Authors Posts by Gwen

Gwen

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Kraft Mac & Cheese will no longer be bright yellow. After complaints and petitions, Kraft Foods Group Inc. announced that starting in January 2016 the “blue box” Mac & Cheese will no longer include synthetic colors or artificial flavors.

 

 

 

“Kraft will replace the synthetic colors with those derived from natural sources like paprika, annatto and turmeric,” the company said in a statement. “These recipe changes are the latest steps in the Kraft Mac & Cheese journey to delight consumers with on-trend updates to meet consumers’ changing lifestyles and needs.”

They are removing the “potentially harmful” dyes Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.  Kraft has been pushed by consumer groups to remove the dyes for years. “We know parents want to feel good about the foods they eat and serve their families.”  The Mac & Cheese boxed shapes like “Minions” and “Star Wars” are already natural and free of artificial colorings.

Some people are unhappy about this change, what do you think? Will you miss the iconic yellow color or is it better without the artificial dyes?

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Thanksgiving is this week and whether you are hosting the big day or traveling to someone else’s home, we have some fun activities for the kids in your life.  We searched Pinterest and found some easy and FREE printables to keep the kids busy and hopefully instill a little thankfulness in their hearts. Check out our Pinterest page for more ideas on kid friendly Thanksgiving activities.

 

 

Thankful Turkey Paper Bag Puppet – This was originally a Sunday School teacher’s lesson for her class, but would work great for any number of children during a Thanksgiving celebration.

thankfulturkey

Thankful ABC Sheet – Not only are they thinking of 24 things to be thankful for, but it encourages creativity and it can be a conversation starter.

Thankful ABC Page

 

Thanksgiving Coloring Sheets – Print out some of these coloring sheets and put out some crayons. This is super easy and even big kids can get in on the fun.

colorpages

Thanksgiving Word Search and Other Activities — Maybe you want more than just coloring pages, here are some word searches, puzzles, table decorations and much more.

tdayprintables

Start a Conversation with these Thanksgiving Conversation Cards.  Put one at everyone’s seat and see what your friends and family are thankful for.

d0cda6f202fd8284a6691eebe03e0637

Make a Blessing Tree! This is an awesome way to showcase all your kids are thankful for this year.

blessingtree

 

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Do you struggle with daily bath time? I’m not sure what happened over the last couple of years, but my kids went from loving a good bath to hating bath time.  They are 9 and 12, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. However, they are on the right track with fewer showers a week. Sound crazy, check out the facts.

 

 

 

A chemical engineer from Boston, David Whitlock, has not taken a shower for 12 years. He found that humans don’t need to shower in order to be healthy.  He said that people who shower every day remove good bacteria from their skin.  In fact, the bacteria that causes body odor can be kept in check by the good bacteria you wash off during showers.

He actually came up with a bacterial spray, AO+ Mist, sold by the company AoBiome under the brand Mother Dirt. The company and Whitlock believe the spray could reduce, if not eliminate the need for soap or deodorant and might even eliminate showers!

The good bacterium is called Nitrosomonas genus.  It breaks down ammonia and produces nitric oxide and nitrite which then becomes an antibacterial substance.  This bacterium is found on almost every organism.  Whitlock found that humans were continually washing this good bacteria off their skin and that is what caused the bad bacteria, that causes body odor and other stink, to persist on our bodies.

On top of this exciting news, there are many people who don’t shampoo their hair more than once a week or even once a month. They find their hair retains natural oils and over time is healthier and looks better.

In light of these scientific findings, I’m going to let my boys skip a shower every so often.  They still have to wear their deodorant and wash their face until I can get my hands on some AO+ Mist.

 

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World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) released their nominees for the “10 Worst Toys of 2015.” They are warning parents to take precautions when buying toys, especially online. Some of the toys on the list seemed super safe, but WATCH revealed looks can be deceiving.

 

 

Check out the list below and visit WATCH’s website for more information on toy safety and recalls.

“BUD” SKIPIT’S WHEELY CUTE PULL ALONG

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$29.99
Bunnies By The Bay
Amazon.com, Ebay, Bunniesbythebay.com “babies 6 months and older”
None

HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR CHOKING INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! This soft, plush puppy pull toy is marketed for infants as a “friend” who is “ready to roll.” The furry pet rests on two sets of red wooden wheels with blue hub caps. On June 16, 2015, certain lots of these toys were recalled because the hub caps “can break or come off at the wheel, posing a choking hazard for young children.” After issuance of the recall, a similar toy, purchased online, exhibited the same potential for the “choking hazard” identified in the government’s recall notice.

Budpulltoy

FOAM DART GUN

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$13.99
GD.Jiefeng Toys
Amazon.com, Ebay
“For Ages 3 & Up”
“WARNING: Do not aim at eyes or face. TO AVOID INJURY: Do not modify darts”, and other warnings (package only)

HAZARD: REALISTIC TOY WEAPONRY!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! In today’s world, there is no excuse for outfitting children with realistic toy weapons designed to produce potentially dangerous and unnecessary thrills. Existing regulations addressing the hazards associated with such “toys” are inadequate. Detailed replicas have resulted in a number of deaths through the years and should never be sold as toys.

DartGun

STATS 38” QUICK FOLDING TRAMPOLINE

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$49.99
Toys R Us, Inc.
Toys R Us, Ebay
“6+”
“CAUTION: Performing any physical activity presents a risk of injury. Adult supervision required” (packaging), and other warnings/cautions on packaging and packaging insert

HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR HEAD, NECK AND OTHER BODILY INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! This trampoline is sold in the toy aisle for children as young as 6-years-old. Remarkably, the package insert cautions, in part, as follows:

“Landing on the head or neck can cause serious injury, paralysis, or death, even when landing in the middle of the bed.”

Further, despite an instruction that the product be used “only with adult supervision,” a photo on the packaging shows a child bouncing alone. The many hazards associated with trampoline use should make it apparent to manufacturers and retailers that such equipment should not be sold as a playtime activity for young children.

Trampoline

POO-DOUGH

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$4.99
Skyrocket Toys LLC
Kmart, Amazon.com, Walmart, Toys R Us “3+”
“ALLERGY NOTICE: CONTAINS WHEAT” (package only)

HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR ALLERGY-RELATED INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! It is difficult to envision the play value of a “toy” inviting children to “[m]ake your own poo!” so that it “[l]ooks like the real thing!” The product, which consists of a “poo mold” and three cans of brown “Poo-Dough compound,” contains an “allergy notice” on the throw-away packaging that the dough contains wheat. Allergic reactions to wheat include symptoms ranging from hives, headaches and difficulty breathing, to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

PooDough

SPLAT X SMACK SHOT

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$10.00
Imperial Toy LLC
Walmart, Amazon.com, Kmart
“Ages 8+”
“WARNING: Do not aim or shoot at people or animals”; “Launcher should never be aimed at eyes, face, people or animals”; “Anyone within close distance…should be alerted prior to firing…”; and other warnings

HAZARD:

POTENTIAL FOR EYE INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! The “Smack Shot” is similar to a slingshot, and is sold with ammunition capable of firing “up to 100ft!” The many warnings and cautions include “alerting” anyone within “close distance to the intended target….”

SmackShot

KICK FLIPPER

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$19.99
Playsmart Inc.
Amazon.com, Learning Express
“5+”
“CAUTION – Do not use on stairs, hills, or inclines”, and other cautions

HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR HEAD AND IMPACT INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! The “Kick Flipper” is a rigid plastic board marketed to children “[l]ike a skateboard without wheels!” Young users are encouraged to “[l]earn tricks” and “Kick it! Flip it! Pop it!” The manufacturer makes no mention of safety gear, and the children pictured on the packaging are not wearing helmets or other protection.

Kick

LEONARDO’S ELECTRONIC STEALTH SWORD

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$24.99
Playmates International Company Ltd.
Toys R Us, Amazon.com, Ebay
“Ages 4 and up”
“WARNING. Not suitable for children under 3 years. Small parts”

HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR BLUNT FORCE INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! Young children are encouraged to engage in a “Ninja Battle” with this rigid, plastic sword associated with a well-known Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character. The blade has the potential to cause facial or other impact injuries.

LeonardoSword

KID CONNECTION DOCTOR PLAY SET

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$4.97
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Walmart, Amazon.com, Ebay “2+”
None

HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR INGESTION AND CHOKING INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! This multi-colored play set, sold for oral-age children, includes “[e]verything you need to play doctor!” Among the medical devices included is a thin plastic “tongue depressor” measuring approximately 43⁄4 inches in length. Small children are effectively invited to introduce this implement into their mouths, presenting the potential to occlude the airway.

Doctor

PULL ALONG ZEBRA

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$20.99
Early Learning Centre
Amazon.com, Kmart, Brookstone, Village Toy Shop “12-36 months”
“WARNING – Remember babies and young children have no idea what is dangerous or potentially harmful, so supervision is important….”

HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR STRANGULATION AND ENTANGLEMENT INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! Despite the industry’s standard requiring strings on playpen and crib toys to be less than 12 inches in length, manufacturers are permitted to market “pull toys” like the “Pull Along Zebra”, with a cord measuring approximately 21 inches. The toy is intended for babies as young as 12 months old.

Zebra

JURASSIC WORLD VELOCIRAPTOR CLAWS

Price:
Manufacturer or Distributor: Retailer(s):
Age Recommendation: Warnings:

$19.99
Hasbro
Target, Amazon.com, Toys R Us, Walmart, Kohl’s “Age 4+”
“WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD – Small parts will be generated. Not for children under 3 years”

HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR EYE AND FACIAL INJURIES!

W.A.T.C.H. OUT! These oversized claws, based on images and characters from the popular Jurassic World franchise, are sold to enable 4-year-olds to “claw like a raptor!” No warnings or cautions are provided regarding the potential for eye and facial injuries.

Raptor

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A mom took to social media to tell other parents exactly what gifts Santa should and should not be giving to their children.  This photo definitely riled some parents up and created some good conversations about Christmas, Santa, and gifts.  We want to know what you think.

 

 

 

santarules

Here are some of the comments:

“Parent my child for me, please. I don’t like having difficult discussions with them about the nature of the world, so if you could go ahead and change your Christmas ever so slightly, that would be great.”

“I know I’m not lying to my daughter and future kids about Santa. Presents are from mommy and daddy!”

“I am a mother of 4 children and no we don’t have a lot of money and I don’t agree with this post I try to teach my kids to be thankful for what they have been given and not to worry about what others have “you should only look into others bowls not to see if they have more but to make sure they have enough” they are always going to have to deal with someone having what they don’t so it’s better we teach them to appreciate then to be jealous.”

“Why doesn’t everyone raise their kids the way they want to and have everyone else worry about their own instead of what the neighbors are doing.”

 

The kids in our house are almost too old for Santa, but he always brought the stockings.  Santa wasn’t the primary gift giver, but we celebrated him and enjoyed the idea of Santa.  The last few years we have instituted the four gifts of Christmas: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.  It makes things simple and they know all along our focus is not about the presents.  Of course they still get gifts from other family members as well.

fourgiftsofchristmas

 

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You’ve probably heard about the social media apps students in Colorado used to keep their sexting secret.  Investigators say at least 100 students were involved. I’m pretty sure there were a lot of surprised parents.  While we all like to think we know what our kids are doing, some kids will find a way to keep their secrets. Here is a list of social media apps all parents should know about.

 

 

SNAPCHAT
This app lets users send videos sand photos to people on their friend list.  Users decide if it is a video or image.  It can only be seen a certain amount of times and the user can tell if the viewer saves the chat.  The warning is that anything sent via this app can be saved. Many users believe this is a “safe” app for sexting, but it can be saved and posted anywhere on the internet. For more information on Snapchat click here.

BLENDR 
This social media app allows people to meet using GPS location services.  Users send messages, videos, photos and can rate other users.  Anyone can join and this increases the opportunity for sexual predators to contact and meet up with minors.  As with other apps, this one is prime for sexting.

KIK MESSENGER
This is another instant messenger app that allows users to share videos, pics, and more.  Users don’t use phone numbers, instead they use screen names.  Users can send YouTube videos, memes, and gifs.  Although many teachers are using this app for school, there are no parental controls and no authenticating.  This makes the app a risk for sexual predators and sexting. A common term associated with this app is “kik buddy” which means “sex buddy.”

ASK.FM
Ask.fm is a social networking site used almost completely by teens.  The premise is that users are able to ask and answer questions by users and remain anonymous. Teens have been known to use the app to target other people in derogatory ways.  This is one of the most used apps for cyber-bullying.

YIK YAK
This app is particularly dangerous for users because it is so simple and easy to use.  Users post text-only “yaks” that are a maximum of 200 characters.  The texts are viewed by users in the general area.  That means anyone within a certain distance can read and yak.  The posts are anonymous, but users can connect.  Users have used this app to bully others in the area.  This app is geared toward college students, but many high schoolers are now using it.

VAULT APPS
There are quite a few apps with the word vault in their title.  These apps use fake calculator “front” to allow users to keep pictures, videos, and chats secret from anyone who doesn’t know what to look for.  It is easy for anyone who is looking to find the best app for their platform.

DOWN
This app requires users to connect with Facebook. In the app they categorize their friends as someone they would like to hang with or someone they are “down” to get with.  This app is specifically for sex and finding sex with other users.  Although teens may not actually get “down” with someone, it makes the idea of casual sex normal for users.

 

The bottom line is just being aware can let you, the parent, know what your kids are doing. If you check your kids’ phone regularly you can search for apps by name. Try an open search term like “vault” or “picture locker” to see what your kids are looking at.  Parents can set up a code on their kids’ phone so kids can only buy and download parent approved apps.  Check out CommonSenseMedia for updates and information on helping your kids stay safe on social media.

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It’s almost time for the holiday party season to start. That means you’ll probably get an invite to participate in a white elephant gift exchange.  That means you pull out all the stops to find a fun gift that everybody wants and you’ll fight to get back.

 

 

 

What is a white elephant gift exchange? Everyone brings a wrapped gift that is usually unusual, within a certain price range, strange, or odd, like a white elephant.  Many times guests are asked not to add their name to the gift, which makes it a bit more fun.  Players usually draw numbers to decide the order of opening gifts. As each player opens a gift the next player can steal a gift or open one. The game goes on until everyone has opened a gift.  Some groups include rules about how many times a gift can be stolen.

Here are 10 ideas for white elephant gifts sure to please. We’d love for you to share your white elephant gifts: most outrageous, odd, awesome, interesting!

  1. Mason Jar Cocktail — Super fun, easy to make, and lovely to receive!11masonjar
  2. Phone Charger Cord — Who can’t use one of these? I’m always buying new charger cords for my phone.22chargercord
  3. Pot-Pourri Before-You-Go Spray — This actually works and smells pretty good. Definitely a nice touch for the guest bathroom.33poopourri
  4. XL Wine Glass — It holds an entire bottle of wine. Can’t we all use that?55xlwineglass
  5. Crocheted Beard Hat — You know somebody in your family would totally wear this fun hat. beardhat
  6. Knock-Knock Note Pads –There are so many fun note pads that you can actually use. They are witty and sure to bring a smile to writer and reader’s face.knockknocknotepad
  7. Gift Card — You know a gift card is always welcome. I like to give Amazon cards because you can buy almost anything on that site. 1giftcard
  8. Funny & Unique Christmas Ornament — These are definitely not useful, but whoever gets this gift will most definitely remember you every year they put it up.  11ornament
  9. Fun Car Air Fresheners — Everybody can use some good smelling stuff for their car. Try these fun Hangin’ With the Homies or this Jane Austen Air Freshener th jane_austen_air_freshener
  10. A White Elephant — Why not go with the namesake of the game? You can do a desk lamp, a stuffed animal, or a sugar bowl. whiteelephant

 

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No School! The fun only lasts so long and then there are the 265 variations of “I’m Bored!” from the kids. We’ve got a few ideas to help you keep your sanity and keep the kids from dying of boredom. What would you add to our Snow Day Survival Kit?

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Day

Mom, don’t worry, if there is any day to let your kids bingewatch shows and movies, it is a snow day. Check out our list below. Maybe you have a movie in mind and want to see where it is available. Check out Can I Steam It? to see if your favorite show or movie is available on any streaming service or DVD.

Top 10 Kid’s Movies on Netflix for Snow Days

  1. Snow Buddies
  2. Cool Runnings
  3. Zathura
  4. Earth to Echo
  5. Hoodwinked
  6. Thomas & Friends: Merry Winter Wish
  7. Bob the Builder: Snowed Under
  8. Penguins of Madagascar: The Movie
  9. Christmas With the Kranks
  10. Get Santa

Boredom Busters

Make homemade flubber, snow paint, or build a fort! Check out our Boredom Buster Board on Pinterest for more great ideas. One of my favorites is activities to do with LEGO blocks. Build a city, build your dream home, or create a LEGO room.

111bo43sdfa

Hot Chocolate Recipes

If there is ever a day for hot chocolate, it is a snow day. Check out Pinterest for 1,347,697 variations on hot chocolate. Of course, you can always just buy chocolate milk, warm it up, and throw in a few marshmallows or whipped cream.  It’s a snow day, there is no judgement.

IMG_20141129_015155

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Most of us let our kids run around with their friends at sports’ venues. There are usually packs of kids playing on empty fields or playgrounds. Parents feel these are safe spaces and assume many of the adults are there looking out for children. However, a seven-year-old’s death a football game is a reminder that parents need to keep an eye on their children and teach child safety tips to their kids.

 

 

The girl’s body was found near a football field after a Pee Week football game. Kentucky State Police say Gabriella Doolan was with her mother before they were separated.  The mother’s first instinct was to ask for the girl to be called over the intercom. After multiple attempts to call the girl did not work, the game was shut down and everyone started looking for the girl.  Her mother called police to report her missing and less than an hour later the little girl’s body was found. Police are treating it as a homicide.

Parents, this is a reminder to keep an eye on your children. No, we can’t always be watching our kids and they do need to learn independence. Here are some tips to help keep your kids safe in a public space:

  • If they are going to be running around make sure they are with other children.
  • Have them check in with you every 10 -15 minutes.
  • Let them carry a cell phone.
  • Establish a meeting place. Many times a parent is watching one child play ball while another child plays with their friends. Make sure one parent is always in a predetermined spot.
  • Teach your children to stay in well lit areas and places where there are lots of people.
  • Remind your child never go in a parking lot or dark area.
  • If your child is taken teach them to scream and fight back. Teach them to yell, “Help, I’m being kidnapped!” or “This isn’t my mom!” Something to let responsible adults know that something is wrong.

Ultimately, we can’t protect our children 24/7, but we can teach them to be aware of their surroundings and we can help them learn to be safe.

 

WSMV Channel 4

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Around 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are carrying a cell phone and most of these are smartphones.  These kids are spending an average of 6 to 9 hours on various devices. Many of these kids are using their phones for texting, social media accounts, and much more.

 

 

 

 

Your child may be using a variety of ways to chat with other people:  Kik, Skype, Snapchat, video game consoles, and of course texting and email.  On top of this, kids are getting smarter and there are various apps, Ghost or Conceal,  they can use to conceal pictures and texting.  These apps look like calculators or clocks. With all this chatting going on, how is a parent to know what is going on in their child’s life?

Sure, we can talk to them, but if your child is like mine the talk happens when they want it to. You can always check their devices, but what if they delete things or have hidden apps? Using a cell phone tracker can help you spot problems like smart phone addiction, sexting, and cyber bullying.  The experts behind these apps recommend telling your child you will be monitoring their phone and talking with them about responsible use.

Here is how TeenSafe, a cell phone tracker works. When your child’s device is connected you will see the GPS location of the phone and the latest calls and messages on the home page.  However, you need your child’s Apple ID and password for an iPhone and Google Play information for Android. Setting it up for an iPhone is fairly simple, but it is a bit more complex for Android.

You can track them and see all their interactions. You can also follow them on social media. You can take their phone and look through it, because more than likely you are paying for it and you are the parent.  One of the perks this program touts is the ability to delete your child’s text messages. Is that really the relationship you want with your child? Deleting text messages your child has received without them knowing can border on manipulation and intrusion.

The bottom line is this, yes, legally you can monitor your child’s phone if they are under 18-years-old. You can see and manipulate their online presence. However, they don’t learn anything unless you are talking with them about their online activity.  This program should be used as a tool and a way to connect with your child. If it isn’t about teaching them responsibility then what will they learn for their future, when you can’t monitor all their online activity?