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6 kitchen organizing tricks to simplify back-to-school

As the school year approaches, you probably turn your attention to purchasing required supplies, buying new clothes and creating a smooth morning routine. However, to truly streamline your back-to-school season, don’t forget to focus on the most trafficked area of the house: the kitchen. After all, it’s the setting for speedy breakfasts, packed lunches, after-school snacks and weeknight dinners. Use these tips and tricks to get your kitchen — and your family — ready for the year ahead.

1. Purge the pantry.

A few weeks before classes kick off, remove everything from your pantry and cupboards. Check each item for an expiration date and toss anything that’s past its prime. Update your shopping list with items to restock, and reorganize each shelf—grouping categories of similar items together and leaving a little extra room to prevent overcrowding later. Do the same in the fridge, leaving shelf or drawer space for perishable lunch staples like deli meat, cheese and yogurt.

2 . Conquer storage containers.

As you clean the pantry and cupboards, set aside any and all glass and plastic tubs — whether they’re oddball takeout containers or part of a set. Match lids to bottoms and recycle any that have lost their partner. “File” the containers and their lids in a deep drawer, for easy access.

3. Refresh your command station.

Somewhere in or near the kitchen, gather important papers, a calendar, pens, school information and files. “We keep keys in a cup at the station, too, and any important in-process information,” says home-cleaning expert Becky Rapinchuk. Designating a spot for things like permission slips or to-be-completed homework makes it easier to stay on top of the piles. “When everything has a home,” she adds, “it’s easy for everyone to find what they need — and even easier to put it away.”

4. Separate lunch foods and snacks.

As you’re prepping the kitchen, label an area for snacks — a container in the pantry and fridge will do. Pre-portion treats for after-school noshing, and set some ground rules; perhaps everybody gets one piece of fruit and one crunchy snack each afternoon. Food blogger Melanie Gunnell also reserves certain food for lunch: “I designate a drawer in my fridge that’s ‘off-limits’ for general snacking. It seems silly, but with five growing children in my home, it doesn’t take much for them to eat up everything in sight — and when we go to pack lunches, the options are long gone.”

5. Plan dinners in advance.

Rapinchuk plans a week’s worth of dinners on Friday, before her big weekly shopping trip. “I swear by my recipe binder, where I keep a running list of favorite meals,” she says. “I rotate through the favorites and add a new recipe or two each week.” She also maintains a running shopping list to keep track of miscellaneous items. When putting together a menu, think about more than what the kids will eat. “I try to be realistic about our schedule, my motivation level and everyone’s sanity,” says Gunnell.

6. Make friends with your freezer.

As summer comes to an end, it doesn’t hurt to stock the freezer with dinner options — and even lunch items — that you can thaw and serve a few weeks down the road. When you make a meal, double the recipe and freeze a portion. It’ll save the day on a busy school night.

EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.

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A refresher on childhood asthma: What families should know and do

Asthma is the most common chronic lung disease in children. In the US, it affects about 6 million children, or about one in every 12 children.

Breathing is key to life, obviously, so asthma can make life very hard. It can make going for a walk outside feel very hard. It leads not just to visits with the doctor or to the emergency room, and to hospitalizations, but also to missed school, missed work for parents, missed events and missed activities.

The good news is that asthma is very treatable. If parents, children and doctors work together, a child with asthma can lead a healthy, normal life. Here’s what you need to know and do.

Know your child’s symptoms

Wheezing is definitely a symptom of asthma, but a dry persistent cough can be as well — for some children, this occurs mostly at night.

Watch for signs that a child is working harder to breathe. One sign is skin tugging inward between, on top of, or below the ribs. Difficulty talking in long sentences is another sign of this.

Some children with exercise-induced asthma avoid exercise; if your child is choosing to be less active, talk to them about why.

Know your child’s triggers

There are many different triggers for asthma, including:

• Upper respiratory infections, like the common cold. COVID-19 falls into this category, which is why children with asthma should be vaccinated against COVID-19.

• Allergies such as outdoor allergens like pollen, which are often worse in the spring and fall, indoor allergens like dust mites or mold, and pet dander.

• Exercise. Some children will struggle with even mild exercise, while others only have trouble with vigorous exercise or exercising when there are other triggers too, like exercising with a cold or allergies.

• Weather changes, especially to colder weather. Some children can be triggered by going into a cold, airconditioned room.

• Stress. Stress affects our bodies in multiple ways, and in some people it can trigger their asthma or make it worse.

Understand your child’s medications

Several kinds of medicines are used to treat asthma, including:

• Bronchodilators. Examples are albuterol, levalbuterol, formoterol or ipratropium. Known as “rescue

medications,” these are inhaled and work by opening up the airways. They are given through metered-dose inhalers or a nebulizer machine. They are used when a person is experiencing symptoms.

•Inhaled steroids. These work by decreasing inflammation in the lungs and making them less likely to react to triggers. They are “controller medications” given regularly to prevent symptoms.

• Combined inhalers. These have both an inhaled steroid and a long-acting bronchodilator. They are very useful for patients with more difficult asthma. Sometimes they are used in SMART (Single Maintenance And Reliever Therapy), in which the same inhaler is used for both rescue and control.

• Oral or injected steroids. These are generally used when someone has a bad asthma attack, but some people need to take them regularly to prevent attacks.

• Allergy medications. Medicines like loratadine, cetirizine or montelukast can be very helpful when there is an allergic component to asthma.

• Some people with severe asthma need other treatments, such as allergy shots for severe allergies, or medications like dupilumab that work in the body to fight inflammation.

This is far less common. Use medication correctly Sometimes medications and medication regimens can be confusing. That’s why everyone with asthma should have a written Asthma Action Plan that spells out exactly what they should do and when.

If your child uses an inhaler, make sure that they are doing it right! For most inhalers, it’s important to use a spacer, which is a tube that attaches to the inhaler and helps to ensure that the medication gets into the lungs and not just the mouth or surrounding air.

If you have any questions about anything your child is prescribed, call your doctor. Meet with your doctor regularly

If your child’s asthma is anything more than very mild — a few mild attacks a year — you need to check in more frequently than at the yearly checkup. Extra check-ins give you a chance to talk to your doctor about how things are going — and give your doctor a chance to tweak your child’s regimen so that your child can live the healthiest, happiest life possible.

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing.

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Kids and Money: FAFSA filing mistakes to avoid

When it comes to choosing a college to attend, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be top of mind for many high school seniors hoping to score scholarships, grants and student loans.

But as you and your teen fill out the FAFSA — yes, do it together — don’t get sloppy and make mistakes that can slow the delivery of the financial aid package and potentially reduce the amount you’ll receive.

Schools often award money on a firstcome, first-serve basis until the money runs out. So, a careless mistake — such as not signing the form or putting down a parent’s Social Security number when it calls for the students’ — can cost you thousands of dollars.

Which raises this question: With the college admissions season heating up, what are some of the more common FAFSA mistakes that trip up filers?

• By far the biggest mistake is not filling out the FAFSA. There’s no income cut-off to qualify for aid, and the FAFSA is the key to unlocking federal, state and schoolbased aid — everything from Pell Grants to work-study programs, to some private scholarships offered by businesses and nonprofits.

“Far too often, students don’t think they meet the requirements for federal financial aid when that can’t be further from the truth,” said Hanneh Bareham, Bankrate’s student loan expert.

• Get your ducks in a row. Parents need to get involved early in the process and have their tax and investment information handy, said Kevin Ladd, chief operating officer at Scholarships.com. If you’re organized, completing the FAFSA should take less than one hour.

In addition, it is critical that all of the information on the FSA ID, which is your basic identification for the Department of Education, matches what you enter on the FAFSA.

For example, said Ladd, “if you have a middle initial on the FSA ID, you need to enter it the same way on the FAFSA.”

• Know your deadlines. Different states and schools have different deadlines for completing the FAFSA.

• Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.This reduce errors by transferring data from federal income tax returns to your financial aid forms. To learn more, go to https://studentaid.gov/help/how-use-irsdrt.

• Including assets that should be excluded on the financial aid forms, such as the value of your primary residence and retirement plans, can increase the socalled expected family contribution and reduce aid eligibility.

• Include cents when reporting dollar amounts.

• List more than one college to receive your FAFSA data. Shop around to ensure you get a range of financial aid offers.

• Foster care and adoption assistance payments are not reported on the FAFSA, said Mark Kantrowitz, author of “How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid.”

• Another common mistake students make is not choosing the correct dependency status, which can impact the amount of aid you’re eligible for, said Eliza Haverstock, a student loan expert with NerdWallet. For example, she said, you’re considered an independent student if you’re at least 24, married, a veteran, experiencing homelessness, supporting children or enrolled in a graduate program.

• Don’t assume that the aid package you receive is set in stone. One of the biggest mistakes is not filing an appeal for more aid, especially if your family is affected by special circumstances, such as high medical bills or loss of a job. Check out this tip sheet on how to file appeals http://www.kantrowitz.com/books/ appeal.

• If you have a high school junior who will be applying to colleges a year from now, my advice is to complete the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available on Oct. 1. As Ladd said, “apply early and the pool of cash is bigger.”

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Kids and Money: Scholarship success from a student’s perspective

Samantha Leach has plenty of similarities with countless college students: They need plenty of money to pay for college, they’re worried about going into debt and they need to make time to look for scholarships.

Hard work, but worth it, said Leach, who starts graduate school this fall at Clemson University seeking her master’s in engineering with a focus on biomedical engineering. Her student loan debts?


She has paid for college completely with free money — a mix of scholarships and grants — along with state grants and money from Clemson. In addition, she expects to pay for graduate school with funds in her 529 college savings account and fellowship money, meaning she’ll likely start her career after college debt free.

While many students aren’t in the same comfort zone as Leach, dissecting her story shows what can be done with focus, determination and resilience that allowed her to press on after scholarship rejection letters.

Not that Leach didn’t have hurdles to overcome. A native of Raleigh, N.C., she was raised by her mother and grandparents after her father passed away when she was young. However, Leach didn’t feel comfortable asking them to help pay for her college education.

So before starting her senior year of high school, she got serious and started the hunt for money. While her research wasn’t totally digital, she did rely on online scholarship clearinghouse tools such as Scholarship. com, Niche.com, FastWeb, and the National Society of High School Scholars.

She wound up applying for about 50 scholarships,

basically “anything that I thought I met the criteria.” She applied for local and state scholarships, regional scholarships and some of the big national, highly competitive awards.

that allowed her to easily track application deadlines, contact information and other details. She likened the research and application process to “adding an additional class”

to research scholarship applications and deadlines.

• Network. “Talk to friends and people in grades above you to see what worked for them,” Leach said. “Share knowledge about scholarship programs.”

• “Be authentic in your application. Scholarship committees want to know who you are and why you want the scholarship,” Leach said.

• Don’t be afraid to try for large scholarships but understand the competition can be intense. On the other hand, she said, many small awards are available from organizations in your own backyard — often with little competition.

Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an email to sbrosen1030@gmail.com.

“My mindset was if I didn’t get the scholarship, it was mostly because I didn’t fit what they were looking for,” said Leach 22. “I’d finish a few more applications, then go look for a few more. It was not worth stressing.”

Of 50 applications, she was selected for about 10 scholarships, including several that automatically renewed if she maintained good grades. One organization awarded her $5,000, and several others were in the $1,500 to $2,000 range.

While Leach counts herself fortunate, she wants other students to have that same feeling.

Here is some of her advice for scholarship success:

• Come up with a research plan that suits you. “There is not a one-path track that works,” said Leach.

For example, Leach created spreadsheets

her senior year of high school.

• Get your ducks in a row early. The summer before senior year of high school is as good a time as any

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Mayo Clinic Q&A: How to handle teen anxiety

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My 15-yearold daughter has always been anxious, but her anxiety seems to be worsening by the day. She is worried about everything from COVID-19, even though she is vaccinated, to getting accepted into a good college. There are days when she doesn’t want to get out of bed and go to school. Other days, she voices worry about performing well during her soccer game and refuses to go to practice. I’m wondering about my next steps. Should she see a therapist?

ANSWER: Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. It’s a normal part of life. However, the COVID-19 pandemic certainly amplified fear and uncertainty for many people.

Although everyone experiences fear and anxiousness from time to time, when excessive and persistent worry begins to regularly disrupt a person’s daily activities, that could be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

I recommend that you make an appointment for your daughter to see her health care provider. A visit with a family physician or pediatrician often is a good place to start for an initial evaluation, and to receive guidance and identify resources that can help a teen manage an anxiety disorder.

People who have an anxiety disorder may have feelings of nervousness, worry, fear or panic that are difficult to control, out of proportion to actual danger, and last a long time. They may avoid certain places, people or situations

in an attempt to prevent those feelings.

In teens, an anxiety disorder may interfere with their ability to go to school or do homework. It can make it hard for them to maintain friendships and participate in extracurricular activities. Teen anxiety may lead to problems within family relationships too.

When anxiety limits a teen’s activities, or if excessive worry, fear or anxiousness persists for several months, it’s time to seek professional guidance. Your daughter’s health care provider can assess her situation to get a better idea of whether she may have an anxiety disorder. He or she also can perform an evaluation to see if there may be an underlying medical cause of your daughter’s anxiety.

Certain medications and some medical conditions can trigger anxiety. If that’s the case, changing medication or treating the underlying condition could relieve the anxiety.

If your daughter’s health care provider suspects an anxiety disorder, they can help you find a mental health professional who specializes in treating children and teens. Treatment for anxiety in teens typically begins with exposure therapy.

Exposure therapy is different from counseling. It’s a form of therapy that involves gradually encountering the circumstances that trigger anxiety, so a teen can build confidence in handling those situations and their anxious feelings. This approach also includes teaching parents how to provide useful support to a child in managing anxiety. Exposure therapy typically consists of about 10 weekly sessions.

Although research has shown that exposure therapy is one of the

most effective ways to treat anxiety in teens, programs that offer exposure therapy to adolescents are not available in all areas. Some large academic medical centers, including Mayo Clinic, offer intensive exposure therapy programs that last a shorter amount of time for families who must travel to receive this care. In some cases, medication to help control anxiety also may be recommended in addition to exposure therapy. When exposure therapy is not available, it is possible for anti-anxiety medication to be used as a first step in treatment. But a teen should always be evaluated and diagnosed before starting to take medication for anxiety, and a health care provider must monitor medication regularly. It can be challenging to know when to seek help for your child. The Mayo Clinic Anxiety Coach is another resource that can offer information about the differences between anxiety disorders and stress, as well as available treatments and guidance to find the right treatment options. Effective treatment is available for anxiety, and it often can be successfully controlled. — Stephen Whiteside, Ph.D., Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Mayo Clinic Q & A is an educational resource and doesn’t replace regular medical care. Email a question to MayoClinicQ&A@ mayo.edu. For more information, visit www. mayoclinic.org.

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cookie beats just about any other treat or protein bar every time. Especially when the cookie is oversized and chock-full of crisp, golden nuts, bits of dried fruit and tiny nuggets of chocolate. Who can resist?

The base of my giant cookies — suitable for sharing at the lunch table or tucking into a backpack for replenishment on hikes or bicycle trips — uses creamy nut butter. The nut butter adds protein and a bit of sweetness. I’m particularly fond of roasted almond butter, but peanut butter also tastes delicious here.

Hearty oats add crunch and fiber. Instead of plain rolled oats, I often use a muesli cereal mix that includes seeds and nuts. Dried fruit also adds fiber along with a pleasing chewy texture. Other add-ins can be customized to suit tastes. Broken salty pretzels and chunks of chocolate keep things interesting. Sweet and salty trail mixes work too.

When baking large cookies, keep the additions in larger pieces. If you choose to make smaller cookies, break the pretzel pieces or chop fruits and nuts a bit more. Make these cookies gluten-free by using gluten-free muesli or oats, a gluten-free 1 to 1 baking mix in place of all-purpose flour and gluten-free pretzel sticks.

Balls of raw cookie dough can be frozen for up to several months. Place on a baking sheet and bake from frozen; increase the baking time by a few minutes.

Be sure to check for nut allergies before sharing these cookies at the lunch table.

Giant Back-to-School Cookies

Makes 16 large cookies OR 40 smaller cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup each: granulated sugar, packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup creamy roasted almond butter or peanut butter

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups muesli cereal with sliced almonds and raisins or not-too chunky granola*

2 cups (about 4 ounces) broken skinny pretzel sticks

1/2 cup dried fruit (chopped if large), such as dried cherries, cranberries or apricots

1 cup (8 ounces) milk chocolate covered candies, such as M&M’s, OR chunks of white or dark chocolate or dark chocolate bars, roughly broken into 1/4 inch pieces

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

2. Beat together butter and sugars in large bowl of electric mixer until light. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth and creamy. Beat in almond butter, baking soda, vanilla and salt until smooth. Beat in flour until incorporated. Use a wooden spoon to stir in muesli,


3. For giant cookies, divide dough into 16 equal portions (about 1/3 cup of the batter weighing 4 ounces). Roll into balls and place on prepared baking sheets, about 3 inches apart and flatten slightly with a spoon. Bake until set and bottoms are slightly golden, about 20 minutes. (For smaller cookies, shape into 40 balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; bake 12 to 15 minutes.)

4. Cool cookies on pan for 5 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. (You can reuse the paperlined baking sheets to bake the remaining cookies.)

5. Store cookies in a covered container up to several days or freeze up to two months.

*Note: Try Bob’s Red Mill Muesli cereal here, or substitute 1 1/2 cups rolled oats and 1/4 cup each: raisins and sliced or chopped almonds. Granola will make a sweeter cookie. Substitute your favorite sweet and salty trail mix for the dried fruit and chocolate if desired.

JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades.

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