Common Myths About Gifted Children

We’ve all seen the social caricature of a “problem” child who seems so highly intelligent in certain areas of life but just can’t seem to get it together in others. The youth who become labeled “troubled” teens because they seem pent up and frustrated with life rather than flourishing. Unfortunately, in many cases, these youth are truly gifted beings hiding under early pigeonholing by a system that failed to recognize their unique situations early on. Understanding the “gifted” child is a key element in helping he or she lead a successful and productive life. Here are some common MYTHS about gifted children: They are a homogeneous group, all high achievers.   They do not need help. If they are really gifted, they can manage on their own.   They have fewer problems than others because their intelligence and abilities somehow exempt them from the hassles of daily life.   The future of a gifted student is assured: a world of opportunities lies before the student.   They are self-directed; they know where they are heading.   The social and emotional development of the gifted student is at the same level as his or her intellectual development.   They are nerds and social isolates.   The primary value of the gifted student lies in his or her brain power.   The gifted student's family always prizes his or her abilities.   They need to serve as examples to others and they should always assume extra responsibility.   They make everyone else smarter.   They can accomplish anything they put their minds to. All they have to do is apply themselves.   They are naturally creative and do not need encouragement.   They are easy to raise and a welcome addition to any classroom.   Some TRUTHS about gifted children: They are often perfectionist and idealistic. They may equate achievement and grades with self-esteem and self-worth, which sometimes leads to fear of failure and interferes with achievement.   They may experience heightened sensitivity to their own expectations and those of others, resulting in guilt over achievements or grades perceived to be low.   They are asynchronous. Their chronological age, social, physical, emotional, and intellectual development may all be at different levels. For example, a 5-year-old may be able to read and comprehend a third-grade book but may not be able to write legibly.   Some of them are "mappers" (sequential learners), while others are "leapers" (spatial learners). Leapers may not know how they got a "right answer." Mappers may get lost in the steps leading to the right answer.   They may be so far ahead of their chronological age mates that they know more than half the curriculum before the school year begins! Their boredom can result in low achievement and grades.   They are problem solvers. They benefit from working on open-ended, Interdisciplinary problems; for example, how to solve a shortage of community resources. Gifted students often refuse to work for grades alone.   They often think abstractly and with such complexity that they may need help with concrete study- and test-taking skills. They may not be able to select one answer in a multiple-choice question because they see how all the answers might be correct.   Gifted students who do well in school may define success as getting an "A" and failure as any grade less than an "A." By early adolescence they may be unwilling to try anything where they are not certain of guaranteed success.   Children who are gifted but not identified as such or supported can develop certain issues in their lives. They oftentimes feel different or alienated from others. They grow bored in school because they already know the material being taught and tend to checkout, become inattentive or disruptive and are seen as having behavioral problems. This can lead to their giving up on school all together and a resistance to learning. They can become anxious, depressed and at high risk for underachieving, performing vastly below their ability. Gifted children are likely to have uneven, or asynchronous development whereby their strengths are being missed and their weaknesses are being highlighted or ignored as well. Learning to understand and facilitate a gifted child’s unique path in life can sometimes make all the difference in their achievement of a fruitful life. *Lists adapted from College Planning for Gifted Students: Choosing And Getting into the Right College by Sandra Berger

Margarita Popsicles Recipe

Looking for a creative way to enjoy your margarita?  These popsicles are easy to make and super delicious.   They're the perfect addition to any BBQ or fiesta... but only for the grown ups! Jessie Jane, founder of Lilyshop, shares her recipe for fruity frozen cocktails: Ingredients 12 oz margarita mix 4 oz tequila (your favorite) 6 small Dixie cups   Directions Combine mix with tequila.   Pour into the Dixie cups.  Freeze for 4 hours.  Take them out and pour a little water over each one. Then, stick a popsicle stick in the center.  Freeze for another 24 hours. To serve, peel the paper cup away from the popsicle.  Each one is equal to half of a margarita, so plan accordingly.  Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprinkle of salt. Want to watch Jessie take you through this recipe step by step? Check out the video below and be sure to take a look at all the other great cooking videos on the ModernMom YouTube Channel.

A True Hero: She Sacrificed Her Own Life to Save 10 Year Old Student

The unimaginable happened in Ohio when a routine bus evacuation drill turned deadly. As reported by The Associated Press, Laura Zborowski, a 51 year-old bus driver was leading 40 students in a practice bus evacuation drill when the unthinkable happened. The bus began to roll backwards while the last student, a 10 year-old girl was exiting the rear of the bus. Zborowski pushed the little girl out of harm's way but was tragically killed. Zborowski leaves behind her own 12 year old son. Her selflessness inspired a Charles Little, a man who never even met Zborowski, to set up a Give Forward page in her honor.  There are no words to really express the heroism and tragedy of this situation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Zborowski's family and loved ones.    

Fall Moments And A Printable Fall Bucket List

The following post is sponsored by Starbucks®  This post come from Theresa over at Dear Creatives. Make sure to check out her great blog! Back to school is in full swing and autumn is almost here. Although the summer chapter closes, there are so many things that have me excited about this time of year. Today I’ll be sharing all my favorite back to school and fall moments with you. Fall is my favorite time of year which means I’ll have plenty of fall goodness to share with you including a free fall bucket list printable at the end of the post. Grab your cup of coffee and read along. Back to School + Fall = These favorite moments: Seeing the look on Sammie’s face when she got the classes she wanted for middle school = priceless Pulling out those pretty sweaters from the back of the closet for cool mornings Grabbing my journal to write and sketch in while I wait to pick her up from school Setting up my craft area for fall easy diy projects Having time to read again Photographing the changing seasons Taking walks with my dog Starting on new Sewing Projects Big pillows and throw blankets on the couch A great cup of coffee If you have read my blog for any time now you know I can’t miss a morning and sometimes an afternoon without a freshly brewed coffee. It’s my favorite way to start my day and often a favorite afternoon pick me up. My favorite way to enjoy my coffee is with soy or almond milk added into it. Speaking of a great cup of coffee I had the chance to try and review the new Starbucks fall blend coffee. It’s described as a  medium bodied coffee that is smooth and rich. The Starbucks fall blend coffee is full of flavor. It has the full bodied Sumatra beans which give it spice notes, Kenya beans add citrus y brightness and lastly beans from Peru giving the blend balance and a subtle nuttiness. Although this is a dark, rich looking coffee it is very smooth to the palate. What is not to love about a cozy coffee for the early days of autumn?  This is a dark, smooth coffee that is just perfect for fall brewing. Insert all your favorite fall activities on your bucket list, brew and enjoy! A few more of my favorite fall activities that I love that go perfectly with coffee; Reading a good book, movies, hay rides, family gatherings, a visit to the local pumpkin patch, pumpkin carving, walking through a corn maze, raking leaves, roasting pumpkin seeds, painting, crafts, and sewing. Last but, not least having coffee with friends. I created this free bucket list check list / printable. Easy Print & Share Fall Bucket List Printable  Enjoy! For me coffee is synonymous with fall! I think you’ll enjoy Starbucks Fall Blend Coffee as much as we did. Yes, I did share! Coffee is always better with friends!  These are 100% my own opinions. I did receive compensation and  Starbucks Fall Blend Coffee to facilitate my review for ModernMom.com Visit here to learn more about Starbucks Fall Blend What’s your favorite back to school and fall moments!? I can’t wait to hear.    

Damaged Goods

After the head fell off the doll, and the toaster (invented in 1893 in Britain) quit popping, and the sweater snagged, someone started (in the early 1900s) calling women who weren’t virgins “damaged goods.” More recently a male friend of mine (and yes, we still are friends) told me that divorced women were damaged goods. “Damaged how?” I asked. The list of damage went well beyond simply having had intercourse. And the truth is that after I got divorced, I felt damaged. I knew that I was in pieces and had forgotten that the fragments had ever formed a whole. Somehow it felt like it was my fault that the marriage had failed. It didn’t matter that both marriage counselors had told me that I had to get divorced, saying that my ex had psychological issues that were too much to bear. It didn’t matter that my ex threatened to divorce me unless I had sex with him on demand, giving a whole new meaning to real time. It didn’t matter that our son, who had just turned five, said, “Good, now Daddy won’t be mean to you” when I told him that his father had left. No one needed to tell me that I was damaged. I have spent the last two years digging my way down into the damage to see what I can see. Psychologists say that divorce is like death, but as a culture, we treat it like just one of those things: commonplace, ordinary, trite, humdrum... Heaped on top of my own feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy, I experienced a general aversion from people toward my new singleness, a “find your own kind” mentality, and a simple dismissal: isn’t everyone divorced these days? And all of this made me feel deeply lonely. I didn’t grow up thinking about myself as a commodity, but as I went back online for the first time, I knew it was what I had become. GOODS: height, body type, hair color, eye color, religious affiliation, salary... Without thinking too much, I wrote the following profile: A man I know recently called all divorced women "damaged goods," and yes, we are still friends, but if you don’t know why this is offensive, please don’t get in touch with me. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of messages, but for a period of time, it gave me great satisfaction just to put it out there. Show me the person who isn’t “damaged goods” who isn’t searching with the rest of us for meaning, peace, and happiness; maybe there is even someone out there hoping along with me for fewer cliches and greater understanding. I’m focusing on a better future: reduce, reuse, recycle. www.everhappilyafter.com

When My Child With Autism Was Diagnosed With Cancer

This week I want to share a guest post from Jess Block Nerren. Her son has autism and was recently diagnosed with cancer. Here is her heartfelt story:Autism and pediatric cancer. Autism and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. No matter how you say those two together, it sounds tough.My son Royce, 8, with autism was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma about 60 days ago, on March 3, 2014.We went to the hospital for back pain, and 11 hours later we were on our way to Children's Hospital LA for Lymphoma. And now here we are, midway through a 4-month cancer treatment.It has certainly been a wild ride. We have had days far easier than expected, and ones far harder than expected. Our experience just fluctuates wildly, with virtually no notice. AS A MOMOne day all the hair on my son's head jumped off his head from the chemo. He lost it in less than a day, during class and during a birthday celebration for a classmate. As his hair covered a classmate’s desk, he just said “Look, that’s my hair.” And then he casually went back to doing his classwork. We shaved his head later that day and looked up a lot of bald jokes to tell my bald husband.We make the effort to keep it fun and light, but hair loss is something that is hard even for fully-grown adults to go through. All of this is hard, so hard, but Royce will do better if he doesn't see us sweat. So my job is to make this huge effort as effortless as possible, so that he can get through it. And for him to still have fun and be a kid while all this goes on around him.One day, Royce went into an anaphylaxis allergic response and stopped breathing while receiving chemo. They said I was the calmest mom they had ever seen who had a kid stop breathing in clinic.I just notified the medical assistant doing paperwork outside our room.“Excuse me but my son says he can’t breathe.”“What?!?”She jumped up, with her workstation still surrounding her and rising up with her as she leapt out of her seat.As 20 or so people filled the room to give Royce the epi-pen, I began moving furniture out of the way so they could get to him with the crash kit efficiently enough to help him. The whole thing lasted a matter of seconds seconds and he was fine. In typical Royce fashion, when I told him we would be back in clinic the next day, he just asked not to have that medication again, and upon confirmation, went back to reading the encyclopedia of baseball.We carry the most random assortment of medical supplies with us everywhere we go. Clamps for his central line, in case he starts bleeding out of his line. An epi-pen, in case he stops breathing again. A thermometer to constantly monitor his temperature. Baby wipes and hand sanitizer to maniacally ward of infection and germs because now it is literally a matter of life and death. Anti-nausea pills. Extra medication and IV supplies. We average a trip to clinic every other day and on the days we aren't there, at least one call to the oncologist for little but really important things that come up. He takes medication four times a day, most orally, but also by injection, both into his IV and into his leg just under the skin. I administer his oral and injectable medication, though I am a publicist by trade and never touched IV supplies before in my life.  It's amazing how fast you catch on when it is your kid, though not without my fair share of stumbling blocks. I’m much better at publicizing a 60,000-person autism walk than serving as a de-facto nurse and much better at doing IEP’s than creating a sterile field.But Royce and I joke about my missteps, which illustrate that nobody’s perfect. I get bubbles out of saline injectables by shooting liquid onto the ceiling, or myself, or him, or the cat. I accidentally stabbed my finger with a sterile needle. Heck, I accidentally set a hamburger on fire our first week out of the hospital! But with time, I think I've actually gotten pretty good at all these new routines in our life.FOR A KIDIt is beyond amazing to see how incredibly a child can handle a challenging situation. Royce’s strength and courage and communication and acceptance through all of this have been truly unparalleled. His bravery and spirit keeps us going because he is so determined.Does that sound like a cliché?Probably, but it is worthy of mention, because it is so incredible. Royce jumps and hops his way through the hospital on his way to the infusion clinic. This little bald kid, with his pet “cow,” jumping for joy and it makes me so proud to see his strength. He does his homework while waiting for anesthesia. He goes to class every day that he isn’t in the clinic. His mantra has been, “I’m OK, and if I’m not OK, I’ll let you know.” So we take him at his word and we go with it! I can’t say enough amazing things about his school. They welcomed him back to class with open arms and truckloads of encouragement. He is cleared to play at recess and plays with his friends. His aide helps him like always, just for a couple extra things now as well. Everyone gives him hugs and high fives. He says he “feels better by talking with his friends,” and this camaraderie among educators and students and my son is beyond touching.We’ve gone through our therapy dog phase:Our thumb’s up phase:And our silly faces phase:And these games, coupled with the constant companionship of Royce’s stuffed pet, “Cow,” help keep a non-fun experience pretty fun, through dressing changes, injections, ports, medicine and beyond.But it isn’t always easy. It can be pretty rough too. The hardest for Royce happens to be the port he has in his leg. He just hates wearing it, putting it in, anything. We had to really work through options for this to work and my heart goes out to him when he has no choice but to get something that he dislikes so much.ABOUT AUTISM AND CANCER By no means does my two-month journey make me an expert but I have seen and experienced a number of things in this short time, and can say definitively that there is very little information availalble about when this disease and disorder intersect. A Google search returns some early clinical genetic studies and some conspiracy theories, which aren’t very helpful when navigating the day-to-day of our current experience.It is incredibly interesting to see the ease and challenges of each and how they relate to one another. For instance, I noticed that the cancer community is encouraging in a different way than the autism community, maybe because the disability isn’t hidden - such as when a person has hair loss. It isn’t better or worse, just different. Royce was hugged by a 70-year-old with cancer in the grocery store while we were buying dinner. It reminded me that we can always go that extra mile for those experiencing any condition, whether it be cancer, or a mom and child experiencing a particularly brutal autism behavior. I see how much it means to overcome fear and offer encouragement and hope whenever possible. As another example, an autism mom (and one of my favorite people on the planet!) brought me a toothbrush and kept Royce swimming in Legos during his hospital stay. Autism advocates from around the country sent Royce cards and gifts and books and letters of encouragement, which was truly incredible and helped him to feel positive and upbeat despite his challenges. There are never enough "thank you’s" I can say for the kindness that has been demonstrated to our family during our time of need - from our friends, colleagues, clients and beyond. But it reminded me how important it is to lend support to those who need it, and never to take for granted the opportunity to help when we are feeling healthy and have a little bit extra to give.Another interesting difference we noticed is that cancer treatment is so incredibly organized and efficient, right from the start. For cancer, we didn’t leave the hospital until we had everything we needed to face a future with cancer treatment physically in our possession and Royce’s case managed efficiently and expediently. It took a day for our cancer lives to be dialed in. It took six months or more for our autism lives to be dialed in, and we were lucky! Having treatment available so quickly was new to us, and was actually a calming and reassuring part of our experience. There was no struggle between parents and doctors and the course of treatment began immediately upon diagnosis. WOW!We also noticed that life goes on and childhood goes on. Even in the face of any challenge. While under treatment we hiked, climbed, did egg hunts, spectated sporting matches, learned how to pitch a baseball, flew kits and more. These activities helped us to have fun and appreciate the limited time we had outside of the hospital. We spent time celebrating our successes rather than lamenting out challenges and this turned into not just a time we will always remember, but a time we will also treasure.We also noticed that life goes on and childhood goes on, even in the face of any challenge. While under treatment we hiked, climbed, did egg hunts, watched sporting matches, learned how to pitch a baseball, flew kites and more. These activities helped us have fun and appreciate the limited time outside of the hospital. We spent time celebrating our successes rather than lamenting our challenges and that turned this into not just a time we will always remember, but a time we will also treasure.The other thing that deserves mention is how much ABA has helped us through this experience. It turns out that the same techniques that help my rigid and aggressive child with autism cope with daily life, also help him cope with extreme situations like a very intensive cancer treatment, biopsies, surgery and more. The same drill that promoted flexibility in home or school during a minor change in routine translates really well to complicated and uncomfortable dressing changes, unknown cancer treatments and more. His developmental pediatrician and all the nurses at the infusion center have complimented his adaptability and compliance, saying that it is beyond his years. I think some of this relates directly back to his past five years of ABA, which has helped to really drive home tools and coping and calming strategies that apply in any situation, including chemo!There have definitely been times where the comorbid conditions of autism and cancer have been very relevant to Royce’s treatment and care. He can’t answer questions about his experience very well at times, though he uses advanced language, which is part of his challenges with communication. We have to help him share his pain levels accurately. He doesn't always like to play games or be distracted the same way as other kids. He needs to be prompted more frequently than other kids his age. And that is just part of his journey. Our existing relationships with those who can help him with his autism have helped us navigate this in a way that was tailored to his needs and strengths and challenges.CLOSING WORDS While nobody really knows how any part of treatment is going to go for Royce, because cancer and chemo is different for everyone all the time, we are certainly thankful to the interdisciplinary teams at Children’s Hospital LA for helping us to navigate this complicated process efficiently and thankful to all our friends at Autism Speaks Southern California and the broader autism community for their encouragement and support.  I talked with a lady who lost her son after an 8-month battle with pediatric Hodgkin’s, and she told me, "when he feels good, you help him have any experience he feels up to having. That time is precious" - and I agree! Our lives and our perspective have been forever changed by this journey and for everyone who has been by our side along the way.For helping us to help Royce enjoy the days he is feeling good, we say a huge “thank you!” And since today is a day Royce is feeling good, I have to get back to helping him have a fun experience! Jess Block Nerren is a publicist and mother, living in Southern California with her son, Royce, and husband, Dylan. Block Nerren, an MA in Communications, is Publicist and President of Felten Media Services, a boutique public relations shop that donates between 15%-20% of the shop's efforts to support Autism Speaks and other autism-related community initiatives. An avid supporter of autism educational and health rights, Block Nerren is publicist to a bestselling autism author, is Communications Chair of Walk Now for Autism Speaks Southern California, sits on the Children's Hospital Autism Treatment Network Parent Advisory Board, was a founding Board Member to Project Miracles, and is a Board Member-at-Large for the Riverside County SELPA, the largest special education local plan area in the state of California serving over 25,000 special education students.  (Photos courtesy of Emily Kye, Rex Sanchez, and Jess Block Nerren)  

10 Ways to Stop Your Child's Whining

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” - Anthony Robbins The sound of whining is one of the most irritating sounds on earth - really.  A recent study confirms this, though any parent could already tell you the same.  According to the research, whining has more power to distract (parents and nonparents alike) than the screech of a table saw snagged on a piece of wood! Whining disrupted participants from doing simple cognitive tasks like subtraction.  Both genders made more errors and were unable to complete tasks in a normal timeframe.  Rosemarie Chang, co-author of the study, believes it’s an evolutionary mechanism.  She likens whining to a siren. As unpleasant as that is, it gets your attention.  You are forced to put things aside and see if anything is actually wrong. Whining happens in every language and even adults do it to one degree or another.  But thankfully the peak whine years are from 2 ½ to 4 years old.  This coincides with the age children first attempt to communicate with words, and tapers off when they begin to have command of language and self expression.  In other words, whining is a form of annoying communication. But it doesn’t change the fact that your children are trying to tell you something.  Does that mean we should respond to every whimper? Of course not. 1. Be consistent. Almost any behavior is repeated if there is a payoff.  Over time, repeated behavior becomes a habit. Yes, we’ve all reached the point where we’re willing to hand over the candy bar or buy a particular toy, just to make the whining stop.  But if whining sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, children will go for the “maybe payoff” loophole and whine more often.  Mixed signals not only confuse the child, they also add to your workload by forcing you to address and readdress the same issues.  Talk about a good reason to whine! 2. Me no speak whine.  If my children are whining, I say, “Excuse me.  I can’t understand you.  I don’t speak whine.  That sounds like cjoaliudfsoiuewj to me.  What are you saying?”  Usually the next request is a bit clearer.  “It sounds like you’re saying you’d like some juice, but it still sort of sounds like cixooijc.”  That gets them laughing.  The tension lessens and the conversation begins.  “Ah!  Now I understand.  Of course you can have some juice. Thank you for asking so nicely.”  “Use your words” is a great family code to shift a whine into a request. 3. Teach through play.  Toddlers don’t have a strong sense of self-awareness.  That’s why they often don’t know they are whining. Sometimes it helps if they can see themselves through a playful medium, like a doll.  Or sometimes I imitate the droning plea in a comical way, then ask “What if Mommy talked like that?  What would work better?” I’ll offer a suggestion on a better way to make the request.  “Now you try.”  This type of playful interchange gets their attention and allows them to look at their behavior from a safe and positive vantage point. 4. Reward good attention getting.  Anytime your children are using their developing communication skills to ask for something nicely, reward them with your attention and a mention of how great it is that they communicated so beautifully.  “I like how you said that.” 5. Help find the words. Negative emotions are hard to deal with for anybody and toddlers don’t have the words to say what is upsetting them.  Gently guide them through the storm with phrases like: “Are you mad because…?” As they learn the “how to” of communicating, finding the words becomes easier each time a whining moment comes up. 6. Defuse prime whine triggers. If your child is hungry or tired, it’s hard to be reasonable.  My four-year-old son, for instance, is often hungry right before dinner.  He’ll ask for a fruit bar, which will spoil his appetite. That’s when the whining starts, not just because he loves fruit bars, but because he’s actually hungry.  I know from experience this is not the time for an upsetting showdown.  If dinner is 5 minutes away or less, I’ll say, “I know how you feel.  I’m hungry too.  Could you help me set the table so that we can eat?”  If dinner is going to be 15 minutes or more later, I’ll offer him a less filling snack to tide him over.  Goldfish crackers are perfect.  They are both healthy and tiny.  You can even play a counting game.  “You can have five.  Can you count them while Mommy stirs the pasta sauce?”  7. When the pity party starts, put on your patience. Step back and resist the urge to shout, “Stop whining right now!”  Though every parent wants to do this, especially at our breaking point, it’s a command that rarely works. It usually upsets the child more, because the real reason he/she is whining is they want something.  When you are only addressing what you want - silence and a little peace, it doesn’t offer a real solution.  That said, a child usually starts whining when her request has already been politely ignored.   Maybe you are in the middle of a phone call, or focused on a project, or rushing through a task.  She may have asked quietly a few times already, and you’ve said, “Just a minute, honey” several times too.  But a minute to a child doesn’t mean much.  A very small child is not a good judge of time. If you are trying to get your child to delay her request and learn some patience herself while you finish something up, try using a timer. There are playful visual ones made especially for kids.  I like the old fashioned dial kind.  “Five minutes!” I say.  “Here. I’ve set the dial and it is ticking.  When the little bell rings, I’ll be done with what I’m doing and we can go do … xyz.”  Helping your child get a handle on what patience really is, as well as understanding a bit about time, is a useful tool that will pay off over and over. 8. Nice, but No. What if your child asks for something ridiculous in the sweetest voice?  You’ll have to say no, and explain why in your most reasonable voice. “Thanks for asking so sweetly, but we can …xyz…. instead.” 9. Use “instead” commands. Children hear around 400 commands a day!  I love this advice from Parenting that Works:  Instead of ordering your child, ask a question and give direction and information.  For example:  “Do you know what we need to do?  Right! It’s time to brush our teeth! Do you know what happens when you don’t brush?” And then let your child answer. The key is to encourage your children to think and judge for themselves. 10. In a moment of calm, talk about the joys of listening: “We have a much better time when we listen to each other, don’t we?  When you ask, ‘Mommy can I please have some juice?’ isn’t it nice when I go get you the juice?  I expect the same from you.” It’s always good practice to lead by example.  If kids hear their parents whining (which adults prefer to call complaining) about how long the checkout line is or how much work we have to do, they’ll imitate us. Make sure you’re modeling the communication skills you want your children to learn. Here’s the bottom line:  While you won’t be able to eradicate whining overnight - or once and for all - you can help your children learn to use more productive, less annoying, means of communication. So don’t invest in noise-cancelling headphones just yet! Ciao, Princess Ivana www.princessivana.com I am so excited that my book, A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby's First Year has been nominated for a 2013 SheKnows Parenting Award! Please vote ? Ivana is a modern princess married to a real Italian prince! Follow the Modern Princess on Facebook and Twitter 2PrincessIvana. She has a Masters of Education and has worked with children for 20 years in a variety of capacities, from designing educational toys for preschoolers to tutoring homeless children.

Celebrities Who Abuse and the Organizations That Condone That Abuse

Education leads to prevention – reaction leads to inaction – the story of celebrities who abuse and the organizations that condone that abuse. With the latest headlines about NFL players and their abuse of women and children, it got us thinking about celebrities, the price they pay for the crimes they commit and the statements they make regarding those “crimes.” To us, Cris Carter said it best when discussing the recent news of NFL players and child abuse. He said "This is the 21st century. My mom was wrong. She did the best she could, but she was wrong about some of that stuff she taught me. And I promise my kids, I won't teach that mess to them." Easier said than done of course but the only acceptable option for adults who were themselves abused as children. Domestic violence and child abuse are cyclical in nature and a silent epidemic. If we don’t educate we can’t prevent. If we don’t recognize the wrong, we can’t make it right. Cris Carter’s public call – learn better to do better – really hit home for us at KidSafe. Our goal is to educate to prevent abuse of women and children, and to advocate that all organizations set up an action plan detailing exactly how they will respond to criminal activity by their employees. Instead of cover-ups, knee jerk reactions, or worse, the professional sports industry needs to reflect on their culture of violence and response to abusive players. The NFL, NBA and all celebrity organizations have the opportunity now to be both brave and proactive and to become models for other organizations regarding how to treat those who abuse children and women. Like it or not, our celebrities are role models for children (whether they should be or not is a whole other blog) and with that celebrity comes an obligation to our most vulnerable citizens. You are a role model...act like one. You make a mistake...own up to it. Take your consequences and show the world it is not too late to make a wrong....right. Owners, Leagues etc. need to step up and allow some of those dollars to slip away for the greater good. And to the fans – stop supporting child abusers and men who harm women. Stop wearing their jerseys and chanting their names. Think carefully about what kind of message you are sending to your own children. Right now there is opportunity for action – for change. Let’s not let this moment slip away.

5 Time-Saving Ways to Work Out in Your Office

Want to get fit but have trouble finding time to work out? Here are five ways to feel the burn while you're at work! 1. Office Chair Abs Use your office chair as an ab roller. If you’re not too dressed up, get on your knees with your elbows on the chair, keep your abs engaged while you roll out your chair and roll it back in towards you. Be sure to keep your back straight. 2. Chair Lifts Do some chair lifts every hour. With your hands on the edge of your chair, lift your body as high as you can and lower slowly without using your legs, keeping your back straight and engaging your abs. This is a great exercise that really works  your arms and abs that you can do right at your desk. 3. Phone Fitness Instead of sitting and chatting, stand up whenever you make phone calls to increase calorie-burning. For an added boost, try walking in place or pacing back and forth by your desk. Remember, every extra step adds up! 4. Lunch Break Walks Walking at lunch is a great way to burn extra calories. A 140-lb woman walking at a normal pace will burn about 80 calories per mile. Add in a mile walk during your lunch break can burn almost an additional 400 calories! An extra motivator is to team up with other fitness-minded people in the office, especially other moms. Get moving together! 5. Take the Stairs If your office has stairs, take advantage of them! You can double-step to really work your butt. You can also run up the stairs, or side-step, stepping up the stairs sideways, to get your inner-thighs burning.

Avocado Tomato Bruschetta

Just because summer is over doesn't mean we can't still entertain! I'm always looking for easy bites to put out in front of my most of the time last minute guests.   So what says fun more than this delicious appetizer? (And best of all - it takes literally less than 10 minutes to make!) Avocado Tomato Bruschetta 2 Ripe Avocados 1 Large Tomato 2 Green Scallions 1/4 Red Onion Juice from 1/2 lemon 1 Cap full of White Distilled Vinegar 2-3 tbs. Good Olive Oil 1/4 tsp. red chili pepper flakes Salt & Pepper to taste Day old French baguette or sourdough 1 clove of garlic 1 tbs. olive oil Directions: In a large bowl combine diced avocado, tomato, scallion & onion- along with all the other ingredients. Place in the fridge for 5 minutes while you prepare the bread.  Slice the bread into 1-2 inches thick slices.  Smash the garlic into a paste and combine with the olive oil and brush onto the bread.  Place on a sheet pan and put in the oven preheated on 450 degrees for about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.   Remove from the oven and place spoonfuls of the bruschetta mixture on top.  It's cold, crisp, tangy and fresh!  

Tasty Taco Recipe For A Full Belly & Healthy Body

Want to know how you can stave off hunger? Go for balanced meals that include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Here’s why this combinations works - carbs give us energy, fats help absorption of vitamins and minerals, lubricate our intestines, and cushion our organs. And proteins provide the “go button” for most of our body’s enzymatic processes.  If we eat only carbs, they rocket through our digestive track as the body excitedly takes them in.  Eating fat along with carbs slows this process through something called satiety. Satiety is that feeling of contentment or fullness after we eat.  Fats make that feeling last longer.  Proteins work to keep the body functioning at its best and repair anything that might be off-kilter.  This means that that slow-moving carb and fat combo can be better utilized when we add in some protein. Here’s a great, balanced meal idea that’ll keep you full, fit and away from unnecessary snacking: Bock-Bock Tacos* (makes 12 tacos) Ingredients 1 1/2 lbs poached chicken breast, thinly shredded 1 can 11-oz corn with peppers, drained 1 can 10-oz mild or hot enchilada sauce 1 box 6-oz crisp whole wheat taco shells (12 shells) 1 teaspoon olive oil 1 cup chopped onions 2 teaspoon chopped garlic 1/2 cup shredded  low-fat pepper jack or sharp cheddar cheese 1 cup shredded or torn lettuce 1/2 cup chunky salsa   Directions Preheat the oven to 350°F. Use a fork and your fingers to shred the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes or until soft. Add the chicken, corn, and garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add enchilada sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Heat the taco shells in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, or until warm. For each taco, fill a shell with a tablespoon of cheese and about 1/3 cup of the chicken. Top with some lettuce and salsa. * from womenshealthmag.com  (recipe altered to improve nutritional content) Nutritional Facts Per Serving Calories - 157 Fat - 3 g Saturated Fat - 1 g Cholesterol - 49.2 mg Sodium - 280 mg Carbohydrates - 14.9 g Total Sugars - 2.7 g Dietary Fiber - 2 g Protein - 18.2 g   Do you have a meal that is a great combo of carbs, protein and fat?

Cardboard Adventures

This is a guest post by Stuart M. Perkins. Check him out at StoryShucker. A mother and her young teenage son sat behind me on my bus ride home from work. From their conversation I could tell that the son had just come from a dentist appointment and was feeling a bit whiny from the experience. His mother said, “I know it was rough, but when you get home you can go upstairs and play with your Xbox.” A nice day like this, I thought, yet she suggested her son go inside and play with his Xbox? When I was his age Mama would tell me to go outside and play with a cardboardbox. Not just any cardboard box. One of the huge discarded cardboard boxes from the nearby T.V. shop. When my sisters and I were kids there was a T.V. shop across the field from our house. As new televisions were delivered for display, the huge cardboard boxes they were shipped in were then stacked behind the shop for disposal. If we promised to ask the owner first, Mama would occasionally allow us to drag one across the field to our backyard. Along the way, we attracted the attention of our cousins playing outside. They always joined the fun. Although Mama allowed us to drag a box home from time to time, she did so reluctantly knowing that ultimately she would be left to dispose of the ragged remains. Sooner or later we would be done with the box. Sooner if it rained. Rain is cardboard’s enemy. Those huge boxes easily held me, a sister or two, and one of the smaller cousins. An old rusty pair of scissors in Daddy’s garage helped us shape each box into our fantasy of the day. Once, we cut portholes in a seaworthy box and hacked off the top to make an open air deck. We crawled inside and waited for tidal waves. “What’s this one?” Mama asked as she walked by to pick tomatoes, clearly wondering how long it would be before she had to dispose of our creation. “A cruise ship!” we answered back. “No. It’s trash is what it is.” she said, shaking her head. We once hooked two boxes together to make a train. We cut away the front of one box so the engineer could wave to cars and we cut away the back of the second box so that passengers could wave from the caboose. We crawled inside and waited to arrive at the station. “What’s this one?” Mama asked as she swept the sidewalk. “A train!” we answered back. “No. It’s trash is what it is.” she said. One particularly grand box which had held a console television made the perfect army tank. We cut a lookout hole in the top, made several holes in the walls from which to shoot pretend guns, and we crawled inside and waited for the enemy. “What’s this one?” Mama asked as she carried in groceries. “A tank!” we answered back. “No. It’s trash is what it is.” she said. There was a period when we’d gone quite a while without cardboard adventures. It was during this bleak time that a delivery truck backed into my neighbor’s driveway. As we watched the truck maneuver closer to the back door, one of my cousins was the first to realize the magnitude of the event. “Mrs. Brenneman’s getting a new refrigerator.” he said under his breath. We fidgeted with anticipation. After what seemed an eternity, one of the delivery men appeared with the empty cardboard box which had held the new refrigerator. With some effort, he dragged it into Mrs. Brenneman’s yard and went back inside. Four of us kids, working feverishly like ants carrying bread crust, managed to slide, drag, and inch the massive cardboard box over to our backyard. We climbed in to savor the new cardboard smell and to experience the muffled silence. The silence was momentarily broken as our collie pushed her way in, licked each of us in the face and left. Even she seemed amazed by our good fortune. We sat inside the cavernous box trying to decide what to turn this gift into. Before we reached a consensus it got dark outside. Cousins had to go home and my sisters and I had to go inside. Morning came and horror of all horrors, it had rained in the night.  We ran outside to check on our massive cardboard box. The rain hadn’t ruined it completely, but the once stately walls now sagged, corners were rounded over by the rainwater, and the smooth outside surface was wrinkled and peeling. Three cousins approached. We stood staring at our sagging mound of a box not wanting to believe that our prize was ruined, but it appeared to be so. “What’s this one?” Mama asked on her way to get the mail. “It’s trash is what it is.” we answered back, resigned to the soggy truth. “No. It’s an igloo.” Mama said. We looked at each other and grinned. We ran to the rounded shell of a box, molded the wet cardboard so as to give us one long tunnel as an entrance, and we crawled inside to wait for polar bears. That young teenager just back from the dentist most likely went inside to play alone with his Xbox. I never had an Xbox, but unless it came in packaging large enough for cousins and me to fashion a cruise ship, train, tank, or igloo, I don’t know that I would have wanted one.

Lessons I Have Learned from My Single Mom

I was raised mostly by a single mom. My parents separated when I was in 8th grade, but before that my dad had been a long haul truck driver who was on the road more often than he was home. Most of my childhood it was my mom, my sister and I. Having this background of being raised by a single mom, I had a reference point for my own single parent journey. I knew specifically what methods I was going to take from my own mother, and the ones I would not be repeating. My mom had made mistakes that I was determined to avoid. I Will Not Be My Son’s Friend My mom fell into a trap that is so easy to fall into. After the separation, she became my sister and my friend. She thought (from my view) that she could protect us better from the world if we trusted her like we trusted our friends. She wanted to be our confidant. Being her friend also gave my sister and I the freedom to do what we wanted. We had few rules, the world was our playground. On one hand it was spectacular. On the other, it was a travesty. My sister and I had lost one parent, we needed the other. We had plenty of friends, we needed a mom. I Will Not Share My Relationship Problems With My Son My sister and I always knew the status of my parents on again/off again relationship. My mother’s emotions were raw and exposed. I knew what mistakes my dad had made, and I knew what all of their troubles were. It is hard to love your parents equally when all you heard about one of them was all of the bad things they had done. I never wanted my child to have to hear about my problems. It is my job to protect my son from my problems. I Will Not Let My Son Worry About Finances We didn’t have a lot of money. My mom had a decent job, but it wasn’t a full time gig. With child support, we made ends meet, but certainly didn’t live in the lap of luxury. While my sister and I didn’t get shiny new cars when we turned 16, we did always have nice, stylish clothes and were able to participate in most activities our peers did. But it didn’t come without guilt. Not guilt imposed by mom, but guilt that was self-imposed. I knew how much money mom made, I knew the status of her bank account. I always knew how much, or how little, money that we had. The thrill of getting the latest designer jeans isn’t that enjoyable when you know that the money should have gone to pay the gas bill. Being a Single Parent Isn't Easy For a long time I held onto a lot of resentment towards my mom for the mistakes that she made. Once I became a single mom, I was adamat that I would not make the mistakes that she made. And I have worked my tail off to not make those same mistakes. But in the process, I have made others. Lots of other mistakes. And I have forgiven my mom. Being a single parent is not easy, no matter how adamantly you think you know what you are doing and what you don’t want to do. Everyone has their own path to follow, their own mistakes to make. Lessons by Example I have found that the only thing that will really make a difference in my single parent journey is one of the lessons my mom taught me by example. The lesson she didn’t have to teach, because it just came naturally – unconditional love and support. My mom gave my sister and I the most boundless amounts of love and support. Sure she made mistakes, but they didn’t kill us and they didn’t damage us beyond repair. The feeling of knowing that whatever happens, your mom will be there with open arms and undying love is something I will always feel lucky to have. If my son grows up with the same comforting feeling, I will know I have done my job right, despite the mistakes I have made.

Fall Makeup Forecast

As we move into fall, make an effort to bring the beauty of the season into your lives. Take some nice brisk walks (good for the body, mind and spirit.) Cook some fall foods and enjoy the delicious smells and fruits of autumn with your family and friends.  As the leaves start to change color, your makeup shades should change as well. Here are some tips to help you create an updated look that will flatter your fall wardrobe, new hairdo or that comfy go-to-outfit.  But just because you try a new look doesn't mean you need all new cosmetics! Before you run out to the store, take a look in your makeup stash. I bet you have many of these must-have items right there in front of you. EYES Think smoky metallic shades in bronze or gold. Jewel-toned shadows look smashing, especially emerald green, blues, purples and sapphire. Try colored eyeliners in gold, green, blue and amethyst. Or make a statement with heavy black liner or use a black or dark brown shadow as liner for a smudgier look (apply with an angled liner brush). For a clean updated classic look: Choose a sand-colored eye shadow. Sweep color all over the eyelid and line the top lid with eyeliner pencil of your choice. You can create a more dramatic brow by filling in the sparse parts of your browline with a brow pencil or brow shadow one shade darker than your natural brow. Blend in color by brushing lightly with a brow brush. Tip - The eyes have it! Add some false lashes, but just on the ends of the lashes. They are easier to apply than a full lash. And of course, mascara always goes a long way. Go a little heavier than usual and apply a light coat on the bottom lashes as well as the top. Tip - Tinted brow gels work great to create a fuller brow look! LIPS Classic red lipstick is the must-have color of the season, in either a matte finish or gloss. Try magenta or bordeaux hues for some dramatic flair. If you prefer to use lighter shades, opt for peach colors or pale hues like nude or tan. Finish the look off with a hint of blush and a sleek ponytail or not-so-tailored bun. Pulling back your hair will highlight a pretty face. Remember there are no rules. Try something new and different. And as always, have fun creating your look. Wishing you all a beautiful season!

Challenge Your Body With This Gym-Free Workout!

When my clients complain about performing a new exercise that I introduce, or hate the feeling of struggling through a challenging move, I know that is exactly what they need. Feeling uncomfortable, challenged or surprised by physical work will absolutely ignite a body-morphing spark to break monotony, boredom and plateaus that can jeopardize the positive physical rewards of a good, solid fitness program. Get excited because the great thing about exercise is that is it not exclusive to the gym and by training your body in a new, unexpected way, environment or even with a new person; you are actually accelerating your fitness evolution. In this completely mobile workout, you can get great results without having to go to the gym as you break away from your familiar fitness routine, location and faces. I challenge you to get your bored-body off the playground bench, grab the kids off the slide, ramp-up some great energy, and get moving. You are not a spectator anymore. Fitness Tools: Resistance Bands Jump Rope Skateboard Warm-up: Jog around the park 5-7 minutes Rear Deltoid Row: 3 sets of 30 repetitions Set up: Hook band on high bar and stand with your heels under your hips, abdominals tight, knees soft. Execution: With your palms facing down, exhale and pull the band, elbows up and out and squeeze. Inhale, return to starting position and repeat. Chest Press: 3 sets of 30 repetitions Set up: Hook band on bar that is about chest level and stand with your heels under your hips, abdominals tight, knees soft, facing outward. Execution: With your palms facing down, exhale and push the band forward, elbows up and out and squeeze your chest. Inhale, return to starting position and repeat. Lunge and Lift: 3 sets of 15-20 per leg Set up: Stand tall, heels under hips abs tight, with the right leg on a step, left leg on the ground. Execution: Drop your left knee down to the ground into a deep lunge, exhale and drive your left knee up to your abdominals as you stand and press your right heel into the step. Repeat. Fitness Tip: Make sure your legs are long, so when you lunge downward, your knee doesn’t flex beyond your ankle. Skateboard Glute Press: 2 sets of 30 repetitions per leg Set up: Stand with your legs hip-distance width apart, and place your right foot on the skateboard, left foot on the floor. Execution: With your left foot balanced on the ground, push the skate board backward with your right leg and squeeze your glute as you lower your left knee to the ground. Return the skateboard to the starting position and repeat. Skateboard Lateral Press: 2 sets of 30 repetitions per leg Set up: Stand with your legs wide and place your right foot on the skateboard, left on the ground. Execution: Exhale, press and push the skateboard outward and you lower your left knee to the ground. Elongate your inner thighs and hips and return the skateboard to the starting position. Want more moves? Pull ups on the monkey bars Hanging Leg Raises off a high bar Decline Push Ups off the bottom of the slide Tricep dips off the top of a swing Cardio with the Kids: Heart pumping exercises are not only great for adults, but very important for children. Grab a long rope, face each other and count how many jumps you and you little partner can do before getting stumped! For an extra cardio burst, add these jump rope intervals between the above exercises to maximize your calorie burn!  

Our Sports Heroes Are Criminals

For years crimes against children have been perpetrated. For years domestic violence has existed, but not until our sports heroes were revealed as perpetrators has it caused a national media storm like it has right now. Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson are just some of the athletes who have been revered and looked up to by millions of fans and we now know are the same men who have allegedly committed horrendous crimes against women and children. And because of their celebrity, they have been allowed to get away with it for far too long. It makes you wonder, how many others we don’t know about. Say what you want about the dangers and damage of social media, but in these cases it has helped the country to “see” the abuse in real time. It would be another whole blog to discuss why people have to actually “see” abuse to believe it is happening and do something about it, so we will save our comments about that.....the fact is that the world has now seen through video and pictures, horrific abuse of women and children and we can no longer turn away and say it does not exist. Domestic violence and child abuse exist, are happening right now and we must work now to end the epidemic. Let’s discuss the reason for this blog: the real heroes....the doctors who reported child abuse in the Adrian Peterson case. As we have seen through decades of abuse, many mandated reporters have looked the other way and remained silent when it came to celebrities. Money, fame, status, and celebrity have come before the protection of our children. We see it every day and until the media takes hold of the story the world forgets. It was not that long ago that Penn State and the Sandusky child abuse scandal made the front page and was the lead story on every news program but it slipped out of the forefront. No one wants to think about it, no one wants to talk about it and the inaction is what causes child abuse to continue. So again, back to the real heroes in this case – the doctors who put the protection of children over the celebrity of an NFL player. They saw abuse before they saw “celebrity”, they reported the abuse. If they didn’t report we would never know about this one case of alleged child abuse by NFL celebrity, famed “man of the year” Adrian Peterson. What will happen now? Will these celebrities lose their jobs and go to jail? Will the heads of the NFL and the owners and staff of the sports teams be held culpable for the part they played in hiding criminal activity? Will the world make a statement by not supporting these teams, athletes and institutions that look the other way when it comes to their players’ criminal behavior? Up to now, money, fame and winning have come before the protection of our children and the safety of women. We have the chance now to change how we react to child abuse and domestic violence. We need to be proactive not reactive. We the fans need to show the world that we will not support, attend or pay to watch celebrities who are criminals play their sport. Until the NFL and other major league organizations feel it in their pocket, the silence of child abuse and protection of their players will continue.

Is Your Baby on a Breastfeeding Strike?

Sometimes, seemingly randomly, babies decide to go on a nursing strike.  It usually happens so quickly, and out of the blue, that moms are a bit shocked.  “Everything was going so well, then little Jenny just rejected me,” is what a woman will proclaim.  Nursing strikes are usually temporary but the mom needs to do some investigation work because there usually is a reason to for the baby’s refusal of the breast.   Here are the steps to take if the baby is on a nursing strike: 1. Visit your pediatrician to rule out the possibility of your baby having an ear infection or fluid in her ear.  An ear infection can cause pressure in the baby’s ear, making it too painful to breastfeed. 2. Check to see if your baby has a stuffy nose.  Since a baby’s mouth is entirely closed during breastfeeding, a stuffy nose can cause trouble breathing and create the uncomfortable sensation of suffocating while attempting to nurse. 3.      Look inside your child’s mouth for cold sores - which can make breastfeeding very painful. 4. If your child recently bit you and you gave a startled, painful or angry reaction, as normal and reflexive as it might be, may have frightened your baby from repeating that experience. 5. If a baby had trouble breastfeeding, and rather than address any nursing issues directly, the baby was supplemented with more bottles, then this baby may want to choose the bottle over the breast. Solutions: If the child has an ear infection or fluid in the ear, simply treating the ear problem should resolve the breastfeeding issue.   If your child has a stuffy nose, try clearing the nose with saline solution, an antihistamine or an herbal antihistamine before you breastfeed.   If your child has cold sores, they are the result of a virus that your doctor or natural practitioner can help you to address. While the sores are healing, you can maintain nutrition and hydration by giving your child breastmilk that you have frozen into the form of soothing popsicles.   If your child bites you and you scream, you should look your baby in the eyes, being firm and direct, and gently say that you hurt mommy when you bite, so let’s try it again without biting.   If your baby stopped nursing due to an inability to breastfeed properly, then working with a breastfeeding expert is a good choice.  Using an SNS (supplemental nursing system) first on your finger to hydrate your baby, then putting the SNS on your breast may be the answer.     One very successful approach to getting the baby back on the breast after a nursing strike is taking a bath with your baby.  Taking a bath with your baby to get your baby to re-latch onto the breast is also called a re-birthing. There is something about you and the baby being in the water together that creates the environment that encourages the baby to breastfeed again.  So fill up the bath tub and get in, and then have someone hand you the baby.  Hold the baby so the baby’s head and face are always above the level of the water.  Gently splash the baby with water.  Offer the breast to the baby.  Do not push the baby to breastfeed, just offer the breast. Most babies will breastfeed after engaging in a re-birthing.  Some babies breastfeed after one bath and some need to take three or four baths over a period of a few days, before they start nursing again.

Holy Hormones - Handling My Tween's Pre-Puberty Crying Jags

Somewhere during the first week of school, I noticed that my daughter was not acting like herself.  “Herself” is usually (not always, but usually) a bubbly, happy, confident, energetic kid who generally tends to let things roll off her back.  But during that first week of school, she seemed more sensitive than normal; she was getting upset at little things and she was crying a lot.  I mentioned it to a few of my friends, but nearly everyone had the same response: it’s the first week of school, it’s a lot of change, they’re all tired, she probably misses camp, it’s an adjustment period.  Okay, I thought.  I can live with that.  Even though she’s never tired.  Even though it’s never taken her more than five minutes to adjust to anything.  Even though camp ended nearly three weeks ago.  I tried not to over-analyze, though.  My plan was to just see what happens. What happened was not much.  The second and third weeks of school were more or less the same as the first.  It wasn’t anything alarming, mind you - I wasn’t worried that she was on drugs or anything like that - it was just subtle changes in her behavior.  Where last year, a joke about her hair being messy in the morning would have gotten a laugh, now it got watery eyes and a shuffle off to her room to fix it.  Where last year an accusation of meanness by her brother would have solicited an eye-roll, now it caused tears and a slammed door.  I tried talking to her.  Is anything going on at school?  Are you having problems with your friends?  Do you feel like you’ve got too much on your plate?  Is fourth grade homework too overwhelming?  Through tears, she insisted that everything was fine.  Then what’s wrong?  I finally asked her.  How come you’ve been crying so much lately?  Her answer: I don’t know why I’m crying. Well.  If there were ever six words in the English language that resonated more with me, I don’t know what they could possibly be.  Okay, maybe "I need a drink right now."  Or, "I must buy some new shoes."  Then again, "I’m not answering to ‘mommy’ anymore" could be another.  But anyway, the point is, with "I don’t know why I’m crying," the kid was definitely speaking my language.  I mean, I don’t know about you, but I utter those very words at least once a month, and usually around the same time each month, if you catch my drift.  It was one of those classic, smack-yourself-on-the-side-of-the-head, I Should Have Had a V-8 Commercial moments.  She wasn’t tired, or adjusting, or missing camp.  She was hormonal.  Oy. Now, the kid is only nine.  I know some girls do start that early, but given that she has no other signs of puberty, I don’t believe we’re in menstruation territory quite yet.  What I was thinking is that there had to be some kind of early, pre-period hormone phase, and sure enough, when I sat down to Google “hormones in nine year old girls,” I found an article about pre-puberty, which “typically begins in girls between 8 and 9 years old, or three to four years prior to their first period.”  Well, hello.  And guess what?  Under the section titled “hyper hormones,” it explained that, in pre-puberty, the hormones “are active, but not yet in synch.  The discombobulated hormones are like ping-pong balls firing away…sensitive feelings, crying, attitude problems and moodiness can all come into play.”  Uh, bingo. Around like, fifteen minutes later, my daughter had another one of her inexplicable crying jags, this time with my husband.  I heard them yelling at each other in her room.  "What’s the matter with you?" he asked her, dumbfounded.  "I don’t know!" she shouted. "I don’t know why I’m acting like this!  I can’t help it, and I don’t like it!" I thought of the many, many times I’d said virtually the same thing to my husband, and I knew he wasn’t going to understand it with her any better than he understood it with me.  I went into her bedroom and found her standing there, sobbing, while my husband looked on, completely freaked out.  I got down on my knees so we could be face to face, and I took her hands in mine.  I explained the situation.  I told her about the ping pong balls.  I let her know that it’s normal, and that if she thinks this is bad, she should just wait until she gets pregnant for the first time.  I was worried that the information might scare her, but if anything, she seemed relieved to know that there was a reason for the way she felt. She hugged me, and I hugged her back, hard.  "I get it," I whispered into her ear.  I totally get it.  And, I thought, God help us all in a few years, when she gets it, too.

19 Fantastic Fall DIY Decor and Recipes to Delight You

Bring the beauty of fall into your home and cooking with delightful fall inspiration. The shorter days and crisp nights make fall the perfect time to warm your home with delicious scents and a cozy atmosphere. It’s time to celebrate. The season of pumpkin EVERYTHING is here!!             Fall DIY Decor How to Make a Nature-Inspired Fall Wreath     DIY Farmhouse Wine Glasses     Pumpkin Bowl Tutorial     Fall Breakfast Recipes Pumpkin Spiced Donut Holes Recipe [vegan, gluten-free]     Pumpkin Pancakes     Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls Recipe [Lower Calorie & Vegan]     Apple-Banana Breakfast Tortillas     Fall Beverages Apple Cider Cocktail     Fall Appetizers Healthy Halloween Chips     Fall Soups Creamy Pumpkin Spinach Soup     Apple Butternut Squash Soup     Fall Main Dishes Spicy Corn Cakes     Fall Breads Gluten-Free Cornbread     Pumpkin Bread     Fall Side Dishes Pumpkin-Shaped Roasted Sweet Potatoes     Fall Desserts Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Pumpkin Coconut Frosting     Apple Pastries     Vegan Apple Pie     Homemade Caramel Apples     I hope you enjoy! With love & heaps of fall fun, Wendy Irene  

Fifty Shades of Grey and Our Daughters

Like most women in around the world who can read, I devoured Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James’ “romance” exploring the dominant/submissive sexual relationship between a naïve young writer and a handsome, aloof, troubled older business man.  I loved the book, despite literary critics’ howlings.  Clearly many other book buyers did too, since the Fifty Shades trilogy sold more than 100 million copies. I found the novels intensely sexy, and surprisingly thought-provoking. The narrative raised intriguing, complicated questions about the nature of romantic relationships and sexual attraction, dilemmas that most women should, at some point in their lives, ponder.  But would I want my two teenaged daughters to read Fifty Shades of Grey, or see the much-hyped movie that comes to big screens next Valentine’s Day?  For the record, I immediately say yes to their reading the books - as a writer and avid reader myself, I’d rather lie down under a garbage truck than stop anyone, of any age, from reading any book ever written.  But the movie, with all the power of scorching hot sex in Technicolor on the big screen.  Good thing I have nearly six months to answer that question. Over the summer, the 2-minute trailer premiered on the Today Show and the trailer itself had its own 25-second teaser the week before. The trailer now has 30 million views.  There is an official Fifty Shades of Grey Facebook page, Its own Instagram account.  Its own Twitter feed.  With all this hype and hysteria, it’s pretty clear I won’t have much choice whether my daughters, who will be 16 and almost 13 when the movie premieres, will be exposed to Fifty Shades of Grey or not.  But I can tell you – I have added a few views myself to that 30 million trailer count, and I can’t wait to see the movie. Whether or not my daughters see Fifty Shades of Grey next Valentine’s Day is not the question that troubles me here.  What disturbs me is bigger: how, as a mom, do I teach my daughters, and indeed my son, the importance of enjoying sex? Because whether you liked or lampooned Fifty Shades of Grey, and regardless of your views on “alternative” sexual pleasures, one thing is clear:  both characters, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, really, really, really enjoy sex together.   Perhaps this is what most troubles parents about Fifty Shades of Grey from a parenting viewpoint: Christian and Anna take intense pleasure in their sexuality.  Why do we so often talk to our kids about sex, without addressing the most important point about sex:  how important it is to LIKE sex and feel good about the pleasures your own body can bring? For many parents, the nuts and bolts of sex ed – whether or not to have sex before marriage, the importance of birth control, the need for sex to be truly consensual, the perils of teen pregnancy and STIs -- seem hard enough to discuss with kids. The tricky question of how to encourage kids to love their bodies and the way sex can make them feel may be beyond most of us as parents.  The joy of sex is certainly not something I learned from my mother. Herein lies yet another example of how dramatically parenting has changed in the course of one generation.  In my mother’s kitchen, she almost decapitated me when I asked each of the following questions: what was a prostitute, what did “blow job” mean, and even what a tampon was.  (Which I, memorably, pronounced “tampoon” as if the word rhymed with “harpoon.”) My mother simply could not talk about sex.  Not true of most women today.  But what seems to trip up many mothers here is the focus our society places on pleasing men.  I know some mothers who host mother-daughter pole dancing lessons and spend inordinate amounts of time and money on their daughters’ beauty and fitness regimes. I know many others who vehemently condemn the emphasis our culture places on women pleasing men at all costs and forbid makeup, magazines, and watching Pretty Little Liars on Netflix. I know almost zero moms who are well versed in encouraging their daughters to seek pleasure themselves; and even fewer moms or dads who teach their sons the importance of pleasing a woman physically. So here is the opportunity, for parents, offered up by the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, trailer, movie and sizzle: the chance to have yet another sex ed talk with our kids.  This one purely about sexual pleasure, our kids’ right to choose it and pursue it, and its rightful time and role in their lives. Ugh!  When I first held each of my three babies, messy and slimy after birth, covered in mucus and my own happy tears, I never thought motherhood, nearly two decades later, would still be quite so messy. 

How to handle inappropriate toddler behavior? Like this.

A version of the following post was originally published on Jill Simonian's TheFabMom.com. Jill Simonian is a TV & Digital personality seen frequenlty on HLN, Hallmark Channel and parenting blogs across the web. People used to warn me: "Wait until your baby starts talking and saying totally inappropriate things to strangers in public." My cousin would share stories of her son calling people out about farting or picking their nose. My little girls won't do stuff like that I used to tell myself. We've all told ourselves lies like that, right? Right. One my latest hide-me-now moments: "That silly guy has earrings!" Observed, shouted and pointed at with zero inhibition by my almost-4 year old, right in the middle of my most favorite shoe departments... just as the 'guy with earrings' (those big circle-things things that are implanted within the ear lobe) was taking my hot new peep-toe booties up to the register. If we were somehow charged double for my new kicks, I'd know why. (I've questioned being opinionated and raising strong young women... there's both comedy and peril involved in the process, I guess.) Like a reflex, I looked down at my girl and whisper-yelled SHHHHHHH! YES SOME GUYS HAVE EARRINGS DON'T TALK ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW OK! and then looked right back up to another guy with two humongous diamond studs in each ear (which were to-die-for, by the way) standing about 3 feet in front of me laughing at us. This guy worked there too. Fabulous. Now I'm gonna have two men in the shoe department who have it out for me and my outspoken children. Out of pure customer courtesy and human decency to make light of my embarrassment I laughed and said to him (in front of my girls): "We notice everything now and we love to talk about it!" Hahaha! I'm so clever. Then, I leaned down to LadyP, grabbed her tiny face with affection, smiled big and said "Some guys like to wear earrings!" Another sales woman pointed to the guy (her friend) and teased "She called you out!" Everybody laughed. All was fine. Nobody charged me double. I left with what would yield some fabulous fall fashion statements. I also briefly wondered if that was the first time this guy and his buddy had been called out by some random toddler. Because, even though this particular incident ended funnily, this wasn't the first time this happened to me... A while ago, my girls and I were taking a lunch break at a local restaurant. Everyone was happy and well-behaved. We were coloring in our books and sipping from our sippy-cups. I remember, I was extra-happy that day for no good reason (although, dressing up my girls like dolls and taking them to lunch like little ladies always makes me feel content). We were in one of those tables against the wall, with a bench across the back and chairs on the other side. A nice woman and her adult daughter were soon seated right next to us (like, 1 foot away). We had a nice hello (on account of being seated so closely together), they sweetly complimented my girls, asked me about the salad I ordered, and that was that. Until... "Mommy... that girl is BIG!" The observation came complete with a tiny pointed finger and outstretched arm and was directed at the pair seated just next to us - that nice woman and her daughter who commented how sweet my girls were merely seconds before this. (Did I mention that that nice woman's daughter happened to be significantly - severely - overweight? Obese.) My toddler daughter sitting across from me was pointing to that nice woman's daughter sitting next to her. Something inside me died inside. I wanted to cry. And disappear. And then die again. Here I was, trying to raise kind, compassionate, helpful, gentle, responsible, generous, happy, loving little people and this happens. In public. Unfabulous. Looking back, it's not like my little girl said anything bad, per se... she simply noticed that the girl was big. I mean, lots of things are "big": The world is "big." My daughter is a "big" sister. Papa is "big" and tall. But, I think we both know that this particular identification of "big" had a sensitized meaning attached to it... even it was an innocent toddler observation and she didn't mean anything negative by it. (I know what you're thinking: No, we are not constantly surrounded by strange, skinny Hollywood people who eat nothing else but kale morning, noon and night. In fact, we are part of several very diverse social circles that includes people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. I don't go around pointing or talking about "big" people. We know and love our share who have dealt with the issue of obesity and have the utmost sensitivity about it. It's never been a question, issue or observation... until THIS VERY MOMENT.) To pick up where I left off: I WANTED TO DIE. My heart sunk on account of possibly making anyone uncomfortable in any way. I noticed the pair in my peripheral vision: They didn't even hear my daughter. I could stop this now. I was in control. I immediately gave my girl that intense, silent shutup-now-or-else expression with my eyes and mouthed BE QUI-ET across our table. (My younger daughter was in her own world by now, coloring the actual table I think.) "Mommy, that girl is BIG!" Again. Louder now. Apparently I missed the note that 3-and-a-half year olds don't always understand that shutup-or-else expression unless you actually tell them out loud in words. "I know I'm big, I'm sorry..." the adult daughter that my toddler daughter was pointing to turned to her and responded. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. No time to think this out. I pulled the rip cord and shot with my gut. "Stop. There is no need to apologize!" I looked the woman in the eyes. I could tell she was either hurt or really annoyed... maybe both. Handle this. I don't want to yell at a 3 year old in public over something she doesn't quite understand, but I want to make sure she learns that, in the name of having respect for your fellow human being and the social structure of our world, this was not ok. "Sweetheart," (I turned to my daughter, in the most matter-of-fact-but-tender way), "Everybody comes in a different size. Everybody's different. Some people are small, some people are big, some people have dark skin, some people have light skin. We're all here together and that's what makes this world nice and interesting." I then turned to the women beside us. "We're 3-and-a-half now. The more we go out, the more differences we notice and the more we say them out loud. I am so sorry if that made you uncomfortable." I didn't quite know what to say, but that's what I said. My heart hurt. I still don't know how I didn't break down and weep right then and there. Like any mom, I love my girls and don't want berate them... but I also really care about strangers' children's feelings too. The mother and the girl shrugged it off, said something casual about toddlers speaking their minds and how (as teachers) they've heard it all... I responded with something like 'they don't warn you about this kind of stuff when you become a mom' and we all had a giggle. It was smoothed over (on the surface) but I still wanted to crawl under the table, die... and then cry again. (At this point my younger daughter was coloring her own face.) The sinking of my heart and pit in my stomach was beyond palpable. We finished our lunch in silence and left. I did survive, but hurt. I gently explained (in the car) how everyone is different, that we don't always have to point everything out, and if she ever has a question about anyone being different she can ask me privately. Too much to expect? Apparently it was (considering our previously-mentioned incident while buying shoes a few weeks later). I was warned that this type of thing happens to the most fabulous of us... no one is exempt from the honesty of toddlers... no one, no one, no one. But, in the name of trying to raise helpful, gentle, responsible, generous, happy, kind, loving little people: I will keep on keeping on... explaining what's right, what's wrong and what should be kept to ourselves out of human compassion and decency. It's up to us to make this world KIND. HOW DO YOU HANDLE INAPPROPRIATE TODDLER OBSERVATIONS IN PUBLIC?  

PB Banana Dog and Mommy Always Comes Back Book Make Back to School A Cinch!

If you’re like us, back to school always is a bit of a hectic time, filled with lots of mixed emotions—excitement as well as nervousness! As a registered dietitian and anxious mom, Tammy did two things to ease her daughters’ nerves. First, she packed them a healthy, fun-to-eat and comforting lunch, “The PB Banana Dog.” And second, she read them an awesome book written by our friend Penny Schnee-Bosch called Mommy Always Comes Back —it reminds kids that mommy doesn’t leave them at school forever and will be back—so there’s no more separation anxiety! (click the book or read more about it below!)) The secret trick for Tammy was packing the book in their school bags with the tasty lunch so they could take out delicious and comforting items at lunch time! The PB Banana Dog is one of our all time favorites and it’s simple to make—basically, start with a whole wheat hot dog bun, line it with peanut butter, stuff it with a banana (dog) and “relish”it with a honey drizzle or a strawberry smile. Heaven!  The truth is—this recipe isn’t only amazing in the taste department, but it’s fun to eat, great for energy, satiety and concentration too!The key to a good lunch (whether for you or for kids!) is to make sure it provides quality carbohydrates (whole wheat hot dog bun) and some protein (peanut butter with some good-for you fat) for long lasting energy to optimize focus and concentration, to provide adequate fuel to run and be active after school without puttering out, and to fend off mood swings. Plus, the dog’s low in sugar. This Dog gets its’ sweetness from fruit, which packs in health-promoting nutrients, disease fighting components, and fiber, all while providing few calories-- and if want to add a little extra sweetness, a simple drizzle of honey is plenty! The dog is rounded out with a fruit and Tammy packs baby carrots to round out the meal with some veggies. PB Banana Dog Serves 1 hungry eater :) Ingredients1 whole wheat hot dog bun1 -1/2 tablespoon peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)1/2 large banana1 slice strawberry (or several raisins, for garnish/smiley face)1 chopped nut (for garnish/ nose) DirectionsSimply open up the bun and line it with peanut butter. Stuff the banana in it and decorate face and body with a strawberry, nuts, raisins or chocolate chips and garnish however you choose. Eat and have fun! :) Nutrition Facts Per Peanut Butter Banana Dog: 319 calories, 40 g carbohydrate, 14 g fat, 11 g protein, 7 g fiber, 239 mg sodium And pack Mommy Always Comes Back book in their school bags with the tasty lunch so they could take out delicious and comforting items at lunch time!  A charming picture book, Mommy Always Comes back was written by Penny Schnee-Bosch who is a veteran preschool teacher. School separation can be a breeze for you and your child. The book helps bridge the gap between home and school. Children relate directly to Sarah’s school experience in Mommy Always Comes Back by Penny Schnee-Bosch. They will find comfort in knowing that they too can go to school, have fun and see mommy after dismissal. After hearing the story the children will repeat the words mommy always comes back. They may even begin to say those words to their classmates who may be missing mommy  

What is Hot Yoga?

Have you ever wanted to try hot Yoga? Hot Yoga has become more popular recently.  It is referring to the temperature of the room, not to the sexy clothes one might choose to wear. Hot yoga is done at room temperatures between 90 degrees and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The room humidity is between 40 and 60 percent. Needless to say during the 90 minutes or so of the class, bodies perspire tremendously. Practitioners claim that hot yoga will improve both mental and physical health, but very few studies have been done to prove or disprove this claim. Actually, the studies that have been published disagree on their results. Hot yoga will probably be fine for young people in good health who have a doctor's ok. However, not everyone is in health good enough to try this form of yoga. People with heart conditions and/or high blood pressure or are pregnant should not participate in hot yoga. Exercising in extreme heat can lead to dehydration and hyperthermia (dangerously elevated body temperature). Drinking too much fluid after the session can lead to nausea and muscle cramping and occasionally seizures.  And, it is imperative that the class is taught by a qualified instructor.

Style on a Budget: Re-Fashion Tips for Moms

Hi, I'm Merrick from Merrick's Art, where I blog about style, sewing, and family life. I'm a mom of a spunky and smart little two year old boy, and seven months pregnant with baby boy #2, and I'm thrilled to be here on ModernMom today! One of my favorite things to feature on my blog is re-fashions. Since it's hard to find good quality fabrics for a good price and in good patterns, I've learned that I prefer to start with something from a store and then make it my own. Today I want to share with you five tips and ideas for refashioning, so you too can make your wardrobe fit your personality, your body type, and your wallet, even if many items from the stores do not. 1. Look for good quality fabric. Shopping at thrift stores can be a gold mine of good fabric, but there will also be a lot of bad among the good. I always do the Look and Feel test. First, I scan the racks and boxes for good patterns or colors. Then, once I spot something with potential, I'll pull it off the rack and feel the fabric. It depends on the item of clothing, and what I plan to do with it, of course, but I try to stay away from super thin or crepe-y material, or anything too synthetic. Then, when you hold up the fabric, see how the it hangs, and if it has a good drape to it, it's probably a winner. One of my favorite thrift store refashions is this oversized button up that I turned into a beautiful blouse (tutorial): 2. Open up your shopping possibilities!   Now that I know I can refashion almost anything, I have the liberty of shopping at almost any store, and in almost every section. Don't let yourself be limited to the women's section only, because size, shape, or label makes almost no difference when you can refashion it to fit you like a glove.  My husband was throwing out one of his old polo shirts last year, so I made it into a slouchy tee for me (tutorial). And then a few months later I found a blue button up that I liked in the boys section, and tailored it to be a fitted chambray-type shirt. 3. Recycle and give old pieces new life.  About twice a year, I go through my closet and weed out anything that doesn't fit, has a stain that I can't get out, or is something that I never wear. Most of these items then go into my repair box, where they eventually get refashioned. Just because you've gained or lost a few pounds, or can't get a stain out, doesn't mean you have to throw away a perfectly good piece of clothing! When I got a stain right on the front of one of my favorite striped t-shirts, I turned it backward, altered the neckline, and made it into a boatneck t-shirt that I've continued to get tons of use out of (seen here). A few months ago, I was on the verge of tossing an old dingy white t-shirt, but instead I used a little fabric paint and covered up all the dinginess to make it a fun neon color-blocked tee (tutorial). 4. Easy fixes go a long way. Tailoring clothes may seem like a scary thing, but often most fixes are really, really simple, and can be done by even the most beginner seamstresses. I recently bought a pair of white skinny jeans at Ross for $14, and although I loved them, the legs were slightly roomier than I would have liked. A simple straight seam on each leg and they were fitted exactly to my liking (tutorial). And one of my all time favorite fixes that I've done to dozens of my tops, is to take in the sleeves. With thin arms, many shirts are just a little baggier that I want, and again with a simple seam on each arm (or even sometimes all the way down the sides) they are perfectly fitted (tutorial). 5. Play with paint! I'm often online window shopping and run across a clothing item that I absolutely love. Although a high price tag usually deters me from buying it, it often gets the creative juices flowing and I find myself figuring out a way to duplicate the top at home. With all the fun polka dot tops that were popping up everywhere, I started to get the itch to buy one. But with a cheap white t-shirt and some black fabric paint, I made my own (tutorial)! Also, around valentines day this past year, the graphic heart sweaters from j.crew were everywhere. Again, with a little bit of freezer paper and black fabric paint, I made my own for only a couple of bucks (seen here). I have tons of other refashions and tutorials on my blog, all of which are super simple but make a big difference. Stop on by, check them out, and say hi!  

To Clear Up The Confusion - I Am NOT An Octopus!

After all of these years of being a mother, I still forget how literally my children can take the things I say. Last night, the plan was that I would come home from work, throw together a quick dinner and then we would all head to the pool for an evening swim. What that meant for me was that in the span of an hour, between getting home from work and leaving for the pool, I needed to make dinner, do a few loads of laundry, clean up from dinner and do a quick run-through with the children to make sure that we have everything else picked up from the day so we would come home to a house that looks more like a F1 tornado has torn through it rather than an F5. My organized plan was coming together nicely, I had the chicken in the oven, rice on the stove, the vegetables were sautéing up in a pan and I had the first load of laundry in the dryer and the second one in the washing machine.  Yet, as I was busy accomplishing these tasks, one by one the kids came into the kitchen and each one seemed to have something that they “urgently” needed me to do. “Mom - can you email the assistant principal at my school about my class schedule in the fall right now? Today is the deadline.” “Mom, the dog ate a hole in my stuffed animal and I need you to sew it.  Please do it now because the stuffing is falling out.” “Mom, I can’t find my khakis that I have to wear to work tomorrow and if I can’t find them then we have to go buy a new pair.” “Mom, can I please get a drink? I think I’m dying of thirst.” You get the idea, everyone needed something and they needed it done right away.  Finally I loudly said, “Listen, I am not an octopus.  I cannot do eight things at once. So please everyone, just give me a second and I will do each of these things before we go to bed tonight, I promise.  But let’s just focus on having dinner and getting to the pool first!” Things calmed down, everyone pitched in and we had a great dinner and a fun time at the pool.  Two hours later, I returned home with six happy children and we accomplished the sewing back together of stuffed animals, the discovery of the missing khakis, the emailing of the assistant principal and all of the other requests that had been placed earlier in the evening. Once everyone was tucked into their beds, I happily got into mine to do a little reading before I fell asleep.  I heard a little knock on the door and looked up to see my son Finn.  He is my little snuggler, so I figured he was coming to climb in bed with me.  But on this particular night he looked he had something serious on his mind. He climbed into my bed and sat straight up and started his serious discussion with me. “Mommy, do you know that we don’t really think you are an octopus?”  he said. I was confused for a second until I figured out that he was talking about my “I’m not an octopus, I don’t have eight arms" remark from earlier.  I bit my lip to keep from giggling as he continued: “Mommy, I know all about what an octopus is and you aren’t one.  First, you don’t have eight arms, you only have two and even if you used your legs, that would only be four,” he said with complete seriousness.  “And you don’t live in the ocean because if you were a real octopus and lived on land you would die, because an octopus can’t breathe outside of the ocean.” “You know what Finn?  You are right, you are so smart.  Mommy could never be an octopus,” I confirmed. “Plus,” he added, “an octopus is slimy and you aren’t.  You have soft, squishy skin.” And with that he kissed me on the cheek, said good night and returned to his bed. I think I laughed for two hours straight thinking about what he had said.  Someday I will miss the precious days of them being so young that they take some of the things I say literally.  But for tonight I am going to delight in the fact that my sweet little boy loves me enough to let me know that I am not an octopus! Share your precious parenting moments and words of wisdom with Blythe at bwnewsome@hotmail.com.