Memories: Gifts that keep giving

I have been on a quest to find meaning in holiday gift giving. That means I’ve given duct tape or toilet plungers to my adult friends knowing these would be needed all year long, and I’ve given my children homemade PVC marshmallow guns at Christmas. But my favorite gifts came from making memories.

One of the seasonal stresses for me when my children were young was spending money on junky plastic toys. I’d search for the perfect toy to beat all other toys. I also focused on quantity to assure the living room appeared more like the toy store, as I thought that would drive happiness.

I falsely rationalized that the perfect gift would somehow make me the perfect dad. I’d carefully research, buy, wrap and place it under the tree only to watch my child shred the paper, gawk at the toy with amazement, thank me with a special gleam in the eye … and move to the next gift. For about 90 seconds, I felt like parent of the year. Two days later, this amazing feat of parental success would lie on the floor, a plastic piece of junk waiting for me to step on it until I could get it to the garbage. Years later it likely was in some landfill, leaving no memory of the day and no happiness for giver or recipient.

Ultimately, in my journey as a parent, I sought ways to find holiday joy without purchasing large amounts of plastic toys using plastic money. Through trial and error, I found what I think worked and what I offer as an idea for other parents: The gift of giving memories.

Philanthropy 1 – Serving others

I found this difficult for young children to grasp, but I tried it anyway. My plan one holiday season was to have them participate in social service, working the project from development to execution to delivery of the goods to their choice of community organization. Having them completely engage in the process would teach the joy of work and giving, I reasoned. One Christmas they designed and executed a neighborhood canned food drive. They constructed signs, found a collection site, worked the site and managed the contributions. They chose the community organization: a local all-girls home. They were proud and seemed to feel some sense of accomplishment as we packed the car and made the delivery.

Philanthropy 1A – Helping charities

Another year I thought I would help them understand the cost of holiday present-buying, using that as a springboard to understanding the rewards of giving to charity. I created a Christmas gift budget, shared it with them and discussed the percentage we should give to a local nonprofit. They chose a local runaway shelter as the beneficiary. Maybe there was a message there, but in the end they didn’t run away, and we were able to tour the home one morning while delivering the check. This was an amazing experience, but simply writing a check diminished its value, as the only effort was dad and an ink pen.

Value of Memories

Real value for me came a few years later when I decided to give a special father-child trip as a gift to each child. I came to realize I’d been searching for something lasting and personal, and there is no more lasting gift than a happy memory with your child. Some of my favorites:

  1. My daughter and I went to Six Flags for a day of riding roller coasters. She was able to miss a school day, allowing us to skip long weekend lines. She chose to ride only in the front car and pretty much ruled the coasters for a day.
  2. My middle son chose a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in Florida. This was fun, and also included an overnight trip and missed day of school.
  3. My oldest son and I went to an NFL football game the day after Christmas.

My last father-child Christmas present trip was 10 years ago, but the memories remain as some of the best times spent with my children. We still talk about these experiences, and I hope we will for years to come.

Whether it’s the one-on-one trip or working as a team to give to those in need, the wonderful gift of memories with your children will never go out of style or be tossed in the trash.

By the way, I still do give duct tape as a gift and I can’t help but wonder where all the plastic is.


Helpful Tips for New Drivers

I remember the first day I passed my driver’s test. I felt like I was on cloud nine…invincible. I instantly thought about all of the places I was going to go by myself. No more asking my parents or friends for a ride – my ticket to being independent had finally come, and I was ready to take on the road like a pro! Handing the paperwork to the clerk at the Secretary of State was empowering. “This is it,” I thought to myself. “You are about to get your official driver’s license!” I made sure I looked my best for my photo (I even made them take the picture twice) and they said I would receive a hard copy of my license in the mail in 2 to 3 weeks.

Walking out that door with the authorization to drive on my own, I couldn’t stop smiling, I felt like a true adult. However, I was far from it. The truth is, I was only 16-years-old and had no idea the weight of responsibility that was on my shoulders now. I’ll admit for the first few months I was driving alone, I was a little scared. I would have to constantly keep rubbing my palms on my clothes because they would get sweaty and slippery on the wheel. If I got beeped at, I took it very personally and thought about what I could have done better. I made sure to make as little mistakes as possible – I didn’t want any of the other experienced drivers thinking I was a beginner at this! Eventually, it got better with practice and I became more comfortable with going on highway ramps, switching lanes and driving in urban areas.

If you have a teen that just passed their driver’s test or are currently in driver’s education, remember that this moment is an important, life-changing accomplishment for them. Even though you won’t be physically by their side when they’re behind the wheel, you can still offer them your support and driving wisdom beforehand. I know, it’s easier said than done. Looking back, I didn’t exactly listen to everything my parents told me when I was 16, but I must have retained something since I’m a pretty safe driver now!

Sadly, according to the CDC, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. It’s scary and the last thing you want to imagine, so it’s important to make sure they’re truly prepared for driving.

Thankfully, you can guide your teen to ensure their driving experience is as safe as possible with these helpful tips:

  • Follow the speed limit. I know, it’s an obvious one. But when you go too fast, you have less time to stop or react. Speeding is one of the leading causes of teenage accidents. Another obvious and important reminder – always wear your seatbelt! According to the CDC, wearing a seat belt can lower the risk of death in car accidents by nearly 50%.
  • Make sure your seat is adjusted properly to your height. This is very important because if you can’t see through your rear view mirror, it can affect your driving. A good way to tell if the mirror is in the right spot is if you can see the headlights of the car behind you. Also, make sure to adjust your door mirrors on the drivers and passenger side.
  • Keep that windshield clean. Keeping your car clean isn’t just about style. In the morning and evening, light reflecting off a dirty windshield can temporarily blind you while you’re driving.
  • Always check your blind spot. This is something I can’t stress enough! Thoughtlessly changing lanes can lead to a dangerous situation, especially with smaller vehicles like motorcycles.
    • Use your turn signals. Whether you’re turning or changing lanes, you need to give the car behind you enough time to react.
    • Be cautious for aggressive drivers. If you do encounter an angry driver, back off and give them space on the road. The best thing is to stay calm to avoid getting into an accident with this person, or another driver on the road.
    • Don’t use cruise control in the rain or snow. Using this feature during heavy rain, snow or ice can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
    • Keep your hands on the wheel, and off your cell phone! Texting and driving has become the number one distraction for teens and adults. A text isn’t worth anyone’s life, and each time you take your eyes off the road, you put yourself and others at risk. Another reason to keep your eyes on your phone – you will get a ticket! According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 47 states have banned text messaging for drivers. If you get caught, you may get slapped with a big fine, and get points on your driving record. A good way to avoid this is to keep your phone in a place that you can’t reach while you’re driving.

    For the first few weeks, it might be a good idea to have your teen start off with small trips that are less than five miles away. It will help build confidence, and allow them to get more comfortable with driving alone. If you’re still nervous, there are other options you can look into, such as a GPS tracking device or smart phone apps that will monitor location and driving speeds. Plus, larger automakers have actually installed systems in their new models that allow parents to set limits on speed and drive time, so keep an eye out for those.

    From everyone here at Foremost, good luck and safe driving!


Tips for being a responsible party host

Planning a party can be a big task, especially when you consider your responsibilities as host extend beyond when your guests walk out the door. The perfect ending to any gathering is a safe trip home for all of your guests.

Remember, too, if your intoxicated guest is injured or injures someone else on the way home, you could be held legally responsible.

But you can take steps to ensure the safety of your guests and, ultimately, the success of your gathering.

Provide the Right Environment

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration encourages these precautions when hosting a party:

  • Avoid making alcohol the main focus of social events. Entertain guests with music, dancing, games, food and lively conversation.
  • Provide guests with nutritious and appealing foods to slow the effects of alcohol. High protein and carbohydrate foods like cheese and meats are especially good. They stay in the stomach much longer, which slows the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol. Avoid salty foods, which encourage people to drink more.
  • Did you know that one in three adults prefers a nonalcoholic beverage? Make sure to offer plenty of nonalcoholic choices such as sparkling water, fancy juice drinks, soft drinks and bottled drinking water.
Play it Safe When Serving Alcohol

During your party:

  • If you hire or designate someone as bartender, ask them to measure the correct amount of liquor into drinks and instruct them not to serve anyone who appears to be impaired.
  • Check the ID of anyone who appears to be under the age of 30 (no ID, no alcohol).
  • Stop serving drinks at least one hour before the end of the event. Instead, serve coffee, nonalcoholic beverages and desserts at that time.
  • Recruit people who will not be drinking to be available at the end of the party to help ensure that everyone has a safe ride home.

Finally, had one too many? Call a friend, taxi or rideshare service.

Group Of Friends Enjoying Drinks And Snacks At Party

Tips for Being a Safe Hunter

It may come as a surprise to some, but hunting is actually one of the safest sports you can be a part of. Why is that? Because the people who participate have a healthy respect for the rules and regulations involved with hunting safety. Make sure you know how to keep hunting trips safe for yourself and your surroundings before you enter the woods this fall.

  • Know what you’re shooting

    That movement could have been your fellow hunting buddies, so be careful you know what you’re shooting! If you are any less than 100% sure you are shooting at the correct target, don’t pull the trigger! While not required by law in New York, more than 80% of big game hunters and two out of three small game hunters, wear hunter orange. Hunters who wear orange are seven times less likely to be shot and have an exponential advantage over game like deer, who are less sensitive to the longer wavelengths that oranges and reds give out.

  • Wear fall prevention devices while in trees or ladders

    If you are a bow hunter (or similar hunter who climbs trees or ladders), be wise in choosing your position! Tribune Star states that in the last five years, 55% of reported hunting accidents have involved falls from tree or ladder stands. Most of those who fell were not wearing any form of fall prevention device, which could have prevented serious injury. We recommend wearing a full-body harness, which is attached to the tree or ladder as soon as you begin to climb.

    • Watch exertion levels

      Heart attacks are surprisingly common while hunting, so make sure you control your output throughout the day. Staying hydrated and nourished will also help decrease the risk of over-exertion.

    • Keep your safety on while you walk

      This one is self-explanatory. While you walk, keep your safety on to prevent inadvertent firing. However, you should still always treat your gun as if it can fire at any time — even the best firearms can fail because they rely on a mechanical device, just like everything else. Try out these different field carries which teach how to accurately control your muzzle, keep fingers away from the trigger, and keep your safety on until you’re ready to fire.

    • Keep your barrel clean

      Don’t let the barrel of your gun get clogged with mud, snow, or excess lubricant. Even a little blockage can cause dangerously increased pressures which may cause the gun to bulge or even burst on firing because the bullet or shot cannot exit the barrel.

    • Understand your coordinates

      Take a phone and/or GPS with you in case you become lost or disoriented, and make sure that device is reliable and fully charged. There are many GPS devices made with built-in hunting waypoints, maps, and information to keep you in the loop while you move.

    • Stay sober

      Discharging a firearm while under the influence is illegal. Statutes vary as to the acceptable limits, but in any case, carrying a firearm after drinking is highly dangerous to you and those around you and is not recommended.

    Stay safe and warm during this hunting season!