Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to Become a Foster Parent

Have you ever considered becoming a foster parent, but weren't sure where to start, or if you would qualify?  National Foster Care Month is the right time to investigate! 

Foster care is the system that aids minors whose home situation is not conducive to the safety and welfare of the child or teen.  Foster care is usually a short term solution for the minor while a permanent placement can be made, which may be back with their family, with a relative, or possibly into adoption beyond relatives.

The care and living arrangements of foster children is usually handled by a government or social-service agency.  Initially, the minor is often placed in an institution or group home, although a private home of a state-certified caregiver (a.k.a. foster parent) is usually sought as the better solution until a permanent arrangement can be made. While foster parenting is not a way to make money, the state usually provides the foster parents a stipend to cover the expenses they may incur. 

Foster Care Month
Source: http://www.fostercaremonth.org/


Calling all potential for foster parents!


The need for more foster parents is great.  More than 380,000 children and youth under 18 in America are in foster care. According to AdoptUSKids.org, about 104,000 children in the nation's foster care systems are ready for adoptive families today. 

For these children, their psychological and emotional needs are often dire, since they frequently come from a family in crisis who is less able to care for the physical and mental health of their children. In spite of this great need for adult nurturing in their lives, FosterCareMonth.org states that more than 26,000 children (mostly at age 18) end up leaving the foster care system each year without ever acquiring a lifelong family.  These young adults enter the world without the nurturing family experiences that prepare them to do well on their own. 

If this tugs on your heart strings, then perhaps it’s time to consider becoming a foster parent.  Your parental love and influence while they are minors can make a lifetime of betterment throughout their lives. 

Foster parent with child


What could disqualify me from being a foster parent?


Not sure if you can qualify?  Each state’s rules vary as to what qualifies or prevents you from being considered for foster parenting.  But the reality is that more children need temporary care than the current supply of foster parents can help, and the option of returning to their natural parents may be a dangerous option. 

Qualifying for foster parenting usually involves the following:
  • Your state will want to be sure you want to help children.  Many of their questions and analysis start here.
  • You must have adequate time and living quarters to accommodate a foster child.  A background check, foster care home inspection, and a personal foster parenting interview will determine this.
What will not prevent you from becoming a foster parent is your marital status, your age (except that you must be at least 21), your race, your religion, or whether or not you work outside the home.


How do I get started in foster care?


The first step: complete an application.  The state or foster care agency will require you to agree to a background check, a home inspection, and a personal interview.  During this process, they will determine if you meet all licensing requirements specific to your state or region.

To locate foster parent information in your state, download and review the  Contact Information for Foster Care Inquiries guide, published by the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connection.


How to get involved in National Foster Care Month


Foster parent with child
To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of foster children during May, National Foster Care Month, visit www.fostercaremonth.org. Even if you are not in a position to be a foster or adoptive parent, the foster care system is always in need of mentors (How do I become a mentor?) and volunteers (to find out how to become a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), visit the CASA website). 

And everyone can help spread the word among their friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers about the often urgent needs of the nearly 400 thousand children under age 18 in the foster care system.  To make a difference this very month, download the Foster Care Month toolkit supplies, including brochures, posters, promotional graphics, and other digital materials.

You may have heard that there has been a decrease in the total number of children in foster care in recent years, likely due to an upswing in foster care advocates and support groups in. However, remember the statistics shown above; clearly much more foster care help is needed.  This month, consider investigating becoming a foster parent, or encourage foster parenting to others who may be well-suited for this. 
 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer







Monday, May 13, 2013

Food Allergies–Treatment and Coping

Today, five million Americans suffer from food allergies. For some, the risk of  anaphylaxis – an often life-threatening, allergic reaction that affects breathing – lurks within any meal consumed in which they do not know the chef's choice of ingredients. 

As we enter Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 12-18), here are four lifestyle management tips for those suffering from food allergies, as well as information on food allergy treatments.

FARE Food Allergy Awareness Week

Food allergies are effectively an overreaction of the body's immune system to what it perceives as a threat when it is presented with what should be considered by the body as a harmless food protein. The immune system "attacks" the allergen as if it were a germ. It does this by producing massive amounts of an antibody called immunoglobulin E, releasing histamine or other chemicals. The result: an allergic reaction to food.

Common non-life-threatening allergic reactions to foods include symptoms such as hives on the skin, itchy mouth or ear canal, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, eczema, uterine contractions, sneezing, nasal congestion, or a dry cough.  Serious food allergy symptoms include a weak pulse, loss of consciousness, chest pain, dropping blood pressure, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, or a swelling of the mouth or throat that impinges upon breathing.
FARE Food Allergy Awareness Week
Just about any food can cause food allergy reactions. That said, an estimated 90 percent of all food allergic reactions in the US are attributed to wheat, egg, milk, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanut.  For detailed info on these common food allergens, explore the Food Allergens section of the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization.


Treatment for food allergies


The first step in food allergy treatment is an accurate diagnosis. If you suspect that you or your child have a food allergy, medical experts strongly recommend getting evaluated and treated by an experienced medical professional, preferably a board-certified allergist, to whom your primary care physician can refer you.

Alternatively, see the physician directory of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.  The problem with attempting to diagnose food allergies on your own is that food allergies are easily misrecognized, which could result in avoidable dietary restrictions, lack of nutrition, or continuing allergic reactions to foods.

To identify food allergies, allergists use many different tests, including the skin prick test, a blood test, an oral food challenge,  or a trial elimination diet. Once a food allergy has been identified, your allergist can help you with treatments that can alleviate or control symptoms. Unfortunately, at this point, there are no known food allergy cures.  Until any cures for food allergies are found, the best food allergy treatment is to avoid the foods you are allergic to.

To reduce the severity of the mild to moderate food allergy symptoms, doctors often treat their patients with antihistamines or steroids. When a patient suffers from severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis, the doctor usually prescribes epinephrine, often in the form of an auto-injector. Epinephrine is capable of reversing food allergy symptoms.

Along with epinephrine, doctors often prescribe other medications, such as steroids, antihistamines, or short-acting bronchodilators, all of which can help relieve or control the severity of symptoms.


Four tips for coping with food allergies


The following guidance will help those who deal daily with food allergies.
  1. Respond quickly to severe food allergy reactions. Immediately take your prescribed epinephrine at the first signs of a reaction, and contact 911. Because breathing or consciousness problems may arise, request an ambulance rather than driving yourself. Make sure you and family members know to inform the 911 dispatcher that you have just administered epinephrine and that it was for an anaphylactic reaction to food.
  2. Practice and prepare to respond to food allergies. Just as fire drills and tornado drills save lives, so can food allergy drills. Know in advance where in your area there are emergency rooms capable of treating a severe food allergy.  Just as experienced travelers locate the nearest fire escapes when they are staying away from home, experienced food allergy sufferers prepare for allergy attacks when traveling by finding out in advance where the nearest emergency rooms are, and by always keeping food allergy medications handy.  As well, it's wise to practice using any prescribed auto-injectors before you actually need one. Ask your doctor for a auto-injector "trainer" device – similar to the real thing, but without the needle or medication.
  3. Get connected with a food allergy support group. It can be difficult and embarrassing to deal with food allergies on a day-to-day basis. Many food allergy sufferers find comfort and encouragement by joining a food allergy support group. To find a support group near you, take advantage of the FARE organization's food allergy support group search engine.
  4. Learn about food allergies and keep a diary. If you must live with food allergies, there are many reliable websites and books available to help you understand your allergy and know how to deal with them. Doctors also recommend that you maintain a journal of your own allergic reactions, which can be a great resource for you and your doctor. Identify which meals cause reactions, in which seasons of the year you most experience the reactions, and severity of reactions. Capturing this info will help you and your doctor identify food tolerance changes, which can help with dietary or medical treatment adjustments.


Boost awareness and solutions: Food Allergy Awareness Week


FARE Food Allergy Awareness WeekFood Allergy Awareness Week, practiced annually since 1998, is sponsored by FARE, the organization that regularly works on behalf of Americans with food allergies.  See their site to find out how you can get involved in spreading the word. You'll find downloadable Food Allergy Awareness Week posters, printable bookmarks, and factsheets about food allergies that you can share on social media to help raise awareness.  FARE also encourages you to change your Facebook profile picture and cover photo to show your support, participate in a FARE Walk for Food Allergies, and wear teal for a day this week.  
 
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer




Friday, May 10, 2013

Not Too Late: Go Rescue Mother’s Day!

Doh!  You’ve forgotten about, or put off preparing for, Mother’s Day, and now it’s too late to get good restaurant reservations; too late to order some great gift online in time for delivery; too late to put together a big family event to celebrate.  Don’t give up – all is not lost. 

Mother and daughter


Five last-minute Mother’s Day rescue solutions


There’s still time to create a memorable (yes, in a positive way) celebration of that special mom in your life, if you take immediate action with one or some of these:


Mother’s Day Solution #1 – Remember why you’re celebrating 


The number-one priority of Mother’s Day is to honor the important mothers in your life – to make sure she understands that she is loved and respected for the love and effort she makes to fulfill her role as a mom 365 days a year.  You know your wife better than anyone else.  Or, if you’re the offspring, you know your mom better than just about anyone.  So, use the time remaining between now and the big day to apply what you know about Mom to make her feel truly special.  With that in mind:
  • Make it about her. It’s tempting to make the day about the kids and what you can get them to do for her, or to make it a big family day.  While those are nice add-ons, the happiest mothers are going to be those who sense that the day is really about them, above all else. 
  • Make it personal.  Think about her favorite past times, her favorite colors, her favorite memories, or people.  Apply that to your effort.  Nothing says love less successfully than, for example, the gift of flowers to the mom who is allergic to flowers, the gift of a family trip to your parents’ home when you know that she doesn't feel comfortable around them, the gift of pancakes for the mom on a low-carb diet, or the gift of cleaning up the celebration mess you and the kids created.


Mother’s Day Solution #2 – Dads, take charge!


Dad’s, you want a happy mom, right?  Then don’t assume that the tykes, tweens, teens, adult kids, or relatives are going to remember or make a sufficient effort.  As the loving husband, it’s time to find your inner project manager; to take charge of the big day and rally the troops. 

Spearhead the effort by contacting and working with all those who should be remembering what a great mom that mom is.  Make sure the effort is well-rounded and Mom will feel special and honored.


Mother’s Day Solution #3 – Involve the little ones


While Mother’s Day is about mom, the personal effort of the youngest members of the family not only makes mom feel loved by the ones that take the most of her time and attention, but trains the children to be less self-focused; to think of others.  Even if you have less than 24 hours to pull something together, a little time and effort with the little ones can make a big difference on Mother’s Day:
Breakfast in bed
  • Don’t forget that classic: breakfast in bed. Even if you’ve forgotten about the big day until you wake up, sneak out to get a few groceries and then awaken the little ones to work with you on it.  Don’t forget a bouquet of flowers to brighten that breakfast.
  • Have the children make hand-colored gift certificates for mom.  Help with the wording if they are very young.  The gift certificates should be things that the children can do for her.  Example: This gift certificate may be redeemed for a back massage, a back scratch, an hour of quiet time, a cup of tea, vacuuming or dusting of the house, etc.


Mother’s Day Solution #4 –  Surprise her with thoughtful teen responses


If you are a teenager, you can make your mom the happiest mom in the world by doing something personal and special for her.  Yes, of course you may be angry at, or annoyed with, her about something, or would rather be out with your friends.  But your mom knows this, and that’s why you are uniquely in a position to make the day special for her; because any effort at all – a card, a letter, a walk, a back rub, a phone call – is going to mean the world to her.  Do it.  Remember: you wouldn't even exist if not for her. 


Mother’s Day Solution #5 – Shorten the distance


Sure, your own wife or your own mother should be your top consideration.  But consider all the moms in your life that deserve to feel appreciated.  Make their day special too. 

Don’t forget about sisters-in-law, your adult sisters, your mom, your grandmother, your close friends.  The effort can be quite simple.  A gift card with a personal message is special.  Even better: Pick up the phone to say hello and thanks for being a mom.  Don’t let guilt for being out of touch prevent you from making the effort – any act of remembrance is better than none, and will likely be appreciated.


Child with mother's day cardDo it.


Yes, time may be short, but any effort is better than an empty apology because you forgot – which she will equate to her motherhood being forgotten, unappreciated. 

And remember: A small effort that is perfectly suited to her is better than a lavish expenditure that could fit any mom. 

Now stop reading and go – make her feel special for all that she is and all that she has done.  Go.  Time’s a’wastin’.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Alarming Connection between Arthritis and Smoking

Shocking news, coinciding with Arthritis Awareness Month, has just been released to the public. In mid-April, results of a groundbreaking study solidified and quantified the connection between smoking and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). 

While scientists have long known of apparent links between smoking and an increased risk of arthritis, this new Swedish study, published in the online journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, tells us specifically how much smoking leads to increasing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.  It identifies how smoking intensity, smoking duration, and the cessation of smoking affects your arthritis risk.

Two of the most alarming bytes from the study:
  • A little smoking is all it takes:  If you are one of those who had already cut back on smoking, hoping to dodge the rheumatoid arthritis bullet, the study concluded that even light cigarette smokers experience a heightened risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Quit smoking and the risk goes down but does not disappear. Yes, you can reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis from smoking by quitting the habit, but the study clearly shows that smoking cessation (stopping smoking) does not remove the risk entirely. The key takeaway: don’t even start smoking to be safe.
Crushing cigarettes with hand



And this was no lightweight review:


How researchers reached their conclusions


The in-depth study, from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, analyzed data from more than 34,000 women, ranging in age from 54 to 89, for seven straight years, from 2003 through 2010.  The researchers examined the effect of smoking using three measures:
  • Smoking intensity (how many cigarettes a day)
  • Smoking duration (how many years the participants smoked)
  • Smoking cessation (odds of developing rheumatoid arthritis even after quitting the habit)
The study analyzed all three of these factors and their influence on the risk of the women developing rheumatoid arthritis.  What they found:
  1. Those who smoked one-to-seven cigarettes daily were significantly more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who had never smoked – more than a twofold greater risk.
  2. Longer smoking duration created a significant increase in risk of developing arthritis. 
  3. The most surprising discovery: The risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis was significantly elevated even 15 years after smokers had quit smoking, compared with those who were never smokers.
The study authors state that the risk of rheumatoid arthritis decreased over time after smoking cessation, but that the risk was still statistically significantly higher than compared to those who had never been smokers.

The most significant takeaway of the study is a message that parents can share with their children before they are tempted to start smoking – that the increased risk of future rheumatoid arthritis development even among former smokers is another reason to not to start smoking.

Rheumatoid arthritis hands

Arthritis Awareness Month


Did you know that arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability?  According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are 50 million Americans today suffering from arthritis: a chronic, progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints.  Many more are at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

That’s why the Arthritis Foundation founded National Arthritis Awareness Month, to draw attention to, and raise awareness of, this national health problem.  Their goal: to rally the nation to take action against arthritis.


How you can help


The following links provide information to help you get involved in arthritis prevention, get help with your arthritic conditions, get rheumatoid arthritis information, and learn the latest news on arthritis.
With this information, you can make this May a month of rheumatoid arthritis relief, arthritis education, and arthritis prevention. 
 
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer








Monday, May 6, 2013

Does My Child Have Mental Health Issues?

Children with emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues exist in every community, no matter the income level, educational pedigree of the parents, or racial, ethnic, and religious background. Awareness is important not only because of the prevalence of mental health problems in children but because many parents are unaware that their children have a mental health issue, or don't know what to do when they witness troubling behavior.

This week, May 6-11, is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and this Thursday, May 9, is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day – an appropriate time to ask important questions about mental health and your family. 

Mental Health Awareness Day 2013 focuses on the importanceNational Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, May 9, 2013 of social connectedness – a sense of community – in enhancing resilience in young adults ages 16 to 24 with mental health and substance use challenges, while Mental Health Awareness Week seeks to increase public awareness about the triumphs and challenges in children's mental health and the importance of family and youth involvement in the children's mental health movement.

The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, spearheading Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, links more than 120 chapters and organizations focused on the issues of children and youth with emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs and their families.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), at the center of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, works to improve the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, alcohol and drug addiction treatment, and mental health services.

Both of these organizations provide support and information to families to help them identify, cope with, and find treatment for children with mental health issues.


How big a problem is children's mental health?


The following statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health  (NIMH) give a brief and alarming glimpse at the problem of mental health in children.
  • About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey.
  • About eight percent of teens ages 13-18 have an anxiety disorder, but only 18 percent received mental health care for their condition.
  • One in every 110 children has autism, with boys facing nearly five times higher risk than girls.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – one of the most common childhood disorders – affects an estimated nine percent of 13 to 18-year-olds in the US. The National Comorbidity Survey revealed that an estimated 2.7 percent  of 13 to 18-year-olds  in the United States  struggle with severe eating disorders, such bulimia nervosa , anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorders.


As these statistics reveal, SANHSA and the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health have an important mission and a legitimate need for promoting children's mental health awareness.


Are my child's problems serious?


Many everyday stresses can tweak your child's behavior, but may not be a serious mental health sign. According to NIMH and other mental health professionals, things to look for that may be indications of behavior changes that may be associated with more serious problems include:
  • Problems across a variety of settings, such as at school, at home, or with peers
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Social withdrawal, or fearful behavior toward things your child normally is not afraid of
  • Unexplained loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed-wetting, for a long time
  • Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness
  • Signs of self-destructive behavior, such as head-banging, or a tendency to get hurt often
  • Repeated thoughts of death
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness lacking a concrete reason
  • Unexplained and abnormally extreme fearfulness
  • Frequent anger and other overreactions
If you see these kinds of behavior or circumstances, consult with a health professional, as treatment is available for many common children's mental health problems, such as eating disorders, attention deficit or hyperactivity disorders, depression and anxiety, relationship difficulties, or dealing with grief.

Young boy sitting on a hill


Information on children’s mental health


If you need help with your children, or want to learn more about children’s mental health awareness, check out these resources.
If you want to donate to Children's Mental Health Awareness Week , you can donate at the National Federation’s Facebook page.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Dirt on Backyard Composting

With the recent passing of Earth Day, celebrated every April since 1970, now is the perfect time get literal about earth – the kind in your garden – and enrich it by composting.


Composting


Why compost?


Composting is good for the Earth, good for your piece of the earth, and good for your garden – which is good for you!

Ecologically speaking, consider the alternatives:
  • When you throw yard waste away with your trash it goes to a landfill where it takes up space and produces methane gas, which contributes to climate change.
  • Backyard burning of your leaves and trimmings creates air pollution.
But with composting, enriching your soil is exactly what you’ll be doing.  Your garden will be noticeably healthier when you add good compost to the soil.

Beyond the good that you see, your grown foods will be much richer with nutritional value, since many fruits and vegetables are like sponges, greedily grabbing up all the nutritional value they can from your soil.  So, load up that dirt with nutrient-rich compost!


What is composting? 


In short, backyard composting is creating your own super-rich garden fertilizer.  How composting works:  By combining food scraps from your table, yard trimmings/rakings, water, sun, aeration, and a little time for it all to decompose, you end up with dirt – seriously good, nutrient packed fertilizer. The kind your garden or lawn will love since it will help condition the soil and replenish nutrients. 


Composting: How to get started


First word of advice – learn the composting basics – that’s all – and then just do it.  Just get started.  There are books upon books written on the subject of composting.  As helpful as they may be, the basics are really simple enough that you can succeed with little more than what you read right here.  Besides, the “ideal” composting methods the books teach are often overwhelming, sometimes even conflicting, and occasionally recommending expensive equipment that, frankly, is not necessary. 

So, learn the basics, and get started.  A compost pile is truly a simple thing: a combination of food scraps and yard scraps that, with a bit of moisture, air, and sunshine, will transform in a few weeks into the richest collection of fertilizer your garden will ever need. 

Recycling vegetables for compostComposting is also known as “controlled decomposition.” It’s about encouraging organic materials to decompose.  The recipe for your composting pile begins with a mix of:
  • “Green” organic materials that contain large amounts of nitrogen, such as grass clippings, food scraps, and manure.
  • “Brown” organic materials that naturally contain large amounts of carbon but little nitrogen, such as dry leaves, wood chips, and branches.
You mix these commonly available materials to form a pile in your backyard.  With experience, experimentation, and patience, you’ll figure out the optimum nutrient mix to get the results you want. 
Beyond the core ingredients, you also need:
  • Moisture. Microorganisms will naturally make themselves at home in the green/brown mixture.  This is good, aiding the decomposition, so encourage it with moisture.  They need moisture to survive and thrive. Watering your compost pile is all it takes.  The water also transports substances within the compost pile, making the nutrients in the organic material accessible to the microbes.
  • Air flow.  Left alone, the conversion of organic material to compost in your pile can take up to two years, but when you manually turn your composting pile with a shovel or rake, this aerating action dramatically hastens the process to three-to-six months.  You can also aerate your pile by adding “bulking” agents to your compost pile, such as wood chips and shredded newspaper. 
How do I know if the compost pile is working?
Look for heat.  When decomposition is happening, the activity of the microbes will raise the temperature of your pile’s core to at least 140° F.   The microorganisms need these warmer temperatures for the most rapid composting, and to destroy pathogens and weed seeds that may be in your compost pile.  Without the temperature increase, you may get rotting. Keeping the aeration, moisture and green/brown balance will usually be enough to encourage the proper temperature.

You’ll also know your compost pile is converting into fertilizer simply by looking at it.  The less it looks like food scraps and leaves – and the more it looks like dirt – the closer you are to calling it garden-ready fertilizer. 
Organic compost


Composting tips to boost success


A little composting advice:
  • Keep particle size small. Smaller pieces add surface area.  This helps microbes feed on them.  Grinding, chipping, and shredding the materials you add to your pile speeds up the process.  But don’t get carried away – if the particles are too small, they restrict aeration.
  • Grasscycle instead. If your goal is only to reduce your garbage output, rather than creating garden compost, try “grasscycling” – leaving your grass clippings on the lawn to decompose naturally and return nutrients to the soil.
  • Adjust for weather – if you’ve got heavy rains, reduce or stop adding water to your compost pile – it will get enough.  You can also adjust your watering plans based on the air temperature – higher temperatures will increase evaporation. HINT: If your pile is drying out too fast or too often, you may be over-aerating – giving it too much oxygen.  As this impedes the composting process, you’ll want to reduce the frequency of pile turning.
  • Get grinds. For an easy way to go to town on enriching your compost pile, go to town for real – like to your nearest coffee house.  Starbucks and other coffee houses often save their coffee grinds in big bags, giving the grinds free to gardeners who ask.  Coffee grinds are rich in nitrogen. Read more on coffee grinds and composting here and here.
  • Look for local help and info.  Local communities might hold composting demonstrations and seminars to encourage homeowners or businesses to compost on their own properties.
Final thoughts and more backyard composting information:
Do you have backyard composting advice? Questions?  Share with us using the comments. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Celebrate May Day!

May 1 is May Day, celebrated around the world – even if not by the average US citizen. But considering that May Day celebrates the arrival of Spring, this day is a special opportunity to create an annual family tradition that can be both educational and fun.

May Day has a rich history in many countries, honored in different ways down through the ages, and differently from one country to the next. In some places, it is a day of political protests, while in others it's a neopagan festival. In some, it's a saint's feast day. But the common thread is a celebration of Spring throughout the northern hemisphere. To help you make May Day special in your family, we're offering you this collection of family-friendly spring celebration activities, crafts, and tidbits.

Family playing football


1.  Celebrate May Day outdoors


With the weather finally warming up in many places throughout the US, consider making a family tradition of the great outdoors, celebrating spring by immersing the family in it. Just a few outdoor activities to consider:
  • Create an annual family picnic – or even a neighborhood block picnic, if you and your neighbors like to do things together.
  • Start doing a yearly May 1 hike through the woods at your family's favorite park.
  • Take to the skies with a family go-fly-a-kite day, as long as you are already at that favorite park.
  • For a more active family, the annual outdoor event could be a friendly, competitive sporting activity, such as touch football, disc golf, ultimate frisbee, or a softball tournament.
There are probably a dozen more May Day outdoor activities you can think of, and probably some that would have special meaning or value to your family. However you do it, the goal is to establish May Day as one that your family thinks of as being together and outside the house.


2.  Plant some great memories – in a garden!


Grandmother and granddaughter planting a garden
Depending on where you live, there's a good chance that the final frost risk has now passed. As nature is beginning to awaken, with budding leaves, flowering plants, and sudden growth, you can make this season of rebirth a family event by starting a flower garden or vegetable garden at your home. There are many ways to involve every member of your family. Even the youngest ones can help press the seeds into the dirt or, if you purchase seedlings or plants, they can help by watering. Involve your older kids with tasks such as tilling the soil and adding fertilizer. And dad or your oldest teams can help with the really heavy gardening tasks, such as creating protective fences or decorative brick borders.


3.  Get crafty with your May Day activities


As a mom or dad, you probably already have an arsenal of favorite crafts related to the spring season. You can make May Day into a lifetime of great memories by proclaiming the day as an annual spring celebration craft day.  To get your creative juices flowing:
  • Rather than just fly a kite, as suggested above, consider also making homemade kites.
  • Create a May basket – a tradition still celebrated in some parts of the US. A May basket is one that is filled with treats and-or flowers, and then sneakily left upon someone's doorstep. As you or your kids put the flowers down on the porch, ring the bell and run away. Here is an optional addition to the May basket tradition that may work best when giving the basket to a relative or close friend; when the person sees the basket on their doorstep, they give chase and, if they catch the runaway giver, they give the giver a kiss.
  • Create a tabletop version of the Maypole. This tabletop twist to the traditional Maypole is one that makes a great shared activity with kids six and older.
  • You can also add a Hawaiian twist to your May Day celebrations.  In May Day in Hawaii is also celebrated as Lei Day – a day to celebrate native Hawaiian culture.  What a great excuse to make Hawaiian Leis with your kids! Two good websites that show you how to make a Hawaiian Lei:  Ehow.com and the TheCraftingChicks.com.
  • If spring reminds you mostly of flowers, maybe the right craft for you and your family is to make craft flowers.  This is a particularly good idea if weather doesn't permit going out to enjoy flowers on May Day.
This list is just a teaser to get you started.  Anything related to common Spring sights, sounds, and smells is the right place to brainstorm for unique ideas that would be perfect for your family. Consider crafts related to flowers, spring colors, or crafts involving wind, for instance.


Learn more about May day


Want to know more about May Day? Here are some good places to dig:
Have any great ideas for crafts or activities of your own that can make this springtime holiday memorable? Use the comments below to share!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer