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Thomas Skiffington,  CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

10 Important Parenting Goals for 2013

January 4, 2013 5:46 pm

One of my favorite quotes is “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over expecting different results.” Same rule applies to parenting. If you want to build a better relationship with your kids, improve your child’s behavior and overall improve your family’s health, nothing will change unless you change.

The good news is that sometimes it only takes small changes to experience big results.
In a perfect world all of us would already be implementing all 10 of these goals below. Statistics show that most parents are not. So read through this important list of parenting goals and embrace 1 or 2 that you can implement starting today – and keep this goal for the entire year.

Hug your kids every day. Remember those bumper stickers from the ’80′s “Have You Hugged Your Kid Today”? In 2013 we need to plaster that sticker on our foreheads. Many kids are starving for emotional affection from their parents. So hug your kids every day. And don’t forget “I love you” a few times each week also!

Get rid of all sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks and any sugary beverage from your home. Why? Sugary drinks single-handedly contribute to mass numbers of cancer, obesity, behavioral problems, cavities, ADHD, ADD, sleep disorders…and the list goes on. If you make the simple dietary change for your family in 2013 to kick the sugary drink habit (and stick to water as your drink of choice), you will make tremendous positive changes for your family. And don’t be fooled by diet drinks. They are equally as unhealthy as the others.

Join your child for lunch at her school cafeteria unannounced. You will never see a happier look on your child’s face when they learn you have come to eat with them. Make a habit of doing this a few times each school year.

Learn to calm yourself down before you discipline your children.
We all lose our temper, raise our voices and feel outraged at the things our kids do sometimes. One of the best parenting tips I ever learned was to take a deep breath, count to 10 and even walk away from my child when I feel like exploding, yelling or spanking. Nobody wins in a situation when tempers are flaring. A calm, cool, collected parent has a lot more positive influence than an upset parent.

Read good parenting books. Then read more. Why? Parenting is the most important job in the world – but comes with the least amount of professional training. Most parents rely on friends, family or their sister for their best parenting advice. What if you were going in for heart surgery and the surgeon looked down at you and said, “I’m not a licensed physician and I’ve never been to medical school. But my dad was a doctor so I’m just going to call him and ask how I should operate on you.” You would be dumbfounded. We expect our doctors, teachers, pastors and even our hair dressers to be professionally trained and “with the times”. Why are we not expecting the same level of training and professionalism with parents? Be a coachable parent. Let parenting experts guide you through the most important job you will ever do. Your kids deserve it!

Limit media to 30 minutes each day. Many studies show that more than 1 hour of screen time (TV, computers, cell phones, video games, tablets, etc…) contribute to sleep disorders, obesity, poor physical activity, behavioral problems, ADHD…and more. No matter how much your kids try to convince you otherwise, your Play Station will never provide your kids equal physical or mental benefits to a bike ride, card game, jump rope or swimming pool.

Get your kids to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally do.
Why? Next to poor diet, lack of sleep is the biggest contributor to physical and mental health problems. Po Bronson, author of “Nurture Shock,” found in his detailed study on sleep in children that even an extra 15 minutes of sleep in children increased their school grades, IQ scores and overall daily well-being.

Pack healthy sack lunches at least a few times each week.
Why? Well, simply put, school cafeteria food is some of the unhealthiest food on the planet. Even if your school boasts a “healthy menu,” more-than-likely your child is choosing the chocolate milk, the dessert and skipping the fresh fruit. (I would too if given the option!) So pack healthy lunches with whole grain bread, fresh fruit and bottled water.

Spend 20 minutes of one-on-one quality time with your kids every day:
Go bike riding/walking, play a board game, make art, cook together, throw a ball…etc. Sitting in front of the TV together is not quality time. Quality time is what kids are starved for. Quality time is free. It only takes minutes to fill a child’s emotional tank. Parents, stop making excuses. Carve out quality time for your kids every single day!

Do service projects together.
This is a win-win-win situation for you, your kids and a person in need. Volunteer work is one of the most memorable experiences your children will ever have – and it’s a great way for your teenager to build a work resume. This is something that can become a fabulous family tradition. Pick an organization that means a lot to you and serve them on a regular basis.
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Word of the Day

January 4, 2013 5:46 pm

Deed of trust. Document resembling a mortgage that conveys legal title to a neutral third party as security for a debt. Also called a trust deed or deed in trust.
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Q: How Can I Find Out How My Property Is Zoned?

January 4, 2013 5:46 pm

A: Zoning ordinances and maps are a matter of public record. Visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board and get a copy of your local ordinance.

In some areas, if you have a legal description of the property (name, address, tax map, and parcel number), you can call the zoning office or city hall, or even e-mail your request for information.

Some communities also have their zoning maps and ordinances online and in local libraries.
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Extend Holiday Cheer by Doing Good Year-Round

January 4, 2013 5:46 pm

(Family Features)—While charitable giving increases towards the end of the year as important community needs are showcased, such needs continue all year long. Unfortunately, giving tends to drop off after the holidays, leaving many organizations with a shortfall of donated goods, cash and even volunteers in the new year.

"While it is true that part of the Christmas and holiday tradition is to give back to others, there are needs in our community throughout the year," said Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army. "The Salvation Army serves nearly 30 million people every year and we cannot do that without the generosity of the American public who gives back, beyond the holidays."

What You Can Do

Whether you volunteer or collect goods to donate, resolve to take simple steps in 2013 to better your community. To shine a light on ways to give back, Ericka Lassiter, pro football player partner, avid volunteer and president of the non-profit Off The Field Players Wives Association, shares her top three tips on how to make giving a year-long tradition:
1: Simple Items Make a Big Difference: Many local charities collect clothes and essentials for families, particularly children, all year long. From warm coats and blankets to socks, toothpaste and soap, the simplest items can make a real difference for those in need. Consider donating gently used items after your annual spring cleaning, organize a donation drive in your neighborhood, or if you buy in bulk at warehouse clubs like Sam's Club, choose a few items from each trip to set aside for donation to your favorite local charity.
2: Think Outside the Can: Food banks are always in need of cash and food donations throughout the year. Feeding America says that for $1, food banks can provide 8 meals to men, women and children facing hunger; $50 will provide 400 meals. Donate at www.FeedingAmerica.org or call your local food bank and ask for their "most wanted" list. Often, proteins are at the top of the list along with peanut butter, baby food and juice boxes. Home gardeners with bumper crops can glean their harvests and share fresh vegetables and fruits so they don't go to waste.
3: Ways to Help Are Closer Than You Think: Your local community center, religious institution or library most likely has programs to help those in need, so you can help as part of your regular routine. Ask if you can volunteer to serve meals to the homeless after church services, or offer to read to children at the local library. There are countless ways to lend a hand, so find one that feels right to you or visit www.volunteermatch.org for ideas.

"Every community will have unique needs and strengths," said Susan Koehler, Senior Manager of Community Involvement for Sam's Club. "To make the greatest impact, those wanting to give back should consider asking about workplace programs that match volunteer hours, local donation guidelines or making giving back a regular family activity."
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How Working Moms Can Make Guilt-Free Choices

January 4, 2013 5:46 pm

As a professional life coach, I’m privileged to have some very successful career women as clients. I’ve discovered that many of them face challenges quite different than those encountered by men. For example, consider the deep feelings of guilt many working mothers experience. They feel as if they are being split in half and would gladly sacrifice a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes for more hours in the day. When we are dealing with a female who is voluntarily willing to give up her high-end shoes, you know we have a serious issue. Just as serious is the confusion between making a decision and making a choice. Many of these educated women suffer from the consequences of their choices and struggle with making better choices they can live with and feel good about.

Humbly speaking, I believe a process and a skill set are associated with decision and choice making. In order to recognize the difference--as well as the need to learn or improve upon the skill set--a person must be open to personal growth. Each new client has discovered that something is “off” in that individual’s life, and he/she wants to turn it back on. Often the issues are related to the choices made, which, in turn, have led the client to seek my assistance.

Oftentimes the two words (decision and choice) are used interchangeably, when, in fact, they have complete and separate meanings. Let’s start with decision, which means “to reach a conclusion or pass judgment on an issue.” A choice is defined as “a selection from a number of options.” To simplify: you make a decision to have dessert after dinner, and then you choose between ice cream, cake, or pie--keeping in mind that a moment on the lips is like an inch to the hips. Oh please, I’m a man who loves hips; go with the cake. I do digress.

My helpful guide, “5 Simple Steps to Choosing Your Path,” (sorry, shameless plug) illustrates five simple, but powerfully impactive, steps to making wiser choices. Once applied to our daily lives, these steps have proven quite effective in their simplicity.

1. Think it out: That should be a logical process, but a lot of times in life, we merely react based on experience, the past, emotions, or a myriad of other reasons, without giving much prior thought to making a choice.
2. Willingness to deal with the consequences through ownership: Yes, we have to own our choices. We can’t point fingers of blame at others when things don’t work out and only take credit for the good. We must own all of our choices.
3. Accept responsibility: Whether you like it or not, choices mean responsibility. Now you’re getting into deeper waters. When we step up and claim responsibility, we are indeed stepping up.
4. Be accountable: When you hold yourself accountable, the message is, “This is on me.” And that truly takes strength of character.
5. Be honest: This is admittedly the hardest step for a lot of people. Some of us simply find it too difficult to look into the reflected image of truth, which can hurt. The tendency to develop safety mechanisms, in an attempt to protect one’s heart, can be too great. Unfortunately, not being honest with yourself in your daily choices can only delay the inevitable, as well as make matters worse. Here’s the good news: by practicing the art of honesty, telling the truth becomes easier.

It’s never too late in life to do better, be better, and become better. Take a walk to the water’s edge, and look out. For as far as the eyes can see and beyond, endless possibilities exist, and they all start with your choices. Choices are a birthright that each of us possesses without purchase; they’re absolutely free.

After serving in the U.S. Army and earning his degree in business administration, W. Granville Brown embarked on a successful career in the insurance industry spanning two decades. He later became committed to improving the lives of others by encouraging inward reflection, and became a bestselling, self-published author. As a certified life coach, Brown has helped many clients transform their lives for the better by using real-world methods. His new guide, 5 Simple Steps to Choosing Your Path, is available on www.wgranvillebrown.com.
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Red Flags: Be Wary of Mortgage Scams

January 4, 2013 5:46 pm

With the uptick in mortgage and loan fraud in recent years, we tapped the Federal Trade Commission and continue our look at the agency's list of red flags to help you stay safe from scam artists and fraudulent mortgage or loan purveyors.

The FTC says watch out for:

  • Fees that are not disclosed clearly or prominently. Scam lenders may say you’ve been approved for a loan, and then call or email demanding a fee before you can get the money.
  • Any up-front fee that the lender wants to collect before granting the loan is a cue to walk away, especially if you’re told it’s for “insurance,” “processing,” or just “paperwork.”
  • Legitimate lenders often charge application, appraisal, or credit report fees, but they disclose those fees clearly and prominently; they take their fees from the amount you borrow; and the fees usually are paid to the lender or broker after the loan is approved.
  • A loan offered by phone. It is illegal for companies doing business in the U.S. by phone; to promise you a loan; and ask you to pay for it before they deliver.
  • Always check a company’s phone number from an outside source, and verify they are who they say they are. And get a physical address, too -- company that advertises a PO Box as its address is one to check out with the appropriate authorities.
  • Lenders not registered in your state. Lenders and loan brokers are required to register in the states where they do business. To check registration, call your state Attorney General’s office or your state’s Department of Banking or Financial Regulation.
  • A lender who asks you to wire money or pay an individual; legitimate lenders don’t ask anyone to do that. And don’t use a wire transfer service or send money orders for a loan -- legitimate lenders don’t pressure their customers to wire funds.
Most importantly -- if you think you’ve had an experience with an advance-fee loan scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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Word of the Day

January 4, 2013 5:46 pm

Deed. Written document that when executed and delivered conveys title to real property.
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6 Tricks for Getting More out of Your iPhone

January 3, 2013 5:46 pm

If Santa left a shiny new iPhone under your tree, you probably already know how to call, text, and check email. But, say the communications experts at Business Insider, there are tips and tricks that can help you maximize your time and effort. Bonus: most of these tips will work just as well with your iPad.

Turn off LTE to save battery –
On the iPhone 5, you can save battery life in a pinch by going to Settings, then General, then Cellular. Or choose the Enable LTE toggle; if you need to save battery and can spare some Internet speed, turn this option off.
Lock the screen orientation – To lock your screen orientation, double tap the home button and swipe to the right. You'll see a gray circle opposite the rewind button. Tap that once and a lock will appear, so when you turn your phone sideways the orientation will stay put.
Automatically download new apps – A handy feature if you have several Apple devices: New apps and music will download automatically to all of them if you go to Settings and navigate to the middle of the page. Select the Store option, and once inside, under Automatic Downloads, switch on options for music, apps or both.
View websites in full screen – While browsing a web site in Safari, turn your iPhone to the side (landscape) and tap the full-screen icon (arrows coming together in the bottom right) and you can view a website without distraction.
Create a custom vibration – This can let you know who is calling or texting without having to look at the phone. Go to Settings, then tap Sounds at the bottom of the page. You'll be able to select custom vibration or record your own – and you can adjust the length of it, too.
Use Siri to set location-based reminders – Siri can be used to set a reminder, like saying "remind me to call mom at 4 today." But you know you can set location-based reminders on your iPhone 4S. Say "Remind me to call mom when I get home," and you'll be notified accordingly.
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Don’t Get Scammed by a Fraudulent Loan or Mortgage Scheme

January 3, 2013 5:46 pm

If you made a resolution to solve any credit issues or address mortgage challenges in the new year, then this is for you. We recently heard from some of the nation's most tried and true 'watchdogs' about an issue he will be monitoring closely in 2013 - mortgage fraud.

One is the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) -- a nonprofit leader in crime prevention. For more than 30 years, its mascot, McGruff the Crime Dog and the council have been watching out for consumers and 2013 will be no different.

The FBI is also on the case, since its most recent Mortgage Fraud Report indicates that more than $10 billion in loans originated with fraudulent application data in 2010. Another agency, the Federal Trade Commission has issued some red flags that can tip you off to scam artists’ attempts to get you to sign on the bottom line of a fraudulent mortgage or loan document.

In this segment, we'll begin to review these important tips, beginning with the usual suspects:

  • A lender who isn’t interested in your credit history. A lender may offer loans or credit cards for many purposes — for example, so a borrower can start a business or consolidate bill payments. But one who doesn’t care about your credit record should give you cause for concern.
  • It’s also a warning sign if a lender says they won’t check your credit history, yet asks for your personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number. They may use your information to debit your bank account to pay a fee they’re hiding.
  • Ads that say “Bad credit? No problem” or “We don’t care about your past. You deserve a loan” or “Get money fast” or even “No hassle — guaranteed” often indicate a scam. Banks and other legitimate lenders generally evaluate creditworthiness and confirm the information in an application before they guarantee firm offers of credit — even to creditworthy consumers.

In the next segment we'll pick up with some additional tips on how to avoid mortgage and loan fraud. But in the meantime, if you think you’ve had an experience with an advance-fee loan scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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Clean Closets Make a Happy Home

January 3, 2013 5:46 pm

(Family Features)—When it comes to getting the house clean and tidy, closets often get left off the to-do list. From hall closets and linen closets to bedroom closets, "out of sight, out of mind" thinking quickly leads to clutter -- and then frustration when you can't find what you need when you need it.

But a little planning and a few simple tips can help you get your closets in user-friendly shape in no time.

Put your closets on your calendar. Take stock of your schedule and commit some time to tackle your closets. Set realistic expectations -- you don't have to conquer all your closets at once. It may make sense for your family to forego TV one evening a week and focus on one closet at a time, for example.

Start by sorting.

  • If you haven't worn a piece of clothing in the past year -- or you can't remember the last time you wore something -- then you don't need it. Other items to purge from your closet: children's clothes and shoes that are either too small or too worn out to pass down to a sibling or a friend.
  • Sort your remaining clothes by season and then into piles to keep or pass down. If you have limited closet space, keep only the current season's wardrobe in your closet. Carefully pack and store the rest for later.
  • Linen closets stay more organized when you stack similar sized items together. Sort sheets by size, and group washcloths, hand towels and bath towels together.
  • For closets that hold everything from the vacuum cleaner to art supplies and anything in between, work one shelf at a time. Sort items by categories and dedicate one shelf or area of the closet to each group.
Eliminate excess -- but don't throw it away. As the saying goes, one man's trash is another's treasure. There are easy ways to donate your unwanted items to benefit those in need. One example is DonateStuff.com, where you can request pre-paid UPS shipping bags that make it simple and free to send in unwanted clothes, shoes, accessories and household linens. Your donation benefits one of three national nonprofits of your choosing: AMVETS, Easter Seals, or The Purple Heart. It's tax deductible, and it reduces waste. Americans throw away an average of 68 pounds of clothing each year. You can learn more at www.donatestuff.com.

Green up your storage. When it's time to put things back into place, instead of buying new containers to hold things, look around the house for boxes and containers you already heave. Baskets, crates and even empty shoeboxes can be reused to keep your closets more organized.

Repeat often. You don't have to wait until the next neighborhood yard sale before you sift through your closets again. As with most household chores, a little maintenance goes a long way to keep your closets looking neat and clean. You could even keep a bag in each of your kids' closets and encourage them to set aside gently used and outgrown items on a regular basis.

You'll be amazed at how much happier clean closets can make the whole house feel -- especially when you turn the stuff you don't need into a good deed.
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