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Deborah Cruz

School is out and the first thing that comes to mind, aside from sleeping in past 6 a.m., is going on vacation. Quite honestly, we’ve not had an honest to goodness family vacation ever. It’s always something tagged onto a business trip or improvised into a family trip back home to visit family. I’d really like to go someplace that would be fun for the family, not just because relatives live nearby or we have to be someplace for some function. We planned going to a vacation place like the ones on this site https://www.visitcaymanislands.com/en-us/global-citizen-concierge so we can spend and enjoy the vacation with the kids while working at the same time.

The economy is in a state of disarray for most of us but there are a few ways that we can start saving for a family vacation.

Make a plan and stick to it! Sit down and talk to your husband, if the children are older they can be included in this part of the process, and decide where you want to spend your vacation, and ballpark your budget. Then go through your finances and figure your ACTUAL budget. This is the most important part. Then decide how hard you are willing to work and what you are willing to sacrifice in order to save for this vacation.

Transportation: By simply filling up your tank to get around town, you are wasting thousands of dollars a year. There are a few different things you can do to save money in this area; trade your gas guzzling SUV in for a smaller, more economical car. You can take the bus which is infinitely cheaper than filling your tank.

You can walk to your destination especially since your timetable may be a little easier going during the summer months. You can also choose to make it fun and bike from place to place. It’s a great example for the kids; they will have a blast and they will get healthy and be exhausted every night, eliminating bedtime arguments. Win – Win!

Entertainment: For us, entertainment and dining are complete money sucks. Everything seems to cost a little more lately but there are still some great things to do with the children this summer, for free or for a more affordable price than you might have thought.

Want to go to a baseball game? Why not buy grass seats; they are only $5 at our local minor league field. We take a blanket and watch the game together, giggling and enjoying one another’s company. With a little planning, you can do this on $1 hotdog, hamburger and drink night! That’s an entire night at the ballpark for $28. Amazing right?

Parks and splash pads are free. If you want to go to the movies, go to the matinee. It’s only $5 per person for the first daily showing. The zoo is one of my children’s favorite places to go. If we paid each time they wanted to go, which is no less than 30 times a season, it would cost us around $50 just for tickets to get in. I bought a family yearly pass for $90. That’s a major cost savings in the long run.

Most museums, science centrals and aquariums have a monthly free day. There are even some zoos that don’t charge at all. During the summertime, all sorts of free festivals and activities are going on. On top of this entire savings, I would recommend signing up for Groupon or Living Social. The service emails you daily local savings deals.

Dining: We all need to eat. We can’t escape that cost but we can certainly eat more frugally. Buy fruits ad veggies that are in season; they are priced cheaper when they are in season.

Don’t be afraid to make dinner at home. I know sometimes it’s so much easier to hit the drive thru when you’ve had a particularly busy day of errands but I also know the empty feeling I get in my stomach when I see my purchases online on Monday and realize we spent $200+ eating out, basically wasted money. That’s an entire week and a half’s worth of groceries squandered on unhealthy, unmemorable food.

Groupon also send out daily dining deals, this is good to keep in mind. You can also save a lot each month simply by eating at home.

How do you cut cost to save for your summer vacation? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

 

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Tips to Help your Teen Survive

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

We’ve all been so worried about keeping our kids safe from Coronavirus that we’ve forgotten to keep their mental health safe from seclusion. Check in on your teens and little ones, they are not alright. Not even close. I put my girls in therapy last April at the beginning of the pandemic and they are still struggling. We can’t shelter them from the world but we can try to ease the weight of the world so many of us are feeling. Below are some Tips to Help your Teen Survive Depression, Anxiety and Pandemic Burnout.

It’s not fine. We’re not fine. They’re not fine. The kids are not alright.

We’ve been quarantining since March 9th. Our life went on pause and everything we had planned for the spring and summer was canceled. Nothing is like it’s supposed to be. The new normal absolutely sucks. We are a family of huggers and kissers. Friends are family and family is everything. We’re explorers and adventurers. We celebrate life in the small moments but this past year has been hard to find the silver linings.

Disclaimer: Firstly, let me start by saying I am not a therapist or a trained mental health professional. I’m just a mom who is very self-aware, has years of therapy under her built and pays a professional to treat her children. A good licensed mental health professional to follow for great tips is Katie Hurley.

Bella turned 15 last March 10th and 16 this year. March 14th , 2020 was supposed to be her quinceañera. We planned for years for her big day. Everything was ready to go. The dress, the court, the venue, DJ, photographer and videographer. It was going to be the quinceañera she had been dreaming of since she was a little girl. Friends and family from around the country were flying and driving in to celebrate our special girl. I can’t even put into words the devastation I felt taking that away from her. It hurts to even think of it now, especially since we rescheduled it to August 8th and had to postpone once again. Instead of getting the quinceañera of her dreams, she didn’t even get a proper birthday celebration. Her birthday was basically skipped for the past two years thanks to CoVid.

Gabs turned 13 last May, the day after what was supposed to be last day of school. There was no party. No family and friends to hug and play with. There’s no theme or games in the backyard. There was no bbq with 50 of her favorite people. There was a birthday drive-by parade which made her pandemic heart break with gratitude for those who showed up. She felt alone and forgotten. The smallest gestures mean so much when human contact is few and far between.

But how do you help your teen survive pandemic burnout?

We’ve learned not to take things for granted. We know the worth of our freedom to move throughout the world safely. We know the value of a hug and human interaction in real time. Virtual is a poor substitute but it may be the only thing offered at the moment.

Our kids are resilient. They are strong and they are amazing. They carry on even when they want to give up but everyone has their breaking point, even you and I. I’ve been doing everything that I’m supposed to do and still, people I love are getting sick. People I know are dying. My heart is breaking but I’m trying hard to keep my mental stability. Manic mom has even made an appearance this pandemic and I was hoping to never see her again. I’m trying to be strong for the Big Guy and the girls but even I notice that while I’ve had to adopt the let it go, one day at a time mentality, I am also holding on to things. I’m holding on to things and anxious about things I don’t even realize.

I’ve started clenching my jaw and my fists in my sleep from stress. I wake up sore. I’ve started finding myself angry for no reason at all or maybe it’s for every reason under the sun. Why would I think my girls are any different? They are younger with less life experience and more hormones. How could I forget that?

Check in on your kids. They are not alright.

My girls have been overly silly. At first, I was annoyed by this but then I realized this silliness is what is allowing them to get through this unbelievably stressful time. If they need to regress and find joy in the simplest things, who am I to judge? Right now, all bets are off. We’re all just trying to get through this pandemic. We’re in survival mode and that’s ok. Unfortunately, all that silliness has begun to give way to anxiety, depression and burnout and not just for them. I am burnt out too.

I’m so over virtual learning. Not only have my girls been virtual all year long, so have I. I had the bright idea to get a masters and enrolled a month pre pandemic. I’ve been struggling with burn out myself for the past couple months but watching my girls buckle under the pressure and anxiety of this non-stop pandemic life is too much. I hate it for them and can do very little to make it better other than pay for therapy and give out random hugs and encouragement all day.

Worse, I feel like I’m failing at that because I’m struggling myself. I hate all of this. There’s 2 weeks left of school for the girls and I feel like we’re all drowning. There’s no down time and days and nights are just one long exercise in never ending lists of shit to get done. I want to scream but I’m afraid if I start, I’ll never be able to stop. F*ck you pandemic and all the people who aren’t doing their part. I’m tired of my cage. I know this will pass but watching my girls struggle is the worst.

Tips to help your teen survive depression, and anxiety and overcome pandemic burn out.

  • Create calm times of the day, preferably an hour or longer.
  • Spend time with them doing silly and fun things like playing a game, being outdoors, cooking a fun meal (this helps kids calm down their nervous system so they aren’t so triggered by stress), or just plain talking.
  • Structure helps kids know what to expect which always improves stress.
  • Sleep and eat well (less sugar).
  • Help them write about their feelings.
  • Get them a therapist, many are offering virtual right now. Do it.
Tips to Help your Teen Survive  Depression, Tips to Help your Teen Survive Anxiety, Tips to Help your Teen Survive Pandemic Burnout

Anxiety specific simple but effective grounding techniques

Grounding Techniques
Grounding is a technique that helps keep someone in the present. They help reorient a. person to the here-and-now and in reality. Grounding skills can be helpful in managing overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety. They help someone to regain their mental focus from an often intensely emotional state. Grounding skills occur within two specific approaches: Sensory Awareness and Cognitive Awareness.

Sensory Awareness
Grounding Exercise #1:
Begin by tracing your hand on a piece of paper and label each finger as one of the five
senses. Then take each finger and identify something special and safe representing each
of those five senses. For example: Thumb represents sight and a label for sight might be
butterflies or my middle finger represents the smell sense and it could be represented by
lilacs.
After writing and drawing all this on paper, post it on your refrigerator or other safe
places in the home where it could be easily seen and memorize it.
Whenever you get triggered, breathe deeply and slowly, and put your hand in front of
your face where you can really see it – stare at your hand and then look at each finger and
try to do the five senses exercise from memory.

Grounding Exercise #2:
• Keep your eyes open, look around the room, notice your surroundings, notice
details.
• Hold a pillow, stuffed animal or a ball.
• Place a cool cloth on your face, or hold something cool such as a can of soda.
• Listen to soothing music
• Put your feet firmly on the ground
• FOCUS on someone’s voice or a neutral conversation.

Sensory Awareness Grounding Exercise #3:
Here’s the 54321 “game”.
• Name 5 things you can see in the room with you.
• 4 things you can feel (“chair on my back” or “feet on floor”)
• 3 things you can hear right now (“fingers tapping on keyboard” or “tv”)
• 2 things you can smell right now (or, 2 things you like the smell of)
•1 good thing about yourself

Cognitive Awareness Grounding Exercise:
Re-orient yourself in place and time by asking yourself some or all of these questions:

Where am I?

What is today?

What is the date?

What is the month?

What is the year?

How old am I?

What season is it?

Tips for parents

Build coping skills. One thing kids and teens need to hear on repeat is that all emotions are okay. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this global pandemic. Parents should get in the habit of checking in with each child privately throughout the day to give them an opportunity to verbalize feelings and talk about triggers.

Learn how to manage anger. Now is the time to figure out some techniques to decrease negativity in the home. In other words, stop yelling. Parents have a lot on their plates, and it is difficult to juggle work responsibilities, parenting responsibilities, keeping the family physically and emotionally safe, and running a distance-learning school. Chances are, you feel like you might snap at times.

Adjust expectations. To hear social media tell it, this is a time when everyone should be enjoying every moment and learning new things as a family (a privilege not everyone shares). And parents suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat for their children’s education, expected to manage distance learning regardless of resources, finances, work schedules and child-care struggles. Then there are the expectations parents have of their kids regarding learning, training for extracurricular activities and being “productive” during this time away from school.

Practice empathic communication. There’s a lot we don’t have control over right now, and that can trigger negative emotions, but we can control how we respond to and communicate with others. One thing I hear on that tiny screen day after day during my sessions with kids: I just want my parents to understand me.

Tap into technology, and stay connected. Many parents spend a fair amount of time trying to manage and limit screen time. There are positives and negatives to technology, though, and now is the time to tap into the positives. It’s still important to focus on balance and make sure that kids and teens are getting exercise and engaging in activities that don’t involve screens, but technology can be a source of support, connection and education.

Parents, don’t forget to take care of your own mental health. It’s hard to help your teen survive depression, anxiety and pandemic burnout if you are holding on by a thread yourself. Believe me, I know. Find yourself some coping mechanisms and a licensed therapist.

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Farmer's Market Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Spring is here. We’re a month out from the end of the longest virtual school year ever. The girls and I have all been working hard to make it off this struggle bus of pandemic living.  We’re in full survival mode and right now, survival means adding something to look forward to each and every day, even if that just means something as simple as a facial mask or some new recipes.

Jump to Recipe

We should have never left the house for spring break. What should have been a welcome reprieve from our pandemic isolation ended up with us catching a severe case of senioritis. If you know, you know. Think the last 2 months of pregnancy…get out. The worst part is that I have to be the adult and encourage my girls to just hang in there, it’s “almost over” when all I want to do is quit. Talk about mom faking it until we make it.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post in partnership with S.Rosen’s Baking Company. But all opinions and love of grilled cheese are my own.

To break up the monotony, I’ve been trying to get us safely out of the house more often. With the nice weather, that means more trips to outdoor venues, even if it’s just walking around the neighborhood pathways or the local Farmer’s market. But in doing so, that means not just fresh air but tiny, new adventures. Baby step adventures in travel, exploration and food and that feels just the littlest bit “normal” and I am here for it. Life feels new, fresh and exciting right now (just because it feels like normalcy may be possible again in the near future) and it hasn’t felt that way in a long time. I feel hopeful.

Delicious Farmer's Market Sandwich Recipes for the Whole Family, grilled cheese

Since we’re spending more time at the local Farmer’s market anyway, why not try some new recipes Farmer’s Market Inspired Grilled Cheeses?

Springtime is here and we’re craving something fresh. While all those fresh veggies can be absolutely delicious, they may not be everyone’s favorite food at the table. Though growing up, my mom’s grilled cheese was my favorite thing to eat. In fact, I couldn’t eat anything else during the first 6 months of my 1st pregnancy. Thankfully, my mom was happy to oblige and I’m happy to oblige my girls when they ask for my grilled cheese sandwiches.

But what about those fresh veggies you just bought at the Farmer’s market? Enter a unique mashup of grilled cheese and fresh veggies. These modular recipes bring together everyone’s favorite comfort food, grilled cheese with garden fresh veggies in easy to modify recipes. You can easily and quickly leave out select ingredients and customize each sandwich as needed for certain family members. Though we’d suggest NOT leaving out the bread and cheese – that could be a bit difficult.

Farmer’s Market Inspired Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipes

Fresh Asparagus and Spring Pesto Grilled Cheese

Ever feel like poor asparagus only gets used one way? Thrown on the grill and that’s about it, but we think this springtime veg is far more versatile than that! The key is cutting it up into bite size pieces to make this grilled cheese a fun, seasonal creation.
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

For the Spring Pesto:

  • 2 Tbsp Toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 Cup Olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp Grated parmesan
  • 1/2 Tsp Roasted garlic
  • 1 oz Fresh Chives

Per Sandwich

  • 2-3 Stalks Asparagus ends snapped off and sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Slices Havarti cheese
  • 1 Slice Prosciutto torn into bite size pieces
  • Mayo to your liking
  • 2 Slices S.Rosen’s Farmer’s Market White Bread

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the pesto (this can be done the day before). Combine the pesto ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Sauté asparagus pieces for 3 minutes on high heat, until you see it begin to brown. Take off heat and transfer to a separate bowl, stirring in 1-2 Tbsp. of the pesto (depending on how strong you want it). 
  • Heat skillet or panini maker to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not, use a non-stick pan).
  • Assemble the sandwich: one slice of Havarti, top with the prosciutto, then the pesto coated asparagus, and more slices of cheese. Top with the second slice of bread after spreading a thin layer of mayo on it. If you’re making multiple grilled cheeses, assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet. Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook 3 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat.  Your stove top and pan may require slightly different cooking times.

For the sweet and savory Farmer’s market sandwich lover

Arugula Blueberry Grilled Cheese

Fresh Arugula and Local Jam Grilled Cheese

Maybe one of the most fun items to pick up at the farmers market is local jam, and with family favorite cheese Muenster, this combination creates a tasty and easy-to-make grilled cheese.  The arugula adds a nice peppery counter balance to the jam and makes this a more sophisticated sandwich for adults. As for the jam, we recommend the following flavors: blueberry, blackberry and apricot, but we encourage you to try your favorites! 
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Or Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

Per Sandwich

  • High quality jam of your choice
  • 3 Slices Muenster cheese
  • Arugula Handful
  • Mayo to your liking
  • 2 Slices S.Rosen’s Farmer’s Market White Bread

Instructions
 

  • Heat skillet to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not use a non-stick pan)
  • Assemble the sandwich: One and a half slices of Muenster (rip the half slice into pieces and spread around the slice), spread jam over cheese, and add a handful of arugula. Top with the second slice of bread. 
  • Spread a thin layer of mayo on this slice. If you’re making multiple grilled cheeses, first assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet.  Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook 3 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat. Your stove top and pan may require slightly different cooking times.

Farmer’s Market Sandwich that will fill you up

Bacon Chard Grilled Cheese

Chard, Apple and Bacon Grilled Cheese with Red Pepper Sauce

Chard always feels like that vegetable you should eat, but exactly how seems to be an issue. The answer is a grilled cheese! We also realize that chard might be a tough sell for some members of the family, but if you omit the chard, the resulting bacon and apple is still a classic grilled cheese combo.

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Or Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

For the Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 4 oz. Jarred roasted red pepper 
  • 2 oz. Toasted slivered almonds 
  • 4 oz. Tomatoes (we used fire roasted from a can to keep it easy)
  • 1 Tsp Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Parsley
  • 1 Tsp Roasted garlic

For the Chard

  • 1 Bunch Chard (rainbow or swiss)
  • 2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp Neutral oil such as canola

For the Sandwich

  • 2 Slices Bacon cooked until crisp
  • 3 Slices Gouda cheese
  • 1/4 Apple thinly sliced

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the red pepper sauce (this can be done the day before).  Combine the ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Prepare the chard in a medium sauce pan with a lid.  Heat pan to medium and add oil.  Once heated, add chard by the handful. It will cook down A LOT.  Stir the chard, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Cook for 6-7 minutes. Take off heat and set aside.
  • Heat skillet to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not use a non-stick pan).
  • Assemble the sandwich: one slice of Gouda first, top with bacon, then the apple, two spoonfuls of sautéed chard, and finally, more sliced of cheese.  Top with the second slice of bread.  Spread a thin layer of mayo on this slice. If you’re making multiple sandwiches, assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet. Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook three minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat.  Your stove top and pan may require slightly cook times.  
  • Serve with red pepper sauce for dunking.

Just remember, life might feel a little weird and different right now but you can still do some things that are “normal” like a picnic in the backyard with the people who live in the house with you or just take a delicious sandwich to the deck and eat by yourself, if you’ve had too much “together time” this pandemic. Either way, what’s your favorite fresh, Farmer’s Market sandwich recipe?

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How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Have you ever considered moving to another country? I know I have, especially over the past 4 years. Being that my father is from another country and I spent my childhood summer’s in another country, living in another country has always been an exciting and viable option. In fact, I’ve spent my life learning languages and experiencing other cultures with my parents and now, traveling with the Big Guy and our girls, for just such an occasion. But how do you make yourself feel at home when you move abroad?

While the thought of moving to another country is exciting it can also be quite a scary thing to do; leaving behind friends, family and everything you’ve known.  But be brave, it will be worth it. Inevitably, when you first arrive in a new country, you will feel overwhelmed and it’s common for people to feel homesick. Before you start worrying that you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life, you need to give yourself time to adjust. Everyone goes through this. And of course, before going on this major move, you must first secure your visa. Visa application may take a few months but with the help of consulates, like the Italian Consulate New York, you can acquire it much earlier than usual.

To be honest, it takes a couple years to feel completely at home in a new place. Think of it as a new opportunity for adventure. It always takes time to get used to a new place, but it’s especially tough when you are in a new country with a totally different culture. However, there are some simple things you can do to make yourself feel at home. 

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Get Your Home Sorted

Before you do anything else, you should get your home sorted. If you don’t feel comfortable in your own home, you will struggle to feel at home in a new country. Make an effort to create a cozy, welcoming home for you and your family. You can fill it with some things to remind you of home but you should also buy new things to celebrate the transition. Once you start feeling comfortable in your own home, you then have a safe space to come back to and you can start exploring the new country.  

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Learn About The Culture

When you first arrive in a new country, you will still feel like a tourist and everything will feel a bit unfamiliar to you. The best way to settle in is to make an effort to learn about the culture. Be open to new things. Seeing a lot of the local tourist attractions and going to museums is a good place to start. You should also be adventurous with the food that you eat, as well. Go out and find lots of local places to eat, and instead of cooking your favorites from home, look up some recipes and start using local ingredients. Try to engage with local holidays as much as possible too. When you start engaging with the culture, you will feel more like a local. You’ll stop feeling like a visitor and start feeling like you’re home.

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Consider Applying For Citizenship

Even though you are a permanent citizen and you have the right visas in place, it can still feel like you are just a visitor. If you want to put your roots down and you plan to stay for the long haul, you should consider applying for citizenship. If you get in touch with an immigration lawyer, they will be able to advise you about the process. It’s easier to become a citizen in some countries than it is in others, so consider how long the process is before deciding whether it’s right for you. If you do become a citizen, you will feel much more at home. 

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Host Visitors From Back Home

Having people visit you from back home will really help if you are feeling homesick. It also gives you a good opportunity to show people your new life and the home that you have created for yourself. After these visits, your new lifestyle will feel more permanent and being able to share it with your family puts a more positive spin on things. 

It’s important to give it time when you move to a new country because the transition takes time. If it didn’t, that would just be weird. Don’t let fear of change stop you from trying new things. If you don’t like it, you can always move back home but a life of untaken chances and unrealized dreams will definitely end in regret. Be brave. Follow these simple steps and go for it! You’ll feel like a local in no time. 

What would be your best tip for how to make yourself feel at home when you move abroad?

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Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

This post is made possible with support from the Meg Foundation. All opinions and tips to get past your fear of needles today are my own. 

There’s a lot going on in the world. It’s been a crazy year. None of us ever imagined we’d live through a global pandemic in our lifetime. The biggest concern for most of us before 2020 was a laundry list of first-world problems. Life in 2019 could be hard, but not 2020 pandemic hard. Suddenly, for most of us, nothing made sense, and when that happened, the unknown brought with it new stresses and anxieties. 

Right now, the only answer to stopping the pandemic is herd immunity. That term kind of makes me want to moo, right? All kidding aside, I’m thrilled that science has given us a way to save ourselves and those we love, but getting vaccinated brings with it a new set of anxieties and stresses for some.

The fear of needles is real and nothing to be afraid of.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

Don’t like shots? The thought of a needle freaks you out? You’re not alone. 25% of adults have a fear of needles. Don’t be embarrassed. I got so many shots as a kid with chronic health issues that I get sweaty palms just thinking about it even now. I worked through my fear of needles by making a plan and moving through my fears. Please don’t let needle anxiety stop you from being safe from Covid-19.

The Meg Foundation has resources to help you get through needle fears. Everyone can benefit from learning these techniques, but for people with needle anxiety, the techniques are life-changing. The first thing is to make a plan because action is the enemy of anxiety; the more concrete the plan the better you will feel.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

Here are a few simple tips from Hack the Vax to get past your fear and get vaccinated.

Be an advocate for yourself

If you are nervous about getting your vaccine, don’t be afraid to say so. Lots of people have a fear of needles. Those administering the shots are aware of this. Letting people know what you need is the only way they will know (this goes for everything in life, not just vaccinations). You’re not being difficult, you’re advocating for yourself. You are a self-aware bad B. People don’t mind giving you what you need but you’re going to have to tell them.

Block the pain

Getting vaccinated doesn’t have to be painful. Over-the-counter anesthetics like Lidocaine cream are great for a little pre-vaccination numbing at the injection site. To be honest, when I was vaccinated recently ( both times) I didn’t feel a thing. I usually get the flu shot every year and I do feel that but with the Pfizer vaccine, I honestly felt no pain or even the standard pinch when a shot is injected.

Take deep breaths

You probably remember the power of breathing techniques from giving birth. I never put much stock into breathing techniques, until I experienced a unmedicated, Pitocin induced birth. That made me a believer and anyone who has used it, knows it works. Don’t overthink it. Just take a few slow, deep breaths before and during the injection. Using a meditation app for a minute before also helps me in stressful situations to just slow down and get through the moment.

Distract yourself

If you want to rely on something more than just deep breaths to get you through, focus on something that makes you feel happy or relaxed. To clear my head, I always listen to music. However, watching kittens on YouTube or just scroll through your social media feeds is enough to take your mind off the task at hand…or arm, I should say. I’ve done this a lot with my girls throughout their childhood. Distraction is a great way to refocus those overwhelming feeling of stress and anxiety that needles might bring. For me, when I am stressed, I talk, so I chatted with all the other people getting vaccinated.

Bring a support person

Phone a friend or family member and either bring them with you physically ( schedule your vaccinations together) or Facetime them during your vaccination appointment. Maybe it feels a bit awkward as an adult to be virtually hanging out with a friend in a room full of people but if it relaxes you enough to not feel as overwhelmed, it is totally worth a few minutes of talking to your phone in a room full of strangers. A bestie, spouse or sibling is a great support person for getting out of your head and engrossed in conversation. The Big Guy and I got both vaccinations together, sitting side by side.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

The Big Guy and I got both of our vaccinations, and even though there was trepidation about getting the shot, I’m so glad that I did it. Getting everyone vaccinated is a step towards keeping the whole country safe and being able to hug our loved ones once again. Making a plan and working through your fears of needles to get vaccinated not only keeps you safe, in my eyes, but it also makes you a superhero because not only are you protecting yourself from getting coronavirus, you are protecting everyone you know and love. You are part of the solution to this devastating problem that is ravaging the world with no discrimination, rhyme, or reason. 

Don’t let your fear stand between you and your safety. Think, plan, and go get your shot and pass on these techniques because you never know when someone else is feeling nervous, too.

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How Autism is Different in Girls than Boys and How to Recognize autism in girls

April is Autism Awareness month. Did you know that? I didn’t. To be honest, I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about the ins and outs of autism and what a diagnosis means for parents and children who live with it. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I am not directly affected by it ( that I know of because maybe I have just not paid enough attention). The most interesting thing I’ve learned as a girl mom is how autism is different in girls than boys and how to recognize autism in girls. Did you know it looked different?

I do have friends who have children, more than 1, who are autistic but even though I know them, their children and spend time with them, I ask on a need to know basis and listen when they want me to but I never wanted to pry to the point that I make them feel uncomfortable. I know that sounds like a lazy excuse but I swear, I didn’t want them to feel like they needed to educate me. I’m a Latina/woman/ with a mental health diagnosis…I don’t appreciate having to be anyone’s token anything so I try not to put others in that position. 

What is autism?

I’m fully aware that every child with or without autism is different. However, I was assigned a post for Cafemom this week about things everyone should know about Autism and, in my research, I reached out to my friends and asked for help and credible resources and I learned a lot. A lot. I’m so grateful for this assignment. 

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What Hosting Do You Need For Your WordPress Site?, WPEngine, web hosting

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Hosting is a critical element of any website today, and with many different types of hosting packages, it can be difficult to know where to begin. After many years of hosting my blog, I’ve happily landed at WPEngine and love it for the performance and customer service. With that in mind, in this blog post, we’re going to take a look at managed hosting for WordPress. What is it? Is it a good option?

First thing’s first, what is managed WordPress Hosting? Managed WordPress Hosting is a service whereby your web host manages the technical aspects of running your WordPress site. To be clear, it’s not a service where your web host creates your WordPress site, they simply manage things like security, back-ups, updates, speed and consistent high performance.

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For those that aren’t technically minded, or simply don’t have the time to manage all the nitty-gritty parts of their website, AWS direct connect is one of the best cloud connection options.

Generally speaking, with most web hosts who offer managed WordPress hosting, you’ll receive exceptional premium support, where the support is provided by actual WordPress experts who know exactly what they’re doing. Managed WordPress hosting can be a little more expensive than your standard shared hosting, for example, GoDaddy’s basic plan starts at $2.99 per month (usually $5.99, with 50% off), but if you’re willing to pay the extra, then it’s certainly worth it. If you want to buy vps hosting, I would suggest opting for knownhost.com for results you have never imagined were possible in the first place.

As with most things, there are pros and cons of managed WordPress hosting, so we’ve put a list together for you to decide whether it’s right for you:

High Speeds: Because managed WordPress hosting servers are designed specifically for WordPress websites, you likely won’t be sharing your server with as many other customers as you would with shared hosting. Higher speeds mean more traffic; if your website or blog loads within 3 seconds, which it will with WordPress hosting, then customers will stay longer on your website, and you’ll receive a higher SERP SEO with Google.

Quality Support: As we mentioned earlier, the support you’ll receive from a managed WordPress hosting plan will be top-notch. The WordPress experts at your beck and call really are experts, they know what they’re doing, so you can ditch the back and forth nonsense and be reassured that your problems and queries will get sorted straight away. As well as providing support, they can also advise you on which WordPress plugins would and wouldn’t suit your website, giving you tailor-made help whenever you need it.

Updates and Back-ups: Because the technicalities of WordPress are managed by your web host, you won’t have to worry about updating your website to the latest version of WordPress, or be concerned about daily back-ups. These features are all dealt with in-house by your web host, so you’ll receive automatic updates without any conflicts, and daily back-up runs in case anything goes wrong.

This enhances the convenience factor considerably, lessening your workload. However, you will still need to make sure you’re keeping on tops of the likes of SEO and PPC for your site. Your host won’t cover elements like this. You can view PPC data with separate tools to make sure you’re maximizing your advertising streams to full effect.

That all sounds pretty good, right? Well, it is, but there are a few downsides too, which may or may not affect you depending on why managed WordPress hosting is suitable for you:

Cost: Most managed WordPress hosting plans will set you back at least $10 per month, if you choose their unlimited options (which is advised for WordPress hosting, due to WordPress plugins, database back-ups, etc.). It may not sound like a lot, but when you compare it to shared hosting which is generally around the $2 mark, there’s quite a difference. However, if you consider how much it would cost you to pay for someone to manage your WordPress website, with the added security and speed features, it’s actually very reasonably priced.

Limited to WordPress: This may sound obvious, but it’s worth pointing out. If you choose managed WordPress hosting, the likelihood is that you’ll only be able to host a WordPress website. But, if you’re looking at WordPress hosting, then you’re probably not wanting to use another CMS, or create your own website outside of WordPress.

Limited Control: Because someone else will be managing your WordPress website, you won’t have as much control over the technical aspects, such as, security, speed, back-ups etc. Again, a moot point if the reason you’re choosing managed WordPress hosting is for someone else to run things because you can’t/don’t want to/don’t have to.

To be honest, if you’re using managed WordPress hosting for the right reasons, then there aren’t really that many cons we can think of that would put you off. If you’re a small-time blogger, or have a personal website, then this type of hosting probably isn’t for you. You can easily find a web host that offers shared hosting with 1-click installs for WordPress, with a much more affordable price tag. However, if you’re a growing business, or your website generates a lot of traffic, then managed WordPress hosting would certainly be beneficial.

If you’re looking for a stress-free option that isn’t time-consuming, or you don’t have the technical skills but are willing to pay someone else to deal with that side of things for you, choosing a managed WordPress hosting provider should be a consideration. It all comes down to weighing up whether the ‘managed’ side of things is worth paying for, dependent on the type of website you have, or the type of business you run. There are plenty of web hosting providers available that can offer managed WordPress hosting, such as, WP Engine, and SiteGround. It’s certainly worth having a look at the offers on the market, as web hosts are well known for offering enticing deals and sales to draw you in.

A lot of people do not think their choice of host matters, but it does make a big difference when it comes to cost and site performance, so take the time to assess all of your options carefully.

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How to Plan the Perfect Camping Trip for Your Family, GORVing, Family vacation,Summer travel

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Planning a family vacation is always a little stressful, especially in an ever evolving global pandemic. Aside from just being safe these days, you have to find a way to keep each member of the family entertained – from fussy toddlers to brooding teens, and do so without going broke. Organization and little planning go a long way when planning family trips so there’s no meltdowns during your trip. Have you ever thought about planning a camping or RVing trip for your family? Honestly, we’re considering buying one. Our teen girls are begging us because we’ve had such great times on our past trips. That’s saying something when “roughing it” is our daughters’ dream vacation.

Right now with vaccines in full effect and summer approaching, we’re all struggling to plan our next trip. COVID-19 travel restrictions are constantly changing. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to plan a memorable and exciting family vacation. Just think outside the box and plan an adventurous camping trip. You won’t be disappointed, believe me! Been there, done that, doing it again and again for infinity. 

A camping trip is perfect opportunity to just breathe.

How to Plan the Perfect Camping Trip for Your Family, GORVing, Family vacation,Summer travel

There are a lot of benefits to a family camping or RVing trip. You get to spend some time unplugged from technology and listening to each other instead of stuck behind your phone. No fear of missing out on everything happening right where you are. Yes, I know after 2020 and quarantining, more together time might not be what you had in mind. But choosing to be together is something entirely different from being imprisoned together by a global pandemic. 

Also, you can get up close and personal with nature, which is an adventure within itself. Vacationing in national parks and sharing that quiet time taking in nature with your children is priceless. Everyone can shed the roles of who they are expected to be and just be. If you get up early enough, you can even sneak in some together time with your partner. What relationship can’t benefit from that?

Camping means finding quiet moments to appreciate each other without the noise of the world interrupting.

How to Plan the Perfect Camping Trip for Your Family, GORVing, Family vacation,Summer travel

With that in mind, here are some tips you can use. Here’s how to plan the perfect camping or RVing trip for your family! 

  • Choose your destination for overnight camps carefully. While you may want privacy and relaxation, choose a site that is not too far from civilization. If you’re new to camping, you’ll appreciate access to shops and similar facilities if you need them. With kids, you’ll need them. It’s a good idea to reserve a spot at a camping site or national park far in advance ( like now) mainly due to the rise in popularity of camping trips in 2021. 
  • Plan an itinerary for activities that you can participate in around your chosen destination. For example, while an afternoon hike will always be exciting (and won’t cost you a penny), it becomes distinctly less fun if it’s raining. Instead, you might want to check out a local museum or head to the movie theater. Try to have a plan in place so that each day is varied. Remember that you can always drive to a neighboring town too. 
  • Ensure that you have everything you need for a successful camping trip on hand. For example, you cannot simply purchase a tent and a few sleeping bags and hope for the best. You should also ensure that you have easy access to a first aid kit, flashlights, and similar safety-related products. Also, if you’ll be cooking and preparing your own meals, you’ll need to purchase a tent stove or camping stove. This means that you can save money and make exciting meals from scratch instead of having to stop by restaurants. Make it more exciting and catch what you eat. There are plenty of options to choose from, and you can see the full list here.
  • Take turns choosing which activities you participate in each evening. For example, this could mean that you bring a collection of board games, host an outdoor movie night or my favorite sitting around a campfire talking under the stars. Giving every member of the family a turn to select the activity means that everyone will be happy and enjoy their vacation.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where is your dream destination for a family camping trip?

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Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure, The HULK Coaster

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

We just got back from a quick road trip to Orlando. It was a pretty spontaneous decision, think of it as a red wire blue wire sort of situation where we were all about to die from being trapped in the house for a year and we decided to give Universal another try this time, we chose Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It’s home to themed lands like Jurassic Park, Seuss Landing, Marvel Superhero Island and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The first time we went to Universal was way back in 2012. The girls were too little at that time but we didn’t realize that until we were there. So we spent a lot of money to stand in the rain and watch the gang from Victorious sing some songs on stage, rode 1 ride and went home. It was a bust. This time was definitely more fun for our family.

We figured the girls were older this time and definitely would love it. And while what we got to do see, ride and do was good it still wasn’t Disney. The thing is Universal and Disney World are completely different kinds of parks and if you’re used to Disney, you’re going into the whole thing with the wrong mentality.  So here’s a quick rundown of why you should go to Universal Islands of Adventure and why you shouldn’t go to Universal Islands of Adventure.

Why you should visit Universal Islands of Adventure

·  Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies

Universal Islands of Adventure has some thrilling rides. If you like to go fast and hard when you play, Islands of Adventure are for you. The rides will not disappoint but be prepared to be whirled, twirled, fast and furious and to the extreme. Warning: That Dudley Do Right Rip Saw River ride looks harmless but it is, in fact, Splash mountain on steroids and it is raging. It may be the most fun you’ve ever had getting wet but YOU.WILL.BE. DRENCHED. I suggest bringing either a poncho or an extra set of clothes.

·  You love Marvel

Not going to lie, the Incredible Hulk Coaster and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman were two of the best rides I’ve ever been on. Did they both almost make me throw up? Yes. Did I love it? Yes! Did I lose my voice screaming from excitement? YES!! If you have kids over 8, they will probably love it.

·  You love roller coasters

Universal has some pretty awesome coasters that will leave you dizzy and discombobulated but screaming for more. If you love roller coasters, Universal Islands of Adventure is for you. Bonus; VelociCoaster is coming June 10th and we saw it being tested and it looks amazing.

·  Dr. Seuss makes you happy

I’ve spent a big chunk of the last 16 years reading Dr. Seuss whether it was to my girls, to my nieces and nephews or to the sweet preschoolers that I taught but I never found the stories to be as beautiful and endearing as I found Seuss area to be. It is bright, colorful and beautiful filled with whimsy and imagination. However, as I mentioned before, Universal is for thrill-seekers and even the carousel and The Cat in the Hat ride seemed to go very fast. I know the area looks like a kid’s playground but it isn’t as tame as it looks. We loved it but I’m not sure how well a toddler would fare.

·  Harry Potter fans

Hogsmeade is like immersing yourself in a Harry Potter book. It is beautiful and if your family are Harry Potter fans, it really brings the story to life. The butterbeer was amazing (we preferred the frozen) and the Ollivanders wand experience was really cool. However, there are only a couple of rides and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™ is only available by virtual queue and it is virtually impossible to get a spot. We had a time 3 times and the app booted us out and we lost our reservations. It was very frustrating.

Why you shouldn’t visit Universal Islands of Adventure

·      It expensive

There is the initial cost of the tickets (1 day/ family of 4/ $579), then if you don’t want to spend all of your time waiting in lines there is the option to purchase express passes ($69) and unlimited express passes ($89), parking ($26), and lockers ( $2 each time you ride something that requires you to put your bag in a locker). That is not including souvenirs, food and drinks. There are definitely more budget-friendly ways to plan your trip. Don’t wait to the lat minute like we did.

·      Express pass will make or break your trip

Unless you love waiting in lines and only being able to fit 4-6 rides in on your visit, you better buy yourself an express pass. It was our first real trip to Islands of Adventure so we didn’t know how any of this worked but now we know. If you are staying in a Universal hotel, which we were not, you do get express passes included in your hotel stay. But as we were not, we spent all day waiting in lines and didn’t get to experience as much of the park as we had hoped. Very disappointing. However, if you are staying at a Universal Resort express pass is included so I would highly recommend staying on grounds. Resort rooms were very affordable, we just waited too late to book.

·      CoVid rules de jour not de facto

Universal Islands of Adventure does have great guidelines in place for following CoVid safety protocol. However, not everyone was, you still had to scan your finger to enter the park and there wasn’t anyone really enforcing the rules in the lines until you entered a building. Several times, I had to ask people to step back and stay on their 6 ft apart socially distanced marker. That was very frustrating and made me feel anxious because people were invading my personal 6ft apart space.

In the end, there are more reasons why you should visit than why you shouldn’t. We wanted to love it but it wasn’t what we expected. Maybe it was CoVid? Maybe it was being unprepared? Or maybe we are just Disney people? Either way, we’d love to go back and give Universal another try and check out the VelociCoaster. It looks amazing and I’m sure it will be one more thrilling ride that my girls will fall in love with. Have you been to Universal Islands of Adventure? What is your favorite area? Favorite ride?

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easiest way to get protein without eating meat

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I was a vegetarian for 10 years. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of meat even now after going back. It just isn’t my vibe. Sure, I love the occasional steak, burger, fish or chicken but mostly, I prefer anything else. I’ve taken a lot ethics and animals classes, joined PETA when I was 18 and it’s hard for me to enjoy eating pretty much anything with a face but I’m not here to pull anyone over to the vegetarian side. I just know that I’m not alone.

A lot of people are starting to think seriously about how much meat they eat on a daily basis. Some people have ethical concerns about how much animal products they eat, others are aware of the environmental impact of farming for meat, and others realize that a lot of meat in the diet simply isn’t healthy. Yes to all of this for me.

However, most people rely on meat for the vast majority of their protein consumption, which is crucial for healthy muscle growth amongst other things. So, what can we do to get the protein we need without as much meat or none at all?

A teaspoon of powder is all it takes

We all know the nutritional benefits of milk in the diet, with the calcium, iron, and other additions it has for your diet. However, making one replacement can help you not only get the same calcium but also add some protein to your morning glass of milk. Soybeans are a tremendous source of complete protein, meaning they have both protein and the amino acids that typically go with it in animal sources of protein. Of course, milk isn’t the only way to have your soy, but it’s an easy replacement to make and it tastes great.

All that power in one little bean

If you’re looking to live a healthy, active lifestyle and you need plenty of protein to make sure that your muscles are regenerating and growing as they should, then powdered protein may be something you’re familiar with. However, this article tells you all you need to know about a potential replacement that doesn’t rely on animal products: rice protein powder. Not only can it help you up your protein throughout the day, but it can also help you replace meals if you’re trying to cut down on your portions.

Get nutty with it

Although not quite the same as soybeans (since they are not complete sources of protein), you should also look at the various ways you can use nuts more in your meals. This can include salads, soups, desserts, and snacks throughout the day. Peanuts have, per gram, the highest amount of protein out of all of the nuts. However, walnuts and hazelnuts also pack plenty of protein in their punch. What’s more, they also have a lot of those heart-healthy unsaturated fats. You shouldn’t eat more than roughly 30g of them a day, however.

Completing your proteins

Soybeans tend to be one of the few most readily available sources of complete proteins, which is why they’re the easiest to recommends. Others, such as rice and nuts, do not contain the amino acids that are also essential and typically come with animal proteins. However, there are other vegan sources of amino acids that you can incorporate in your diet. If you’re ever worried that you’re not getting enough, you might also want to consider using amino acid supplements just to top you up. Getting it through your diet is more widely recommended, but the option is there just to err on the side of caution.

Getting the protein you need is possible without eating as much meat. Hopefully, the tips above help you see the alternatives to getting your protein when milk isn’t the.

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