Betsy Stern

Meet Kassy: Coffee lover + Jack of All Trades

We just love our team here at SwimWest and are beyond proud to introduce you all to Kassy, our very own jack-of-all-trades. You’ve probably seen her around our Deming Way location as she bounces from front desk to the pool to the deck. She’s always got a smile and knows how to push and encourage even the littlest swimmers.

Here are some fun facts about Kassy:

1. How long have you lived in the Madison area?

8 years

2. What’s your day like at SwimWest?

I am anywhere from in the pool, on deck, or helping out at the front desk!

3. 3 Things you Love about SwimWest

The Kids, Water, my Team

4. Favorite Madison area restaurant

Moka (coffee shop)

5. Wisconsin Winters or Wisconsin Summers?

Summers! I go to the EAA Airventure every Summer

6. Favorite Swim Stroke

Breaststroke

7. Something You’re Looking Forward to

Going to see family at the end of Summer

8. Something you have learned from your job

The importance of Teamwork/having a Team
Make sure you say hello if you see Kassy around the pool! 
Meet Silas and his Favorite Teacher, Ms. Caitlin!

Meet Silas and his Favorite Teacher, Ms. Caitlin!

Meet Silas, an adorable 2nd grader, and his favorite swim teacher, Caitlin! Caitlin has lived in the Madison area for over 20 years, and her enthusiasm and passion for kids shows every day. She and Silas have a special bond and have been swimming together at SwimWest for over 5 years.

One of Caitlin’s favorite memories of Silas is the first time he did a flip in the water – he was SO excited! “His older siblings do it and he wanted to keep up with them. When he finally did a front flip, he was so proud of himself. Now he doesn’t want any help and wants to do flips all day long – and he loves when I do a flip too! Silas is now learning to do backflips. It’s been so awesome to see Silas go from being pretty nervous and clinging to me to wanting to do everything on his own.”

Here are some fun facts about Caitlin and Silas!

1. How long have you lived in the Madison area?

Caitlin: I have lived in the Madison area since 1999.

Silas: All my life

2. Craziest Day at SwimWest

Caitlin: We had one teacher call in because they were sick, one teacher get into an accident and a third teacher couldn’t get here because it was snowing. I had to figure it all out and how to have enough teachers in the water.

3. 3 Things you Love about SwimWest

Caitlin: I love getting kids to master skills they have been working on. It is so exciting when they move up or master a skill!

Silas: the pool, Ms. Caitlyn and the showers

4. Favorite Madison area Restaurant

Caitlin: My favorite restaurant is Bistro 101 in Mount Horeb.

Silas: Culvers

5. Wisconsin Winters or Wisconsin Summers?

Caitlin: Summers for sure!

6. Favorite thing to do in the winter? Favorite thing to do in the summer?

Silas: Winter: Swim at SwimWest and get Culvers afterwards. In the Summer, Swim wherever I can, in a pool or at the lake

7. Favorite Swim Stroke?

Caitlin: Breaststroke

Silas: Not a stroke but he loves to do summersaults forward and backwards

8. Something You’re Looking Forward to

Caitlin: I am looking forward to summer! I love to be outside in the summer.

Silas:  My Birthday

9. Something you have Taken Away from your Job

Caitlin: I have learned to work with kids with all different abilities.  I truly love working with kids. They always make my day so much better!

Thanks for sharing with us, Caitlin and Silas! We truly love our instructors and families and can’t wait to see you around the pool!

20 Healthy Snacks for Growing Kids

20 Healthy Snacks for Growing Kids

If your kids are anything like mine, snacks are a staple of every morning, afternoon and evening (and sometimes X100). What’s tricky is making sure those extra in-between-meal foods are healthy and nutritious, without being a pain to prepare.

In honor of National Nutrition Month (who knew there was such a thing?!), the American Society of Nutritionists and Dietetics has put together 20 Healthy Snacks for Kids. It’s such a great list – even MY picky kids would be happy with these!

Let’s spend March focusing on the importance of making good food decisions, promoting healthy eating and lots of physical activity! Take it day by day and focus on including a variety of food types, small portions, LOTS of water and healthy ingredients.

Here are a few easy, tasty (and healthy) snacks to help get you started.

  1. Parfait: Layer vanilla or plain low-fat yogurt with fruit and dried cereal.
  2. Toast a whole grain waffle and top with low-fat yogurt and sliced fruit or smooth nut butter.
  3. Blend low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana for thirty seconds for a delicious smoothie.
  4. Sandwich cut-outs: Make a sandwich on whole grain bread. Cut out your favorite shape using a big cookie cutter. Eat the fun shape and the edges, too!
  5. Mini-pizza: Toast a whole wheat English muffin, drizzle with pizza sauce and sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese.
  6. Frozen treats: Mix equal amounts of fat-free plain or flavored yogurt with 100% fruit juice, then pour into paper cups and freeze for a tasty treat.
  7. Quesadilla: Sprinkle shredded cheese over a corn or whole wheat tortilla; fold in half and microwave for twenty seconds. Top with salsa.
  8. Spread hummus on a tortilla. Top with a slice of turkey or ham, low-fat cheese and lettuce. Then roll it up.
  9. Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with ricotta cheese and Granny Smith apple slices. Add a dash of cinnamon.
  10. Microwave a cup of tomato or vegetable soup and enjoy with whole grain crackers.
  11. Make a mini-sandwich with tuna or egg salad on a dinner roll.
  12. Microwave a small baked potato. Top with reduced-fat cheddar cheese and salsa.
  13. Spread celery sticks with smooth nut butter or low-fat cream cheese. Top with raisins. Enjoy your “ants on a log.”
  14. Dip slices of fruit or whole-grain graham crackers into low-fat vanilla pudding or yogurt.
  15. Inside-out sandwich: Spread mustard on a slice of deli turkey. Wrap around a sesame breadstick.
  16. Rocky road: Smear low-fat chocolate pudding on a whole grain graham cracker, then top with a marshmallow.
  17. Sprinkle cinnamon on unsweetened applesauce and enjoy with a whole grain graham cracker for a taste similar to apple pie.
  18. Make your own fruit roll-up by pureeing fruit and either baking it in the oven or by using a dehydrator.
  19. Bake homemade chewy granola bars using whole-grain oats and dried fruit.
  20. Whip up mini-muffins using healthy ingredients, like whole grain flours and pureed fruit.

Find more healthy eating tips at: www.kidseatright.org www.eatright.org/nutritiontipsheets. Many thanks to the Academy of Nutritionists and Dietetics for putting together this amazing list!

6 Ways to Celebrate Literacy in March

6 Ways to Celebrate Literacy in March

Read Across America was started in 1997 as a way to encourage a love of literacy in children. While many people know March 2 is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, did you know March celebrates “Love of Reading” all month long? In the same way Football hosts pep rallies, March is the month to spark excitement and enthusiasm about literacy. This month, SwimWest will be collecting books to donate to the Madison Reading Project! If you’d like to donate a book, stop by one of our locations or give us a call anytime with questions. Many schools and libraries host special events to celebrate, but there are lots of ways to celebrate right at home.

Here are a few fun ways to put the spotlight on literacy this month!

  1. Read the Book of the Month from Read Across America. This month, the children’s book is The Book Tree about a small town Mayor who declares books dangerous and destroys every book in town. Each month, Read Across America highlights a different book (one for elementary, middle and high school ages) that represent a wide array of experiences and cultures.
  2. Set up a Book Swap with Friends. Kids choose books they have already read or no longer want/need and swap with their buddies! Such a fun way to discover books other peers have read and enjoyed, while cleaning out your own bookshelves. Easy, free and FUN!
  3. Read under the Stars (or at least in the dark!). Create a little nook or fort, dim the lights, and let your little one read by flashlight or lantern. Something about reading in a “fun” environment makes kids so much more excited to snuggle up and dive into a good book. Bonus points for climbing in with them (preferably with PJs on!).
  4. Find a Guest (or Mystery) Reader. We all love reading to our kids, but there’s just something extra special about making the reader a “mystery” person. See if a neighbor, friend, babysitter or grandparent will make a special visit to read a book to your child at home or school!
  5. Dress like your favorite character. Kids love to dress up, and this is the perfect excuse! Let them take the lead on choosing a favorite book and character, and help them disappear into a fictional world for a day.
  6. Hit the library. Libraries are wonderful every day of the year, but this month, make a point to check out some of the special events and offerings at your local branch. From STEM clubs to music classes, libraries offer tons of fun, educational activities for all ages.

Hope you have fun reading this month – and for more ideas, visit https://www.readacrossamerica.org/!

Don’t Drink and Dive | 7 Spring Break Safety Tips

Don’t Drink and Dive | 7 Spring Break Safety Tips

As Spring Break approaches (YAY!) and the beach, pool or tropical locale beckons, it’s the perfect time for a refresher course on Water Safety. When you’re in a new or strange environment, you may not be quite as aware of your surroundings as usual, and letting your guard down around water (even for an instant), can be tragic. Kids may be less sure of the rules in a hotel or vacation rental or more curious about exploring in a new place. Adults may be socializing with family members or indulging in an adult beverage. These small changes in routine can leave room for accidents if you’re not prepared.

Here are 7 Spring Break Safety Tips to help you enjoy your vacation while keeping water safety top of mind!

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. Whether you’re staying near the pool or beach, kids love water. They are curious and often don’t know their own limits. Make sure to take note of entry/exit points in your hotel or rental property, and how accessible the water is from your location. Knowing the property and it’s strengths and weaknesses can help you create rules (see number 2!) and stay vigilant in new surroundings.
  2. Set and Enforce Rules. It may be vacation, but with drowning the leading cause of accidental death in young children, it’s incredibly important to set and enforce rules around water. For example, let your children know they are not to go near the water without an adult (water watcher! See number 3), or open any doors to the outside. Regular water safety rules also apply on vacation: don’t roughhouse in or near the water, only use coastguard approved floatation devices and ALWAYS make sure someone is in charge of watching the kids and water.
  3. Designate a Water Watcher. Of all the safety tips we can offer, this is likely the most critical. No matter how “secure” the pool may be, if no one is keeping an eye on kids (especially when they aren’t “supposed” to be going near the water), accidents can happen. When you’re on vacation, make sure an adult is always in charge of water safety by designating a water watcher.
  4. Buddy Up. Make sure your kids have a buddy to swim with, even if they are “good” swimmers. This is important for older swimmers that may be more confident in their abilities. Drowning can happen to anyone.
  5. Weather Watch. No one wants rain on vacation, but if a thunderstorm rolls in, make sure you stay out of the water.
  6. Lifeguards. If possible, swim in locations where a lifeguard is present. Not only will they help watch for struggling swimmers, they can help with CPR if needed. They don’t replace the need to follow regular swim safety rules, but the more eyes on the water, the better!
  7. Don’t Drink and Dive. Alcoholic beverages can be such a temptation on vacation – many resorts even often swim up bars. Did you know 70% of water related deaths in teens and adults involve alcohol? Not only is drinking and swimming unsafe for the older crowd, it can be dangerous for those watching younger children. Drinking can easily distract you from keeping your eyes on the water, and slow your reaction time. If you choose to drink, make sure someone sober is watching the kids.

Enjoy your vacations and stay safe! For more information, visit https://redcrosschat.org/2015/03/24/top-tips-staying-safe-spring-break-water-safety-edition/

 

 

Heart Disease: It can Happen to Anyone at Any Age

Heart Disease: It can Happen to Anyone at Any Age

February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. Did you know heart disease can happen at any age? According to the CDC, half of ALL Americans have one of the top 3 risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high Cholesterol or smoking. Whether you’re 25 or 75, there are steps you can take to protect your heart and lower the risk factors of developing heart disease.

Heart Disease Risk Factors – it Could Happen to You:

More and more young people are at risk for developing heart disease due to factors like unhealthy eating, inactivity, smoking or other risky behaviors. Here are some of the top troublemakers when it comes to heart disease:

  1. Smoking. Smoking increases plaque in blood vessels, which can narrow arteries carrying blood to the heart. Chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause the blood to thicken and form clots inside veins and arteries. (CDC). Here in the US, millions of people smoke cigarettes every day, increasing their risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular complications.
  2. High Cholesterol: When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, your arteries narrow and blood flow to the heart muscle can be blocked or slowed down. Having diabetes and obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels. (CDC)
  3. High Blood Pressure: Having uncontrolled blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for developing heart disease. The strain and damage from high blood pressure causes arteries to narrow from a build up of fat and other substances (plaque). As the arteries become hardened, blood clots are more likely to form. Millions of Americans have high blood pressure, including many in their 30s and 40s. (CDC and Heart.org).
  4. Other conditions that contribute to heart disease include: inactivity, obesity, diabetes and unhealthy eating

What can YOU do to Help Prevent Heart Disease?

While heart disease is unfortunately very common, it’s not too late to take control of your health and wellbeing. Here are some tips to help you keep your heart healthy and happy:

  1. Be active! Find a way to build exercise into your daily routine. Aim to add at least 150 minutes of activity each week, even if you break it down into very small chunks. A 10 minutes walk around the block each morning and night, or a few laps at the pool will go a long way to helping your heart!
  2. Do NOT smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US. There are so many resources to help you quit right here in Madison. Find a way to kick the habit and work your way back to heart health.
  3. Regular check-ups. Make sure you’re keeping tabs on your health with regular visits to your doctor. Find out your blood pressure and cholesterol and how you can manage them if they are too high.
  4. Healthy eating. We all know fruits and veggies should be a staple of each meal. Try to add in healthy options and stay away from high salt, high trans fat, high saturated fat and of course, sugar.

For more information on heart disease and what you can do to help your heart, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/index.html or https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease

 

 

New Guidelines to Prevent Drowning: What you Need to Know

New Guidelines to Prevent Drowning: What you Need to Know

It may be February in Wisconsin with gray skies, blustery temperatures and occasional snow, but warmer days will be here before we know it!

As we head into March (Spring break!) and beyond, we wanted to share some updated recommendations from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). The AAP is an organization of more than 67,000 pediatricians and medical specialists dedicated to the wellbeing of children. As research has shown drowning to be the leading cause of accidental death for young children, guidelines are becoming stricter and more specific when it comes to safety.

Here’s what you should know:

Early Swim Lessons:

The AAP now suggests children begin swim lessons by the age of one. Research has shown babies this age benefit from lessons and may be critical in preventing drowning in young children.

Bathroom Supervision:

Never leave a child unattended in a bathroom, even with an older child. Small amounts of water (even inside a toilet!) can be dangerous for young children. Keep your eyes on your child whenever they are near water, even in your own home.

Water Watcher:

Nothing can replace the attention and supervision of an adult. When you know your child will be in the water, make sure you’re not distracted by conversations or cell phones. Choosing a “water watcher” while at the pool can make sure someone is always taking control of your child’s safety.

Create Multiple Barriers:

Create as many obstacles to drowning as possible, including: swim lessons; life jackets or other floatation devices; barriers to the water (such as a fence with a lock around a pool); and constant supervision (AKA choosing a “Watcher Watcher”).

Even the very best swim lessons cannot prevent drowning. Water is risky for all ages, and taking proper precautions and stacking safety suggestions can help prevent a tragedy.

For more information about the AAP’s recommendations, please visit https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Updates-Recommendations-to-Prevent-Drowning-in-Children.aspx. For other tips on