- Special Sections
(BPT) - The summer months are over and the school year is in full swing. As a parent, this means you’ve traded those lazy summer days for school sports and activities, colder temperatures and the morning rush to the bus stop. If you feel like your home’s organization is hanging on by a thread, take heart; there are some simple things you can do to return order and make the rest of your school year run smoothly. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
* Take the hectic out of those hectic mornings. Let’s be honest, the mornings are pure chaos. There’s breakfast to prepare, school supplies to collect and outfits to pick out. It’s a whirlwind. However, you can return some sanity to your mornings by accomplishing some simple tasks the night before. Before they go to bed, have your children pick out their school outfit for the following day and pack their backpacks – this will reduce the risk of forgetting something.
* Make snacking simple. Snacking is a mainstay for families on the run. Whether it’s an addition to a lunchbox, an option for an after school snack or something to eat at halftime, your kids’ snacks need to be simple. Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps Minis are the perfect choice for kids on the move. Pair them with nuts, dried fruit and chocolate for a delicious snack mix, or serve them individually when you’re on the go. Available in Original and Cheddar flavors, and at just 110 calories per serving, Pretzel Crisps Minis are a better option for your children than greasy potato chips.
* Create a homework station. As a parent, nothing is more frustrating than learning your child received a failing grade simply because they lost their assignment. Keep your home organized and your child’s assignments accounted for by creating a designated homework area in your home. A space in your office, a desk in the kitchen or a spot at the dining room table works great. You can even add a calendar to help your students keep track of the due dates for larger projects.
* Adjust the bathroom routine. Of all the routines that create morning chaos, the battle for the bathroom is king. Simply put, this space is a one-at-a-time area, and if you have more kids than bathrooms, tension will arise. You can circumvent this by putting some of your children – or even yourself – on the evening shift when it comes to showers. Small children or children who require less mirror time in the morning are the logical choice, but you may want to set up a rotating schedule to keep the peace.
* Have a plan. If you have multiple kids in multiple activities, it can be impossible to keep track of who needs to be where and when, so don’t try. When your child joins a new activity, ask to see the schedule and instantly add the appropriate dates and times to your calendar. Don’t rely on your kids to remember when they need to be somewhere; they won’t remember until they are already 15 minutes late. You simply don’t need the headache.
The school year is a far cry from those relaxing days of summer, but you don’t have to let the crazy control your life. Institute these simple changes to maintain some order, and you’ll reach the following summer with a smile on your face and your sanity intact.
(BPT) - The fall months are a great time for families to enjoy the great outdoors with the changing of colors and much cooler temperatures. If you don’t already have a fall escape weekend planned, you might want to consider scheduling one soon.
Interest in outdoor adventures is on the rise, especially for women, with more than 80 percent of women surveyed by Polaris considering themselves adventurous.
There’s no better way to experience the vibrancy of fall but to immerse yourself and the family in the brilliance, and an off-road vehicle provides a front-seat view. For family members of all abilities who want to drive their own off-road vehicle on the trails, the single-seat Polaris ACE is designed with the comfort and capability people want in an ATV, but with the security of a UTV for additional confidence when riding the trail. The high-backed, adjustable bucket seat is combined with an adjustable steering wheel to ensure the ride is about experiencing the outdoors in comfort.
If you’re interested in seeing some of the best colors America has to offer, check out these off-road trails designed to showcase vibrant reds, shimmering golds and deep purples that will have you catching your breath in awe of the beauty.
Copper Harbor, Michigan – This small town was given the best of Mother Nature’s talents overlooking Lake Superior. The drive to the tip of the Upper Peninsula is long, but Cooper Harbor provides an extensive system of off-road trails running along the lake’s shoreline. Keep in mind, fall colors change earlier in the UP along the shore, so consider planning your fall trip for around the first weekend in October.
Rock Run Recreation Area, Patton, Pennsylvania – The Allegheny Mountains combine a beautiful combination of oak, cherry, yellow poplar, ash and maple trees for a colorful fall blend that starts around the last week of September and peaks around the second week of October. Rock Run has 140 miles of trails to keep your family entertained for a long weekend, and you can easily find a camping spot in the three campgrounds spread around the recreation area.
Paiute Trail, South Central Utah – As the largest trail system in the nation, this is an opportunity your family can’t pass up, especially if you want to see some gorgeous fall colors. Many of the trails weave their way through Fishlake National Forest, which has a blend of deep green coniferous trees mixed in with the colorful orange and gold hues of aspens. The trail system is so extensive, your family will always be looking around the next corner from your Polaris ACE to capture a glimpse of new canyon, lake, scenic overlook or quiet valley.
Hatfield-McCoy Trails, West Virginia – With 700 trails ranging from easy to the most difficult, your family will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the off-road riding, the scenery of the mountains in Southern West Virginia and spend some quality time together. There is no camping allowed on the trail system, but there are plenty of bed and breakfasts, cabins and campgrounds, as well as hotels and rental homes scattered throughout the six counties the trails cross. The second and third week in October tend to offer peak fall colors, so be sure to book your lodging early for your family excursion.
Clark and Jackson Counties, Wisconsin – With 227 miles of ATV and UTV trails available in these two counties, your family will have no difficulty filling a long fall weekend with fun and sightseeing. Clark and Jackson counties are known for their beautiful rolling hills, wandering streams and plentiful wildlife. Oaks, maples, birch and pine trees are common, providing a beautiful backdrop of color along the trails.
These are just a few of the many off-road trail options scattered across the country. Start planning a fun, mini fall vacation for your family to experience the colors in a whole new way, from the seat of an off-road vehicle. With two power options, 32 and 45 horsepower, the Polaris ACE provides just enough power for beginners and a spirited ride for the more advanced rider ensuring a fall colors experience like no other.
(BPT) - It’s that time again - time to buy a new car. Maybe you’re excited because you’ve been dreaming of getting new wheels for a long time now. Or maybe you’re nervous; buying a car is a big financial commitment and you want to make sure you do your homework. If you fall into this second group, don’t worry; these five simple questions can help you find a vehicle that fits your lifestyle.
* Is it a lemon? When you purchase your vehicle, the last thing you want to do is shop for another car in a couple of years. Picking a reliable vehicle is key. So how do you do it? Make a list of the vehicles you’re interested in and head to the Web to research previous vehicle recalls. If you are buying a used car, websites like CarFax.com and others can also show you the history of that particular car, giving you insight into just how reliable it will be.
* Where’s the value? Whether safety is your top concern or you want the most vehicle for your money, it’s all about value. USAA, which provides car buying guidance (or help) and recommendations to its members, recently released its fourth-annual Best Value list identifying the top vehicles for 2014. The list includes vehicles that finished at the top of USAA’s preferred propriety rating system, which evaluates safety, reliability, cost and other factors. There is also a list of the top 10 vehicles for teens, which you can review if you’ll soon be sharing a garage with a new driver.
* How will you pay for it? Behind safety, financing is probably the most important thing to consider when buying a new car. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you’ve thoroughly researched your financing options. And remember, you have other options besides what the dealership offers you.
* Are there any physical concerns you need to remember? Not every vehicle is perfect for every person. Think about yourself and who will most often ride with you. If you or your passengers are very tall, a smaller sedan may not make sense. Likewise, people who have mobility challenges may not be comfortable getting into a large pickup truck.
* Will it grow with your family? Sure it fits your needs now, but what about next year? The year after that? Whether it is children, pets or joining the office carpool, consider the fact that the space you need presently might not be the space you need even a year from now.
Shopping for a new car can be an exciting experience, but it can be nerve-wracking as well. As you begin your search, remember these questions and you’ll be closer to finding the vehicle of your dreams. To learn more about USAA’s Best Value list, visit usaa.com/bestvalue.