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Make Vaccinations Part of Your Back to School Routine

Posted by on Aug 22, 2015 in Blog, Happy Together

It happens every year. It doesn’t seem like summer will ever end, and before you know it, you are scrambling to prepare the kids to go back to school. While picking out backpacks and lunch boxes is fun, don’t forget to make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician.

Many of us are focused on what might be your child’s highest priority, a sports physical. But it is also a great time for a routine annual physical and to make sure their vaccines are up to date. You should check with your local school district to see what vaccinations are required. You should also talk with your doctor/pediatrician to discuss your concerns and the importance of being vaccinated.

Immunizations save lives. You never know when you or your child will come into contact with someone with a disease. By being vaccinated, you also protect others that may be unable to tolerate vaccines due to their age or a medical condition.

Many health insurance policies cover routine wellness visits and vaccinations. Be sure to check your health insurance policy to see if your child is covered. If you find you don’t have coverage for routine vaccines, there are other programs available. Visit to see if you qualify.

Recent news revealed a measles outbreak affecting visitors to Disney® California Adventure Park earlier this year. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has reported an increasing number of cases of whooping cough, measles, and mumps. These announcements underscore the importance of vaccinations.

Make vaccines part of your back to school routine, and don’t forget to make sure everyone knows how important it is to keep them up to date.

You can also find more information about the importance of vaccinations here:

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10 Great Health and Fitness Apps to Make Your Life Easier

Posted by on Aug 8, 2015 in Blog, Happy Together

Healthy Living in the Palm of Your Hand

We all know that living a healthy lifestyle can be difficult. From what we eat to how much we sleep, it seems like we’re constantly making hard choices. “Should I go for a run?” “Should I go to sleep early?” “How many packages of Oreos should I eat?” These are weighty questions. But making healthy choices doesn’t have to be difficult—or expensive! To make life a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of 10 health and fitness apps to help you live a healthier and more active lifestyle. And the best part? They’re almost all completely free! So take a look, and get started enjoying a healthier, happier you!

  1. FitStar Personal Trainer – Going to the gym is tough. We get it. You might not even be sure where to start. Created by former NFL star Tony Gonzalez, this app is perfect for beginners and gym rats alike. Providing tailored workouts, this app will assess your fitness level and needs based on a series of questions following each session. This guarantees you always get a workout that’s challenging, without leaving you on bed rest for a week. (Free; iOS)
  2. Sworkit – Time can be one of the biggest enemies of regular exercise. Fortunately, Sworkit is here to save the day. Sworkit makes exercise work for your schedule by creating circuit workouts based on the amount of time you have available. Workouts can last as little as five minutes or as long as 60. You can even adjust your workouts to emphasize different areas, such as upper body strength or cardio, or create a custom workout to get exactly what you want. Don’t know how to do a particular exercise? No problem. Sworkit will illustrate how to properly perform each exercise as you move through your workout. And because it uses only body weight exercises, you won’t need a gym membership to get your sweat on. (Free; iOS and Android)
  3. C25K – Dreaming about running your first 5K? Stop dreaming and make it happen with the Couch to 5K app. This 8-week training program starts off slow, alternating between running and walking, then works its way up to more intense workouts as you build your endurance. It contains just three half-hour workouts a week that, by the end, will have you off the Matlock reruns and in shape for your first 5K! An audio coach will even help you through each workout, while providing you with a little inspiration to keep going. (Free; iOS and Android)
  4. Charity Miles/Zombies, Run! – Okay, so this is actually two apps, but the premise is (almost) exactly the same; get some exercise—and save the world. Save a fictional world from the Zombie Apocalypse in the third entry in this exercise saga. Players are rewarded for every mile walked or ran by earning supplies to help save the human race. ($3.99; iOS and Android) If fiction isn’t quite your style, help save the real world with Charity Miles. This motivational fitness app provides real donations to a charity of your choice, based on the number of miles you run, bike, or walk—10 cents for every mile biked and 25 cents for every mile walked or ran. (Free; iOS and Android)
  5. Argus – Ever feel like tracking your every move? Well now you can, with Argus. This tracking app works primarily in the background of your smartphone, tracking your movements as you go about your day. It can even tell when you’ve changed elevation or speed to track stair climbs and runs. You’ll also get fun, colorful charts to show trends in your daily activities. (Free; iOS)
  6. MapMyFitness – Another tracking app, MapMyFitness has been around since 2007, and it’s still going strong. Its simple user interface enables you to easily track daily food and exercise and is one of the most accurate available in app stores. You can set challenges for yourself and your friends, and it can even keep track of things like running shoes, so you’re alerted when it’s time to purchase a new pair. (Free; iOS and Android)
  7. HealthyOut – Eating out and eating healthy rarely go hand-in-hand … until now. Thanks to HealthyOut, making healthy dining choices has never been easier. Simply plug in your address and dietary restrictions, pick what style of cuisine you’re in the mood for, and voila! HealthyOut will deliver a list of dining options in your area that meet your criteria and even suggest the healthiest dish option. (Free; iOS and Android)
  8. MyFitnessPal – Tracking your calories has never been this simple. Log meals in less than a minute using their massive brand name database. Made a creation of your own? No problem—just input the recipe, and MyFitnessPal will estimate your calories. MyFitnessPal can also provide suggested calorie needs based on your personal information and health goals. (Free; iOS and Android)
  9. ShopWell – Tired of staring at nutrition labels? ShopWell takes the guesswork out of grocery shopping by providing a rating for every item, based on users’ personal profile including age, gender, health goals, and dietary restrictions. Simply scan the item’s barcode, and ShopWell provides a score between 1 and 100. The closer an item scores to 100, the better it is for your diet! (Free; iOS and Android)
  10. Lumosity – Get that beefy brain you’ve been dreaming about with some mental exercises from Lumosity. Lumosity takes the traditional tasks used by neuroscience researchers and transforms them into fun games to sharpen your noggin. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to keep our brains healthy and active—with Lumosity, you can work on everything from attention and memory to complex problem solving. Just 15 minutes a few times a week will work up a solid mental sweat that keeps your mind lean and mean. (Free; iOS and Android)

So there you are—ten great apps to make healthy living easier! But remember, no app can make you healthy if you don’t want to be—you still have to put in the hard work if you hope to reap the rewards. So before you choose an app, decide what your goals are. Those who set goals are far more likely to see results than those who don’t. And when it starts getting difficult, don’t quit! Stick to your commitments—you can do it! It’s as simple as that. Now get out there and get your health on!

Check back here regularly for more great health and fitness tips!


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Ways to Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome

Posted by on Jul 22, 2015 in Blog, Happy Together

Many of us with older teenagers would agree that the time we spend going to school functions, sporting events, and extracurricular activities is substantial. It may feel like you never have enough time to do everything that needs to be done and enjoy fun things in life. Sure, it’s a big commitment, but those days will pass quickly, and you may start longing for the day your son or daughter was a teenager or younger.

As kids become responsible adults (we hope), the extracurricular activities and sporting events are replaced with work schedules, college classes, and new friends. This makes it possible for parents to have a little more free time. Whether your fantasy is to have a peaceful moment with a good book, go to a movie without a debate on what to see, or simply relax in silence, you may find yourself with the time to do all that and more. Maybe it’s time to plan that much needed vacation or a road trip to nowhere. Maybe you’ll start new hobbies that you never had time for before. Hopefully, you’ll be busy with new activities that you really enjoy doing.

However, some people actually struggle with having this extra time on their hands. The empty nest syndrome can be tough on people who may be at a loss or uninvolved. The Mayo Clinic has provided a few guidelines to work your way through this new phase in your life.

If you’re experiencing feelings of loss, be sure to review these tips to help you work through those emotions.

  • Accept the timing. Avoid comparing your child’s timetable to your own experience or expectations. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home.
  • Keep in touch. You can continue to be close to your children even when you live apart. Make an effort to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts, or video chats.
  • Seek support. If you’re having a difficult time dealing with an empty nest, lean on loved ones and other close contacts for support. Share your feelings. If you feel depressed, consult your doctor or a mental health provider.
  • Stay positive. Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests after your last child leaves home might help you adapt to this major life change.

Many people wonder if they can prevent empty nest syndrome. If your last child is about to leave home, plan ahead. Look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life. Keeping yourself busy or taking on new challenges can help you ease your sense of loss and help fill the void left by your child moving into adulthood.

For more information about empty nest syndrome, visit the Mayo Clinic website,

Source: Empty nest syndrome: Tips for coping, authored by Mayo Clinic Staff.


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Music Makes You Smarter

Posted by on Jul 8, 2015 in Blog, Happy Together

Music is an international language used every day all over the world. Music has become a vital part in everyday life, whether it is used for entertainment, therapy, career, or religion. The evolution and study of music has also become more prominent in today’s society.

I have two sons, both involved in music. My oldest son, a senior at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, is majoring in music education. He would first like to be a high school band director, then continue on for his master’s and doctorate degrees. He currently plays 14 instruments.

My youngest son, a junior in high school, is part of the saxophone section in band. He also plays electric and acoustic guitar and competes yearly in Battle of the Bands.

There is so much more to music than people can imagine. So many people only think of the popular music on the radio, but my son has taught me to appreciate different types of music.

Before the era of “pop” music, there were many genres, ranging from classical to jazz. A popular thing to do was to take your spouse to an orchestra concert or a classy jazz club to dance. But over time, it seems classical music is still popular among music students, but pop music is rising in popularity more and more over the years.

But here is the interesting thing: it turns out being a musician has more perks than just a good hobby. Scientific research shows music “makes you smarter.” Studies show that since musicians use both sides of their brain more, being a musician helps in other fields of study, such as math, science, and reading.

A study published in Psychology Today states: “Boston Children’s Hospital found a correlation between musical training and improved executive function in both children and adults. Previous studies have identified a link between musical training and cognitive abilities, but few have looked specifically at the effects of early musical training on executive function.”

Other studies revealed:

  • Musicians have an enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight.
  • Beginning training before the age of seven has been shown to have the greatest impact. This is the age at which musical training begins to affect brain anatomy as an adult.
  • Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, leading to less reliance on working memory and more extensive connectivity within the brain.

Even Albert Einstein’s mother was a talented musician and made it part of her family’s daily life. This lead to Albert himself becoming an accomplished violinist.

You may not become the next Einstein, but there is no doubt that music makes you smarter. The earlier you expose yourself or your children to the wonderful world of music, the better.

Read more about the Psychology Today study here:

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A Cloud of Confusion

Posted by on Jul 2, 2015 in Blog, Happy Together

How safe is “vaping,” really?

You’ve seen them around—you might even use one. We’re talking about electronic cigarettes, of course. E-cigarettes, or vaporizers, were popularized several years ago as a tobacco-free source of nicotine for smokers. Unlike regular cigarettes, vaporizers don’t burn, eliminating much of the danger caused by traditional smoking. They often look like the real thing and can deliver a similar experience to smoking, affectionately referred to as “vaping.” The term “vaping” comes from the vapor that’s produced by the device, similar to a fog machine at a rock concert. There are three main types of vaporizers, each with varying levels of nicotine and vaping control. Some even offer vapors with no nicotine at all.

If you’re like most people, you want to know one thing—is it safe? With 480,000 deaths each year caused by tobacco smoke, experts agree that vaping is certainly the lesser of two evils. “There’s no question that a puff on an e-cigarette is less toxic than a puff on a regular cigarette,” says Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California (U of C) in San Francisco. But does that mean it’s safe?

Recently, many studies have emerged highlighting the potential risks associated with vaping. One major concern is the production of formaldehyde, a carcinogen found in regular cigarettes. One study has concluded that a vaporizer running at a very high voltage can produce dangerous levels of formaldehyde, putting users at risk of cancer. However, this concern is contestable, due to the fact that most users would never vape at a voltage high enough for this to be a real concern. Vaping at a high voltage creates a burning taste that’s been found to be unbearable by users. This causes users to stop far short of the voltage needed to produce the carcinogen.

Another study completed by the U of C did highlight some risk, claiming that e-cigarettes deliver high levels of nanoparticles, which can sometimes trigger inflammation linked to asthma, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. While regular cigarette smoke produces far more dangerous nanoparticles, there’s still some amount of risk in vaping, especially for those with a history of heart disease.

So what’s the answer—yay or nay? Safe or poison? The truth is, at the end of the day, we still don’t really know. No doubt vaping is a smarter alternative to smoking, but it would be difficult to call it “safe” just yet. Because of the risks to young people by nicotine, children and teens should still definitely abstain from using vaporizers. Fun candy-like flavorings can make vaporizers appealing to kids, so parents should be aware and talk with their children about the dangers of nicotine during their development, as well as its ability to cause addiction. As for adults, be mindful when making a decision about vaporizers—there are no inherent health benefits to vaping and some potential risks. More research is needed to draw an accurate conclusion, and only time will tell. But for now, the jury is out on this one.

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Organizing Your Treasured Memories Through Scrapbooking

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in Blog, Happy Together

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but there is not much being said if they are stored in a box somewhere. Learning to scrapbook is easy and a great way to display all those photos from special moments in your life. You’ll also create a treasured keepsake of memories for generations to come.

If you’re new to scrapbooking, here are some easy tips to get started:

1. SET UP A WORKPLACE AREA – Find an area in your house that can be dedicated to scrapbooking. You could set it up on the dining room table, but you would have to continuously put it away so you could serve dinner. Find a place that allows you to leave your materials readily accessible and organized.

2. SELECT PHOTOS – Take time to organize your photos before you begin to scrapbook. It will make it a lot easier and save time, too. Pick a theme for your album such as birthday, wedding, holiday, vacation, etc. Organizing photos by life events and dates is a great way to start.

3. GATHER SUPPLIES – Your first trip to a scrapbook store may seem a bit overwhelming. It’s best not to go overboard. Keep it simple. Make a list and stick to it. Your list should include a photo album, page protectors, patterned paper, card stock, adhesive, embellishments, scissors, paper trimmer, and pens.

4. DESIGN YOUR PAGES – Focus on the layout of your pages. The first page is your title page. This lets everyone know what your album is about. The rest of your layouts are two pages side by side. Then you can embellish as much or as little as you like. Be careful not to overdo it. Make your pictures the focus of your album. Use your imagination when picking out the items that interest you.

5. JOURNAL – This is where you explain what is going on or who is in the photos. You can write down a key phrase or a poem that fits the situation. You may want to include a story or two. These will provide an avenue for documenting memories that otherwise might be forgotten.

As you learn scrapbooking and gain experience, you will discover that scrapbooking is a fun, relaxing hobby that allows you to be creative, preserve memories, and organize your photos at the same time. It’s something that you can enjoy year round. Plus, your family and friends will enjoy the albums you put together.

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