What Wedding Season Means When You're A Parent

Oh, April.  The blooming trees. The pretty flowers. The longer, sunnier days. And the start of the wedding season.For parents, other people’s weddings bring unique stresses. The flawless embossed invitation arrives.  A work of art, complete with your calligraphied name and address decorating the envelope like twining ivy, topped by a carefully love-themed stamp. A creation that the bride and groom clearly put more time, effort, creativity and cash into than a kitchen renovation.  And your reaction is: UGH. It's the same weekend as the big soccer tournament. Or, equally frustrating, the first weekend in six months WITHOUT a big soccer tournament.  Then the harrowing questions pop into your mind.  The invitation did not specify whether kids are included.  Do you need to get a babysitter -- for the entire weekend?  What about your breastfeeding infant - how can she actually count as a child?  I have found that there are two types of weddings and two types of couples: kid-friendly ones and kid-nasty ones. Sometimes it feels like the bride and groom are so obsessed with achieving perfection on their big day that they cannot possibly answer your mundane kid-related questions.  Or they give the impression that they are insulted that you even asked whether you can bring that baby.  This day is about them, dammit.My advice: never fight with a bride and groom.  Deploy your reservoir of older, wiser wisdom. You will lose this round, and they will never forget the battle (until they have a baby and get invited to a kid-unfriendly wedding).  Bite the bullet and hire the babysitter now, even though you will have to pay her more than you spend on the wedding present.When I was a teenager and my youngest sister was four, she was invited to serve as the sole flower girl in a family friend's wedding.  The couple were casual and sweet, but they came from extremely religious, extremely formal families of origin.  The wedding was held at The National Cathedral in Washington, DC -- our country's only cathedral, a grand and imposing gray stone masterpiece covered with gargoyles and festooned with grand stained glass windows.  My mother was terrified for months prepping cute little sis for her big role.The day of the wedding, our family sat in the front row.  A three foot high carved mahogany balustrade separated us from little sis.  She looked adorable with her white dress, pink sash, and blonde curls.  Until she started doing headstands during the marriage vows.Next to my mother in the church pew, I could feel her tension, fury and embarrassment rise like an overflowing toilet.  Separated by the mahogany barrier, there was nothing she could do but hiss across the aisle.  My sister, safe behind the fence, grinned at Mom and did a cartwheel.The reverend droned on and on, oblivious to the gymnastics and exposed underwear in front of him.  But the bride and groom saw it all.  And, thankfully, they both began to smile, giggle and gaze lovingly into each other's eyes.  My sister was the hit of the wedding. To this day, the happy couple tell us that moment marked their mutual confidence in their future, the second they both knew, for sure, they would live happily ever after no matter what curveballs life threw them.That day, I learned that kids belong at weddings.  Over time, this belief has been reinforced by incontrovertible data that most often adults, not children, ruin weddings.  Divorced spouses who refuse to walk a daughter down the aisle together.  The drunk uncle with the off-color toast. Mom and step-mom who must be kept in separate pens like pitbulls.  I had a boyfriend once who pulled out a paperback at a college roommate's wedding and read a chapter during the ceremony.  No tantrum from a ring bearer can top that.One of my kids' former babysitters is getting married in two weeks.  She and her beloved have invited four children to be in the wedding party. Over 20 additional kids under 10 will sit in the church pews as witnesses to their marriage.  My kind of party.I find kid-friendly weddings infinitely more casual, messy, enjoyable and authentic.  And although some people insist that children need to know their place in life, in my view, kid-welcoming festivities tend to bode well for the bride and groom's future as relaxed, grounded parents. Couples who appreciate children on their wedding day are already solidly positioned for a lifetime of true family bliss, the kind that may not always look Martha-Stewart-perfect on the outside.But sadly, other parents -- schooled by past high-tensile weddings -- are inundating my babysitter-bride with questions: "Is it really okay if all three kids come, even the colicky six month old?"  They clearly need reassurance that children, who naturally misbehave, will be embraced in all their unruliness.  To comfort parents, our babysitter is composing an unequivocal blast email to explain that perfection is not required of any child sitting through a long somber ceremony in the middle of a beautiful spring day, at her wedding at least.  She clearly understands that children in all their messy glory are welcome at weddings, and in life at large. 

Mini Pizza Roll-Ups

The recipe that I'm sharing with you today is so stinkin cute, they are little mini pizza roll-ups. You can hold them with your hand, you can eat them like little cinnamon rolls and you can pick them up and dip them easily in you favorite sauce.  Sometimes you have to have something quick and easy in your arsenal for lunch or dinner that will satisfy all the mouths in your family. For me that would be pizza!!! My daughter wakes up asking for pizza! I am not kidding either... My son and husband love pizza too, so if I have somewhere that I have to be or I need something quick, here ya go! Ingredients: 1 Tube of Pizza Crust1/2 Cup Spaghetti Sauce3/4 Cups Fresh Mozzarella (melts and taste better)3/4 Cup Turkey Pepperoni1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese Shreds2 Tbs. Olive Oil Directions: Set your oven (refer to your pizza dough instructions for oven temp). Roll out your pizza dough and pour 2 bsp. of olive oil on the dough. Use a spatula to evenly coat. Pour your half cup of sauce onto your dough and use the same spatula to spread it out. Now cut 3/4 cup of mozzarella into small cubes. Also chop up 3/4 cup of pepperoni. I like to cut them up so it is easier for the kiddos to eat. Sprinkle the mozzarella, the pepperoni and the Parmesan cheese on top of the sauce: Get one of your ends and start rolling. Make sure that you roll it evenly and tight. Then use a sharp knife to cut your roll into sections. I cut about 1 inch size rolls:Set them facing up on a cookie sheet lined with foil and pop them in your preheated oven for 12-14 minutes. Rotating pan halfway through. Ta da! You have these scrumptious little pizza roll-ups that were easy to make and the kiddos will love them!  Get more great dinner recipes (like Turkey Meatball Subs or Homemade Lasagna) at http://mehaffeymoments.blogspot.com/.

A Letter To My Son, About Being A Little Brother

To my sweet boy,I’m just going to come out and say it: it sucks to be a younger sibling.  I can’t say I know how you feel, because as a firstborn, I have never been in your shoes. But I remember how I used to treat my little brother, and I wouldn't have traded places with him for anything.  As your mom, my heart breaks for you every time that your sister hurts your feelings, or leaves you out, or makes you feel like a second class citizen.  I think there must be something to the idea of karma, because with every heartbreak, I’m reminded of how mean I was to your uncle, and I see now how wrong I was for that.  I know you look up to your sister.  I know you want her approval.  I know you just want to feel like she likes you.  I can see, on the “good days,” how happy it makes you when she’s nice to you, and on those rare occasions when the two of you have fun doing something together - like last week, when you both rolled around in the giant pile of paper in the garage - I can tell that you never want the moment to end. And on the not so good days, when she says she’ll play with you and then changes her mind, I can see your disappointment.  When she yells at you and says you’re being annoying, I can tell how hurt your feelings are. When you ask a simple question and she snaps that it’s none of your business, the pain is written all over your face.  In those moments, I wish that I could wrap my arms around you and make all of the hurt go away, but I know that I can’t, because only your sister has the power to do that.  Now, I’m not saying that you’re totally innocent here.  Sometimes, you make weird noises that would grate on anyone’s nerves after half an hour.  Sometimes, you instigate arguments.  Sometimes, you contribute your opinion when you weren’t asked, regarding things that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes, you make mean comments, too, like when you announced at the dinner table that your sister should wax her eyebrows because they’re too wide.  But while your sister gets upset about these things, they mostly roll off of her back.  Unlike you, they rarely pierce the skin and wound her to the core.  It’s not because she’s less sensitive than you are.  It’s because - and this might sound harsh - your opinion of her doesn’t shape the way she feels about herself.  But you, well, we both know that her opinion of you matters more than anyone’s, am I right?That’s what I want to talk to you about in this letter, my love.  I want to tell you that you can’t let her define you.  You’re not an annoying person just because you annoy her.  You’re funny and goodhearted and generous, and people love being around you.  I am literally bombarded with requests for playdates with you.  You’re not dumb just because you don’t know the same things as her.  You’re really smart and really articulate and really clever, but you’re three years younger than she is, so you can’t possibly know all of the things that she knows.  Finally, you don’t – and this one’s really important, so listen up – you don’t matter less just because you matter less to her.  Don’t let your sister’s feelings about you cause you to go through life feeling like you’re not worthy of people’s attention, or like you’re not important enough to ask for what you want.  You matter.  You matter just as much as anyone else, and you certainly matter just as much as your sister does.  Don’t let her mess with your self-esteem, bud.  Feeling good about yourself comes from within, and you’re an awesome little dude.  You have a million things to feel good about.I know this doesn't make it suck any less right now, but there is some good news: one day, you and your sister are going to become adults.  You’re going to go out into the world and get jobs, find partners, have children, build lives.  You’ll both mature, and she’ll finally see you as the wonderful man that I know you’re going to become.  And you’ll realize that she wasn’t actually all that mean to you, she was just a teenaged girl with rampant hormones, and you were the unlucky guy caught in the crosshairs.  And when that happens, she will want to spend time with you.  Because there’s nobody else in the world who knows what it’s like to have me for a mom or dad for a dad, and there’s nobody else who knew what it was like to grow up in our house.  You share the same blood, the same DNA, the same memories.  At the end of the day, you’re her little brother, and when you’re both old and gray, you’ll matter to her more than anyone else.Until then, hang in there, kid.  And remember, it may suck to be the youngest, but you get to stay up later than she ever did at your age.Love,Mommy 

The Last Thing You Want To Hear At 1 AM

Your house alarm system is triggered in the middle of the night, you're home alone with your kids.  Quick. What do you do?  3…2…1…go.It's hard to know for sure until you find yourself in this situation, as I did last week. But first, a little background: In high school, I took a course (NLS) to become a lifeguard in order to earn extra money. The majority of the training in the NLS course is presenting you with emergency scenarios and teaching you how to assess a situation and take action to help the individual in the crisis.Somehow this process - conjuring up crises and running through what-if scenarios - became so ingrained in my brain that I often do it as I go about my day. It's kind of like I’m pretending I’m in the CIA, but not really at all.So when my husband travels for work (which he doesn't do a ton but when he does, can be gone for a week at a time), sometimes I find myself laying awake thinking of what could go wrong. Even though I never watch scary movies, I read enough of the news to scare the bejeezus out of myself - and my way of coping with those bad thoughts is to focus my energy on evacuation routes from the house.Ok, so now you understand the full nature of my craziness. It's ok, I've already accepted it. At least I can see my own crazy.The whole point is that I always assumed that if something were to happen in the middle of the night - I would be prepared with a plan for how to get myself and my three kids to safety. It might not actually work but at least I wouldn't be spinning in circles panicking about what to do.  OR SO I THOUGHT!!! Eddie was away for work when I was bolted awake last Tuesday night by a loud blaring noise. I jumped out of bed, half in a daze, and started wondering what was making the noise. I realized it was our house alarm (this is the spinning in circles) and as I went to turn it off, I finally came to and thought, "Holy crap, our house alarm has been tripped, what time is it?" I looked at my phone and it was 1:12 am.  I thought I was about to die of a heart attack right at that moment.Test Question #1: Should you use your code to turn off your alarm right away in the night? Answer: If you don’t know why it was tripped, then let it go until it registers with the alarm company. In one of my emergency scenarios, I decided that if our house alarm ever went off at night, I would let it go until either the alarm company calls me or the outside sirens were going, because surely that meant the alarm event had registered with the alarm company. I let the blaring go until the outside sirens went off and then turned off the alarm. I grabbed my cell phone and the home phone and stood there anticipating a call from the alarm company telling me that the police were on the way. In the meantime I called my husband. Why? I have no idea, he was in another country so that would have been no help; in fact, it was probably better that he didn't answer.Test Question #2: Do you know if you have a delay that gives you time to press the off code BEFORE it triggers the alarm company’s system?Answer: If you don’t know, you might want to find out. If you forget to find out and find yourself in this situation, let the house alarm go until the alarm company calls you. At this point, my alarm company still hadn't called and I couldn't find their number in my phone. So I called my parents and said "Look, I’m just about to go and search the house because our house alarm was tripped so if I don’t call you back in two minutes, please come over." Basically, I wanted someone to know what was going on before I went to investigate.Test Question #3: Do you have someone you can call in the middle of the night for anything at all, no questions asked?Answer: This is not really an answer, more of a suggestion. Since you can’t really think about it when all of this is going on in the middle of the night, it's worth considering who that person would be now, while you have your wits about you. I have a dog and throughout all this, he was VERY VERY calm. He kept looking at me as if to say, “Hey, what are we doing? Why are we awake right now?” which I think was the reason why I was scared but not completely panicked.My dog and I went into the hallway, I turned on the hall lights and checked all the kids' rooms. They were all sound asleep and safe (this was only about 1-2 minutes after the alarm initially went off).  We stood at the top of the stairs and I looked at him, kind of like, ok, I guess we better go see what’s up? I sent him downstairs first.  He’s got a lot of protective fight in him and would do well scaring anyone off.  Along he went, and I tip-toed down behind him. Test Question #4: You might think that I’m an idiot right about now and I should have already called 911, yes?Answer: You might be right. And I definitely would have, if my dog had been the least bit agitated. I needed to get to our kitchen door so I could get the alarm company’s phone number off the sticker on the door (Lesson #1 of emergency planning protocol: I now have it programmed in my phone). The alarm company who still hadn't called me, by the way.  When I got through to them, they asked for my name, address and password. At this point, I asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be calling me and shouldn’t you have called the police?” The operator said something about the alarm not having triggered their system. She could tell me that it was our kitchen door. I was standing at the kitchen door while I was talking to her and it looked fine to me. Our alarm keypad is right by that door so she asked me to reset the alarm by pushing our off code.  While I was doing that I said, "well how do I know that someone didn't come into the house when I turned off the alarm upstairs and when I go to reset it they will already be in the house?"With that the phone went dead. DEAD!!!! THE PHONE WENT DEAD!!! Have you heard the urban legend about people cutting your phone line and then when you call 911 or hmmm…the alarm company!!, they take down all your information but really it's someone working with the intruders so help never arrives? YES? Me too! And that is what was going through my head. I’m surprised I didn't drop from my second heart attack of the night. Two seconds later, my mom called on my cell phone to tell me that my dad was on his way over. I had forgotten to call them back but I would have asked him to come anyway. They don’t live far so he was there in a couple of minutes. I called the alarm company back and spoke with someone better, who explained that we had originally set it up with a two minute delay before it would trigger the system at the alarm company. They hadn't called because it never actually registered with their system. They recommended that if it went off again, that I wait the two minutes. Right. (Lesson #2 of emergency protocol – no more delay setting).  My dad went through the house, inside, outside, looking under cars across the street with a flashlight, in my car, everywhere.  By the time he left, I was totally comfortable that if someone had been trying to break in, they were scared off, likely by the outside blaring of the alarm. They certainly weren't anywhere in the house.   There were three factors in all of this that made me think everything was ok and the police weren’t needed:1. My dog's demeanor, as he has a history of hearing and freaking out over the quietest noises and was unusually calm.2. The door where the alarm was triggered has a crazy secure locking system and looked completely untouched so I was pretty sure it hadn’t been opened.3. My dad checked EVERYWHERE, there was no way anyone was in the house.But the whole thing made me realize that despite all my mental preparation, my planning was flawed by assuming certain things about how our alarm system worked, etc.In a different situation, like for example, if my dog had freaked out, I would have bypassed all the alarm hoopla and just called 911 immediately. In fact, if it happens again, I might just do that anyway.  I’m not trying to freak anyone out, but these are things we should all think about. I’m generally clear-headed in the face of tense situations but the middle of the night, I realized, is a whole different game. Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were awoken in the middle of the night by your house alarm going off?  Have you had this happen to you?  What did you do? Do you have an alarm? Do you use it?Dedication: I would like to thank the loyal companionship and lord protector of our house, our dog, without whom I’m not sure I’d be able to keep it together at night.  You’re the best, Roscoe P. Coltrane.

New Tra-Dish: Mini Pizza Pot Pies

The following post is sponsored by Ragú®Put a fun new spin on a classic recipe and make a New Tra-Dish! This one comes from Christi over at The Frugal Novice, who put a twist on Ragú's Upside-Down Deep Dish Pizza.The result: a recipe for Mini Pizza Pot Pies that looks so good, we can't wait to try it ourselves!Check out her post below:We love to cook in our house, and trying different flavor combinations for pizza is something we do pretty often – we’ve found some combos we just love over the years! One thing we haven’t ever played around with – until now – is the format of the pizza. It’s always just been dough on bottom, sauce, cheese, toppings. Ragú inspired us to do something completely different, and the recipe we discovered is going to be a new staple in our recipe rotation!I was inspired by Ragú’s Upside-Down Deep Dish Pizza recipe  - you can see from this photo that it looks pretty amazing! We decided to have our good friends come over for dinner, and since there were going to be 5 kids involved in this dinner, I thought it would be fun to make mini versions of the recipe using a muffin tin. I’ll include the ingredients and directions at the bottom of the post so you can try making this recipe, too! We used Ragú® Old World Style® Pasta Sauce instead of pizza sauce, and oh my word we should’ve been doing this all along for our pizzas. There is so much more flavor packed into this sauce than others we’ve used before, and I like that it sneaks servings of veggies in for the kids. Each jar  is made with 11 juicy tomatoes, making it Ragú’s richest, thickest recipe.My friend Kristi used two sizes of plastic cups to cut out rounds of pizza dough – a larger round went into the bottom of the muffin tin, and we used the smaller one to top it off:We used a variety of combinations to fill the pizzas. For some we used ground beef mixed with some of the Ragú® Old World Style® Pasta Sauce, some had spinach, some had pepperoni, and some had a mixture of the three, along with shredded mozzarella.Once all the pizzas were filled, we topped off the dough and folded the edges of the top and bottom together to get a nice seal. We also snipped a small slit in the top to allow steam to escape while baking.We baked these until the dough on top was golden brown, and they popped out of the muffin tin really easily. Don’t they look delicious?These would be great for grab & go dinners, because it would be incredibly easy to eat these while you’re out and about. They make nice leftovers, too – just pop a couple in your lunch bag and you’re all set at work the next day!Is your mouth watering yet? Here’s the recipe so you can go home and make these tonight:Ingredients:Ragú® Old World Style® Pasta Sauce1 lb. lean ground beef1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dryMozzarella cheesePizza dough, either store-bought or homemadePepperoniAny other ingredients you’d like to add! Red peppers, onions, olives, and mushrooms could all be great additions.Directions: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.Cut out a round of pizza dough to press into the bottom of a well in your muffin tin – there should be a little dough overhanging the edges so you can crimp it with the top layer of dough to seal! Put dough out for as many of the pizzas as you’d like to make. This recipe is versatile so you can do as few or as many as you’d like!Fill your pizzas with whatever combinations of ingredients sound best, making sure to have some Ragú® Old World Style® Pasta Sauce either in between layers or on the top so you have flavor and so your pizza isn’t dry. Don’t pile your ingredients any higher than the top of the muffin tin.Put a smaller round of pizza dough on top of your creation, and fold the edges from the bottom layer over, pressing to seal the two rounds of dough. Using kitchen shears, snip a small slit in the top of each one to allow steam to escape.Bake your pizzas until the dough is golden brown. Enjoy!Want more easy recipes that your family will love? Check out Ragú on Facebook for tons of New Tra-Dish ideas! Plus, enter The Ragú Better & Better Sweepstakes for the chance to win a trip to Italy and other amazing prizes - 11 weeks, 11 juicy prizes for the 11 tomatoes in each jar of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce! 

Would Your Child Pass This Simple Self-Control Test?

Do your kids have self-control? There's a great way to find out and you can do it right at your kitchen table. It's called "The Marshmallow Test" and it's creative way to teach your children about the value of self-discipline. Here's how it started: In the 1970's, a psychology professor at Stanford University named Walter Mischel ran a series of experiments involving four-year olds and marshmallows. He would offer each child a marshmallow and tell them that if they did not eat it for 20 minutes, he would give them another. Almost every kid agreed to the terms and said they wanted two marshmallows... but guess how many were able to wait it out? Only one in three. It's perfectly understandable, especially considering that 15 minutes is an eternity for most four-year olds. Some kids broke down in 20 seconds, some in 40, others in two minutes. A few even lasted 14 minutes before breaking down and eating the marshmallow. The kids that were able to resist the lure of the marshmallow all had a few things in common. They agonized over eating the marshmallow - staring at it, poking it and even licking it. But they distracted themselves. They put the marshmallow out of their mind and did math or played word games. And after 20 minutes, the researcher came back in and gave them a second marshmallow. The kids who succeeded were so happy and proud of themselves, and marshmallows never tasted so good! But the test wasn't just about a short term ego boost. After 14 years, Professor Mischel went back to check on the test subjects and the results were quite surprising. Those who waited for the second marshmallow turned out to be more academically successful and assertive than those who didn't. They even scored an average of 210 points higher in their school exams than their less patient counterparts. What's the reason for this correlation? The most obvious answer is that they were successful because they had the one quality in life that makes people get ahead: the ability to delay gratification. If you're curious whether your child would pass "The Marshmallow Test," here's how to try it at home: Supplies Two marshmallows (cookies can also be substituted, choose something your child likes but isn't neccessarily their absolute to-die-for favorite) A room free of distractions Watch or timer (It's a rather affordable experiment.) Directions Plop your kid down at the kitchen table, spell out the terms and go do something else. Keep an eye on your little one so you can see if he or she caves. Now, this little test can go one of two ways. Either he resists, and you can be super happy that your child has self-control. You give him the second marshmallow and a high-five. Your job as a parent is done. But if your child does eat it, don't panic. Remember, 20 minutes is a long time for a four-year-old. What you do next, is exert some self-control of your own. Don't give away the second marshmallow, even if your kid looks really sad. If you do that you are sending the wrong message, that even if you break the terms, you still get the reward. And kids who are conditioned to expect that are in for a rough-awakening when they grow up. If you don't give them that second marshmallow you are doing the best job you can as a parent. You are showing consequences without punishing. Rules are rules, after all. Luckily, you can change the rules the next time. If your son only lasted 8 minutes, repeat the experiment with a 12 minute timer. Or increase the payout to three marshmallows, and see if that has an effect on how long he can hold-out. A success after initial difficulty is the best reward. Would you give your kids the marshmallow test? Do you think they would they pass?

DIY Thursday: Canvas Block Print Storage Bins

This project comes from, Jessica Begum, the crafty momma behind the blog Hipster's Tea Party: "Use these cute little bags for practically anything!  Stick your car keys in them, loose change, put a plant in them, whatever!   I'm using my storage cube to organize my crafts. Yes, they do require a bit of sewing, but if you are a novice sewer and want to try these out, it's pretty easy.  If you just can't handle the thought of a needle and thread, you can block print on a pre-made canvas tote, or make your own stationary.   Certainly do not be afraid to make a printing block, because my method is foolproof!  Practically cheating!!  Block printing is a technique originated in India that repeats a pattern onto fabric using a carved block.  True block printers carve their own designs out of linoleum using a special gauge tool, but we are going to use foam stickers!  SO easy your kids can do this right alongside of you." Supplies: For block printing 3x5" or similar sized wooden bock - Available at craft stores Foam stickers Fabric paint Foam brush or brayer For canvas containers Thick white canvas Scissors Ruler Pencil Sewing machine or a needle and thread if you have the patience to sew by hand. Directions:  Start with your canvas containers.  Use some sort of circle template to create the bottom of the containers.  I traced a plastic container onto my canvas and got a circle 5 3/4 in diameter.   Trace the back side of your canvas and cut out about a 1/4" wider then your tracing.  Now, think back to your high school geometry class, because we are going to use a little math here.  To get the circumference of your circle (the length all the way around the circle) you are going to times Pie (3.14) with the diameter of your circle.  Please don't worry about being exact!  Round to the nearest reasonable number.  Don't you wish you could have done that in geometry class!  For example, my diameter is 5 3/4.  So my equation is  5.75 x 3.14 = 18.055 or, simply 18. Now you need the sides of the container.  I made the sides of my container the same height as the diameter (5 3/4) and added an extra 1/4" for sewing = 6.   So the sides of my containers measure 6 x 18 1/2.  (I added an extra 1/2" for sewing.)  Cut out.  I used the finished edge of the canvas for the tops of my container.  If you don't have a finished edge, you may want to sew the top down so it doesn't frey. To make the printing blocks, take some foam stickers and stick them on the block!  Easy as that!   Okay, okay, there is a bit more.  You want to make a pattern that will repeat nicely.   Repeated geometric patterns work well.  Using a lot of the same sticker will give you a usable pattern.  Experiment first before you stick.  Tip:  Put your stickers right up to two edges of the block rather than centering the image.  That way you will know exactly where to put your block when you repeat your pattern while printing. Then, apply fabric paint to the block with a foam brush and test print onto a scrap piece of canvas.  Apply more paint and begin printing about a 1/4" higher than the bottom of the canvas strip.  Apply more paint with each print, pressing down firmly onto the canvas. Continue the length of the strip.  If you end up short, place a piece of paper under the edge of the strip and continue printing over the edge of the canvas so you don't have any blank space.   I like my prints a little rustic and homemade looking so I don't mind imperfections in the print.  But, if you prefer a nice, sooth print, use a brayer to apply the paint, and touch up with a brush.   Let dry completely. Next, cut notches on the outer ring of your canvas circle.  Place the two right sides of the circle and strip together.  The edge of the canvas strip should be at the top middle of the circle, with the circle on top.  Load it into your machine and begin sewing with a straight stitch keeping your bottom canvas strip straight and pulling the circle in as you sew.  The line on the circle should stay parallel to the strip.  Continue all the way around until the bottom of the container is attached. Then stitch the side together and turn right side out: I folded the edge of my containers down, but you do as you like.  If you want your containers a bit more sturdy, you can paint the inside of your canvas with gesso.  Now, go put your containers to good use!  Happy printing!  

What Every Breastfeeding Mom Should Know

The American Academy of Pediatrics has been urging mothers to breastfeed their baby for a minimum of 6 months, but there has been a lot of press recently with woman complaining that 6 months is way too difficult. Some say that they are feeling "pressured" to breastfeed and consequently not enjoying the breastfeeding experience. Or they feel "guilty" if they decide to stop breastfeeding before the sixth month mark. What is going on here?  Isn't breastfeeding a ‘normal’ response after giving birth? Don’t babies want to feed and mothers want to feed them?  Why is it so hard for new moms to feel good about breastfeeding their babies?  After having worked with over 5000 breastfeeding mothers and babies, I have observed that the reason it is so "difficult" is that woman believe that breastfeeding is supposed to just come naturally.  The truth is that although after birth most moms and babes have a desire to breastfeed, breastfeeding is a "learned behavior" and not a "natural behavior."  When the mother and baby are taught properly, they can be breastfeeding easily and successfully for 6 months (or longer).  When it comes to breastfeeding, it has been my experience that moms need clear directions and guidelines, rather than just being sent home from the hospital and told to ‘let it happen naturally.’ Each mother has different shaped nipples, each baby has a different size mouth and every baby has a different style of breastfeeding.  Therefore, each nursing dyad needs to have an individualized plan.   Babies need to be taught how to breastfeed and women need a specific plan of action with: clear directions, specific guidelines, goals, and a resource to go to for support when problems arise.  Here are a few essential points to keep in mind that should set you on the path to successful breastfeeding:    Don’t believe that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt and that sore nipples are the norm, or perhaps even a badge of courage for toughing-it-out. If the baby is latched on to the breast properly and draining it, breastfeeding should not hurt!   Do teach your baby to “breastfeed” and not “nipple feed." To do so, start by holding your breast steady and compress it into a pointy shape with your hand. Next, bring the baby to you, trying to have your nipple go deep into the baby’s mouth into the S spot (between the baby’s hard and soft palate).   Don’t stuff your breast into the baby’s mouth. Instead, bring your baby “to you.” To accomplish this, support the baby well, holding him along his spine and at the base of his head.   Do use RAM (rapid arm movement), and bring your baby (or RAM him) onto the breast in a quick-swift motion, allowing the baby to take the breast as deeply into his throat as he can.   Don’t get discouraged. If your latch hurts try again. If you allow the baby to nurse in a way that hurts you, your baby will not get the message that he needs to nurse deeper.   When a mom and her baby share the experience of being on the breast deeply, with practice, mom will be able to nurse pain free.   Do feed your baby 8-10 times in a 24 hour period and look for dirty diapers to know if your baby is getting enough milk daily.  What goes in must come out.  You need to see 6-8 wet and or dirty diapers in a 24 hour period for the first 8 weeks of life.   Don’t allow you or your baby to feel unhappy and dissatisfied.  If you are in pain, not getting enough soiled diapers, feel unsure or discouraged, find a qualified Lactation Consultant to help guide and support you in the process.  

The Small Things That Mean The Most...

UCLA’s legendary former basketball coach John Wooden got it right when he said: "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."  For many mothers, it’s the little things about raising kids that delight us - that warm our heart or instantly erase a tantrum-filled morning. These little things may not be appreciated or even noticed by other groups of people. They may seem mundane. Normal. Expected, even. But there are certain expressions or events that we as mothers appreciate, applaud, or secretly crave. These “little” things become big mommy motivators or, as I see them, sanity-savers. For those of you who don’t have kids or whose life is abundantly perfect and fulfilling, these “little” things will appear, in fact, quite small. But for me, and for many mothers, the following can make our mom-o-meters pulsate. These are some of my favorite “Mommy Moments:" 1. Your young child is part of a group performance, and he/she looks straight at you in the audience and acknowledges you with a smile or wave. It’s that moment when your specialness is made visual for all to see. 2. You receive a note or drawing from your young child, and you find the examples of inventive spelling funny! You don’t even mind when his portrait of you shows a very swelled head or crooked nose. I love when my boys write letters. Here’s an example of my 8 year-old-son’s Dear Santa Letter (verbatim) that I’m sure Santa especially appreciated: Dear Santa: What I want for Christmas is: an electrical device that's remote control, that you can see and the remote when it flies in the air. What I also want is an electrical game that contains prehistorical effects that you think I would like. Please make me a better student and improving in quizzes and in my math. What I also want is a Nerd Gun bullet proof vest. I also want a Macaroni-and-Cheese nutcracker baker. The last thing I want is an ornament that has a picture of my Christmas tree. P.S. I have a present for you to the right of my desk. Sincerely, Zachary L. 3. You attend a birthday party, and your child is one of the few who opts for the veggie platter. 4. Your child “graduates” on the toilet and starts wiping his/her own butt. (I can’t tell you how many times I heard my little son yell out, “Mommy, please wipe my bottom!!!” as I was right in the middle of teaching a piano student.) 5. You receive breakfast in bed, and you look down to see burnt toast, runny eggs and spilled drink on a tray proudly held by your beaming children. 6. Your child runs and hugs you in front of his friends when you pick him up from school. The older he is, the rarer (and more special) it becomes. 7. You hear your child say “please” or “thank you” to another adult.. without prodding. The adult’s compliment about your daughter having good manners can make your entire afternoon. 8. You can sleep in... uninterrupted. For some of us, this is all we need. 9. The grocery cart doesn’t squeak or have a broken wheel while you’re shopping. This may seem especially mundane to some, but any woman who has had to push a cart for a long period of time with a young child in it appreciates if the ride is smooth and stealth. 10. Your child plucks a flower and gives it to you. When my boys were young, they happily handed me bugs. 11. Your child cleans a part of the house without you asking... or without complaining. It’s messier than before, but you appreciate the effort. 12. Kid-created coupon books. I’ve never known a mother who has actually redeemed all the coupons in the book her child made her. But just the short written statement “I will do the laundry for a day” or “I will do all the dishes” is enough to warm the heart. 13. Hearing your child pray. I wish I had written down some of my children’s prayers, like the one asking God to make everybody in the world happy. 14. Funny sayings. Back in the 1990s, Bill Cosby hosted an entertaining TV show called “Kids Say the Darndest Things”; this is because children -- and their innocence and bluntness -- can be funny! Every week there’s something one of my kids says that cracks me up or surprises me. 15. Watching your child dance. I especially appreciate watching young children dance who have no sense of rhythm. They don’t care; they throw caution to the wind and move and groove to their own beat. There’s something completely pure and beautiful about that. 16. No sibling fighting on long car trips. If you have perfect kids, then you don’t appreciate this as much as us who don’t have perfect kids. 17. Doing nothing. On one Mother’s Day, my husband asked me what I wanted to DO. I said, “I want to do nothing.” “Nothing?” he asked. “NOTHING,” I answered. My typical day is filled with kids, work, cleaning, driving, shopping, negotiating, exercising, etc. Every now and then we mothers appreciate the art of doing absolutely nothing. And sometimes, for the busy mom, it's hard work to do nothing. 18. Quiet alone time. This one goes hand in hand with the above statement. Sitting in a quiet room is, well, quiet…and we like it. 19. A good book. I know many moms who treasure their reading time and who have, in fact, stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to finish a captivating book. We appreciate a fun book series. I’m willing to bet that many moms have read lately the Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, and/or Fifty Shades of Grey books. There's just something about reading fantasy while wearing sweatpants and no makeup. 20. A cup of coffee or hot tea. No need to elaborate. But, in case I did elaborate, I'd add: sipping a cup of coffee/tea while sitting in a comfortable chair. Being able to finish an entire cup without having to stand or speak is, well, glorious. There's that famous book entitled "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff"; I believe moms should embrace them instead.   

5 Things Parents of Preemies Should Know

My daughter, who will be four years old this July, was a micro-preemie, which means she weighed less than 1.4 lbs when she was born.When we were dumped into this journey of raising a preemie - and I say dumped because you usually have no time to prepare - we quickly realized how important it was to be familiar with hospital/NICU lingo. For the first day or two, until we started to understand the terms, it was like learning a new language: Brady, pic-line, bpm, blood oxygen level, ng-tube and pda valve, just to name a few.  There were alarms, monitors, cords and IV lines everywhere you turn and it can be scary and daunting, but if you just take it one day at a time, you will make it through. While I'm not a professional by any means, I am a parent who has firsthand knowledge of what it's like to be on that roller coaster of a ride called the NICU, as well as the benefit of perspective and hindsight. Now that I've had the chance to look back and analyze some of our experiences, I wanted to share what I've learned with other parents who are in similar situations.So in no particular order, because they are ALL EQUALLY IMPORTANT, here are some important things you should know when raising a preemie, you know...things you wish you heard THE DAY your preemie was born!1. Take good notes. I say take good notes because no matter how sure you are that you won't forget anything, YOU WILL. You are going to have a lot of information coming your way and you don't want to forget something important. Now I don't mean feverishly taking notes while the doctor is talking to you, but if you think there's something important being said... write it down. If you have a question you want to ask the next time the doctor does rounds, write it down so you don't forget. Here's another reason to take good notes: If you are at home with your preemie and he or she starts getting sick or something isn't quite right, you should write it down. That way, when you get to the hospital or doctor's office and they start asking questions about what medicine you gave, how much, what time and so on, you'll be prepared with all the information that they need. It will make you look and feel like you have it together! Instead of the alternative - "uh...I don't know....uh I don't remember." You are only as good as your notes!  2. Have a good relationship with your pediatrician.  Have a good pediatrician by your side, this will be a life saver! They can and will be one of your child's key players and advocates in this journey. You want to be able to call your pediatrician and ask them a question and feel like they genuinely care, not like you are bothering them. Your pediatrician should ultimately want what is best for YOUR child and be on the same page as YOU. If you don't feel like you're on the same page, ask around or look for a different doctor. That being said, I do NOT suggest jumping from doctor to doctor frequently or you will not be able to build a strong doctor/patient/parent relationship.3. Take care of yourself.It is so important to take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally when you have a child in the hospital for an extended period of time.  Take care of yourself physically by making sure you are drinking enough water, eating breakfast-lunch-and dinner and getting enough sleep.Your mental and emotional state can play off each other, and your physical state can affect you mentally and emotionally as well. Writing in a journal at the end of the day can help with how you are feeling; when you put it to paper, sometimes you are able to release what you have been holding on to inside. Another helpful thing I found was getting out of the hospital room, even if just for a coffee break or to take a short walk and get some fresh air and a new perspective. The better you are feeling, the better you will be for your child.4. Get contact info for doctors, specialists and so on. When a doctor or specialist sees your child, ask for business card or e-mail address. When you store it in your phone, you might also want to consider writing their numbers down on a piece of paper that's not stored digitally. You may have already started a file with all your hospital papers, if so, write the info down just in case something happens to your phone.  You may be wondering, "why do I need this info?" Well, if you ever need to call them when your child is older for a second opinion, or ask a question, you'll be glad you have it. Also, sometimes when you are filling out paperwork for your child, you'll be asked for a phone number of a specialist that you saw in the past. Just like it is important to keep good notes...it is also important to keep your contact information straight.5. Have a good relationship with your nurses.  Your nurses will be your life lines when you are visiting with your baby and need someone to talk to and learn from. I had great primary nurses working with my daughter who taught me so much. I still remember talking with the nurses about our families while I was holding my daughter on my chest. They were so nice and instrumental in preparing me for this journey, telling me to be strong and that I am my daughter's voice and strongest advocate. It is great to have primary nurses because that means whenever they are working, they will be assigned to your baby. You can always ask to be assigned a primary nurse and they will tell you if there is any nurses open to taking on a patient. I recommend it because then you get to know your nurse, and most importantly, they get to know you as well. "It is important to advocate for your preemie, be their voice and always have their best interests at heart." Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Spicy Quinoa Chickpea Patties (Quinoa Falafel)

The following recipe was originally published on RebelGrain.com. Visit the website for more great ideas and cooking tips!I don’t know where my love of chickpeas comes from - but it runs deep. I love them rinsed and raw and tossed in a salad… I love them sautéed in some olive oil, fresh garlic, herbs, and seasonings for a warm power snack… I love them baked…I love them in soups…I love to mash them up and make homemade hummus.Chickpeas and all their buttery goodness make this mama happy.Now, I have to admit something: while I’ve eaten more than my share of falafel, I never knew chickpeas were the main ingredient. Seriously. But when I discovered that falafel is actually just a chickpea patty - what do you think occurred to me? Yep, you guessed it: I must blend my two loves - quinoa and chickpeas - and whip up my own version of falafel. You ready to try it? I hope so, because they are little cakes of savory protein goodness.Here’s what you need: Special tool: food processorIngredients (makes ten 3? diameter patties)  1.5 cups precooked quinoa1 can organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – drained and rinsed1/4 cup fresh parsley1/4 cup diced white onion2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed2 TBSP gluten-free flour (or any regular flour will do if you’re not gluten free)2 TBSP fresh lemon juice1 TBSP  olive oil1 tsp lemon zest1 tsp cumin1 tsp coriander1 tsp sea salt1 tsp cayenne pepper1 tsp garlic powderDirections  In the bowl of your food processor, add everything EXCEPT the quinoa and flour. Process until mixture is smooth like a paste:Add in your precooked quinoa and the 2 TBSP flour (the flour didn’t make it into this picture, sorry).Then, with the best tool around – your hands – mash together all the ingredients until well incorporated…(NOTE: I made these without the flour first and they didn’t hold together at all. So, the flour is KEY to getting these to bind properly into patties.)  Heat a flat fry pan and coat the bottom with a little olive oil. Form your patties, and then gently lay them into the hot pan. Cook them on medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown like this:When they’re all done, you can eat them like I did:Quinoa falafel on a bed of chopped organic greens tossed in olive oil and lemon juice, served with a handful of cherry tomatoes and topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt.Or, you can just make up a bunch to pop in the fridge and eat them like a finger food when you’re craving a little something. Just know this: they are super satisfying, have fabulous texture, and are just the thing to keep on hand for your busy mama days. Pro tip: These would be fabulous for little eaters! If you’re going to feed them to your little ones that aren’t used to fully seasoned foods yet (5 and under, for example), cut the onion and lemon juice portions in half, and leave out all the dried seasonings except for a dash of the cumin and a little salt. Even though it's bland, the quinoa and chickpeas together have excellent flavor for training little palates.) 

How Young is Too Young for Facebook?

How young is too young for Facebook?  I’ve been thinking about this question because my youngest son, Henry (age 12) asked about getting a Facebook page. Henry has two older brothers (ages 16 and 17) who are both on Facebook, but I am not inclined to let Henry participate until high school. So I read with great interest a piece in the New York Times Magazine, which started out: “Last week my wife and I told our 13-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth.” Exactly. Once your child joins Facebook, there is no turning back. When Jonah (17) and Aaron (16) joined Facebook a couple of years ago, I insisted that they “friend” me so that I could spy on them as needed. This meant, of course, that I had to join Facebook too-something I had less than zero desire to do. Don’t tell my kids, but I hardly ever even look at their Facebook pages: a) I trust them; and b) anytime I have checked on them, the contents have been completely innocent and innocuous. Sure, there’s the occasional mild gripe about a teacher or the scattered use of the “f” word, but nothing that I can really object to. But when we had a discussion about this issue the other night during dinner, I was surprised that the older boys advised Henry against getting a Facebook page anytime in the near future. Aaron said, “It’s not good for someone your age. First of all, it’s very distracting and takes up a lot of time. And also, you should learn to have human interactions before you have online interactions.” Jonah agreed that kids Henry’s age haven’t formed good enough relationships in the real world to extend them to the digital one. Shockingly mature and sensible. But I’m not sure Henry was convinced. Keller makes the point in his article that one of the (unintended, but inarguable) casualties of the relentless forward-march of technology is that kids have lost their capacities for concentration and depth of thought. “Twitter and YouTube are nibbling away at our attention spans,” he writes. “And what little memory we had. . . we have relinquished to Google. Why remember what you can look up in seconds?” Add this to the list of parental worries (which, in my case, is always irrationally long anyway). Does our recent tendency-to boil everything down to 140 characters, to present self-censored and sanitized versions of ourselves on Facebook, to be constantly multitasking with different technologies beeping for our attention-represent progress or its opposite? Are our kids growing up as the Instant Gratification Generation, lacking the capacity for genuine relationships with other flawed human beings? Keller puts it this way: “My inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected to something deeper than snark or political affinity.” He says of social media, “I’m not even sure these new instruments are genuinely ‘social.’ There is something decidedly faux about the camaraderie of Facebook, something illusory about the connectedness of Twitter. Eavesdrop on a conversation as it surges through the digital crowd, and more often than not it is reductive and redundant.” He suspects that “Facebook friendship and Twitter chatter are displacing real rapport and real conversation. . . The things we may be unlearning, tweet by tweet-complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom, intimacy-are things that matter.” So again I ask: progress or its opposite? And as the middle school years are critical developmentally-kids are feeling out concepts of friendship, budding hormones, and other psychosocial aspects of puberty-are they being well-served by plunging them into virtual “friendships” and contrived “communities”? At least for now, I don’t think so. I am going to resist the virtual pull of Facebook for Henry. I want him to learn how to forge real relationships first. I see it as a win-win: I delay the exposure to what Keller calls crystal meth, and Henry can put off the embarrassment of having to “friend” his own mom.  

10 Spring Loves And A New Spring Coffee Blend From Starbucks You'll Love Too!

The following post is sponsored by Starbucks®What's not to love about spring?! Nature is bounding with joy! Birds returning to the area creating songs of bliss. Flowers popping up from a winter’s planting. Rose buds blooming ever so gently unfolding as each day goes on. Yes, spring weather can be a little flighty but it’s warming up. We are lacing up our shoes and getting outdoors again! Longer days that are sometimes fuller than the holidays with all the activities we try to balance into them. Today, I am sharing all that things that make me fall in love with spring over and over each year, along with a new favorite spring coffee blend. MY TOP 10 FAVORITE SPRING LOVES: 1. Enjoying the longer days for taking walks with my dog (and Sammie of course) 2. Grabbing my camera to head outdoors after a rain to take photographs of nature 3. Taking my sketchbook to the park to draw and write in while Sammie swings 4. Flying a kite on a windy afternoon 5. Heading to the beach on a short school day or for a full day on the weekend 6. Opening up the blinds and letting the full sun shine right through the windows (except for seeing the sills that need cleaning) 7. Knowing that I can hit the open road for day trips and weekend trips now that the weather is nice again 8. Going to the library with Sammie to get new books to read outside on the hammock 9. Having family gatherings where we enjoy the backyard and barbecue 10. Finding a new blend of coffee perfect for spring! Speaking of spring and coffee have you tried the new Starbucks® Spring Blend?  You know how much I love coffee, honestly I can’t start the day without it and sometimes enjoy a pick me up in the afternoon of my favorite blend. When I am home alone, I don’t brew a full pot. I reserve that for when I share a pot with the Mr. or have my friends or family over.It’s just me and my French press with a kitchen full of ideas and never enough time! I am the consummate multi-tasker. In the spring you’ll find me going for walks in the morning and finding the perfect flowers to bring home and take photographs of. As I get back indoors, I love to boil the kettle of water for a fresh French pressed coffee. It is so easy. Thanks to Starbucks® for the Spring coffee blend samples to review and sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% my own. I just grabbed my bag of Spring ground coffee, measured and poured the grounds into the bottom of the French press and added the water to just below the top of the metal casing. Next you just close the press but, don’t plunge until it has been about 3-4 minutes. Then push down your plunger. Turn to spout opening and pour into your cup.If you have never used a French press you should try it sometime. You will get the most flavor from your grounds. Note: Grounds need to be a bit coarser. I found the pre-ground Spring worked well for my little one cup press. No matter how you enjoy your coffee you will enjoy the flavors of Spring.Starbucks® Spring Blend is a lively, well balanced coffee. Latin American and East African coffee beans give it juicy notes and a medium body. This coffee pairs well with buttery shortbread and early harvest berries. A perfect complement to any spring gathering you may have.You might enjoy my Strawberry Pound Cake recipe or my Shortbread Cookies Recipe to go with with Starbucks® Spring Blend. They would make the perfect pairing and are easily made for your spring treats. Why don’t you give the Spring blend a try with your springtime gatherings? If you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.Learn more about Starbucks® Spring Blend Coffee here. 

Mommy Moments: It's All About the Little Things

UCLA’s legendary former basketball coach John Wooden got it right when he said: "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."  For many mothers, it’s the little things about raising kids that delight us - that warm our heart or instantly erase a tantrum-filled morning. These little things may not be appreciated or even noticed by other groups of people. They may seem mundane. Normal. Expected, even. But there are certain expressions or events that we as mothers appreciate, applaud, or secretly crave. These “little” things become big mommy motivators or, as I see them, sanity-savers. For those of you who don’t have kids or whose life is abundantly perfect and fulfilling, these “little” things will appear, in fact, quite small. But for me, and for many mothers, the following can make our mom-o-meters pulsate. These are some of my favorite “Mommy Moments:" 1. Your young child is part of a group performance, and he/she looks straight at you in the audience and acknowledges you with a smile or wave. It’s that moment when your specialness is made visual for all to see. 2. You receive a note or drawing from your young child, and you find the examples of inventive spelling funny! You don’t even mind when his portrait of you shows a very swelled head or crooked nose. I love when my boys write letters. Here’s an example of my 8 year-old-son’s Dear Santa Letter (verbatim) that I’m sure Santa especially appreciated: Dear Santa: What I want for Christmas is: an electrical device that's remote control, that you can see and the remote when it flies in the air. What I also want is an electrical game that contains prehistorical effects that you think I would like. Please make me a better student and improving in quizzes and in my math. What I also want is a Nerd Gun bullet proof vest. I also want a Macaroni-and-Cheese nutcracker baker. The last thing I want is an ornament that has a picture of my Christmas tree. P.S. I have a present for you to the right of my desk. Sincerely, Zachary L. 3. You attend a birthday party, and your child is one of the few who opts for the veggie platter. 4. Your child “graduates” on the toilet and starts wiping his/her own butt. (I can’t tell you how many times I heard my little son yell out, “Mommy, please wipe my bottom!!!” as I was right in the middle of teaching a piano student.) 5. You receive breakfast in bed, and you look down to see burnt toast, runny eggs and spilled drink on a tray proudly held by your beaming children. 6. Your child runs and hugs you in front of his friends when you pick him up from school. The older he is, the rarer (and more special) it becomes. 7. You hear your child say “please” or “thank you” to another adult.. without prodding. The adult’s compliment about your daughter having good manners can make your entire afternoon. 8. You can sleep in... uninterrupted. For some of us, this is all we need. 9. The grocery cart doesn’t squeak or have a broken wheel while you’re shopping. This may seem especially mundane to some, but any woman who has had to push a cart for a long period of time with a young child in it appreciates if the ride is smooth and stealth. 10. Your child plucks a flower and gives it to you. When my boys were young, they happily handed me bugs. 11. Your child cleans a part of the house without you asking... or without complaining. It’s messier than before, but you appreciate the effort. 12. Kid-created coupon books. I’ve never known a mother who has actually redeemed all the coupons in the book her child made her. But just the short written statement “I will do the laundry for a day” or “I will do all the dishes” is enough to warm the heart. 13. Hearing your child pray. I wish I had written down some of my children’s prayers, like the one asking God to make everybody in the world happy. 14. Funny sayings. Back in the 1990s, Bill Cosby hosted an entertaining TV show called “Kids Say the Darndest Things”; this is because children -- and their innocence and bluntness -- can be funny! Every week there’s something one of my kids says that cracks me up or surprises me. 15. Watching your child dance. I especially appreciate watching young children dance who have no sense of rhythm. They don’t care; they throw caution to the wind and move and groove to their own beat. There’s something completely pure and beautiful about that. 16. No sibling fighting on long car trips. If you have perfect kids, then you don’t appreciate this as much as us who don’t have perfect kids. 17. Doing nothing. On one Mother’s Day, my husband asked me what I wanted to DO. I said, “I want to do nothing.” “Nothing?” he asked. “NOTHING,” I answered. My typical day is filled with kids, work, cleaning, driving, shopping, negotiating, exercising, etc. Every now and then we mothers appreciate the art of doing absolutely nothing. And sometimes, for the busy mom, it's hard work to do nothing. 18. Quiet alone time. This one goes hand in hand with the above statement. Sitting in a quiet room is, well, quiet…and we like it. 19. A good book. I know many moms who treasure their reading time and who have, in fact, stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to finish a captivating book. We appreciate a fun book series. I’m willing to bet that many moms have read lately the Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, and/or Fifty Shades of Grey books. There's just something about reading fantasy while wearing sweatpants and no makeup. 20. A cup of coffee or hot tea. No need to elaborate. But, in case I did elaborate, I'd add: sipping a cup of coffee/tea while sitting in a comfortable chair. Being able to finish an entire cup without having to stand or speak is, well, glorious. There's that famous book entitled "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff"; I believe moms should embrace them instead.   

5 Fun Family Earth Day Activities

Today (April 22) is Earth Day - an annual reminder to protect the environment and live “green.” We all know the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and today is the perfect opportunity to talk to your little ones about the importance of eco-friendly behavior.  By engaging your kids in environmentally-friendly activities early on, they can reap good habits of sustainable living as adults. Here are some great ways to celebrate Earth Day:1. Take a walk. Put away your car keys and try a different form of transportation. Walk or ride your bike to school, work or the grocery store. If you can't do that, see if you can arrange a carpool or take public transportation.  2. Get your friends and family together for a community clean-up event! Everyone can pitch in to pick up litter and plant flowers and trees.  3. Cook an Earth Day dinner. Use organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables and talk to your kids about reducing your carbon footprint by buying local produce. 4. Turn off the lights. Plan a "No Electricity" night and go dark in your home for an evening. Light some candles and then play board games or hang out by candlelight. It's a great way to relax and bond as a family while "unplugged." 5. Make some super fun plastic lid monster magnets from repurposed juice and milk carton lids!  Want more ideas? We've got tons of awesome Earth Day games, art projects and other fun activities to do with your little ones! 

11 Tips For Stay-At-Home Moms Who Want To Go Back To Work

Stay-at-home moms: Don’t fall for the media chatter that “opting out” of work to raise kids will sound the death knell for your career. It IS possible to get back in. You just need some advice and inspiration.Remember, as a full-time mom, you opted in to the most important job in the world - raising the next generation of capable and responsible adults. There's no need to regret your decision; it was the right one at the time.But now that the kids are older-- and you are able to get out of your jammies before noon - you may be ready to re-enter the workforce. While job hunting may seem like a daunting task (do you even have a copy of your resume anymore?), these tips will give you some guidance as you begin your back-to-work journey:1. Perform a self-assessment. This means asking yourself the question, "Why do I want to go back to work?" Whether you’ve been out for 2 years or 10, you need to think carefully about what it is that you want from your next job, or possible career. Are you going back to work for the money? To be in the presence of other adults? Because you want to find more meaning in your life? Your reasons for working at this stage in your life may not be the same ones that drove you in your pre-baby years. According to Karen Steele, career coach and creator of The Passion Shift, “When you become a mom, you experience a shift in your priorities and values. Many women don’t want to go back to the high-powered, high-stress job they had before kids.” Your shifting priorities may necessitate pursuing a less traditional career - or a completely new route. With experience and kids under your belt, you may care more about flexibility and work-life balance than a big paycheck. Take time to figure out what matters most to you in your next job.  Don’t rush this step. You can do this on your own, or with the help of a career counselor.2. Explore your career interests. What do you want to do?  According to Gwenn Rosener, Founder of FlexProfessionals, “Your time at home with kids is a great time to dabble in different interests and possible career paths.” You can do this by volunteering in fields that interest you. For example, if you are thinking about going into counseling/psychology, intern at a nonprofit that focuses on mental health.  If you want to be a writer, start a blog. Go for coffee with friends and acquaintances that work in fields that sound interesting to you and pick their brains: How did they get started? What do they like and dislike about their jobs? What skills do they need to perform their job? If you want to go back to your pre-child profession, seek out volunteer opportunities that can help build your resume. Lawyers who want to go back into practice can take on pro bono projects through local bar associations. If you want to go back into marketing or development, do some pro bono fundraising work.3. Stay in touch.  Going back to work often means calling on former work colleagues, so do your best to stay in touch with them during your time off. Today it’s easier than ever to connect thanks to social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook. But make sure to get yourself out of the house and meet people in person. Sitting behind a computer does not equal “networking.” Stacey Delo, Founder of Maybrooks.com, an online community for working moms, suggests that “you set up informal coffees and lunches with former work colleagues to let them know you are getting back in the market.” If your former colleagues don’t have a job to offer you, they may know of other people you can talk to. Never leave a meeting without getting the names of a few other people you can contact.4. Update your skills. How familiar are you with the latest version of MS Word and Excel? What about social media tools? If you’re like me, your kids are probably more tech-savvy than you are. Now is the time to brush up on your computer skills. Delo recommends reading over job descriptions like those posted on Maybrooks to find out what skills are required for the jobs you’re interested in. Then learn these skills! You can find classes - often for free or at minimal cost-- at local libraries, community colleges, and even online. You will want to create or update your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, as well as your website if you have one.5. Update your resume. At its core, your resume should communicate your mission statement and your brand. As a stay-at-home mom, you most likely have a large gap in your resume but we all know that these years were not dead time. You need to figure out how to fill this gap with the skills and experience that you’ve acquired during your time out of work.  Most moms have spent a good deal of time volunteering, whether in their kids’ schools or in the community. Volunteering is great. It keeps your experience relevant, shows you are proactive, and gives you contacts that can provide references and networking opportunities. Did you raise thousands of dollars for your kid’s school? Serve on a committee or a board? These are important roles that you should include on your resume as “Relevant Experience,” along with the position you held and your job responsibilities. One great tip from a marketing executive who took 9 years off to raise her kids: During your time out, create a consulting company in which you list all of the volunteer work you do. If you help out the school with their website or do PR for a friend, add these to your resume as “pro bono” consulting projects. In this way, you can get credit for all of the unpaid work you have done during your stay-at-home years. 6. Respect your unpaid work. As a stay-at-home mom, you’ve probably been hard at work balancing budgets, managing multiple tasks and deadlines, mediating disputes and doing a whole host of other things that have taught you valuable skills that can benefit employers. Allison Kelley, Founder and CEO of MomCorps, advises moms to not sell themselves short. “It is possible to find a company that will value your experience, both your previous work experience and what you’ve learned during your time out of the workforce.”Mastering the skills you need to run a family can make you a shoe-in for administrative, customer service and many other positions. During interviews, don’t make excuses for you time at home. Be upfront that you chose to stay home to raise kids and that you don’t regret that choice. 7. Spread the word. Don’t keep your job search a secret! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of all jobs are found through networking. The same people you’ve been working with through volunteering, chatting with at play dates and calling for parenting advice are critical to your job search. Let them know that you are looking for work. You may be surprised by the kinds of job opportunities that turn up when your network is helping you search. After you meet with somebody—be it a former colleague, college alumnus or neighbor - always send a thank you note. Other ways to network? If you belong to a professional association, visit its web site for career assistance. Are you a college alumnus? Contact the Career Services office at your alma mater - many universities have online career networks where you can find alumni who will be thrilled to help you with your job search. Making connections is the name of the game when it comes to job hunting. 8. Hire a professional. If the idea of rewriting your resume or figuring out what you want to do now seems mind-boggling, consider hiring a career coach or consultant to help you figure out your next step. If you’re concerned about finances, contact your university or grad school’s career services office. The counselors there will often work for free, in-person or remotely. Other organizations provide career guidance at a discounted rate, such as the YMCA or YWCA. 9. Look for mom-friendly jobs. There are a number of websites that help moms who are trying to relaunch their careers, whether they’re seeking a traditional 9-5 job or a more flexible or part-time work arrangement. In addition to online job boards, these sites offer back-to-work “toolkits” that provide resources like interview and resume writing tips, networking opportunities and webinars with leading career experts. MomCorps YOU is a recently launched service which, according to CEO Kelley, “provides the tools moms need to revamp their resumes, answer tough questions about career gaps and negotiate flexibility.”10. Practice interviewing.You wouldn't run a marathon without training, and you shouldn't interview without practicing. If you've landed an interview, your qualifications must have appealed to the employer. Your next objective is to ensure the interviewer that you are the right person for the job, and also ensure that this job is the right one for you. Before you interview, learn as much as you can about the company and the person who is interviewing you. Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer about the company and the position. During the interview, it’s your job to explain why you want to work for this company - and why you are the best candidate for the job. This is a time to exude confidence, even if you aren't feeling very confident. Fake it till you make it. It’s always a good idea to do a few practice interviews with family and friends before you head to the real one.11. Be flexible. Starting out in a new field might mean taking a lower position and salary than what you've been used to. Don’t get discouraged. Remember that these are all milestones as your work towards rebuilding your career and gaining your footing in the work world. You are on your way to your next act, and hopefully a healthier, happier work-life balance.   

Buffalo Egg Salad Sliders

Here’s a great twist on traditional hamburger sliders that won’t leave you feeling sluggish! These Buffalo Egg Salad Sliders are just 160 calories a piece and packed with protein to keep you feeling satisfied - yum!Ingredients (makes 4 servings)4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (We use Eggland’s Best because they contain 25 percent less saturated fat than ordinary brands)1 tablespoon of light mayonnaise1 tablespoon of non-fat Greek yogurtfresh chopped celery (we like to use LOTS)2 teaspoons buffalo sauce (or to taste) (like Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)salt (pinch)pepper (to taste)pinch of paprika.4 mini hamburger buns (or dinner rolls, halved)2 curly lettuce leavesDirectionsCombine eggs, mayonnaise, yogurt, salt, pepper and mix well.  Stir in celery, set aside.  Place a small piece of lettuce on each bun bottom and then top with egg salad, dividing it equally between the 8 buns. Sprinkle with paprika and top with other half of bun.Nutrition Facts: Per Serving:  160 calories, 7 g fat, 16 g carbohydrate, 10 g protein, 341 mg sodium, 3 g sugar, 1 g fiber* The Nutrition Twins work with Eggland’s Best to help people to choose the eggs with the most nutrients. 

My Daughter Isn't Who I Thought She Was

I keep thinking I know what the hardest part of parenting is, but then I find that every week, something harder comes along.   This week, I’m feeling like the hardest thing about being a parent is accepting that we don’t always know who our kids are.   It sounds kind of like that old parenting no-no of “Don’t try to force your kids to be who they’re not.”  Like those dads who make their boys play football because they always dreamed of tossing a ball around with their sons, or the moms who force their kids to play instruments because they used to fantasize about being a part of the Partridge family.  But I’m not talking, exactly, about that kind of a thing.  No, what I’m talking about, is when you think you know your kid, but then you find out that you really don’t. Case in point: debate.  At my daughter’s school, the sixth graders are allowed to participate in the debate team.  I never did debate in school. I’m sure my high school had a debate team or club, but I don’t recall knowing anyone who was on it, or ever taking an interest in it.  But if there were ever a person who I thought would like debate, it would be my daughter. For one thing, the kid has no fear about speaking in front of crowds.  She sings in front of the whole school without giving it a second thought, she performs in musicals, she gives speeches without so much as an uh or an um.  Second, she’s got a logical mind and if something doesn’t make sense, she can identify why.  And third, she loves to be right.  Loves it.  So when the email came around at the end of last year asking which kids would want to be on the debate team, I asked her if she’d be interested.   She didn’t really know what it was all about, but I assured her that she’d be a natural.  Yes, I emailed back.  The kid is interested. We got a few emails over the summer pointing us towards videos about middle school debate, and letting us know about the workload that being on the debate team entailed (a lot).  It was suggested that if this didn’t sound appealing, now was the time to drop out.  But my daughter was at camp, so I couldn’t show her the videos of middle schoolers actually debating, and I figured that she would enjoy it so much that it wouldn’t even feel like work.  So I left her on the list.  But when she got home from the first day of debate practice last week, she was practically in tears.  She told me that it wasn’t at all what she thought it was, and that she didn’t know if it was worth all of that extra work.   I was, I’ll admit, surprised. I thought for sure she was going to come home all pumped about the chance to defend why vending machines should be allowed in schools, or to argue against boxing as a legal sport.  It just seemed so her.   But when we sat and talked about it, she explained to me that it just seemed boring to have to sit and take notes while other people talked, and that the topics just weren’t all that interesting to her.  Plus, she didn’t want to spend hours preparing arguments when she could otherwise be hanging out with her friends or rehearsing for the musical she’s in.  I told her to drop it, then.  There’s no point in spending hours doing something that’s not fun.  But she wanted to know if I was disappointed in her.  Of course, the answer was no.  I wasn’t disappointed in her at all, and I let her know that I have no interest in her being unhappy. I didn’t tell her, though, how sad the whole thing made me.  Not sad because she’s dropping debate, but because I just thought I knew her so well.  When she was little, I could anticipate her every mood. I always knew what she was thinking.  I could read her like a book. And I guess I thought still could.  I thought I understood everything that makes her tick.  Turns out, I was totally wrong.  She has her own ideas of who she is and who she wants to be; ideas I know nothing about, and which will only broaden as she gets older.  And so I realized, I just have to let go of the notion that I know her better than she knows herself.  I have to accept that as time goes on, I will know only what she wants me to know, and less and less about who she really is.  It’s natural, and it makes sense, and I get it.  But damn, it’s a hard thing to get used to.

7 Mistakes Parents Make When Kids Wet The Bed

If you’re one of the millions of parents with a bedwetting child, you know….You know how awful it makes you feel when you see your child frustrated at another middle-of-the-night accident. You know how ashamed they are when younger siblings make jokes about still wearing diapers. You know how terrible they feel when they have to turn down another sleepover invitation because they are worried their friend will find out.What you might NOT know is that much of the seemingly helpful advice you’re hearing could make the situation even worse.  Here are the top 7 mistakes parents make when dealing with a child who wets their bed:1. Come on, let’s go to the bathroomBy far the most common mistake is waking your child in the middle of the night to take them to the bathroom. By waking up your child, the responsibility for staying dry is transferred from the child to the parents. There is no learning process, and children become accustomed to emptying their bladder during sleep. It is important for the child to take responsibility for staying dry and be the one to wake up by themselves.2. Don’t drink so muchFluid restriction before sleep time will only accustom the bladder to function at night with a small amount of liquid. The child needs to condition their body to wake up even for a small amount of fluid, so limiting their drinking will only make them go to sleep thirsty. 3. It’s your fault, you clean it up. Many parents have good intentions, but they make the mistake of punishing or embarrassing a child thinking that it will lead to modified behavior. Parents need to know that the primary sufferer is the child, not the parent who is inconvenienced by having to change sheets and deal with extra loads of laundry. It is an unconscious activity and is not done on purpose. When a parent shows disappointment or punishes the child, it only aggravates the problem and makes the child feel even more distressed about the situation. 4. It’s a problem that I have to deal with, not you. Instead of helping the child to cope with the problem, the parents wrap him or her with layers of protection. They feel guilty that their child is suffering from bedwetting and they don't allow him to deal with the problem. The parents take responsibility, sometimes they deny the problem’s existence, or they are scared of offending their child. Often times, this is the case when a child is born with or has suffered from a medical condition or was conceived after years of fertility treatments and the parent feels the need to safe guard the child from any additional discomfort. Overprotection is not a solution because it is important that the child take responsibility for his actions and his own body. 5. Don’t worry, you’ll grow out of it. Some parents completely ignore the problem’s existence hoping it will just go away.  Many pediatricians tell the parents to just wait it out because there is nothing to do about it. (I completely disagree with this argument.) The problem with this technique is that they are ignoring the amount of distress or embarrassment this puts on the child. This could lead to extra months or even years of fear of having a slumber party with friends or not being able to go to sleep-away camp because they don’t want anyone to know they wet the bed.  The child needs his parents' support and understanding. When the parents ignore the problem, the child feels that he has no one to rely on. 6. Your little brother doesn’t wet the bed, why do you? Sometimes, a younger sibling is already dry. Obviously an older child suffering from bedwetting feels embarrassed, jealous and even shameful about the situation. Don’t compare siblings. The parents assume that if the 5 years old younger brother has already outgrown bedwetting, it means that the 8 years old sibling is wetting the bed on purpose. The older child is accused of being lazy or apathetic. This attitude adds a great deal of pressure and will aggravate the problem. 7. I can’t bear changing the sheets every night. Just use a pull-up.  It is perfectly alright when pull-ups are being used by 4-5 year olds who haven’t been completely trained at night, but when they are being used nightly by older children, it is a big mistake. It suppresses any motivation to become dry; the message delivered by the parents is that they anticipate that the child will wet the bed and they do not expect him to get over the problem. It’s a band aid, instead of a solution. Instead of coping with bedwetting they perpetuate it. There is no learning process.  The older a child gets, the less they want to feel like a ‘baby’ who needs to wear a diaper and can lead to low self-esteem and emotional problems. 

Gluten-Free Zucchini Patties

Don’t you love the vibrant vegetables and fruits that are starting to fill the store shelves now? One of the best parts of spring is a turn-around in fresh produce. It makes me giddy to see an abundance of beautiful whole foods. I hope that wherever you are the sun is shining more often than not, and that the warmth of spring is inspiring you to get creative outside and in the kitchen. Zucchini is a delightful summer squash that is both nutrient-dense and low in calories. It is a good source of potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A, and is a low glycemic food. The zucchini adds such a nice taste and texture to the cakes, and pairs beautifully with the mustard, garlic and chives. The zucchini cakes have a crispy outside and creamy center.Keep this recipe in mind this summer if your backyard zucchini harvest is abundant. Cheers to lovely home cooked meal!  Zucchini Cakes RecipeYields: 8 zucchini cakesIngredients:1 large zucchini, grated (about 3 ½ - 4 cups)¾ tsp. sea salt1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal3 Tbsp. water1/3 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped (about ½ of a pepper)1 clove garlic, minced1 Tbsp. chives, chopped1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard¼ tsp. thyme, dried¼ tsp. pepper1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (a small pinch)3/4 cup brown rice flour2 Tbsp. coconut oilDirections:Put grated zucchini into a colander placed over a plate to catch excess liquid. Sprinkle grated zucchini with sea salt, and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Squeeze out remaining liquid with a paper towel. Set aside.In a large mixing bowl combine flaxseed meal and water. Allow to sit and thicken for 3 minutes.Add zucchini, red bell pepper, garlic, chives, Dijon, thyme, pepper, and red pepper flakes to the bowl, and stir to combine.Add the brown rice flour ½ at a time to the zucchini mixture, and stir until combined and the batter starts to come together in the bowl. Divide batter into 8 equal sections. Form into 8 patties and refrigerate for 1 hour.In a large skillet (I used a cast iron skillet), over medium heat add coconut oil. When the coconut oil is melted, gently add zucchini cakes to the pan and cook until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes per side.Drain zucchini cakes on a paper towel for 2 to 3 minutes, and then serve.To Print, Email, or Text recipe click here.With love, gratitude, and spring cheer, Wendy Irene

How to Make Passover Chocolate Toffee Matzah

Here is a great recipe for a delicious Matzoh dessert passed on to us by a dear friend. We swear, if you serve this dessert people will be asking you for the recipe for years to come -- it's delicious and super easy to make! Ingredients   4-6 Matzohs (salted) 1 Cup (2 sticks) salted butter 1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar 1 Cup (or a little more) chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or white chocolate chips) Garnish (i.e. slivered almonds, walnut pieces, Heath bar pieces, Sprinkles, M&M’s, be creative!)   Directions Line the cookie sheet  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large (or two smaller) cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment- on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking. Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzohs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces. Combine butter and brown sugar In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2 to 4 minutes). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzoh, covering completely. Bake! Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 12 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325 degrees, and replace the pan). Add chocolate chips and garnish Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chocolate chips. Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzoh. Garnish while the chocolate is still melted. Place in freezer Place the baking sheet in freezer until set (about an hour). Remove, break into odd shapes and place into container. Store in the refrigerator.

Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs

Easter is the season for chocolate, bunnies... and of course baskets and baskets of hardboiled eggs, just waiting to be eaten! So if you're tired of egg salad sandwiches, why not whip up a batch of these delicious blue cheese and bacon deviled eggs? Ingredients 6 large eggs hardboiled, and peeled 2 T crumbled blue cheese 1?4 cmayo 1?2 t Dijon mustard 1?8 t garlic powder 1?8 t pepper (can use white or black) 3 slices bacon, cooked until crisp Directions Halve eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and mash with a fork. Add blue cheese, mayo, mustard, garlic powder and white pepper; stir to combine. Spoon back into egg whites; sprinkle with crumbled bacon.Enjoy!

Get A Holiday Workout With These Easter Egg Exercise Moves

Worried about what all that chocolate and candy the Easter bunny brings might do to your waistline?  Don't fret! You can stay healthy and happy through the holiday season with some fun and festive fitness ideas. Celsius fitness ambassador Angeles Burke shares three great ways to work out while you're hiding (and finding) Easter eggs: Workout #1: One Leg Egg Pick-up 4x10 repetitions per side Targets your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. This move also works on your core stability and balance. 1.       Begin with a few Easter eggs on the ground in front of you. 2.       Balance on your left leg while bending your right leg behind you. 3.       The goal is to hinge forward at the hip while keeping your back straight. 4.       Drop down, pick up one of the eggs and then stand up while still balancing on your left foot. 5.       Try to stay on one foot for all 10 repetitions. If needed, you can touch your foot down to the ground to balance yourself in between each repetition. Workout #2: Egg Torso Twists 4x20 repetitions per side Targets your core muscles including the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and hip flexors. 1.       Start seated on the ground with your feet and glutes making contact with the floor. 2.       Place a pile of Easter eggs on your left side. 3.       Lean your upper body back while keeping your core engaged. 4.       Make sure your back is straight with your shoulders rolled back. 5.       Twist over to your left side, grab an egg, bring it across your body and place the egg on the ground on your right side. 6.       Repeat these movements until you have placed all the eggs on the opposite side. 7.       To make this move more challenging, lean even further back and pick your feet up off the floor to work on your stability and core strength. Your core should be shaking the whole time. Workout #3: Spring-Up Squats 4x20 repetitions Targets your calves, glutes, quads and hamstrings. 1.       Place a few eggs on the floor in front of you. 2.       Start with your feet in a wide stance and your toes slightly pointed out. 3.       Drop down and back into a squat keeping your knees open wide. 4.       Reach down and grab an egg in each hand while keeping your back straight and your shoulders rolled back. 5.       Come back up into the starting position and raise up on to the balls of your feet while bringing both hands up overhead. 6.       That completes one repetition. 7.       To make this move more challenging instead of doing a heel raise, you can make this move into plyometric/jump training by adding in a small jump at the top. 8.       Remember to still bring your hands up over head and then softly land back in the squat position. This will get your heart rate going for some extra cardio! Angeles Burke is an American Fitness and Aerobics A.F.A.A. certified group fitness instructor, national level bikini competitor training with train with IFBB Pro Shannon Dey’s Team Bombshell, member of the National Physique Committee and Celsius fitness ambassador with a master’s degree in communication studies.

Traditional Italian Ricotta Pie Recipe

Finally, the beautiful weather makes an appearance, the clocks are set ahead and the days are getting longer.Just one glimpse of the purple crocus peeking through the ground can set off an hour of conversation between us about what flowers we will be planting, what colors we should choose, and the yearly banter about who plants the parsley and who plants the basil. Heaven forbid if we both plant the parsley! Important Questions We finally get around to the most important question of the day, "Who's turn is it to have Easter this year?" Since we are all together on this lovely day, we make a pot of coffee and decide to sit around the table with the husbands, which is a mistake, and discuss these very important questions. 'What are we going to make? Who is going to make Nanas pies? and color the eggs? and fill the the plastic ones? Should we make lamb or ham or both? Should we grill it? Who is bringing who? girlfriends, boyfriends.......How many are we? Do we have enough chairs? Where are they?" We realize we should stop obsessing and just relax when our brother-in-law, Uncle Jimmy, gets up from the table shaking his head saying over and over, "my sister-in-laws are crazy, they are driving me nuts, what wrong with them????" The Decision We finally decide we will have grilled lamb and a ham, along with all the traditional sides that Mom and Nana always make. We will share the duties of making the Easter pies for dessert. Jackie will make the rice pie, Judy will make the wheat and Joy will make the show stopper, the Italian ricotta pie! Joy is the only one in the family who can make it just like Nana, (she is the only one who thinks this) using a special cookie crust for this pie and making little coiled shaped cookies with the left over dough. They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside with a little hint of vanilla! Yum! Enjoy this 90 year old traditional Italian recipe, we know it will become a part of your Easter table too! Nana's Italian Ricotta Pie Ingredients Nana's cookie crust (recipe below) 1 1/2 pounds of ricotta cheese 1 tablespoon flour 1 teaspoon vanilla 4 eggs 1 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (decorating) Directions Preheat oven 350 degrees. Combine the ricotta and flour in a small bowl. In a medium size bowl beat the eggs well. Add the sugar and vanilla gradually and continue beating until smooth. Now add the ricotta mixture and beat will again. Pour into prepared pie crust. Sprinkle the 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon over the top of pie and swirl with a sharp knife to make a design. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Enjoy! Nana's Cookie Crust Ingredients 1 stick butter, softened 1 cup sugar 3 eggs 2 tsp vanilla 1/4 cup milk 3 tsp. baking powder 4 cups flour Directions Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix baking powder and flour together and add to creamed mixture along with the milk. Mix and chill 1 hour. Cut in half or use as much as u need for the pie crust and save the rest for cookies. Rolling between 2 sheets of wax paper is neat and quick, no need to flour anything! Place in Nana's Cookie Crust. Enjoy!

Last Minute Easter Table Decorating Ideas

Cute bunnies, colorful eggs and delicious candy -those are just a few of our favorite things about Easter! With this joyful holiday just around the corner, we’ve come up with a few decorating tips to help moms transform an ordinary dining table into an Easter party masterpiece. 1. Sweet Table Settings Sweet treats are the way into anyone's heart. Surprise your guests by hiding Easter-themed chocolate at each place setting for a "dessert before dinner" delight. Snuggle chocolate bunnies into the table napkins to make them look like bunnies in the wild or use malted eggs in little baskets for a festive touch. 2. Fresh Flowers No table is complete without a beautiful centerpiece and in the spring, there is no better centerpiece than a beautiful arrangement of flowers. Fragrant floral decorations capture the spirit of the season and bring the holiday's pastel color palette to your table. Some of our favorite Easter flowers: Lilies, daffodils, tulips and daisies. 3. Eggs-cellent Easter Eggs Don't overlook the obvious - Easter eggs are a great way to add a fun and festive touch to a big family brunch or dinner. You can use the eggs your family has dyed or give hardboiled eggs a quick coat of spray paint for a more polished look (just don't eat them!). You can also try scattering eggs in baskets, bunches of green raffia or other natural-looking fibers for an eggs-cellent effect!4. Paper Bag BasketsTurn an old paper bag into a beautiful Easter basket with this great tutorial from The Elli Blog. It will look lovely filled with sweet treats or flowers.