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REVIEW: FastAction™ Fold Jogger Click Connect™ Travel System offers bang for your buck

We asked elite runner and new mom Mary Beth Chosak of the blog SlowFoodFastPace.com to test out for us Graco’s latest jogging stroller, the Fast Action Jogger Travel System. ($319.99) 
(For a very thorough assessment of the stroller including comparisons to another jogger she already owns, check out the full and comprehensive review on her blog HERE.)
We’ve got the soup and nuts summary below:
OVERALL PERFORMANCE If you’re in the market for a stroller that you can jog with from the time your little one is a newborn well into toddlerhood, the Graco FastAction Jogger Travel System is a fair value that will give you some bang for your buck.
VALUE On paper, the Graco FastAction Jogger Travel System has a lot going for it.  It retails for about one hundred less than the BOB Revolution SE, yet it comes with a car seat, a base, a child tray, and a parent handlebar console.  If you buy all those things a la carte and trick out a higher end jogger until it has all the same features as the FastAction Travel System, you would have spent roughly twice as much as you would have in opting for the Graco.
APPEARANCE Aesthetically, the Graco is a snazzy ride (I tested the chili red model).  It’s gender neutral and looks to be made of durable material that would stay looking fresh after years of use.  Taking a closer inspection of the features of the stroller, some of the parts are plastic and not as durable as first thought. 
SMOOTHNESS OF RIDE The tires are large and inflatable and the decent suspension provides a comfortable ride on a level and paved surface.  I tried it on a paved exercise trail with our 15 pound five-month old in the SnugRide infant seat as well as with our 30 pound two-year old without the infant seat.  The ride was plenty smooth enough for both children on the trail, though it felt somewhat rickety on the sidewalk.
ANCILLARY FEATURES The stroller has some snazzy little features that add comfort, safety, and convenience.  The handlebar console has two cup holders and a place for your smartphone that will come in handy if your tot, like mine, appreciates some tunes on your runs.  The storage basket under the seat is fairly large and accessible.  The stroller has a tether, which I consider a valuable safety feature, though the placement of the tether near the basket of the stroller is curious; it could easily attach to the handlebars instead and I don’t know why the manufacturer would unnecessarily use a long strap on any children’s product.  The locks on the rear wheels are well-placed and effective, though it would be handy to be able to fully lock and unlock the stroller in one place instead of on both the left and right wheels.  The stroller includes safety reflectors on the rear tires.
EASE OF FOLDING The stroller does fold up easily. The one-second, one-hand fold is nice, though I’ve found that once any stroller is yours, folding it up becomes second nature in no time.  The FastAction has a kickstand, which can get in the way when you’re collapsing the stroller.
SNUGRIDE INFANT SEAT The infant seat is fine.  The harness secures easily and my baby seemed very comfortable in it. However, the SnugRide is a popular car seat that’s been around for a while.  This is one of Graco’s bread and butter products, and it has had plenty of iterations on it to get it right.  So it was surprising to me that the handle bar and the canopy get in each other’s way.  This is annoying and not a big deal, although to boot, the canopy is neither taut nor sturdy-feeling.  The levers that secure the base of the car seat to the car’s latch system do not have the push-button feature that some car seats do; I consider this a nice feature, even though it is just a frill that you’ll hardly ever appreciate unless you take the infant seat base in and out of your car regularly.


SHORTCOMINGS An important reason the Graco disappoints as a jogger is the poorly-designed front wheel lock.  This isn’t obvious until you get a jogger out on a downhill (with precious cargo inside), or even just get moving at a steady clip, but the front wheel really should lock to give you maximum stability.  When you’re walking with a stroller, a swivel feature in the front wheel is convenient.  When you’re running, a sudden swivel caused by a pebble or bump on the trail can mean you wobble or lose control.  
The other place where the FastAction Jogger strikes out is the canopy.  It’s not large enough to completely shade your child.  While somewhat useful, I wouldn’t consider it sufficient protection from UV exposure.  If heading out on a sunny day with this stroller, slather on the sunscreen or have your babe don a hat and long sleeves.  The mesh window that’s designed to let you peer in and check on your passenger is too small to be useful, and I found myself simply pulling back the canopy to check on my toddler.  
Also, short folks like myself (5’ 1’’) may find the handlebar placement on this stroller a little too high.  
SUMMARY The Graco FastAction Jogger Travel System is a good jogging stroller, but in this mama’s view, not the best. If you’ll be using the stroller extensively for running, you’re bound to notice some of the Graco’s shortcomings. And like all joggers, it’s big and heavy. If you want something you can use to jog a mile or two once in a while on smooth and even terrain, and you don’t mind the small and flimsy canopy, then the Graco may be just fine.  And given that a jogger would be one of many, many pieces of baby gear you’ll ever buy, it’s nice to have an option by a reputable manufacturer at this price point.  
If you’re thinking of getting this stroller, consider getting it from our partners Amazon.com at a discount for $269.99.

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7 Practical Tips for teaching Financial Literacy to Children



January has been designated National Financial Wellness month in the U.S.  It’s a good time for parents to make  resolutions that are achievable for themselves but it can also serve as teachable moments for children. The average adult will make thousands of financial decisions during the next year, including many which will be made with kids watching or listening. 
“Parents need to do something totally different when it comes to their children learning the basic principles surrounding personal finance. I believe we are way beyond the point when stressing the use of piggy banks
and comic books as the tools to learn about managing money is a good idea. We live in a world which uses terms like ‘Bitcoin’ and ‘Cashless Society’, yet as parents we expect our children to fend for themselves or learn with antiquated methods using nickles, dimes and bills stuffed in a plastic pig!” says Greg Murset, CEO of MyJobChart.com  a free, easy to use, online and mobile job chart and reward system designed to teach, organize and motivate kids to earn, save, share and spend responsibly. “Help your child be financially smart by teaching them in more relevant ways and reinforcing working for what they want, saving for the future, spending wisely and donating money when they can to help others.”
To help move your children in the right direction in 2014, Murset offer the following out of the box suggestions:
1. No More Hand Outs. Start the year off right by deciding that you are not going to just shell out money to your kids anymore.  When they come to looking for money, let them know that they will have to work for it.  The bank is now closed unless they start pulling their weight a little more around the house. Tying work and reward together in some meaningful ways will help them understand responsibility and accountability. It will also help them understand that in real life, no one ever gets money for doing nothing.
2. Smash The Piggy Bank. Piggy Banks are a bad way to teach kids about money.  That’s right, take that piggy bank and smash it or throw it away.  Long gone are the days when we should be teaching our kids about money by dropping coins into a bank that looks like a pig, jar or favorite sport team mascot.  Using banks like these only teach children about money in a manner that isn’t as relevant anymore.  Get them a real bank account and teach them how to manage their money though online services.  It is far more useful to learn to manage money in a bank rather than a pig. 


3. Make Kids Pay… For The Cell Phone, That Is. According to Consumer Reports the average mobile phone user spends about $600 a year.  If you do the math, you’re going to be shocked at how much you are going to be shelling out over the years so that your kids can send hundreds of meaningless texts each month to their friends!  Kids should pay some, or all of their phone bill each month. This is a perfect opportunity for you to sit down and teach your children about how much things cost, especially things that they seem to think they are entitled to for some reason.  This is also a great time to discuss the things that they can do around the house to earn the money to help pay that bill.
4. Play The Match Game. Set up a matching program for your kids.  They save a dollar and you match that dollar.  Yes, 100% return.  Sit down and determine what they would like to save for and then set out to accomplish it together.  This is a great opportunity to talk about short term, mid-term and long term goals. When a child learns the power of savings like this at an early age, what do you think will happen when they get their first job and they learn about the 401(k) program that is available? 
5. Comic Books To Teach Kids About Money?  Now That’s Just Dumb. Last year Visa teamed up with Marvel to put a comic book together to teach kids about personal banking practices.  Talk about a square peg in a round hole.  They supposedly were going to distribute 150,000 of these square pegs in eight different languages.  Why does something as important as personal finance have to be jammed into little white blurbs above super heroes heads in a comic book? Parents should be fighting to get personal finance taught in our schools, this way, comic books can remain fun. 
6. Make Them Better Givers. No matter how your children earn their money, make sure they plan to donate a portion of it to a charity of their choice. The average American gives away about 4% of their annual income to charity and perhaps that percentage would increase if the next generation made giving a common practice as soon as they learned how to throw coins into a bucket.  


7. Set Goals That Are Meaningful. A start of a new year is a great time to sit down with children and talk goals.  Meaningful goals. Help your children put together a plan on working toward and saving for something significant. It could be a bike, musical instrument, laptop computer or go-kart. The more meaningful the item, the harder our kids will work to earn it and they will take care of it.
With these suggestions, hopefully our children will be well equipped to avoid useless spending and learn great habits for the future. 

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Study: Vitamin D supplements in pregnancy linked to strong baby muscles

Researchers have suggested that babies are likely to have stronger muscles if their mothers had a higher level of vitamin D in their body while they are pregnant.

In the research vitamin D levels were measured in 678 mothers in the later stages of pregnancy.

When the children were four years old, grip strength and muscle mass were measured. Results showed that the higher the levels of vitamin D in the mother, the higher the grip strength of the child, with an additional, but less pronounced association between mother’s vitamin D and child’s muscle mass.

Lead researcher Dr Nicholas Harvey, Senior Lecturer at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (MRC LEU) at the University of Southampton said that these associations between maternal vitamin D and offspring muscle strength may well have consequences for later health; muscle strength peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures.

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10 tips for this winter’s play outdoors

With rising childhood obesity rates and the increasing illnesses that accompany a sedentary lifestyle, it’s no secret that kids should be encouraged to get outside and engage in active play. As the lower temperatures approach, so does cold and flu season, which can be greatly exacerbated when kids are held indoors where germs can easily be spread through respiratory droplets and exhalations. Keeping kids safe while they’re out in the cold, however, is an absolute necessity. The following guidelines can help you ensure that your kids’ activity levels don’t suffer at the onset of winter and that they stay safe until the spring thaw rolls around.

  1. Use Sunscreen – Protecting kids’ skin from the damaging rays of the sun is a major priority for most parents and caregivers during the summer months, but one that often falls to the wayside when temperatures cool down. In fact, the reflection of the sun off of snow and ice can be almost as damaging as direct exposure. Make sure that your youngsters are slathered with sunscreen before they hit the outdoors.
  2. Waterproof Clothing is Key – Keeping kids warm during the winter chill relies heavily upon your ability to keep them dry. Melting ice and snow can leave most fabrics wet, soggy and very cold. Make sure that you invest in some waterproof or water-resistant clothing and shoes, especially proper boots.
  3. Know the Signs of Frostbite – Frostbite occurs when your child’s skin or extremities are literally frozen. The nose, ears, fingers, cheeks and toes are most commonly affected, and it can be quite dangerous when these extremities suffer from frostbite. Signs of superficial frostbite include itching, numbness, tingling or burning sensations. The affected skin may become white, flushed, yellow or blue and appear frozen, and will be cold to the touch.
  4. Dress for Success – Just because your kids are bundled against the cold doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re wearing safe clothing. Hoods and hats don’t take the place of helmets for activities like biking or skating, while tight clothing that restricts movement can present a danger as it inhibits kids’ ability to move and balance properly. Be sure that your brood is dressed appropriately for outdoor play, not just for cold temperatures.
  5. Insist on Warm-Up Breaks – When kids are enjoying themselves and are particularly absorbed in an activity, it’s easy for them to lose track of time. That’s why it’s important for you to insist on periodic warm-up breaks to check for signs of hypothermia or frostbite and ensure that they don’t get too cold.
  6. Keep Ice Skating Safe – Ice skating is a beloved, time-honored cold-weather outdoor activity. It can also be quite dangerous, though. Public areas designated for ice skating are far safer than ponds or bodies of water on your own property, which may not be thoroughly frozen and could crack under kids’ weight. Be sure that any ice your children are going to skate on is frozen solid, and that they’re wearing the right protective gear.
  7. Smart Sledding – Racing down a snow-covered hill on a sled is one of life’s great thrills, even for adults. Kids love sledding, but it’s important that they understand the basic safety rules before setting out. Sledding down hills that terminate near a road, down paths that have obstacles like jumps, rocks or bumps, or down icy slopes are all sledding safety no-nos. Kids should also never be pulled on sleds behind moving vehicles of any kind.
  8. Don’t Forget About Dehydration – Dehydration isn’t a concern reserved solely for warm-weather months. While your children are enjoying a session of outdoor play, be sure that they’re taking in plenty of fluids.
  9. Scarf Safety – Scarves are useful tools for protecting against the cold, as they can be wrapped around almost any part of the body that feels cold. However, they can also become ensnared in moving parts of toys or overhanging branches, closed in doors, or otherwise tangled in a manner that presents a strangulation risk. It’s better to opt for cowl-style scarves until kids are a bit older and less rambunctious.
  10. Double-Check Equipment – Making sure that any equipment for outdoor play, whether new or old, is in good condition, fits properly and is otherwise suitable for use before sending kids outside with it. Damaged or broken equipment can very easily cause injuries, especially if kids are using them improperly to compensate for the damage.

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The last baby born in 2013 & first in 2014 are Twins! -Just like in 2011/12

Even though it is rare, it’s happened again: the last baby born in 2013 and the first in 2014 are twins!

Yaleni was born on 11:58 in 2013 and her brother Brandon was born 12:01 am on January 1, 2014, according to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, WJLA reports.

Amazing! And given that they will be dressing alike and associated with each other forever, at least they get to celebrate their birthdays on two different days and not have to share that!

And it happened before!

The last baby born in 2011 and the first born in 2012 were also twins!

 

Jenna and Leah Bear were the first and last born babies of 2012 and 2011.

Jenna Bear was born at 11:59 on New Year’s Eve and her sister Leah at midnight, via c-section.

“It is a great way to end the previous year and to start the New Year,” their mom Jocelyn Bear said back then. “I can’t imagine a better way.” Dad, Blake, said it was an unexpected surprise!

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