Health Fusion: Keep your pets healthy and happy over the holidays


The American Veterinary Medicine Association’s (AVMA) website has a great tip sheet on how to keep your pets safe during the holidays. Their advice covers food, decorations, parties and travel. Here are some points I found helpful.

The key is to plan ahead.

Tips for holiday pet safety

Food: Keep people food away from pets and buy treats formulated for them. The below foods are especially hazardous.

  • Chocolate.
  • Sweets and baked goods.
  • Turkey and turkey skin. Even in small amounts, this holiday favorite can cause pancreatitis.
  • Table scraps. Many people foods are too rich for pets. Onions, raisins and grapes are good for humans but bad for pets.
  • Yeast bread. This food may cause painful gas and dangerous bloating.

Decorations:

  • Trees. They can tip over, so be sure they are secure.
  • Tree water. Additives may be poisonous.
  • Ornaments, tinsel etc. Broken items may cause injury and if eaten, items may cause blockages that require surgery.
  • Electric cords. Pets can suffer burns if they chew cords.
  • Always unplug decorations when you go out.

Parties: Events with a lot of people and loud noise may be stressful to your pet.

  • A Safe place. Make sure they have a safe, quite place to go during a party.
  • Let guests know you have pets.
  • Avoid letting guests bring pets to your event.
  • Watch exits so pets don’t wander out.
  • Clear food afterwards so pets can’t eat it.

Travel:

  • Pets in vehicles should be safely restrained.
  • Air travel may be fine for some pets and bad for others, so talk to your veterinarian first. But do consider taking them with you if it’s safe. Air travel may be risky for some short-nosed dogs.
  • Pack for pets, including food, medications, toys, bedding, leash, health certificates, etc.

Also, keep your vet’s contact info and the 24/7 emergency vet’s contact info handy. The AMVA suggests that if you think your pet has been poisoned or sickened , call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435. They say signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Again, the AVMA has great information about how to keep your pet safe during the holidays, so checkout their website for more ideas and details.

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U.S. merchants happy to see Mexican shoppers return as border travel restrictions rolled back


Juarez residents emotional about restoring family ties, being able to cross border for first time in 20 monhts

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – It was barely 9:30 a.m. and Luz Gallardo was already heading back to Mexico with a cart full of items purchased at South El Paso discount stores.

“It’s better to buy in bulk so we can resell it at affordable prices over there. […] Wrapping paper, dollar items, the inexpensive stuff,” she said.

Monday marked the first time in 20 months that Juarez residents like Gallardo were able to cross into the United States by land for non-essential reasons like shopping and seeing family members as long as they’re fully vaccinated for COVID-19. It was an estrangement that cost border merchants dearly and temporarily severed ties between families with members on both sides of the Rio Grande.

“My niece is hospitalized. I came to see her,” said Cynthia Torres, also a Juarez resident who crossed into El Paso early Monday morning with her mother and child. “I wasn’t planning to come but I’m taking advantage (of the rollback of travel restrictions) to see her. I think (the reopening) is good because I have family on this side of the border, and also to shop.”

The rollback of travel restrictions went smoothly and without the feared hours-long lines for visitors to come across the ports of entry, border crossers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

Average wait times for pedestrians were 20 to 30 minutes on Monday morning, even less for those who came across in vehicles.

A CBP spokesman said foreigners coming across for the first time since non-essential travel restrictions were put in place in March 2020 were quick to present their documents and state vaccination status. That helped speed up fully staffed international bridges in the El Paso Sector, the spokesman said.

Exact border crossing figures were not immediately available.

Mexican shoppers account for between 8% and 14% of El Paso’s $13 billion a year retail economy, according to studies by the University of Texas at El Paso. Local malls, outlet shops, hotels and restaurants benefit from these shoppers, as do stores in South El Paso near the international bridges.

“It’s nice to have our neighbors back,” said David Jerome, president and CEO of the El Paso Chamber. “Our economy is doing reasonably well, it’s coming back (from the COVID-19 pandemic). We have more jobs than people so it’s nice to see the border reopening from that perspective. The other thing is sectors like restaurants and hotels and retail, a large percentage of their business is from our neighbors to the south, so it’s nice to have them able to take care of those customers again.”

Danny, the manager at Casa Victoria on South El Paso Street, said the rollback of restrictions comes just in time – with the holiday shopping season looming. On Monday, he said it was too early to tell how much his sales would pick up, but he’s hopeful they will.

Phil, a cab driver based in El Paso’s Sixth Street, also said he was hopeful the El Paso economy will get a boost from the rollback of border travel restrictions.

“Everyone is happy. The businesses have suffered greatly during the pandemic, some have even closed,” he said. “As for us, we don’t know if there’s going to be an increase or not, but I’m happy people are free to come over and shop. The economies of both cities (Juarez and El Paso) depend on one another. I think it’s going to work out well for anyone concerned.”



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US reopens to international travel, allows happy reunions | News


United States customs officers speak with a man at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Tijuana, Mexico. The U.S. fully reopened its borders with Mexico and Canada on Monday and lifted restrictions on travel that covered most of Europe, setting the stage for emotional reunions nearly two years in the making and providing a boost for the travel industry decimated by the pandemic.



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Orlando International Airport travelers happy to see U.S. allowing more international travel


Travelers at Orlando International Airport said it’s a good thing that the U.S. will allow travel from countries previously banned due to COVID-19 as Central Florida continues to rebound from the pandemic. Airport and tourism leaders say they agree.

This comes as a new virgin Atlantic flight is scheduled to arrive to Orlando International Airport Monday afternoon from Europe.

“We can’t close it forever,” said Tabitha Wringle, who is traveling from Wisconsin.

Jerry Leonard, who is from Ireland but lives in Atlanta, agreed.

“I think it’s good,” Leonard said. “I’m glad to see it opening back up again.”

Beginning Monday, the U.S. will allow international travel from countries that were previously banned because of COVID, such as South Africa, Brazil, China, and most of Europe.

But for the most part, passengers MUST be vaccinated.

“We have to get there eventually,” Wringle said.

At OIA, the first Virgin Atlantic flight from Manchester, England is scheduled to arrive at 3:05 p.m. Monday.

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“I came from overseas so it was a long time before I was able to get back again and I want to go back and see family,” Leonard said. “People want to see each other face-to-face again.”

Visit Orlando said it has been running international campaigns this fall promoting travel to Central Florida.

“We’re excited to have travel back, especially for the holiday season,” said Denise Spiegel, a Visit Orlando spokesperson.

With the border reopening Monday, international seat capacity on flights through OIA has risen by 40,000 from October to November.

It’s scheduled to increase by an additional 88,000 seats from international destinations in December.

“Pre-pandemic international visitors spent more than $6 billion in central Florida, so we excited for that recovery,” Spiegel said.

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.



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The positive reactions to NSW’s big international travel news continue, but not all industry figures are happy – Travel Weekly


The overall response to the NSW government’s big international travel announcement on Friday has, unsurprisingly, been a very positive one, but not all industry figures are dancing in the street.

The airlines were very quick to respond, with Qantas bringing forward the restart of its international flights by two weeks to 1 November 2021 after the federal and NSW governments confirmed borders will now reopen on that date.

The flying kangaroo will operate up to five return flights a week from Sydney to London, and up to four return flights a week from Sydney to Los Angeles with its Boeing 787 Dreamliners from 1 November. Qantas also noted that more flights will be added to meet demand, if needed.

Singapore Airlines has opened sales on its flights between Singapore and Sydney for eligible customers.

From 1 November, all of the airline’s 17 weekly flights between the two destinations will be available for passenger sales for those that meet the eligibility criteria.

Virgin Australia has extended its booking flexibility to 30 April 2022, with a spokesperson for the airline saying the NSW government’s decision to scrap quarantine requirements for fully-vaxxed travellers was “fantastic news for travellers, the aviation industry and the thousands of businesses and communities in the state who rely on open borders, and the economic injection that tourism provides”.

Keeping with the aviation theme, Holiday Inn Sydney Airport is offering all guests free shuttle bus transfers to Sydney Airport for a limited time in December.

“We wanted to make everyone’s holiday seamless,” said Ben Burns, general manager of Holiday Inn Sydney Airport.

“There are so many other changes with travel these days, but one thing we know we can offer is a memorable start to your holiday in a clean, fresh and inviting way.”

Accommodation Association chair Leanne Harwood said the NSW government’s decision will allow hotels that have stepped up to protect the community to once again return to their primary function.

“Our sector stepped up from the very beginning to protect our communities by supporting the governments’ isolation program in every state and territory so that returning Australians, medical frontline workers and Australia’s most vulnerable had somewhere safe to stay,” she said.

“Our heroes, the amazing people who work in hotels, willingly put their own health on the line to allow this to happen, and their contribution and bravery through this period deserves acknowledgement.”

Accommodation Association chair Leanne Harwood

However, Harwood said the reality is that the ramp to recovery for hotels and accommodation is a long one.

“The loss of skills from the hospitality industry throughout the lockdown periods has meant we don’t currently have a large enough workforce to allow us to quickly open to pre-COVID levels,” she said.

“Without international students and workers, the journey ahead will be a long one, and government support is critical.”

Australian Federation Travel Agents chief executive Dean Long said the association was looking forward to receiving more details on how the NSW government’s international travel restart will roll out practically.

“The elimination of the quarantine requirement is one of the biggest barriers to international visitors wanting to come to Australia, along with airline seat caps,” he said.

“Even with today’s announcement, the runway to recovery for Australia’s travel sector is a long one.

“Australia’s travel agents and businesses have been in hard lockdown for more than 600 days, and until airlines and cruise capacity return to normal levels, which won’t be before the second quarter of 2022, we will continue to be in lockdown.

“The 30,000 Australians who work in Australia’s travel sector and the 3,000 agencies and businesses who employ them urgently need ongoing government help so we can keep providing travelling Australians with the expert support they need.”

Meanwhile, one of the travel industry’s biggest names, Flight Centre supremo Graham “Skroo” Turner (main picture), said the NSW government’s move to scrap quarantine for international travel is “effectively useless to the economy if that doesn’t include foreign tourists”.

“Our clear message is that if Australia doesn’t open up to the world this year, we’ll lose all the high-yielding international tourists we’ve spent years targeting to countries like South Africa, parts of Europe, the Caribbean – and all the other places that are open for no-quarantine tourism,” he told The Australian Financial Review.

His comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison clarified NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s announcement, noting that Aussie citizens, residents and their immediate families are the only ones who would be permitted to dodge hotel quarantine – not international tourists.

However, the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) was full of optimism on Friday, thanks to the NSW Premier’s eagerness to restart the cruise sector, with Perrottet noting that he was “in discussions right now with the federal government” to bring back cruising.

CLIA’s managing director for Australasia, Joel Katz, said that after months of persistence, it’s clear there’s a positive change in the discussions the sector is having with governments around cruising.

“There’s now a clear will to make progress towards a careful resumption of cruise operations in Australia,” he said.

“The latest comments from NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet are very encouraging and so we look forward to having further discussions to ensure this is translated into action.

“Given the progress Australia is making towards reopening borders and reviving travel, it makes no sense to exclude cruising when our industry has committed to the most stringent health protocols to be found anywhere in tourism.”



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Some Original Staffers Say They’re Still Happy To Work At Disney World After 50 Years : NPR


Celebrating 50 years as original employees of Walt Disney World are (from left) Chuck Milam, Earliene Anderson and Forrest Bahruth.

John Raoux/AP


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Celebrating 50 years as original employees of Walt Disney World are (from left) Chuck Milam, Earliene Anderson and Forrest Bahruth.

John Raoux/AP

ORLANDO, Fla. — Applying to be one of the first workers at Walt Disney World, high school graduate George Kalogridis made a split-second decision that set the course for his life: he picked a room where prospective hotel workers were being hired.

Chuck Milam got a tip about a job opening from a transplanted Disney executive whose new house he was landscaping. Earliene Anderson jumped at the chance to take a job at the new Disney theme park in Florida, having fallen in love with the beauty of Disneyland in California during a trip two years earlier.

At the time, the three were among the 6,000 employees who opened the Magic Kingdom at Disney World to the public for the first time on Oct. 1, 1971. Now, they are among two dozen from that first day still employed at the theme park resort as it celebrates its 50th anniversary on Friday.

Over those decades, Disney World added three more theme parks, two dozen additional hotels and grew to have a workforce of 77,000 employees as it helped Orlando become the most visited place in the U.S. before the pandemic.

What never changed was the original employees’ devotion to the pixie dust, the dream machine created by Walt Disney and his Imagineers.

A Disney representative presents the three with special 50th anniversary name tags.

John Raoux/AP


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A Disney representative presents the three with special 50th anniversary name tags.

John Raoux/AP

“Disney has been my love, and it still is,” Anderson said recently before starting her shift in merchandising at a Magic Kingdom hotel. “I love Disney.”

The employees who make up the 50-year club say the theme park resort has allowed them to grow their careers and try on new hats. Kalogridis worked his way up to be president of Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California. Milam went from a warehouse worker to a buyer of spare parts for rides and shows.

Forrest Bahruth joined the workforce at Disney World in January 1971 as a show director, responsible for staging and choreographing parades and shows. He was also given the opportunity to help open other Disney theme parks around the world over the past five decades.

“There are people all over the world who get up to go work. They’re unhappy about it. They don’t really like their jobs,” Bahruth said. “As you can tell from us, there’s an enthusiasm. We are privileged to be at a place where we love what we do.”

Some Disney World history

There was no guarantee that Disney World was going to be a success 50 years ago. Walt Disney, the pioneering animator and entrepreneur whose name graces the Florida resort, had died in 1966, just a year after announcing plans for “the East Coast Disneyland.” The company had quietly acquired 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares) of scrub land outside Orlando for around $5 million via secret land purchases using fake names and shell companies.

The job of shepherding the project to Opening Day fell to his brother, Roy Disney, who with other company officials convinced the Florida Legislature to create a quasi-governmental agency that would allow Disney to self-govern when it came to matters of infrastructure and planning. Roy died almost three months after Disney World opened.

Just weeks before opening, construction at the Magic Kingdom was controlled chaos, and it seemed impossible that it would all come together in time.

“It was like an army of ants. Everything was under construction. Interiors were still being put in. Roofing was still being put on top,” Bahruth said. “There was painting, landscaping. Things were arriving by the moment. It was like trucks going everywhere.”

Bahruth rehearsed performers through parade choreography down Main Street, which cut through the center of the Magic Kingdom and resembled a turn-of-the-century small town from Walt Disney’s childhood. Even though he was a busser, Kalogridis was drafted into laying down sod outside the hotel he was working in, hours before Disney World’s grand opening.

Memories of opening day

Two things have stuck in the memories of the longtime employees from that opening day. The first was the photo. It was an image of thousands of Disney World workers standing in front of the iconic Cinderella Castle with Mickey Mouse and other costumed characters holding hands in front. Two weeks later, it was featured on the cover of Life magazine.

“They brought all the characters up, staged them first, and then they tried to keep all the different workers together based on the color of their costumes,” Milam said. “If you were from Fantasyland and in yellow, you would go over there.”

The second was the parade. It featured a 1,076-member marching band conducted by Meredith Wilson, the composer of the Broadway show, “The Music Man.” There were 4,000 Disney entertainers marching through the theme park, a mass choir and trumpeters from the United States Army Band. Hundreds of white doves were released into the air, and less environmentally friendly, so were thousands of multi-colored balloons.

“It was the biggest thing I had ever seen,” Bahruth said.

Only around 10,000 visitors showed up on that first day — which at today’s much larger Walt Disney World would represent about 90 minutes’ worth of visitors entering. It wouldn’t be until Thanksgiving 1971, almost three months later, when Disney executives had an answer about whether their new resort would be a success; that’s when cars trying to get into the Magic Kingdom stretched for miles down the interstate.

“It was very clear after that first Thanksgiving, that the public definitely liked what we were doing,” Kalogridis said. “That first Thanksgiving, that was the moment.”



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When COVID cancels the school holidays, is more independence the answer to keeping kids happy?


The text came out of the blue: “We’ve been giving James a bit more freedom,” my mum friend wrote. “He’s been heading to the park on his bike without us. He rides on the paths, climbs a tree, goes to the playground. He knows once he’s in the park, he has to stay in the park and we agree on when he must be home.” 

Like my son, James is 10, but I confess the text pulled me up short. Even though the park in question is barely 200 metres from my friend’s front door, and busy with families and children doing their best to socially distance, 10 is young these days to be heading off alone. And depending on what state you live in, it’s important to know it can also be illegal to leave a child under 12 unsupervised.

Yet with school holidays upon us, and options for juggling childcare and work-from-home limited in some states as COVID lockdown drags, on my social media feeds are full of versions of one fraught question: “I’m having a cold sweat thinking about the school holidays coming up. What ideas have you?”.

A close up of a girl's hands looking on a phone.
Limiting screen time during school holidays can be tough for parents to negotiate.(

Unsplash: Tim Mossholder

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The fear of watching their kids’ childhood disappear behind a digital matrix, that not only sucks up their free time but now their school time as well, has left many parents with a sinking feeling. Surely screens can’t steal the holidays too? And as lockdown smashes up against modern “helicopter” parenting, parents are filled with nostalgia for the sense of freedom they grew up with a generation ago.

“Can we go retro and keep them outside until the street lights turn on?” joked one parent.

“The good old days,” was the conclusion from others. “Best times ever”.

My friend’s text and these social media exchanges got me thinking: is COVID forcing us to rethink entrenched parenting norms? Could encouraging kids to be a little more independent add a spark of adventure to lockdown’s Groundhog Days?

In short, could allowing our kids to take on more responsibility help them to be more resilient in lockdown, and take a load off parents too?

A little bit of independence

Rachael Sharman, a psychologist and academic who specialises in child and adolescent mental health, says research shows that when kids are allowed to be independent and make their own decisions most take the responsibility seriously. Rather than being dangerous, it often leads to a drop in injuries and rise in reasoned judgements.

“The research shows very clearly that if you give kids a little bit of independence most of them in fact did better than when adults were attempting to control them and helicopter parent them,” she says. “The kid feels responsible, they feel like the parents trust them and they take that trust seriously. They don’t want to squander it.”

A boy climbs a big tree with many branches and a girl sits on a branch in the distance
Research suggests that when kids get more independence they step up and act more responsibly.

The way we raise our children in the West is not necessarily the style of parenting you see elsewhere in the world. In Japan, for example, children are expected to take themselves to school and to the local shop for errands from as young as five, and special parks allow Japanese kids freedom to light fires and build things with hammers and nails with relatively little supervision.

In the West, the “helicopter parent” model is rarely challenged and when it is, all hell can break loose. Who can forget the criticism that faced Lenore Skenazy when she wrote about allowing her son to ride the New York subway alone at nine years old.

Skenazy’s experience ultimately gave rise to the Free Range Kids movement and notwithstanding the absolute requirement of every adult to ensure the safety of children in their care, helping children to build independence has strong links to confidence and self-esteem.

It can especially be an issue for tweens – too old to need or want to be constantly under their parents’ control and yet too young to be left completely to their own devices.

A bit of biology can help strike the right balance, says Sharman. Her tip is to try hacking brain chemicals to help kids feeling excited about their lockdown vacay.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by the brain that creates feel good emotions when something goes well for us, says Sharman. That’s in part why online games are so addictive. Did you make it through level one and win 1000 bonus points? Bam – dopamine hit. You’re welcome.

But Sharman says anticipatory dopamine, released when we are looking forward to something, is even stronger than the dopamine we receive when we achieve it.

In the absence of a school routine, recreating a purpose to the day helps to create a sense of achievement and prevent the malaise that can come with endless unstructured hours. It is a healthier way to achieve that same hit of dopamine. One of the reason traditional holidays make us feel so good is that most of us structure our vacation days and wake each morning anticipating a fun activity ahead.

But the same principles can be used for a lockdown holiday. Planning activities to take place at certain times of the day helps generate anticipation and deliver dopamine alongside it.

Just anticipating the reward and having something to look forward too is more powerful than actually receiving it, Sharman says.

“If parents are looking to give their kids a dopamine hit then a really fun, pleasant surprise is the way to do it,” Sharman says. “Kids love a routine and if parents can tell their children before they go to bed at night ‘right, here’s something new we could do tomorrow’, that anticipatory dopamine will kick in and give them a bit of a lift.”

If the planned activities contain a sense of novelty then that kick is even more powerful which is why allowing your tweens a little extra independence or something a little naughty, within safe parameters (cricket in the hallway, perhaps? A pillow fight? Or a short solo trip to a nearby park?) can be deeply motivating and uplifting.

So as the school holidays get started in locked down NSW and Victoria and the rest of Australia, here are 10 ideas for creating a sense of adventure even when your holiday plans can’t go much further than your own backyard.

Backyard camping

Set up a tent in the backyard (or the balcony, or the living room, if you are in an apartment) and spend a few nights camping. The idea is to create a sense of novelty.

For outside campers, buy a fire pit: I’m yet to meet a tweenager who doesn’t get a kick out of building and lighting a fire (and a few adults too if we’re honest).

Keep it rustic. Spear some sausages onto a stick and cook them over the flame. Finish off with a few toasted marshmallows and then crowd together in the tent for a scary movie after the sun goes down.

a child's hand holds a stick with a marshmallow with black edges from being toasted on an open flame.
What about having a campting adventure in the backyard.(

Unsplash: Hanna Morris

)

Create a restaurant at home

Nominate a night or two a week when the kids do the cooking. Hand over responsibility for researching a menu (and keep your expectations moderate).

Get them to write a shopping list and then if COVID-safe to do so, hand over some cash and drop them to the supermarket or corner store to gather the ingredients.

Encourage them to present the meal with a dash of formal flourish, proper table settings, candles and music.

Explore your 5km

The limits on travel in Sydney where I live has forced us to re-imagine our neighbourhood, something Melbournians know all about.

But even if you are not locked down, visiting familiar, mundane places with the eyes of an explorer can bring them back to life.

While my family no longer has access to the beach, we are lucky to have other rivers and waterways where overlooked shorelines have now become valued spots to paddle and explore.

It’s surprisingly invigorating to discover that with a shift in perspective forgotten places close to home can become magical new destinations.

Kid launching mountain bike off jump
Look for magical new adventures close to home.(

ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison

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Set up a social distanced street stall

Get your tween to sort out unused toys, books or clothes and set up a stall in the driveway to sell or give away their bits and pieces.

It’s a great way to encourage socially distanced interaction with the neighbours, teach the kids about the emotional and financial value of things and creates a great framework for a chat about wants, needs and equity.

Depending on how much plastic is in their giveaway stash, it’s a good time for a conversation about the environment, too.

Make public art

In a park close to us, a local child has created a fairy garden and put up a sign inviting others to add to it. Every day trinkets and miniature artworks appear building a sense of wonder and also community.

Another local paints rocks with inspirational messages and leaves them around our suburb. On the back is an Instagram address and when you discover a rock, the idea is to post a photo of where you found it and then hide it again for the next person to discover.

Volunteer 

It’s no secret that many families are doing it tough. Get in touch with local charities or Pay It Forward groups on social media and get the kids involved.

Some charities are collecting toiletry packs for the homeless, or pre-loved football boots in good nick to send to disadvantaged communities. Collect cans and bottles for a 10c refund and donate the money.

Find out if any neighbours are living alone and feeling lonely: get the kids to bake them a cake or ask if they need some groceries picked up.

Activities like this are also valuable for shifting a child’s focus away from themselves and their own troubles and helping them zero in on what they have to feel grateful for.

Start a holiday business

Do any of the neighbours need dogs walked or gardens weeded?

Tweens are old enough to take on these jobs with a bit of guidance. Feeling useful builds their self-esteem, confidence and resilience.

Set an exercise goal

Keeping active lifts our spirits. Decide on a fitness goal, maybe running 5km, 50 sit ups or holding plank position for a few minutes.

Get the kids to train towards their goal every day. Organise a family relay or biathalon.

A child's legs and feet, wearing Converse hi-tops, walks along a concrete breakwall with the ocean in the distance
What about encouraging your child to set a school holiday fitness goal?(

Unsplash: PixPoetr

)

Money to spend in a $2 shop

Hand over an agreed amount that’s large enough to get some bang for your buck, but small enough to force the kids to feel their financial limitations and enact a bit of strategy.

Then let them loose in the local $2 shop or variety store. If you are in lockdown most of these remain open. These stores usually stock loads of art and craft materials, some snacks and toys.

More than enough to fill up a locked down afternoon.

Oh OK, binge

When all else fails, a day on screens may be just what the kids need this holiday.

Theme your viewing — maybe you can work through the entire Star Wars series or revisit Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, or the Dark Knight Trilogy. Maybe Groundhog Day or the movie Contagion should be on the list, too. Let’s face it, options are endless.

Make some popcorn, thrown down every cushion, pillow, doona and beanbag in the house and create a giant soft, comforting place to slob out. Dim the lights and forget about lockdown and COVID-19, for a while.

After all, that may be the greatest vacation of all.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

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In Happy News, Visiting Family Is the Top Travel ‘Trend’ for Summer 2021


Mask restrictions are easing up, vaccinations are rolling out, and summertime travel is looking much more promising (and dare we say, normal?) compared to last year. Of course, international sightseeing and exotic vacations are never far from the minds of travelers—but for the moment, people are still easing their way back into traveling, starting with shorter trips and off-the-beaten path domestic locales, and most importantly, prioritizing reconnecting with family.

One of the hardest parts of social distancing and travel restrictions has been the inability to visit family members, whether they live far away or have had to keep remote for safety concerns, or simply to travel as a family. As the world slowly begins to reopen, family travel and family reunions large and small are what travelers are most excited for this year, and survey findings from Travelocity back this up. So much so that Travelocity officially predicts summer 2021 to be “the season of family reunions,” based on its recent travel survey insights.

RELATED: How to Rent an RV and Plan an Epic, Socially Distant Road Trip

According to Travelocity, socializing with family (followed closely by socializing with friends) is the number-one most-missed activity among survey-takers who haven’t traveled at all since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. As traveling becomes a reality again, 69 percent of respondents report having leisure travel plans in the books within the next nine months, and the most common upcoming vacation plans within that group include visiting family (24 percent), hitting the beach (26 percent), taking a road trip (13 percent), sneaking in a weekend getaway (12 percent), and finally an international trip (a small 9 percent). And concrete plans aside, respondents only thinking hypothetically about their next trip are most interested in visiting family (43 percent) over a beach vacation or hopping continents—unless of course these last two travel options bring them closer to relatives.

The biggest factors in determining whether a trip—to reconnect with family or otherwise—is even possible are the safety and cleanliness of accommodations and transportation options at their destination; personally receiving the COVID-19 vaccine; and availability of COVID-19 testing (particularly for respondents based in the Midwest). With that in mind, travelers still prefer travel experiences, like tours and activities, in smaller groups, as crowds present an easy way to spread germs.

RELATED: ‘Safe-cations’ Are Probably the Smartest Pandemic Travel Trend—Time to Plan Yours



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Tips for Celebrating a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season


With the holiday season upon us, below are some helpful tips from the Cambridge Public Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself and your loved ones. 

COVID-19 is still with us. To prevent the spread, remember the basics:

  • Wear a mask or face covering.
  • Practice physical distancing.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds.

Take good care of yourself, Cambridge!

As you and your family plan for holiday celebrations, please consider these important pandemic precautions:

  • Schedule a flu shot (vaccine). While a flu shot is always recommended, it’s especially important this year. Preventing the spread of flu will limit the need for flu-related medical appointments and hospitalizations, freeing up resources to help people with COVID-19. You can make an appointment for a flu shot with either your healthcare provider or local pharmacy.
  • People with or exposed to COVID-19, or who have COVID-19 symptoms, should stay home. They should NOT attend in-person gatherings.
  • Holiday travel increases chances of getting and spreading the coronavirus. While it is a difficult and personal decision, staying home and avoiding travel is the best way to protect yourself and others.
  • If you do plan to travel, consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in the area you intend to visit. If travelling to another state, review that state’s travel orders as well as Massachusetts’ requirements upon returning.
  • Indoor gatherings carry more risk than outdoor events. Larger indoor get-togethers are riskier than those with fewer people, and shorter get-togethers are safer than longer ones. You can reduce your risk by limiting indoor gatherings to only people you live with or a small group with whom you are regularly in contact. If guests come over, consider opening windows to improve ventilation, wearing a mask when preparing or serving food, and encouraging everyone to wear masks and practice physical distancing. For more tips, see Mass.gov/news/thanksgiving-during-covid-19.
  • People at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults and people with underlying medical conditions (e.g., heart conditions, COPD, diabetes), should ideally avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in their household. If they choose to gather, these individuals should opt for
    lower-risk settings.
  • Be creative about preserving some of your holiday traditions. Make your favorite family recipes, do a “no-contact delivery” of homemade treats for local family, friends, and/or neighbors,
    send gifts and open them together virtually. Decorating your home, participating in religious ceremonies virtually, watching holiday-themed movies at home, sending holiday cards, and hosting a virtual dinner party are other ways to be festive and safe
    during COVID-19.
  • Remember to be courteous and patient. Many people are feeling tired and stressed from the ongoing pandemic, but we are all in this together and a little kindness can go a long way.

Avoid These Activities:

  • Avoid sharing food and drinks.
  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging.
  • Wave and verbally greet others instead.
  • Avoid singing, dancing, and shouting. These activities increase your chances of being infected with COVID-19 through droplets from exhaled air.

The holiday season can be stressful even without a pandemic. If you are feeling down, share your feelings with a trusted friend or family member. If distress impacts your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a counselor, doctor, or member of your faith community.



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