Creating a 2016 Family Bucket List

January 4, 2016

2016 Family Bucket List as seen on Clutch


This year, I’m starting a new tradition: Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I’m making a bucket list for our family. If 2016 goes half as fast as 2015, we’ll blink and it’ll be over. I want to make sure we get the most –and have the most fun—out of this year. Feel free to use our ideas when you and your family make your own bucket list!

1)   Grow our relationship with God.

This will be a hard one to check off and will probably take us all year, but I can’t think of anything more important. We already go to church. We (almost always) pray before meals as a family. We pray before bed. But this year we want our family to grow our relationship with God and be more intentional about bringing Him into daily life.

2)   Grow a garden.

This will be the fifth year we’ve lived in our house, and I’ve been talking about planting a garden since year one. What a great way to teach our children about the vegetables they (actually enjoy!) eating than to have them help plant and watch the produce grow. Picking vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, green peppers and tender lettuce and incorporating our garden’s bounty in the family meal will be the best part. The savings on the grocery bill won’t hurt, either!

3)   Give back.

I remember one instance in the last year where our kids helped pick out gently used toys to give to others. Once they got on board, the kids actually enjoyed picking out items they’d loved and hoped would mean as much to other children. We need to make generosity a habit. But we’re not just going to give away stuff – we’re also going to be deliberate about giving back in other ways, too, like donating our time and volunteering. Serving a meal at The Daily Bread? Visiting residents at a nursing home? Playing with animals at the humane society? Check. Check. Check!

4)   Go sledding.

Hopefully Mother Nature cooperates again this year and brings us a good snowfall or two. Fresh snow and a day off school for the kids is the perfect opportunity to spend some time together. This year our youngest is finally old enough to enjoy playing in the snow, and we can’t wait for the whole family to share some laughs and enjoy a few runs down a snowy slope.

5)   Sleep outside.

My son gets credit for this one. He’s been asking for a while about sleeping outside and going camping. Why not? Whether we find a great camping spot or just pitch a tent in the backyard, this will be a must-do activity when the warmer weather rolls in.  Lightning bugs, scary stories, and s’mores … activities every family should share.

6)   Spread kindness.

We often hear the saying “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” While I’ve always believed this to be true, this past year these words really held so much meaning. If we can all be a little kinder, this world will become a better place … one good deed at a time. For that to happen, every single one of us needs to contribute to our little corner of the world. I want my children to be kind, and I know it’s not enough to want this for them – we have to lead by example. So in 2016, we’re going to make sure we’re doing our part to spread kindness to those around us. We’ll send thank you notes, share kind words, provide encouragement to neighbors and friends, bring meals when someone encounters a significant life event and we’ll offer to lend a hand more often. We’ll not just preach the golden rule, we’ll put it into action.

I hope it’s a great year, not just for our family, but for yours, too. Happy New Year!

In addition to writing, Kimberly Feldkamp loves spending time with family and friends, laughing, shopping and being outdoors in the sunshine.

Helpful Pet Websites

November 20, 2015

When it comes to taking care of our pets, we all know there’s a mountain of information available, but some of it is definitely better than others. Here’s a shortlist of helpful pet websites full of sound advice and resources for researching conditions in your pet that may have you worried.

This site is a great source of reliable information from veterinarians and experts of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN). It allows you to by species (dogs, cats, reptiles, small mammals and horses) and covers topics such as health care, pharmacy, nutrition, behavior, dental care, first aid, and pet connection.

Cat by Andrey as seen on Clutch

If cats are your passion, you can find valuable information here. The cat owner section includes information on care, diseases, and behavior. Check out the educational section which contains fantastic brochures covering house soiling, environmental needs, vaccinations, nursing care, veterinary care, and care of older cats.

The American College of Veterinary Surgeons website contains excellent animal health topics with a comprehensive look at both large and small animal surgical procedures. Topics are broken down into an overview, signs and symptoms, diagnostics, treatment, and aftercare/outcome.

Unfortunately, part of loving pets is having to make difficult quality of life decisions and managing our pets’ pain as they get older. This website offers resources including a free printable pet quality of life scale and a daily diary to help you through the process. Another good article is “How to Say Goodbye” by Dr. Andy Roark, which you can find on the next website on our list.

Offering a vast array of topics and articles for dog and cat owners, this site houses an impressive and comprehensive overview of the different dog and cat breeds, which can aid in the pet selection process.

Dog by Michael Gil as seen on Clutch

Learn about the different pests that can affect dogs and cats. This website has great information and excellent prevalence maps for tick-borne diseases, intestinal parasites, and heartworms.

This site is agriculturally oriented, with a resource area that includes information on goats, chickens, horses, cattle, bees, and so much more.

The American Veterinary Dental College website offers information on pet dental disease, which is an important and often overlooked aspect of pet health. Here you can learn the stages of dental disease in your pet, discover what is involved in veterinary dental cleanings, and watch great informational videos.

Don’t forget to consult your own veterinarians about important topics and ask them what websites they recommend. Here’s to a safe, fun-filled season for you and your pet!

~ Shella Baker

photos by Andrey and Michael Gil

Your Aging Pet – 4 Preventative Measures

October 16, 2015
Hypertension, heart disease and cancer have all been labeled as “silent killers” in human medicine. These diseases have vague symptoms that can go undiagnosed for years. The difficulty in veterinary medicine is more diseases can be “silent killers” because animals cannot communicate what they are feeling. Animals may naturally mask illness and pain, which makes it difficult to know when there is a problem, yet there are four measures that can help ensure the health of your aging pet.
Know what is normal for your pet. Notice their routine habits for eating, drinking, breathing, using the bathroom, sleeping, activity and grooming. Learn to pick up on changes to these habits as well as changes in interactions, temperament, vocalization, or weight. Subtle changes in any of these may be the first and only sign of a problem.

If you sense a problem, keep a log book or write on a calendar to help remember dates and frequencies of important events or changes in your pet. This time frame may help your veterinarian in determining a cause or the severity of an issue. Also keep a list of your pet’s medications handy.

Schedule a yearly physical exam with a veterinarian. Scheduling an appointment to discuss your pet’s health, history and environment is paramount. Veterinarians are trained to ask specific questions and obtain valuable information by actually examining your pet. One small discrepancy seen or felt on a physical exam may reveal underlying illness. You will not get the same results from a phone call, internet research, or conversations with friends who have pets.  There is no substitute for a physical exam.

Prepare for your appointment by writing down any questions you have. Items that should be addressed include vaccinations, parasite control, dental health, behavior, exercise, weight assessment, and nutrition.

Pets Age Faster
Keep current with routine blood work and diagnostics. Although lab work is an added expense, it can save money in the long run by catching disease or discrepancies early. Scheduling diagnostics depends of the age of your pet and what problems they are experiencing.

If the blood work is normal, you will be equipped with peace of mind. More importantly, this gives your veterinarian baseline values for future comparison. Think of your pet as a puzzle. The physical exam is one piece. As other diagnostics and tests are run, more pieces of your pet’s health are put together and can aid in determining the cause of your pet’s illness.

Plan financially. Most veterinary offices require payment at the time of service. When emergencies and unexpected illness happen, your financial options may include personal savings, a credit card set aside for emergencies, a health credit card such as care credit, or pet insurance. A variety of options can be discussed for treatments when allowable.

Do not be afraid to discuss which option is best for you and to communicate any financial constraints you may have. Ultimately, veterinarians offer services and experience to help ensure your pet lives a long and healthy life.

~ Shella

5 Study Habits

October 5, 2015

We are thankful to have a former teacher turned tutoring guru on board to help us get our kids focused. Thanks to Jennifer Whitt of Club Z! Lynchburg for her study tips. 

Now that summer has come to an end, it is time to start preparing for another school year. Many of the study and organizational skills that will help your child become more academically successful are not learned or taught in the classroom.  So how can you help your child improve his or her study habits? Here are the top five study tips to help your children find success this school year, no matter what their age, and for years to come!

Tip 1 – Find an ideal location. A critical component of successful studying is  creating an ideal, distraction-free working space for your child. Be sure there is adequate lighting and an organized, accessible supply of necessary items, such as writing instruments and paper. If space is limited and you don’t have room for a desk, try storing all necessary books and materials in a decorative storage crate. Keep the crate tucked away until homework time, which ensures your supplies are always at the ready and allows you to set up a study space anywhere in the house.

Tip 2 – Consistency is key. Balancing homework, extracurricular activities, and family life can sometimes seem harder than herding cats, as the saying goes! As difficult as setting a consistent schedule may be, it can pay dividends for your child’s productivity and the family’s sanity. Establishing a predictable schedule for everyday activities like homework, dinner, and baths makes it much easier for your children to plan their days and meet expectations in both the classroom and at home. When planning a homework schedule, keep your child’s developmental level and attention span in mind. Older students can generally remain focused on a task for longer periods of time, but younger students may struggle to stay focused for 20 minutes. Allow your child to take breaks as needed, or plan breaks as rewards for finishing sections of work.

Visions by Heather as seen on Clutch

Tip 3 – Get organized. Find a place to display a monthly family calendar. Post upcoming academic events such as tests and project due dates. Use highlighters or colored markers to represent different categories of events and/or for different children in the household. Students are never too young to learn how to start keeping their own daily agenda or planner. For older students with smartphones, there are several free calendar apps with user-friendly features.

Tip 4 – Discover your child’s learning style. The most common three learning styles are: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (tactile). Most of us favor one major learning style, and discovering your children’s learning styles can help you to help them find study methods that work to their strengths . There is a wealth of information on the Internet to help assess your children’s learning styles along with suggestions for working within their styles to help them learn and study. Also, take a peek at our sidebar for ideas.

Tip 5 – Let your child do the work. This one is often easier said than done. It can be difficult sometimes to watch your child struggle through an assignment or to be patient enough to spend 45 minutes on a question you could have answered in 5 minutes. Parents can definitely help with tasks like calling out spelling words or checking a troublesome math problem, but if your child can easily handle the assignment or question, unnecessary support may inadvertently rob your young learner of the opportunity to learn from the process. Also, encourage your child to go above and beyond the minimum requirements of assignments and projects. One of the most common misconceptions about doing schoolwork is that you simply need to complete the assignment; when in reality, you need to do much more to learn and retain the information you’re reviewing.

Learning proper study habits will minimize homework wars, enable your child to achieve more academic success, and help to build life-long learning skills. We wish you a fun, education-filled school year!

Study Habits for the Learning Styles

  • Visual – draw pictures, make charts and diagrams, re-read material, make flash cards, color code notes
  • Auditory – record your notes and listen to them, practice out loud by having a partner ask questions and recite spelling words, turn memory work into songs or poems to sing or recite
  • Kinesthetic/Tactile – incorporate hands-on activities, games, and movement into learning

5 (currently) Free Calendar Smartphone Apps

  • Cal
  • Google Calendar
  • Sunrise
  • UpTo
  • Wave

photo by Visions by Heather Photography