Jumaat, 18 April 2014

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Romania's stray dogs find help from teenager who uses Facebook to save them

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 05:55 AM PDT

A 13-year-old girl's love and sympathy for Romania's stray dogs has inspired her to take up the crusade to save them from certain death, by using her Facebook to appeal to dog lovers all over Europe to adopt the strays she rescues.

Ana-Maria Ciulcu is a 13-year-old schoolgirl with braces on her teeth. In all respects, she's a normal teenager, except for the fact that she uses her Facebook to appeal to dog lovers all over Europe to adopt Romania's strays, which number in the tens of thousands. 

"I like to know that my dogs will be spoiled, and will be allowed to sit on the sofa, so one of my first questions would be: 'Are you going to chain him?'" Ciulcu told Reuters.

Speaking fluent German and with a good grasp of the Internet, she's used both skills to rescue 150 strays and ship them to Germany, Austria and Belgium since September last year.

A visit to her Facebook page reveals no selfies but countless portraits of dogs. It's safe to say that she's not kidding when it comes to saving the strays. But Ciulcu's love may not be enough. 

At last count, Bucharest's state-funded wards hold 2,800 dogs, and 2,000 dogs have been euthanised in the past two months, according to Romania's Authority for Animal Surveillance and Protection.

Foreign citizens, mainly German and British, have directly adopted about 30 dogs since September, ASPA director Razvan Bancescu told Reuters.

Some 60,000 strays roam Bucharest. Last year, a four-year-old boy died after he was mauled by a stray beside a Bucharest park. Street protests demanded something be done about the dogs.

The authorities began enforcing the euthanasia rules, which enable city halls to put down dogs caught in public spaces if they are not adopted within two weeks.

The strays are thought to be a legacy of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's decision to bulldoze Bucharest's historic centre in the 1980s to make way for a gargantuan "House of the People". Thousands of guard dogs were abandoned by residents who had been forcibly relocated into small apartments.

Spurred to action

Ciulcu collects strays on the street. They go to a temporary private shelter, or to the backyard of her home on the capital's outskirts. She has a veterinarian vaccinate them and give them microchip identification tags and eventually gets international passports for them.

All costs, from medicines, vaccines and neutering to identification chips and passports, are covered by Ana-Maria's family – about 150 euros (RM673) per dog. Transporting the animals to their destinations is covered by the new owner.

She spends up to about two hours a day selecting owners from among thousands of would-be pet owners who visit her Facebook page. Few Romanians are among them.

"Romanians generally want to adopt only a pure breed," she said.

Ciulcu, who wants to become a doctor, believes keeping animals together in state-funded shelters is not a solution, just an extermination plan. Until she takes up her medical studies, her ambition is to save as many dogs as she can.

"Dogs can't live packed together," she said. "They need affection." – Reuters

Easter weekend fun: 'Egg-citing' activities and ideas for the whole family

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 02:00 AM PDT

This weekend, celebrate Easter with some fun activities. Here are some delightful and exciting projects you can do with your little ones.

Easter egg hunt

What's Easter Sunday without the ever popular egg hunt activity. Get some hard boiled eggs ready, either on Easter morning or the day before. Draw silly faces on them for the kids' amusement and hide them around the house. You can get the kids to start their hunt first thing in the morning and have hard boiled eggs for breakfast! Nutritious and fun!

Easter chocolate hunt

Ok, this activity might cost a bit of money, but it can be a lot of fun for the kids. Get some Easter bunny shaped chocolates and hide them around the house. Create maps or come up with fun stories, to lead your kids to their treasures. You can either hide Easter shaped bunny chocolates or Easter egg chocolates to mix things up a little.

Easter egg painting

This activity requires a little advanced preparation as well. Get some hardboiled eggs and set up an egg-painting station at home with the kids. Let their creativity run wild. Paint funny faces, or rainbow colours on the eggs, or simply paste glitter on them, the choice is yours. Check out our DIY Crowned Easter egg masterclass

Easter movie fun

A scene from Hop, a live action/CG-animated comedy from the producers of Despicable Me and the director of Alvin and the Chipmunks. This is E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), the teenage son of the Easter Bunny, who is on a mission to save Easter.

Sit down together for a fun Easter-themed movie. Pop in a DVD, sit back and enjoy. Here are some choices to keep with the Easter theme: Hop (2011), Hank and Mike (2008), The First Easter Rabbit (1976), Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), Easter Parade (1948), and Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011).

Egg and spoon race

Instead of playing games on your tablets or the computer, why not try this. If you have a backyard or a spacious front room (or any spacious area indoors), this game can offer a lot of fun for all. Place an egg on a spoon, form teams and race! You can invite other family, relatives and friends over to have bigger teams and add on to the fun. Use hard boiled eggs to avoid messy accidents.

Easter art fun

This simple and very easy activity can keep the kids entertained for hours. Just grab a piece of A4 paper and start drawing. Offer your kids a theme, such as pink Easter bunny or a basket filled with eggs, or even Easter bunny chocolate drawings. Turn it into a competition between siblings and reward them with Easter chocolates or help them colour their pictures so you can get in the fun as well.

Easter "devilled" eggs

What to do with all those leftover Easter eggs? Make devilled eggs, of course. 

Devilled eggs are easy and simple to make. So why not get the kids to join in for some added fun. All you need are peeled hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise, pinch of salt, fresh black pepper and yellow mustard, if you fancy a little kick. Check out The Star's own recipe for devilled eggs that uses mashed potatoes. 

Playtime at the gym: Make exercise a fun activity for the kids

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

A self-proclaimed fitness buff makes exercise play for children.

Courtney Grady understands the allure of video games. "I grew up on Nintendo," she said. And she still plays games today.

In fact, as an owner of a gym for children six weeks to 13 years old, she sometimes lets the kids play these games for hours at a time.

But there's one big catch.

"They don't just play the game," Grady said. "They get to be the game."

Grady's gym is called My Gym, part of a 31-year-old international chain. During craft time, the kids sometimes make red hats with an "M" like Mario of Super Mario Bros.

Then Grady and her staff place yellow discs on boxes hanging from the ceiling so the kids can run around on the padded floor, jumping and punching the boxes to knock free the discs. Kind of like what they've seen Mario do in the video games.

Grady even plays the theme music from the video game while the kids play.

Gym owner Courtney Grady says her gym gives children a start toward living active lifestyles. (Craig Hill/The News Tribune/MCT)

Play in action: Gym owner Courtney Grady says her gym gives children a start towards leading active
lifestyles. — The News Tribune/MCT

"That is the best theme for games I can think of," Grady said of video games.

Running a kids gym requires plenty of imagination to keep them engaged. And she and her staff seem to have no shortage of it. They've installed a zip line and rearrange the gym each week.

They use coloured duct tape to make Angry Birds out of foam balls.

When the staff recently watched Disney's Monsters University, the Scare Games scenes inspired a day of active fun for the kids.

"We said we're doing the Scare Games and we set it up the next day," Grady said.

One staffer, Britney Thurston, even played the role of the scare simulator. In the movie, this is a robot that sits up in bed and screams when it's scared by the monsters.

The kids ran around having fun, laughing as they scared Miss Britney and were totally oblivious to the fact they were also exercising.

This is may be the key in the battle between exercise and screens for children's attention.

"Exercise doesn't have to be a negative thing," Grady said. "It can just be tons of fun playing. And that's enough sometimes."

Grady grew up in Michigan where she played softball at Ferris State University. As the daughter of two college athletes – they attended Ferris State's rival school, Grand Valley State – she's always been a self-proclaimed gym rat.

"It was fun and it was always important to me to be active," Grady said. "And even as I grew up it was still important to me. It's engrained in me."

So when she graduated and moved to Western Washington to work for a cable sports channel, Grady quickly missed the active lifestyle she left behind.

After over a year, "I said I have too much energy to be locked up in this control room."

Grady worked as a recreation director at a senior centre before she found her passion helping parents raise active children.

Making exercise fun is hard for some people, Grady said.

"For some people, it's a negative thing because it takes time and dedication," Grady said. "We're all so busy that the idea of taking time to play is kind of a hard concept."

But once you do, exercising can become the highlight of your day.

This is what works for the kids in her classes.

It works so well, some parents have told her they can't even drive by the gym without their kids begging to go to the gym.

And this is what has always worked for Grady.

"I still have a hard time getting on a treadmill," Grady said. "But I love playing. I could play with these kids all day.

"You just need to find something your kids like and go with it," Grady said. "Do it to the max and have fun with it."

She also believes the kids fall in love with exercise because she sometimes asks them to take tiny steps outside of their comfort zones.

They climb rope ladders to the ceiling, ride the zip line and do flips on the trapeze (all, of course, while being spotted by a staff member).

"It's amazing to see how this builds confidence in the kids," Grady said.

But when it comes to raising active kids, Grady said, there is one thing that works even better than indoor zip lines, rope ladders and video game-themed workouts – active parents.

"If you make it important," she said, "they make it important." – The News Tribune/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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