Saturday, September 20, 2014

Parenting Pointers: Top 10 Reasons to Encourage Your Kids to Volunteer

Wear the Cape and its non-profit the kid kind foundation want to share “Top 10 Reasons to Encourage Your Kids to Volunteer.” Authored by the organization’s resident expert on character education, Philip Brown, PhD, the Top 10 List shares with parents research-based reasons to urge their children to make time to serve others.

Dr. Brown explained, “As young people get older, they need to stretch their abilities, including their moral sensibilities. Engagement with other kids and adults in meaningful service activities can support healthy development in a variety of ways, providing opportunities for both growth and positive fulfillment.”

#1: Volunteering helps foster empathy.
Empathy is the most critical disposition for responding to the needs of others.  We need to be able to imagine what other people may be going through or feeling. Volunteering helps engage our natural empathic sense, but you have to make sure that there are opportunities to talk about the purpose and experience of any volunteer activity if the recipients aren't visible in the process (making sandwiches for the homeless isn't the same as helping to deliver the sandwiches to homeless people).
#2: Volunteering helps develop a sense of self-efficacy.
Children may understand that other people need help or that there are projects that could make a community more habitable or productive, but feel helpless or unclear that an individual can do anything about it in response. Volunteering can provide experiences that affirm a young person's sense that they can make a difference through their own effort and skills. These experiences can empower young people to apply themselves in other contexts, including school and other organized activities, such as faith-based youth groups or scouting. 
#3: Volunteers gain experience working with other people.
Social skills are best learned in social situations. When people come together to engage in a meaningful task, issues of communication, power, collaboration and trust rise to the surface in a supportive context. It's easier, although still a challenge, to learn to navigate these waters with others who may be more skillful and be in a position to offer supportive feedback. It's a good way for parents and children to see each other in a different light, as well, and learn together.
#4: Volunteering develops new skills.
In addition to social skills, practical experiences of organizing tasks and using physical and mental capabilities to get jobs done is fundamental to successful work of any kind. In school, these skills are often fragmented or unrelated to real-world applications. Service activities offer the chance to apply and test our abilities, as well as learn from other kids or adults in a way that engages kids’ natural drive for competence.
# 5: Volunteering provides the opportunity to explore new interests and develop new passions.
There is nothing more exhilarating than discovering a new field of interest that sparks a real passion for learning and doing. One of the wonderful things about being our species is our inquisitiveness and motivation to investigate and find meaning in discovery. Service activities have the potential to expose us to these opportunities and see how other people live their passions.
#6: Volunteers learn a lot.
In the process of joining with others in service, volunteers learn about their community and the larger world. It takes us out of our own sphere of self-interest and self-absorption and opens us to issues and solutions, as well as other people's needs.  
#7: Volunteers actually make a difference in other people's lives.
Think about how much more impoverished our communities would be if all of the volunteer services disappeared. This is a lesson that children can be taught early and take with them into adulthood. For example, volunteers are critical in:
  • Helping families (daycare and eldercare)
  • Improving schools (tutoring, literacy)
  • Supporting youth (mentoring and after-school programs)
  • Beautifying the community (beach and park cleanups)
#8: Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.
Community service and volunteerism are a way to teach the importance of investing in our community and the people who live in it. We want our kids to not only be successful in their work and personal lives, but to learn what it means to be a citizen in our republic. The American values of democratic decision-making, social justice and equal opportunity require active participation for us to have a successfully functioning country.
#9: Volunteering offers you a chance to give back.
It's important for children to see that there are small and large opportunities to support community resources that your family uses or that benefit people they care about. Whether it's offering to help man a booth to support improvements in a park you use, or joining a fundraising walk to support medical research for a disease that afflicts a family member or friend, children and adults alike can feel empowered through participation.
#10: Volunteering is good for you.
While this is the last reason for volunteering on this list, and may not be the most important, it is good to know that research has consistently shown that acting altruistically has real benefits. Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards; it has been shown to:
  • Reduce stress: When you focus on someone other than yourself, it interrupts tension-producing patterns.
  • Make you healthier: The moods and emotions that frequently come through volunteer service like optimism, joy, and a sense of self-efficacy can contribute to strengthening the immune system.
  • Make you happier: Human beings are social animals. Working closely with others in a common pursuit for the benefit of our fellow creatures can fill us with a sense of purpose, and that can lead us to feelings of satisfaction and true happiness. 

About Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation
Wear the Cape™ for all kidkind™ is the first global, mission-powered brand with the nerve to equate being kind with being cool. By coaching kids to be BETTER THAN THAT™, Wear the Cape breaks down barriers and brings people together—a world of new values prevails: It’s cool to be inclusive, tolerant and socially responsible. From its line of apparel and accessories, to its educational tools and its own non-profit the kidkind foundation, Wear the Cape sparks awareness and raises money to build heroes, a kid at a time. Wear the Cape’s products and resources are designed to create teachable moments between kids and the grown-ups they look up to with Hero Tags that tee up conversations about what it means to stand up and stand out; to stick up for the underdog; to do what’s right, not what’s easy. Wear the Cape donates 10% of its net profits directly to the kidkind foundation, and the rest is reinvested in the design and production of new products, as well as character-building educational materials for parents and teachers to help the kids they love. Wear the Cape’s work with communities and schools is helping mold everyday heroes that will create a kinder, better world for us all.

Healthy Habits: Weird Workout Hacks that Actually Work

Weird Workout Hacks that Actually Work
It’s not hard to find hundreds of search results for workout tips when searching the internet. That’s why I was on a mission to find quick and easy workout tips that actually work, proven by scientific studies.  Below are my findings:

Talk to Yourself- While most people get bothered, and slightly scared, by others who talk to themselves while working out, the results of a recent study might get you mumbling too. In a study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal, researchers found that physical exhaustion, or the desire to stop working out, is largely psychological. The study recommends consistent and orderly self-talk in order to produce desired effects. By using statement such as “I am strong,” or “I can do two more reps,” you may find yourself pumping out an extra rep or running longer than ever before.

Grow a Milk Moustache- Chocolate milk, that is. While some athletes turn to a protein shake for post-workout, chocolate milk may be just as good of an option. Chocolate milk is a good post workout drink because it is a great blend of carbohydrates and proteins, all mixed into one. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that muscles protein synthesis is greater when milk-based proteins are consumed post workout, versus soy-based proteins.

Hit the coffee shop- This may be no different than usual for you coffee-lovers out there, but studies show there is a perk to having coffee or caffeine before a workout. Not only can caffeine help you burn a greater number of calories during your workout, it can also delay depletion of muscle glycogen, according to an article by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Activate your Glut-4- Doing 60 seconds of exercise right before eating and 60 seconds of exercise about 90 minutes after eating will activate your Glucose Transporter 4. Doing this will allow more calories to flow toward muscle cells than fat cells. Also known as glut-4, this naturally-occurring protein in your body can do amazing things with the excess sugar and calories in your body.
The most effective workout tips are those that work for you. Every person’s physical make-up is different, but most important everyone’s motivation for exercising is different. Some of the above tips may help you tremendously, and others not at all. Give them a try!

This article was authored by Michael Volkin, inventor of Strength Stack 52 bodyweight exercise cards and the all new Weight Loss Stack 52, the most fun and unique way to lose weight. 

Parenting Pointers: Auto Repair Tips for Tean Drivers

October is National Car Care Month and the experts at have car safety in mind, especially for teenagers, who are at a significantly higher risk of being in accidents and even fatal crashes according to the NHTSA. offers a downloadable Teen Driver Car Maintenance and Repair Guide. The Guide includes:

-        A Vehicle Diagram to help you identify key components of your car.
-        A Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Vehicle Maintenance Checklist to keep your car running its best.
-        Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Vehicle Repair Instructions to help you perform basic maintenance and repair of your car.
-        Car Maintenance and Repair Tips & Tricks you probably didn't know but should.
-        Car Repair Safety Information to keep you safe while you're performing a repair.
-        Roadside Safety Tips while you're out on the road.
-        A Car Maintenance Quiz to earn your Certificate of Commitment upon successful completion.

Below are six key maintenance tips for teens (and adults!) from the Teen Driver Car Maintenance and Repair Guide.

1.      Know your car's maintenance intervals and keep up with service
Each vehicle has a maintenance schedule, outlined in your owner's manual. Be sure you read and understand the schedule. Items that require regular maintenance include the car's fluids, tires, brakes, and oil and filter changes, too. Oil and air filter changes are particularly important to keep the engine running efficiently and make great beginning DIY auto repair projects. Get an experienced adult to help the first few times, and follow these how-to guides for help:
How to Change Your Oil
How to Replace an Air Filter

Did You Know? These days experts say that you only need to change your oil every 5,000 miles. A good rule of thumb is this – if a vehicle is older than a 2002 model year, it should probably get an oil change every 3,000 miles. If it's newer than a 2002 model, it's fine to change the oil every 5,000 miles.

2.      Take care of your tires – make sure they can get you to school, work, etc.
Tire maintenance is particularly important for safe and fuel-efficient driving, so, take good care of them! Keep your tires properly inflated, and watch for tire wear. Driving on underinflated tires can shorten the life of your tires, increase tire wear and lead to significant tire damage from heat, potholes and other road hazards. Plus, keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent. Consult your owner's manual or tire sticker on the door jamb for manufacturer-recommended tire pressure settings. And, look at your tires for wear and tear every time you stop for gas.

Did You Know? You can check for tire wear and tear by using a penny. Hold a penny at the base between your thumb and forefinger so that you can see the top of President Lincoln's head and the words "In God We Trust." Place the top of Lincoln's head into one of the grooves in your tire tread. If any part of Lincoln's head is covered, you have a legal and safe amount of tire tread left and your tires probably don't need to be replaced. However, if there is any space above Lincoln's head, or if you can see any part of the words "In God We Trust," it's time for new tires. Click here for more tire care tips.

3.      Don't ignore dashboard warning lights
Dashboard warning lights serve as notification that something may be wrong with your car, and include the Check Engine Light, Oil Light, Temperature Light, Brake Light, and more. When warning lights come on, pay attention to them! Read the owner's manual so you know what each of the warning lights mean and how you should respond.

Did You Know? If your Check Engine light is blinking while you're driving, you should pull over immediately. The Check Engine light can signal any number of system failures, from a fuel vapor leak caused by a loose gas cap to poor acceleration caused by a faulty MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor. If the light comes on and stays on without flashing – yet the car seems to be running smoothly – chances are your car can be examined by a mechanic after you get home, or when you can get to one. On the other hand, if the Check Engine light is blinking while you're driving, pull over or get to a mechanic right away. A blinking check engine light usually indicates a severe misfire that could damage your car's engine.

4.      Don't let your car run too low, or out of gas
You know it's important to fuel your body with food for optimal performance at school and play, and it is equally important to fuel your car appropriately, which means not letting your car run too low on gas. Most of today's vehicles have fuel-injected engines that rely on in-tank electric pumps that use gas to cool and lubricate its components. Driving your fuel injected engine frequently on fumes could cause hundreds of dollars in repairs, and leave you stranded on the side of the road, which is always a dangerous place to be. A good rule of thumb – keep the fuel level above a quarter tank to keep your car running well, and to avoid running out of gas!

Did You Know? You don't need to use the highest grade of gasoline for your car's engine to perform its best. The variation in quality between different grades of gasoline today is very small, so don't waste your money by filling up with premium gasoline unless your car "requires" it (if this exact wording is stated in your owner's manual).

5.      Steer clear – take care of your windshield
The windshield is like the eye of your car. Therefore, it is critical to keep it clean and clear for safe driving. Some parts of the country are, or will be, experiencing their first rainfalls after months of being dry. You don't want to discover that your windshield wiper blades don't work during the first rainfall when you need them most. Wiper blades that have cracks, skip, streak or leave spots or smears should be replaced. You should also check spray nozzles for proper aim. If the nozzles are clogged, clean them with a needle. Use windshield washer fluid in the tank to prevent corrosion and remove stubborn dirt, grime and insects from your windshield. Whether it rains or not, you should try to use your spray nozzles and wiper blades every few weeks to keep them functioning properly.
How to Replace Wiper Blades.

Did You Know? Carrying a squeegee with a scrubber in your car or trunk is a good idea. It can help remove splattered bugs, and maximize visibility.

6.      Teen life moves fast, but your car doesn't have to. Slow down – avoid speeding
Perhaps one of the best ways to keep your car well maintained, and keep you safe on the road, is to avoid speeding! It may seem fun to drive fast, or you might simply be in a hurry (late for school, maybe?), but speeding is incredibly dangerous, and bad for your car. In fact, driving slower puts less demand on your car's engine and transmission, and also helps to reduce the amount of gas you use in the process. Avoid all driving habits that put stress and strain on your vehicle, such as fast driving, hitting curbs, and off-roading. It is also a good idea to slow down and increase your following distance when driving in harsh weather, as vehicles can lose traction in rain, snow and ice.

Did You Know? Speeding is so dangerous because it reduces your reaction time to avoid a potential collision. Remember that speeding is reckless driving.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Parenting Pointers: 100 Years of Wisdom

A new research report was recently released that reveals the thoughts, perspectives, and words of wisdom from America’s oldest grandparents, centenarians, on hot-button issues from marriage and politics to personal finance and today’s youth. The report, “100 Years of Wisdom: Perspectives of Centenarians,” is available at The report, published by Holiday Retirement, uncovers that centenarians believe today’s youth do not understand the value of hard work and spend way too much time on their phones and computers. According to these individuals and their 100+ years of insight, family, spirituality, and diet make you live longer; and saying “I love you” more is part of the recipe for a healthy marriage.

The following are some of the pieces of advice from what thousands of years of collective experience have taught the remarkable people interviewed for the report:

  • On marriage: 29 percent say make a stronger effort to communicate.
  • On today’s youth: 79 percent applaud today’s youth; they seem smarter and sharper than when our centenarians were young.
  • On personal finances: 1 in 4 surveyed centenarians said they were not financially prepared to live as long as they have.
  • On the state of the country: Centenarians are most optimistic with the direction that education and science and technology are headed.
  • On life’s regrets: In hindsight, 34 percent of centenarians said they would spend more time with loved ones.
  • On health and happiness at 100: Almost 80 percent of centenarians polled feel that living in an independent senior living community contributed to their longevity.
Holiday Retirement, a provider of more than 300 senior living communities across the United States, conducted the research and produced the report, “100 Years of Wisdom: The Perspective of Centenarians.” The findings are a compilation of phone interviews with centenarians covering the topics of today’s youth, love and relationships, lifelong regrets, the keys to longevity, and more. To request a copy of the report and accompanying infographics, please visit

About Holiday Retirement
Since 1971, Holiday Retirement has endeavored to provide its signature “Holiday Touch” to residents and their families. Today, Holiday is a trusted name in senior living and provides security, comfort, and value to independent seniors seeking a fulfilling lifestyle. Holiday operates more than 300 retirement communities, making it the second largest senior housing operator in the United States. For more information about Holiday Retirement, please call 800-322-0999 or visit

Smart Safety: Focus on Family Safety During National Preparedness Month

Did you know September is National Preparedness Month? The U.S. government recognizes that no part of our country is completely free from the threat of natural disaster. Be it tornadoes, floods and blizzards, like our region commonly faces, or hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, wildfires or more, the best way to keep your family safe in times of disaster is to prepare.

Preparation saves lives! Headwaters Relief Organization, a Golden Valley-based collaboration of volunteers who help natural disaster victims around the world, knows this all too well. In instances where people, especially children, have planned what to do in disaster ahead of time, there is less chance of serious injury or death.

Without understanding what an earthquake was or that their homes were dangerously unstable after the earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010, many Haitian children died by returning to a familiar, safe place – home – because they didn't know any better. Headwaters Relief saw this while providing relief work there and wrote a book, When Haiti Shakes, to help prepare Haitian children for future earthquakes.

Stemming from these firsthand experiences with lack of knowledge and preparation for natural disasters, Headwaters Relief is particularly dedicated to helping area moms prepare their families for the worst. They'll be presenting at the 2014 Minneapolis Emergency Prepare Fair on September 23rd (held at the IDS Crystal Court & Nicollet Mall between 6th and 10th Streets). And they're sharing tips for families to get ready for worst-case-scenarios.

·       Make a family plan: Your family plan must cover 3 critical components: 1) Escape routes from your house (ideally 2 from each room) and from your neighborhood; 2) A meeting place outside your neighborhood where your family can get together if separated; 3) An emergency contact outside of the area who can help you coordinate (e.g. an aunt who lives out of state). All family members, babysitters and immediate neighbors should be aware of the plan and family members should memorize the emergency contact phone number. (Note: if you have pets, your family plan should also include what to do with pets in a disaster.)
·       Talk to your children: Children often don't understand the scope of natural disasters and dangers associated with them. You need to talk them through the family plan and explain what to expect in disasters that threaten our area. Tornadoes, for example, bring big winds and make even heavy things like cars fly around. Floods come with too much rain and can fill the streets and even your house with water. Talk in terms your kids will understand so there's no confusion and unnecessary fright. End the talk by allowing your children to ask you questions and talk about what worries them. You can also let your kids play online games designed to teach them about disaster preparedness in a fun way. FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security have some games available at
·       Prepare an emergency kit: Drinking water; non-perishable food; a change of clothes; blankets; flashlights; a battery-powered radio; batteries; necessary medications; important documents like personal identification and passports, birth certificates, deeds and insurance information; mobile phones and chargers; cash; a first aid kit; and emergency contact numbers should all be in a basic emergency kit. You can find additional ideas from the Red Cross. Put your kit in an easy-to-access place and make sure the entire family knows where the kit can be found.
·       Conduct family drills: Some ideas for drilling your family – essentially practicing your family plan – include grabbing the emergency kit, escaping the house, finding their way to the meeting point and dialing the emergency contact. You can make this fun for kids by offering prizes at the end of each activity or awarding points that tally up to a winner who receives an award. The purpose of practice isn't to scare your children, but to help them remember what to do should a disaster happen.

If you'll be attending the Emergency Prepare Fair, Headwaters Relief volunteers will be happy to talk to you about your family's preparedness and answer any questions you may have. If you can't make it to the Fair, you can talk to Headwaters Relief on Facebook and Twitter.

Hopefully your family will never need to put the family plan into action. But just in case, it's important to keep the plan fresh in your kids' minds, so they stay safe in dangerous times.

Parenting Pointers: How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Marijuana is being legalized in many states and countries, and nearly every child in the United States will be offered drugs or alcohol before graduating high school. Colleges get a bad reputation for being hotbeds of drinking, and to a lesser extent, prescription drug abuse that is not uncommon. However, if parents tell teenagers about the risks of drugs and alcohol, teens are twice as likely to never try them, and if they can make it to 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs, or abusing alcohol or prescription drugs, their likelihood of ever doing so is nearly zero.

So how can parents sound the alarm for their kids, in ways that they'll listen? In his book HOW TO RAISE A DRUG-FREE KID: The Straight Dope for Parents, Joseph A Califano, Jr., founder of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), provides practical advice on getting the message to your kids.

It was first published in 2009 and has been updated since then, with advice on nearly every facet of drug awareness and abuse, including how to talk to kids about drugs and alcohol, how to identify risky situations, the dangers of drugs, and how to find a program if teens do need treatment. He also looks at how drug use affects boys and girls differently, with different pressures to use or abuse drugs.

A few great tips from the book (there are many more, making the book a good resource for parents):
  • Get kids involved in healthy activities.
  • Maintain open communication with your teens.
  • Provide your kids with tools to appropriate turn down offers of drug use.
  • Stay involved with your kids to balance the effects of peer pressure.
The book is easy to read - lengthy, but with self-contained chapters that can be read as time allows. Information is presented clearly, and overall it's a very helpful book.

Soul Sustenance: The Power of the Heart

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

It's not often that a book can really blend the spiritual and the scientific well. In The Power of the Heart, which will be published in early October, Baptist de Pape interviews eighteen notable personalities, including Maya Angelou, Deepak Chopra, and Jane Goodall, who share personal stories and words of guidance. By allowing them to speak in their own words, in provides a rich representation of many traditions that have enabled discovery and love.

The book shows how the heart is more than the physical organ, but is really the spiritual and intangible center of who we are. Not only does the book include words of wisdom from amazing people, it also includes mindfulness exercises to help unlock the powers of the heart: intuition, gratitude, love, and forgiveness. It's a book that is appropriate for people of all spiritual backgrounds, and, like any book, will contain nuggets of wisdom, as well as tidbits that don't pertain to every reader. But on the whole, it's an inspiring book to read.

Caring Causes: Office Depot Foundation National Backpack Program

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

The beginning of the school year is full of excitement - but for many families, also full of dread if they can't afford new school supplies. The Office Depot Foundation is hoping to change that, with the National Backpack Program, which has given away over 3 million backpacks and sackpacks since 2001.

The packs are simple, but useful, with colorful, kid-friendly designs that are non-branded. Each one has a pencil pouch with a pen, pencil, sharpener, eraser, small ruler, and crayons. They won't necessarily cover all the bases for school supplies on many school supply lists, but they provide the essentials.

You can learn more about the National Backpack Program and other charitable initiatives from office depot on Facebook or @OfficeDepotFndn.

Fun Freetime: Little Elliot Big City

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Little Elliot Big City is a delightful little book and great for any child who's ever felt out of place. Little Elliot leads a quiet life in the busy, bustling city. Mike Curato has combined a charming story with artistic illustrations to make a story that pleased both of my kids - especially Elliot's discovery at the end. I really loved the illustration style - they're beautiful pictures, full of color, yet somewhat muted so they don't distract from the story. Plus, the story is a good way to talk to kids about sense of self, and about discovering those with whom they share a common connection. The book's website has a downloadable activity kit for parents and educators as well!

Fun Freetime: When Calls the Heart - Second Chances

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

If you're a fan of the When Calls the Heart series, you'll be happy to know there's another DVD available. In this new installment, Elizabeth and Jack are trying to restore their relationship, while Elizabeth struggles to find new teaching strategies, and other community members are dealing with difficult changes as well.

Like the other When Calls the Heart episodes, there are powerful, values-filled themes of hope, reconciliation, and positive relationships. The series has been popular on the Hallmark Channel, where it airs. They're based on the original books by Janette Oke, and stay true to the character of the novels. They make solid family movies that you know are going to be appropriate to watch with your kids (except for the youngest ones, who may not understand the whole plot and find it interesting).