Preparing for the unexpected: disaster plans and kits

safety sackIn Colorado, you must be ready for the unexpected.   This could include flash floods, tornados, and even blizzards.   When designing your family emergency plan and disaster kit, there are a number of things to keep in mind.

Usually these kits are also called ’72-hour kits’ because you need to plan to be without power and water for 72 hours. If it is less, great, but you do not want to run out of provisions too soon.  Typically, the authorities will either have your power back on within 72 hours, or have you someplace safe within this time frame.

Be Prepared

It is very important to be prepared for anything life throws at you, and a disaster is no exception.  Maintaining a home emergency supply kit is the best way to prepare for any type of disaster.

It is true that there are already a number of items in your home that you rely on every day, and that you could grab in case of emergency, but a ready-made emergency kit will contain these items, and more.

Your family’s disaster kit should contain the basics.  Stock it with essentials for each person in your household, providing them with what they will need to survive. This should include fresh food and water as well as medical supplies.  If anyone in your family takes prescription drugs it is important to have at least 3 days’ worth of the medication on hand in the kit.

It is also important for you to periodically inventory and restock your disaster kit.  Typically this should be done every six months.

Food and Water

It is important to stock non-perishables in your kit.  These are foods that require no refrigeration. You will also want to look to foods that require no preparation or cooking, either, because you will most likely be without power.

As you purchase and stock your disaster kit, you will want to keep in mind each member of your family’s likes and dislikes.  No one wants to be faced with days’ worth of food that they just do not like; and of course, keep any allergies in mind.  Look for foods that you will all enjoy, but that are also nutritious, too, as this food will need to sustain you and keep you going.

Make sure to plan for special needs, too, such as nursing mothers, babies and the elderly.

Many of your food options will probably be canned, so make sure that you have a manual can opener in your kit as well as plenty of disposable utensils.

When you get ready to prepare your kit, remember that each person needs at least 2,000 calories per day.  In addition, you will want to put away at least a gallon of water per person per day. This will be used both for drinking and sanitation.

In Colorado, all counties have provisions for pets, too.  Make sure to keep this in mind when designing your family emergency plan and disaster kit.  Don’t forget to pack their food, too, along with plenty of water.

Additional Supplies

Additionally, make sure that your disaster kit contains flashlights and extra batteries, reading material and perhaps card games or toys for the children, an NOAA weather radio that has tone alerts and extra batteries for it, as well.

A first aid kit is a must. You can build your own or purchase an already stocked kit.  Also, include a whistle to signal for help, a dust mask for each member of your family, garbage bags, a wrench or pliers to turn off your utilities and a cell phone with a charger.


Teaching Diversity in A Homogenous setting

diversityOne of the easiest ways to teach diversity to children is to have them experience it. Interacting with people who have different cultural backgrounds, different physical and social abilities, and a variety of appearances helps to teach tolerance, respect, and acceptance. How can parent and educators do this, however, when the child’s classroom and programs are so similar to their home? Here’s some tips to teach diversity in a homogenous setting.

1. Understanding Diversity

The first step to teaching diversity is to understand it. Diversity is more than just a unit on world cultures or celebrating cultural holidays like Cinco de Mayo. Singling out diversity education as an individual topic only reinforces the separateness of different cultures. Instead, to understand the differences among people children must learn about themselves and how they fit into their own communities and then learn about those who are different from them and how those individuals fit into different communities. Only then can they visualize how we all fit together in the global community.

2. Real Experience

Reading books and discussing other cultures is only the first step towards understanding people who are different. To truly appreciate a different culture, especially for children, direct experience is necessary. It is essential that the classroom contain a variety of materials that show more than just one culture and that the art, toys, and pictures used throughout the school represent many backgrounds.

Children also need direct interaction with people who are different from them. Inside the classroom this can be done by taking field trips, inviting guests to speak to the children, or by pairing up pen pals outside the community. Outside the classroom, kids can visit their parents’ workplaces, cultural museums, or simply explore the neighborhood around them seeking out differences.

3. Challenge Stereotypes

Even in fairly homogenous situations, there is room to challenge the stereotypes within the small group. For example, if a child expresses the idea that all men wear pants or that girls can’t be scientists, it is the perfect time to have a conversation about possibilities. Talk about the ideas that girls can hold important jobs and that boys can raise children. Challenge stereotypes about sports and race, income levels and intelligence, and other common falsehoods.

4. Differences as Assets

The persistent thread through all of these ideas should be to show the differences among people as assets rather than deficits. For example, a young child that speaks English at school and another language in the home will have a tremendous advantage throughout life and shouldn’t be seen as someone who is “less than.” Children should understand that world is made up of countless cultures and the more of these cultures that we can understand, the more tools we will have to find success throughout life.

Consistency is Key

Adding a multicultural unit to the school curriculum isn’t enough to truly help children become comfortable and curious about diversity. In order to successfully do this, these ideas must be present in everyday activities at school and in everyday conversations in the home. Understanding differences among people should be a continuous process, one where the children become excited and inspired by contrasting cultures and seek out new cultural concepts to find out what they can learn.

Healthy Eyesight: Preschool Vision

eyeglassesThe preschool years are important in helping to develop visual skills. This is the time period in which they are fine tuning their vision developed during their infant and toddler years. Many of the activities that your child enjoys doing also help in this matter: building with blocks, rolling a ball, coloring, writing their name, or riding a tricycle.

However, 1 in 20 preschoolers has a vision problem. It is important that you do your best in helping your child to strengthen her visual skills, but that you also notice the signs that she may be having some troubles seeing.

Symptoms of possible preschool vision problems include:

  • Holding a book too close to his face
  • Sitting too close to the TV
  • Squinting
  • Tilting her head
  • Frequently rubbing eyes, even when he isn’t sleepy
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes
  • Closing one eye to read or watch TV
  • Short attention span
  • Complaining about headaches/pain
  • Eye turning in or out
  • Avoiding activities that have to do with hand-eye coordination: playing ball or tag, riding a bike, or even coloring or reading

If your child suffers from any of these signs, you should call your child’s pediatrician to schedule a screening. Your child’s school or pediatrician may first perform a screening to determine if your child might be suffering from vision problems. If so, then an optometrist will perform an eye examination. (It is important to remember that a screening cannot always accurately determine if vision issues are present. If your child passes the screening, but is still exhibiting warning signs, then you should call an optometrist.)

For child health in general, and to help with visual efficiency, it is important for your child to maintain a balanced diet and good sleep habits as well as stay hydrated throughout the day. There are many opportunities that you can offer your child to help strengthen visual skills:

  • Coloring, drawing, or reading
  • Throwing a ball or bean bag back and forth
  • Finger painting
  • Putting together puzzles
  • Building with blocks
  • Playing with other children
  • Riding a bike
  • Cutting and pasting paper crafts

When your child is starting school, it is important that he is seeing clearly. He needs to be able to see what the teacher is showing as well as be able to focus and pay attention in school. Visual problems that are not quickly corrected can often turn into larger issues, such as a lazy eye or cross-eye. Although these issues can be corrected, it is no longer as simple as nearsightedness or farsightedness. It is important to fix vision problems quickly so that the brain is not able to accommodate the problem.


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How to Pull it Together When You’re Parenting on Empty

stressed parent

Gretchen Rubin, Author of a book called “The Happiness Project” said that the days are long, but the years are short. I try to focus on the fact that the years are short.  As my six-year-old grandson is having surgery, I sit in the waiting room thinking how can he be six years old? He was just born yesterday.  In fact my twenty-five year old son was born just the day before. J These years are passing so quickly, and I want to enjoy every moment with my family\

But it’s also true that the days can be long. Long and loud and messy. We all have those days — or string of days — when we feel like we’re at the end of a very frayed and quickly unraveling rope.  You spent half of the night awake, cleaning up vomit or holding a baby who decided it was time to party.  Or maybe both.  In your bleary-eyed state, you enjoy a breakfast of Mountain Dew as you simultaneously listen to one child tell a compelling (and very detailed) story about how to defeat super-villains with ordinary household objects, soothe another whose path through the kitchen coincided perfectly with the refrigerator door you just opened, and watch your toddler set off a rapid chain reaction of destruction across the entire counter top that ends with dumping out the pitcher of milk.  The entire pitcher.   Sometimes you feel as empty as that darn pitcher.


It’s hard to be your kids’ everything when you feel like you’re running on nothing.  (Well, Mountain Dew and nothing.) Sometimes you might feel like you are the only one having those days.  But I guarantee you aren’t. Knowing there are plenty of other parents exhausted and dealing with the same strenuous days and weeks we all find ourselves in now and then I thought I’d share some thoughts with you.  Keep in mind you don’t have to wait for a crisis to take care of yourself!


Reassess Your Habits. Many of us, self-included, live by our calendars. But we forget to schedule fun.  Realizing that alone has salvaged several days for me.  A quick game of Uno with the boys before bed time, or a morning spent at the park can change the entire tone of the day.


Let it Go (You started singing to yourself there, didn’t you?)

The yellow ring around the bathroom sink will live to see another day. Remind yourself during those stressful days to pick just ONE task to try to accomplish each day (in addition to keeping everyone alive, of course).  A trip to the grocery store? Congratulations! Laundry done?  Major accomplishment!  Laundry only started?  Good enough! Sometimes the key to lowering stress is to reduce the demands or commitments from the outside, but often the biggest thing is simply lowering the expectations we issue from within ourselves.


Loosen Up, But Keep a Rhythm, as you let go a bit, don’t go too far.  Keep a “loose rhythm”.  In high-stress parenting seasons we are tempted to “throw routine out the window, but that always backfires.”  So instead I encourage you to keep an adjusted routine and go easy, particularly when it comes to managing expectations.


Feed Your Soul.   You know the analogy.  Airlines remind us to put on our own oxygen masks before attending to others.  We aren’t much help to others if we haven’t helped ourselves.  Though it seems counter-intuitive when stress is high, we benefit greatly from doing something for ourselves first so we can better serve our little ones. Try to create a moment now and then for something that feeds your soul.  Even if it has to take on an abbreviated form.


And finally, Let People Help. This advice came from my big brother, who shares the same genetic flaw I have that causes chronic and obstinate independence.  Like my own grandson, I have the tendency to stubbornly declare I will do it all myself.  And, just as I do with my grandson, the people around me stand by, waiting for me to finally realize I need their help.


Accept offers to help.  Dare to ask for help.  Hire help if you have to and can afford it. Asking for help isn’t a weakness.  It’s a strong cord that weaves us together with those around us in a sense of belonging and community.  Open yourself up to your village!