Riley Heruska
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As cold weather slowly begins to descend and fall truly starts to hit Texas, more and more people will fall prey to colds, stomach viruses, strep, and the flu. Although it's not entirely clear why humans tend to experience more health problems during colder weather, it's well known that the worst viruses tend to strike from October to March, especially the flu.

Some scientific evidence indicates that our immune systems may be more vulnerable in the winter months because our body is actually producing fewer virus-fighting agents. Cold weather can also trigger stress in the cardiovascular system, leading to blood pressure issues, constricted blood vessels, inflammation, and sometimes even heart attacks. Also, we tend to go outside less, and when we do, it's fairly dark. That means we're receiving less vitamin D, which can play a critical role in your defenses. 

So, with the influenza virus getting ready to start its rampage and a host of other nasty viruses waiting to invade, what can you do to stay as healthy as possible? 

Get Vaccinated 

Flu season is just around the corner, and each year, millions of people across the world are infected by the influenza virus. The good news? An annual flu vaccine can seriously reduce your risk of catching the dreaded illness. Even more good news? The flu vaccine doesn't just protect you: by immunizing yourself, you can help impede the disease's spread and protect those around you who aren't able to receive the shot (young children, the elderly, and the sick). The CDC is recommending that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated before the end of October to nip the spread of the virus in the bud. 

Aim for at Least Seven Hours of Sleep Each Night 

Chances are, most people who are reading this article are sleep-deprived. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have gone as far as to label insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic in America. Adults need a minimum of seven hours each night, and eight or nine is even better. Teens and children need even more to stay alert throughout the day.

A lack of sufficient sleep can cause people to suffer in numerous ways, including weight gain, impaired driving abilities, and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Getting fewer zzz's can also make you more vulnerable to the cold and the flu. By making sure you're well-rest every night, you can keep your immune system at the top of its game. If you do start to get sick, sleeping enough will also allow your body to conserve energy and fight the illness as effectively as possible. 

Keep Exercising Outside, Even When the Weather Is Bad 

As we found out before, a lack of Vitamin D doesn't help your body fight off invaders. By getting outside every now and then, you can embrace some sunshine and help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer while boosting your immune system. Plus, many Americans tend to get a case of the winter blues when the weather isn't good. A daily workout can help put a smile on your face which will boost your overall wellbeing.

Another benefit to exercising outside? There are fewer germs! Viruses love to congregate in highly populated indoor areas, which basically means your gym can be a breeding ground for yucky diseases. Nix the treadmill for an outdoor trail to really give your immune system some extra support. 

Wash Your Hands Like It's Your Job

Okay, you've heard this one approximately a million times, but there's a reason: the CDC compares handwashing to a "do-it-yourself" vaccine. The spread of most diseases can be seriously impeded by regular handwashing, and it's a simple thing that everyone can easily do.

Although you might think you know how to wash your hands, there's actually a correct way to rid your fingers of germs. You should use warm water, not hot, and lather your hands thoroughly with soup. Don't skip the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails! Doing all of this should take you at least 20 seconds, and you should find a sink to wash up in whenever you prepare food, eat food, use the toilet, change diapers, sneeze, touch an animal, or care for a wound. For more information on how to properly wash your hands, visit the CDC's website

Try to Reduce Stress in Your Life 

When you enter new, challenging situations in your life, your body reacts just as much as your mind does. Overworking yourself and dealing with constant tension can lead to headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and trouble sleeping. As your body pumps out stress hormones, your immune system tends to take a hit. Take a deep breath and make sure that you're not pushing yourself too hard. Getting sick will only make things worse, so prioritize your health even when you're running around like a chicken with its head cut off. 

Make Your Water Bottle Your New BFF 

Water is seriously a miracle worker. Drinking a bunch of H2O oxygenates your blood while flushing out harmful toxins, which can build up over time and weaken your immune system. Water also aids in the production of the lymph that your body's immune system uses to circulate white blood cells and nutrients to your tissues. But wait, there's more! Drinking enough water can help you get good sleep, keep your digestive system running smoothly, and repel dirt and parasites that can be found in your eyes and mouth. Grab a water bottle and aim to refill it 8-10 times a day. Your body will thank you later. 

Riley Heruska
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Everywhere you look lately seems to be exploding with pumpkins and all things autumnal. The cozy colors draw you in, and before you know it, you've caught the contagious festive spirit.

Looking to spice up your home with a little fall flair? These stores are some of the best places to hit for knick-knacks, towels, throws, and everything else you'll need to turn your home into an autumn wonderland. 

I dare you to walk into a Homegoods and not be tempted to spend your hard-earned money on some harvest decorations. Thankfully, everything is pretty reasonably priced, so your shopping spree won't hurt your bank account too badly. From pumpkin aprons to adorable trick-or-treat signs, they've got everything you need to transform your living space. Don't forget to visit the cookware section for skull baking pans and orange mugs. 

Pier 1 Imports
Exploring a Pier 1 at this time of year is too fun to pass up. Their collection of fall dishware and table settings is perfect for anyone who likes to decorate for dinner parties, and you'll fall in love with their beautiful wreaths and floral arrangements. Need something to make your living room feel a little more festive? Browse their selection of autumn themed throw pillows. They also have a variety of Halloween decorations that will help turn your home into a haunted house that any ghoul would approve of. My personal favorite addition to any party are these skeleton hand server pieces

If you're on a tight budget when it comes to decorating, Target is the perfect place to stop by. Check out the cheap section at the store's front for a wide variety of Halloween and Thanksgiving pieces. You can pick up everything from seasonal candles to hand towels, all for under $5! Snag a box of orange Halloween lights for just $3.99, or add to your ever-growing collection of mini pumpkins with a $5 bag of sparkly ones. 

Crate & Barrel
In the mood to throw a fall dinner party? You can wow everyone with the impressive setting ideas at Crate & Barrel. Just look at these incredible drink serving pictures! If you really want to go above and beyond, you can even purchase pumpkin cast iron pots. Not looking to spend big bucks on your decorating? At least check out their cute ghost mugs and bowls

Williams Sonoma 
I had to physically restrain myself from going crazy in this store's spooky baking section. Their Halloween cookie cutters are perfect, and they have so many cute pumpkin candies you can set out for guests. Don't forget to pick up Halloween tumblers to use when you whip up some fall-themed cocktails. 

Where do you go when it's time to shop for seasonal pieces? Leave suggestions in the comments below!

Riley Heruska
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2017 is flying by, and before we know it, all the trailers will be for movies hitting theaters next year. Several of 2018's promising feature films are based on already popular books. Why not give the book a shot before you grab some popcorn and watch its adaptation on the big screen? Here are a few of the most highly anticipated book-to-screen adaptations coming out. For a list that includes some books becoming movies before 2018, click here

The Death Cure by James Dashner 

With two prequels already out, the Maze Runner series is finally coming to a conclusion in this third movie. Read the final book in the trilogy to find out how Thomas finally takes down the WICKED organization, then head to theaters on January 26, 2018, to see how it all plays out on screen. Dylan O'Brien will play Thomas once again, and most of the same cast members will be returning for the epic conclusion. 

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

When a biologist sets out into the dangerous Area X, she knows she's in for a world of trouble. Her husband was killed there, and many others who have ventured into the location have lost their minds or died. Now, a twelfth expedition is embarking on a question to discover what's been going on in this mysterious place. Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson will costar. The film is also being directed by Alex Garland, who directed Ex Machina. Be sure to check out this creepy novel before the movie hits the big screen on February 23. 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle 

This novel is a true classic, and it's getting a bit of a facelift in a brand new screen adaptation on March 9. Fourteen-year-old Meg lost her father mysteriously, and now she and her younger brother, Charles, and their friend, Calvin, are on a quest to save him from the fifth dimension of time travel. The magical adaptation will star Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey as the three Mrs. 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli 

A popular coming-of-age book, this story has won the praise of countless readers. It humorously documents the life of high school junior, Simon, who hasn't told anyone that he's not straight. When a classmate finds out, he's forced to face his friends and family much sooner than he planned to. The film will star Katherine Langford and Nick Robinson and is being directed by Greg Berlanti. Watch Simon's life take crazy turns when the movie comes out on March 16. 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 

Wade Watts loves plugging into the virtual world of OASIS. However, when he is sucked into the universe and forced to play a dangerous game, he has to face more than just virtual dangers. Set in 2044, Ready Player One is a dystopian tale of puzzles and survival. Steven Spielberg is directing the film adaptation, which will star Olivia Cooke, Tye Sheridan, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Ben Mendelsohn. Head to theaters on March 30 to see Wade handle intense twists and turns on the screen.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple 

Bernadette, Bee's mother, disappeared when her daughter was only 15. Bee is diving into emails, documents, and secret correspondences in a desperate attempt to find her. Richard Linklater is going to direct the film, and Cate Blanchett will play the mysterious Bernadette. Kristen Wigg, Billy Crudup, and Judy Greer are also going to make appearances. Tune in on May 11 to compare the popular book to the new movie. 

So, which of these novels are you going to try first? 

Riley Heruska
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Even if your child is too young to fully experience trick-or-treating, you can still celebrate Halloween and dress them up! Plus, when they're so tiny, it's easy to come up with a cute costume on a budget. Here are a few popular ideas to get your creative juices flowing! Bonus: most of them can be made in your home. 

Adorable Puppy 

Whether you're going for a Cruella de Vil and puppy duo or simply looking for a cute baby costume, this one is so incredibly simple. Buy a cheap onesie in the color you need and add spots or patches if necessary with fabric markers. Then, buy a hat and simply stitch/velcro/glue on ears. The last touch requires a bit of makeup for a button nose, then voila! You've got yourself a little pooch. 

The World's Tiniest Superhero 

It's super simple to take a plain colored outfit and slap a superhero emblem on it! If you're feeling fancy, you can even add a little cape or maybe a festive tutu. If you're looking for an emblem to iron onto a shirt, Walmart, Amazon, Michaels, and many other stores have a wide variety to browse, from Batman to Wonder Woman. 

A Snack That's As Sweet As They Are

Take some fluffy tulle and leotard to transform a boring outfit into a cotton candy costume! A make-at-home candy corn ensemble is another adorable way to go. Just pick a type of candy and try to whip something up at home. Not only will your little one look festive, but they'll also look cute enough to eat. 

Mini Witch or Wizard 

You can't tell me that a baby Harry Potter costume doesn't make you squeal. Plus, it's really not difficult to do! Just draw on a little scar, add a splash of colors from a Hogwarts house, or pop on some classic Harry Potter glasses. 

Buzzing Bumble Bee 

Yellow and black stripes on a onesie. What sounds easier? If you're feeling really committed, you can add a cute headband or even some delicate little wings to your baby bee. Yellow and black socks or hats are also good options

Farm Animal 

A sweet little lamb costume can be made out of cotton balls and fluffy little sweatshirt. Cow and pig costumes are also pretty easy to create, and they're downright adorable. 

What other cute DIY baby costumes can you think of? Leave your ideas in the comments below! 

Riley Heruska
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Last Sunday, CBS aired the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, and there were dozens of great shows mentioned. However, with our busy schedules, we don’t have time to watch them all. So, which ones do you binge on first? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.  

Here are some of the winners you should check out ASAP.

The Handmaid’s Tale

This Hulu original series has been described by many critics as the best television show of 2017. The Emmys only added strength to this belief by handing out eight awards to the popular series, including Outstanding Lead Actress for a Drama Series (Elisabeth Moss), Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Bruce Miller), and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Reed Morano).

Based on the famous 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale crafts a society in which Christian fundamentalists have established a strict theocracy that forces fertile women to become sexual slaves for important leaders. Heralded as relevant and brilliant, the show has scored an impressive 99 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and established a passionate following. If you’re in the mood for complex world building, talented acting, and a dash of social commentary, then look this show up soon.


When the show was first introduced to the public in 2012, it immediately staked its claim in the world of satire comedy television. It has since been nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series six years in a row, and it has won three times. The lead actress, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, also won for Outstanding Lead Actress for her role as Selina Meyer. Veep took home a total of five trophies, and people aren’t that surprised.

So, what’s the show about? Well, it follows the charismatic former Senator Selina Meyer as she discovers what it’s like to become the Vice President of the United States. She humorously juggles political fires, her private problems, and an extremely busy schedule. A combination of witty writing and talented improvisation makes Veep a true gem in the world of comedy. Definitely give it a shot when you’re in the mood for a few good laughs.

This Is Us

With 11 nominations and two wins for Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Guest Actor, this wildly popular show made its fans proud. Ever since its first season, which debuted roughly a year ago, This Is Us has won the hearts of countless viewers, as well as an impressive number of awards and nominations.

The series follows the personal lives and intricate connections of several people who all happen to have the same birthday. With a diverse cast, interesting characters, and a heartwarming take on the ups and downs of life, This Is Us has established a strong following. Warning: should you choose to give this touching series a try, you might want to prepare an emergency supply of tissues and chocolate to soothe your soul.

The Crown

Netflix has done it again with this memorable television show. Nominated for nine Emmys and winner of three, The Crown is certainly no show to overlook. John Lithgow won for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Winston Churchill, and the show was given trophies for Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period Program and Outstanding Period/Fantasy Costumes for a Series.

The Netflix original follows the tumultuous life of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. As she rises to power and plays an enormous role in the political events of the 20th century, she must balance her role as queen with her personal life. Well-researched and executed, The Crown presents a never before seen side of the queen’s life and her journey into fame. If you’re a fan of historical dramas and political intrigue, certainly stream this winner when you have a few hours to binge.


Donald Glover, who plays Earn from Atlanta, recently walked away with an Outstanding Lead Actor trophy in his hand. The show was also awarded Outstanding Directing for Comedy Series, as well as nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Earnest “Earn” Marks is a college drop out, but he’s determined not to let that hinder his success. He and his cousin are trying to climb the ladder of fame in the rap world, and along the way, they face controversial issues that humorously touch on race, relationships, poverty, society, and parenthood. With an impressive 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s easy to see why so many viewers have become avid fans of the hit comedy series. Should you decided to give it a chance, you’ll laugh at the genius of the show, as well as its portrait of life as an aspiring rap star.

Big Little Lies

It seems only right that Big Little Lies rounded up five trophies (along with a handful of other nominations) at the Emmys. The hit HBO series was awarded Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, and Nicole Kidman was given Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries while Alexander Skarsgard was given Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series. Laura Dern was given Outstanding Supporting Actress, and Shailene Woodley and Reese Witherspoon were nominated for awards.

So, what’s all the fuss about Big Little Lies? The brilliant series follows Jane and the two women who take her under their wings when she moves to a new town in California. Full of scandal, danger, and plentiful gossip, the plot describes the lives of several cutthroat women who are trying to survive in a threatening, secretive social circle. The character development is superb, and you’ll be hooked as soon as you dive into this world of ex-spouses and deceit.

The Night Of

This crime drama made off with five wins, as well as eight nominations. Most noticeable was Riz Ahmed’s award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series for his role as Naz Khan. The show was also given a trophy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series.

Pakistani-American student Naz is pretty much a goody two shoes, but when he lets loose one night at a party with a beautiful young woman, his life is turned upside. The woman is found dead after the crazy night, and Naz ends up in the middle of a whirlwind investigation of her death. Can he prove his own innocence to himself and the authorities? Find out by starting this addictive series.

Master of None

This comedy won Best Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series. The lead actor, Aziz Ansari (who you may know for his hilarious role in Parks and Recreation) was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor, and the show received five other nominations.

Dev, a 30-year-old actor living in New York City, has a lot of ambition. He’s constantly trying to find a relationship, further his career, or make memories with his three friends. Fresh and classy, Master of None presents a hilarious story full of exceptional humor, heart, and brilliant execution. Find it on Netflix when you’re ready for a dose of vibrant comedy.

Riley Heruska
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Whether you're looking for a picture book to read with your little one or a novel to pass along to a young reader, publishers have got you covered over the next few months. Here are some of the most anticipated upcoming releases in the world of children's literature. 

by Peter Sis 
(September 26)

This beautiful, dreamlike story is perfect for children between the ages of four and eight. Peter dresses as Robinson Crusoe for a costume party at school. His friends dressed as pirates make fun of him, so Peter retreats to his bedroom. There, he dreams that he journeys to Crusoe's island, and a tale of forgiveness and fantasy ensues. 

"An enchanting love letter to the magic of childhood and the fertile relationship between good literature and young readers' imaginations." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (September 26) 

Red, an oak tree, is where people leave their wishes. She is also home to a few animal friends, including a crow named Bongo. Over the years, this oak tree has seen it all, but she realizes how important wishes truly are when a Muslim family moves to the neighborhood. Heartwarming and relevant, this children's book is perfect for readers ages eight to twelve. 

"Timely, necessary, and brimming with heart." -- Booklist, starred review

After the Fall (How Humpty Got Back Up Again)
by Dan Santat (October 3) 

Everyone knows what happened to Humpty Dumpty, but does anyone really know what happened after his incident? Award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat tells the untold part of Humpty's story, which is full of courage and determination. Little kids will get a real kick out of this classic nursery rhyme with a twist. 

“Instead of resting on his laurels, Dan Santat soars above them. I loved this!” -- Dav Pilkey, creator of the Captain Underpants series 

La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo (October 3) 

With beautiful illustrations by Jamie Kim, this graphic story tells the tale of a little girl who desperately wants a friend. She ventures out into the world in search of a buddy. She sings to trees, passes the time, and continues to try to find a companion. Striking and lovely, this story will warm the hearts of young children. 

"The text of this book is one word: La. But the story is abundantly clear." -- Star Tribune

Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown (October 3) 

Think you've heard the author's name before? You probably have: she wrote the bestselling children's book, Goodnight Moon. A little bunny says good morning to all of the familiar things in his life, and as the sun starts to set, he says goodnight. Previously unpublished, this picture book is sure to become another classic. Illustrated by Loren Long. 

"With pleasing echoes of Brown's famous classic, including bookends of a cow jumping over a moon, this bedtime story will entice families back again and again." -- Kirkus Reviews 

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book 3: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan (October 3) 

Bestseller Rick Riordan's newest series continues in this next installment. Magnus Chase, a teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla. He was chosen as one of Odin's warriors, and even though he isn't the strongest fighter, he must face dangerous trials. His cousin, Annabeth, recruits Percy Jackson to train Magnus, but even that might not be enough to help him face the oncoming challenges. 

Everything Is Mama by Jimmy Fallon (October 10) 

This lighthearted picture book from Jimmy Fallon (illustrated by Miguel Ordonez) embodies a baby's point of view. Different animals try to teach their children words other than the most common one, "momma." Cute and perfect for little ones, this book is sure to be a hit. 

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett (October 10) 

With unique artwork by Jon Klassen, this tale follows a duck and a mouse who get swallowed by a wolf. The two decide to live in the beast's belly, which is full of delicious food and other things swallowed by the gluttonous villain. Barnett gives a distinct nod to traditional fables, and the moral of the story becomes pretty clear. 

"Reminiscent of classic animal fables, with this winning team's signature humor and charm, this is a first purchase for any picture book collection." -- Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy (October 24) 

From the creators of the Wildwood Chronicles comes a fast-paced, entertaining middle-grade novel about a group of childhood pickpockets. Charlie Fisher witnesses a group of young thieves pull off an amazing robbery, and he realizes that he wants to learn the tricks of the trade. He is then introduced to the world of the whiz mob: an international band of child thieves who trained at a special school. Children ages eight to twelve will have a fun time with this skillfully-told tale and illustrations by Carson Ellis. 

"A gleefully metafictional caper and middle-grade picaresque bound to appeal to discerning young readers." -- Kirkus Reviews

The Getaway: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 12 by Jeff Kinney (November 7) 

The tales of infamous Greg Heffley continue in this newest addition to the series. The Wimpy Kid and his family are heading to a tropical island resort to relax. However, relaxing isn't so easy with Greg and his frazzled family. Illnesses, creepy critters, and a whole bunch of troublesome events ensue. Can the vacation be salvaged? 

Riley Heruska
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Sometimes it feels like every movie hitting the theaters is full of nudity, violence, and other content that's inappropriate for children. Thankfully, that's not totally the case. There are a handful of movies coming out in the next few months that will be perfect to attend as a family, especially if you have young ones tagging along. 

The Lego Ninjago Movie - September 22 

Ninjago City is in danger, and Master Builder Lloyd (aka the Green Ninja) must gather his secret ninja friends to defeat the evil warlord Garmadon. Led by Master Wu, the team faces the enemy, who also happens to be Lloyd's dad and "The Worst Guy Ever." 

My Little Pony: The Movie - October 6 

When an evil conqueror threatens Ponville, the Mane 6 ponies must embark on an adventure to save their friends and home. Along the way, they'll meet new characters and exciting challenges across the land of Equestria. 

The Star - November 17

We all know the story of Christmas, but we've never heard it told quite like this. A small donkey and his animal friends play a role in this tale, and their bravery and humor make for an entertaining film. 

- November 23 

This newest Disney Pixar film tells the story of Miguel, an aspiring musician who finds himself in a world unlike any he's ever seen. He teams up with the trickster Hector, and together, they journey through the magical Land of the Dead. 

- December 15 

Ferdinand's life was wonderful until he got a tiny bit too... large. When he is mistaken by others as a dangerous beast, he is captured and taken from his picture-perfect home. He's determined to return home, and he teams up with friends to embark on an adventurous journey. 

Which ones will you be taking your children to see? 

Riley Heruska
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With the chaos of a new academic year and the start of various extracurricular activities, life as a parent can become pretty crazy. Here are a few tricks that will help you stay on top of a hectic schedule without feeling like you're going to lose your mind. 

Buy a Planner and Actually Use It 

Juggling a million different obligations without some sort of planning system is impossible for any parent. If you've been relying on hastily scribbled sticky notes or iPhone alarms to remind you of everything, then you might want to try the old school method: put pen to paper and keep a written schedule. The process of writing things down will calm your nerves, and fewer things will fall between the cracks if you're constantly looking at a tangible schedule. 

Clear Out All the Clutter 

New classes, parent teacher meet and greets, and back-to-school events all have one thing in common: papers. Before you know it, your office and kitchen are overrun by flyers advertising new clubs and rule handbooks that might never actually be read. Do yourself a favor and prevent those papers from piling up. A clean home helps with a clean mind, and chances are, you don't need half of the papers that wind up on your counters. 

Delegate Tasks 

As a parent, it's often tempting to just do everything yourself. However, that's not always possible. Try to evenly share chores with the entire household. Assign jobs to specific people so that everyone knows what they are responsible for. Not only will the household run smoother, but people will also have a better idea of what's going on. 

Do As Much as Possible the Night Before 

We all know how incredibly chaotic mornings can be. Between fixing breakfasts and tying various pairs of shoes, there's often little downtime. Try to make things as simple as possible by prepping lunches, backpacks, and other items the night before. If you can, set out your kids' outfits in advance so there are no tantrum fits when a certain red dress isn't clean. No matter how tired you are the evening before, you'll thank yourself the next morning. 

Designate a Homework Station 

Ever get tired of kids forgetting their math assignment or misplacing a library book? Try to cut down on the hunt for lost homework pieces by setting up a certain area of the house. Keep all the necessary tools there, including a calculator, pencils, pens, art supplies, and whatever other items might be helpful. It'll help keep everything in one place, and it'll encourage your kids to focus more when they're in their special homework environment. 

What are your go-to methods for keeping things under control during the school year? Leave ideas in the comments below! 

Riley Heruska
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School has started, and believe it not, cooler weather is on its way. Even we Texans will start to feel the effects of autumn sooner or later. With the new academic year comes football games, fall clothing, and of course.... the dreaded flu. Although cases of the influenza virus typically don't peak until December, we'll probably start seeing cases pretty soon. So, when do you really need to start worrying about the 2017 flu season? 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the answer is now. Flu season can be unpredictable, and the best way to prevent the spread of influenza is to knock it out early. Officials recommend that everyone over the age of six months receive a flu vaccine before the end of October. It often takes the vaccine up to two weeks to start protecting your body, so the earlier the immunization, the better. Plus, the vaccine's protection won't wear off until next spring, so there really is no reason to wait. 

Last year, less than half of the people in the U.S. got their flu shots, and that's a huge problem. 104 children died from the flu, and the majority of those were never vaccinated. It's not just about protecting yourself; it's also about protecting those around you. Not everyone can receive a flu shot, and when people who can be vaccinated fail to get the shot, it allows the influenza virus to spread throughout communities. Less vaccinated citizens mean increased chances of infecting infants, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions. Bottom line: help yourself and others by getting vaccinated against the flu. 

Another reason to grab your shot ASAP? Some experts are anticipating a severe flu season in 2017 based on Australia's recent flu season, which precedes the one in Europe and the United States. 73 people died in Australia after catching the flu, and public health experts say that this year's flu might be more resistant to vaccines and might strongly affect the elderly. Although predictions regarding the flu can never be certain, experts definitely encourage everyone to protect themselves as soon as possible. 

Worried about not feeling great after your vaccine? You probably won't even feel under the weather. Bad reactions to the flu shot are extremely rare, and it's nearly impossible to actually catch the influenza virus from getting the preventative shot. 

Finding a place to get your flu shot usually isn't too hard. Local drug stores, doctor's offices, and hospitals near you might already have them in stock. They aren't too expensive, either. You might not even pay more than $30 for one vaccine. That's a low cost for several months of protection for you and your loved ones.

This year, substituting the nasal spray for the vaccine isn't an option. The CDC determined that it was ineffective, and it won't be offered anywhere. That means even people who hate needles are going to have to face a regular vaccine, but it's important to take a deep breath and get it over with for the sake of your health and those around you.

Riley Heruska
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Whether you spend a lot of time in the car, working out, or doing chores around the house, podcasts are a great way to learn new information while multitasking. You can find entertaining shows on pretty much any topic that interests you, from science lessons to humorous interviews with celebrities. You've probably already listened to some, but did you know that there are also plenty of podcasts that can help improve your life? 

Here are a few podcasts that will inspire you to live a healthy and happy life, week by week. 

Happier with Gretchen Rubin 

Known for her expertise on all things "happy," Rubin likes to talk about dealing with the "happiness stumbling blocks" in your life. She tackles a variety of topics, from handling stressful situations to making your regular schedule more efficient. She hosts the show with Elizabeth Kraft, and together the two have lighthearted discussions about important concepts. 

Stuff You Should Know 

Ever wondered what Stockholm Syndrome really is? Are you curious about accents and why they exist? This podcast tackles questions like those, and many, many more. You might not think learning about random topics can improve your daily life, but interestingly, it can. The hosts, Josh and Chuck, will explain everything to you, and you'll walk away feeling a little bit smarter every time you listen. 

10% Happier with Dan Harris 

Dan Harris is the meditation expert. He first turned to it when he had a breakdown on national television, and ever since, he's been sharing the positive effects of meditation with others. Not only does he provide his own insight about dealing with stress and mindfulness, but he also interviews scientists, authors, teachers, and many others. 

The Skinny Confidential: Him and Her Podcast 

Hosted by Lauryn Evarts and Michael Bosstick, this podcast brings you interviews with influential people, funny conversations, and a healthy dose of reality. If you like hearing about other peoples' careers and working on your own, then you'll get a kick out of many episodes. The hosts also discuss healthy eating and how to feel good about yourself while balancing a busy or stressful lifestyle. 

The Simple Sophisticate 

If you love fashion and high-end living but don't have a million dollars, then this is the podcast for you. Tune in to learn how to embrace a high-quality life without going broke or making things too complicated. There are opinion pieces, interviews, and discussions about becoming the healthiest you (mentally and physically). The Simple Sophisticate will you help you plan your dream life while still embracing the life you already have. 

Realize Yourself Podcast 

Kimberly Snyder covers all things concerning health, beauty, empowerment, and spirituality. Each week, she and her colleague Tony host an entertaining chat that provides listeners with valuable information, as well as a dose of humor and inspiration. Occasionally, she interviews guests and experts who help her talk about various subjects. 

So, which of these do you plan on incoporating into your routine? Are there other podcasts that help you live your best life? Leave recommendations in the comments!