Archives for October 2015

It’s a Wonderful Playlist

By Tina Rymar

One of the best things about celebrating Christmas is the music that comes along with it. Music sets the tone and makes everyone feel merry and bright. During this time, there is a wide variety of music available to suit anyone’s taste, whether you prefer the classics or more contemporary tunes while you’re rocking around the Christmas tree.

Totally Traditional
For those of you who enjoy the classic holiday carols, your options are endless. Many popular artists create albums with beautiful and familiar Christmas tracks. Everyone here at Family! picked their favorite albums full of traditional holiday music performed by talented artists.

Noël – Josh Groban (2007)
Elvis’ Christmas Album – Elvis Presley (1957)
The Magic of Christmas – Nat King Cole (1960)
Holiday Wishes – Idina Menzel (2014)
Christmas – Michael Bublé (2011)

Contemporary Carols
This time of year also offers some great albums that switch things up a bit. These artists created new songs and covered the classics, while keeping their music just as festive as the traditional tunes.

A Very She & Him Christmas – She & Him (2011)
Songs For Christmas – Sufjan Stevens (2006)
Christmas Album – Boney M (1981)
Christmas Cheers – Straight No Chaser (2009)

Mix It Up
From all of us to all of you this holiday season, here is our favorite mix of classic and modern holiday music.

“The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Barenaked Ladies ft. Sarah McLachlan
“One Little Christmas Tree” – Stevie Wonder
“Santa Tell Me” – Ariana Grande
“Christmas Canon” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
“It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” – Harry Connick Jr.… Read the rest

Giving Thanks by Giving Back: How Families Can Make a Difference on Thanksgiving

By Monica Gutos

Volunteers at St. Francis ShelterEvery year, millions of families gather around a beautifully set table with warm plates of delicious food and share what they are most thankful for. But for so many, Thanksgiving is another day without a hot meal or even a place to safely rest their head. This Thanksgiving join together as a family to give to those who are in need of your help.


Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry (BEAM)
Every Thanksgiving, BEAM assembles baskets of food for those in need. These baskets contain all the typical Thanksgiving foods, minus the turkey. BEAM needs families to donate non-perishable items such as mashed potatoes, canned green beans, dessert mix, packaged cookies, paper napkins and $10 to $15 grocery store gift cards. Families are asked to drop off baskets by Nov. 16.

City Rescue Mission (CRM)
Families interested in volunteering can help out with CRM’s holiday meals, which provide all the delicious holiday dishes for families in need. CRM provides guests with other essential items, such as socks, toiletries, coats, blankets and more in addition to the holiday meal. Families may contact or 904-421-5149 for more information.

Helping local children in need for more than 130 years, Daniel is having a Thanksgiving food drive. Families may put together food items using reusable containers, such as laundry baskets, plastic bins, new waste bins, turkey basting pans or reusable tote bags. Donations must be dropped off by Nov. 13. For more information, contact or call 904-296-1055 ext.… Read the rest

Continuing Education for Service Members and Their Families

By Mindy K. Urueta

educationFew government programs have delivered on America’s promise as a land of opportunity as thoroughly as the GI Bill. When it was signed into law in June 1944 as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, it offered a college scholarship to all those who had served in uniform, regardless of front-line combat status. In the decades after the original bill was passed, benefits sadly fell far behind the cost of university tuitions, prompting former senators Jim Webb (D, VA) and Chuck Hagel (D, NE) to draft a new GI Bill that would offer soldiers full tuition at any state school. The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (GI Bill 2.0) was signed into law by President George W. Bush on June 30, 2008.

In the years since, the details of the act have been fine-tuned to benefit the largest number of military veterans and their families as possible. In December 2010 Congress passed the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010. The new law expands eligibility for members of the National Guard to include time served on Title 32 or in the full-time Active Guard and Reserve (AGR).

The GI Bill 2.0 provides education benefits for service members who have served on active duty for 90 days or more since Sept. 10, 2001 and benefit payments are tiered based on the amount of creditable active-duty service since Sept. 10, 2001. At a minimum, service members must have served at least 30 days of continuous active duty service after Sept.… Read the rest

Source: MMS

A New Leash on Life for Veterans and Rescue Dogs

By Mindy K. Urueta

fullcolorlogo (1) With a goal of supporting our post-9/11 military veterans and encouraging a dignified and independent return journey to civilian life, K9s For Warriors is a nonprofit organization located on the First Coast with a mission of matching wounded vets with rescue dogs that have been trained as service dogs. Dedicated to helping post-9/11 veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or brain injury, K9s For Warriors has worked with over 160 former military to provide them with a canine companion to assist them in reintegrating into life back home.

The Facts

Service dogs can significantly reduce symptoms of PTSD and depression in veterans, according to the preliminary findings of a Kaiser Permanente study. While little scientific research has been done on anthrozoology—the study of human-to-nonhuman interaction—the results we do have are indisputable. Studies have shown the bond formed between a veteran and a dog to be not only positive, but life-altering. Veterans have reported receiving a variety of benefits from their service dogs: fewer nightmares, reduced need for medications, improved sense of security, decreased anxiety and overall improvements in quality of life.

PTSD has not always been a recognized risk of war. We are now coming to understand the trauma soldiers endure and are finding ways to help heal the wounded. The heartbreaking truth is every 65 minutes a hero who fought for our country takes their own life and an estimated 20 percent of vets who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. As of September 2014, there were about 2.7 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to a study done by the RAND Corporation.… Read the rest

Source: MMS

The Pride of the Navy

By Katherine Odom-Tomchin

blue angels fly over Pensacola

Blue Angels fly over Pensacola

To showcase the professionalism and exceptional abilities of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the Blue Angels take to the sky. The elite flight group is also representative of the excellence displayed by the personnel within the fleet and performs demonstrations as community outreach to an estimated 11 million people each year, receiving hundreds of requests to hold air shows from around the U.S. Spectators marvel at the jets as they perform overhead, each plane in the sky a streak of blue and gold, the Navy’s official colors. How the aircraft fly within inches of one another, sometimes while upside down, remains a mystery and a spectacle to onlookers below. The exceptionalism of the pilots flying the planes and tremendous teamwork required to maneuver the exercises safely is a true testament to the training of the U.S. armed forces, as the Blue Angels have demonstrated since conception.

The Blue Angels began April 24, 1946, ordered into existence by Adm. Chester W. Nimitz in an effort to boost Navy moral, demonstrate naval aviation and maintain public interest to support a depleting budget. A group of men was assembled and sent to the Florida Everglades to train in secret, causing flight leader Roy Voris to say of the initial practice period, “If anything happened, just the alligators would know.” There, the men developed teamwork and the skills needed to execute acrobatic aviation maneuvers before successfully putting on their first air show over Craig Field in Jacksonville on June 15, 1946.… Read the rest

Source: MMS

Faking Fall on the First Coast

By Katherine Odom-Tomchin

PumpkinsIn a state that seems to have only two seasons a year, First Coasters are sometimes unable to experience the full beauty of autumn. Use the tips below to construct a fall-feel in your own home and help your family get in the mood for autumn. It’s almost as good as the real thing.


First Impressions
The first thing people see when entering the house is the front porch, so give off an autumn first impression. Set out pumpkins, lay down a fall welcome mat and put a wreath on the front door. There are wreaths of all different colors and styles constructed from various materials including corn husks, wheat, bare branches, fall leaves and more. Decide which wreath compliments your house best and attach it to the front door.

Fall Home Décor
Keeping in mind the colors that coincide with the season, get crafty or buy some decorations that exude fall. Table decorations such as a basket filled with pinecones and a couple of candles, a fall-colored table cloth, and a cornucopia filled with fake autumn leaves, apples, grapes, nuts and wheat provide a fall theme to the dining room table that will be perfect come Thanksgiving. Lay out fall-colored blankets, pillows and flannels to add a rustic, comfortable tone to the house.

Paint the Town Red
Incorporate typical fall colors in your decorations and home accents. Reds, yellows, browns and oranges are a good transition from the bright colors of summer. Peruse craft stores for fall decorations or supplies to create your own.… Read the rest

Source: MMS



By Mindy K. Urueta

DF-ST-87-06962 The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense.  DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense. DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force.

Every adult in America will most likely carry the image of the second plane hitting the South Tower of the World Trade Center in the recesses of their minds for the rest of their lives. It’s a part of our history now. Violent, tragic and merciless. America was under attack and as protectors of freedom we bonded together, stood tall and fought back. United by a flag with 13 stripes and 50 stars, America reacted to the attacks on our people and our buildings with strength and valor.

It is often recalled by those in New York City at the time that the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 began as a cloudless, beautiful late summer day. Local elections were underway, the military was conducting training missions across the nation, Congress was beginning their day on Capitol Hill, and the President of the United States was participating in a simple story time with a Florida elementary school class. With nothing seemingly out of the ordinary, the world was shocked when reports of a plane hitting the North Tower began flooding media outlets. Live cameras captured the moments of terror, forever imprinting the American people with the shocking reality of four words whispered to President George W. Bush by Chief of Staff Andrew Card, as the president listened to the school children: “America is under attack.”

American FlagsIn those moments of chaos, surrounded by loss, violence and confusion, Americans everywhere stepped forward with a common singular thought, “How can I help fix this?” There was a rush of active duty and reserve enlistments or reenlistments, young and old anxious to stand up for the United States, to defend our nation, and to identify and respond to those individuals responsible.… Read the rest

Source: MMS

A Precious Kernel on the First Coast

By Betsy Dailo

Photo courtesy of Betty Jean Conner (2)The warm fall of the First Coast is the perfect time to take your loved ones to a farm and through mazes of corn. Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres is your opportunity to pry your children and teens away from the electronics and experience a staple of Nassau County.


Living on the First Coast, you and your children have the special opportunity to visit Conner’s farm, which includes hay rides, a corn maze and animals, such as curly haired horses. The Conner family and their employees work year-round to educate children and adults about life on their peaceful farm and to make memories with the families who come to visit. According to co-owner Betty Jean Conner, the best part about running the farm is, “The whole experience. Living out in the country, where it is peaceful and quiet and providing other families a place to make memories.”

Since 2003, the Conners have been running their “A-Maize-Ing” farm for the enjoyment of others. The farm is also open for school field trips. Each year, the corn is shaped to represent different themes. Last year’s theme was “Our Freedom and Our Military.” The corn was shaped to depict an eagle on top of a flag with the statement, “Freedom Isn’t Free.”

Unlike most attractions on the First Coast, Conner’s is located far from the city, and that’s one of the aspects that makes it alluring to people. “One [of] our visiting families perhaps puts it best, ‘We love Conner’s! It’s an awesome family friendly, wholesome environment where our kids can step away from electronics and the modernism of the world and really get back to the roots of the country,’” says Betty Jean.… Read the rest

Source: MMS

Conditioning For School Sports: Securing That Varsity Spot

By Betsy Dailo

With school in full swing and extracurricular activities beginning, now is the time for your teen to get into shape for winter and spring school sports. Conditioning for sports helps prevent future injuries and makes the transition to playing easier. Participating in school sports allows your teen to make friends, exercise and have another extracurricular activity to add to their college applications. Below are some ideas to help get your teen ready to make the team.

Male High School Basketball Team Playing Game

Research what exercises are best for their sport. Not every sport requires heavy lifting, running 10 miles or extreme flexibility. If your student has never played the sport they want to try out for, take time to research and learn more about the physical requirements.

Devise a workout plan that they can stick to for the pre-season. Once you and your teenager are familiar with a few exercises, figure out a workout plan for them, such as running a mile or two every day and then adding in core workouts. Make sure they tailor it to their specific needs and abilities. Finding a plan online is great, but it may not be the best one. If you can, talk to the coaches at the school to see what they recommend. They may even hold conditioning days before tryouts so everyone has a chance to get into shape.

Create goals for your teen to achieve. Build on the strengths your son or daughter already has and make obtainable goals for every couple of weeks.… Read the rest

Source: MMS

Patches, Treats and Festivals Galore

It’s fall on the First Coast, and although we won’t see many leaves changing or any snow, there is still plenty of fun to be had. With the suggestions from this list, dress up the children for a night of trick-or-treating outside the neighborhood this Halloween or take the family to a fun fall festival or pumpkin patch!

Pumpkin Patches

Pumpkins on the Point
Sept. 26–Oct. 31 (or until pumpkins run out)
The pumpkin patch at Southside United Methodist Church (SUMC) offers pumpkins that range from 50 cents to $80. Profits will go toward the church’s ability to work and make a difference through love and labor in places like Guatemala and Cuba. In addition to pumpkins, the patch also hosts events catered to children of various ages such as preschool and elementary school readings, a fall festival, trunk-or-treat (mobile trick-or-treat stations set up in the trunks of parked cars) and a special concert. Head to SUMC and let your child roam the pumpkins for the best one.

Isle of Faith Pumpkin Patch
Sept. 28–Oct. 31
With special events including a car show and trunk-or-treat scheduled for every Saturday and music, food truck weekends and Cinderella Pumpkin Coach and Noah’s Ark climbing toys, the pumpkin patch at Isle of Faith United Methodist Church has a lot to offer. Pumpkin prices vary from 50 cents to $50 depending on the pumpkin’s size, with proceeds going toward their mission, Imagine No Malaria. Make the Isle of Faith Pumpkin Patch part of your fall traditions and take the family out for an afternoon of making memories.… Read the rest

Source: MMS

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons