation. Run, don’t walk if you are in need of revitalizing your skincare routine or exfoliating your body. Why stop at one treatment when you can indulge in two, three, or four? For instance, double up with a revitalizing pumpkin massage or try the perky pumpkin-radiance boosting and firming which will only be available at $50 from October 20th through October 26th. What’s better than two for the price of one especially when one is only $50.

3. Thou shall dedicate ample time to enjoy Spa Week. Hundreds of spas (resort, hotel, day, medical, and holistic), fitness studios, weight-loss and nutrition centers across the country will offer full-service treatments for an entire week! Spa Week is the one time you can get the longest and most luxurious 120 minute massages for just $50! One important rule to remember is to book your appointments in advance to get exactly what your body needs.

4. Honor thy esthetician or therapist. Service providers at Spa Week’s participating spas come from a variety of backgrounds. They have extensive training in their fields and provide clients with top-notch customer service, so be sure to tip on the full price if you are feeling blissful and relaxed from your $50 service.

5. Thou shall give praise. Taking advantage of Spa Week’s $50 services has become a powerful first step for so many individuals attempting to significantly improve their overall well-being. The second step is to pay it forward and share your experience with your friends and family. Finally share on social media – everyone will ‘like’ the new and improved you!

6. Thou shall embrace positive changes in your life that make you look and feel better. Motivate yourself to do the things that contribute to your health and wellness. Have you wanted to improve your skin care routine or take a Pilates class to get toned and improve balance? For just $50 per service, Spa Week is the perfect time to take a leap and try something new!

7. Thou shall leave your cell phones and worries at home or in the locker room, be mindful of other people and speak softly. Remember that the purpose of booking a $50 spa treatment is to reboot from today’s highly tech-ed out stressed-out world.
8. Thou shall overindulge on services. After all, when else can you receive $50 spa services (valued at $100 to $500) at the most exclusive and luxurious spa and wellness facilities in the country? Whether you are looking to get your skin exfoliated, moisturized or zapped, Spa Week is the perfect time to book those appointments.

9. Thou shall always share. Make your spa day extra-special by sharing it with friends or family who can also use some pampering. Whether you’re celebrating a bridal shower, birthday or just want to have a blast with your BFF, spa treatments are always better when you have someone to share it with. Woodhouse Day Spa, Red Door Spa and countless other locations offer great options for groups of many different sizes. From massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and even hair services, there’s something for everyone in every city for just $50.

10. Thou shall not covet another person’s spa treatment. Envious of your friend with the glowing skin in her Instagram selfie? Visit SpaWeek.com and make your appointment to visit a world class esthetician at premiere spa locations across the country including Clarins, The Salon and Spa at Saks Fifth Avenue, Skin Station and many others. At only $50 there’s no reason you shouldn’t indulge in that treatment you’ve been obsessing over!

Following these 10 Commandments will afford you the ability to enjoy all the benefits of the spa and wellness lifestyle all for just $50 a service, but if past Spa Weeks have been any indication, book early and spread the word fast as spas tend to sell out in a flash!

Returning for the Fall 2014 Event is Exclusive Trade Association Partner: International Spa Association (ISPA). We are pleased to introduce Exclusive Sleep Sponsor: Philip Stein; Exclusive Luxury Sunless Tanning Sponsor: Vita Liberata; Exclusive Fashion Sponsor: HauteLook™ and Exclusive Book Sponsor: Saving Grace by Jane Green (St. Martin’s Press). Spa Week is co-sponsored by CEW and a portion of the proceeds from the Spring and Fall Events are donated to CancerAndCareers.org.   

About Spa Week Media Group, Ltd. 
Spa Week Media Group, Ltd. (www.spaweek.com) is the largest and most respected spa and wellness marketing company in the country. Since its inception in 2004, Spa Week has continued to revolutionize the industry with the success of its bi-annual Spring and Fall Events' signature $50 spa services, life-changing promotions, an inspirational lifestyle blog, Spa Week Daily, and influential social media platforms. A true health and wellness finder, Spa Week delivers the best in health and wellness year round with its Spa & Wellness Gift Card, the premier spa gift card of choice by consumers. Accepted at over 8,000 spas and wellness locations across North America and sold in over 44,000 retail stores nationwide including Target, CVS, Rite Aid, BJ’s, Walmart, Sam's Club, Walgreens and on SpaWeek.com, it’s never been more convenient to give and enjoy the Gift of Wellness. Whether it’s learning how to completely revamp one’s lifestyle or simply seek motivation, the Spa Week brand remains at the forefront in guiding consumers on the path to living their healthiest and happiest lives possible.

Sweepstakes: E-Z-Go Diamond Golf Getaway

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, E-Z-GO is offering a once-in-a-lifetime golf experience for one lucky winner and three friends.

The E-Z-GO Diamond Golf Getaway will take the winner, and three friends to round out his or her foursome, on an expenses-paid trip to play their choice among a selection of renowned golf courses, including Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pinehurst No. 2, Sea Island Golf Club, or a course along Alabama’s famed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The prize includes a round of golf for four at the course of the winner’s choosing, plus first-class airfare and luxury accommodations for four during the trip. 

To enter the contest, participants are asked to take a short, fun online quiz at www.diamondgolfgetaway.com that matches their golf skills and vacation preferences with one of the four ultimate golf experiences. People also can take the quiz via Facebook at www.facebook.com/4ezgo. Participants also can enter the contest by visiting their local E-Z-GO Authorized Dealer, or via postcard entry. Each entrant can enter the contest up to four times.
 
The “Diamond Golf Getaway” promotion will end Dec. 31, 2014. More details about the promotion, including official rules and a complete list of contest entry methods, can be viewed online at www.diamondgolfgetaway.com. To find your local E-Z-GO Authorized Dealer, visit www.ezgo.com/dealer_locator.


About E-Z-GO
E-Z-GO, a Textron (NYSE: TXT) company, is a leading global manufacturer of golf cars, utility and personal transportation vehicles. Products sold under the E-Z-GO brand include RXV® and TXT® fleet golf cars, Freedom® RXV and Freedom TXT personal golf cars, E-Z-GO Terrain™ and Express™ personal utility vehicles, and the 2Five® street-legal low-speed vehicle. E-Z-GO also produces the Cushman® line of heavy-duty material carriers and utility vehicles, the Bad Boy Buggies® line of off-road utility vehicles for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, and TUG™ ground support equipment for the aviation industry. Founded in 1954 in Augusta, Ga., E-Z-GO became part of Textron Inc. in 1960. 

About Textron Inc.
Textron Inc. is a multi-industry company that leverages its global network of aircraft, defense, industrial and finance businesses to provide customers with innovative solutions and services. Textron is known around the world for its powerful brands such as Bell Helicopter, Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, Jacobsen, Kautex, Lycoming, E-Z-GO, Greenlee, and Textron Systems.  For more information, visit www.textron.com.

Healthy Habits: Gastrointestinal Health and EPI



Dr. Roshini Raj is a gastroenterologist at NYU Medical Center/Tisch Hospital in New York City, a Today show contributor, a bethenny contributor, the Good Day NY Medical Correspondent, and the Medical Editor of Health Magazine. Dr. Raj has discussed a wide variety of health topics on a range of shows, including NBC’s Today Show; ABC’s The View, LIVE with Kelly and Michael, Good Morning America and World News Tonight; CNN’s American Morning; The Discovery Health Channel; The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors; among others. I had a chance to interview her about EPI and gastrointestinal health.

Thrifty Thinking: Shopping Tips from Renee Ross

Nearly forty percent of U.S. households say they're "just getting by" or are struggling financially, according to a new survey by the Federal Reserve. The report is described as a snapshot of how Americans perceive their financial and economic well-being. Today's shoppers need to be savvier than ever. But doing research, clipping coupons, and shopping around takes a lot of time. What if there was an easier way?
 
I recently had a chance to interview Renee Ross, blogger at Cutie Booty Cakes, about the easiest ways to save money - without spending a lot of time. 




Besides the ones in the interview, she also has this advice to share:
  • Stop shopping with other people: social pressure is powerful & convinces people to buy items they don't really need
  • Take advantage of new cell phone plans with extended families including grandmothers, uncles and grandchildren
  • Always negotiate your medical bills: most providers will be willing to cut your balance by 25% or more if you offer to pay
  • Place a clock in every bathroom so there's no excuse to be late
  • Use a ceramic watercolor palette for sorting & separating jewelry and other small items
  • Keep electronic devices in a special drawer designated as nightly charging station
Renée holds a Master’s Degree in International Affairs and has worked domestically and abroad in the field of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention for over ten years. After the birth of her son, Renée decided that having a flexible schedule and working from home would be the best option for caring for her young son. Renée was named as one of the top moms in digital media in Nielson’s Online 2009 Power Moms list. She is a member of the Walmart Moms, a writer for Kid Expert, a weekly column on The Classy Closet and a member Hanes’Social Media Comfort Crew.

Website Spotlight: CareBooker

CareBooker.com recently launched, offering families an easy way to find, book and pay for child care, pet care, tutoring, and more.  CareBooker has a rapidly growing user base of services providers that can be booked around their real-time schedules and profiles that include services, prices, background checks, qualifications, and certified reviews.

“As a busy professional in New York, always on the go, I noticed how a lot of my friends and colleagues wanted to have pets but felt challenged to find the proper pet care that fit their budgets and schedules,” says CareBooker.com CEO Jenna Fernandes. “I thought, ‘If booking restaurants and flights can be done online, why not pet care and other family care services?’  That’s why I created CareBooker!”

CareBooker.com’s features include:
·         Wide Array of Family Services: CareBooker allows each user to find exactly what type of care he or she is looking for, including babysitters, pet care providers, tutors, and more.
·         Search For Free: Instead of forcing users to buy a subscription to search and view profiles of service providers, with CareBooker you can do that for free.
·         Optimal Security: Thanks to its partnership with TalentWise, CareBooker offers complimentary background checks for all its service providers.
·         Seamless Booking: CareBooker’s streamlined platform allows users to directly book interviews and appointments around a service provider’s real-time availability.
·         Easy Online Payments: Paying online has never been easier thanks to CareBooker’s advanced technologically platform that allows easy transactions right through the website—with even a tipping option!
·         Mobile Friendly: CareBooker.com is available on smartphones and other mobile devices, making the experience even more flexible and easy for on-the-go users.

ABOUT CAREBOOKER.COM
CareBooker.com is the “Open Table” of family care services. The site offers families an easy way to find, book and pay for child care, pet care, tutoring, and more.  CareBooker has a rapidly growing user base of services providers that can be booked around their real-time schedules and profiles that include services, prices, background checks, qualifications, and certified reviews.