Healthy Habits for Pets and Their Owners

Pets are the lights of their owners’ lives. And keeping pets healthy is key to extending the warmth and love for years.

Dr. Ernie Ward, nationally renowned veterinarian, pet author and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, offers his ‘Top 5 Healthy Habits’ for pet owners to help ensure pets stay happy and healthy throughout the year:

Top 5 Must Haves for Girls Going Back to School

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – From a young girl’s perspective, half the fun of going back to school is shopping for new clothes and school supplies to start the year off right.
For this year’s back-to-school season, Sanrio is launching a new collection of cute Hello Kitty products at Walmart for young girls. The collection includes everything needed to head back to school — sportswear, t-shirts, socks, shoes, underwear, sleepwear, backpacks, stationery, school supplies and accessories. Girls will love the wide range of Hello Kitty products while moms and dads will love the value!
Here’s a list of the top 5 Back-to-School Hello Kitty must-have everyday essentials to take your little girl back to school in style and under budget:
Dresses. This too-cute style selection features polka dots, color blocking and an all-in-one shrug combined to put your little girl at the head of the class. Pair it with pink sequined, Mary Jane-style shoes and Hello Kitty jewelry for an A+ grade.
Graphic Tees. Graphics lead the way in a collection of t-shirts featuring Hello Kitty and bright pops of color to keep girls on-trend.
Backpacks. Hello Kitty backpacks are perfect for the young and young-at-heart. They feature big, easy-to-access pockets to hold everything a girl needs for class and padded straps for comfort.
Lunch Cases. Our favorite lunch case features big zipper closures for little hands and a zip bottom to store ice packs or extra snacks.
Notebooks. Every student needs a notebook, and Hello Kitty allows girls to feel as if they’re bringing their best friend back to school, too. Available in a range of sizes and colors, there’s something for every age and style.
Select Walmart stores nationwide are hosting a “Share a Smile with Hello Kitty” event for the back-to-school season. Those in attendance will receive Hello Kitty back-to-school checklists, fun surprises and a ‘Share a Smile’ free photo inviting fans to take a special Hello Kitty photo to keep, along with a second photo to ‘Share a Smile’ with family, friends or a favorite teacher! Visit http://instoresnow.walmart.com for dates and store participation information.
Since her introduction in the U.S. more than 35 years ago, Hello Kitty’s timeless appeal continues to thrive. As she becomes accessible to more people in new locations, she is making more friends and bringing happiness to girls everywhere.

Reinforce School Lessons at Home for Better Learning

As an adult, you may know that lessons learned in high school or college can quickly go by the wayside. Studies have shown that children struggling in school score higher on achievement tests in June than they do at the end of the traditional summer break. Even more concerning are findings that indicate how these learning losses can add up with each passing year. In fact, by the time they reach middle school, some students may experience a 2-year lag in reading achievement.

Make Packed Lunches Cool Again

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – For elementary school kids, tastes change about as often as the school bell rings. A child might be interested in racecars one day and skateboarding the next. Another might like drawing before moving on to fashion. And finding an insulated lunch bag that reflects a child’s personality is almost as important as finding the perfect pair of shoes. So, how do parents keep up?
One company, California Innovations (www.californiainnovations.com), knows that kids need lunch bags with the right designs and features.
“We realize how important it is for each child to have the perfect lunch bag, and we work hard to make sure that we have the right one for everyone,” says Mel Mogil, President and CEO of California Innovations.
The company has some suggestions to help parents find the perfect lunch bag for their child:
* Monstrous fun. Elementary school kids will have fun with the animal or monster designs, such as those on the Neo Lunch Pack from California Innovations. These lunch bags are made from neoprene, the material used in wetsuits. And they’re machine washable for easy cleaning.
* For boys or girls. Arctic Zone offers insulated lunch bags with car designs for little boys, and monkey designs for little girls. As they grow up, boys and girls can choose from skateboarding, graffiti graphics and fashion prints.
* Personalize it. Look for lunch bags with transparent pockets so budding artists can add a picture or their own work of art to their lunch bag. Switchable, self-adhesive patches and glitter glue can also help kids customize their lunch bags.
* Style up. Tween fashionistas might appreciate a lunch bag that looks like a purse but that has enough room to carry lunch and snacks for an entire day.
* Fashion meets function. As kids get older, durability and functionality become increasingly important. Look for lunch bags with hard liners. Expandable front pockets allow kids to take extra food to school as their appetites increase.
All of California Innovations’ products are Ultra Safe, a designation that means that their products meet all applicable FDA and CPSC safety requirements and the company’s own quality assurance and safety standards that go well beyond legal compliance. California Innovations is also the exclusive licensee of Microban for soft-sided insulated products, lunch packs and diaper bags. Microban anti-microbial protection helps to eliminate odors and bacteria build-up and makes cleaning easier.

Get Your Kids Into the Game

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – When it comes to improving academic performance, boosting self-esteem and teaching social skills, few things beat team sports. Sports give kids the opportunity to get attention and respect, and to use the natural skills that come with youth, like speed and coordination.
According to one survey of 2,185 children conducted by The Women’s Sports Foundation and Harris Interactive, kids who played sports or who participated in activities like frisbee, camping and hiking felt healthier and more confident about their bodies than those who did not. Other studies demonstrate that children active in sports perform better in school and are less likely to use drugs as young adults.
Of course, sports can have a downside. Overly competitive leagues, discouraging coaches and injuries from unsafe practices can quickly turn kids away from sports. So how can you make sure that your child has a positive experience? Here are some tips:
* Make sure that your child is mature enough to participate. In general, kids aren’t equipped for the rules and cooperation required in team sports until age six or seven. But each child develops differently. Don’t push children if they’re not ready.
* Make sure that the league or coach emphasizes fun. If you ask children why they want to play a sport, they’ll probably say that they want to have fun or make friends. No matter their sport of choice, make sure that your child’s enjoying him or herself.
* Don’t stress winning over everything else. Extreme competitiveness overrides any sportsmanship your child would otherwise learn. Focus on personal markers of success, not the league championship.
You can reward your child for playing a sport even if their league does not. PlaqueMaker Plus (www.plaquemakerplus.com) allows you to print your child’s photo in a sports-shaped frame. You can also order your own trophies and present them for a job well done, whether that means making the winning hit or simply putting in a good effort.
* Don’t force your child to specialize too soon. Few kids are going to get sports scholarships -; instead of trying to turn your child into a baseball or basketball star, let them try out a variety of sports. Some children are never going to enjoy sports. Instead of forcing kids into an activity that they don’t like, find another physical activity, such as track, cycling or hiking, that they can enjoy.

Fight Summer Brain Drain

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – The National Center for Summer Learning states, “Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over summer months.” Therefore, even the best students forget lessons they have learned during the school year.

Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels, offers tips to make summer learning fun:

* Writing. Encourage your child to start a diary or write letters to a friend. If you are traveling on a vacation, ask your child to keep a journal recording where you stayed and what you did. Each day, talk through the activities with your child and help with the journal. It not only improves writing skills, but also creates great family memories.

* Math. Everyday, ordinary activities are packed with opportunities to develop and sharpen math skills. Grocery shopping involves weighing fruits and vegetables, comparing prices and making change. Cooking provides practice with organization, planning and following a recipe. Help children select recipes, create an ingredients list, shop and prepare a family meal together.

* Reading. You can’t start too early. You can’t read too much. Reading to young children nurtures an interest in language, words and communication. For older kids, reading together can be fun and interesting. Librarians can recommend books appropriate for a child’s reading level and interests, and many libraries offer free children’s programs and clubs.

* Research. Through the Web site www.BookAdventure.com, children (grades K-8) create personalized book lists from more than 7,500 recommended titles, take comprehension quizzes, and earn points towards small prizes. It is designed to motivate students to read more often, for longer periods of time and with greater understanding.

* Summer Programs. There are many enrichment activities available for children when school is out of session. Sylvan Learning offers engaging programs that keep the interest and fun in learning alive through the summer and into the school year. Visit www.SylvanLearning.com for additional information.

Summer is a great time for families to work and play together using interactive activities.

Sylvan Learning offers a free “Summer Fun & Learning Guide for Parents” — fun, grade-specific activities that nurture reading,

writing and math skills. Visit the “Parent Resources” area of www.SylvanLearning.com to download a copy.

To learn more about academic opportunities for children in grades pre-K through 12, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS.

Create Festive Trees for Less

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Hosts and hostesses celebrating Christmas often find that Christmas trees are the focal point of a well-decorated home. And it’s easy to create a beautiful and fun Christmas tree, while saving enough money for presents.

First, you’ll need a Christmas tree. To get more tree for your money, consider an artificial tree. They are available in all shapes, sizes and materials, and they can easily be stored after the holidays for use year after year. Once you have your tree up, make it sparkle with lights. Choose between a variety of colors or white lights. Check discount stores such as Dollar General for inexpensive lights that will make your tree beautiful and bright.

For a sophisticated look, decorate your tree according to a theme, such as a food or candy motif. Hang candy canes, popcorn and candy garlands, which can be made by stringing hard candies like Life Savers on fishing wire. Or focus on special interests such as sports, traveling or gardening. Decorate a tree with your favorite sports team’s memorabilia and colors. Keep your tree simple by choosing one or two colors for the tree’s décor.

For kids, decorate with their favorite color. Make tissue-paper flowers to place on your tree. All you need is tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Instructions can be found online at www.craftjr.com.

For a tree that will help you remember the good times, hang mementos that you’ve collected throughout the year instead of traditional, often expensive ornaments. Choose knick-knacks from family vacations, party pictures, favors from weddings or showers, or kids’ arts and crafts projects. Hang holiday greeting cards from family and friends on your tree. To turn these trinkets into ornaments, glue or attach ornament hangers to each item. Your tree will be a reminder of the fun shared throughout the year.

For a more international feel, use inexpensive wrapping paper to make origami cranes — symbols of peace. Paper birds of all sizes will look beautiful on your tree and can be a fun project for the whole family.

For directions on making numerous origami shapes, visit www.origami-instructions.com.

Adult Kickball: The Playground Game Grown Up

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – For fun and exercise, many adults are embracing a favorite childhood pastime, kickball. But while the idea of the game remains the same -; players kick a large red ball, then try to make it around three bases -; adult kickball brings fun and socializing to the game and even raises money for local charities.

Back in 1998, a few friends started the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA Kickball) to help people get active and meet fun people. Their thinking? Kickball, like all team sports, encourages bonding and sportsmanship. But unlike soccer or baseball, kickball doesn’t require extreme athletic ability.

The concept caught on. Today, WAKA Kickball is the world’s largest organized kickball association, with thousands of teams throughout the U.S., as well as teams in London and Iraq. Adults of all ages meet, have fun, make new friends, stay active and enjoy the built-in social activities WAKA offers, like happy hours and division parties.

Just like in the fifth grade, there are rules, though not too many of them. Seasons usually contain eight regular games and a division tournament. The division champion can qualify to compete in the annual Founders Cup World Kickball Championship, held annually in Las Vegas. But there’s far more to adult kickball than simply playing the game.

“Ultimately, the goal of WAKA is to bring fun, friends and happiness to people,” said David Lowry, WAKA co-founder. “WAKA is in the happiness business.”

The typical kickball player is a young and social professional. Though each team has its own distinct personality, some divisions come primarily for the parties, while others are in it for the glory and come complete with warm-up drills and team chants. Still others focus on WAKA’s side goal of raising money for local charities. Overall, WAKA and WAKA divisions have donated more than $300,000 to local charities. Much of the money is collected at parties, through bachelor and bachelorette auctions and other unique events.

Men and women play kickball in equal numbers in WAKA, so it’s also a great way to meet potential partners. Through the years, there have been kickball relationships, kickball proposals, kickball weddings, and even kickball toddlers on the sidelines.

It’s never too late to register for a team near you. For more information, visit kickball.com.

Strut Your Stuff on the Beach

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Women — it’s time to abandon those over-sized T-shirts. Make the summer of 2009 the summer you leave your self-consciousness at home, and happily enjoy yourself on the beach.

Here are some tips for beachside relaxation:

– Wear a confidence-boosting suit. Choose a swimsuit that flatters your body type. If you have figure flaws you want to hide, choose a one-piece. Miraclesuit (www.miraclesuit.com) offers many styles, all of which instantly make women appear 10 pounds lighter — and much happier.

– Wear bold accessories. A glamorous hat and large, colorful jewelry will keep others’ eyes where you want them — focused on your beautiful, beaming smile.

– Pick a fun read. Reserve Dickens and Nabokov for rainy days. Before heading to the beach, pick fun, light reads to boost your mood. A comedic story or a pile of magazines can provide light-hearted entertainment while you sunbathe.

– Make it a beach party. Invite your girlfriends, and pack a tasty, light lunch, snacks and cool drinks. Relax with chatter or gossip, or start a hearty game of beach volleyball. You’ll have too much fun to worry about your looks.

Plan the Perfect Summer Outing Without Breaking the Bank

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – The longer days and sunny skies of summer provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, often just a few steps outside your front door. To help you get the most out of your summer, here are a few fun activities to help you discover the greater outdoors on any budget:

The Greater Outdoors

Day hikes, camping trips and outdoor volunteer activities are great ways to get outside. These outings allow you to relax, re-energize and discover new hobbies, while giving back to the environment.

Many parks and campgrounds allow reservations, so phone ahead to book your activity. To find local campgrounds or incorporate volunteer opportunities into your trip, visit the National Park Service at www.nps.gov, the Conservation Alliance at www.conservationalliance.org or the American Hiking Society’s Volunteer Vacation program at www.americanhiking.org/volunteerVacation.aspx.

A Swing at Family Fun

If you’re looking for a quick weekend activity, a relaxing round of golf or a family bike ride may be the perfect answer. Activities like these require little planning and allow you to spend time in a natural setting.

Many golf courses offer family or group rates as well as reduced rates for junior golfers, aged 17 and under. This July, participating courses are allowing children to play for free during Family Golf Month. To locate these courses, visit www.playgolfamerica.com.

For bicycle safety tips or to locate trails near you, visit www.pedaling.com.

Life’s a Beach

On summer days, a trip to the beach or river will keep you cool for less than you’d spend on air conditioning. Pack a picnic, books and a Frisbee, and you’re off for a day of fun for a fraction of the price that you’d spend at an amusement park.

In addition to sunscreen, certain clothing lines allow you to enjoy the outdoors longer while staying protected from harmful UV rays. With UPF ratings between 15 and 50, Columbia Sportswear’s Omni-Shade line, which has The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Approval, includes everything from swim trunks to outerwear. To find affordable, sun-protective apparel for any outdoor activity, visit www.columbia.com.

Summer provides endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.With a little planning, you can enjoy the season both safely and economically.