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Tom's Blog

Raising Children with Gratitude

February 14, 2012 6:20 pm

Teaching your children gratitude is one of the most important things you can do, raising the next generation to be compassionate, understanding and gracious.

“The hand-written thank-you note may have gone the way of the Dodo, but the need to tell other people “thank you” has not gone out of style,” writes Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson, a nationally-recognized parenting expert and author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.”

“If your children don’t know how to express thanks to folks who’ve been nice to them, or if they don’t realize that they need to express thanks to someone, then the time to teach this all-important life skill is now.”

The following tips and suggestions about raising thankful children are from Anderson, published in a recent article on www.swparents.com.

Saying ‘Thank You’ Out Loud

We all know that “please” and “thank you” are among a toddler’s first words. By the time a child enters preschool, saying thank you should be automatic. You teach this and re-teach it by saying “please” and “thank you” yourself…and by prompting your child to say these on her own. You reinforce polite behavior with more polite behavior and you model what you want to see. Right?

But there is an art to saying thank you for a gift. A child should look directly at the giver and say “thank you” as enthusiastically as possible. There is no need to say “this is just what I wanted” but a child may say “this is the wrong color!” or “I don’t like this!” or “I hate books!”

This means that before an exciting gift-receiving event (before the start of your child’s birthday party or before a holiday present-opening), you review with your preschooler, school-age child, and older kid how to say thank you and how to see value in every gift, even the gifts of socks and underwear. Make the gift-opening event go slowly enough to pause to appreciate every single present: opening gifts should not look like a race. If a child gets so excited he forgets to be polite, that’s the time to take a break from the presents and open the rest later. No need to be angry, just stop the action and resume the gift-opening in a little while.

Sometimes the giver is not in the room. If your child is old enough to carry on a conversation on the telephone and speaks clearly enough to be understood by the person she’s calling, then thanks can be made by phone. The script goes something like this: “Thanks so much for the ____. I really like the color/model/size/whatever. I’m going to use it/play with it right away.” Short and sweet. Rehearse before dialing the phone if you need to.

Saying ‘Thank You’ in Writing
As soon as your child hits preschool – maybe even younger – dictating thank you notes to givers who live a distance away should be part of getting a gift. These thank you notes can be on paper, of course, but a text message or email is okay too. If your child needs some help with the dictation, use the phone script as a guide. If the child can sign his name, he should do that.

Children who can write should craft their own written thank yous. Kids might need help with spelling and you might want to review what’s been read to make sure it really does express thanks. A picture the child has drawn adds nicely to this thank you note. The older the child, the more writing is needed. A note should not seem dashed off with minimal attention and should not seem like a form letter. It must be personalized and sincere.

Don’t Let the Sun Set without Saying Thank You
Saying thank you should come before the end of the day. If your child received a book or toy, the phone call, email, or note should be accomplished before going to bed that night. Writing these notes makes for a nice reflection and is a great way to wind down from a party. Kids who receive gift cards or money may absolutely not spend these until after the thank yous are sent. Make thank yous a house rule and part of the routine of getting a gift.

Finally, a Word for Givers
We all want to be thanked. We’ve spent time and money making or buying and sending our gifts. We wait anxiously to see if we guessed right about what the child would like. We wait for an acknowledgement of our kindness and care. We want some love to come back our way.

So it’s natural to feel sad when thanks isn’t forthcoming. We have to decide if we feel so sad that we don’t want to risk giving again and experiencing more sadness, or if giving even without thanks gives us pleasure enough to keep on. What’s not okay is to blame the child (or even the child’s parents) for our sadness. Lay no guilt trips. Just decide what makes you most happy and do that next time.
And, by the way, thank you for reading this.

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson is a nationally-recognized parenting expert and author of Parenting: A Field Guide. Learn more about Patricia on her website at www.patricianananderson.com.

Source: www.swparents.com
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Hot Home Maintenance Trend: New Rechargeable Mower

February 14, 2012 6:20 pm

Eco-friendly appliances have been popular inside homes for the past several years. But with spring around the corner, the Energy Star rated Recharge Mower G2 may be one of the hottest lawn-care trends of 2012.

With no chokes, belts, oil changes, filters or gas needed, homeowners can simply charge this mower up, enabling it to cut up to 2 acres on a single charge. By avoiding the ongoing service issues inherent to gas mowers, the Recharge Mower G2 can consumers time, money, and stress.

Spruce up your lawn for your next party or showing. Spend more time enjoying the warm weather this year, and less time fiddling with your mower. “Manicuring your lawn is what a riding mower is designed to do”, says President Allan Hechtman. “The Recharge Mower G2 is built for users and not mechanics.”

Source: http://www.rechargemower.com
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Word of the Day

February 14, 2012 6:20 pm

Agent. Person authorized to act by and on behalf of another.
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Question of the Day

February 14, 2012 6:20 pm

Q: Are there different types of contractors?

A: Home improvement professionals vary. Who you hire also will depend largely on the size and complexity of your project. What follows is a brief description of the different contractors who do work for homeowners:

- General contractors – they manage all facets of the project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors, obtaining building permits, scheduling inspections, and working with architects and designers.
- Specialty contractors – these are the folks who install products, such as cabinets, bathroom fixtures, and bookshelves.
- Architects – they design homes, additions, and major renovations.
- Design/build contractors – they offer one-stop service and will see your project through from start to finish.
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Auction Etiquette: Bidding on Government-Owned Property

February 13, 2012 6:18 pm

In our previous segment, I began focusing on the availability of government-owned real estate opportunities. Did you know that the fed is the single largest owner of real property in the United States?

If you are a citizen looking to purchase Federal real estate, the federal Government Services Administration (GSA) Office of Real Property Utilization and Disposal stands ready to handle your Federal real estate acquisition, utilization and disposal needs.

According to the GSA, there are several ways consumers can begin bidding on government-owned real estate. The agency has three commonly used methods for conducting public sales of surplus Federal real property: online auction, public auction, and sealed bid.

In each, if the highest bid is acceptable and represents the fair market value of the property, an award is usually made. GSA reserves the right to act in the Government’s best interest when reviewing all bids. Therefore, the highest bid may not always be accepted.

Properties available via online auction are advertised on the Internet at www.realestatesales.gov and www.govsales.gov. An online auction allows the bidder to conduct all bidding activities, including submitting the bid deposit and increasing bids, online. Bidders bid against each other on the website until a designated date. The highest bidder is declared once the auction officially closes.

Public auctions are conducted in a conventional “live outcry” auction setting with an auctioneer at a specific date and time. Bidders register, submit the bid deposit, and bid openly against each other until the highest bidder is declared.

Sealed Bids and bid deposits may be mailed in to the specified GSA regional office prior to the designated bid opening date and time. All bids are publicly opened on the bid opening date. After the public opening, no bids may be modified. The highest bidder is declared shortly after the auction officially closes.
The Invitation for Bid or IFB package distributed for a particular property will indicate all bidding procedures and any special conditions that apply regarding the sale of the property. Bidders should carefully inspect the property being offered for sale prior to bidding.

And let the buyer beware—all properties are sold on an “as is, where is” basis, and all bids are final once submitted.
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Last Minute V-Day Tips Keep Your Wallet and Your Valentine Happy

February 13, 2012 6:18 pm

Been so busy you haven’t had a chance to get a gift for your sweetie? Is your budget cramping your romantic style this year? The following tips can help.
1. Buy a single rose instead of a dozen. It’s just as beautiful on its own. Accompany it with a heartfelt note.
2. Skip the restaurant and cook for your sweetie. It’s more thoughtful, and intimate.
3. Skip the pricey store-bought sweets and whip up cookies or cake yourself.
4. Create a playlist of meaningful music and present it to your Valentine, “mixed-tape” style.
5. Write your own card. Store-bought cards may seem appealing, but creating your own card takes genuine thought and effort, and that’s what romance is all about.
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U.S. Tax Payers Have Low Awareness of Identity Theft Risks during Tax Season

February 13, 2012 6:18 pm

PrivacyGuard, a leading identity theft and credit management product of the Affinion Security Center, recently announced the results of its annual tax and identity theft survey. The survey found that while consumers remain concerned about identity theft, there are some common misconceptions about the risk of preparing and submitting their tax documents, and many are engaging in risky behaviors online that could lead to identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission's 2010 Consumer Complaint Report, listed tax or wage related fraud as the cause of 15 percent of identity theft claims, higher than credit card fraud, employment fraud, bank fraud, or loan fraud.

PrivacyGuard's survey of 500 people revealed that respondents were aware of the possible risks of sharing personal information during a transaction. Additionally, 88 percent reported that they worry that the organization they are sharing their personal information with could suffer a data breach. Retailers were chosen overwhelmingly (46 percent) as the least trustworthy institution, followed by credit card companies and government agencies. When a data breach occurs, respondents are more likely (38 percent) to blame the institution that was breached than the thieves that stole the data (34 percent).

Although respondents expressed concern about data breaches, the survey reflected some carelessness among consumers when protecting their account information. Only 31 percent had a unique password for each site they use, which could increase the risk of identity theft.

Leary of Tax Preparers; Taking Risks with Online Tax Submission
Respondents expressed mistrust of their tax preparers, with 53 percent feeling concerned or very concerned about identity theft when choosing a tax preparer. This number is up from 41 percent in 2011.
Postal mail continued to be the most trustworthy of delivery options with most respondents (60 percent) listing it as the most secure way to file their taxes. However, the majority of respondents (53 percent) assumes the risk and submits their taxes online.

Low Awareness of IRS Contact Methods
Respondents have grown increasingly ignorant about the methods the IRS uses to initiate contact with tax payers, with many selecting the wrong option: 40 percent believe the IRS can contact them via email, mail or phone and 4 percent believe that the IRS will contact them through email. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers through email. Last year the survey results showed a similar trend, with 50 percent selecting the email, mail or phone option.

"Americans have become increasingly concerned about the risk of identity theft over the past few years," says Christine El Eris, Director of Product for PrivacyGuard. "However, taxpayers need to be aware of the unique risks they face during tax season."

The following tips can help prevent identity theft during tax season:

When Preparing Your Return
1. Be Aware of Suspicious Emails and Phone Calls Regarding Your Tax Refund, Tax Filing or Any Stimulus Checks – Check the IRS website for tips on how to spot scammers and thieves posing as the IRS and a list of known phishes.
2. Be Diligent When Choosing Your Tax Preparers – Ensure that you are working with a credible firm and be extra cautious about new or seasonal offices. Check the IRS website for more tips on how to choose a tax preparer.
3. Secure your computer – If you file taxes electronically, be sure to install updated firewalls and anti-spyware protection to help keep your personal data out of the hands of thieves.

During and After Filing
1. Mail securely – If you file via mail, be sure to mail your return directly from the post office – do not leave your tax return in your unlocked mailbox or at the curb for pickup by your local mail carrier. Your personal information will be vulnerable until it is retrieved by the postal carrier. It is wise to send tax information by first class mail with a tracking number.
2. Safeguard Sensitive Information in Home and Outside – Frequently the greatest threat to personal information comes from service providers or in-home workers or acquaintances. Keep paperwork in a safe location. When carrying this information out of the house, be sure to keep it on you or make sure if you leave it in the car, it is not visible.
3. Micro-Shred Your Documents – Cross-cut shredders just don't "cut" it these days. Use a micro-cut shredder for maximum security. The shred size on micro-cut machines is much smaller – documents are literally turned into dust, offering the highest level of security. And since even a seven year- old receipt can be used by a thief, shredding is still one of the simplest ways to prevent identity theft.

Source: www.affinionsecuritycenter.com.
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Question of the Day

February 13, 2012 6:18 pm

Q: Once I choose a contractor, what items should be covered in the contract?

A: According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, a well-written contract should contain the following information:

• The contractor’s name, address, telephone and license number, if applicable;
• Details about what will and will not be done;
• A detailed list of materials for the project, including model, brand name and color.
• The approximate start date and substantial completion dates.
• A written notice of your right to cancel a contract within three business days of signing, without penalty – provided the contract was solicited at some place other than the contractor’s place of business or appropriate trade premise.
• Financial terms that are spelled out clearly, including payment schedules and any cancellation penalties.
• A one-year minimum warranty identified as either “full” or “limited” to cover materials and workmanship, as well as the name and address of the party who will honor the warranty.
• A binding arbitration clause, in the event a disagreement occurs.

You may also want to include a statement that you will not be responsible if payment to the contractors’ subcontractors and suppliers are not made. You may also want to establish that the contractor should obtain all the necessary permits and that all blank spots in the contract be filled in with phrases like “does not apply.”
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Do's and Don'ts on Air Travel and Pregnancy

February 10, 2012 6:10 pm

Congratulations! You've just received the news that you're expecting. Did you already have travel plans booked? Or are you planning to take a babymoon prior to the little one's arrival but not sure about the safety of flying while pregnant?

Air travel is generally safe for pregnant women. However, traveling pregnant does come with some warnings. To help ease some of the anxiety, read on for a sample of the travel tips from the team at Cheapflights as well as some of the very practical advice we've collected from experts on flying while pregnant.

1. Quick tips for healthy air travel while pregnant
• Travel with at least one companion who also has your emergency contact info in addition to your doctor's number programmed into their phone.
• Carry documentation with your expected date of delivery, doctor's contact info, and your blood type.
• Stay hydrated. Dehydration on airplanes can be worse when you're pregnant, so drink plenty of caffeine-free, non-alcoholic fluids before, during, and after the flight.

2. When is the best time to fly? According to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, air travel is safest for pregnant women during the second trimester—weeks 18 to 24. If you are considering a flight during your pregnancy, check with both your doctor and the airline before you book.
According to one of our experts, Colleen Lanin of TravelMamas.com, "In the first trimester you may be too nauseated to enjoy your time away. In the third trimester you may be too uncomfortable and not feel up for doing much of anything."

3. Each airline has its own rules for flying while pregnant - If you're booking your flights with an agent, let them know that you're pregnant when you book your flight and check that you are permitted to fly. If booking your flights online, be sure to check the airline's website. It is worth calling ahead to alert the airline about your pregnancy—this should also ensure that you get special service to keep you comfortable. It's also recommended that you avoid smaller planes that fly below 7,000 feet, and choose larger planes with pressurized cabins.

4. Make yourself comfortable - Especially during pregnancy, reserving the right seat on the airplane can make a difference. You will need to be able to get up and move around the plane. Try and reserve a spacious seat when you make your booking. Many airlines' websites have information about the varying legroom on each of their seats. If you plan to travel pregnant, it's worth spending a few extra bucks to get a bit more room. Be aware, though, that traditional "extra legroom" seats, such as those on the exit aisles, are often not permitted to those who are pregnant.

Another of our experts, Jodi Grundig of MomsFavoriteStuff.com, adds this tip, "While I generally love direct flights, if you are flying long distance, two shorter flights may be better. That way, you can get out, stretch, eat a nice meal and recharge."

5. Tips for your vacation - Once the flight's over, it's time to enjoy the vacation. Here are just a few more things to consider:
• Skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, so wear stronger sunscreen than usual.
• Keep a list of names and numbers to be contacted in case of emergency.
• Keep a list of local hospitals from the embassy or tourist board.

Source: www.cheapflights.com.
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Word of the Day

February 10, 2012 6:10 pm

Zoning. Procedure that classifies real property for a number of different uses: residential, commercial, industrial, etc. in accordance with a land-use plan.
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