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    When thinking about giving gifts to co-workers, friends, and party hosts this holiday season, it can be challenging to find the perfect gift and stay on a budget! One of my favorite gifts to give is Holiday potpourri because it is easy to make, looks beautiful in the jar, and smells lovely when you use it. It is a simple combination of a few favorite holiday scents. To get the PDF printable of the recipe card to attach to your jars, click here.

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    The holiday season is filled with joy! Well…usually. Except when it isn’t.

    The truth is, we experience all of the same emotional ups and downs around the holidays that we do any other part of the year. Some might argue that extra excitements and stresses of this time of year cause an even greater range of feelings than normal.

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    When was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? Or sent one to someone else? How did it make you feel?

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    When I was in college, my grandmother made me a book of her favorite recipes – it was a labor of love as each recipe was handwritten and it is one of my prized possessions. It was especially meaningful because my grandmother was a wonderful cook and family meals were a big part of our holiday gatherings for as long as I remember. The one thing I wish I would have done is to have asked her more about the stories behind the recipes she made.

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    Have you ever been to a preschool graduation? They’re adorable! Especially ones where the tiny graduates are asked what they want to be when they grow up. You tend to hear lots of similar responses like “teacher,” “firefighter,” “mom,” or “Batman!” This question is a fun way to get a tiny glimpse into each child’s personality. However, it can also show how young people are often interested in pursuing careers that they’re familiar with.

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    November is national gratitude month and is a wonderful time to reflect on things you are appreciative of and to be more aware of the goodness around you. It seems like in recent years, there has been an increased focus on gratefulness during this month, and we see flurries of social media posts about gratitude. Why such an emphasis on gratitude in recent years?

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    Halloween is here and that means lots and lots of candy! We had many creative ways of getting rid of some of the excess candy in our house, but probably the way the kids liked best (other than getting paid to get rid of it) was Halloween Candy Experiments.  Here is one of our favorites:

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    Play is important! For both children and adults, play can contribute to social, emotional, mental, and physical wellness. It helps young people develop motor skills, learn to share and negotiate, problem solve, and conquer fears. It helps adults decrease stress, spark innovation, and boost creativity. Plus, playing with your family can help develop stronger bonds and create shared memories. There are tons of ways to play together…but family game night might be a great start!

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    The night sky can be full of wonder for children. I can hear all my kid’s questions from when they were little… What are the stars made of? Why are some stars brighter than others? Why do they seem to twinkle? If you have never tried out star gazing with your family - now is the perfect time! The nights are longer and weather isn’t too chilly yet! Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning your star gazing adventure.

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    October 10 is World Mental Health Day! This day, first celebrated by the World Health Organization in 1992, is intended to raise awareness around mental health issues. It’s a great day to encourage everyone – in our communities, our workplaces, and our homes – to make mental health and well-being a priority. So how can you help?

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    4-H members in Illinois will join the 6 million youth across the country in celebrating National 4-H Week Oct. 2-8. Some of you may currently be involved with 4-H, some may be familiar with it from your past experiences, while others may not have heard of it at all. So let me tell you a little about 4-H today!

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    Life can be overwhelming! Sometimes, you just need to take a minute. Next time you get to that point, try this relaxing mindfulness technique to help you rest, relieve tension, or reset your body after stress.

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    Fall is here, the weather is turning cooler, and it is a perfect time to head outside with your family to explore nature. However, it can sometimes be hard to think of activities that will encourage everyone to head outside. Not to worry - this summer our 4-H staff created some amazing outdoor challenges as part of our Adventures in Nature Challenge, which was designed to help kids spend more time outdoors. It was so much fun for my family and we enjoyed being able to all of them without going far from home.

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    Is it an officially sanctioned holiday? Well, not exactly…though it is observed annually in some circles. But despite its informal status, it is still a great day to celebrate. Why? Because cooking with your kids has more benefits that I can list in one blog post! (Literally...I had to edit out so many great things about for the sake of time.) Here are just a few things that cooking with your kids can do!

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    As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, now known as Patriot Day, it is important to take a moment to remember the significance of that day – the lives lost, the heroes of that day, and the emotional impact it had on the people and the country. It is also important to note that as time passes, many adults remember where they were on that day, however young people, especially young children today see it as a point in history-something that happened before they were alive.  

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    In 2016, August 30 was established as National Grief Awareness Day to raise awareness about the variety of ways that people cope with loss and to promote resources to support people who are grieving.

    Children who have lost a family member, friend, or pet can experience various level of sadness and grief. It can often be difficult for parents and caregivers to know to know what to say or do to help. The National Alliance for Children’s Grief has some ideas to help provide support and compassion for children dealing with grief.

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    August 21 is National Senior Citizens Day. It’s a day to celebrate and honor the many contributions made by mature members of our community, and to bring awareness to struggles that people may face as they age. It’s also a great opportunity to help your children better interact with, understand, and appreciate older generations. This year, why not make plans for you and your family to invest time with seniors in your area.

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    Yesterday, a colleague showed me a picture that her daughter had drawn many years ago. She (my coworker) had found the picture while cleaning out her office and was moved by the memories it brought up. The picture - with its rough lines, uneven letters, and misspelled names - was an adorable memento of days gone by. Time passes more quickly than we’d like to admit, so we try to capture some of the moments before they’re gone.

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    Summer can be a great time for family reunions and connecting with family members. Following an extended time of limited social gatherings and time apart, seeing family members face to face is especially meaningful this year. However, it takes some intentional planning to create opportunities for family members to share with each other. Michigan State University Extension shares some great reunion resources to promote sharing among family members.

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    Summer days seem to be going by quickly this year, but it is not too late to squeeze in some summer fun. Family road trips are a great way to explore a new place or revisit an old favorite. They can be a time for families to make great memories, play games, and have fun. The great thing about road trip adventures is they can be as short or long as you can manage, but something about packing up the car still builds a sense of excitement and adventure regardless of the length of the trip.