We are in the midst of the holiday season, and many of the songs we hear are joyous and happy but this may not be a happy time for all. For some, the holidays are sad due to the absence of a loved one (because of distance or loss), a change in family life due to divorce or unresolved family issues. For others, the demands of the holiday season cause such stress or unrealistic expectations that they start feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed.

With the school year well underway, my children brought home their mid-term report cards last week. As we reviewed their grades and talked about areas to improve, there was a hint of expectancy in my oldest sons' voice. "Mom, I can't wait to show this to grandpa! He's going to give me lots of money for my good grades." Carrying on a tradition held over from my childhood, my parents reward my sons with nominal amounts of cash for good grades.

We are almost two weeks in to summer, and for me that is a little sad because that means the longest day of sunlight has already come and gone. In addition, as I look at the calendar, we are in the midst of celebrating the Fourth of July. I always look forward to watching the fireworks, though! That is always on my "summer to-do list." What are the things that you like to do each year? Are there new things that you are hoping to do, to try or to learn this summer?

Recently my niece posted a copy of a contract that her father developed when she and her brother were little that set out the rules for playing with Legos.  The contract has 6 (!) segments, with my favorite stating that the contract starts on February 12, 1995, it ends at the year 2002, with a new contract written at that time.  If no new contract is written at that time, then my nephew gets the Legos until he is 29 years old.  (He's past that now and I don't know what happened to the Legos after his 29th birthday!)

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In the last article I mentioned that optimism, socialization and purpose were just a few of the characteristics proven to improve quality of life. So what are the additional elements that contribute to positive aging?

Were you spanked as a child?

While in elementary school in the 80's, I have vivid memories of the "board" in the principal's office. The rumor was, if you were sent to the principal's office for misbehavior, you would be spanked with the board. While I cannot confirm if this practice was true, it was enough to scare me into good behavior.

In my previous job working with families with children under the age of three, parents talked a lot about growth charts. "My child is in the X percentile for height and the X percentile for weight. What does this mean? Should I be concerned?" Of course, the first thing that we did was direct the family back to their doctor with their specific questions, but here is some general education about this standard part of a child's checkup.

Technology is so prominent in our society today, bringing disadvantages along with the benefits.

Child's play is a phrase that describes something that is very simple to accomplish.  However, child's play is actually increasingly complex tasks that have a large impact on a child's social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. 


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With the holidays rapidly approaching, I wanted to re-share an article published a couple of years ago that was written by Extension colleague Janice McCoy.  She points out the benefits of sharing meals together:

Earlier this month, there was a news item on TV about a local family whose daughter was suffering from lead poisoning.  She had a lead blood level 9x higher that what is recommended as acceptable by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

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Good Communication is Important

This blog post was originally published in April 2015.  With a new school year underway, many of you may find it helpful to see again!


You and your child have spent countless hours together bonding and forming daily routines. It has been wonderful witnessing your child's growth and development. Now it is time to return to work, or you need to leave your child with a caregiver, or they are beginning a new preschool program. It is the first day and you are nervous and worried about how this will all turn out.

Should my child be walking by now?  Is my child saying enough words for his age?  Is my child supposed to be recognizing written words?  When do kids begin to write their name?





Natural Illinois: Leaves Are All Around

A tip sheet from the Illinois Early Learning Project

You don't have to go to exotic places to find interesting plants and animals to study at home or in the classroom! From violets and bluestem to oak trees and pines, Illinois plants are as close as your local park or schoolyard. Preschoolers can learn a lot about plants by studying leaves

Start by taking children outdoors to collect leaves.

Throughout 2017, I'll be taking a close look at common concerns that caregivers experience, such as important caregiving skills, asking for help as a caregiver, and understanding your loved one's condition. Watch all of these videos at our YouTube page, where you can subscribe to receive updates when new videos are posted (simply click the red "Subscribe" button on the right side of the page).

Stroll through any store this time of year and you're bound to see the color red, valentine hearts, and love. Hearts are all around us in every shade of pink and red. This February, I'd like to encourage you to show a little love to your heart.

Help wanted: energetic person to provide constant companionship to someone who is unable to care for self. Position includes all cooking, housecleaning, yard work and personal care. Must be responsible, creative and alert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Experience dealing with social security, Medicare, insurance and other agencies a plus. Heavy lifting required. No vacations. No holidays. No pay. Call . . .

Elements of Self-Care

As part of our community wellness effort, I am reprinting a blog post on self-care with permission from a colleague. Michele Crawford, is a Communit

September is Fall Prevention Month

Falls are not a normal part of aging, but they are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. That is why University of Illinois Extension is partnering with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the Falls Free® Coalition to celebrate Falls Prevention Awareness Day on September 22 and all September long.

What is more beautiful than your child's bright eyes? How well he sees with those eyes is important to his learning and development. Parents and teachers need to be aware that a child might not know if his vision is normal.

Arrange for regular vision screenings.

'Tis the season to make resolutions. What's on your list this year? According to Statistic Brain, among the top 10 resolutions made for 2016 were losing weight, getting organized, spending less/saving more, quitting smoking, and staying fit and healthy. Rounding out the top 10 was "spending more time with family."

Learning and Fun on Family Field Trips

What is a family field trip? When you and your child travel into the wide world with learning as your goal, you are on a field trip! Your destination can be as close as the front porch or as distant as a museum in another town. What are the secrets of successful family field trips? Plan with care.

Where will you go?

After being stuck inside from a bad winter, we often say things like, "I'm suffering from cabin fever", or after being inside all day we might say, "I need some fresh air." As usual, there is some truth to these familiar sayings that we have heard passed down from generation to generation. I hope that with it being summer, we do not find ourselves saying them.

As part of our community wellness effort, this month we want to talk about the importance of volunteers. What a volunteer gives to an organization in time, expertise and spirit can never be repaid. However, there are also many benefits to the individual that make it one of the most rewarding things one can do. This month, Kristin Puckett, our 4-H program coordinator from Vermilion County, shares about 4-H volunteer opportunities.

A fall can be a life-altering event when it comes to health, well-being and quality of life. Back in February, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Jake Sosnoff of the Illini Fall Prevention Clinic speak. He is such a wealth of knowledge that I wanted to share his knowledge with all of you. This month Dr. Sosnoff has written a gem of an article on falls. I hope you find it as interesting and engaging as I found him in person; now let us hear from Dr. Sosnoff.

Think about keeping your brain strong today and every day in honor of Brain Awareness Week