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VOLUME V OLUME 7 • ISSUE 4

Welcoming 2017 with a Smile

GoodLiving® Magazine is published byLight Shine Media Group, LLC Editor-in-Chief Pamela Se le To submit story pitches or events, news@goodlivingmag.com To adver se or purchase bulk copies of the magazine, adver sing@goodlivingmag.com GoodLiving® Magazine P.O. Box 1795 Oldsmar, Florida 34677 (727) 776-3656 info@goodlivingmag.com Edu sements included our publica ons are paid public educa on features placed by sponsors and do not reflect the opinions of Light Shine Media Group LLC or other paid adver sers.

At GoodLiving® we are looking forward to the New Year with smiles and hearts filled with hope, goodwill and a really long “To Do” list! It’s starting with this very special issue that celebrates the promises of renewal and redemption that come with each new year. Who better to exemplify the idea of renewal in our Winter Issue other than Winter herself ? We are so pleased to name this issue for the very special dolphin that has turned her hardship into a life of blessing others! This amazing creature is changing lives nearly every day at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and it’s not something that has to do with training. This is her spirit connecting with other spirits in a way no one can really explain. She is an example of how to give the gift of yourself to someone else, and in doing so, become a gift to the rest of us. The New Year is typically when we make resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, get organized, save money or to actually use those vacation days for a vacation. However, this year in particular, I believe we need to consider all those “good” things, along with renewing our commitment to kindness, generosity, understanding and peace in our daily lives -- in our homes, in the workplace, at school, with our neighbors and also on social media because Kindness is Contagious! I believe this down to my core, which is why I do what I do. By sharing good stories, we can change the world in the direction of good. We should also look to #BeaGift to others whenever we can. Read the story on page 9 to learn about adopting a mindset of giving and follow us on our Facebook page, too. By sharing our posts and articles, you can help us spread the GOOD word! And by all means, continue to share YOUR stories with us so we can celebrate with you. Find Submit a Story at the bottom of our homepage and let us know your good news.

About the Cover Our cover photos this issue celebrates one of the many special moments had at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Our “Winter the Dolphin Issue” celebrates the posi ve impact that this organiza on, along with one amazing dolphin named Winter, is having on Pinellas County and with people around the world. Photo courtesy of Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

The GoodLiving® Healthy Kids Club will continue to be gain steam in 2017 and we look forward to all the good things that are to come. Please go to our website at GoodLivingMagazine.com and sign up. You’ll get our emailed mini-mags with discounts, exclusive giveaways, event notices and important news for parents. We’re in the business of connecting Pinellas County parents with the information and resources they need. This is information you aren’t going to get in any one place -- so let us do the work for you! I want to end the year by publicly thanking all of our readers, distribution partners, sponsor partners, advertisers and guest writers. Together we have grown this independent effort into a true community-based publication with a purpose! I’ve always said that relationships matter in business and so I am truly blessed and grateful to work with REALLY GOOD PEOPLE! May the New Year be full of promise and hope to you and your family! Until Next Time,

Pamela Settle


GoodLiving速 is a registered trademark and a publication owned by Light Shine Media Group, LLC. It is a free publication distributed throughout Pinellas County or is available to read online at GoodLivingMagazine.com. Bulk copies are donated to local schools as a community service. To request copies, contact info@ goodlivingmag.com. All photographs, artwork, design and editorial are the sole property of GoodLiving速 magazine and Light Shine Media Group, LLC. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without written permission.

GoodLiving速 magazine, Light Shine Media Group, LLC and its owners are not responsible for any statements made by advertisers and writers for any consequences arising from omissions or errors. Readers should verify the advertising information of the advertisers and all specials are valid to the expiration date set by the advertiser. GoodLiving速 magazine and Light Shine Media Group, LLC reserve the right to refuse any advertising for any reason. The views expressed in the publication are not necessarily those of the publisher. All rights reserved.


Be not simply good; be good for something. HENRY DAVID THOREAU

When it comes to being a gift, we often hear about giving of our time, our talent or our treasure. Our community is filled with organizations, causes and events that need you and your family to help them reach their Our Holiday Gift Guide this year is a guide to being a gift to goals. The first step is to determine which cause or issue sparks a passion someone, or some thing, as we plan ahead for 2017 to be the best in the heart of your family. Where do you want to make a difference? What year ever. No matter one’s income, age, schedule or abilities, there kind of impact do you want to have? Be a volunteer and use your time to are many ways to be a gift, or a blessing, to make our world a better bless another person. Each of us has a talent that can be shared with a place. The outgoing year was filled with hard feelings, negativity cause. Whether you are good at accounting, graphic design or have a and even hatefulness that has turned neighbor against neighbor. special way with a heavy box, you are needed somewhere. And of course Because the New Year has always stood as a transition point to treasure, or money, is the currency of change. Our non-profits in Tampa begin anew, we can think good thoughts and resolve to do good Bay are working harder with less. Deep cuts came with the recession and deeds that can change the negativity to positivity. our local programs have not rebounded.

Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely. --ROY T. BENNET

Aside from these more pre-planned ways to be a part of something, we can be a gift every day to others with a simple smile, a compliment, a kind gesture or a hug. Make it a habit to say something unexpected and kind to one new person a day. A friendly face with a smile and a kind word can change someone’s day for the better. It may even save a life. And when it comes to words, it’s not always what is said. Sometimes it is what’s not said. Social media has made it easier to believe that we can say whatever we want without repercussions, but that’s not true. Consider these three “R” words when you have the urge to criticize: Be Rational. Show Restraint. Give Respect.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. --CHARLES DICKENS

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Getting Kids in on the Action

Since many organizations have rules that prohibit children under the age of 14 to volunteer, parents need to get creative: Young children are old enough and bold enough to ask grown ups they know for money to support a cause if they feel passionate about helping. Teach them about a situation that is understandable and age appropriate, like buying food for hungry children, buying a goat for a village or helping to fund a sick child’s medical care.

Make an IMPACT:

What’s Your Cause? If you want to join others in support of a cause, Pinellas County is pulsing with good people doing good work. These organizations can use your time, talent or your treasure.

EDITOR’S NOTE: IT’S REALLY HARD FOR A GROWN UP TO RESIST A CUTE LITTLE PERSON ASKING FOR $5 FOR A WORTHY CAUSE AND TEACHES A CHILD HOW ONE PERSON INCREASE HIS GIFT BY BRINGING IN OTHER PEOPLE.

Give Babies a GOOD Start Kimberly Home New Life Solutions CASA Alpha House Babycycle Healthy Start Coalition Mothers of Minors

Find a local fun run/walk or 5K and enlist friends and neighborhood children to work together as a team to raise money for their efforts by going door to door in the neighborhood (with supervision of course) or to local businesses.

Helping Sick Children Ronald McDonald House All Children’s Hospital Make a Wish Children’s Dream Fund

Create a business venture of some kind to raise money for the cause. Have a hot chocolate sale or set up a lemonade stand in your neighborhood or at your church. Have a yard sale. Including making signs about the cause and handing out info on how to donate more to that cause. Hold a drive in your neighborhood, school or place of worship to collect used books, children’s clothing, canned food, pet food, etc. Recruit a group of children to do a social media campaign to raise attention for a cause. Support a Go Fund Me Page for a local family in need of help. Children of all ages are perfect candidates to do something special for senior citizens in our county. These types of projects need to be coordinated by an adult with a local nursing home or ALF. So many of our local elderly are alone and lonely. Some handmade cards delivered by children and a few songs can really brighten a day! Many churches track their shut ins and would welcome some extra people to do checks and help with housework. Most of us can look in our neighborhoods for someone who could use a hand in the yard or delivery of some treats.

KIDS

Homeless and Hungry RCS Food Bank FEAST Food Bank Dunedin Food Bank Bowls for Good Metropolitan Ministries Homeless Emergency Project Habitat for Humanity Hannah’s Homeless

Veterans Honor Flight Operation Military Matters Quantum Leap Farm Abandoned & Foster Children 50 Legs TampaBaySupport.com Sheriff ’s Youth Ranch Veteran’s Art Center Tampa Bay Guardian ad Litem RememberHonorSupport.org Ready for Life Heart Gallery Animals I Matter Too Humane Society of Pinellas SPCA Helping Families in Need Suncoast Animal League Clothes to Kids HumaneEducationConnection.org Foster Care Programs Pet Pal Animal Shelter Kind Mouse St. Pete Audubon Society Pack a Sack Angels Against Abuse Wheels for Success Family Promise of Pinellas County Shepherd’s Village Helping Children with Disabilities Special Olympics Kiddy Up Ranch Saddle Up Riding Center Wheelchairs for Kids PARC and UPARC The Inspire Foundation

The Earth Tampa Bay Watch Keep Pinellas Beautiful Chart 411/Earth Day Boyd Hill Nature Center Friends of Weedon Island Sierra Club Surfrider Foundation Note: This is not a complete list, but it’s a GOOD start! Do some online research about these organizations and find one that sparks your passion. Be intentional about giving to others and watch your life change!

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GOOD

Good Gifts for the Whole Year!

PRODUCTS

Tabletop Mini C Steel Pan Drum Fits on a tabletop, durable, has notes marked. Comes with stand, two sticks and instructional songbook. Ages 3+. $99

HearthSong. We love this resource to help you find just the right gifts for the children in your life. Add their website to your list of online shopping destinations and even sign up to get their catalog in the mail. Each one is full of unique toys and products that encourage learning, art, music and physical activity. Many of their products are exclusive, and so not found elsewhere in the U.S. We have selected these items that will encourage the type of play that is fun, and at the same time, help to develop much needed motor skills and physical development. Consider that schools are cutting down on time for physical activities, even in preschool. So grab some of your friends and neighbors, and form a play group where each moms buys one of these toys. Then to make sure your kids don’t miss their window of opportunity to develop skills, get together regularly and enjoy some activity time at the nearest park or in your yard or play area.

Fantasy Fort These fort panels will provide hours of creative play. Made from heavy duty cardboard. Ages 4+. $39.98 - $69.98

Classic Training Slackline For the older kiddos, this two-inch wide nylon webbing extends up to 50 feet between trees. Ages 5+. Adult supervision recommended. $69.98

Jump2It Jumping is so good for bone and core strength, not to mention balance and burning calories. This trampoline works for one or two children, starting when they are little and going to up to 180 pounds. $99 (Moms, jumping is good for a healthy lymphatic system, so you can jump on it too!)

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FunShine® Swing Perfect at home or at grandma’s house because it’s portable. Sit on this comfy, stretchy swing and fly. Crafted of bungee cords and sturdy steel. 12” diameter seat, 32” diameter frame. Ages 5+ to 200 pounds. $99 for swing. $12.98 for the Heavy Duty Easy Tree Hanger.


Ga Garden Hopscotch Play Carpet Thiis colorful, nonskid carpet can be taken anywhere and kids can hopscotch without any needing chalk. Plus, it makes a delightful nee decorative addition to a child’s room (or roll dec it up to store it away). Machine washable; includes two beanbag “hoppy taws.” incl Measures 78” x 26”. Ages 3+. $39.98 Me

Playzone Balance Blox™ Slackline Balance is an important skill. Have some indoor fun with preschoolers. Ages 3+ to 125 pounds. $299

Tumbling T bli M Matt Kids aren’t tumbling in school anymore and occupational therapy experts say this is stunting inner ear development for coordination. So help them turn upside down by teaching forward and backward rolls on your own safety mat. $149

Easy Trapezy™ Swing Easily loops over a tree branch or a swing set frame. Sturdy plastic handles, a metal bar and durable rope. Ages 4+ to 150 pounds. $19.98

VISIT

ONLINE AT Swingball Portable with a base that fills with sand or water, kids can have fun paddling the ball just about anywhere. Ages 6+. $49.98

hearthsong.com

Hu HugglePod® HangOut™ A delightful d and cozy hangout for kids to read or play. Has porthole-style windows, a padded cushion and LED lights on the inside with a switch. Made of canvas and comes in green or blue. $199. See the HearthSong website for other sizes and types of HugglePods, plus installation options for indoor or outdoor use.

KIDS

Balance Teeter Popper Make the fun bubble wrap popping noise while rocking, rolling, sitting and balancing on this toy that rocks like a roller coaster. Builds core strength, stability, leg strength, balance, coordination, and gross motor skills. $36.98

Lyrical Lap Harp Excellent sound quality and simple to learn as song sheets can be slid under the strings. Includes tuning wrench, pick and 12 song sheets. $36.98. Carrying case and extra song sheets available for additional cost.

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GOODEVENTS EventFest, Inc. - Tampa

A Family-Friendly New Year’s Celebration Founded in 1993, First Night St. Petersburg has grown into a beloved event for families to ring in the New Year together. This year’s event begins with arts and crafts for the children at the First United Methodist Church from 4 to 7 p.m. which is followed by a Giant Sea Creature Procession with Sea Creature Puppets created with the Morean Center for Clay summer campers led by the Mt. Zion Drumline and Color Guard at 7:15 p.m. First Night will feature many local favorite musical acts such as the David Pate Trio, the Fred Johnson Quartet, the fabulous Lakewood High School Jazz Band, WAHH World Fusion Band and more. It will also include Latin Dance Lessons by Simone and DJ Manny, St. Petersburg Opera singers and chamber music, choral and organ concerts. The Dance Stage will feature ballet, tap dancing, Russian Folk dancing, hip hop and urban ballet.

Grab the Eye Patches and Wagons On January 21, 2017, before the grown-up Pirates invade Tampa Bay, the little Pirates parade down Bayshore Blvd as part of the McDonald’s Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza. Starting at 1:30 p.m. is the Preschooler’s Stroll where parents get really creative and design wagons, strollers, bikes and scooters to be imaginary Pirate-mobiles, carrying the mini plunderers down the 1/2 mile route. This is a newer tradition, but families really enjoy because it is a parade of kids for kids.

In the parks and around town, experience glass blowing demos from Duncan McClellon Glass, children’s art activities, tree climbing with Pathfinder Outdoor Education, ice skating and much more. Food will be available for purchas. Fireworks for the family start at 8 p.m. and the Firework Finale is at midnight. Venues are within walking distance from the parking garages and the First Trolley runs along 2nd Ave N for First Night Button holders. You must have an admission button to ride. Go to FirstNightStPete.com for info on where to buy the admission buttons. Download First Night St. Petersburg app to keep up with activities.

This precedes the largest children’s parade in America, the Gasparilla Children’s Parade that runs from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Families line the parade route and enjoy catching beads from around 100 different units including krewes, floats, marching bands, school organizations, community organizations and dancers. Reserved bleacher seating is available to purchase online before the parade day. Also on that day, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. is the Bicycle Safety Rodeo sponsored by the Hillsborough County Sheriff ’s Department and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Learn bike safety and receive a free helmet. The Para-Commandos precision parachute jump team drops in around 6 p.m. and then Piratechnics light up the sky starting at 7:00.

First Night St. Pete

First Night St. Pete

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

On Monday, January 16, the nation’s longest-running parade honoring MLK attracts nearly 100,000 spectators and 125 entries. It runs from Tropicana Field at 11 a.m. and continues down Central Avenue before moving along the waterfront and ending at Vinoy Park.

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Visit St. Pete Clearwater

Come to St. Petersburg to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 32nd Annual MLK National Parade, Battle of the Bands and Drum Line Extravaganza. The action begins at Tropicana Field on Sunday, January 15 at 4 p.m. where Bethune Cookman University March Band performs annually.


Be a gift to our beaches by joining in the Inaugural

Keep Pinellas Beautiful Kids Cleanup Sunday, January 8th Sand Key Park, in Clearwater Registration begins at 9 a.m., the cleanup will take place from 9:30-11:00 a.m. followed by an interactive and educational festival from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. This project strives to educate and empower students (ages elementary - middle school) and their families to utilize reusable products, minimize the impact that they have on the natural environment and eliminate trash from entering our waterways. For more info, contact Stephanie Ellington at Sellington@kpbcares.org or (727) 533-0402.

Extra Yard Run January 8, 2017, 8 a.m. Amalie Arena • 401 Channelside Drive Part of the NCAA national football championship. A scenic 5K or 1-mile run along Bayshore Boulevard is held in conjunction with Tampa’s College Football National Championship weekend. Includes live entertainment, activities and a post race awards celebration. Benefits Extra Yard for Teacher. Price: $15-$25.

St. Pete Beach Classic January 13 - 15 Sirata Beach Resort • 5300 Gulf Blvd. With a 5K, 10K, half marathon, Kids Classic and 3.8-mile beach fun run, this weekend of races includes beach parties, food and a bonfire on Saturday night. Price: $20-$100; Kids Classic free for ages 8 and younger. StPeteBeachClassic.com

Championship Beach Bash Presented by Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater Sunday, January 8 • 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Pier 60 Park • 1 Causeway Blvd. This free, family-friendly event will create a pep rally-type atmosphere on the beautiful white sand of Clearwater Beach. The Championship Beach Bash will feature a “Kids Zone” with games, inflatables, live music and more.

20th Annual Treasure Island Kite Festival January 14-15 Come be amazed by talented kite flyers from all over the U.S. on Treasure Island Beach. Representatives from Revolution Kites and Prism Kites will be giving flying demonstrations and allowing people a chance to learn how to fly. The free event runs from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. both days behind the Thunderbird Beach Resort.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration January 16 • 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. North Greenwood Recreation & Aquatic Complex 900 N. MLK Jr. Ave • Clearwater The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration includes a breakfast at the North Greenwood Rec Center followed by a 10 a.m. march from the Recreation Center to Coachman Park. $5 Adults, $3 Kids 10 & under. Table reservations available for a $40 donation.

KIDS


GOODEVENTS Look for this logo at GoodLivingMagazine.com ne.com to access discounts on tickets to Orlando attractions, including WDW, dinner theaters, heaters, shopping and restaurants. urants.

Walt Disney World ld

is a MusT During the Holidays Nothing beats the magic of Disney this time of year. From Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party to the new Star Wars activities at Hollywood Studios to the newly redone Disney Springs, there is something special for everyone in the family.

LEGOLAND Florida | Chip Litherland Photography

Christmas Bricktacular Returns for the Holidays On nine nights this December, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort celebrates the season with festive activities and entertainment when Christmas Bricktacular returns. The annual holiday party invites kids to enjoy yuletide fun with a LEGO® twist throughout the popular theme park. Some highlights are: • A sparkling fireworks show over Lake Eloise • Meet-and-greet opportunities with LEGO Santa and LEGO Toy Soldier • Holiday-themed scavenger hunt through the streets of MINILAND USA • Dazzling photo backdrops including a giant Christmas tree and a life-size Santa Claus, both made out of thousands of ordinary LEGO and DUPLO® bricks! New this year is a live, holiday-themed stage show starring the LEGO Friends, storytime with Mrs. Claus and live performances of classic Christmas music by the LEGO Brickettes. Christmas Bricktacular takes place throughout the day and is included with all forms of park admission, including one-day tickets and annual passes, on the following 2016 dates: December 17-18 (Saturday & Sunday) and December 24-30 (Saturday-Friday).

During winter break, take a day and drive over to Disney Springs. No admission is required to enjoy their first full-on holidays gala that includes decorations throughout the entire complex. The celebration is now through January 8, 2017 so enjoy this special cheer: Stitch’s Holiday Gift A fun scavenger hunt will allow guests to explore all four neighborhoods of Disney Springs. Guests pick up their Holiday Hunt booklet at any participating location, then explore Disney Springs in search of a unique Stitch icon at each participating location. Once complete, guests redeem the booklet at a redemption location to receive a free “completer” button. The Festival of Toys The Once Upon a Toy Fountain area comes alive with a holiday dance party, deluxe hot chocolate for sale, pin trading and a nightly tree lighting ceremony inviting a select family to turn on the holiday lights. Disney Springs’ Christmas Tree Trail This immersive and enchanting walk-through experience features 15 custom decorated holiday trees, each dedicated to a popular Disney theme. Custom music and a light snowfall completes the Christmassy scene. New parking is ready and complimentary. Check out the two new “smart” garages where open parking spaces are readily identified. In addition to the great shopping and dining, Disney Springs treats has a sleighful of holiday entertainment including The Festival of Toys, holiday Carolers, DJ Holiday Dance Party and Toy Soldier stilt walkers. Of course, we can’t forget the Jolly Old Man himself. Santa Claus will be at Santa’s Chalet until Christmas Eve.

Also plan to welcome in 2017 at their New Year’s Eve Party, December 31st, from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. The whole family can bump it, shake it, move it and groove it during a kid-friendly dance party from 5 - 7 p.m. At 8 p.m., go to the Pirates’ Cove stadiums or on the grass lawn in between as they count down to 2017 with their giant LEGO® “brick drop!” Then end the year with a bang — make that lots and lots of bangs! — as the skies above Lake Eloise explode with color and sound during a spectacular fireworks show to close out the night. Pick up a free pair of LEGOLAND viewing glasses to see an awesome LEGO “surprise in the skies” with each burst! Walt Disney World | Todd Anderson

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If you’re a big fan of Peanuts and the Charlie Brown Christmas Story, then this is the year for you to trek over the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee and the annual ice sculpture display, aptly named ICE!. It is an indoor winter wonderland that is kept at 9 degrees to preserve the two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures. This year, they are celebrating some of the iconic scenes of the beloved classic, such as their holiday play rehearsal, Snoopy’s decorated doghouse and Charlie Brown choosing the perfect Christmas tree. Each year they choose and a different theme and Florida families get to spend an hour or so getting really cool. In fact cool enough that they provide heavy parkas to wear. It is BYOM, though. Bring Your Own Mittens. You’ll need them. After marveling at the artistic ability it takes to create ice sculptures like these, kids of all ages can experience some downhill sliding on their indoor snow-covered tubing hill at Alpine Rush Snow Tubing, adjacent to ICE!. Visit the Gaylord Palms website to learn about weekend packages and details about other holiday happenings at the hotel, including the Christmas Wish Light Show, Cirque Dreams UnWrapped stage show, The Elf on the Shelf® Scavenger Hunt, Mrs. Claus Christmas Traditions and Story Time Sing-a-Long, Gingerbread Decorating Corner, Breakfast with Charlie Brown and Friends and Build-a-Bear Workshop®. Most of these events continue through January 1st, so an excellent choice if you’re looking for something to do during winter break.

NOON Year’s Eve

Celebration Join The *Mommy Spot Tampa Bay for our 3rd Annual NOON Year’s Eve Celebration presented by Chef Inspired Popcorn. This special event will have you ringing in the NOON year with your family and dancing the morning away to special guest kid DJ Jake Dela Cruz. There will be a balloon drop and juice toast at NOON! Tickets are all-inclusive of the FOOD (light bites) and FUN! Between the dancing and activities it’s sure to be a fun time! For more information visit mommyspottampabay.com The Mommy Spot Tampa Bay website and event company was launched in 2014 by local mom and communications professional, Christina Campbell. Now in her third year, she is expanding across Tampa Bay. Their goal is to provide moms with a warm and friendly resource to help them on their journey through motherhood through online resources and in-person special events. PICTURED Christina Campbell with her family

Marriott.com

KIDS

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by DAVID YATES CEO OF THE CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM Winter the dolphin has traveled the world. OK, not literally. But her story has. Her overcoming and inspiring saga of survival blew around the world long before the Dolphin Tale movies hit the scene. However, the movies were a game changer. The number of letters, calls and visits we had experienced from those touched by her story exploded to the point we received 10,000 emails the very first weekend Dolphin Tale was released! And this was just the beginning of our team seeing Winter turn around lives of those in a dark place -- facing chemotherapy, having lost a limb, burn survivors, wounded soldiers, you name it. Thousands around the world have made the trek to CMA as part of their healing process... CMA has truly become a mecca of life-changing inspiration. Here are a few real-life examples of how Winter shares her special gift with others, and with us here at CMA. Read, be inspired, and then make your way to CMA for your own experience!

Meghan Schmidt

A New Way to See Meghan Schmidt has never visually seen Winter, but may be her biggest fan anyway. Residing in St. Louis, Missouri, Meghan has endured being visually impaired since birth and has learned to maximize the use of her other senses. She has become one of CMA’s most active social media fans using special technology. Unable to see Winter, her family brought her to Clearwater Marine Aquarium so she could feel Winter with her hands and listen to the sounds she recognized from watching the CMA movies and online videos. One very familiar sound made a huge impact -- Winter’s tweets. Winter has a unique way of communicating with loud “tweeting bird” type sounds, and with her keen sense of hearing Meghan recognized this as soon as she walked into CMA. Meghan was able to touch Winter and her tail, fully utilizing her sense of touch to “see” her famous friend. Winter has helped Meghan realize that she can do great things with her life, and that we are not defined by what we don’t have, but how we lead our lives. Go Meghan! ABOUT THE PHOTOS (from left top) Dolphin Tale actors Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff with Winter, Meghan touching Winter, (right) Stephanie at CMA with Winter, a promising text message

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Stephanie Evans

Saved by Inspiration Can a dolphin save a life? Just ask Stephanie Evans. Stephanie is 21 years old and has a major genetic disorder that causes many problems, including serious liver and kidney damage, putting her on the national organ transplant list. Four years ago, while vacationing with her Mom and sister, while waiting for the transplant call, they happened upon Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Little did they know that stop would change Stephanie’s life. Just as thousands have from all corners of the globe, Stephanie connected to Winter’s overcoming survival story in a life-changing way. Stephanie’s kidney problem required she drink a large amount of water, which she refused to do. She also did not want to eat much. That is until Winter stepped in. Stephanie saw how Winter lived a normal life being different and having endured many medical procedures herself. Even the Dolphin Tale actors got behind encouraging Stephanie to eat and drink more. The result? Stephanie’s Mom would bring her to CMA every few months because she ate and drank better after a visit with Winter. Winter was helping Stephanie stay alive as she waited for the transplant, which finally happened in Fall 2016. Stephanie is in recovery today, and still stays in touch with CMA. Don’t ever doubt the power of a connection. Inspiration wins every time.

Things to Do at Clearwater Marine Aquarium Visit Winter the dolphin, star of Dolphin Tale movies Movie Set Tours, Movie Props, Real-life Movie Stars Photo Ops Interactive boat tours Working animal hospital

Brand new sea turtle habitat

COUPON

BUY 1 GET 1

FREE ADMISSION Hey Kids! Be a Gift to Others Like Winter! Share your love. Give smiles and hugs. Show compassion when others hurt. Be patient, kind and gentle. Be helpful to those around you. Be a good student and enjoying learning. See the goodness in others first. Believe in yourself. Never ever give up!

Visit us online

Watch videos of these and more tender, inspiring stories at seeWinter.com

*Present this coupon at the ticket window to redeem for one free general admission with the purchase of a full price general admission of greater or equal value. Limit one coupon per party, maximum party size of 6 people. Cannot be combined with other offers, discounts or combo programming. Final interpretation is at the discretion of Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Offer expires 03/30/17 Offer Code GLBOGO1216

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a note from

Pinellas County Schools

Make Pinellas County Schools your choice in the New Year Now is the time to discover what Pinellas County Schools has to offer. We are proud to provide events, programs and opportunities to help students succeed to their fullest potential: Pinellas County Schools encourages parents to start their children’s education with a strong foundation. Beginning January 10, families of children entering kindergarten next year can register their children at elementary schools across the district. To kick off kindergarten registration, Kindergarten Roundup open houses will be held at Pinellas elementary schools January 10-12. Families who attend the Roundups can register for kindergarten, explore classrooms, meet teachers and learn how to get involved. Families can also learn about all the great programs available at Pinellas elementary schools, such as art, music, gifted programs, STEM academies, physical education and other enrichment programs. Visit pcsb.org/KG for Kindergarten Roundup locations and times. Pinellas County Schools offers a growing list of more than 70 choice programs. The district meets the needs of today’s students, focusing on their interests, talents and abilities. We are proud to provide a wide variety of high-quality academic programs designed to inspire students and provide them with the skills they need to be successful in college, career and life. The application period is January 4-13. Contact schools directly to schedule a tour. Learn more at pcsb.orb/choice. Pinellas County Schools is empowering more students to take ownership of their education through personalized learning. About two dozen Pinellas schools are implementing personalized learning or developing plans to start new personalized learning programs. Personalized learning tailors learning experiences to each student’s individual needs, skills and interests. The goal is to increase student engagement and better prepare students for success in college, careers and life. To further personalize learning, the district is working on plans to enable students to progress to higher levels of learning after they master concepts and skills, rather than after a specified timeframe. You can learn more at pcsb.org/pi.

Elementary and middle school students have more opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering and math. The district offers nearly 230 STEM Academies for second- through eighth-graders. In the before- and after-school academies, students participate in engineering design challenges, explore STEM careers and use technology to enhance their understanding of the world. Learn more about STEM offerings at pcsb.org/stem. Pinellas County Schools continues to educate families about opportunities to prepare for the SAT. How students perform on the SAT can impact their future. Thanks to a partnership between Khan Academy and the College Board, students can log onto Khan Academy at SATpractice.org for free, personalized practice for the SAT. Schools help students link their PSAT results to Khan Academy for practice that is tailored to their individual needs. The district has developed a webpage, pcsb.org/sat, that provides a variety of resources to ensure that students are prepared for the SAT. The school district has expanded career-focused offerings to prepare students for advanced academic work and successful careers. Career education builds the foundation for academic success. Students who participate in career education have better attendance, improved GPAs and higher graduation rates when compared to all students in district schools. Last school year, students in career academy and technical programs earned more than 10,000 industry certifications. Pinellas County Schools also provides challenging and relevant adult educational opportunities through Pinellas Technical College. Students can choose from more than 60 programs in 40 career areas. Learn more at pcsb.org/myptc. Family engagement has a positive and longstanding impact on student achievement and future success. Thank you for taking the time to learn about some of the many opportunities that Pinellas County Schools has to offer. On behalf of Pinellas County Schools, I want to wish everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday season and a happy, healthy new year.

Michael A. Grego, Ed.D. Superintendent, Pinellas County Schools

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a note from

Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County Investing in Children. Strengthening our Community.

Healthy Decisions for a Healthy Life! The Juvenile Welfare Board, and our partners, are committed to the health and wellness of all children. We want to encourage all parents to make health a priority, because parents who demonstrate healthy habits will teach their children to follow in their footsteps. In the United States, childhood obesity is on the rise with nearly one in three children overweight or obese. Children who are not at a healthy weight are at an increased risk for physical and socio-emotional problems. They are more likely than their peers to develop cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma and other health issues. It has also been linked to bullying and premature onset of puberty. Plus, the health threats posed by being overweight as a child can be long-lasting. Children and teens who are overweight are at risk of becoming overweight adults, where health risks continue to worsen. These are some proven actions that can kick-start your family into a more healthy lifestyle. Limit Screen Time Screen time is a major factor contributing to childhood obesity. It takes away from the time children spend being physically active, leads to increased snacking in front of the TV and other devices, and influences children with advertisements for unhealthy foods. Get Up and Move Physical activity gives children and teens more energy, stronger muscles, less stress and easier weight management. Aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Kids can get most of this from daily playtime, walking or biking to school or family activities. The rest can come from organized or recreational sports or other exercise.

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Make Natural Choices Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients that help children learn and grow, prevent disease and keep up energy levels. Studies show they’re important for a healthy body weight, too. Every day, offer children plenty of fruit and vegetable options. Win with Water Sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the diets of children and adolescents. Increasing consumption of these high caloric beverages that offer little or no nutrients is associated with increased rates of childhood obesity. Healthier choices are water and milk. Don’t Skip Breakfast Eating a healthy breakfast can improve memory, boost creativity, raise test scores and help keep a healthy weight among children and teens. Aim for healthy breakfasts that include fruits, proteins and dairy. Dine Together Eat meals together as a family – sitting down. Studies show that children and teens who eat regular meals with their parents are more likely to eat in a balanced way, do well in school and maintain a healthy weight. Sit down at the table, turn off the TV and dine together as a family. As parents and caregivers, we must pay attention to our daily habits and find ways to make improvements wherever possible. By making healthy choices a priority when our children are young, we make it easier for them to make healthier choices as adults.

Because all kids matter! Dr. Marcie A. Biddleman Executive Director Juvenile Welfare Board


ANSWERS PARENTS NEED:

The HPV Vaccine

by SAMANTHA STALEY

As a mother of a child who is about to turn nine and is already asking for what has become known as the “Cancer Vaccine,” I understand why parents want their questions answered before they race through the doors of their pediatricians’ offices or the health department to get their kids vaccinated. There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our kids. With a lot of conflicting information circulating on the internet, it is difficult to know how to make the right decision. I talk to moms and dads almost daily; some close friends, others acquaintances through my daughter’s school and others parents that I encounter through community outreaches. The questions are different, but the message is always the same: we want what’s best for our kids and, when it comes to making big decisions for our children, we want to be accurately informed so that we can feel confident about the choices we make. Knowing that Florida is among the highest in the country for HPV related cancers and that nearly 80 percent of our boys and girls will be exposed to HPV once they become sexually active (even if they only have one partner for life), I decided to take all of the questions I had heard from parents like you and present them to a physician I trust.

Dr. Ulyee Choe is the director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH-Pinellas) as well as an infectious disease specialist. As a parent and public-health professional, Dr. Choe answered my questions about the HPV vaccine:

It’s only girls that have to worry about HPV and cervical cancer, right? Why should I be worried about my son? Dr. Choe: HPV vaccine is recommended for both girls and boys. Because the virus can lead to nearly as many cases of cancer in males as in females, getting protected by the HPV vaccine is incredibly important for your son. HPV causes most cervical cancers. At the same time, HPV can cause cancers of the penis, anus, and oropharynx (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils). What are the chances that my daughter’s even going to get exposed to HPV? If she only has one partner and he uses a condom, wouldn’t she be protected anyway? Dr. Choe: There are about 14 million new cases of HPV per year and 79 million Americans are currently infected. Because HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom, condoms will not fully protect a person against contracting HPV. We have seen many instances when a person is diagnosed with cancer from exposure to HPV and yet had only one partner their entire life.

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My child is not even close to becoming sexually active. Why would I give him the vaccine now? Dr. Choe: The HPV vaccine does not treat existing infection. Since most people who are sexually active will be infected by HPV, it works best to vaccinate young girls and boys before they become sexually active. This enables them to develop protection against the HPV types prevented by the vaccines. My pediatrician didn’t strongly recommend the HPV vaccine when I took my son in for his Tdap. He said it wasn’t required for school and it’s totally up to me. If it’s not required, why should I bother? Dr. Choe: While vaccine requirements vary from state to state, the CDC’s vaccination schedule is uniform for the entire nation. School requirements are a useful public health tool, but they shouldn’t be the only thing that influences a child’s vaccination schedule. If children get only the immunizations that are required for school, they will miss out on important vaccines that could have an impact on their health for years.


My daughter’s pediatrician doesn’t even stock the vaccine. So that must mean it’s not important, right? Dr. Choe: If your pediatrician does not stock the HPV vaccine or did not strongly recommend it to you that does not mean it isn’t important. It is your right to request this vaccine and protect your child in the best way possible. Children can come to DOH-Pinellas for childhood vaccines at no cost with no appointments necessary. DOH’s Vaccine for Kids program includes the HPV vaccine. Is the vaccine really a three-dose series over six months? That sounds like a lot for parents to manage. Dr. Choe: If the HPV vaccine is started when the child is younger than 15 years of age, it is a two-dose series. If the vaccine is started after the child turns 15, it is a three-dose series. This is another reason to vaccinate your kids early—at age 11 or 12. If your child is older than 15, he or she should still get the vaccine, even though a third dose would be required. The lifesaving potential of this vaccine cannot be overstated. Is the HPV vaccine safe? Dr. Choe: The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. It’s been on the market for 10 years, with the first vaccine licensed in 2006. It underwent rigorous studies for many years prior to that. The trials that led to the approval of the HPV vaccine found it to be 97 percent effective. When researching information on the internet, be sure that the information is always from a credible source. After hearing the answers to these questions I had gathered from local parents, I felt satisfied and assured. Sometimes it takes the straight facts from someone who truly knows and understands the science behind a vaccine and why it is important for our kids. As for my daughter, I would never let her rollerblade without first putting on a helmet and knee pads. What sense would it make to hand her that protection after she’s had her first, inevitable crash? Therefore, I’m not going to wait until after possible exposure to HPV. I am going to get her vaccinated now, well before she becomes sexually active, to make sure she’s protected. Why? Because I’m a parent and my kid’s safety is my number one priority! Samantha Staley graduated from Berkeley with a degree in film studies. A er working in TV and film for 15 years on the West Coast, Ms. Staley moved to Florida to raise her eight-year-old daughter and work in public health. She currently serves as the Community Outreach Champion for DOH-Pinellas and is a board-cer fied lacta on consultant.

KIDS

Distributed by:

CS266063-D

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City of Largo

SAMPLES OF UPCOMING PARKS AND RECREATION ACTIVITIES There are Hundreds more throughout the County

St. Petersburg

ENTER

the Fun Zone Make yourself a promise in 2017 to sign up for at least one new class or activity at your city’s recreation center.

Pinellas County is home to some incredible recreation programs, but at GoodLiving®, we like to call them FUN ZONES! If you think about it, each recreation center really is the hub of fun for the city. Where else can you learn things from archery to Zumba®, and just about everything in between? They have programs for all ages, and are one of the only places where the many generations in our community can all come together. There are sports leagues, swim lessons and babysitting classes, after-school programs, weekend events and camps. Each city puts together their catalog of FUN, both online and in print. Dunedin, Largo, St. Petersburg and Clearwater have some pretty impressive catalogs, too. And the great thing is that those catalogs are for you and your family! Do some shopping and find some fun for your family this year. Annual family memberships and classes are affordable; they are in your neighborhood; and they are run by some of the most fun people you will meet. Who wouldn’t love that job? Like cruise directors for your city -- let them direct you to something fun. To find out about your city’s recreation programs, first find your city’s official website online. That will have a link to the Parks and Recreation Department. Some cities have what’s called a reciprocal agreement where if you join your city’s recreation department, you can do activities at the other’s. For example, Dunedin, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor have such an agreement so their residents can mix and match to find just what they need.

Join the Healthy Kids Club to receive regular updates about events and programs at the various Parks Recreation Centers around the county.

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During Winter Break from school, the city of St. Petersburg recreation centers offer two weeks of fun Monday, December 19 through Friday, December 30, 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily for grades K-8. Students, join us for full day camp with games, sports, arts & crafts, special events and field trips. Snacks are included, bring a lunch. $72 per week. Fee assistance available for qualified city residents. To register and find a location near you, visit our website at stpeteparksrec.org/camps or call (727) 893-7441. Space is limited.

Largo New Year, New You at the Highland Recreation Complex-Start achieving your fitness goals January 4 at 6:30 p.m. with the New Year, New You 30-Day Fitness Challenge. Features weekly weigh-ins, body fat measurements and a weekly newsletter. $20 for members/$40 for nonmembers. HighlandRecreation.com Community Wide Garage Sale at Southwest Recreation Complex-- The annual indoor community wide garage sale is Saturday, January 21 from 8 a.m.-noon. Shop from over 65 tables. Free to attend. SouthwestRecCenter.com Crop Til You Drop at Largo Community Center-A weekend full of scrap booking from Friday afternoon, February 10 - Sunday afternoon, February 12 with breaks for sleeping. Registration fee comes with or without meals, for one, two or three of the days. LargoCommunityCenter.com 4th Annual Adult Prom - Salute to the Oscars-- Pose for the paparazzi as you walk the red carpet at this special Oscar VIP pre-party on Saturday, February 25th. Enjoy a semiformal evening with live music, dancing, desserts, photos and the crowning of a King and Queen. Tickets on sale January 4. Adults only. LargoCommunityCenter.com

Safety Harbor Best Damn Race-- Lace up your shoes for a 5K, 10K or half marathon through the streets of Safety Harbor on Saturday February 4th at 8 a.m. For info call (727) 463-0642 or email info@bestdamnrace.com. Ages 12+, prices vary. Daddy Daughter Date Night-- On February 11th, dads and daughters will enjoy dancing, games and fun contests while making memories to last a lifetime. Light appetizers/desserts will be served. Pre-registration is required. Space is limited. Ages 4-12, $30/couple at the Community Center. San Gennaro Festa-- The Italian American Women of Today (L.I.A.D.O.) brings this festival to the Safety Harbor Marina on February 18-19. Come out and enjoy Italian entertainment, food, arts & crafts and even Italian cars. sangennarofesta.com Junk In The Trunk-- It’s a new twist on the old garage sale! Load up your trunk and sell your stuff from the back of your car on March 4th. Just drive up and sell. Limited space available. Pre-registration required.


CHC


TEN

Ways You Can Protect Your Child’s Health by TERI RINGHAM Whether you are the parent of a newborn or an adolescent, we all remember the feeling of warmth and love that envelops us as we hold our babies for the first time. Nothing looks or smells as pure as our newborn child. We snuggle, nuzzle and adore them. As we hold them in our arms for the first time, we are in awe yet completely overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for this tiny being. At that moment, we know we will do anything to protect them but we are given no “instruction manual” for this job. We buy the best car seat we can find. We hold their hand as they cross the street. We warn them to beware of strangers. WE are their protector. And yet…most times, unknowingly, we feed them foods and use chemicals on their bodies that set them up for a lifetime of potential health issues. All parents intend to be cautious and do their best to avoid any food or product with potential damage to their child’s health. Unfortunately, we are surrounded by a world of chemicals, altered foods and companies that produce these foods with masterful marketing departments to convince us their food is healthy when, in fact, they are not only unhealthy, they are downright damaging. As our child’s parent and protector, it’s up to us to navigate the course, educate ourselves, bring healthy foods and products into the home and, as they grow, educate our children by our example and our instruction. Setting the foundation of a healthy lifestyle when they are young plays a big part in their future health. It’s worth the extra time at the grocery store. It’s worth spending extra for chemical free food. It’s worth the time on the internet and reading books to research what is and is not good for your child. Because, let’s face it…prevention is a whole lot better than “fixing” the damage unknowingly caused by the products in our world today. We can’t go back and change the mistakes we make in bringing up our children. If we could, I’d be one of the first in line. While it’s true I can’t go back, I can share what I have researched and used with great success. It’s information you will rarely be given (but you should) at the doctor’s office. Yet, I’ve used it with great results in many of my health client’s children.

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1

Reduce Sugar Intake

Many rewards for kids today involves sugar. Cookies, cupcakes, soda, juices, sports drinks, ice cream, processed foods and even many baby formulas are just some of the many sources of sugar in the average American child’s diet. As PreventDisease.com states, “The average child today by the age of eight has had more sugar than the average person did in their entire lifetime just one century ago.” This is a sobering thought for our children. If your child suffers from any chronic illness or infections, colds, flu and sinus, ear or bronchial infections (to name a few illnesses), sugar should be on your immediate “hit list.” High sugar intake creates increased insulin resistance from elevated sugar levels in the blood, which then contributes to chronic inflammation in your child’s body. Inflammation is the hallmark of most health conditions and disease. Why? Sugar weakens the body. It disrupts insulin, our master hormone, thus wreaking havoc on all hormone levels. A weakened, disrupted body is susceptible to illness, hormone imbalance and disease. Reduce sugar as a reward system and replace it with nutritious whole foods as one of the first steps to protecting your child’s health.

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Maintain/Rebuild Gut Bacteria

If your doctor or pharmacist told you they had a pill that would support up to 80% of your child’s immunity, wouldn’t we all be fighting to be first in line at the pharmacy to get it? Actually, we DO have it. The wonderful thing is that it’s not a prescription and it’s readily available to all of us. It’s known as probiotic capsules and fermented foods. Probiotic capsules “feed” good bacteria/microbiomes in our body to help balance the bad. While most high quality probiotics contain billions of good bacteria, organic, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, olives, kefir, yogurt (not the flavored commercial stuff ), contain trillions of the bacteria/microbiome your childs digestive system needs for valuable immune support. If I were to have a choice for only ONE supplement and food source in my child’s life, a high quality probiotic and fermented foods would be my choice.

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Provide Healthy Produce

Being vigilant on your child’s food intake is vital in today’s world due to the chemicals allowed and the processing of our foods. Eat organic fruits and vegetables. Conventional produce is sprayed with pesticides that cause damage to the digestive system, kidneys and endocrine system to name a few areas of your child’s body that can (and will) be affected from chemicals in food. While rinsing or soaking is the minimum needed for all conventional produce, this can’t remove the chemicals absorbed into the produce. Check out Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List for the worst offenders for produce high in chemical contamination.


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Avoid Processed Foods

Reduce Personal Care Chemicals

Just because a food is on a store shelf does not mean it’s safe. A good thought to bear in mind is if it’s in a box or bag, it’s likely a chemical storm. There is no regulation on the use of the word “natural” on packaging. Food company marketing departments are masters at using colorful graphics and loosely throwing out the word “natural” to convince us their product is safe and to divert our attention away from reading the list of chemicals in the ingredients.

Avoid GMOs

GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) have been shown to contribute to chronic, long term health conditions and are banned or labeled in over 60 countries, yet they are still allowed in the United States. Even worse, is they are not even required to be labeled. Buying organic would be the best bet to avoid GMO’s but, if organic foods aren’t available in your area, at least avoid foods or processed foods with corn, soy (found in some infant formulas), sugar beets, corn starch and corn syrup.

Avoid Commercial Dairy and Meat

Dairy is a mucus forming substance in the body, so for those who struggle with sinus, ear, throat or respiratory conditions, dairy, especially milk, is best avoided. We think we must have dairy for the calcium, but many leafy greens provide as much or far more calcium than dairy. Just as important is the need to avoid the hormones in conventional dairy. Although the carton/jug/package may be labeled “no synthetic hormones added,” six naturally occurring hormones can be used on the animal. These include “natural” hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, etc., that are given to the animal and, ultimately, end up in the milk (including all milk products) and meat.

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One of the largest factors affecting our children’s health today is their personal care products. A sad fact is that the United States bans only 11 (!) chemicals in personal care products. In contrast, the European Union bans 1,328 chemicals. These same chemicals banned in Europe but allowed in the U.S. have permeated our children’s lives at every turn. They contribute to childhood (and eventually adult) diseases such as cancer. They cause xenoestrogens-estrogen mimickers to enter the body that are far more powerful than our natural, weak estrogen. Scented (chemical laden) fabric softener, shampoo, conditioners, body wash and hand soap are just a few of the personal care products used on many American children daily. Making your own personal care products with safe ingredients (including essential oils) for your child can be an easy, safe way to reduce the chemical burden on their young body.

Provide Healthy Supplements

While we don’t want to overwhelm young bodies with a slew of supplements, it is good to provide whole food vitamins (not the synthetic vitamins at the big box store) and a high quality fish or krill oil that contribute to not only proper brain development but support every one of the 12 body systems. We are blessed with one precious God-given body to protect. Our child needs and depends on us to avoid the pitfalls of this world. Questioning what is accepted as “normal,” researching and being aware of the food, products and environment that surrounds them is a big step towards protecting them. It may not be easy... but it’s well worth the effort!

Avoid Diet “Anything”

There is NO safe synthetic sweetener. The one exception to the rule of avoiding diet is IF the diet product has organic, unaltered Stevia. This would be rare since almost all diet products are altered synthetically. Truvia claims it is a Stevia product, but it has been processed and is far from natural and safe. Aspartame is a dangerous sweetener that contributes to a slew of health and hormone issues.

Avoid Bottled Water

Plastic water bottles are just one example of how plastics have permeated our environment and our child’s body. Many parents try to make healthier decisions by buying bottled water instead of drinking tap water. However, plastic bottles are a pipeline for chemicals in your child’s drinking water. Heating food in plastic in the microwave or putting hot food into a plastic container are just a few more of the many ways to introduce hormone and health altering chemicals into our child’s body. The more you can use water filters in place of plastic bottles and glass containers in your child’s environment, the better it will be for their health.

Teri Ringham is an author, speaker, wellness coach and mother. By reducing the chemical influence in their lives, she reduced her child’s synthe c medica ons from 12 to zero. She has also helped a mul tude of others with her solid, research supported advice. Her passion to help others achieve wellness naturally is reflected in her presenta ons and her 5-star-rated book, Essen al Gut and Hormone Wellness-Finding Balance Naturally (available at Amazon.com). For speaking engagements or wellness consulta ons, contact Teri at teriringham@gmail.com. Find more wellness ps on Facebook - Teris Wellness Tips or visit her website at teriswellness ps.com

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EDITORIAL by PAMELA SETTLE

DOES ANYONE CARE?

For those fighting on behalf of children, including your children, it often seems like other parents aren’t interested in joining in the conversation, let alone the fight. Yet important issues that affect their abilities to have success in school and in life are on the line every day. The elections are just the most contentious, public part of the process. The work of actually introducing, changing, improving or eliminating laws and policies is now underway. Laws for the 2017 legislative session for Florida are already being written. Lobbyists are already working behind the scenes and deals are already being made. And the gutsy, under-funded, under-supported advocates are gathering their slingshots and rocks to go in and fight for our children. It truly is a David versus Goliath battle in modern day Tallahassee when it comes to improving life for Florida’s children. It’s important to not only care about policy that affects children and families, it’s critically important to tell your representatives that you do care about what is happening, especially when it comes to education. Becoming informed is step one and I’ll give you a way to keep informed at the end of this column. I’ve been of a part of The Children’s Movement of Florida since it began. This is a non-partisan organization with the sole purpose of improving child-related policies in Florida, with a focus on the improvement of early childhood education, VPK funding, resources for special needs families and healthcare for children. Their experienced staff members work tirelessly to educate legislators on how certain bills can positively or negatively affect children. They need for parents to know what is being discussed and when to contact your state representatives in support of their initiatives. GoodLiving® has also been an ongoing supporter of our local Pinellas County Council for PTA, which is run solely by volunteer parents from our county schools. Yes, they are known for the fundraisers at your schools, but they are also involved with policy issues. Volunteers are trained on how to motivate and educate other parents at their schools, and not because they need

something to do, but because our children need a large group of voices speaking on behalf of students. Each school’s PTA needs you to join so you can at least receive the monthly e-newsletter from the county council and stay informed. Informal grassroots efforts have formed as small groups of concerned parents have come together over key issues. Across the state, parents (and teachers) concerned about state mandated, high-stakes testing are coming together to speak out about this to the media, other parents and to lawmakers. Other parents have joined forces to fight for mandatory outdoor recess for elementary students. These two issues are related in that school leaders cite the need to prepare for testing as a main reason that recess time was eliminated. Other state mandated requirements for classrooms have cut into time for recess, and in some cases art and music. All of these issues -- early childhood education, voluntary Pre-K and public education -- are mostly controlled at the state level in terms of policy, mandates and funding. This is why you need to know your state representative and your state senator because they are your connection to Tallahassee. YOU elect them. You can also un-elect them. It’s your job to make sure they know how you, as a voter and a parent, feel about these issues. When parents come together the voices are louder. The advocates need you to join in the in fight. Have you seen this famous Margaret Mead quote before? “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I personally believe this to be true and it’s why I do what I do.

So let me make the task of staying informed easier for you. Sign up for our emailed newsletter by joining the Healthy Kids Club. Advocacy notices from several different groups will be included and you’ll be alerted when to act. Our blog posts will contain links to the lawmakers along with sample email text about the issue to save you time.

Sign up at GoodLivingMagazine.com 30


Fighting For Healthy Kids Schools Recognized for Healthy Habits by CHRISTIE BRUNER On behalf of the Pinellas Parents for Healthy Schools group, Stephanie Cox and I attended the 2016 Pinellas County Healthy Schools Celebration in November. Seven county schools were honored by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for attaining either Bronze, Silver or Gold status. These schools have worked toward healthy habits on campus, including changes in their recess participation, food choices, before and after school activities and more.  We learned about inspiring programs that are happening in our local schools: school gardens, run clubs, fun recess activities, healthy fundraisers, smoothie challenges and more. A common theme from each school was the establishment of a culture of wellness at their schools. Their administrators truly understand the importance of establishing healthy habits and modeling those habits throughout the school day. We are very proud of the schools who achieved an Alliance award this past year, and are looking forward to adding even more schools in Pinellas County next year.   You can be the spark that gets your school going too! Talk to your principal and ask about your Healthy School Team. This should be compromised of your principal, PE coach, cafe manager and another teacher. Parents should be welcome on this team as well. The Healthy School Team will be able to set goals for the school, and then fill out the Alliance check list in order to earn Bronze, Silver or Gold status next year.  Also, please find our Pinellas Parents for Healthy Schools group on Facebook to ask questions and share your experiences. Members share ways for parents to help wellness initiatives at the local and state level. Thank you for helping Pinellas County Schools to be a healthy learning environment for our children!

Congratulations to the Winners for 2015-2016 Belcher Elementary School

Gold

Curtis Fundamental Elementary School Gold Tarpon Springs Elementary School

Silver

Clearwater Fundamental School

Bronze

Lynch Elementary

Bronze

Pinellas Secondary School

Bronze

Pinellas Park Middle School

Let’s Move Active Schools Award

KIDS

A State Law for Recess In the coming months, the Pinellas Recess Moms will join with other advocates from across Florida to once again fight for the mandatory recess bill. We came very close last year and hope to have success this year. The Recess Bill has been filed in both the Senate and House for the 2017 Legislative Session. We are in the process of asking state legislators to co-sponsor the bill, which is a commitment to vote YES. We definitely need all concerned parents and citizens to call or email their local state representative and senator and tell them as a voter you urge them to support the Recess Bill! Christie Bruner takes the issue of recess to the news media asking parents for support. Soon, she and other Recess Moms will be driving to Tallahassee to talk with legislators about this important bill.

PTA Advocates for Children Jessica Summers is always on the go working on behalf of children in Pinellas County. This busy mom, with kids at Seminole High and Morgan Fitzgerald, devotes countless hours to her volunteer work as a leader in PTA. And she’s been at since her daughter was in kindergarten! Jessica says there are many things that families don’t realize about PTA. “Most people see PTA as helping with events at school or doing fundraisers... but first and foremost PTA is a child advocacy association.” She adds that PTA as an organization has been the force behind the fight for school lunches, Kindergarten, Pre-K, seat belt in cars, child safety seats and more. “We continue to fight for adequate funding for education, daily recess, mental health funding, gun safety and so much more at the state and national level. Being a part of PTA helps to keep you informed and part of the process.” The members of PTA have a common goal of helping children succeed. Her own involvement has given her valuable experience in leadership and she hopes that all parents will get involved in their school’s PTA at one level or another. “I have grown as a person and feel that I have become a better mother, friend, and a better person.” Jessica Summers, President of the Pinellas County Council PTA/PTSA represents the county council at the ALL Children Are OUR Children State Summit

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This year, when the ball drops on NYE, consider a different kind of resolution that’s way more gentle on you and is much more likely to be successful than, “That’s it! We’re all vegan starting tomorrow!” when you’re a meat and potatoes kind of family. I’d like to offer four simple (yet not necessarily easy) ideas to take into your new year to help you all be more connected no matter how real and human you all are. ONE When you meet at the intersections of parenting and it is going well, acknowledge it by just saying, “Wow- this feels so good just to be together.”

Parenting at the Intersection of the New Year Rebecca Thompson

by REBECCA THOMPSON HITT, MS, MFT Sometimes parenting comes together with grace and in ways that feel good to everyone. Like when your kid gets a part in the Nutcracker and he really pulls it together to learn the part. Or when her room is actually clean for a few minutes before it is destroyed again and you’re back to fearing for your toes because… Legos. And you didn’t yell once even though the dog peed on the floor (again) because your toddler was yanking her all over the house after you didn’t sleep the night before. Because this is parenting. Parenting is when an imperfect big person and an imperfect little person meet up and do life together. Sometimes it is beautiful, like when you’re feeding your baby and she gazes up into your eyes and you melt.

TWO When you meet at the intersections of parenting and it doesn’t feel good, acknowledge that too, but without blaming the other imperfect people. Try this: “Whoa! We’re ALL having a very hard time. Let’s all stop right now before this gets worse.” This puts everyone on the SAME team. We’re ALL having a hard time, not “you’ve ruined our day,” even if that’s what you’re feeling. THREE When things go really badly, there needs to be repair. Just like we would need to fix the damage after a car crash, it’s important for us and our kids to talk about what happened later and to repair the relationship. Phrases like, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings” or “I didn’t mean to yell at you. You don’t deserve for anyone to yell at you” go a long way toward reconnecting. And practice do-overs. “Let me try that again without the yelling.” Remember, you’re modeling for your imperfect little people who will someday be imperfect big people. FOUR Reconnecting after a disconnection is just as important, if not more important, than doing it right in the first place. We connect deeply in those emotional spaces when we’re vulnerable. This becomes emotional glue and helps our kids to know they can reconnect, too, even when they’ve done something that may have hurt your feelings. All is not lost.

Sometimes it is literally messy like when there’s more tub water on the floor than in the bath. Or when neither of you are having a good day because you’re unintentionally competing to see who will have the biggest melt down. At the grocery store.

Intersections are a part of life. We meet up there. Sometimes it is smooth and lovely like a storybook and sometimes it is more like a nightmare. Be gentle with yourself as you head into 2017. Embrace your humanness. Remember that we’re all imperfect and that’s ok. What you all need most is to feel connected and reconnected.

#reallifeparenting

Enjoy the journey!

Your family connects (or not) in the intersection. Sometimes there is order and everyone just moves through these junctures peacefully. And sometimes there’s yelling and crying and hurt feelings. As the New Year approaches, we often think of resolutions and promises to ourselves about how we’re going to be in the New Year. We often think way too much of our abilities to change and grow in between December 31 and January 1. And then we’re disappointed in ourselves, forgetting that we’re an imperfect big person living life with at least one other imperfect little person.

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Rebecca Thompson Hi , MS, MFT, is a holis c family counselor and the founder and execu ve director of The Consciously Paren ng Project, Inc. She has two boys, 12 and 17, and two grown step-children. She’s passionate about helping create, nurture and repair healthy families using current neuroscience and a achment research.


Make a New Year’s Promise How long into each New Year does your New Year’s Resolution last? For me, it is usually about four or five days. Even with the best intentions, my ability to be resolute is easily compromised. Please tell me that I am not the only one. I know I am not the only one. Making sweeping changes to your life is super hard and takes Herculean effort and will power. So, let’s change the conditions of the test. The word “Resolution” sounds so hard anyway. This edition of GoodLiving® Magazine is absolutely right. Let’s collectively make a New Year’s PROMISE to be kinder and more giving, healthier and more full of love. We can’t handle it alone. As hard as we try, we will fail if left to our own devices. I want 2017 to be different. I believe we can break the cycle of broken resolutions and make bold, amazing steps toward real achievement. No longer do we have to just want things to be better, it is time to stand up and shout loud and proud, that things are going to get better right now! I’ll take it one step further. We need to rely on THE Higher Power. If you are counting on me, I will let you down every time. I am fallible and I make mistakes on a regular basis. Only God comes through every time. So, maybe it is time to plug in and find a good church home.

TUNE your radio station to the Pete O’Shea Show and

TURN your car, your office, your home or your headphones into places of positivity during your day! Pete’s friendly and upbeat style will bless your time as he discusses important current events and interviews inspiring people from the Tampa Bay area.

Give your loved ones the gift that keeps on giving. Find a church family for your family. There are so many amazing ones around here. Again, we are not meant to do this alone. Fellowship is an essential element to making life work right. There are built in accountability partners and an endless supply of what I like to call, “Life Cheerleaders.” Ok, I can hear you all asking me, how do I get started? Here is my advice, go church hopping. Do a Google search and make a list of the churches in your neighborhood. Then, over a two month period, go visit eight different churches for their Sunday services. After each service, make sure you meet the pastor and as many people as you can. Observe every detail, right down to the music, décor and ambience. Don’t get scientific on me; just concentrate on how the experience feels. After each week, take notes and discuss it around the dinner table with your family. Make up a Pros and Cons list for each church and consider which church offers the kind of services your family needs, such as support groups and children’s and teen’s programs. After that two month trial period, you will know which church is the perfect fit for you and your family. Then, my next suggestion is for each member of your family to dive in and get involved. Join a group, sign up for a ministry within that church or better yet, start a new one. That is a great way to make new friends. After all of this has been done, now see how much easier it is to keep your New Year’s Promise. The best plan I can give you for making 2017 fantastic is to read the Bible daily, pray often and plug into a good church. God will take care of the rest!

Listen to his show 3 - 6 p.m. on AM 1110 33


HUNTING and GATHERING for the Modern Mom by PAMELA SETTLE Obtaining food to prepare for our families has come a long way from the days of gathering berries and hunting game animals with the tribe. And what’s funny is that after a few generations of food-like prepared products and a deadly fast-food habit, families are turning back to nature for real nutrition. Since we live in the densest populated county in Florida, with more concrete than dirt, we are in a position to look elsewhere for our closer-to-the-grower food items. The good news is that the market is changing and we are no longer at the mercy of one or two large grocery chains. We have more options than ever for shopping, including new services that help you plan your meals or ship them right to your door. The bad news is that we are back to hunting and gathering -- hunting the online ads for the best prices and gathering our favorite items from different stores or online services. In the end, though, it means healthier home-cooked food for our families with a variety of food items to expand our menus.

Check out Steve’s Produce on Alt. 19 in Palm Harbor, Joe’s Farm Fresh Produce Market on Tampa Road in Oldsmar, Farah Food Market on 54th in St. Petersburg, or City Produce on 4th Avenue in St. Petersburg. For fresh seafood, shop at Ward’s Seafood Market on Belleair Road and MLK. For the truly adventurous, MD Oriental Market on 49th Street North in Pinellas Park offers many options for trying new ingredients, including produce you won’t find anywhere else. For Italian meats, cheeses and fresh pastas, you just can’t beat Mazzaro’s Italian Market off 22nd Avenue North. Their hours are limited and parking is always a challenge, but so well worth it.

Menu Planning Assistance

For moms who are too busy to stop and plan, or for those who just need a little organizational guidance, try a menu planning service like Super Healthy Kids. For a small annual fee, this company will take your preferences and dietary needs and send you a weekly list of recipes and a corresponding shopping list. We already know that meal planning and shopping ahead is a great way to save money and eat healthier. If the ingredients and recipes are at home, the temptation to stop for fast food is less tempting. This will make a great gift for the busy mom on your shopping list or the new mom who is feeding baby and the older kids. We have partnered with this company, so check them out at SuperHealthyKids.com/goodliving

Fresh Food Ingredients in a Box

Food delivery services have taken the menu planning service to the next level. These companies ship you the ingredients for several meals during a week along with instructions for preparing the meal. These are not to be compared with Schwann’s where you get a frozen meal to heat in the oven. With these new era companies, you are getting protein and produce to make a restaurant quality meal in your own home. This really cuts down on your gathering time, as you don’t need the stores for your dinner meals. The prices are going to vary depending on how meals a week you order and whether it’s for two or four people. This can be a tremendous solution for working moms, moms with a new baby at home, or even the empty nester couple.

Markets

Pinellas County has a few opportunities to buy from growers through farmer’s markets. The most known market is the Saturday Morning Market in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday mornings. It is a place to purchase locally-grown and organic produce, but it is also a gathering place with food vendors, musical entertainment and other local businesses. Nearby the Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market is a local favorite, too. Further north, the Dunedin Downtown Market offers a smaller, but just as quaint, market on Friday and Saturday mornings from 9 a.m to 2 p.m. Sweetwater Organic Farm in Tampa is just a short drive away on Sundays to purchase produce as well as goat milk products and fresh eggs from The Dancing Goat.

Companies offering this service are Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Peach Dish, Martha Stewart and Plated.

Prepared Meals to Your Door

So this is about as close to a personal chef as you can get without actually having one. Fresh Meal Plan takes care of planning, shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning so you don’t have to. For busy moms, this could be a real life saver especially if you are vegetarian or Paleo. Whatever your wellness goals are, this meal delivery service makes it easier for you to maintain your nutrition plan on a busy schedule. Fresh Meal Plan is a fully customizable, freshly prepared meal delivery service. You are able to choose which meals would you like with the opportunity to view the ingredients and macros, and the prepared meals arrive at your doorstep twice a week in a cooler bag. This service is available on a week-to-week basis, so you If you can’t get to the markets, don’t be afraid to stop at the corner can check out the service and selection of meals. Traditional, Paleo and produce stores for good deals on fresh produce or specialty foods. vegetarian menus are offered, and many locally-sourced, GMO-free and organic ingredients are utilized. Receive $10 off the first week by contacting christie@freshmealplan.com. Check out a sample menu and get all of your questions answered at freshmealplan.com.

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Affordable and Healthy Food Options by PAMELA SETTLE

ABOUT THE PHOTO ALDI teams up with top growers throughout the US, including local farmers, to offer a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, including organics.

While the more upscale specialty markets like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have come to our area, another choice has popped up that offers much lower prices and a surprisingly impressive assortment of healthy foods and organic produce. That choice is ALDI. And so yes, while you must bring or buy your own bags and use a quarter to rent your cart, the reward is in a noticeably lower grocery bill. For those who price compare and shop the BOGO sales and coupon deals, ALDI will be a welcome addition to your affordable food gathering activities. I have to admit, it took me a while to give it a try because most of their food items are private labels and I knew I would have to buy it to try it and compare. As a picky shopper, I have tried and slowly converted to choosing many of their products over my favorite name brands. I now purchase most dairy, all my crackers and chips, bread, dried fruits, whole chickens and a good amount of produce at prices that make it worth the extra stop. There are products like their crackers that taste identical to the name brand, but for a whole lot less money. They will also have seasonal and specialty food items that have been winners, too. If you know anyone who says they cannot afford to purchase healthy food, then send them to ALDI. A couple of whole chickens, bags of rice and beans, some produce and bread will go a long way in a week for someone on a fixed income willing to cook. If not, they have healthy canned goods, too. Aside from my personal recommendation for taste and price, I wanted the company to talk more about the variety of products moms can choose from, including grass-fed meat, organic produce and organic dairy. Their LiveGFree brand has gluten-free options for baked goods, crackers, pastas and more. The SimplyNature products are free from 125 artificial ingredients. And their Fit & Active brand is low calorie. We asked ALDI’s corporate office to tell our readers why they should try their products and here are the answers: Q: Tell us about your decision to offer cleaner foods. A: We recently made the big move to get rid of added MSG, certified synthetic colors and partially hydrogenated oils from all of our exclusive food brands. Since the majority of our products are our private label exclusive brands, 90 percent of products at an ALDI store will be free of these ingredients. All products were fully reformulated in 2015.

KIDS

We also carry certified non-GMO foods, including many products in the SimplyNature line. Shoppers who prefer foods that avoid GMO ingredients should look for ALDI products with easy-to-spot organic or Non-GMO Project seals on their packaging. Q: What is special about your dairy and meat products? A: ALDI is bringing customers food they can trust. All ALDI milk, and the milk used to make cultured dairy products (think sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt) is free of rBST*, an artificial growth hormone. While ALDI milk – like many national name brands – has been rBST-free since 2009, it led the industry by introducing a complete line of rBST-free products, including yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese. No national brand has completed this. In addition to our SimplyNature line of organic meats, ALDI offers USDA Choice beef and Never Any! meats, which are made from animals that were raised without the use of antibiotics, added hormones or animal by-products. Q: Is there a difference in your dry good groceries? A: ALDI got rid of added MSG, certified synthetic colors and partially hydrogenated oils from all of its exclusive food brands, including dry packaged goods. Our SimplyNature line, which includes many organic choices, features foods free from 125 artificial ingredients. SimplyNature products range from cereal, honey, fruit bars and apple juice to pasta sauce, pizza, salsa and various snacks. Q: Anything else our readers should know? A: At ALDI, we make healthy living simple by offering fresh, quality food that makes customers feel good at the low prices we’re known for. Also, ALDI likes to be an ally in healthy living for its customers, so we decided to cut checkout lane temptation by introducing Healthier Checklanes this year. ALDI will be replacing the usual impulse treats like candy and chocolate with single-serve nuts and trail mixes, dried fruits and granola bars. Additionally, ALDI is proud to work with a team of dietitians who specialize in family nutrition, sports performance and promoting a positive body image. This team, also known as the ALDI Advisory Council of Registered Dietitians, select their ‘Dietitian’s Picks’ to help our 32 million monthly shoppers easily find smart choices and kick-start healthy eating habits at home. For a complete list of ‘Dietitian’s Picks,’ as well as deliciously healthy recipes and nutrition tips, visit aldi.us/en/grocery-home/healthy-living/eat-better-every-day/ *The FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk from rBST treated and non-treated cows.

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Kid’s Cooking Classes

Teach Essentials Skills and Nutrition by KADI HENDRICKS TUBBS My youngest daughter, Graci, who is 10 years old couldn’t wait for me to take her to the Kohl’s Cooks for Kids classes. Ever since her older sister, Randi, who is now 12 years old attended the class two years ago, Graci has begged me to take her. Graci sees her sister taking over the kitchen these days cooking fabulous meals for our family and wanted to learn the basics of cooking like Randi did when she went to the cooking classes. Kohl’s Cooks for Kids is a free children’s nutrition and cooking course sponsored by Fit4AllKids at All Children’s Hospital for kids ages eight and up. It is one night a week for five weeks. The classes fill up pretty fast, so you have to register in advance. Parents attend with their child, so you learn together lessons about healthy eating. Parents are mainly there to help and supervise, but the kids do all the work and cook the food. They also wash the dishes!

Each week, one of the kids at each table is picked to be the chef for the night. Being the chef is something all the kids love. The chef is in charge of cooking the meal. Graci was chef for two of the week’s meals– the Asian lettuce wraps and white chili. Both recipes were easy and prepared in less than 30 minutes.

Grace Polson and Graci Tubbs washing dishes

The classes usually have about 18 people, including the children and their parents. Graci had the same instructor Randi had from two years ago, Terry Edwards or as the kids call her “Miss Terry.” You can tell she loves teaching kids about cooking as her enthusiasm is seen each week talking to kids about nutrition and healthy eating. She also had two wonderful assistants who helped out with Graci’s classes, Amanda Babonas and McKenna Lalomia. Each week the children learned about the five food groups and why we need to eat from each one. As a parent, getting my kids to eat healthy foods can sometimes be hard, but during these classes something magical happened. They are now eating foods they would never even try before. The one rule Ms. Terry had is the kids have to try at least one bite of the food they make. If they don’t want any more that’s ok, as long as they tried it. What’s funny is some of the kids said “Really...do I have to try it?” and by the end of the night they were asking for more food.

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Randi Tubbs cooks regularly for the family after attending Kohl’s Cooks for Kids cooking classes 2 years ago.


The kids had to chop, cut and dice everything including the peppers and onions. The parents made sure they didn’t slice any fingers. The kids also measured all the ingredients using the measuring spoons and cups. Once everything was ready, the kids put it in the pan for Graci to cook. Once it was finished, everyone tried it. The kids couldn’t get enough of it. They loved it. Each week, the kids took home the recipe for the meal they made and for homework the kids had to make it for their family and share it with a friend. During the course of the five weeks, the kids were given cooking utensils to help in the kitchen. They received an apron, measuring spoons, apple corer slicer, potato peeler, pizza cutter and a cook book. I highly recommend these classes. Not only did we learn about nutrition and cooking, but I was able to spend quality time with each of my daughters and we met new friends. Now we have quick, simple and healthy meals my daughters and I can make together at home. I also saw how my oldest daughter’s cooking has taken off since this class two years ago. I call her “Chef Randi” because she is in the kitchen cooking all the time. I can see Graci will be the next chef in the family, now that she’s learned the essentials of cooking and enjoys it.

Kids preparing meal for everyone (left to right: Owen Wang , Graci Tubbs and Grace Polson)

KIDS

There are several classes offered each year throughout Pinellas County. Kohl’s is a big sponsor of All Children’s and helps with this program, so it is free to families. To find out more about Kohl’s Cooks for Kids go to hopkinsallchildrens.org or to register for a class, email achFit4Allkids@jhmi.edu

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by ANDREA STEWART

My Story

If someone would have told me five years ago that I would be the mother to six children, I would have laughed. When God taps you on the shoulder, or in our case, smacks you upside the head, you have a choice. You can choose to fight it and shove it away, or you can leap with unquestioned obedience into what may seem crazy...

Kenyon and Kinaya came home in November 2015. We had grown our family from three kids to six kids in one year.

On one of the Congo trips, we visited orphanages and learned the terrifying fate of these children: sex trafficking, child prostitution, child soldiers, and extreme poverty. It haunted every part of my heart and mind.

Christmas came three weeks after the new children were home with us, and so there were gifts. Their faces of true amazement brought me to my knees in tears. The first time they had pizza, or flushed the toilet, or went for a boat ride were all reminders of where they came from and what their future holds. I committed to pray for God to fix me, and make me the mom they deserved, instead of praying for them to change.

The days and weeks after Kenyon and Kinaya came home were so hard. Older child adoption is so different than a 10-month old baby. There were trust issues, food issues, language barriers and a huge sense We knew, the same day we brought home our biological son from of fear on all of our parts. We navigated on auto pilot. We received help from friends and family. We worked the system of the adoptive the hospital, that we had another child out there that God was weaving into our family tapestry. Within a year, we had an agency bonding and attaching books we had read. There were lots of tears and seeking the referral of a baby boy from the Congo. The process was asking God, “Are you nice or mean?” But somehow for every trying emotionally rough and hard, complicated by his medical condition. moment, a glimpse of the beauty of redemption showed through.

We contacted our agency and applied for multiple children. The referral came. An older girl. A sweet girl. Four years old, severely malnourished, with huge, chocolate “please hurry and rescue me” eyes. She was beautiful and had the roundest, most perfect bald head I had Again, God showed up. After a full year, we aren’t faking it ever seen. Our hearts were already prepared to ferociously fight for her. anymore. Cruz is thriving and is a typical two year old. The older children are blossoming. Kenyon’s smile is contagious. He is Then during a trip to visit her, a young boy walked up to my learning to read and math is his strongest subject. He loves to go husband and tugged on his shirt, “If you take her, you have to to work with daddy and helps me get all six kids out the door in also take me. She is my sister.” the morning. His love for our family exudes through him. Kinaya Holy Moly! Our heads and hearts were spinning and we couldn’t is full of sass and spunk. She is a girly girl who won’t let the boys quite catch our breath for a few moments. Then simultaneously push her around. She frequently stops mid sentence to say, “I just we looked at each other and started planning. “We need to sell love you so much.” They all have my heart. These children, my the house and build something with more bedrooms.” And children, our crazy life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. “Okay God, we are seriously trusting you and praying you take There’s a lot of loud. There’s a lot of chaos. And it’s messy at times. God’s the lead, because we just can’t do this...” story of love and redemption is written on the pages of our beautiful We were ready, even excited! We received comments from people like family story. We are all changed for the better. We have learned how to “Are you crazy? What about the kids you have?” I couldn’t be mad fit together like a puzzle and balance our time. It just works... at their honest question, but who are we to argue with God’s plan or timing? The first boy, Cruz, came home in November 2014 and ABOUT THE PHOTOS (left) The Stewart Family Then: October 2012 (right) The Stewart Family Now: November 2016

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Winter 2016 Issue  
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