Over scheduled again?

Over scheduled would be the word I try to avoid every fall. With school, starting sports and activities usually, resume making school nights hectic. There are so many great opportunities and it is easy to overbook children with sports and extracurricular activities. Some years we really miss the mark, other years we do better at prioritizing activities and schoolwork.

Like adults, children also need downtime to be at their best. If we want our children to do, their best in school we want to set them up for success in the evenings. Parents need to give children adequate time to complete schoolwork and prepare for the next day. Providing this time in the evening can be tough with multiple children, homework, and activities. Try a few of these suggestions to help with over scheduled school nights:

Child working on homework

1. Make eating dinner a priority. There are many benefits to regular family meals. These include higher self-esteem, better academic performance, lower substance abuse and lower rates of obesity. Sitting together for meals can help increase family unity. Planning a family dinner in the schedule on school nights can help family members slow down, regroup and unwind from the day.

2.     Help children with homework. This can help children do well in school but also this time is beneficial to parents making sure their students are staying up with classwork, and getting adequate time to complete their assignments.

3. The start of each school year is a good time to evaluate the academic, social, physical and emotional needs of each child when it comes to extra activities. Keep in mind that children are unique and their needs will be different. Some children can handle their schoolwork and extracurricular activities without difficulty. Other children may benefit from more time for homework and fewer activities.  

4.     Have an evening routine. Routines are beneficial for keeping families organized. An evening routine could include family dinner, homework time, chores, time for activities and bedtime. Children need different amounts of sleep depending on their age.  Children who do not get enough sleep can struggle academically, and be tired or cranky at school.   

Carefully selecting the right balance of extracurricular activities can be difficult. Parents providing support can be beneficial to children as they try to balance academics, friends, sports and other activities. In the end, academics will be important to your child’s success. Choosing academics over one more activity, or working on a slower evening routine may exactly what a child needs to feel prepared for their next day of school.  

Written by: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County.

Reviewed by: Lorrissa Dunfee, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County.


“Benefits of Family Dinners.” The Family Dinner Project, https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/about-us/benefits-of-family-dinners/.

College-Homework-Help.org. “Should Parents Help with Homework to Let Their Kids Succeed at School.” Should Parents Help with Homework to Let Their Kids Succeed at School, https://college-homework-help.org/blog/should-parents-help-with-homework.

“Routines for a New School Year.” Live Healthy Live Well, 13 Feb. 2019, https://livehealthyosu.com/2018/08/06/routines-for-a-new-school-year/.

“Signs Your Child Isn’t Sleeping Enough.” Sleep.org, https://www.sleep.org/articles/signs-your-child-isnt-sleeping-enough/.

picture of nut butter spread with berries

Do you remember when peanut butter was the only nut butter available on the grocery store shelves? Options included creamy and chunky, and eventually low sodium and natural, too.

Today, the nut butter market has grown exponentially, for a variety of reasons! People with peanut allergies want alternatives to peanut butter, and some schools have gone nut free as a precaution for students with nut allergies. Additionally, consumers like to look for new and exciting flavors to jazz up traditional snacks like PB&J sandwiches.

Most nut butters are made from either tree nuts like almonds, cashews or hazelnuts, or from seeds (e.g. sunflower seed butter), since peanuts are actually a legume. However, chickpea butter now exists as an alternate legume-based spread, and its creators claim it has a similar texture and nutritional profile to peanut butter.

When looking for a nut butter to try, variables to consider include taste, texture, spreadability and nutrition content. To see how nut butters stack up nutritionally, keep in mind that a 2 Tablespoon serving of peanut butter has 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of sugar. Many peanut butter alternatives have more sugar and less protein than peanut butter, so your best bet is to look for options that are comparable to peanut butter in nutrition content. A good rule of thumb is to avoid flavored or sweetened nut butters, like chocolate hazelnut spreads and cookie butters, as these tend to be the highest in sugar.

One nutritional benefit of mixing up your nut butter selection is that while most nuts are similar in fat and calorie content, they contain different vitamins and minerals. Cashews are rich in copper, for example, and almonds are a good source of Vitamin E. So, consuming a variety of nuts – as long as you don’t have a nut allergy – can help provide you with the different vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive.

Don’t forget about portion control when consuming nuts and nut butters, though. A serving of nut butter is only 2 tablespoons, and a serving of raw nuts is ¼ cup- about the size of the palm of your hand. It can be easy to overspread and overeat nuts and nut butters, and the fat and calories contained in these foods can add up quickly. Read your food labels and use measuring utensils to practice portion control, and you’ll get the nutritional benefits of nuts and nut butters without overindulging.


Ettman, L. (2017). Here’s what you need to know about sugar in nut butters. Nutrition Action. https://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/sugar-in-food/sugar-in-peanut-butter/

Nurture Life (2016). Top 7 Kid Approved Peanut Butter Alternatives. https://nurturelife.com/blog/top-7-kid-approved-peanut-butter-alternatives/

USDA (2012). Household Foods Fact Sheet: Peanut Butter, Smooth. https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/factsheets/HHFS_PEANUTBUTTER_100395Oct%202012.pdf

Warren, R.M. (2016). Best nut butters to eat right now. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/nut-butters/best-nut-butters-to-eat-right-now/

Watson, E. (2018). Nut butter… minus the nuts? The amazing chickpea offers a pulse-based alternative. https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2018/04/05/Nut-butter-minus-the-nuts-The-Amazing-Chickpea-offers-a-pulse-based-alternative

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

A year ago, I struggled with depression after a foot surgery. I experienced feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, fatigue and overwhelm. I thought this had something to do with my reaction to my limitations after surgery: restricted mobility and not being able to work, etc. while I was healing. But when these same symptoms repeated a year later after a similar surgery (even with much quicker healing and return to work) I began to realize that depression may be related to the surgery itself. I investigated this phenomenon and found that postoperative depression is a very common occurrence. If this is so common, why didn’t anyone prepare me? In hopes that my experience might help someone else as they face or recover from a surgery… I’d like to share what I’ve learned…

Depression is a well-documented adverse effect of many surgical procedures. According to the American Heart Association, 25% of patients experience depression after cardiac surgery. Depression can result from a number a reasons, including pain and discomfort, decreased mobility, and increased dependency on others. For patients who have had a surgery to remove an organ or body part, a feeling of loss can also contribute to depression. In addition, the brain’s immune response to anesthesia and surgery can cause cognitive dysfunction.

Symptoms of postoperative depression may include:

  • fatigue
  • difficulty making decisions
  • memory problems
  • eating more or less than usual
  • sleeping more or less than usual
  • loss of interest in activities
  • irritability and restlessness
  • slower movement
  • slower speech
  • anxiety and stress
  • feelings of despair or hopelessness
  • suicidal or self-harming thoughts

Depression can also increase the risk of physical illness and slow the recovery from an injury or operation. Furthermore, depression after surgery can increase a patient’s perception of pain.

While it is normal to experience many of these symptoms after surgery, if they persist longer than two weeks, talk with your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe a medication temporarily to help you feel more like yourself.

picture of teddy bear in hospital bed

There are several things you can do to beat the post-surgery blues…

  • Take care of yourself
  • Ask for help
  • Spend time outdoors
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Surround yourself with loved ones
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Ease SLOWLY back into routine

The American Heart Association (AHA) has resources including this pre-surgery checklist and postoperative recovery milestones. AHA offers these tips for recovering from surgery:

  • Manage Expectations – ask questions ahead of time to know what to expect for your recovery
  • Take it slow – if you push it too fast, you can slow your healing. Give your body and mind the time they need to heal
  • Move, but at your own pace – exercise can aid in healing, but only what your doctor has approved
  • Celebrate progress – while recovery can seem to take forever, a look back to see how far you have come can be encouraging.

If you or a loved one is facing surgery, learn as much as you can about the physical, and emotional effects of surgery in order to improve chances of feeling better while recovering.


American Heart Association. (2019). Post Surgery Milestones: Managing Your Mood, Expectations and Goals The Emotions of Surgery Recovery. Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-valve-problems-and-disease/recovery-and-healthy-living-goals-for-heart-valve-patients/post-surgery-milestones-managing-your-mood-expectations-and-goals#.WSVLfBPyuu4

Chowdhurry, S., (2019, Feb 6). “Why Some People Get Depressed After Surgery—Even if They’ve Recovered Just Fine.” Retrieved from https://www.health.com/condition/depression/depression-after-surgery

Depression and postoperative complications: an overview. Ghoneim MM, O’Hara MW. BMC Surg. 2016;16:5. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4736276/

Johnson, J. (2017, May 25). “Depression after surgery: What you need to know.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317616.php.

Mirani, S. H., Areja, D., Gilani, S. S., Tahir, A., Pathan, M., & Bhatti, S. (2019). Frequency of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Surgical Hospitalized Patients. Cureus11(2), e4141. doi:10.7759/cureus.4141 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6485537/

Writer: Shannon Carter, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

picture of journal with note "Make it Happen"

Earlier this year I decided to do some research in to increasing productivity since I found myself saying or thinking how busy I was, even though I did not feel like I accomplished as much as I could or should. In my first blog about productivity, I rejected the notion of multitasking. In my second blog, I talked about taking breaks FROM work. I would be lying if I told you I have been doing well with either concept, especially the last couple months.

Over the summer, I have slipped back into my old ways. I have not been turning off email as often as I should (it is closed as I write this.) I have found myself starting one thing and then trying to do something else simultaneously. I have been taking breaks from my work on some days, but not as faithfully as I had planned. In fact, I was just telling my co-worker that SHE needs to take breaks from her work. I had to admit to her, that it was also a reminder for me to do the same. While my tendency would be to lament about my lack of progress, I have accepted that this is a process.

When we start something new or try to do things differently, there is bound to be a learning curve. As I am trying to learn different ways of working, I am likely to stumble, and I may even fall flat on my face. When this happens, I need to get back up and continue or start over. So, today I have my email turned off while I work on this blog. In a little while, I am going for a walk outside to help me reset and refresh. While I have not been as regular as I wanted to be with these changes, I am not going to be too hard on myself. I am going to regroup and make a concerted effort to get back to doing some of the things I committed to doing earlier this year.

to do list... "Later, tomorrow, today, Now"

Since my last blog, I have done some additional reading about productivity. In the article, “How to Boost Your Workplace Productivity” Tamar Shulsinger gives these suggestions:

  1. Develop a Morning Routine
  2. Prioritize Your Calendar
  3. Arrange Your Tasks in Order of Importance
  4. Communicate Efficiently
  5. Consider the Pomodoro Method
  6. Define What Work-Life Balance Means to You

I have been using some of these ideas, but again, not consistently. I want to become better about prioritizing my calendar, arranging my tasks, and using the Pomodoro Method. I will keep you updated in future posts as to how it is going. I would love to hear what tips or suggestions do you have for maximizing productivity. The more tools I have, the better.

Writer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu





Cirillo, F. Do more and have fun with time management. Cirillo Consulting. Retrieved from: https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

Harmon, M. (2019). Accomplish even MORE in LESS Time. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. Retrieved from: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/livehealthyosu.com/11895

Harmon, M. (2019). Accomplish MORE in LESS Time. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. Found at: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/livehealthyosu.com/11802

Shulsinger, T. (2017). How to Boost Your Workplace Productivity. Northeastern University Graduate Programs. Found at: https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/how-to-boost-workplace-productivity/

In the near future, your doctor may prescribe getting outside and embracing nature. Your doctor may suggest that you participate in green exercise, or they may write a nature prescription.

Green exercise includes any physical activity that takes place outdoors. Think about taking a walk in nature, exploring a park, or discovering a new forest area.

Michigan State University Extension has an interesting article about the benefits of green exercise. Some of these benefits may include:

  • boosting the immune system
  • lowering blood pressure
  • reducing stress
  • improving mood
  • increasing ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • accelerating recovery from surgery or illness
  • increasing energy level
  • improving sleep

According to research from the University of Washington, exposure to trees and other natural features provide positive changes to our emotional well-being, such as reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.


While visiting Whidbey Island, Washington, I enjoyed finding this artistic piece of driftwood and rocks. Someone left this “gift of nature” for anyone who came upon it to enjoy. If we take a moment to pause and reflect on the beauty of nature, we may find that our stress levels are reduced, our mind calms and we feel more positive.

I love being outdoors – it is good for me both physically and mentally. Spending time in nature helps me slow down the pace and embrace the beauty of nature.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Do you need a little more motivation to get started? Join Ohio State University Extension for their free October webinar series on Hiking and Health. Register by September 24th at go.osu.edu/HikingHealth . You will enjoy learning about topics such as food safety on the trail, proper gear selection, plant identification, tick prevention and proper hydration techniques.


American Heart Association (2018). Spend Time in Nature to Reduce Stress and Anxiety. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/spend-time-in-nature-to-reduce-stress-and-anxiety.

Fogel, A. (2010). Green Exercise. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/body-sense/201009/green-exercise

Green Cities, Good Health. University of Washington. https://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/

BBC News (2018). ‘Nature’ being prescribed by GPs in Shetland. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-45758016

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health. https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html

Tiret, H. June, 2017. Green exercise can improve physical and mental health. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/green_exercise_can_improve_physical_and_mental_health

Written by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

girl with leaf

Is Your Child’s Preschool Program Up to Quality?

SUTQ (Step Up To Quality) is Ohio’s quality rating and improvement system for early care and education.  It was implemented statewide in 2006 by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), the two entities who oversee the program.

SUTQ was designed to increase the number of highly qualified child care programs and help families identify programs that go beyond minimum state standards.

Providers may earn star ratings (up to 5 stars) as they meet criteria in each of the 5 levels.  Providers who achieve a 3-5 star designation are considered “highly rated” meaning they have met additional performance goals such as:

  • lower staff:child ratios
  • higher levels of education and training for staff
  • increased family engagement

As part of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, Ohio must meet the goal of having all licensed childcare providers who receive publicly funded child care subsidies to be star rated by 2020 and highly rated (3-5 stars) by 2025.  Providers who do not receive subsidies are not required to participate in SUTQ.

Current estimates report between 50-70% of all child care programs in Ohio are rated.  Many programs who have earned the “highly rated” status are part of larger school systems who have designated resources out of a district budget to assist with meeting the additional financial costs with earning star ratings.

Some private and home care providers are fearful that if they are financially unable to meet the requirements, they will lose funding and be forced to close their doors.  Unfortunately, private providers are typically the only option for parents who need evening, overnight or weekend care for their children.

Is my provider rated?

Ask your provider if they are star rated.  If they are, ask when they will be applying for their next rating.  If not, ask if they have a plan in place if their funding is not renewed.

Shop around for star rated programs.  Do some online searching and view inspection reports of child care providers through the ODJFS or ODE websites. Schedule visits and meet the staff – not just your child’s teacher! Remember that your child will have contact with other teachers throughout their day or week.

Ask the site about family engagement. Consider what that means to you, and to them. You should be invited to visit your child’s school often and feel welcome anytime.

If applying for a spot in a star-rated program, be prepared and know the deadlines for enrollment. Some sites will have open registrations and some charge fees to apply.  Have a backup plan if your provider closes or if something changes and you have to pay tuition.

Programs like SUTQ hold childcare providers accountable by ensuring that they hire well qualified and trained teachers, and that they engage families and build strong foundations for all children.

Look for the best childcare provider for your young learner – it will be worth it!



Ohio Department of Education (2019). Step Up to Quality (SUTQ). http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Early-Learning/Step-Up-To-Quality-SUTQ

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2017). Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ecd/early-learning/race-to-the-top


Written by: Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Butler County, reister.6@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Pickaway County, Treber.1@osu.edu


Reclaiming Fitness

"If you want to reach your goals, you must shrink the size of your but." - Toby Mac #speaklife

July was a big month for me. After evaluating and reflecting on my personal wellness in a blog post in June, I decided it was time to act. Motivated in part by the meme pictured above, which I initially saw on a friend’s social media page, I knew it was time to stop making excuses for my lack of inactivity and re-invest in my personal well-being.

In June, I had identified coping with stress as a priority area for my overall wellness. I knew I needed to either resume an exercise routine (my former go-to method for coping with stress) or identify an alternative stress coping strategy. I decided to resume exercising, and I set a SMART goal for myself to re-establish a routine. 

A SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. My goal was to attend at least one fitness class for a week for a month. This goal was:

Specific – I stated what I wanted to accomplish.

Measurable – At the end of the month, I could tell whether I had achieved my goal by looking at my fitness class attendance.

Attainable – Because I did not have a current routine when I set this goal, I started small by challenging myself to attend just one class a week.

Realistic – In setting this goal, I knew I had the time and financial resources to attend fitness classes at a convenient location for me.

Timely – My goal was for the coming month.

I am proud to say that I met my goal, and now I am working toward a new goal of attending two or more fitness classes each week this month!

Before setting and achieving this goal, I was not entirely inactive; I used resistance bands and my own body weight to do simple strength training exercises while at work, and I took walks around my neighborhood when I was able. But, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, while some physical activity is better than none, engaging in moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity is key to experiencing substantial health benefits.

Regular moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity:

  1. Reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes such as coronary heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, diabetes, hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease; and  
  2. Promotes brain health by reducing anxiety and depression risk while improving sleep quality and overall quality of life.

The guidelines state that the benefits of physical activity generally outweigh the risk of adverse outcomes or injury. However, if you are starting a new physical activity routine, make sure to choose types of activity that are appropriate for your current fitness level, knowing that you can increase your activity over time to meet your goals. If you have a chronic condition and/or are unsure about the types and amounts of activity appropriate for you, take time to consult with a health care provider before setting a goal or beginning a routine.


Stanford BeWell. Achieving your SMART health goal. https://bewell.stanford.edu/achieving-your-smart-health-goal/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu