Surviving the Post-Summer Camp Transition!

Your little darling just got home from sleep-away camp and brought home a duffle bag full of thrice-worn clothes with ground in dirt and grass stains.  He smells like he’s been counting lake swimming as a daily bath, and for some ungodly reason, he’s bouncing off the walls! The time between getting your kids back from camp and sending them off to school can be challenging for moms.  You’ve got a mountain of worn, dirty laundry to spelunk through and a child who suddenly requires your undivided attention as he recounts every day of camp to you.  So what’s a mom to do?  Fear not! We’ve got some great tips and tricks to help you maintain your sanity while transitioning your kid between camp and school: Laundry! Grab a clothespin for your nose, and dig in.  Sort out the barely soiled laundry from the “Oh my… what IS that?” laundry.  Then use your arsenal of stain removers as you see fit.  Here’s a helpful hint: you can coax out gross armpit stains and other greasy stains with a mixture of dish liquid, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide.  Scrub it in and let it sit.   Chat! Clear an evening in your schedule where you make your child’s favorite foods for dinner and welcome him back to the dinner table.  Listen aptly to all the crazy stories about his new friends and the pet raccoon he almost brought home.  Ask questions.  It’s really important that you show interest in his adventures and praise him for handling himself well during his independent time.  This will give him more confidence when he becomes a teenager to make good choices when you aren’t there.  Schedule! Re-acclimating to the normal schedule of chores, errands, and bedtimes will be a challenge for both you and your child, but make it fun.  Help him out with his chores, like washing the car, gardening, and doing dishes.  Use that time to talk and get to know your child.  Chances are he’s grown a lot now that he knows what it’s like to be on his own, and you’re going to have to get used to this young adult in your home.  Take some time to evaluate your rules.  Is he ready for a later bedtime?  Is he ready to take on more responsibility?  Ask your child and find out! Relax! Once the laundry’s done, the chores are squared away, and everyone smells fresh as a daisy, enjoy having your family altogether under one roof again.  Take a family outing or have a family movie night.  All you need is some time spent together before everyone splits off for school.  Congratulations!  You survived the transition!

Sleepover Safety: What Parents Need to Ask Ahead of Time

"I’m embarrassed to ask this…what will they think of me?" This is what many parents told us when we talked about the importance of asking “safety questions” of another parent or friend before sending kids off to a play date, sleep over or sports practice. With all of the stories in the media about “trusted adults” in childrens' lives who have broken that trust by abusing them, it's important to ask yourself whether your discomfort with asking safety questions are more important than your child's safety. Is the chance of offending someone worth the risk? Perhaps a year ago you might not have even thought to ask, but with recent news events, you probably have heard that 90% of the time a child is harmed - it's by someone they know. As a result, it's nearly impossible to bury your head in the sand and say "that would never happen to my child"…because it can and it does. We want parents to feel that they have done all in their power to keep their children safe. So here are some questions that are important to ask the people you entrust with your child: Before a play date or sleep-over Who will be watching the children? Do you have older children and will they or their friends be present? Do you have a gun in your house? What safety rules do you have in your house? Will you be staying at your house the entire time? Is the TV and Internet use monitored? What are the sleeping arrangements?   Asking these questions will not entirely ensure that your child will be safe, but how the adult answers the questions is very important. Are they offended? Do they tell you that you are too over-protective? Are they giving you the answers that make you feel that your child will be in a safe environment? Is your gut telling you that it's not a safe environment for your child? Here are some conversations to have with your child: Your body is special and belongs to you. You are in charge of your body and nobody should touch you in any way that makes you feel confused, weird, uncomfortable or on your private parts. You should not touch or look at anyone’s privates. When over a friend’s house clothes must always stay on. No one should take pictures of your privates or show you pictures of naked people. No playing in the master bedroom. No one should ever ask you to keep a secret from us - or keep a secret that you are NEVER allowed to tell.   It's important to let your child know that you will always believe them and praise them when they report unsafe situations to you. You can give them a few strategies (as well as model and role play situations) so your child will know what to do and how to respond if they feel uncomfortable. Make sure you discuss your safety rules and the fact that they should be followed when you are at another’s house. Finally, consider having a code word your child can say to you over the phone so if your child wants to leave they don’t have to be embarrassed. By tackling these issues, you open the door to conversations that should be had on a regular basis as a natural part of your parenting. If all parents start speaking the same language of safety and are willing to openly discuss these questions, children everywhere will be safer. So are you still embarrassed to ask these questions? If you answered yes…get over it! Nothing is more important than your child’s safety! For more information visit our website www.kidsafefoundation.org

Creative Cocktail Ideas for Summer

Summer calls for fresh treats that are fruity, cold, and delicious. When it comes to summer fruits, oranges are often overlooked and they don't deserve the attention they deserve. Here are two great summer recipes that use oranges for a bright and citrusy flavor. These recipes can be made with or without alcohol, which means that they're perfect for the entire family.   Sunrise Ice Pops Ingredients: Orange juice Pomegranate juice Tequila (optional) Popsicle sticks Popsicle tray   Directions: Pour orange juice into your popsicle tray.  Pour in about a teaspoon of pomegranate juice per ice pop.  If you are using tequila, add one shot for all the orange juice going into the pops.  Put in the freezer without sticks.  After about twenty minutes, they should be set enough that your sticks will stand up straight when inserted.  Freeze until solid (~3 hours).  Enjoy! Blue Moon and Orange Cupcakes Adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth and Miss Make (Makes 24 cupcakes) Ingredients: ¾ cups unsalted butter, at room temperatures 1 ½ cups sugar 2 ½ cups flour 2 tsp baking powder ½ tsp salt 3 eggs, at room temperature 1 tsp vanilla extract ½ tsp orange zest 1 tsp of orange juice, no pulp 1 cup of Blue Moon ale, plus a little for brushing on top (if you choose to brush orange juice on top, the alcohol will have completely cooked out of this cake in the end) ¼ cup milk A couple drops of neon orange food coloring (optional) Icing 1 container of your favorite cream cheese frosting 1 tsp orange zest 1 tbsp orange juice, no pulp **Orange wedge, zest, or orange-colored sugar for decoration** Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with muffin cups and spray them lightly with cooking spray.  Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (Flour, Baking Powder, and Salt).  Cream the sugar with the butter until fluffy (~2 minutes).  Add the eggs to the creamed mixture one at a time, beating in between.  Add the juice, zest, and vanilla.  Mix in the milk and the beer.  Using a sift, incorporate the dry ingredients.  Fill cupcake cups 2/3 of the way.  Bake at 375 for 18 minutes.  Let cool for five minutes.  Poke holes on top of the cupcakes and brush on either more beer or more orange juice to your preference.  For the frosting, mix all the ingredients together.  You can also make your own cream cheese frosting with 12 oz. of cold cream cheese, 6 tbsp. of butter, and 4 cups of powdered sugar beaten together.  Frost the cupcakes only after they have cooled.  You can get fancy with a piping bag or use your trusty frosting knife.  Garnish with orange zest or an orange wedge.  

The Best Sports for ADHD Kids

While sports certainly provide a productive outlet for the excess energy housed within the tiny body of a child who struggles from ADHD, many children who have this disorder struggle to operate within the constraints of sports. To ensure that your ADHD child's sporting experience proves productive, carefully select the proper sport for him, and support him as he moves through the learning and playing process. Swimming For children with ADHD, moving gracefully through the water can be a great way to burn off excess energy. As "ADDitute Magazine" reports, ADHD children often do better in solo sports than group ventures, making singles swimming an ideal choice. Additionally, because the water offers natural resistance, participation in this sport takes more energy than it would appear, potentially leaving ADHD suffering participants less hyped post-swim meet. Baseball While team sports are not always the best idea for children who suffer from ADHD, baseball is an exception to this rule, as the sport can easily be modified to accommodate an ADHD-suffering participant. If your child struggles with controlling his ADHD, speak to his coach and ask that he be put in a position where he is free to move, such as the outfield. Also, request that his position be changed up regularly to ensure that your child does not tire of one playing area. Martial Arts Many ADHD children find martial arts to not only quench their thirst for sports, but also to teach them some of the control skills they require for success in life, reports "ADDitude Magazine." Through martial arts training, children learn to control themselves and master their bodies. As ADHD children struggle with control, training in this sport can be helpful in reducing the impact of the disorder. Track The bursts of energy that make it difficult for your child to succeed within the classroom may be just what he needs for a successful track stint. Track not only allows, but encourages, constant motion and speed, so your ADHD child will likely fit right in. Additionally, because track is predominantly a solo sport, your child will not have to feel the pressure of teammates depending upon him. Skating Just as with martial arts, the control that your child will learn when training to skate will likely translate into the classroom. Success in solo figure skating requires power and stamina, two things that your ADHD child likely has in great abundance. Selecting this sport for your child is particularly wise if she loves grace and elegance, and aspires to become a dancer or engage in a similar form of physical artistry.

5 Ways to Instantly Organize Your Closet

Are you so tired of all of your clothes and shoes being just everywhere? Chances are you don't even know what you have with a messy closet. Glamour magazine's closet-obsessed guru Suze Yalof Schwartz says you don't need to hire a professional organizer to get things tidy. Here's her top five ways to get your closet looking ten times better instantly. 1. Get Rid of Stuff! Suze's first rule to get things organized? Get rid of stuff! "Toss anything that's stained, has an unfixable hole or hasn't been worn in years." Then, arrange everything so you can see it. Hang as much as you can, and neatly stack the rest on open shelving. 2. Add Boutique-Y Touches Display your accessories including belts, jewelry and bags. Hanging necklaces on a tie rack is a cute idea. Knot your scarves around your closet rod or hanger. Get things in your sight, so you know what you have. 3. Lose the Shoes Neatly line up the ones you love, and get rid of the ones that are dusty and you haven't worn in forever. Seriously, get rid of the shoes! 4. Organize Bags Arrange them on a shelf separated by dividers -- so they can hold their shape. 5. Extras Keep a box in your closet to store all the packets of buttons, sequins, thread, and all miscellaneous stuff you get with new garments, etc. You'll never have to hunt again when you're looking for something. You can even organize your sunglasses in boxes too... Organization Get More from Glamour Magazine

No Child Left Alone?

When I was growing up in Washington, DC in the 1970s, I spent most of the hot, humid summers exploring my neighborhood, kicking around my elementary school playground, and walking neighbors’ dogs at the local park across the street from my house.  Except for quick meals, I was rarely home between 9am and full dark. Wherever I happened to spend my days, my mom was not there with me.  She had four kids and a house to run. Plus she was busy converting a local “home for unwed mothers” into a daycare center that still thrives today.  In other words, Mom had better things to do than iron my underwear or drill me with flash cards in Chinese. Or worry about what the police would think.  Because today, my mom would be arrested for letting me be alone for so long.  Especially if she were a black single mother working at McDonald’s. This past July 1st, a 46-year-old black single mother in South Carolina was arrested on the felony charge of unlawful neglect of a child.  The reason?  Debra Harrell let her 9-year-old daughter spend several daylit hours playing in a park six minutes from their home. The park was filled with other children. Plus adults who had organized a free breakfast and lunch program for local kids. Harrell’s daughter could use the free park Wi-Fi and a splash pool.  She also had a cell phone to call her mother or other adults at any time.  The alternative was sitting at their home, which had recently been burglarized, or at her mother’s workplace all day, which violates McDonald’s 30-minute anti-loitering policy and would not have boded well for Debra Harrell’s job security, since we all know how much employers appreciate kids at work. In response to the neglect charge, he state took custody of the young girl [http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/07/arrested-for-letting-a-9-year-old-play-at-the-park-alone/374436/]. As a kid, how many times did you play in park without a parent? How often do your kids do so today? What would you do if you saw a nine-year-old by him or herself at your neighborhood park? Call the police? Let it go? Try to watch as best as you can? Under what circumstances would you leave your child alone in the car for a few minutes? Or at home?  Or roaming your neighborhood? The fact that I am asking these questions at all shows how dramatically parenthood has changed in the course of one generation. Now here are the facts: Debra Harrell broke no law. Some states have very clear statutes about how old a child can be left alone – at home – and how old a child must be to care for younger children [http://www.legalsource360.com/index.php/child-home-alone-laws-by-state-311/]. South Carolina’s law states that children eight and under may not be left alone.  Harrell’s daughter was nine. What does her arrest tell us about the state of modern American parenting today? My view is that, as a parent, you have to take something like this case by case. Some nine-year-olds are too young to do ANYTHING alone. Some are very mature, independent and responsible and can be left alone. Also the context matters.  To leave a kid "alone in a park" sounds awful.  But in this case, there were tons of kids and other parents around.  It was daylight. And the child had an easy way to reach her mom via cell phone. A friend of mine wonders: was this a case of a black mom being arrested for something a white mom would be praised for - letting her child experience the great outdoors while developing her independence? She also wonders whether a white person called the cops.  Another friend tells this story. “I remember when my husband and I separated.  My son was 9 and my daughter 5.  They had one month of school left and I was working a temp assignment an hour away with no one to pick them up and I couldn’t afford aftercare. I taught them how to catch two buses and the Metro to get to my brother’s house where we were staying temporarily. I bought them a cell phone and they had a key to the house. I designed their route so they wouldn't have to cross any streets - every bus and train they took gave them front door service. They had to call me after they got off at each stop. One day, the school secretary saw them outside the school, hiding behind the tree waiting for the bus. She asked what they were doing. My son was honest and told her.  She could have called the police on me. Instead she called me. She said, ‘I am taking them home after school from now on.  You keep getting back on your feet.’ People judge when they have no clue what a single mother with limited resources goes through.” I would add that although people judge single mothers the most harshly, and dads occasionally, our society judges all mothers, all the time, period.  Hundreds of people have joined the outcry supporting Debra Harrell, providing free legal counsel and donating funds to her case. I too side with Mom here.  She did what my mother did. What I myself have done many times. When they were under ten years old, I often left one or all of my kids "alone" at a basketball gym, at the neighborhood fair, at a school play, at my house. In fact, one of my most cherished memories of this summer is of the walks to the park my youngest daughter took, alone with our dog, in the weeks before we had to put him to sleep. Debra Harrell is a fine mom in my book. She did so much right in a country where we offer so very little support to mothers.  She took care of her child economically by going to work; unlike fathers, moms seldom get credit for providing financially stability for their families. Debra Harrell trusted her child. She trusted her community too. We betrayed her -- not vice versa.

How Much Water Should Kids Drink?

Water makes up more than half of the human body. Since people constantly lose water from urination, sweat and other bodily functions, you need a constant supply to stay healthy. While the National Institute of Medicine have daily water recommendations for adult men and women, they do not offer any for children. Teach your child to drink whenever he feels thirsty and he should get plenty of water each day. Significance of Water Every cell in the body contains water. A child needs water for his blood to flow properly, for his immune system to function as it should and fight disease, and so that his body can get rid of waste through the digestive system. He also needs water to sweat, which cools his body when it becomes hot. Water provides an added benefit if it contains fluoride, as many tap waters do. Fluoride helps protect the enamel on a child's teeth. Water Sources Your child doesn't have to drink glass after glass of tap or spring water to get what she needs to stay hydrated each day. Water is found in any liquid, so even if your child drinks a glass of milk with dinner instead of plain water, you shouldn't worry about dehydration. Fruits and vegetables are also great sources of water. Try to avoid giving your child a soda pop or fruit drinks in place of water. The caffeine in soda has a diuretic effect, so your child will lose more liquid than she gains. Sugar in fruit drinks and juices provides extra calories, making it less beneficial than water. When to Drink Give your child an 8 oz. glass of water or milk to drink with every meal. Tell him to drink whenever he feels thirsty. Make water easy to access in your house, either by placing a child-safe pitcher of water in the refrigerator or by investing in individual water bottles. Children in the United States should be able to access water whenever they feel thirsty during the school day, for free, per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's "Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools" brochure. Children should drink a glass of water before playing sports, while they play and directly afterward to stay hydrated. They also need to drink extra water when sick, such as when they have diarrhea, to prevent dehydration. Risks Too little water can cause health problems stemming from dehydration. Recognize the signs of dehydration so that you can take action and give your child water as needed. Dehydration may make her dizzy or lightheaded, according to Kids Health. You may notice her lips are dry and looked chapped. Too much water can also cause health problem , as the body flushes too much sodium from the blood. Don't let your child participate in water-chugging contests, and make sure she doesn't guzzle too much, such as an entire liter bottle, after playing sports. Convincing Your Child to Drink Water While it's one of the building blocks of life, water doesn't taste very exciting, especially compared to the extremely sweet sodas and juices available. You can make water more enticing for children by adding a slices of fruit, such as lemon or strawberries, to a pitcher or glass. If your child loves soda, try giving him flavored sparkling or seltzer water. Set a good example and drink water yourself.

Escaping the Stress of Infertility with Mini-Vacations

Last weekend, my family and I went on a short vacation to the beach to unwind and relax. My third and final IVF is rapidly approaching, so it was very necessary for me to take the time to be in the present moment, enjoying the beauty of nature and all of the little treasures life has to offer. I was so happy to take a break from thinking about my infertility treatments, and I was actually able to remain stress free and unburdened during my whole time away. The morning we were to go back home, I sadly said goodbye to the ocean. I realized on my vacation that there were ways I could “take mini-vacations” that would provide temporary stress relief as I navigate another difficult path on my journey.1. Drinking a Glass of Wine or Other Fun Adult BeverageWhen struggling with infertility, being able to have a drink is the equivalent of “No Sally, you don’t win the car, but hey, you win our take home version of the game show!” No one really wants the crappy board game, but at least it is something. Clearly, I would like to be pregnant and therefore not be able to drink, but since I am not with child, yes I will have a margarita on the rocks with salt. (Obviously, this is not a good option if you struggle with addiction--the social worker in me had to clarify this).2. Do Something CrazyMy husband and I weren’t sure what we would do for our 4th wedding anniversary. We were really depressed because we had thought for sure that we would be pregnant by that time. We knew we had a difficult autumn approaching, filled with doctors, fertility treatments and surgery. We decided to do something that we never would have done if we were pregnant or if we had kids. We spent the day at trapeze school. It was crazy and awesome. We will never forget it.3. Taking Time to Connect with NatureWhether I am sitting on a bench taking in the river view, or walking on a trail alongside the duck pond, I find peace and comfort in running water. I like to be by the water and feel its healing presence, especially on my tougher days. I feel spiritually rejuvenated in these spots. Being by the water reminds me that I am a small part of a greater universe, and I find that comforting.4. Watching a Fun MovieFor people struggling with infertility, it is sometimes hard to find a movie that is relaxing. For instance, “Knocked Up“, a seemingly hilarious movie about a couple who accidentally gets pregnant, could be excruciating for someone who is having trouble conceiving. This past weekend I found a great movie to watch that was hilarious and not at all thought-provoking or stressful; “Date Night” with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey. It made me laugh and took me away from my troubles for a little while.5. Do Something to Benefit OthersHelping other people feels good. It is a beneficial distraction from your own troubles. After my failed IVF with embryo biopsies last year, I thought I had hit bottom. Then a few months later, I had an unexpected pregnancy and then went through my fourth miscarriage in less than a year. I was feeling really low and quite lost, looking for meaning and purpose. I eventually started writing, and I noticed that my writing had themes of peace and service. Eventually, www.kidslikeike.com (see link below) was born, devoted to teaching preschoolers to love the environment, each other and themselves. With the site, I hope to make the world a little bit brighter. It brings me comfort to have created meaning and purpose when I was experiencing overwhelming feelings of sadness and emptiness. Working on the website was a positive distraction.Small JoysThese are some of the "mini-vacations" I take to escape from the stress of trying to conceive and of coping with the inevitable difficulties. Everyone has their small joys in life, whether they are exercise, reading a book, listening to music, eating a fabulous meal or getting away. I look forward to hearing about what brings you joy and relief from stress.Visit Kids Like Ikewww.kidslikeike.com

Ice Cream Truck Treats - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Summertime calls for lazy days at the park with your kids. Ahh…relaxing and fun. Wait, is that the faint jingle of the ice cream truck you hear? Before you have time to exhale, the playground has been evacuated as all the children rush over excitedly to the ice cream truck that pulls up. As you walk up to the truck with your kid, you salivate at all the scrumptious options. It’s hot and you decide to not only buy one for your kid, but treat yourself as well. Here are some of the best and worst ice cream truck treats to keep in mind next time you’re stuck deciding whether to undo your hard-earned beach body or delight in a mouthwatering 500-calorie ice cream delight. Packaged Ice Cream Cone   The Nestle Triple Chocolate Extreme Cone may make your mouth water, but wait, read the label before you grab it! It contains a whopping 390 calories, 21 grams of fat and 35 grams of sugar. Instead of sacrificing your craving, go for a mini version of this treat. The Nestle Lil Drums Cone only contains 140 calories, 7 grams of fat and 10 grams of sugar. You can have one without the guilt. Ice Cream Bars   An original Klondike Bar is almost impossible to resist with its vanilla ice cream center and chocolatey coating. While it’s not as bad as some ice cream bars out there, it still contains 250 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 23 grams of sugar. Instead, try the Good Humor Cookies and Cream Bar which packs just 90 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 10 grams of sugar. A fraction of the price for the same great taste! Popsicle   While a popsicle is usually a better choice than ice cream, you could still make the wrong choice when it comes to these frozen flavored sticks. If you choose an orange creamsicle, you would be adding 100 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 14 grams of sugar to your body. Instead, grab the patriotic firecracker popsicle for just 35 calories, 0 grams of fat and 7 grams of sugar. Why choose a creamsicle when you could cut the calories and sugar by half and still beat the heat with a frozen treat? Ice Cream Sandwich   Vanilla ice cream sandwiched in between two chocolate chip cookies? Sounds like heaven. But, wait till you read this. The Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich contains 500 calories, 24 grams of fat, and 40 grams of sugar. If that isn’t enough to steer you away from those for life, I don’t know what is! But you don’t have to sacrifice all ice cream sandwiches. The Klondike Oreo Sandwich contains 200 calories, 7 grams of fat and 17 grams of sugar. Yes, it’s still pretty bad for you but not nearly as dangerous as that Tollhouse sandwich!

Favorite Mommy Apps

Maybe it’s just me, but when it comes to apps and my child, I have been extremely overwhelmed. There are so many apps serving a variety of needs. Nowadays, everything from teaching your child a foreign language to a keeping track of your baby’s sleeping and feeding schedules can all be done with the touch of an app. So, how do you find the good from the blah, especially when apps can cost upwards of $10? First, I knew I needed to figure out what was important to me when it came to an app. How would this app benefit my child? Who makes the app and what is their mission statement? If the app was going to cost me money, what did it offer that its competitor did not? How many downloads did the app have? Were the reviews positive and helpful? After answering these questions, I came to these conclusions: At this time, since my child is only 10 months old, I am not looking for an app that intends to educate, distract, entertain or occupy my child. In my opinion, (and in the opinion of the American Academy of Pediatrics) many of the educational, creative or developmental apps might do more harm than good if used for children ages 2 and under. There have been multiple studies linking infants who view educational videos (be on TV or on a smart device) with attention problems* and aslower development in learning words. *(iPads are considered so new that much data is still being collected) I am not saying that these apps don’t do what they say they do. But, I feel that any screen time should not be used on infants or toddlers, and no matter the age, should be used few and far between. I know I have been oh so tempted to turn on Disney Jr. or hand Camden a tablet when he is screaming, especially when I’ve done the pomp and circumstance all day (I have to resist it daily). But for me, the potential negative effects far outweigh my struggle with patience. With this said, I was hunting for apps that would help organize my life as a mom, provide me with useful information, and educate me on the development of my child. So, with these factors in mind, I went on a mission to find the best apps for my needs. After weeks of research, studying over case studies and reading through hundreds of reviews from moms with children the same age as my child, I found a collection of apps that have truly been beneficial thus far. What To Expect Baby- I really do love this app as it gives me the information I’m looking for with quick and easy access. Month by month, you will be up to date with everything you need to know for the first year.  It’s free, which is another bonus. Official Description: Wondering if your newborn’s getting enough to eat? Sleeping enough? Growing and hitting milestones fast enough? Make the most of every amazing moment of your little one’s first 12 months with the FREE What to Expect Baby Tracker — your mobile partner in parenting. Stay on top of your baby’s development and pick up pointers on baby care and behavior with this new app from Heidi Murkoff’s best-selling parenting guide, What to Expect the First Year. Android- FREE Apple - FREE The Wonder Weeks- This is probably one of my favorite apps! I look at it weekly. I love the chart that lets me know about “stormy” or “sunny” stages as well as describing each “leap”. It really is on point with the stages your baby goes through. Official Description: The Wonder Weeks is now in an iPhone app and Android app! Picking up on the international bestselling book, The Wonder Weeks, and more than 35 years of international scientific research, this app will keep you informed about the (mental) leaps and bounds of your baby — any time of day or night. This app won prizes in several countries as best parenting app! Android - $2.05 Apple - $1.99 Favored.by- This is by far my new favorite app! I can quickly tell I am going to use this daily. This app was created with the help of Ali Landry, who is a fabulous mom of three, actress, host and TV personality. This lady knows her stuff when it comes to parenting, and I value her expertise. This apps helps weed through the blah to find the ah! It allows you to find products that truly fit your needs and gives you reviews from moms first hand. Another perk is that they are doing an amazing giveawayright now. And, the app is free!! Official Description: Favored.by helps you break though all the clutter of negative meaningless reviews, confusing rating systems and overwhelming choices by only concentrating on peoples ultimate favorite products in a given category. Find out instantly which products your friends, family and like-minded people favor the most. But be careful, it’s very addicting and will change the way you shop! Apple– FREE! Baby Connect- This is truly a life safer for moms who may have organizing OCD problems like myself. You can basically track every waking (and sleeping!) moment of your child’s life with this app, and I love it! Official Description: Baby Connect is touted as the most comprehensive baby tracking application around.  This nifty app tracks everything there is to track about baby---feedings (nursing and bottle), pump schedule, solid foods, diapers, sleep, moods, milestones and medicines. It will graph, chart, list, even share your data via Facebook, Twitter and Email. Best of all is that it synchronizes with iOS devices, Androids, and to the web, which means sharing baby's particulars with each other or the babysitter is a cinch. This app doesn't miss a beat.Apple - $4.99Android - $5.21 Baby Shusher- This is a must have for when we travel. Camden cannot sleep with noise, and the shushing is the best kind. Ever since he was born we have used a shushing machine at home, so when we travel, this is the perfect companion. I love the adjusting volume option. Official Description: Baby keeping you up? Not getting enough sleep? Then you may want to give Baby Shusher a try. According to the developer, the app "safely stop baby from crying with rhythmic shush sound that engages a baby's natural calming reflex by reminding them of still being in the womb". The shush sound automatically adjusts to the baby's crying, so if baby is crying loud, the sound will play louder (no point if baby can't hear it). When their crying subsides, the sound will also auto adjust to a lower level. Even mom, dad, grandma or grandpa can record their own custom shush.Apple - $4.99Android - $2.97 Baby Sign ASL- I love learning sign language to teach Camden. He hasn’t signed back to us yet (he’s still too young) but he is starting to recognize the different sign words. It’s a great way to communicate with your child before they can talk.  Official Description: Baby Sign has over 200 American Sign Language baby signs. It is a great reference for parents who want to connect and communicate with their child at a very young age. On average, babies who learn to sign know 50 more words by the age of two than babies who never learn to sign. Apple- FREE  

Healthy, Simple, FAST Summer Recipes

Are you a family on the go that's looking for a super healthy and fast way to make meals for your family? These recipes will take no more time than waiting on the fast-food line, and they are SO much healthier! Below are some quick healthy breakfast combos as well as some real nutritious fast lunch and dinner solutions. My hope is that some of these suggestions will be tried as replacements for fast, sugary foods. Let's start with breakfast: Cashew Spread Cashew Spread Whole Grain Toast, Strawberries & Blue Berries: Yum! You can buy cashew spread in the grocery store. It is a great alternative for peanut butter which is packed in pesticides. You can make your own as well simply by putting cashews in the food processor and blending till soft. Go for whole grain bread, or sprouted grain instead of processed white bread or “enriched” bread, which is actually processed bleached white bread with synthetic nutrients added. It's SO much healthier. Whole Grain Cereals Whole Grain Cereals with Bananas or Sliced Apple: Choose whole grain cereals instead of sugary processed cereals -- Cascadian Farm has many varieties of organics to choose from, than add bananas, apples and a teensy bit of honey. The kids will love it. “Instant” Organic Oatmeal “Instant” Organic Oatmeal with Berries: This is a quick nutritious breakfast that takes minutes to prepare: Just add water, stir and add some local organic fruit. Delicious! Slices of Cheese Slices of Cheese, Berries & Naked Green Juice: Hormone free cheese slices with berries are best. I like to make faces on the plate and kids love that --a strawberry for the nose, blueberries for eyes and apples for eyebrows. Naked Green Juice is a great substitute for sugary fruit juices that contain corn syrup. Does anyone know why they put corn in our juice? Simple Real Fast Food Next, here are some quick meals that are almost as fast, but undeniably more delicious and healthier than the greasy fast food you get in a drive through. Veggie Wraps Veggie Wraps with Cashew Spread I love using sprouted grain wraps for quick meals. Pile on the fresh veggies like orange bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes or whatever you have in the kitchen, you can even add a little veganaise (a mayonnaise substitute). Finish with homemade cashew butter, blended with low fat organic yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Pita Pizza Fill pita with organic cheese, dried tomato, chopped onions and fresh oregano. Add fresh spaghetti sauce to the top with sea salt and bake. Easy and delicious. Spinach Pasta Your favorite cooked pasta topped with shredded Italian and ricotta cheese, a dash of crushed pepper. I then add a little more cheese on top and bake until the cheese melts. Top with your favorite pasta sauce. Quick and simple, especially if you cook the pasta ahead of time. You really want to shop organic on dairy items to avoid hormones that are added to the regular dairy products. Canned Organic Ravioli In a hurry, I use Annie's Canned Pasta. It’s organic, super fast to prepare and nutritious. Organic Mac and Cheese You can make your own-- easy enough or Annie's has some that come in a box that my 3 year old loves! Add some organic milk and sprinkle some cheese and voila. It tastes homemade. Grilled Cheese Sandwich Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apple or Sweet Potato Chips: This is great for a Saturday afternoon lunch at home. Using whole grain bread and organic cheese, grill up some quick sandwiches for your kids. Sweet potato and apple chips are low on the glycemic index, which means they will not spike blood sugar levels like regular potato chips, they are a better chip! Veggie Burgers Amy’s Veggie Burgers and Baked Sweet Potato Fries: All of Amy’s Vegan Veggie Burgers are made with organic vegetables and grains, and are completely non-GMO. They are quick to prepare and are tasty! Amy’s runs an egg-free, peanut-free facility. Rumor has it that they keep a little cheese hanging around for those vegetarians, so if you have a severe milk allergy, call in advance to ensure which vegan products are made on dedicated lines. You can bake up some sweet potato fries with sea salt for the side dish. Happy easy cooking!

Rediscover Your Inner Child

Silly party hats, balloons, melted ice cream, pin the tail on the donkey. As children, it didn’t take much to create a celebration. What does it take today? Is it an “impossible to get” reservation at the newest restaurant? Something sparkly in a small box? Maybe champagne and caviar? While those do make for a special time (especially that something sparkly) things seem to have gotten mixed up somewhere along the way. It is as though the delight we feel comes from the celebration itself, rather than a celebration being an expression of our pleasure. Do you remember the expression “jump for joy?” When was the last time you actually did that? Do you still delight in simple pleasures? Do you do a happy dance just because? Do you jump up and down and yell “Whoo-Hoo?” Do you sing at the top of your lungs? Do you laugh and laugh and laugh? Do you free yourself of your inhibitions and celebrate being in the moment? Most young children would be able to answer yes to those questions. They have the gift of being able to delight in the sheer pleasure of life and the ability to express that with wholehearted, energetic and enthusiastic exuberance. Yes, we know you are no longer a child and things have changed. We know life is not as carefree as when you were young, that life is busy and stressful. But hope that in spite of it, we can inspire you to rediscover the child we believe is still a part of all of us. We’re not suggesting silly party hats (unless you want to wear one), but we would like to propose you consider the words of Mark Twain: “Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.” To read more of BUTTERFLY go to www.butterfly.pro/blog/

Travel Trailer's Packing List

Hitting the open road in a travel trailer gives your family a chance to bond as you visit new places. A well-stocked camper makes a difference in the outcome of the trip. Packing the right things before you leave gives you more time to focus on entertainment instead of finding local stores to buy the forgotten items.FoodGrocery shopping before you head to the campground saves you time and energy. By the time you arrive and set up your camper, grocery shopping probably won't be at the top of your list. Write out a tentative menu for all meals on the trip. Base your grocery list on those meals, adding in snacks and drinks to round out the food. Eating supplies also need to make it into the camper. This includes silverware, serving utensils, plates, cups and pans. If you plan to cook over the campfire, you'll also need roasting sticks or grill grates. Most travel trailers include a stove cook top, but you might also need a separate camp stove to handle your cooking.Clothing and BeddingThe clothing you pack depends on the time of year and expected weather on the camping trip. If you won't have access to clothes washing facilities, pack extra clothing. At least one sweatshirt or warmer clothing item gives you a backup if the weather is unexpectedly cooler, especially at night. Bedding materials depend on the sleeping accommodations in the travel trailer. Sheets to cover the beds, blankets and pillows are the basics to sleep comfortably. Sleeping bags and extra blankets keep the family warm in cooler camping conditions.ToolsTools in the trailer keep you prepared in case you need to make a quick repair. The basics, including a hammer, screwdrivers, pliers and wrenches, should be sufficient. Leveling boards, hoses, extension cords, stabilizing jacks and other items necessary for setting up the trailer also go onto the packing list. A saw or hatchet might also come in handy around the campground, along with flashlights or battery-operated lanterns for nighttime.Toiletries and Medical SuppliesYour toiletry list will vary, depending on your usual habits. The basics include soap, cleansers, moisturizer, sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrushes, brushes, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, razors, towels and toilet paper. A first-aid kit prepares you for minor injuries while camping. The kit should include an assortment of bandages, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic, instant ice packs, tweezers, gauze, thermometer, medical tape and pain reliever.EntertainmentNature provides entertainment in the form of hikes, exploration and water sports, but you might also want to pack other entertainment options. Board games, a deck of cards, crossword puzzles, bicycles and a few toys for the kids are options, depending on the amount of space available in the travel trailer. A camera allows you to capture all the memories.

How to Make an Herb Garden

You can grow an herb garden, even if you only have a tiny windowsill or small back porch. Herbs do not need a lot of space to grow. Many will thrive in 6-inch-deep pots, provided they have plenty of sunlight, good soil and not too much water. The quickest way to start an herb garden is to grow four or five herbs in a single, long window box. Place the window box on a sill, or set it on the ground outside.Step 1Pour potting soil into your planter. Fill the planter about one-half or two-thirds full. Wear garden gloves to protect your hands, and use a spade to distribute the soil evenly.Step 2Make four small holes, evenly spaced apart, in the potting soil for the herbs. Don't make the holes so deep that they reach to the bottom of the planter. You should still have a bit of soil underneath.Step 3Carefully slide each herb from its container, and gently work its root ball free.Step 4Place one herb in each of the holes in the planter, using the spade to distribute more potting soil around the roots.Step 5Pack the potting soil down, and water the plants thoroughly, saturating the soil.Step 6Set the planter outdoors in warmer weather or if you live in a climate that is warm year-round. Make sure you set it in a spot that gets plenty of sun every day. You can also put the planter in a south- or east-facing window, where it will get enough sunlight.

How to Clean Ceramic Glass Cooktops

A ceramic glass stovetop creates a sleek and modern look for your kitchen. You do not have to unplug coil burners, clean under the top or wrestle to fit the pieces back together. Food debris has no place to hide. You can clean the smooth surface without playing kitchen mechanic. Keep the top of the stove as clean as the day you bought it with daily cleaning. If your stovetop gets a lot of use, clean the top after each use. Step 1 Wait until the stove has cooled completely before attempting to wipe it or clean it. Most of these stoves include visual clues, including a red hot burner and a red light that will turn off when the cooktop is no longer hot. Do the rest of the meal cleanup first, including washing dishes and pans, cleaning the table and sweeping the floor. Step 2 Wipe down the cooled cook top with a soft damp sponge. Designate one sponge without a scouring side to use for cleaning surfaces only. Foods spilled away from the round burners, including spices or sauce should come off cleanly. Dry off the surface with a clean towel or paper towel to reveal the more stubborn foods cooked onto the surface. Step 3 Squirt a cream ceramic glass top cleaner on a scrubbing pad made for cook tops. Substitute a paste of baking soda and water for the cleaner for a more natural cleanser. Use a dime-size amount, as too much will leave your cooktop surface looking murky and smeared. Step 4 Clean the entire surface using the cleaner. Pay special attention to the burner circles, which are lighter than the rest of the glass cooktop. Scrub small areas repeatedly using small circular motions to remove cooked on foods and liquids. Burned milk and water demand elbow grease. Rinse the top with a clean sponge and check for stains. You will need to scrub stubborn spots a second or third time. Step 5 Remove accidental stains including melted plastic by hardening the plastic first. Use cold water or an ice cube to harden the plastic melted onto the stove from a misplaced container or plastic wrap. Pull off the hardened plastic, wedging it free with a plastic scraper. Wax may also be removed this way. Step 6 Dry the stove surface with a microfiber cloth. Use the microfiber cloth to polish the surface. View the surface from different angles to catch any missed spots.

8 Quick, Easy & Healthy Breakfasts

We’ve all heard it before…breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But is it really? And does it really matter if you’re one of the millions who skip it altogether? As registered dietitians, we don’t like to slight any of our meals (we love them all!) but we do admit that having a nutritious breakfast is extremely important. That’s because eating a nutritious breakfast sets you up for a healthier day. Breakfast gives you the fuel that you deserve to start your day and it helps to prevent you from overeating later in the day. That’s probably why people who eat breakfast are best able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Plus, it helps kids to stay more alert so they can concentrate better and be more creative.No Time to Prepare Healthy Breakfasts?We grew up in a quite healthy household where we were given a nutritious breakfast in the morning before running out the door to school. Our mom took pride in spending time preparing meals that kept us energized and satisfied until lunchtime. If you’re like us, you want to eat healthfully and also give your family the best, but you simply don’t have the time to spend cooking, like our moms did. The good news is that there are so many healthy breakfasts that can be prepared in minutes, and you can feel really good about eating them and giving them to your family.3 Most Important ComponentsWe have our clients choose breakfasts that have the following three components: 1) A high-fiber carbohydrate: This provides long-lasting energy. Think oatmeal, whole grain breads and whole grain cereals with fiber. 2) A low-fat protein: This takes longer to digest than the high- fiber carbohydrates so it keeps you feeling full. Think hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, nonfat yogurt (Greek yogurt is especially high in protein), low-fat cottage cheese, and fish such as water packed tuna or slices of salmon. 3) A source of antioxidants/ vitamins/ minerals: This provides extra nutrients. We’re not talking about supplement pills. Always try to add the good stuff--a fruit or vegetable to your breakfast. Think berries or other fruits on cereal or in yogurt, spinach or mushrooms in eggs or a tomato on a whole grain piece of toast with low-fat cheese. Check out these eight breakfasts faves:1. Fiber-filled cereal with skim milk and berriesGood news for Moms: cereal and milk are the leading source of 10 nutrients in childrens' diets and only cost 50 cents a bowl. So you can really feel good about giving your family cereal. Try hot cereals like oatmeal or high fiber cold cereals like All-Bran. Be sure to stick to the serving size. To boost up the protein content, try incorporating a hard-boiled egg as they are a great source of satisfying protein. More good news: If you’re used to giving your kids cereals like Corn Pops or Apple Jacks, Kellogg’s has increased the fiber and the whole grains. The majority of their cereals are a good source of fiber and many of them include whole grains. More encouraging news for Mom’s whose kids love sweetened cereals: although these cereals have 12 grams of sugar (roughly a tablespoon), we’ve found that kids often add sugar or honey to other unsweetened cereals, and surprisingly, they may get fewer grams of sugar from these already sweetened options.2. Peanut butter banana roll-upOne of the easiest things to do is spread peanut butter on whole wheat bread or on a whole grain tortilla, wrap it around a banana and run out the door. The whole wheat bread will provide energizing carbs while the peanut butter will give a boost of protein. For an easy alternative, toss whole wheat bread in the toaster and then spread peanut butter on it. Grab a piece of fruit for the final touch for added fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants.3. Raisin bread topped with cottage cheese and strawberries.Top a slice of whole-wheat raisin toast with nonfat or low-fat, low-sodium cottage cheese and strawberries (or another fruit) and sprinkle with cinnamon.4. Egg roll-upScramble liquid egg whites and roll them up in a whole wheat tortilla (you can microwave this when in a super time crunch!) and salsa. Toss in your favorite pre-cut veggies like onions, peppers, spinach and mushrooms.5. Mediterranean delightSpread 4 tablespoons of hummus on a toasted whole wheat pita. Add lettuce and tomato.6. New York Style BreakfastToast half a whole-wheat bagel and spread non-fat ricotta on it with a sliced tomato and an ounce of salmon.7. Waffle timeToast a whole-wheat waffle. Top with low-fat or non-fat yogurt (Try nonfat Greek yogurt for extra protein) and an apple or sliced fresh fruit.8. Yogurt parfaitLayer a non-fat or low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt with berries and a couple tablespoons of rolled oats. The yogurt is a great source of calcium and protein and the oats provide energy-revving carbs while the berries are loaded with antioxidants.About the AuthorsTammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT (a.k.a. The Nutrition Twins®) are registered dietitians and certified personal trainers. They share a nutrition consulting practice and are co-authors of The Secret To Skinny and Fire Up Your Metabolism. The Twins are regularly featured as nutrition experts on The Fox News Channel, Good Morning America and Discovery Health Channel and regularly appear on international radio stations, as well as print and online publications. Visit www.NutritionTwins.com (see link below).Visit The Nutrition Twinswww.nutritiontwins.com

Four Money Traps Every Mom Should Know

The last thing I expected as I headed up the freeway from San Diego to Los Angeles was a money trap. Traffic? Yes. Frustration and delays? Naturally. But a money trap? Never. Halfway there I had a choice: jump on a wide-open toll road or sit in a sea of traffic only to arrive at my appointment sweaty and swearing. It was an easy but costly decision: my $6.50 toll quickly turned into a $70 fine. Apparently, the State of California decided to remove all the toll collection booths and forgot to tell its residents. They claim it was a decision designed to save taxpayers’ money. I think it was a trap to lure suckers like me into paying over 10 times the standard rate.  Whether helping a client plan for retirement or teaching my son to budget his birthday money for the summer, I find myself preaching over and over about the practice of mindful spending. It simply means practicing the art of awareness by being conscious of how every single dollar is spent and alert to your larger financial goals – whether that’s a hefty retirement account or a new dirt bike. Even the savviest can get caught unaware in a web of wasteful spending. And the opportunity cost of turning your cheek over to this waste can amount to thousands of dollars. And that’s money you should be putting to work building your net worth. Following are four money traps that are sure to sabotage not only your wallet but your road to financial freedom. 1. The “Free” Trial Offer They say the best things in life are free. Not always. Ever wonder why businesses are willing to offer that fee trial? Sure, it builds customer loyalty and, hopefully, you happily become a repeat buyer. However, companies also know that many of us never read the fine print and they make no attempt to remind us when the free period is over. Instead your “free” subscription or service converts to a paid one. You are left with an unwanted monthly expense and now they have a steady revenue stream.  Your loss is their gain. And since credit cards are often used over debit cards to secure these “free” offers, the 15.61% APR of interest you’re paying each year amounts to an even greater loss to your bottom line. And here’s where the trickiest trap lurks: many companies make it virtually impossible for you to cancel these offers so that simple one-second click takes hours of phone calls and emails to undo. They are making a calculated bet that you’ll get frustrated and give up, but you simply can’t afford to do this. How do you avoid this trap? My advice is simple: say, “NO!” But if you can’t resist a freebie, don’t skip the fine print. Know exactly what you are agreeing to, mark your calendar when the trail ends and, most importantly, have an exit strategy so you can get out. Also, watch out for pre-checked boxes. Often a single checkmark gives a company the right to extend their offer beyond the trial period thus authorizing them to charge you. Ultimately, this gives you little recourse if you choose to later contest the charges. Finally, my number-one rule for clients: review your credit and debit card statements monthly. This regular ritual will catch reoccurring surprises early thus saving you money. 2. The Spaver: Spending to Save Spending to save rather than to satisfy a need can instantly sabotage your monthly budget. Just because you have a coupon or the opportunity to take advantage of a great deal doesn’t mean you need to act on it – especially if the good deal is for something you would not otherwise purchase like a gallon of coconut oil or two dozen cinnamon buns.  Warehouse membership stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club are designed to make a spaver out of you. Everything from their product placement, revolving door of new merchandise, and wide selection of tempting tasters is done to encourage spending. And, it’s working! The only way to spend less than $100 at Costco is to simply leave your wallet at home. While purchasing items in bulk has its advantages – be strategic. It’s hard to imagine what a family of four is going to do with 2,250 Q-tips or 128 servings of salad dressing. How do you avoid this trap? Stay clear of the center aisles and beware of the special promotions – especially the ones found at the end of aisles known in the industry as “end caps.” Often, these end-cap items aren’t even on sale but just higher-margin products merchandised to catch the shopper’s eye. Be a buyer, not a shopper. Stick to a list and allot yourself a set amount of time (preferably, at the end of the day when you are tired and less likely to meander through the aisles). Use the tasters to fill your stomach, not your cart. Finally, only carry cash – having limited resources means making limited purchases.  3. The Upsell  You’re standing at the rental car counter after a hellish day of airline travel only to be bombarded by a slew of questions.  “How about we upgrade you to a convertible?”  “Would you like to pre-purchase a tank of gas?”   “Need additional insurance coverage?”  “What about a GPS?” (As I am holding my smart phone.)  And, the one that always puzzles me given my kids are 17, 15 and 10. “Do you need a car seat?”   “No, no, no, no and no!”  Nice try but these are money traps by way of the upsell and are designed to make the company richer and you poorer. Upselling is a technique whereby a seller entices a buyer to purchase additional items in order to make a more profitable sale. Rental car companies aren’t the only culprits. Retailers, technology companies, consumer electronic stores and car dealerships offering extended warranties and after-market products regularly employ this tactic. Hell, even McDonald’s has mastered the upsell with its supersized offers – and that doesn’t just affect your wallet but your waistline too!  How do you avoid this trap? Do your homework and ask questions. Know what you already own so you don’t make a redundant purchase. For example, only 10 percent of consumers need to purchase additional rental car insurance yet more than 60 percent elect to pay a daily rate that is almost as much as the rental car itself. Before deciding on a warranty, you need to consider the reliability of the product you are purchasing and understand what the manufacturer is already offering.  Many of us forgo analyzing the economics such as the warranty fee as a percentage of sale price, the average non-warranty repair cost, possible deductible and the product's life cycle. Also, consider the actual probability of something breaking -- often we act solely on the fear of what "could" happen.   When you do say NO, stick to it. Don’t let the power of persuasion take you down. Some sellers use fear tactics to make you think you can’t afford not to have these add-on items. Truth is, most of the time you can’t afford to buy them. 4. The “Freemium” Game “Play on.” Seems like an innocent request, right? Ask the 12 million players of Candy Crush Saga who were enticed by those two simple words to put close to $2 billion into the pockets of the game’s creators. The worst part? This game is actually free! Four percent of the half a billion people whom downloaded the free app in 2013 were lured by one of the biggest money traps out in the market today – the freemium game. And Moms sitting in carpool lines aren’t the only victims. Many freemium games, including Clash of Clans, Despicable Me 2, and Smurf’s Village, are taking advantage of the purchasing power of children. With a simple password and a few clicks, young players can ring up charges from 99 cents to $99 without even knowing it. Image the shock one mother had when she discovered her seven-year old twins racked up $3,000 worth of in-app purchases while playing Clash of Clans. Pull out your old flip phones and lock up you iPad because freemium games are here to stay. There is only one way to avoid this money trap – grab a book, take a walk, hit yourself over the head with a hammer, do anything but play. These are just four of the most common areas where money traps lurk. Be aware that businesses are constantly refining and creating new tricks of the trade designed to separate you from your hard-earned cash. Staying conscious of your surroundings – whether in front of your computer, at the checkout counter or speeding up the 5 Freeway – can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. 

Fitness During Pregnancy

While some women elect to make their pregnancy a time of rest and relaxation, others commit to be fit throughout the nine months. By working to maintain or build your fitness level during your pregnancy, you may be able to make the process of bringing your new little one into the world a bit easier and allow yourself to more rapidly shed the pounds you pack on while carrying your soon-to-arrive infant. Benefits of During Pregnancy Workouts Staying active during your pregnancy has a host of potential benefits, reports the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This source reports that exercise during pregnancy increases your energy and may improve your mood. Keeping active also promotes muscle tone development and helps you get the rest you need to keep your body and your baby healthy. Taking the time out to exercise may even reduce your risks of developing gestational diabetes, a potentially serious pregnancy complication. Target Workout Heart Rate While some worry about raising their heart rate too significantly during pregnancy, WebMD reports that moms-to-be have nothing to worry about in regards to target heart rate. While some exercise-related lore has indicated that pregnant women should never elevate their heart past 130 beats per minute, this source states that that idea is antiquated and that moms-to-be need not worry about their heart rate level, but focus more on cues from their body that point to exhaustion. When to Stop Although exercise during pregnancy is good, there is such a thing as overdoing it, reports KidsHealth. If you experience dizziness, heart palpitations or shortness of breath while working out during your pregnancy, you should take a break and reduce your effort level when you return to physical activity. These symptoms can indicate that you are pushing yourself to the limit and be your body's way of telling you to slow down a bit. Increased Injury Risk Exercising moms-to-be need to be a bit more cautious than traditional work-outers, as they are more prone to injury. As WebMD reports, your body creates a hormone called relaxin while you are pregnant. This hormone is vital to vaginal child birth, as it lubricates your joints, allowing your body to stretch and bend as required for child birth. Because your joints are loosened due to the presence of relaxin, you must be a bit more careful as you could more easily twist or sprain joints during this period. Exercises to Avoid Not all exercises are the best choice when pregnant. As WebMD reports, pregnant mothers should avoid exercises that require highly developed balance, such as skiing or skating, as pregnancy does impact your ability to balance. This impact can be felt particularly keenly after the fourth month. In addition, taking a tumble while pregnant is potentially more serious than taking a standard fall, so you should avoid activities that put you at an elevated risk of falling.

Kids With Special Needs Siblings - Do They Get Lost

This guest post was written by Kathy Chlan from unfilteredmom.com.   I have 2 boys - 21 and 18.  The oldest, Casey , is my son with special needs.  Christian is the other one.  I have struggled with the notion that I hope Christian didn't get lost. Christian was born 8 weeks early and was always on the go.  My mom said it was like he was never a kid.  He just immediately knew he had a job to do. When Christian was 4 years old and Casey was 7, we were at the park.  They were playing together and I soon watched other kids looking at Casey and laughing.  Casey lost all his hair at 2 years old and had alopecia.  I thought "oh God". It wasn't because of the other kids or their ignorance, it was about Christian.  What was he going to do.  All of a sudden he said something to the kid and the kid continued to laugh.  Christian proceeded to move Casey out of the way.  Then, Christian punched him in the face and the kid hit the ground. My friends and I stood motionless.  I sooo don't believe in hitting, but on the other hand, I felt somewhat proud. I knew in that instance that Christian would ALWAYS be there for Casey! Special needs kids are given to families that can handle the pressure.  But most importantly, that child also gets siblings who are strong and have convictions. In my opinion, these siblings soooo don't get lost. They are the men and women that will always fight for the underdog. So, I let the guilt go and realized that people are born with a destiny and sometimes that destiny will be filled with adversity.  But those are the individuals that will make a difference in the world.  And always remember that you made them!!!    

How To Get Your Kids To Clean Their Room

It’s a rare (and lucky) parent who persuade/fight/bribe/beg to clean their room. Closing the door on the mess is one solution, but maybe not the best. Even grownups are more likely to do something if it’s easy (think fast food, Netflix, online banking). Make cleaning their room a little easier by organizing the room with cleanliness in mind. Here are a few ways you can make cleaning their room a little easier for everybody: Ditch the excess: One of the best ways to make cleaning their room easier is to get rid of excess clothing, toys and books. Pull out any clothing that doesn’t fit, toys they haven’t played with in three months and books that are too torn or too young for them. You can donate these items, or, if they are in good condition you may be able to earn a little extra cash by selling them! Clean up to music: Add a little music to clean up time and boogie along with your little one to burn a few extra calories and clean up with laughter instead of tears. Create centers: A simple way to make cleaning a bit easier is to create centers, like a preschool or kindergarten room.  Use small bookshelves to create a reading area, place their laundry basket near their dresser or inside their closet, and create a play space with a small area rug. To help keep the room organized, keep items in their respected areas (clothes, shoes, laundry basket in the dressing/changing area), toys in the play area and all books in the reading area. Make it fun: Make cleaning up their room a game! One idea to help keep the clothes off the floor is this fun basketball laundry “shoot”. Encourage them to put their laundry in the basket by assigning points for each clothing item that makes it through the hoop (shirts 1 points, socks 2 points etc.). With smaller kids you can learning experience. Tell them to pick up everything of a certain color. Then choose another color. Clap your hands and praise them when they get the right colors. You can also use size and shape for little ones. As kids get older consider making it a bit harder by naming categories (everything you would use in a kitchen, or everything you can wear.) Use labels: If you have a small space or you need detailed organization, consider purchasing a toy organizer or a few cheap plastic bins. Label each bin with a photo of what goes in each bin. This will help eliminate the “I don’t know where it goes,” excuse. You can even label drawer for clothing items for smaller kids. Make it a daily habit: Set a specific time each day (30 minutes before bed time works well) and set that time aside for cleaning their bedroom or playroom. Cleaning a room every day is a lot easier and it’s a great way to end the day. Help your little ones put their toys to bed and you can start the next morning with one less mess to worry about. Author Bio:  Hank McKinsey is a lifestyle and DIY blogger based out of central California.  When he’s not crafting or blogging, he can be found playing tennis or lounging with his dogs.  Follow Hank on Google + here.  

Mom's Morning Boost - Cocoa-Banana Smoothie Recipe!

Just say the words “banana” “cocoa” and “smoothie” in the same sentence, and we’re already perking up. So, if you’re like us and want a boost before your race your kids off to camp or the pool, then look no further. This simple yet filling smoothie is a great way to get that jump start you're get into the day. Bananas are a great source of energy-revving carbohydrates and potassium, which invigorates your muscles and gives them the "umph" to contract again and again. This banana-split-inspired breakfast smoothie also contains fiber from the banana a well as plenty of protein from both tofu and soymilk that will keep your energy level constant, so you don’t experience a sugar crash. It will definitely keep you satisfied until lunchtime. We certainly love our chocolate, as even the faintest smell has a way of putting smiles on our faces, and this recipe satisfies that sweet tooth. Enjoy! Banana-Cocoa Smoothie Ingredients 1 banana (frozen--we put it in the freezer the night before) 1/2 cup silken tofu 1/2 cup soymilk 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1 tablespoon honey   Directions Slice banana and freeze until firm. (We do this the night before). Blend tofu, soymilk, cocoa and honey in a blender until smooth. With the motor running, add the banana slices through the hole in the lid and continue to puree until smooth. Drink and enjoy! Nutrition information: Calories: 295, Fat: 6.4g, Carbohydrates: 54g, Fiber: 7.5g, Protein: 19g

Swimming Exercises for Kids

If your kids love to swim, you can help them fall in love with exercise through swimming workouts. Kids can get an aerobic workout while toning their muscles. Swimming is a low-impact workout that kids can enjoy with friends. After a few hours in the pool, your kids will be tuckered out, hardly noticing that they were working out. Make It Fun Kids can get a great workout without even knowing. Races force your kids to swim laps, but add a competitive side. When you have a pool full of kids, see who can swim from one end to the other fastest. Add some challenges. See who can swim breast stroke or butterfly. Have kids choose their favorite animal and see if they can swim like that animal. Drills If your kids need to work on a particular stroke or style, challenge them to do some drills. Ask them to show you their breaststroke, backstroke or butterfly stroke. Ask them to swim with one hand, with their legs crossed or breathing on both sides to practice certain techniques. If your kids are on a swim team, ask their coach which drills would be best. Also look at coaching websites or books for some ideas. Equipment Kids need to have a swimsuit and goggles for swimming exercises. Kick boards, to help with kicking techniques, and pull buoys, to help with arm strokes, are also useful. Diving toys encourage kids to swim to the other end of the pool and swim to the bottom of the pool. Safety While swimming can be such as healthy workout for kids, it can be risky if you don't take the necessary precautions. Always stay with your children when they are working out in the pool. Although competition can make swimming even more fun, make sure kids don't push on each other while trying to win. Get Involved Swimming is an ideal activity for the whole family. When your kids hop into the pool for their swimming exercises, join them. You can swim laps together. You can race each other and teach one another new techniques. Serve as an example for your kids by working out with them.

Building Confidence in Your Teen

The most awkward time for you child is when they stop being a kid but aren't quite an adult.  Their bodies are changing, and their hormones are going nuts.  Some handle it gracefully, but most freak out.   And it doesn't help that the role models they are presented with in the media are airbrushed into oblivion and have press agents to make sure they're saying the right things for their image.  The reality your teen faces is filled with so much fake-ness, it's hard for them to look at themselves and recognize that what is real is normal and perfect.   Your job as a parent is to make this transitional time easier for them.  While that sounds like less fun that paratrooping into Antarctica in your skivvies, relax.  There are plenty of things you can do to help your teen and enjoy parenting! Set Reasonable Rules You remember how dumb your parents' rules seemed when you were thirteen years-old?  "Don't stay out past nine.  Call whenever you change locations.  No boys in your bedroom."  Well, now that you're a proud mommy to a teenager, those rules suddenly make sense.  Your teens are supposed to grow up independent but, how are you supposed to protect them if they aren't by your side?!   Now is the perfect time to sit down with your teen and a pad of paper.  Write out the rules and discuss them.  Make amendments.  Set consequences.  When it's all written out, your teen has something to refer to in case they forget.  But the main positive is that there are boundaries set for them when they are out alone, learning to be independent.  This gives your teen a foothold in an otherwise confusing situation.  And you don't run the risk of being "unfair" because they were part of the decision making. Be Free with Compliments and Careful with Criticism  Having excess body hair and zits is hard enough without a mom constantly telling a kid to shave and put some cream on that thing.  What's even harder is looking past the flaws and seeing their beauty (guys, too).  To help your teen feel better about him or herself, constantly remind them how amazing they are. Point out what they are doing right, or what they are doing almost right.   Teens are tough enough on themselves, and they are most likely to give up trying if someone is constantly criticizing them.  Motivate your teen to try by easing them into a critique with an overview of what they did well.  This is a great way to build rapport with anyone, especially your teen, because people are more open to amending their ways when they are given positive reinforcement and encouragement - even when they haven't done something exactly right. Encourage Them to Share Their Opinions  There are fewer frustrating aspects of parenting than hearing, "I don't know."  Unfortunately for tweens and teens that lack confidence, they don't feel their opinions matter.  Focus on their importance.  When the family is going out to dinner, really let the kids decide.  Often, parents overrule their children's desires with a curt, "No" because they already have predetermined plans.  What this teaches kids, though, is that when they make a decision, no one will listen to them or care that they expressed an opinion.  In the end, you're left with an indecisive person who is not going to grow any more decisive with age.  Instead, occasionally let your teen make decisions for the family and praise them for their choice (even if you're not excited about eating at Hometown Buffet... again). Support Their Interests  Someday, your teenager is going to realize that they looked silly with half their hair colored snot green, but hopefully, they will also look back and remember that their mom helped them pick out the dye and told them it brought out the color of their eyes.  Hair color aside, your teen will also show interest in sports, music, and activities.  Most of the time, you're probably going to cock your head and go, "Huh..."   You don't have to get it, you just have to support it.  We're not recommending that you jump on a skateboard right next to your son, but we are recommending that you compliment his athleticism.  Showing that you care about what they're doing opens up lines of communication.  At dinner, when you ask what they did all day, knowing you won't disapprove that he was at the skate park perfecting his half-pipe flips, he might open up and share some enthusiasm with you instead of answering, "Nothing." Obviously as a parent, you have to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy activities for your kids.  The goal, though, is to encourage your teen to talk to you about things so he or she recognizes how much you value them for who they are.  A lack of confidence usually springs from the idea that no one cares about how they feel or think.  Show your teen how important he or she is to you, and you'll find that not only are you communicating more, but your teen is far more confident.  

Why Do We Expect So Little of Our Boys?

The following is a guest post from Kristen Wolf, author of The Way. Today I watched something unfold that upset me as a mother. My five-year-old son and I had come to the zoo where one of his friends was having a birthday party. The group was a mix of boys and girls, with several mothers in attendance. We parents knew each other by sight, as our children attended the same school, but many of us had never spent any time together. So our outing was to be a "chit chat event" as I like to call them. Given that it was the first sunny day after a long cold spell, many of the animals had come out to stretch and frolic. Thrilled to have so many creatures on view, our kids scampered from one enclosure to the next, roaring, squawking, and squealing with delight. It promised to be a good day. Until we got to the jungle gym. The zoo's playground featured colorful, life-size animals and the kids immediately hopped up. Nothing seemed awry until one boy, Brendan, started taunting another boy, Kirby. I knew Brendan from school. He and my son sometimes played together. He was an energetic kid who, I'd noticed, was sometimes a little aggressive. Why Brendan had singled out Kirby that afternoon I don't know. Especially since it was clear Kirby wanted nothing to do with him. The verbal taunting escalated to a few jabs in the ribs. By now, myself and a few other moms were craning their necks, looking for Brendan's mom who we all knew was there. When I spotted her on the perimeter, I was surprised to see her calmly watching the interaction. A vacant smile on her face. I saw a few looks pass between the moms, but so far, no one wanted to take the taboo action of disciplining a child in front of their parent.   Brendan gave Kirby a solid push. Kirby ran away and took cover behind a zebra. Brendan pursued him. Not in a friendly way. I glanced again at Brendan's mother. No reaction. Brendan pinned Kirby against the zebra, trapping the smaller child with his body. Intimidating him with his size. Kirby struggled to get free. Brendan then reached out and grabbed him by the collar. "Hey Brendan!" I warned before I could stop myself. But it was too late. The five-year-old drew back his fist, quick as a shot, and sent it flying into Kirby's face. Every mother on that playground heard the "whack." Kirby dropped to his knees and I rushed out. He cried as I lifted him, blood already running from his lip. Finally, Brendan's mother headed for her son. She guided him, almost reluctantly, by the elbow. In a whispery voice, she told him "that wasn't nice" and that he needed "to take it easy." But the apologetic tone in her voice undermined any semblance of authority. Brendan responded to her with utter disregard. Without acknowledging that she had spoken, he threw off her hold and ran back out to play. She called after him a few times, but he ignored her. His mother then turned to face us, wagging her head, and pulling an exasperated "boys will be boys" face. Meanwhile, I performed some "Kleenex triage" on Kirby and soon had him back out with the other kids. The rest of the party went off without a hitch and was deemed a great success. But that night, I couldn't stop thinking about the incident. For some reason, it had really gotten under my skin. Having witnessed lots of unsavory interactions between kids, I wondered what had gotten me so riled up about this event in particular? In thinking about it, I realized I wasn't bothered by the fact that Brendan had been rough -- I'd seen plenty of playground brawls. Nor was I bothered by the bloody lip. I'd definitely seen worse. But what had me troubled -- in fact, appalled -- was the interaction between Brendan and his mother. What her response demonstrated was a belief in the notion that boys possess an inherent right to be violent and aggressive. That they're, in fact, entitled to bad behavior because that's "just how they are." However popular this notion, I've never bought into it. And I disagree with it even more vehemently now that I'm the mother of a son. I'm not arguing that differences don't exist between girls and boys. Nor am I claiming that boys don't have a biology that instills them with the tendency to be more aggressive. But I am arguing that it's wrong to ignore, even condone, harmful behavior -- no matter its cause. And I'm equally asserting that no child, boy or girl, should be raised as if they have an inherent right to behave in ways that hurt others. As a mom, I've been around enough boys to know that they are not born with a callous predisposition to wreak havoc. On the contrary! My son, like many of his friends, can be as sensitive, empathetic, and compassionate as any girl his age. Sometimes even more so! Does he still wield sticks and hit things? Does he build structures only to smash them apart? Does he relish running over things with his bike? Yes, yes, and yes! But here's the difference: Unlike Brendan, my son is being raised under the mantle of "do no harm." Not under the assumption that he can't be held responsible for his actions. At our house, a line is drawn at behaviors that hurt someone or damage property. That limit is crystal clear and non-negotiable. And, popular notions aside, neither my son nor his friends seem to have any trouble understanding, or abiding by, this basic requirement. I think why I find the event at the zoo so upsetting is because when you extrapolate out from it, when you multiply it by hundreds of thousands of boys around the world -- who eventually turn into men -- we see how it amplifies the possibility of grave and global violence, such as we are witnessing today in many parts of the world. That's not the dream we have for our children, nor for children of the future. So what can we do? As mothers, as parents, we can choose to swim against the prevailing opinion that expects so little of our sons, and start holding them accountable for their behavior. And we can start believing that the greater power inside them is not the tendency to damage our world, but to change it, for the better. Kristen Wolf, author of The Way, is a mother, writer, and filmmaker living in the Rocky Mountains. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University and holds an M.A. in creative writing from Hollins University. This is her first novel.

Food for Hyperactive Kids

If you have a hyperactive kid who can drive you nuts, you may literally want to feed him nuts. The thought behind a diet for hyperactive kids is that certain foods may help the brain function better by decreasing the symptoms that hyperactive kids have, such as being restless and unable to focus. Certain foods, such as proteins -- which include nuts -- are brain food. Sugar and Preservatives While many people believe that sugar is to blame for a child's hyperactivity, no study has ever linked sugar with hyperactivity. What researchers at the University of Southampton in England found out, however, is that preservatives can cause hyperactivity, particularly sodium benzoate when it is combined with yellow and red food dyes. You find this combination in sodas, candy and ice cream. Types of Diets Diet is not the only measure to take when treating hyperactive kids, but diet can play a role. Treat hyperactivity in kids by offering nutritious foods. Supplement food with vitamins to make up for any deficiencies, and eliminate foods that you suspect contribute to the hyperactivity. Discuss giving your child supplements with his health care provider. What to Eat Feed your child plenty of protein that you find in beans, meat, eggs, cheese and nuts in the morning and for an after-school snack. Eating vegetables and fruits are good any time of the day. Some fruits, such as tangerines, pears, apples, kiwi, grapefruit and oranges, may help your child sleep and are good to offer at or after dinner. Omega-3 fatty acids that you get in salmon, tuna, walnuts and olive oil are good brain foods. Getting Your Kid to Eat If your child is used to a diet filled with junk food, soda, candy and ice cream, it may be difficult to get her to switch to healthy foods, but it's not impossible. It helps if you are a good role model and quit eating the junk food yourself. Limit snacks, and don't allow any snacks two hours before a meal. If your child is hungry at mealtimes, she may be more willing to try healthier foods. Get your child to help with food preparation because that could get her interested in trying new foods. Calming Foods Some foods have a calming effect on children and adults, so you may want to keep your house stocked with them. Getting back to the nuts again, almonds contain B vitamins that help with stress. Avocados lower blood pressure because of the potassium and monounsaturated fat they contain. Skim milk is good for insomnia and restlessness. Oatmeal helps your brain produce serotonin, a relaxing brain chemical. Oranges reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Spinach and salmon also can help calm you down.