Swimming pools are a backyard staple for summer fun in the Northeast. The scene is generally a happy one –— energetic children splashing around among lush grass and good company. But home pools aren't always as joyful as they look when news of accidents, safety issues and negative effects on property value surface each year before the season ends.
"Pool ownership certainly brings enjoyment for the entire family," says Brooke Chaffee-Zayas, licensed real estate salesperson with Monticello Real Estate. "But it also requires a level of responsibility in keeping everyone safe."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people died each day in the U.S. between 2005 and 2014 from unintentional drowning. About one in five people who die from drowning are children aged 14 or younger. Contributing factors include lack of swimming skills, unsafe pool grounds and inadequate adult supervision.
These pool pitfalls can leave homeowners and buyers wondering if owning a pool is worth the potential risk. But there is a protocol to follow for safe pool use.
Proper fencing, gates and locks are essential for the exterior area surrounding the pool, in addition to being vigilant and supervising children around or near a pool. For homeowners with young children, choosing a lock that makes a sound when it opens adds extra protection and value.
Chaffee-Zayas also recommends taking another step to ensure additional locks on exterior doors of the home like a sunroom, garage or basement door that leads to the backyard. It's important that all locks are out of a child's reach.
And in the winter months when the pool is closed, homeowners should be confident that the pool cover can also stand to prevent accidents from occurring this time of year.
"Many homeowners still use tarp to cover their pool during winter months," says Chaffee-Zayas. "If you use this method, homeowners must be hypervigilant in keeping everyone away from the pool at all times: Even an excellent swimmer would have a difficult time escaping a fall into a tarp-covered pool."
The safer alternative is a mesh pool cover; resembling the texture of a trampoline. This cover is generally maintenance-free. From an aesthetic perspective, it looks much better for home buyers buying a home when the pool is closed, added Chaffee-Zayas.
Informed consumers avoid pitfalls of plastic and build their credit
By Taylor Rao
Albany Times Union
Published 4:04 pm, Friday, January 25, 2016
When managing your personal finances at a time when the spending seems endless, it's common to swipe your credit card at the checkout counter while looking the other way. You're at the register holding a sweater you already own, but love so much you just have to have it in a second color.
On the way home from the store, you might find yourself justifying the purchase without having the cash on-hand — dreaming up a way to find the funds when the statement arrives at the end of the month.
And while myths circulate about credit card debt, extra fees and personal security, some consumers might decide against using credit cards altogether.
"While it's possible to live without a credit card, people are not protecting or helping their credit scores by not borrowing or charging anything," says Kevin Gallegos, credit and debt expert for Freedom Financial Network in Phoenix.
Credit agencies rely on past payment history to gauge how borrowers will do in the future, and for consumers who choose not to borrow at all, securing a personal loan or a mortgage can be difficult down the line.
Instead of avoiding credit cards, smart consumers create a strategy to own a credit card and use it as a tool to their advantage, rather than making excuses for losing track of purchases and payments, creating a path for excess borrowing and debt.
Starting fresh, however, doesn't come easily until you can acknowledge your current credit card habits and understand the mistakes you've made in the past.
We've outlined the top mistakes consumers with credit cards make — and offer suggestions on how to fix them.
Basic planning can ensure your holiday get-together is festive indeed
By Taylor Rao
Albany Times Union
Published 2:20 pm, Friday, December 4, 2015
For many people, the holidays are not complete without an opportunity to welcome friends and family for a festive, cozy get-together.
But trying to plan a great event takes a lot of time, especially when there are other peoples' parties to attend, cards to send and gifts to wrap.
"Around the holidays, we see parties and events of all shapes and sizes," says Katie O'Malley Maloney, owner of Katie O' Weddings and Events in Troy.
The typical at-home holiday party could be a small get-together with several couples, or a larger gathering of up to 40 to 50 people, with the latter being a slightly more popular "open house" style event, where guests can come and go, dress festively and enjoy hors d'oeuvres, music and good company, says O'Malley Maloney.
"A great host always tries to keep in mind the personalities and tastes of the guests, while incorporating their own spin on the food and beverage menu," says Sheldon Wiley, Ciroc trade ambassador in New York City. "Shake it up with items that represent the evening's theme to create a deliciously fun holiday party that your friends will be talking about tomorrow."
If you're a shoes-at-the-door household, leave a bucket of festive holiday socks and slippers for your guests to wear throughout the night. Or if you're over the ugly sweater party fad, host a "naked tree" party where each guest brings a unique ornament and decorates the tree as a group.
No matter the size, a great party doesn't come together overnight; it takes weeks of preparation, budget planning, decorating and list-making to combine all the best elements needed to throw a fantastic event.
We've taken a look at the best tips and tricks for a holiday host to prepare for this season.
For parents trying to expel head lice from their family, local service is a miracle indeedBy Taylor Rao
Albany Times Union
Published 5:27 pm, Friday, August 28, 2015
When Helaina Slader answers her work phone, she's used to greeting voices of panic and uncertainty. Before the call is complete, she buttons her uniform coat, grabs a headlamp and prepares her studio to perform a miracle.
"How quickly can you get here?" she asks her worried client-to-be.
By that point, many of her clients have already started to drive to Miracles on Lice, a professional lice removal service in Ballston Lake.
Stacy Lee, a Schaghticoke mother of three, gave Miracles on Lice a call after finding a louse in her hairbrush on a Sunday morning.
It was then she realized the two weeks she spent using at-home treatments to rid her three young daughters of their own cases of head lice had not been successful. Now, she had caught it too.
Still dressed in her pajamas, Lee left the house with her family in tow and headed straight to meet the Slader family for a full day at Miracles on Lice.
"When we walked in the door, it was like the heavens opened up," says Lee, who heard about Miracles on Lice through a friend who had used the service. After an Internet search for the telephone number, Lee was sure she would reach a voicemail that early Sunday morning, planning to get help the next day.
When Slader answered the phone, Lee's nightmare of spending hours combing through her daughters' hair and trying every suggested DIY method of lice removal she could find online and from friends was finally over.
For families with young children, complaints of an itchy head caused by a case of head lice are not unusual. The CDC estimates 6 to 12 million lice infestations occur each year in the United States, most commonly in schoolchildren ages 3 to 11.
Recently, a new strain of "super lice" has made headlines thanks to studies showing they have resistance or immunity to treatments that have been prescribed for decades by doctors.
As lice spread by direct head-to-head contact, parents are also at risk while treating a child's case at home.
While infested families might reach out to nearby salons for tips on lice treatment, many aren't equipped with the knowledge to handle the questions and do not provide any lice removal services, leaving few professional, local options, says Slader.
Most doctors will use chemical treatments, but these are not as effective, says Amy Miazga, a registered nurse at Albany Medical Center and a former client at Miracles on Lice. "Really, the nits need to be manually removed, and no hospital personnel has this training or the hours needed to do so."
Slader and her daughter, Mandee, both licensed cosmetologists, decided to create this service in 2012 to help families to overcome their lice infestation and educate them for the future.
"I wanted to provide an experience where families could get help and they would all leave smiling," Slader says. "And we've done that."
Miracles on Lice treats its clients using the Shepherd method, a strand-by-strand combing technique that examines every piece of hair to remove all nits and lice.
Removal sessions can last two hours or more, depending on the length and thickness of hair.
"There is no magic product that gets all the nits out," Slader says. "We manually remove the nits by taking on the tedious task of going through the hair, picking them out one at a time."
Clients are immediately seated and provided with a lengthy queue of Netflix movies, a creative Pinterest-inspired lollipop tree and coloring books. They leave with a braid in their lice-free hair, often asking their parents when they can come back.
"I was so at ease," says Le "The family was so professional, friendly and wonderful with the kids."
After the initial treatment, families are invited back for a follow-up visit one week later, free of charge, to make sure clients are still living lice-free.
Slader, alongside her daughter and husband, work to educate families on follow-up care of lice treatment, prevention methods and how to clean household items afterwards. There is a 48-hour window where a louse can live off a human head, Slader says, but it's important not to begin cleaning until the lice is completely removed from the head.
"After the lice and eggs are off of the head, you can clean linens and pillows using hot water and high heat temperatures," Slader says. "Vacuuming is another important thing to do in the home after treatment."
Miracles on Lice also offers its own line of professional mint-scented shampoo, conditioner and repel spray and detangler to use once returning home.
"We learned more about head lice that day than I ever needed to know," says Lee. "They gave me every bit of information that I would need."
While the Sladers enjoy the time spent meeting and talking with new clients during a day of treatment, they tell families they hope to never see them again; assuring that one lice removal session is all they'll need to walk away confident and equipped with the knowledge to prevent another case.
"Families face this burden all the time," says Miazga, the registered nurse at Albany Med. "They need help dealing with it, and this service is worth every penny."
Program offers potentially life-saving lessons for kids
By Taylor Rao
Albany Times Union
Published 5:20 pm, Friday, May 22, 2015
When Jessica Dunham and her daughter, Eva, arrive at the pool at Mohonasen High School, the daily goal is much larger than to spend an afternoon filled with fun and floaties.
There's prep work to be done as the summer season approaches, and with the expertise of Anthea Morris, owner and instructor of Anthea's Swim Academy, Eva, 3, learns advanced techniques that could save her life.
After adjusting her wide-eyed gaze to fit the scope of the pool, Eva jumps in to practice pretend-falling in. She enters the water backward, forward, while tipped to the side and by tumbling in, as if it were all accidental.
Dunham, of Glenville, watches with a sense of relief, feeling confident as Eva swims from edge to edge of the massive indoor swimming pool, complaining only when it's time to get out and dry off.
For children and families, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and all the fun of swimsuits, sand castles and s'mores. With the unveiling of the backyard swimming pool, parents are often reminded of a fear that comes along with the perks of a clear, blue swimming pool or a day at the beach.
Children younger than 5 are at the highest risk of drowning as a cause of accidental death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the Dunham family, such fears are based on a frightening experience: In July 2012, just weeks after Eva's second birthday, she nearly drowned in the family's backyard pool. She was revived after her mom found her floating facedown.
As summer approaches, the Dunham family and parents everywhere are challenged to discover new ways to keep young kids safe around water beyond the traditional safety lecture, adult supervision or pair of swimmies.
New studies show children can safely begin swim lessons earlier than age 4, which until 2010 was the official age recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Age 4 is when children usually have the motor skills to learn to swim, says Diane Tenenbaum, general pediatrician at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany.
Today, however, the AAP says new evidence shows that children younger than 4 can also benefit from swim lessons and the chance to learn skills that could keep them afloat if they were to fall in when no one's around.
How much earlier can a child learn to swim?
Experts offer tips on managing screen time for young ones
By Taylor Rao
Albany Times Union
Updated 4:27 pm, Friday, May 1, 2015
From an early morning in front of the television or being held in the arms of a parent palming a smartphone, technology is a major source of interest and entertainment for young children.
Today's youngsters seem captivated by anything with a screen, keyboard or Wi-Fi connection. More than one-third of children younger than 2 use a smartphone or tablet, according to a study by Common Sense Media.
While parents might appreciate the quiet time that comes with screen-based entertainment, constant use of technology can hurt a child's chance to learn and hinder him or her from building communication skills in the more traditional sense, say experts.
"Very young children learn best through active sensory and motor experiences by making social connections," says Kathleen Crowley, a professor of psychology at The College of Saint Rose in Albany.
So what does that all mean?
Interactive mobile apps and programs that focus on educational teaching through letters, numbers and word association can also educate children about social scenarios through personal characters and parents co-teaching alongside the program, according to Crowley.
With the click on the screen or tap of a button, a child can experience the audio and visual effects that display after a specific action is performed. The app can encourage them to follow along with a specific character and learn how to approach different tasks by blending together the educational, entertaining and social aspects of the program.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to avoid exposing a child younger than 2 to any TV or video viewing. The AAP's research shows the need for parents to engage and interact directly with young children through traditional play to foster healthy brain growth in the first 18 months.