Are you ready for back to school?

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back_to_school_clipartCan you believe another school year is getting ready to begin in a few short weeks? It seems as though they just got out for Summer vacation! I am especially cognizant of prepping for back to school this year since my little guy is starting Kindergarten!! I have been slowly preparing and planning for all of the back to school things – clothes, shoes, supplies, backpack, lunchbox, schedule and routine, etc. I am very likely over thinking it, but I am hopeful that with my planning and preparation, we will have an easy transition to school.

Getting off to a good start at the beginning of the school year can be difficult. We should give our child(ren) a boost and provide motivation to do the best he or she can during the school year. However, even with “experience,” each new school year is an adjustment for all family members. Changes may include things like bedtimes, friendships, activity levels, expectations (academic, social, and athletic), activities (TV, homework, school meetings, and outside functions), and diet (hurried, unhealthy meals).

Many children (like my son) will attend school for the first time and the whole experience is new. For other children, there may be new interests, new doubts, and new developmental changes. Changes at school can include new classrooms, teachers, and subjects. All of these and more mean that the child must redesign at least a few aspects of his or her life. This may come easier for some children than for others.

A child may adjust well one year, and struggle the next with noticeable changes in attitude, mood and social skills. Patience, understanding, and encouragement are attributes parents and family members should possess. In general, most children will adjust in a few weeks.

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There are a variety of ways parents can make transitions easier for their children. Perhaps these can help you and your family adjust to the new school year.

  • Encourage the love of learning. Tell your child about teachers who inspired you and the interesting things you did in school. Do not support negative stereo-types of teachers or of school.
  • Treat school as a normal part of your family’s activities, which is easy to do in Borden County! Answer questions, discuss issues, but don’t force enthusiasm or unwanted conversation.
  • Visit the school and bus stop with your child. For new students, you might consider walking to school or driving the bus route to help familiarize your child with how they will get to and from school. Meeting your child’s teacher(s) is also very important. This shows that you are interested in their education and the teacher is very appreciative of your interest as well.
  • Adjust bedtime and wake-up schedules. Bedtimes vary and are less consistent during the summer. Getting your child in a routine will make it easier for them to get adequate rest and be ready for the next day of school. Having them set out the clothes they plan to wear the next day is helpful. Also, be sure to keep everything (papers, homework, etc.) near the door in a satchel/backpack for easy pick-up on the way out the door.
  • Allow your child to be involved in making these new schedules, homework times, play and television limits, school lunches, and various rules. They are more apt to comply if they have a part in setting them. Also, discuss consequences of not following the new rules and schedules (i.e. being tired, not getting lessons finished, being grounded, etc.).
  • Help your child identify people that they can call or look to if they have an emergency at school (they miss the bus, get sick, forget something at home, etc.) if they cannot reach you. This will help ease their mind and keep them from becoming panicked if an emergency does arise. It is also a good idea to leave a list in the school office, and with your child’s teacher, of people to contact should you not be reachable.
  • Try to get involved in your child’s education and activities. Studies show that kids are more motivated to learn when they see their parents involved at school. Plan to be available to your child, especially the first few weeks of school. Keep the early weeks as free of outside activities so that you can pamper your child with home-cooked meals and special reading time with you.

This is a special time of year for your family. Let your children know that education is important and that you are there for them. Supportive parents will help make a successful student. Children are the future of our world! Best wishes to you and your family in the 2014-2015 school year!

Here is a link to some terrific articles to help us prepare for Back to School! 55 Best Back to School Articles for Parents

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Celebrating 100 Years!

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Cooperative Extension is 100 years old!

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It is amazing to think about all the changes that have taken place in our world over the past 100 years! Even in my 40 years of life, there has been phenomenal changes in society, technology and lifestyles. Throughout 2014, I will occasionally write about some of the fun program topics Extension Educators have provided to clientele – so be on the lookout!🙂

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Home Fire Safety

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One of the greatest fears I have is a home fire. As a little girl, my cousin’s home burned and ever since then it is always in the back of my mind. Recently, two of my coworkers and good friends have lost their homes to a fire. This has definitely renewed my fear and made me more aware and thoughtful in my own home maintenance, safety and care.

It is important to take the time to ensure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in proper working order and that they are placed near sleeping areas. FEMA’s Ready.gov web site has excellent resources for preparing for a home fire disaster. No one ever expects to experience a fire, but we can never be too careful or confident that it won’t happen.

Sparky.org also has a great Home Fire Safety Checklist that you can use with your family. The web site itself has some great interactive games and activities to help teach your children about fire safety.

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Giving Back

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It seems that as we enter the Christmas season, many of us begin thinking about how we can start giving back. Some of us are really good at doing this throughout the year, and I admire those people that are continually giving back to this world we live in. There are SO many different ways in which to give of yourself. Some people prefer to write a check – and that is awesome! Most organizations are in need of money to operate. Some prefer to give a donation of clothing, food, and other items that they no longer need/use. And still others give their time. There is not one form of giving that is more important than another, it is all dependent on the active of giving.

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Philanthropy is the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people.

What are YOU doing to help make life better for others? WOW!!! That is a loaded question!! It is not anyone’s place to judge you for how you spend your own time and resources…some of us are just barely surviving and getting through each day – while some of us are in need of receiving someone’s help. There are some that may have gobs of time (I do not know these people personally, but am sure there are some out there! lol!) and are looking for a way to give back. Yet others have a little time, a desire and have a need to make life better for others, but we have no idea where to start.

Volunteering opportunities are endless – although sometimes we are so overwhelmed or blinded by the obvious, we don’t even realize there is an opportunity. I think it is important to find the niche for YOU. We are all blessed with at least one gift that we can share with others. Some of us are great at organizing events and activities, some are amazing cooks and seamstresses, some are wonderful at marketing, some are good at working with people, some are good at the behind the scenes stuff, and others are good at the ‘getting their hands dirty’ in hands on work.

cs_logo2_11What is YOUR gift? Where can your gift best be utilized? As a 4-H advisor, we are always looking for people to volunteer with our youth – to share their gift of knowledge and leadership in the various project areas. As a County Extension Agent, we are always looking for people to serve on committees, help with program marketing, volunteer to assist with a program, etc. As a community event member, we are always looking for people to pitch in and help with folding letters and programs, decorating, making cookies, organizing the refreshments, etc. As a mom, I see the preschool and Mother’s Day Out programs in need of volunteers to help with fund raisers, field trips, organizing the supply closets, etc. As Julie, I see the need for people to donate money, items and time to an enormous number of charitable organizations that help those less fortunate or that are working toward raising awareness of a cause or that are working toward raising money for a cure; or even helping a friend or loved one going through a difficult time or illness (making meals, helping them with trips for treatment, etc.). Let’s face it – the opportunities to volunteer and GIVE to others are ENDLESS!!

However, finding your way to volunteering and committing yourself to helping is often scary. Why is that? What has changed in society that has made us afraid of committing to helping others? This is something I am not sure any of us know the answer to.

I recall my mom and dad giving of themselves endlessly to serve as the Junior High United Methodist Youth Leaders for about 8 years at our local church. My mom was a 4-H volunteer and served on numerous committees in the community. It was what she did, how she was raised and how she GAVE back. If I think about all of my family, I can recall a multitude of ways in which they GAVE back and HELPED others…it was instilled in me and I too want to give back and help others. In my own life, I can see ways in which I am helping others and giving back, but still it is not to the degree in which I want it to be. My heart craves more…but in my line of work – I often find it difficult to find that line that differentiates work from philanthropy…I feel like sometimes it is viewed as one in the same, even though I know in my heart that it isn’t. I have been searching for other ways to give back and share my gifts…and there are continuously avenues that are opened for me to do so. It is up to me to take those opportunities and share what my blessings with others.

I think that most of us just want to have that feeling of “I did a good deed” – or hear the words from our Lord, “well done, my good and faithful servant, well done.”  Overall, we are not looking for a lot of paparazzi about the ways we help others, we just want to be making a difference. I challenge you to find that niche in which YOU can give back and help others, and don’t let it just be a once a year or one time thing.

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Fall into Family

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It is hard to believe that Fall is quickly approaching! 2013 has truly flown by. We all seem to get wrapped up into the hustle and bustle of life – no matter the age of your children or the season of life you are in, we are just plain busy! Many of us are meeting ourselves coming and going and have no earthly idea what is next or how we ever got to this point!

I realize we all have many commitments in our lives and adding another evening for a program is sometimes a huge challenge, but I hope that you will mark your calendars and make plans to join us on Tuesday, October 1st at 6:00 p.m. in the Borden County Event Center for the Fall into Family educational program. It will be a fun-filled, educational and helpful evening!!

Join us to learn tips and methods for organizing your life to enjoy more time with you family – from menu planning, grocery shopping, home management, time management and ways to enjoy quality time together. Cost is $15 and will include a tasting of recipes. We will also make a couple of items to help with family organization. All participants will receive a recipe/idea booklet as well. Please RSVP by Friday, September 27th.

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Thinking outside the box…especially when it comes to CLEANING!

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Stuck in a cleaning rut? It seems as though we tend to get stuck in a rut now and again. We become complacent very easily…it is so nice to not get out of our comfort zone and just go with the flow. However, if we never make any changes or do anything out of the ordinary…life becomes quite dull and our house might become a disaster zone or the scene of the next Hoarders!

It always amazes me how easily I can become content with something – especially being ‘lazy’ and not really finding much motivation to clean, organize, or do things that truly MUST be done. It is so simple to get home and just veg. So many of us have too many irons in the fire and just are exhausted when we are finally home – the LAST thing we want to do is clean or cook! Then all of a sudden all of the chores have become so overwhelming you are not sure where to even start – so you just don’t even try! I have struggled with this personally for a few months…I am embarrassed to say that if I don’t do something to change my ways and get out of my comfort zone – it may reach a point of no return or someone might call Hoarders and nominate me!! LOL!🙂

So, I decided it was time to start thinking outside the box! I have always considered myself to be a forward thinker and not one to follow the crowd (completely). But as time has passed and life has thrown many hills and curves in my path, I have become a little more complacent and less interested in getting out of that same old box. Through much thought, meditation and prayer, I have found a new inner spark that is helping me find that path to get out of my contentment box and build a new box with motivation and energy! Besides that – I am tired of my house not being neat and organized!

Here are some of the tips I am utilizing to help me step out of the box:

  • Set realistic goals. Some will be short term and then some will be long term.
  • Choose one area that you would like to focus on improving in your life. Perhaps cleaning, feeding your family or spending time with your family might be something you are wanting to improve. Take it slow, don’t try to change everything at once. It takes about 8 weeks to create a habit, so take your time if you want it to ‘stick.’
  • Make a list of the tasks that need to be completed. Then choose one large task per day. If you don’t have a lot of time that particular day – set a timer or choose a smaller task that can easily be completed. With each completed task, you will gain more motivation and satisfaction.
  • If you want your family to help – write some of the smaller tasks (or ones that your children/spouse can assist with) that you wish to accomplish on small pieces of paper and place them in a bucket or jar. Have them draw one out and let them help complete it. So often we feel like WE have to do it all ourselves…
  • If you are cleaning and organizing, create bins for donations, trash, sell, or mend. Put away the things you wish to keep. Perhaps you will need storage containers for some of the keepers if they are outgrown clothes or memorabilia. If you are wanting to keep some of the kid’s art but don’t really know how you will store it all – try a new app called Artkive. This app allows you to photograph the artwork and then you can create a photo book with all of the different pieces. I think this is a GREAT way to preserve the many crafts and art that your little one(s) create! Of course there will be some that you will want to keep the actual item, for those, find a storage solution that works for you – a portfolio, storage container, etc.
  • For those of you that have trouble letting go of all that ‘clutter’ – check out this great blog post: Clutter Buster: 6 Emotions Chaining You to Clutter and How to Break Free. This is my biggest challenge when it comes to cleaning and organizing. Somewhere along the way I have developed STRONG emotional attachments to ‘stuff.’ I have been using this thought process from this blog and it really has helped me with letting go. I have also found you really need to just be in the right frame of mind when you do start cleaning out.
  • If you have children, utilize them to help you clean! Here is a great list of age appropriate chores from Working Mom.  You can also take the above idea of placing chores on index cards or pieces of paper and having your children draw. Sadly, I don’t believe enough parents teach their children basic chores or life skills anymore. Yes, kids should be kids – but I know my son LOVES to help clean and put things away. Taking advantage of that now will help in the long run and it teaches him valuable life skills.
  • Develop a cleaning routine. If you are a Pinterest junkie, then you have probably seen several different ideas for accomplishing this – as well as millions of ideas for getting organized! Some of my faves for cleaning include: creating a weekly cleaning schedule (make it fit for you); add a monthly deep cleaning schedule; and also to complete one load of laundry a day (wash, dry, fold and put away). I know back when I didn’t have such a blessed and full life, I was able to keep a clean house. I also spent time daily cleaning and was able to stay on top of it. The biggest challenge I think though is once you ‘let it go’ it is really hard to get back on top of it and stay ahead…but I am certainly going to TRY! (Here is a printable and customizable cleaning checklist that you can download from Simply Rebekah!
  • If you are fortunate enough to find someone to help you clean – by all means take advantage! Also, if you are in desperate need of help with organization – hire a personal organizer.
  • Last but not least – DO NOT be too hard on yourself! Be realistic with your cleaning routine and don’t expect to get it all done in one weekend or overnight!

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Donations for West, TX

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By now most of you have heard of the horrific explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, TX. 4-H is working to help those that have been affected. McLennan County has suggested there is a need for the following:
Blood (donate if you can get to a donation site)
Bottled water
Toiletries
Blankets
Diapers
Formula
Bottles
Toys and books
Teddy bears/stuffed animals
Adult diapers
Urinals
Peroxide
Alcohol
Gauze
Medical supplies
Cots
Air mattresses, bedding, pillows
We will be taking donations in the Borden County Office through Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. Gift cards are also a good choice so that items needed can be purchased.
We will then get items to the Lynn County Office and they will be delivering them to the West area for us next week. We appreciate your support and we will be continuing to look for ways to help. Texas 4-H is working on a monetary donation opportunity as well, when that has been determined, we will distribute that information.
Thank you 4-H families and Borden County friends for making a difference!!!!
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