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Toy boxes are a tradition. They are often passed down from generation to generation and seem as necessary as the bed in the bedroom. But they leave your child’s toys unorganized, allowing for pieces to get lost and parts to break. Organize your child’s bedroom or playroom like a classroom, and get rid of the unnecessary clutter.

Sort toys into boxes and baggies.

All small parts belong in Ziploc baggies. Sort all toys by type, and put them into a plastic box with a lid. Label the box in multiple places, using a sticker or piece of masking tape that can be easily replaced should the contents later change.

Jigsaw puzzles could have a colored dot or shape on the back of each piece, to distinguish pieces should they get mixed up. Cut the picture from the lid of the box and place it into the bag with the pieces.

Keep board games in the original box as long as possible. When the boxes break, use the extra-large bags, such as those for clothing and bedding, to contain the game board. Smaller pieces can go in their own size-appropriate baggie, within that larger one.

Rotate the toys as if they were classroom activities.

Children easily get bored with their toys. They also get bored with activities in the classroom. To keep them entertained and engaged, teachers rotate the available works on the shelves. Do this with young children’s toys.

Look at dollar stores and other discount stores for attractive trays, baskets, and bowls. Display your child’s toys by placing one activity on each tray or in each basket. Keep all necessary parts together, so that when the child chooses it, she doesn’t have to look for missing pieces.

Within the shelves, keep activities organized by the type they are. Only put a few trays on a shelf, to keep the area looking neat and orderly.

Pay attention to what your child is using. If she asks for a specific activity, consider putting it out again. When it looks like she hasn’t touched a particular toy for a while, put it away in the storage area for a while. Then, when it reappers, she will be excited to see it again.

Also include her in regular maintenance of the toys. Pick a regular cleaning schedule, and let her help you do it. Have her help check for broken or missing pieces. Ask her to organize the shelves before going to bed at night, or at the end of a “play session.”

Use work rugs.

Purchase white or colored rugs, or special towels that can serve as work rugs. Have the children keep their activities on the rugs, instead of spreading the play all over the floor. Some activities are going to be too big for one rug, so use more than one when necessary.

When they are finished using their toys, they should be expected to put them away in the proper places. If they are truly in the middle of something, they could put a “save name” on it and finish it the following day. Rugs should also be folded or rolled up, and put into their special area.

It will take some time to implement the plan into your household. It will also take some time to get used to enforcing the rules. Stay consistent and persistent, and it will pay off.

Not too many years ago, the idea of an HIV infected woman choosing to have a baby brought about strong opposition from just about everyone, including medical professionals who were involved in the treatment of HIV disease. In the past, people with HIV were not expected to live long, and the chances of their children being born HIV+ was greater than 25%. Today, with the advances in the care and treatment of HIV, people are living longer, healthier lives. Many HIV+ women are now making the decision to become pregnant and start a family, with the support of their HIV treatment specialists.

Although there are still many people, including medical professionals, who would discourage an HIV+ woman from having a baby because of the risk of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, most HIV treatment specialists now have an acceptance that starting a family is in fact an option for an HIV+ woman. With the advances in treatment, the risk of transmitting the virus is less than 2% overall, and studies have proven that pregnancy and childbirth does not affect the progression of HIV in the mother in any way.

Women who take HIV medications and have an undetectable HIV viral load have the lowest risk for transmission of the virus to their babies; however, certain medications can cause serious birth defects and must not be taken if a woman is pregnant or trying to become pregnant. It is vital that the decision to become pregnant be discussed with the healthcare provider in advance so that the woman is on an appropriate regimen of medications.

Most couples cannot afford procedures such as sperm-washing, so they will make the decision to have unprotected sex in order to get pregnant; unprotected sex itself has risks (other than pregnancy) which the couple needs to consider. This is a personal and individual decision which both partners must make after they have been informed of the potential risks and the ways to minimize those risks as much as possible. If the man is HIV negative, he should know that unprotected sex with an HIV+ woman could put him at risk for becoming HIV+, although the transmission rate from females to males through unprotected vaginal sex is lower than it is from males to females; the risk is decreased even further if the woman is taking antiretroviral medications to treat the HIV and her viral load is undetectable. If both partners are HIV+, unprotected sex can cause one partner to become reinfected with a different HIV virus, potentially leading to treatment complications in the future. Either way, there is risk involved. If a woman is trying to become pregnant by having unprotected sex, she should be taking HIV medications consistently and have an undetectable HIV viral load (as should her partner, if he is also HIV+). The couple should receive preconception counselling from an obstetrician to determine the time of the month when the woman is most fertile, and engage in unprotected sex only at that time; condoms should be used for the remainder of the month.

As with any woman, an HIV+ woman who is trying to become pregnant should give up smoking and avoid all alcohol and drug use. She should have a gynecological examination and PAP smear and be screened for other sexually transmitted diseases, and she should start taking prescription prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and calcium before she becomes pregnant to help ensure the health of her baby.

A couple will most likely encounter some critical, negative, and unsupportive attitudes from certain family members or friends regarding their decision to have a baby, and they should be prepared to deal with this. Many people are unaware of the advances in HIV treatment, and simply educating them will help them to become more understanding and supportive. The couple should encourage people who are critical of their decision to ask questions, and assist them in getting the knowledge that they need to understand their decision. To reduce stress, the couple may find it helpful to seek supportive counselling from a mental health professional so that they can discuss their feelings openly.

Yesterday I left work and decided to check prices at the local chain gyms. I was looking for a new gym as I previously had a gym membership to my local YMCA. There was no problem with the Y…. but like many others I don’t have almost $400 to spend on a year long gym membership.

One gym had a membership at $49 a month with no commitment or 3 months for $159 with no commitment after that. I was considering this until I walked into Planet Fitness. They have 2 options, both which are less than that of the other chain gym. The first option was membership good only for that location at $10 a month. There are no frills with that membership but you have access to all work out equipment in that gym for only $10 a month. The second option is $19.99 a month. This package is good for all of Planet Fitness locations. With this membership you have access to unlimited tanning, massage chairs, and you can make an appointment to have a staff member teach you how to use each machine. On top of that each time you go to the gym you can bring a guest for FREE. (My suggestion is to charge them $10 a month and then you are paying the $9.99 for yourself.) Each package has an annual fee. (Both less than $50.)

I choose to pay $10 a month for now, knowing that I am able to upgrade at anytime and cancel at anytime. I signed up; they gave me a purple pen, my member number, and a size XL T-shirt (I know! They only give out one size… but I don’t go to the gym for the free t-shirt.) Then I was on my way to the locker room to get my sneakers on so I could start working out. My one complaint at this point is that I was just sent off. Not a small orientation or anything. I mean I knew the policies from the paper I had to sign but that was it. I wasn’t even told “Alright the locker rooms are down there.” I looked at the end, saw Locker Room written on the wall and just headed towards it.

The locker room was very clean. No qualms there. I emerged back out into the gym and decided to hit the machines. I have to say the machines are all very new and very easy to use. They have pre-set programs where you can fill in your weight, and age and it will customize a program to fit your target heart rate. The programs are fat burn, cardio, random and more. I enjoyed the machines and even more I enjoyed watching television while I was working out. They have a bunch of TVs and they were on many different channels. They ranged from game shows, to the food network, to sports.

After some cardio I decided to go to their 30 minute circuit area. They have a 20 station circuit with 10 machines. Between each machine you have a step where you do some stair stepping to keep your heart pumping. These machines are well maintained and easy to use. The directions are right on the machines and there is a red and green traffic symbol that keeps you moving around the circuit. Now while this area is only for circuits they have all these machines and more in the rest of the gym.

They have plenty of machines where you are not fighting for machines to use or waiting on a long list for your chance to work out. In addition to all of these machines there are plenty of free weights and a small area for stretching, floor work, and the use of medicine balls.

If you forget our water they do have drinks available at the desk, and if you choose the 19.99 plan you get them for less money.

This gym is probably not right for someone that needs a lot of attention, unless you want to hire your own personal trainer to come in with you. I do however think it is a well kept, clean gym that is right for my money.

Millions of Americans find themselves carrying student loans. Some students graduated and carry the financial debt as an investment in their education, while others carry student loans for semesters they completed, but did not earn the degree. Whatever the reason, managing student loan payments can be difficult for former students. In recent surveys, many people paying back student loans report that their payment exceeds rent or mortgage costs.

So what do you do if you fall on hard times? Deferrment is possible, as is forbearance; both are ways to stop your required loan payment, but these are temporary measures. Student loans, unlike other forms of debt, are not dischargable during bankruptcy. This means that even if you filed bankruptcy, you are still responsible for the loan payments, no matter what your circumstances.

Thare are ways to get part or all of your student loans discharged, or taken off your record. These are legal methods, and many people do not know the various ways that the government legally allows you to get rid of student loan debt.

  1. If you are declared 100% disabled or die, you or your heirs do not need to repay student loans. This is important–if you were to die suddenly, does your family know that they do NOT have to repay your loans? Make sure they know this. If you are in an accident or become ill with a long-term chronic illness that makes it impossible for you to work, you can apply to have your student loans discharged as well. You credit will not be harmed by a disability discharge.
  2. If the school you attend closes before you can complete your program, you are not responsible for your student loans, and do not need to repay them. The loans are cancelled in full, and your credit report is not harmed by this.
  3. You can join the Peace Corps, VISTA, or teach for five or ore years in a designated low-income school, and get up to $5,000 for teaching. The Peace Corps and VISTA give you 15% of your loans EACH YEAR you are part of their programs; while the pay is low for these programs, the 15% off your student loans goes directly to the loan agency, and you have peace of mind knowing that part of your loans are repaid.
  4. A hardship hearing. If you declare bankruptcy, student loan debt is not discharged. However, you can request a special “hardship hearing” where you present your case to a special judge, explaining why repaying the loans would be an undue hardship. Only a very small percentage of people successfully discharge their loans; talk to a bankruptcy lawyer for more information on this option.
  5. “False certification.” If you can prove that a school misled you into thinking that you would benefit from their program, and the loans or debt you took out was a result of such promises, under certain guidelines your loans can be discharged.


One important note: the worst thing you can do is to default on your college debt, and go into delinquency. If you do not make payments for 240 days, your entire balance is due. If you go 270 days, your account is considered to be in default. This means you lose all future federal financial aid. The government can act legally against you, and you can lose your income tax refunds–the money is put toward your student loans owed. Default and delinquency are very serious, and can hurt your credit record for ten or more years.

People facing house foreclosure are often confused as to what options are available to either save their home or minimize the impact to their credit. As a private real estate investor, I know that most homeowners want to stop foreclosure proceedings by working out a payment plan, but some can no longer afford their loan payments and are left with few options.

Contact the Lender

Individuals concerned about house foreclosure must become highly proactive in taking steps to remedy the situation. The first line of defense is to contact the servicing lender. When borrowers default on home loans their account is turned over to bank loss mitigation.

This division handles a multitude of delinquency problems and it can be challenging to speak with a representative. If unable to make phone contact, the next step would be to call the bank and request a meeting with the branch manager.

If this doesn’t provide results, the final step would involve sending a certified letter with a return receipt request. This provides borrowers with a signed document showing the name of the person who received the certified letter.

Reach out to a Bank Loss Mitigator

The role of bank loss mitigators is to help borrowers devise a plan that will allow them to avoid foreclosure. While it often appears as if banks are only interested in repossessing properties, the truth is the foreclosure process costs a considerable sum of money. When possible, banks would rather work out a plan than commence with foreclosure.

Loss mitigators can offer a variety of solutions including loan deferment, mortgage forbearance, loan modification, and mortgage refinance. Much depends on borrowers’ payment history; number of delinquent payments; loan balance; and borrowers’ current financial situation.

When loan deferment is offered, borrowers are given permission to skip a predetermined number of loan payments, usually for 1 to 3 months. Once the deferment period expires, borrowers remit the full amount of skipped payments. This can be a good option for borrowers facing temporary financial setbacks, but they must be in position to repay missed payments at the end of the deferment period or the bank can commence with foreclosure action.

Mortgage Forbearance

Mortgage forbearance plans allow borrowers to skip payments or pay partial loan installments for a specific amount of time. Similar to loan deferment, forbearance agreements prevent the bank from commencing with foreclosure as long as borrowers remain in compliance. When forbearance plans expire, borrowers enter into a payment plan to pay skipped amounts.

Careful consideration should be given when entering into either of these options because banks can immediately engage in foreclosure if borrowers are unable to pay skipped amounts or remain current with future payments.

Loan Modification

Loan modification alters terms of the mortgage note. Banks can reduce the rate of interest, lower principal amounts, or both. Most lenders reduce interest rates which in turn reduces loan installments. However, a few banks are now reducing principal amounts when borrowers owe substantially more than the property is worth. Lowering the principal balance often allows borrowers to save their home from foreclosure and meet future loan obligations.

Making Home Affordable

Prior to contacting the serving lender, borrowers may first want to investigate the Making Home Affordable program. Many banks are participating in this program which engages in loan mods, mortgage refinancing, and foreclosure alternatives. Participating lenders are required to respond to foreclosure assistance requests within 30 days.

If borrowers cannot afford to prevent house foreclosure they may be eligible for Making Home Affordable ‘Exit Gracefully’ program. Options include real estate short sales or deed in lieu of foreclosure. Qualified homeowners can receive up to $3000 in relocation assistance funds.

Short Sale

Real estate short sales involve selling the property for less than owed on the loan. Deed in lieu of foreclosure involves returning the property to the lender. Careful consideration should be given to both options as banks oftentimes hold borrowers responsible for deficiency amounts between the loan balance and property sale price.

Borrowers may find it advantageous to obtain counseling to determine which options are best suited for their needs. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has received over $70 million in grant money to provide free housing counseling to those in need. Program details and a list of nationwide housing counselors are available at