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Decorating a child’s room is a challenge filled with variables – not the least of which is just how long the room’s inhabitant will actually like walls decorated with fuzzy bunnies or fire engines. In fact, the one thing you can count on is that what your child loved as a toddler is most likely not what she’ll want for her room’s theme when she’s a “big kid.”
 
While you want your child to be comfortable in his own space, you don’t want to spend a mint if you know you’re going to have to redo the room again in a few years. It makes sense to choose decorating options that are easy to change so that a room’s decor can grow with your child.
 
Here are some hints for decorating touches that you can easily redo or reverse:
 
Take it to the walls:
 
The walls are the biggest design element in any room – and, fortunately for parents, they’re one of the easiest things to change. Painting is an easy, cost-effective way to completely change the look of a room. If your son is tired of baby blue walls, take a family trip to the local home improvement store and pick out a new color. Do try to encourage kids away from very dark colors, as those can be harder to cover up the next time you repaint.
 
Another option is a peel and stick mural.  Products like SmartStick by MuralsYourWay.com allow you to decorate a room without risking the integrity of the walls. Perhaps your daughter is seeking a princess room or your son is hoping for a Disney wall to depict his favorite movie. You’ll find plenty of Disney characters available in easy-to-install and easy-to-remove SmartStick.
 
A patented adhesive allows you to easily place the material on nearly any surface (walls, windows, even doors), pull it down, reposition it, even move it to a different wall – all without damaging the mural or the wall beneath it. Unlike wall decals or wall stickers, the mural does not rip or wrinkle and can be reused hundreds of times. Log on to www.muralsyourway.com to learn more. 
 
The material world:
 
For bedrooms, linens can make a significant design statement. They’re also a flexible, cost-effective way to change a room’s look. Replacing the toddler-themed linens on your tween’s bed with something more contemporary for her age group, may allow you to keep the walls, carpeting and furnishings as they are. Even if you invest in high-end sheets and a comforter, the overall cost of linens will be far less than the expense of completely redoing the room.
 
Curtains can work the same way. They’re easy to change, and by replacing toddler-themed curtains with something more age appropriate – plus a decorative curtain rod – you can impart a classy, more-grown-up atmosphere to a room for a modest investment.
 
For a bit more of an investment, consider reupholstering the gliding rocker that’s still sitting in your daughter’s room. The neutral tones or pastel colors might have been appropriate when you were rocking her to sleep as a baby, but she probably has more definitive color preferences now. Rather than discarding or selling the chair, why not add some bold patterned pillows and turn it into a welcoming yet sophisticated-looking spot where she can read or chat on the phone in comfort?
 
Art and accessories:
 
Table lamps, floor lamps, wall hangings – even decorative faceplates for light switches – accessories can help remake a room’s image without breaking the bank. If your child is old enough to have voiced his desire for a new room design, he’s probably capable of telling you his preferences in terms of accessories and artwork.
 
Talk to your child about his vision for his room. Maybe he’d like to replace the fire engine theme with an homage to his favorite sports team. It’s easy to find a range of accessories – from waste baskets to bed sheets – that will appeal to lovers of virtually any sport. Whatever the theme your child chooses, carry it throughout with cost-effective accessories.
 
From peel-and-stick wallpaper murals to freshening old furniture, it’s possible to give a child’s room a whole new look for not much money. And there are many ways to ensure that the updates will be simple to redo when your child’s tastes change again in the future.
 

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(ARA) – Times are tight for Americans.

Around every corner lurks more news about rising fuel prices, expensive food and families forced to leave their homes to make ends meet. According to RealtyTrac, home foreclosures in the first quarter of 2008 increased 23 percent from the previous quarter and jumped 112 percent from the first quarter of 2007.

These increases in foreclosures have given rise to an unexpected problem: pet abandonment.

There are no figures to estimate the number of animals being abandoned or surrendered due to current economic hardships, but animal shelters across the country are taking in more animals every day as families find themselves without other options.

Some families are taking advantage of shelters to temporarily board their pets with the hope of picking them up in a few days or weeks. Meanwhile, local authorities are seeing an increase in the number of pets being abandoned by their owners.

In Arkansas, three dogs were found starved to death in their kennels. The homeowners had left the dogs behind when they moved. Two dogs in San Diego were left at a vacant home for several months, but survived. In Downy, Calif., four birds were found abandoned in their cages.

But abandonment is never the answer, animal welfare experts say.

“Whether it’s asking a friend to pet sit, finding an apartment that accepts animals, finding a local shelter that can help or asking your veterinarian for low-cost boarding, there’s always a humane option,” says Allie Phillips, director of public policy for the American Humane Association, the 130-year-old child and animal welfare organization.

To help struggling families find options, American Humane has put together a list of tips to help homeowners either relocate with their pets or find other safe placement options for them. Some of those tips include:

* Look for apartments and rental homes that will take pets.
* If you cannot take your pet, ask your veterinarian if you can receive low-cost boarding for your pet or set up a payment plan.
* Check www.petfinder.com for a list of shelters and rescue organizations in your area that can help board your animal or will accept it for adoption.
* Strongly consider taking your pet with you. The comfort and companionship of pets can help ease the strain of a move.

“There’s a lot of news about the stock market and a struggling economy lately, but it’s not the economy that’s struggling. It’s you, us, our friends and neighbors,” says Marie Belew Wheatley, president and CEO of American Humane. “It’s a tough place for any family to find themselves. Bills need to be paid and in order to make ends meet, sometimes sacrifices have to be made. It’s not easy, but pet abandonment isn’t the answer.”

Tip sheets for homeowners looking for ways to keep or care for their pets during a foreclosure can be found at www.americanhumane.org. Also available online are tip sheets for bank and mortgage companies that may find abandoned pets in vacated homes. In addition, local animal shelters may be eligible for grants from American Humane to help families stay with their pets.

Neighbors can help, too
Often a neighbor can help authorities and animal welfare groups spot an abandoned animal before it’s too late. Neighbors should listen for animal sounds, look in windows, check with other neighbors and be on the lookout for signs that the previous homeowners had pets.

If pets are known or suspected to be on the property, animal control should be called immediately. With a neighbor’s help, animal control can get a search warrant to enter the home and check for pets that are abandoned or neglected.

American Humane is quick to point out that animals left behind or simply set free will probably not survive. It can be weeks or months before a bank or mortgage company will visit an abandoned home to make an assessment or a neighbor notices that pets are trapped in a house.

That’s too long for any animal to go without food and water. If abandoned, there is also a chance that the state criminal animal-cruelty laws might apply, even if arrangements are made for somebody to feed and water the animals after the home has been vacated.

“It’s a terrible situation for any family to find themselves in, but to leave an animal behind only makes it worse,” says Belew Wheatley. “It seems when times are tough we find the best in our friends, family and neighbors. If they’re unable to help there are always other options, from a vet to a local animal shelter. These are our family pets, and they count on us to take care of them.”

Visit www.americanhumane.org for more information.

Photo courtesy of ARAcontent