Authors Posts by Gwen



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Playing board games is a great way to get the family together and conversing.  In our home we try to play board games at least once a week.  We turn off our technology and sit together for a couple of hours and truly interact.  Board games teach important life lessons: there is a winner and a few losers, there is such a things as “the luck of the draw,” no matter the ending we all won because we were together.



Here are five board games our family loves to play:



This is a quick game that even the youngest kids can play. The goal is to shoot ten small discs through a hole in order to win. This is a great game to play while dinner is cooking or anytime you have a few minutes to spare. We like to bring it out at family gatherings because everyone from the youngest kid to granddad can play.



Can you draw what you can’t see? Draw the pictures as you hear them described. Can you match the original art without ever being able to see it? A player acting as the Art Director will describe the drawing on the card and everyone else will try to draw it.

Harry Potter Clue


This is a fun spin on the classic Clue game. Players take on the roles of their favorite Hogwarts’ students and solve the mystery of a fellow student disappearing.  Who did it? What spell or item did they use? There are hidden staircases and secret passages.  If you love Harry Potter, you will love this game.



This game requires no drawing skills, at all. It is full of laughs and one round lasts only a few minutes.  You draw what you see and guess what other players have drawn.  It is sure to entertain your family.  It is also available in a 12 pack for parties and large families.

The Game of Life


For some reason, my kids absolutely love this game. You’ve probably played the classic decision game, but the updated version has new career paths.  Will you choose students loans to pay for college? Which career will support your growing family? What are you going to do with 5 kids? This game is sure to get your family talking about life.

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Here’s what’s happening in the 719 this weekend. If you know of a fun, family event we haven’t listed let us know so we can add it!

Friday, November 6

Black Forest Arts & Crafts Guild Fall Sale – Nov 5-8, Black Forest Community Center
9-8 Thursday – Saturday, 10-2 Sunday
Find handcrafted and unique gift items from artist in the region.

Ten Thousand Villages – Nov. 6 & 7

On Friday, Nov. 6 the sale is from 3:00pm-8:00pm. Saturday, Nov. 7 it goes from 8:00am-3:00pm. We are located on 4625 Ranch Drive at Union Boulevard. Credit cards and checks accepted. Bring friends!

5th Annual Rocky Mountain Christmas Boutique – Featuring elegant handmade gifts, décor and gourmet food items. Free admission. Event sponsored by Peak Internet, with all proceeds benefitting CHOICES of Teller County. Held Friday and Saturday, November 6&7 from 9 am to 6 pm at Shining Mountain Event Center, 100 Shining Mountain Lane in Woodland Park. Breakfast buffet and Lunch specials in the grill. For more information call 719-310-4043.

Saturday, November 7

Colorado Springs Veterans Day Parade This year’s theme is “Honoring the Military Family – It Takes a Team” Parade begins at 10:00 am. The Colorado Veterans Day Parade proceeds south on Tejon Street, starting at St. Vrain Street and ending at Vermijo Avenue.

Nature Program For Veterans And Families Research shows that nature heals. We invite veterans and immediate family members to this special program for you. Enjoy a naturalist led hike and other nature activities. Limit 50 people. Service dogs O.K. Reservations required, 520-6745  Fountain Creek Nature Center

Fountain Valley Annual Crafter’s Fair – Come join us for our craft & bake sale!  All crafted items in each booth are handmade.  Snack bar will have chili, hot dogs, coffee and soda.  Many baked items in the bake sale.  A great place to do your Christmas shopping! The fair starts at 9:00 am.  Located at Security VFW. Click here for location information.

Humane Society Santa Paws 2015 – Make an appointment to have your family of critters, get their picture taken with Santa Paws. People and Pups can also enjoy complimentary treats by Angela’s Cupcakes and Pupcakes, Inc. All event info at HSPPR.

Sunday, November 8

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You may have an amazing meal plan and grocery shop with the best lists, so when the kids ask, “What’s for Dinner?” you already have an answer. You have got it together and I’d love to know your story. Seriously, how do you do it and keep doing it for more than three days?





Maybe you are more like me, I can’t be the only one who does this: I always forget my list when I go to the grocery store, I don’t feel like cooking every single night, and seriously, who has kids that will eat Brussels Sprouts and Tempeh Stir Fry? I tried, I really did, and had all the good intentions of making wonderful, wholesome meals. Then life got super busy and all the good intentions fell by the wayside.

I scoured the internet looking for ideas on how to simplify dinner at my house. I took a little of this and a little of that and included some of my own ingenuity and this was the result. There are seven days in a week, thus seven dinners. We eat take out once a week, so now we’re down to six meals I have to plan and prepare.

Instead of picking particular recipes, I plan my dinners around the main dish. Going into the grocery store I know the six different meals we’ll have that week, so I buy accordingly. Chicken night, beef night, pasta night, soup and sandwich night, breakfast for dinner night, and kid’s choice. I know what my family likes to eat, so I know on pasta night we’ll have alfredo with shrimp one week and maybe vodka sauce with meatballs then next week.  Chicken night could be teriyaki chicken with rice or chicken pot pie. You know your family as well and you can probably name the top three favorite dishes they’ll all eat.

Kid’s choice night is usually something like pizza, which I’ll healthy up by adding a salad, or hamburgers, which can be created in so many ways everyone is sure to enjoy them.  Breakfast night is always a favorite because we are all early risers and rarely eat a fully cooked breakfast on any given morning.

Simplicity is key:

  1. Go to the Grocery Store: Try to shop once a week or every two weeks so you are prepared.
  2. Buy Foods your Family Will Actually Eat: Pick your family favorites and make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked with those. (I buy all my pasta and sauces at the beginning of the month or when they are on sale.)
  3. Do Your Best to Plan Ahead: Try to run through your kitchen before shopping just to see what you have. For instance, this week when I headed to the grocery I found we were completely out of chicken, but we had two different types of beef. Obviously, I bought chicken and no beef.
  4. Don’t be afraid to try something new or resort to something easy. Did you get what I am saying here? Maybe you had a super long day at work and just don’t want to try out the new panini recipe for soup and sandwich night. Go with tomato soup and grilled cheese, it’s ok to sideline a recipe until you are feeling it. On the flip side, maybe you’re off work and have all day to work on the amazing chicken pot pie recipe from your grandma. It may be a recipe you enjoy making for years down the road.

Don’t beat yourself up if your kids are only eating three things right now, and you can’t stick with the amazing meal plan that includes quinoa with roasted bell peppers and sweet chili lime roasted herbed chicken breasts with a light seasoned olive oil glaze. (I don’t know if that is a real thing, but I think I read it somewhere.) Unless you just enjoy cooking and have a knack for meal planning, give your family something that isn’t burnt and enjoy time around the table. If all else fails you can always call on your trusty Chinese delivery place, right?


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Your child may have had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) since they started school or maybe a teacher just recommended one. Maybe you thought your child needed more help with their education. Here are some of the basic concepts of what an IEP is and how it can help your child.



An IEP is an Individualized Education Program.  Every student who qualifies for special education services is required to have an IEP.  This highly individualized plan allows everyone who works with the student to be on the same page.

Who needs an IEP?

Kids struggling in school may qualify for support services, allowing them to be taught in a special way, for reasons such as:

  • learning disabilities
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • emotional disorders
  • cognitive challenges
  • autism
  • hearing impairment
  • visual impairment
  • speech or language impairment
  • developmental delay

How is a student deemed eligible for an IEP?

  1. A teacher, parent, or administrator recognizes that a child may need additional help and requests an evaluation.
  2. The child is evaluated in all areas of suspected disability. This includes formal testing, informal testing (daily grades, classroom work), interviews, and observations.  The school’s evaluation team will consider all of this along with observations and interviews.  It is important that parents are a part of this evaluation and their information and insight should be included in the evaluation.
  3. If the child is deemed eligible, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the school is required to write up a plan within 30 days.
  4. The school then conducts an IEP meeting that must include the student’s teacher, parents, and special education teachers.  Parents also have the right to include anyone else in the meeting they believe has expertise or special knowledge of the child.
  5. An IEP plan is laid out and the school decides how to best follow it for the benefit of the student. A copy of the plan is given to all of the child’s teachers and providers.  This is so everyone involved in the educational process knows their roles and responsibilities for making sure the IEP is carried out.  This includes accommodations, modifications, and support that is provided to the child.
  6. The student’s progress is evaluated and sent to the parents.
  7. It is required that everyone meet at least once a year to reevaluate the IEP.  Additional meetings can be held if teachers or parents see a need.
  8. The student is reevaluated every three years to remain eligible for special education services.

What is included in an IEP?

Legally, there are things that must be included in an IEP.

  • A statement of the child’s present level of performance (PLOP)—this is basically how the student is currently doing in school.
  • The child’s annual educational goals
  • Special education supports and services that the school will provide to help the student reach goals
  • Modifications and accommodations the school will provide to help the child make progress
  • If the student will be in special classes or integrated with non disabled students
  • Accommodations for the child when taking standardized tests
  • How and when the school will measure the student’s progress toward annual goals
  • Transition planning that prepares teens for life after high school


Parental consent is required at every stage of the IEP process.  

Private schools are not legally required to provide the same services available in public schools.

What services are granted to students with an IEP?

There are many different types of services for special education students. This is a list of possible services your student may require.

  • Audiology services
  • Counseling services
  • Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children
  • Medical services
  • Occupational therapy
  • Orientation and mobility services
  • Parent counseling and training
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychological services
  • Recreation
  • Rehabilitation counseling services
  • School health services
  • Social work services in schools
  • Speech-language pathology services
  • Transportation

It is important to note that certain factors can influence services provided. These include, but are not limited to: language barriers, behavioral issues, if the student is blind or deaf, and if there are communication issues.

If the parents do not agree with the IEP there are options:

  • Try to reach an agreement. Parents can talk with school officials about their concerns and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes the agreement can be temporary. For example, the parents and school can agree to try a plan of instruction or a placement for a certain period of time and see how the student does.
  • Ask for mediation. During mediation, the parents and school sit down with someone who is not involved in the disagreement and try to reach an agreement. The school may offer mediation, if it is available as an option for resolving disputes prior to due process.
  • Ask for due process. During a due process hearing, the parents and school personnel appear before an impartial hearing officer and present their sides of the story. The hearing officer decides how to solve the problem. (Note: Mediation must be available at least at the time a due process hearing is requested.)
  • File a complaint with the state education agency. To file a complaint, generally parents write directly to the SEA and say what part of IDEA they believe the school has violated. The agency must resolve the complaint within 60 calendar days. An extension of that time limit is permitted only if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to the complaint.


All information was taken from

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My son plays video games with friends around the country while skipping with other friends.  My youngest son plays an online game, Terraria, while listening to streaming music. It is no surprise to me that teens and tweens are spending more time on social media and electronic devices than ever before.




What did surprise me was the number of hours the spend every day on their devices.  According to a study by Common Sense Media, teens spend about 9 hours a day on some type of media. Tweens, children 8-12, spend about six hours. Common Sense Media claims this is the first large-scale study to explore tweens and teens’ use of the full range of media.  The study followed about 2,600 kids between the ages of 8 and 18.CSM did not include time students used media for their homework.

Here are some key findings that may surprise you:

  • Social Networkers and Gamers/Computer Users both spend about seven hours a day with screen media
  • Social Networkers spend more than three hours a day using social media and only 44 minutes playing games,
  • Gamers/Computer Users average two and a half hours playing games and 53 minutes on social media.
  • Teens considered “Light users” averaged about 3 and a half hours of media time on a daily basis, Tweens in this category averaged about 2 and half hours.
  • Teen boys spend more time on games, while teen girls spend more time on social media
  • Watching TV and listening to music are the top choices for teens and tweens to spend their time.
  • 53 percent of tweens — kids 8 to 12 — have their own tablet and 67 percent of teens have their own smartphones. Mobile devices account for 41 percent of all screen time for tweens and 46 percent for teens.

Parents say they are more concerned with what the teens and tweens are doing on their devices, more than how much time they spend on their devices.  As a mom to two tweens, I agree with that statement. If they are having fun, interacting with friends, and not watching or playing bad games or TV, I have no problem with them spending 3 or 4 hours on various devices.

Surprisingly, there was a difference in time spent on media compared with the income and education of parents.  Teens in lower income households and households where parents had less education spent more time, about an hour and a half to two hours more, consuming various types of media.

The five takeaways from the study are:

  • The vast diversity of ways young people interact with media—the remarkable variety in their preferences and patterns of use.
  • Underneath all this diversity, tweens and teens today place an enduring value on two media activities in particular: watching TV and listening to music.
  • Young people’s en- gagement with media still consists primarily of consumption rather than creation.
  • The socioeconomic and racial/ethnic differences in children’s media use patterns are inescapable and concerning.
  • Although it almost goes without saying, we are struck anew by the ubiquity of entertainment media in young people’s lives

Kids say that social media connects them. They know what is going on in the world as a whole and their world.  These findings are not necessarily bad things. These kids are digital natives and what they do is considered completely normal for 21st century kids.  For parents, this just means we need to be aware of what our kids are watching, listening to, playing on their game consoles.  



Teens, Tweens, & Social Media

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If you are anywhere near downtown Colorado Springs, you are bound to see a homeless person. You may even see them standing at your exit off the highway or around the mall.  It may be easy just to ignore them and continue on about your day. However, you may feel like doing more, but not just handing over cash.  We are entering a season of thankfulness and gift giving and many people who are homeless will have very little to brighten their holidays.  While you may not be able to improve their life through a job or place to live, you can show them you care with a care package.



Recently, a friend of mine wrote about how she and her children showed compassion for their local homeless community with small care packages. These were pre-made bags with a few things that homeless people can use.  They also added a note of encouragement and a small Bible. You don’t have to add these things, but this was something they wanted to include. You can get tons of ideas for making care packages for the homeless over on Pinterest. Here is a list of the most commonly included items.

  • Warm socks that can be used as socks or cut and turned into gloves.
  • Chapstick
  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth paste
  • Bottled water
  • Apple Sauce
  • Trail Mix
  • Beef Jerky
  • Wet wipes
  • A small Bible from the Gideons.
  • $5 bill – Not everyone who makes these packets adds money. One girl said she adds it so they can buy a meal. This is definitely at your discretion.
  • Gift Cards to Fast Food Restaurants – This is an alternative to cash and means they can still get a hot meal.
  • Tuna in pop top cans
  • Lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Foot Warmers
  • Local Resources Guide – Find a list of COS resources here.

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Winter is coming and that means the roads will be getting nasty.  You may find yourself stranded due to bad weather, a flat tire, or any other reason. It is important you are prepared.





1. Full tank of gas – It is important to have gas in your car to help you stay warm, to ensure your fuel lines don’t freeze, that your battery doesn’t die, and that you have enough gas left to leave after the storm.

2. Flashlight – You’ll need some type of light if you are stranded, especially overnight.  Make sure to pack extra batteries so your flashlight will work.

3. Cell phone charger – This is extremely important.  You want to be able to use your cell phone in case of an emergency.

4. First aid kit – This is a good thing to have in your car no matter what the season.  In case of a medical emergency, make sure you have the basics covered.  Click here to what an ER doctor says must be in your first aid kit.

5. Water and snacks – You don’t want to get stranded without food and water.  Even if you’re only stuck for a few hours, a snack will help your body stay strong and alert.  This is especially true if you have kids with you, aren’t they always hungry?

6. Extra clothes & blankets – If you are stranded you’ll want a blanket and extra clothes to stay warm.  Keep enough in your car for every member of the family.

7. Jumper cables – You never know when your battery will die. It is important to keep a pair of jumper cables in the car.  Even better, invest a few dollars in a Jump Starter and you won’t have to wait on help to arrive.

8. Flares – These are a basic car item you should never be without. Use these to alert rescuers where you are located or light them so people are aware you are in need of help.

9. Kitty Litter – If you are stuck in the snow or mud, kitty litter can be used to give your car traction.

10. Tire Chains – If winter weather hits without warning you can put your tire chains on to help you get where you need to go.

***Bonus: Games & Coloring Book:  You never know when or how long you’ll be stuck

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Thanks to technology we are becoming more connected with the world. With just our phone we can connect with people in countries all around the world.  This is the reason countries around the world begin teaching their children English in public schools.  The realize that having language skills increases the future generation’s chance of success.  Our public schools are just now starting to catch up with these other nations.   There are multiple benefits, for your children, to learning a second language.

Benefits to Learning a Second Language:

  1. Brain Growth: Learning a second language actually helps your brain grow.  Studies have found that people who learn a second language strengthen their brainpower and increase their ability to learn.  People who have learned a foreign language show greater cognitive development in mental flexibility, creativity, problem-solving, conceptualizing, and reasoning. Learning a second language helps the brain later in life by staving off dementia and alzheimer’s.
  2. Better Multi-Tasking: People who learn a second language are able to switch from one task to another more easily than people who only know one language. They show more cognitive flexibility and find it easier to adapt to unexpected circumstances.
  3. More Career Opportunities: People who are fluent in a foreign language have a marketable skill. Most companies, both national and international, will be more likely to hire someone with multiple languages because it helps them reach their customer base in a better way.
  4. Better Grades in Every Subject: A study by the College Entrance Examination Board reports a direct correlation between foreign language study and high SAT scores.

How to Learn a Second Language

1. Immersion Learning – If you can afford it, this is the very best way for your child to learn a foreign language.  Charter schools that offer this style of teaching are becoming more popular.  Global Village Academies has a school here in Colorado Springs. Up to 95 percent of a student’s day is spent learning about reading, writing, math, history, science and other subjects in a second language. The key to this is starting your kids early. If they start in Pre-K or Kindergarten they will learn the language as they learn other skills.

2. Join a class or Hire a tutor – The Colorado Springs Chinese Language School offers classes and programs for all ages.  GlobeLink has in-depth courses for more than 50 languages. Their programs are used by college students and military members.  Speaking of the military, there are many linguists throughout the military and college students with various language skills. You could put an ad on your local Craigslist to find someone to tutor you or your child in almost any language.  Check out,  and for more options.

Best Languages to Learn:

  • Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the US.
  • French is the fourth most common language spoken in the US and it is spoken primarily in countries in North America, Europe, and Africa.
  • Mandarin Chinese is the most common language spoken in the world. With increased relations between the US and China, there will be a need for US companies to employ Chinese speakers.

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Dry skin and coughs are common this time of the year.  Most of us in Colorado have learned that a humidifier helps alleviate this problems. We have humidifiers in the bedrooms and main living space.  However, when they get dirty, they can cause more problems that they are worth.  Mildew and minerals buildup and mix with the humidity and that is not good for people breathing it in.



Cleaning your humidifiers takes a little work, but it is worth it.  Most people recommend cleaning your humidifier once a week or every few days. Definitely clean it thoroughly before putting it away for the season.


  • Humidifier
  • White vinegar
  • Tap water
  • Bottle brush or toothbrush
  1. Take apart the humidifier and lay the pieces out on a clean towel or countertop.
  2. Pour vinegar into the humidifier. This means the water reservoir and the base.
  3. Use the brush to clean out the areas that have build-up and gunk. You’ll see it. dirtyhumidifier
  4. Rinse out the vinegar and gunk.  Let the parts airdry.
  5. Run water through the humidifier. If you don’t have time to run a round of water through, make sure you rinse thoroughly and get out all the gunk.  Vinegar is non-toxic so there is no worry of it causing problems if a little goes through the appliance and into the air.

We checked out Pinterest for ways to clean a humidifier and these were the basics of pretty much every article.  However, some people used bleach, because it disinfects. Other versions suggested hydrogen peroxide to help loosen up the gunk.

One of the best ways to keep your humidifier humming along is to change the filter frequently.  If you have a filter that requires cleaning, use vinegar or CLR. Here is a helpful video that shows how to clean a humidifier filter with CLR. I LOVE CLR for cleaning bathrooms and anything that comes into contact with moisture because it really works.

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Cable TV is on the way out the door. More and more people are cutting the cord and opting for “on demand” services to watch their favorite shows.  I cut the cord about five years ago and don’t see any reason to ever go back to cable TV.








Here is how we cut the cord. We were paying about $145 for cable/internet together ($1740/year) and that was basic cable.  We also were paying for a Netflix and Amazon subscription. We decided to cut out the cable/internet bundle and found a cable company that offered unlimited data usage for only $50/month.

$50 per month for unlimited internet.  $600/year

$8 per month for Netflix  $96/year

$99 per year for Amazon Prime $99/year This is a super deal because I buy a ton of stuff online and with this service I get free two-day shipping. I also use the Kindle Lend Library and Amazon music for streaming music.

All of that is only $795 per year. We usually purchase Showtime for the length of my favorite show, Homeland.  We buy ESPN during football season, but cancel it the rest of the year. Despite the various add-ons, we are still paying less than we did when we had cable.

1. Get a streaming device for your TV. This could be the AppleTV (which I have and love, ) or the new Roku 4 ($129) The Chromecast ($35) Fire TV by Amazon ($99).

2. Make sure your internet can handle the increase in data. I pay a flat rate of $50 for unlimited data. However, some companies, like Comcast, have restrictions on data usage and will charge for overages. We have a family of 4, with three gamers, 4 computers, two iPads, and 4 phones along with our AppleTV. We consistently use over 400GB of data per month.

3. Pick and Choose What You Want. No matter what device you buy you’ll use apps to find your content.  AppleTV offers many options for you to pick and choose the channels you want to watch. You can pay per month for what you want to watch.  Amazon and Netflix offer many of your favorite shows and new shows that are exclusive to each service.  You can also watch current favorite shows online. You can buy a subscription service or wait until they are free on the internet.

The key to making this work for you is figuring out which channels you watch most and which ones you can do without.  If you want to get your local channels you can buy an antenna.  It is fairly simple to install.  If you aren’t familiar with streaming TV or haven’t watched much on the internet going without cable could be slow-going at first.  However, you will save money and that is always a good thing.