Put a Fresh Spin on Your Labor Day BBQ Menu

Labor Day is the last hurrah before school starts and summer officially ends.  But after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, not to mention all the other summer parties, how can you make your Labor Day barbeque something memorable and unique?   Instead of the usual burgers and hot dogs, try a few of our favorite family recipes.  They’re sure to wow your guests and send them back-to-school with great memories of summer.  Note: each recipe serves six, so halve, double, or triple the recipe as you need. Santa Maria Tri-Tip Barbeque My dad always told me that this was what the poor missileers  at Vandenberg AFB in California would make when they didn’t want to spend a lot of money, but they wanted to feed a lot of people some really good food. Ingredients 2 to 2 ½ lb beef tri-tip roast 1 Tbsp ground black pepper 2 tsp salt ½ Tbsp paprika 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp onion powder 1 tsp dried rosemary ¼ tsp cayenne pepper ½ tsp Dijon mustard 1/3 cup red wine vinegar 1/3 cup vegetable oil 4 medium-sized cloves of crushed garlic   Directions Mix black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, and cayenne together to create a rub.  Massage it into all surfaces of the beef.  Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours, then remove from the fridge and let it sit for half an hour at room temperature. Blend together the Dijon, vinegar, oil, and crushed garlic until emulsified. Lay the meat on the grill and brush with the basting mixture.  Turn the roast every 3-4 minutes.  With each turn, brush more of the oil and vinegar mixture on.  After about 25-30 minutes, check the internal temperature.  It should be at 135 degrees for a medium-rare roast.  The outside will have a flavorful char that is the signature characteristic of Santa Maria Tri-Tip. Take the tri-tip off of the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes.  This keeps all the juices from gushing out (you’ll have a dry roast if that happens).  Cut into ¼ inch strips going across the grain.  This is enough to serve 6 people.  Serve with tortillas and fresh salsa.  Don’t have the recipe for that… oh look! Fresh Garden Salsa This fresh salsa has lots of flavor with a little kick to enhance your Tri-Tip! Ingredients 8 oz of diced tomatoes, divided 1 garlic cloves, chopped 1 diced Anaheim pepper minced jalapeno, to taste ½ cup diced red onion a handful of chopped fresh cilantro salt, to taste   Directions Blend half of the tomatoes with the garlic until they form a liquid.  Just a quick pulse or two will do it.  In a serving bowl, mix together the Anaheim pepper, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, and the rest of the tomatoes.  Pour the liquid mixture over the top and toss it together.  Add salt as desired.   If you want a less potent onion flavor, try sweating the onion in a small sauté pan until they are translucent.  Then refrigerate until cool.  Serve over Santa Maria Tri-Tip. Tasty Margaritas This recipe is a “secret family recipe," so I have to leave out our secret ingredient or else Grandma will come get me.  Trust me though, even without, these are the best margaritas you’ll ever have.  Ingredients 1 can of frozen limeade 1/3 can of DeKuyper’s Triple Sec 2/3 can of Jose Cuervo Tequila 1 packet of Splenda Ice   Directions Empty a frozen limeade can into your blender.  If it’s hard as a rock, run warm water along the sides to loosen it up.  Using the can, eyeball 1/3 of the can of Triple Sec.  Fill the can the rest of the way up with tequila.  Empty that into the blender as well.  Sprinkle in one packet of Splenda.  Begin blending.  Remove the center of the blender lid, and drop in ice cubes until your margaritas are the perfect consistency.  Salted rim on your glass is optional. Happy Labor Day!

Skip The Sugar: Sweet Snack Alternatives For Kids

Of course kids love their sugary snacks, but as moms, we know better. If you're tired of saying "no," when your little one begs for candy and treats, don't fret! There are tons of healthy options that will satisfy your child's sweet tooth without all that unhealthy refined white stuff!Here are a few of our favorites:Fruit and Cheese KebabsThis filling combo is great for almost any sweet tooth.  If your kids are old enough to handle skewers, thread strawberries, grapes, and cheese cubes onto wooden skewers.  If they’re not quite old enough for the sharp sticks, just throw the ingredients into a bowl, and toss them so they’re mixed up.  For a dipping sauce, use yogurt and honey with mixed up fruit, or add a little sour cream, too, if it suits your family.Apricot-Almond GranolaThis recipe is great for a little bit of sweet (apricots) and a little bit of crunch to balance out the sweetness of the fruit.  If your kids aren't big on apricots, substitute dried strawberries or bananas.  You can pack this fiber-packed stack in baggies or plastic containers and take it anywhere with you - perfect for those times when the sudden munchies attack. Peanut Butter and Honey Banana PopsFollow the suggestions in this recipe, but take care to substitute the sugary cereals for crunchy, fibrous, and nutritious flakes that can easily be crunched up into the perfect coating.  With this option, you’re providing fruit and fiber to your kids, and they’ll think they’re just getting a great sweet treat!HummusIf you’re under the impression that hummus is boring, think again!  These days you can find hummus in all kinds of flavors, like roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomato.  If your kids are adventurous, you can find spicier flavors, and if they’re looking for something a little sweeter, look for lemony flavors.   Hummus is great with any veggie, so serve it up with slices of red bell peppers or get crispy with some pita chips.  Want to make it a family affair?  Grab the kids and make homemade hummus together! Amazing MuffinsYou can sneak almost anything into something that looks like a cupcake!  Fruits and veggies make amazing batter ingredients for amazing muffins.  Get your kids to eat healthy choices like zucchini, carrots, and bananas without them even knowing!  If your kids are more apt to eat one taste over another, search out recipes that include those ingredients.  Broccoli, apples, bananas, and prune juice can easily find their way into recipes for muffins that will make your little ones jump for joy.Yogurt PopsA little bit of yogurt and frozen berries can make amazing popsicles that your little ones will be more than happy to munch on after dinner or between nutritious meals! If you have tasty alternatives to sugary snacks, we’d love to hear about them!  Share your creative craving stoppers with us at our Rev Fitness Facebook page!

Why It Sucks To Be The Second Child

It sucks to be a second child. Being a first child myself, I always kind of knew this, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve really come to understand just how hard it is. When I was a kid, I used to torture my poor little brother.  My favorite line to use on him was that I was bigger, faster, smarter and stronger, and it made no difference to me whatsoever that I was only conferred those advantages because I’d been born three and a half years before him.  I didn’t care that one day he would most certainly be bigger, faster, stronger, and maybe even smarter than me.  At the time, he wasn’t, and I let him know it whenever I got the chance.   It wasn’t until I took Psych 101 in college that I even thought about the damage I might have done to his self-esteem.  But now that I’m the parent of a big sister/little brother, I’m really starting to see how awful it must have been.  Let me just say here that generally speaking, my daughter is not that mean to my son.  He annoys her, and she yells at him and locks him out of her room sometimes, but she doesn’t overtly put him down, and for that I’m eternally grateful.  And yet, lately, my poor little boy has just been devastated by her.  The fact is, she doesn’t have to put him down or point out to him that she’s bigger or faster or stronger or smarter, because he already knows it all by himself.  He’s not a dumb kid - he can see that she’s bigger.  He knows that when they race each other, she always wins.  He knows that she can swim farther, that she can ice skate better, that she can read longer books, that she can draw prettier pictures, and that she can figure out more complicated math problems.  And no matter how many times I tell him that she couldn’t do all of those things when she was six, it doesn’t change the fact that she can do them now, and he can’t. The other night, my son tried to show us something he learned in science camp this summer; it was that trick where you put water in a cup and spin it around and the water doesn’t fall out.  Except he held the cup the wrong way, and the water spilled everywhere.  So my daughter jumped in and said, no, no, no, this is how you do it, and got it right on the first try, causing my son to instantly melt down to a puddle.  I took him aside to talk to him, and he was just sobbing about how she can do everything and he can’t do anything, and he feels like he’s the dumb one in the family because there’s nothing that he’s the best at.  So I started pointing out all of the things he’s good at, like building Legos and playing soccer and making up crazy stories and using his imagination.  But he shot me down every time.  Everyone builds Legos.  Everyone on my team is better than me at soccer.  Everyone uses their imagination.  Like I said, he’s not a dumb kid.  At that moment, I realized this was just one of those things that I can’t make right for him, no matter how much I want to.  I can keep exposing him to new things, but if he wants to be the best at something - or at least better than his big sister - then he’s going to have to figure out for himself what it is he loves, and he’s going to have to put in the work to get really good at it.   For my brother, it was art.  He’s an incredibly talented artist, while I can barely make stick figures, and I think it always made him feel good to have that over me.  I may have been bigger and faster and stronger and smarter, but he was the gifted artist, and we both knew it.  I would love for my son to have something like that.  I would love for him to be confident that he’s great at something.  But no matter how much it breaks my heart, I can’t hand it to him on a silver platter.  I can love him, and support him and give him all of the encouragement I possibly can, but in the end, he’s the one who’s going to have to get out from under his sister’s long shadow, all by himself.

How to Make Your Own Natural Body Scrub

Let's Craft is a special feature full of great crafts, inspiration and DIY projects that are perfect for any Modern Mom! This project comes from crafty mom Jill Alexander:  "There are plenty of beauty stores where moms can buy exfoliating body scrubs, but we think that homemade is far superior. This delectable smelling body scrub is all natural and made with ingredients that you probably have on hand in the house. There are no chemicals you can't pronounce in here! The only downside to this scrub - you can't eat it :)" Here's how to make a wonderful smelling natural body scrub: Supplies 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup olive oil 1 teaspoon each of extract of your choice (Jill used orange, coconut, strawberry, and lemon) Sea salt   Directions In a mixing bowl, stir together the sugar with the olive oil. You can also try coconut oil which has great skin softening effects, too.  (Always be careful not to get oil in your eyes.) Mix in 1 teaspoon of any extract you wish to use. The scents used in our version were fruity, but you can also pick up floral essential oils for an armotherapeutic effect. Sprinkle in some sea salt, about 3/4 of a teaspoon. Sea salt is a natural preservative and keeps bacteria from forming in your body scrub. Be creative! Decorate a glass jar for your scrub with ribbon and a personal label. This would make a great gift for a friend or a special treat for yourself. Want to watch Jill take you through this project step by step? Check out the video below - and be sure to take a look at all the other great craft videos on the ModernMom YouTube Channel. Planning to try this at home? We'd love to see how it turns out! Send us photos of your crafty efforts and we'll add them to our photo gallery!

Dragons Interactive Story App + Giveaway!

I don't know anyone who didn't love the How To Train Your Dragon movies. So I was so excited to try out the new Dragons' mobile app from DreamWorks Press - Dragons Interactive Story App.  This is an interactive story app that targets fans of three different age groups (and reading levels). I love that children interact with the app differently depending on their development -  Ages 5 and under, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11 years old. There are amazing graphics and all the loveable characters (i.e., Hiccup and Toothless) from the movies. Your kids can train their own dragon (super fun), explore new lands and be a part of brand new Dragon stories. And this is the first installment in a series of apps so new chapters will be launching soon to keep the adventures new and fresh. The app is $4.99 at Apple's iTunes store and future chapters will be only $.99. GIVEAWAY!! Tell us your favorite character in the How to Train Your Dragon movies in the Facebook comments below and you'll be entered to win: -$100 iTunes App Store gift card -Kid Safe headphones (prizes courtesy of DreamWorks Press. Open to US mailing addresses only. Prizing valued at $169.99. Contest ends Sept. 12, 2014 5:00 PST)   

Chocolate Marshmallow Pretzel Bars

We love to sass up old recipes and give them a modern look. This gooey Pretzel Bar is a new twist on a favorite cousin, the Rice Krispie Treat.  It's the perfect treat to serve at your next Back to School event! Ingredients 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter 6 cups mini marshmallows, separated (4 cups / 2 cups) 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 1 (16 ounce) bag of pretzels = 6 cups crushed pretzels 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (optional)   Directions Spray a 13x9x2 baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.  Place 2 cups of pretzels in a food processor and pulse several times until small pieces are formed. Put the pretzels into a strainer to get rid of any “pretzel dust” or crumbs. Place the pretzel pieces into a medium bowl. Repeat two more times until you have 6 cups of pretzel pieces. Set aside. In a large saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter and mini marshmallows. Add the chopped chocolate pieces to the mixture. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the marshmallows are melted. Add the vanilla and continue to stir until well combined. Turn off the heat.  Stir in the pretzel pieces. Just when the pretzels are coated add in the 2 remaining cups of mini marshmallows and mix to combine.  Turn out the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Set aside to cool 30 minutes. Cut and serve. Sugar Mommas’ Tips: Once you have turned out the mixture into the baking dish you can spray your hands with nonstick release spray and pat down the mixture evenly. Or, if you don’t want to mess up your manicure, place each hand into a sandwich size plastic bag. Spray the plastic on one hand with the release spray and then rub your hands together. Pat the mixture evenly. Old School: Instead of a food processor, you can place the pretzels into a large resealable plastic baggie and pound them into pieces with a meat mallet, rolling pin, or other heavy blunt object. Sass it Up! Consider sprinkling the top of the baking dish with sea salt for a sweet/salty sensation. OR, if you don’t want a complete chocolate dunk, melt the chocolate in the microwave and use a pastry brush to slather just the top of the Gooey Pretzel Bars.

Tips for Avoiding School Picture Day Disasters

School picture day is close at hand, just in time to get good pictures of the kids to give out to relatives at Christmas.  Like many people, I have been a victim of terrible school pictures… I’m talking about the images that would have been made into Internet memes if the Internet had been around back then (okay, the Internet was around, but no one knew how to use it). So to help future generations avoid school picture day disasters of their own, I'm here to share my knowledge. With any luck, your kid won’t sneeze or blink, and you’ll have a wonderful image you can frame, share and treasure. Background  First things first, use a neutral background.  Sure, they have the options of all those colors that will match your child’s beautiful eyes, but what do you want to shine more: the background or your kid?  With a neutral brown or gray background, your child will stand out better.  Not to mention, it’s hard to find a place in your beach-themed living room for a photo with a red or purple background.   Clothing  What will they wear?  Thanks to the use of a neutral background, it won't be hard to make sure your little one is dressed in a complementary color.  Let them wear their favorite nice shirt or sweater, something they will be comfortable in.  Learning Experience: One year, my mother wanted me to wear a new wool sweater for my picture.  It was literally so hot and itchy that I was red in the face and sweaty (my bangs were matted to my forehead) and my smile was as fake as fake can be because I was downright uncomfortable. Hair Styling Make sure your child has a good hair day.  Get their hair cut a week or two before school picture day so they look clean cut while still giving it time to grow out a little and look natural.  The night before, have them wash and style their hair.  For the lucky girls with curly hair, it’s a good idea for them to wet their hair the morning off and style it with the help of a diffuser attachment on a hair dryer.  Avoid the ponytail or any slicked back, stuck to the head looks. Learning Experience: I had school pictures right after a great game of P.E. basketball.  My curly hair was frizzed up in all kinds of ways so I soaked it in the sink and put it in a ponytail.  The effect?  I looked bald as the day I was born in my school picture.  Not to mention, my nose was still sweating so my glasses managed to slide down to the tip of my nose… I looked like an old man.  Eeeexcellent! Make-Up  Is your daughter old enough for makeup?  If you have a tween, here's a good plan - convince her to let you do her makeup and go for a natural look. Use a little bit of sheer powder, a hint of shadow and mascara, and maybe some lip gloss.  Learning Experience: I’ve never had an issue with applying too much makeup, but for some reason, I was determined not to have dark circles under my eyes for my sixth grade picture.  I broke into my mom’s makeup and used yellow concealer and highlighter and essentially pasted those on.  Talk about a great look.  Safe Lunch Packing Don't forget to pack a safe lunch.  This is especially important for small children prone to spilling and kids with braces.  Aim for foods that won’t stick in teeth.  Here is my NO WAY list of picture day foods: Broccoli, spinach, celery, orange, corn on the cob, chips, chocolate anything, concord grape juice, popcorn, and black bean soup. Learning Experience: School pictures were right after snack time one year.  My mom had packed me a super healthy orange, and I didn’t think a thing of it until we got the pictures, and there were pieces of orange sticking out from between all of my teeth.  This happened to also be the same day I had on the above mentioned wool sweater.  What a great year… Special Instructions Give your child specific instructions.  Have them remove their glasses so the flash doesn’t obscure their beautiful eyes.  Tell them to smile with their teeth.  You might even give them something funny to think about so you can capture their real smile.  And remind them not to look into the light, which often leads to squinting and sneezing, two common school photo mishaps. Learning Experience: From first grade until fifth grade, I amassed a collection of the most super-cool glasses you could imagine.  I mean, these things practically allowed my cheeks and forehead to see, and they came in great colors like red and hot pink.  I switched it up in fifth grade and got Harry Potter glasses because he was just the coolest.  The first couple years, my school photos were a running record of my stylish eyewear.  Finally, my parents gave me the instructions to take my glasses off so they could see my eyes.  It would have been the best picture ever… except that this happened to be the year of the concealer and highlighter conundrum. The moral of the story? School pictures are stressful but with a little preparation and foresight, you can wind up with a cute snapshot of your little angel. And if not, well there's always next year! Now that I've shared my embarrassing photo stories, it's your turn.  What was the worst school picture you ever took?

Travel Survival Skills for Car Trips With Kids

We've all been there. Cars, trains and airplanes can be quite the match for a parent's patience level. But with a little bit of planning ahead and some critical supplies, you can conquer Are we there yet? syndrome and sit back to enjoy the ride. 1. Entertainment You’ll definitely want to make sure that you have books, games and electronics packed for entertainment during long rides. A trip to the public library with your kids allows them to choose some new books, and most libraries allow you to take books out for up to three weeks at a time, perfect for the entire holiday season. Just make sure you don't leave them behind at a far away relative's house! Tip: Make a list of the titles you're planning to bring or snap a picture of the receipt w/ your phone or mobile device. There are plenty of family-friendly games and apps available for handheld devices. Just throw some fun educational games in for good measure and have yourself a party. Bring a portable DVD player or pop a DVD in your computer. Download movies on your iPad or tablet before you leave. And for kids who tend to get motion sickness, pack an MP3 player to help them pass the time. Don't forget the headphones (you'll thank me later).  2. Rations Packing the right snacks can definitely make for a positive voyage. Keep the options mess-free and healthy to fight off fatigue and grumpiness. Need some inspiration? We've got tons of yummy options on this list of Kid (and Mom) Approved Snacks.  Remember to bring plenty of water - staying properly hydrated while traveling can be hard! If the kids are looking for something with a bit of flavor, Horizon’s Organic Chocolate Milk Boxes really do the trick or try Juicy Juice juice boxes, made from 100% real fruit juice. Tip: If you’re traveling via car, a portable cooler is a good idea. 3. Supplies A makeshift survival kit will help your sanity and keep you and your kids as happy as possible. Here’s our list of must haves:Cleanup wipesQ-TipsHand sanitizer Band-Aids/First-aid kit TylenolSunscreen Safety pins Extra clothes, in case of any accidental spills Portable GPS or maps Empty plastic bags, for any trash 4. Family Games Looking for ways to pass the time? Don't be afraid to unleash your inner child with creative games that are fun for the whole family. You'll probably also end up with a ton of inside jokes.  I Spy somehow never manages to get old and is great for kids of all ages. The license plate game is fun - just make sure you have a printed list of all 50 states so you can cross them off as you see them. If you want to try a tech-savvy version, download a license plate game app for your mobile device to easily keep score. Who says that piling into the car for a long drive can't be fun? With these tips, you might have such a blast that you start planning for a summer road trip!

Triple F (Fennel, Frisee and Fruit) Salad

I love fennel, cooked or raw!   My French family also uses the stalk to add to a large pitcher of water.  It's beautiful, smells fresh of licorice, and is a great drink for the tummy! Ingredients 3 fennel bulbs 4 heads of frisee (you can substitute endives if you want) 5 tangerines   Directions Thinly slice the fennel bulbs and wash.  Keep the stalks for your water pitcher! Chop the heads of frisee in half. Peel the tangerines.  If you choose to use canned sweet tangerines instead, drain and rinse first to get rid of any added sugar. Toss all ingredients together with my French dijon shallot dressing.  Dress to your liking but do not saturate!  A few tablespoons should do it.

Dinner Time Debates: How to Take the Stress out of Supper

People often ask what it is like to feed half dozen kids. Feeding families can be a “thing” and many parents report that dinner time can be the most stressful time of the day. I decided early on that I didn’t want meal time to create anxiety for me or my kids, so here are my few tips for relaxing and enjoying fun family meals. -          I don’t let myself get upset if the kids turn their noses up at what is being served for dinner. There’s enough variety that they’re going to like something on the menu.  As long as they try one bite of what is being served up, they are welcome to fill their bellies with the raw carrots on the table. No one has starved yet. -          We keep meals simple and kid friendly. The Daddy-o works out of town during the week and I’m not a foodie, so this adult is happy to make easy dinner recipes and eat with the kiddos. -          For me, the only thing more annoying than cooking is coming up with fast recipes and meal ideas.  I have a four week meal planner posted in the kitchen for everyone to see. It makes for effective shopping, creates less wasted food and saves me from hearing, “what’s for dinner?” six times a day. Here is an example of my September meal plan filled with quick recipes. I use one of our quick dinner ideas on Wednesdays because the kids have hot lunches at school that day. I also try to have something they all like on a Monday, because let’s face it – Mondays can be tough. On the last Friday of the month, we order in. The menu is based on different children’s preferences and the evening activity schedule. Some meals are faster to prepare and clean up. Those are meals we have on nights where we have to be at music, dance, hockey and taekwondo right after dinner.                    Monday                       Tuesday                       Wednesday                  Thursday                                 Friday Week 1   Fish and Chips/raw veg    Chicken drumsticks/      Breakfast for dinner     Spaghetti & meatballs    Homemade pizza                                                                mashed potato/corn       eggs/bacon Week 2  Salmon/ noodles/veg        Chicken breast/ mashed   Homemade soup         Pasta: pesto                Chicken &  Salad                                                   potato/corn Week 3 Tacos                                Butter chicken/rice          Salad wraps                 chicken schnitzel/          Hot dogs/Hamburgers                                                                                                                           roast potatoes/tomato     Week 4 Cheesy pasta                   Ribs/noodles/corn on cob   Crepes/omelets           Bangers and mash/peas    ORDER IN  Substitutes: curried sausage, chili, perogies, Swedish meatballs and rice, lasagna. How does your family survive the dinner hour? Do you have any quick and easy dinner ideas or meal planner tips that make this time of day less stressful in your house?

5 Best Labor Day Recipes

Having a Labor Day BBQ? Treat your family, friends, and neighbors to classic and simple menu items with a twist. Below is a perfect blend of special dishes - from main attraction to dessert - that will have your loved ones licking their forks clean and begging for second helpings! However-You-Want-It BBQ Burgers Grilled burgers are a surefire hit for kids and adults. But how can you keep your burgers from fading into the background of all the other BBQs going on this season? Allow the guests to personalize them! Buy beef, turkey, veggie, and salmon burgers so there’s something for everyone. Try to ask each guest how they would like their burger cooked - rare, medium, or well done. And that’s it - your part is over. May sure to have an array of toppings laid out so that your guests can dress their burger however they like. Include lettuce, tomato, pickles, cheese slices, sliced red onion, avocado, and whatever else might make the burger more exciting - like grilled mushrooms. Want to give your BBQ a fun twist? Make sliders! We love this delicious recipe for tasty Mini Burger Sliders! Ultimate Vegetable Coleslaw This is a really easy side salad that is just so refreshing on a hot day. To serve 8 to 10 people, thinly grate 1/2 a head of white and 1/2 a head of red cabbage, five carrots, and a big handful of dried cranberries for an extra flavorful kick. In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour dressing to coat the veggies and stick in the fridge an hour before guests arrive. Serve cold and watch the salad disappear as people keep coming back for more. Garlic Corn on the Cob Corn on the cob is not just a crowd pleaser, it’s also super easy to make. And now, you can add that extra kick of flavor with garlic.  All you need to do is peel off the corn husks, break the corn in half, smooth on some garlic butter (combine unsalted butter and garlic seasoning - or freshly chopped garlic cloves), add a pinch of salt and pepper, wrap in aluminum foil, and cook on the grill for approximately 20-30 minutes. The garlic butter gives the corn an unbelievable burst of flavor and serves the practical function of keeping the kernels from burning. Perfect! Want another way to cook corn? Try this tasty recipe for bacon wrapped corn on the cob! Berry Guava Lemonade There’s no better way to get people talking than a refreshing signature drink. Add pizzazz to plain old lemonade by adding strawberries and guava. Mash up 10 fresh strawberries with 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of guava juice in a pitcher. Fill with ice and add 3/4 cup lemon juice and water to fill it up. Add lemon slices for the perfect mouth-watering presentation. Fresh Fruit Sorbet Nothing could be a better way to end a BBQ than with some fresh fruit and a light sorbet. This totally beats the traditional tray of fruit that typically signifies the end of a BBQ. Just buy a carton of vanilla sorbet (shhh…we won’t tell anyone that it’s not homemade) and cut up some pineapple, berries, melons, kiwi, and mango to add on top. This will be a refreshing conclusion to a fun and filling Memorial Day celebration. (Another option: Fresh Fruit Freeze Recipe) Make it Memorable Whether you’re serving up burgers or lemonade, the key to making your Memorial Day BBQ memorable is to add just a touch of something unique and surprising. Extra touches like these will ensure that people will leave your house with a smile on their faces! Photo: Funk*n Foodies

5 Ways To Lose Your Baby Weight

Many women are concerned with getting rid of the baby weight. The most important thing to remember is that it took a nine month period to gain that much weight and it is not going to miraculously fall off after the birth of your child. If you are like most, you want to know how to lose that post pregnancy weight gain quickly, but keep in mind it is important to be healthy. Most physicians will tell you to wait several months before trying to lose weight. It is important to allow the body an appropriate period of time to heal. However; once you cross that two month mark, it’s time to shift weight loss into high gear. 1. Put Down The Potato Chips The first thing that a mother trying to lose weight must do is change their eating habits. If you are breastfeeding, you are already burning an additional 400-600 calories per day. It is easy to want to munch on junk food, especially when up for 2 am feedings. Remember rather than grabbing the potato chips or a snack cake, eat a piece of fruit. Those who are breast-feeding need to realize how important it is to have a healthy diet for the baby’s sake and your own. You want to make sure you are eating enough to not affect your milk supply. Eating too little can cause a lactating mother to not produce sufficient milk. Just like with any diet, what a mother eats will contribute to the weight gain or loss. Remember you are no longer eating for two and adjust portions accordingly. 2. Get Off The Couch You are sure to feel like a zombie the first few months of the babies’ arrival. While it is easy to develop a vegetative state to cope with the lack of sleep, moving is important. There are exercise programs that are especially linked to help the mother lose the belly fat. Start slow and ease into a routine. Walking is a great overall workout, but tummy specific crunches and other target exercises may be difficult at first. You don’t want to expel so much energy during the workout session that you don’t have enough strength to care for your child. Gradually build up your exercise routine. Remember, your body has just been through a traumatic experience and it is not going to bounce back overnight. 3. Avoid The 1-800 Number’s You’re groggy, fed up with the weight and awake for a 3 am feeding, normally you are watching television too. Avoid the temptation to start ordering every weight loss product offered. There are numerous supplements that claim to be all natural or to give you energy like you have never had. These supplements can be dangerous for the mother who is breastfeeding or even the mother who is not. Some pills can be dangerous for your heart and cause unnatural highs followed by periods of crashing. You are just going to have to make up your mind to lose the weight and do it the old fashioned way. There is nothing better than dieting and exercises for the new mother. Sure it’s not going to come off quickly, but it will come off and stay off if done properly. 4. Take That Stroller For a Stroll Most mothers get a stroller as a part of their baby needs. One of the easiest ways to work out and include baby is to walk with the stroller. If a child wants to be held often this can make working out difficult. Walking is a great cardio workout and can really burn the fat. It’s hard to do crunches and squats with a child screaming. The motion of the stroller often calms an infant and makes working out a lot easier. Losing weight is never easy, but it can be done. The stomach area may never fully go back to the way it used to be, before baby. Learning to balance diet and exercise and be healthy is not only important to you but also to your baby. 5. Belly Binding Another great way to drop that extra baby weight is with Tauts by Brooke Burke. Tapping into the time-tested practice of post-pregnancy belly wraps, Tauts is designed to be worn for the first 40 days after pregnancy.   As one mom wrote, "My tummy insides had a lot of help from my undying affection for my Tauts Belly Wrap that I wore morning, noon and night 40 days after delivery - and boy did it work!" Tons of celebrities - including Jessica Alba and Kourtney Kardashian - are jumping on the belly binding bandwagon. "I wore a double corset day and night for three months," said Alba. "It was sweaty, but worth it." Learn more about belly wraps by visiting our online store, Baboosh Baby.  

5 Ways to Keep Your Child's Room Organized

She plays Jennifer Knight, mom to Kendall and Katie, on Nickelodeon’s hit musical-comedy Big Time Rush, but Challen Cates is no stranger to real life parenting chaos. The mom of two (son Colton, 7, and daughter Jasper, 5) knows it can be super challenging to keep a clean house with little ones running around!  That's why she's shared five great ways to keep "the kid zone" from taking over your home: 1. Buy a blank white canvas at any art supply store and tape or glue art work or photos for a chic gallery look. 2. Keep one room or area completely toy and clutter free. Enlist your kids in the idea of a toy free zone. Trust me, you will breathe easy when you enter this room. 3. Corkboards are an amazing way to display artwork, certificates, photos, cards, etc in constant evolution. Pick one with a beautiful frame to compliment your décor and incorporate the board into your design. Make sure that you move pieces off as you add new so as to not clutter your space. 4. Learn to love boxes and baskets. As pieces come down off of the cork board or home from school, place keepsakes in decorative boxes. I labeled my boxes with my kids names so I can pop things in their respective keepsake boxes with ease. Tip: ‘The Container Store’ has some great boxes and ‘Pottery Barn’ has adorable liners. 5. Enlist the help of your children in selecting items to donate to charity that they have outgrown. It teaches them the importance of giving and gives them a sense of pride to help those in need. One of our favorite children’s charities is www.baby2baby.org. Challen lives in Los Angeles with her husband, famed acting coach Aaron McPherson (clients include Seth MacFarlane, Dolph Lundgren) their two children (son Colton 7 & daughter Jasper 5) and two dogs (Greta & Judy). You can follow her on Twitter @ChallenCates Image credit: Bobby Quillard

'Twas The Night Before Kindergarten

Guest post by Kristina Cappetta - you can find her at The Mommy Rundown. ‘Twas the night before Kindergarten and all through the house not a child was stirring not even a toy Mickey Mouse. The book bags were hung by the door with care hoping that all of the supplies were packed neatly in there. The children were snuggled all in their beds while dreams of ABC’s danced in their heads. I was in the kitchen checking the snacks deciding which ones would make it in their lunch pack. Now Gogurt! Now Goldfish! On fruit snack! On pudding! So many snacks, which ones to choose? I must pick the ones that won’t receive any “boos”. To the top of the fridge to the bottom cupboard drawer, Gogurt and fruit snack you win the award. Now that the snacks are packed, there’s not much to do. I have everything ready, even your non-light up shoes. The sun will be up, the time is almost here, don’t laugh if mom sheds more than one tear. The bell is ringing, don’t be late. I know you’re going to do better than great. You’ll write your name, you’ll do your numbers, there’s a lot of work to do before you can return to slumber. The big day is here, give a big shout! You’re about to see what Kindergarten is all about!

Recall: Chicken Ceasar Salad Kits Recalled

First it was nut-butter for a Salmonella scare and now it's packaged Caesar salad kits - but this time it's for possible Listeria contamination. The salad kits were sold nationwide at Sam's Club stores.  Although two salad kits tested positive for listeria, no illnesses have been reported. Note - listeria can have an incubation period as long as two months. Listeria can primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. If you think you may have been exposed, please contact your physician. The recalled products are: 11 oz. clear plastic containers and 6.5-lb. boxes labeled “APPA Fine Foods/Sam’s Club Daily Chef CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD KIT” with case codes 141851, 141922, 141951, 141991, 142021, 142201 or 142131, with use-by dates of 8/14/14, 8/21/14, 8/27/14, 9/1/14, 9/3/14 or 9/17/14. The kits were produced on July 4, July 11, July 14, July 18, July 21, July 25, August 1 and August 8, 2014. If you have any questions, please call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-674-6854.isto

Eight Ways to Keep the Sizzle in Your Relationship

“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” - Swedish Proverb Love, sex and housework.  How do these three things fit together?  Apparently pretty well.  Several recent studies show that couples who share household and child-rearing chores have more sex.  In fact, the more shared housework the more sexual frequency. It’s not a matter of bribery or reward, but of how much energy each partner has at the end of the day.  More importantly, couples who share responsibilities also share a lot of other things – trust, intimacy, respect, communication.  Feeling understood and supported by your partner is a turn on. My husband and I recently celebrated our 15th anniversary and I’ve been thinking about what keeps passion alive in long-term relationships. The best ones have both realistic expectations and great imaginations when it comes to love.  Both partners know each other deeply, yet understand there is always more to know.  We grow throughout life.  The great adventure is that each day holds new possibilities and we can continue to learn from each other through the years.  Staying intimately connected in our fast-paced lives can be challenging, but worth every moment. Eight Ways to Keep the Sizzle in Your Relationship Lead independent lives.  No one can give you everything you need.  Develop outside relationships, go out with friends.  If you are vibrant and happy in your individual life, you’ll bring a lot more to the table in a long-term relationship.  In psychotherapist Esther Perel’s research, one of the biggest turn-ons for couples was seeing their partners in their element, radiant and confident.  One of the biggest turn-offs: neediness.  Don’t try to change your partner.  Maybe certain of his habits drive you crazy, but when you first fell in love, the fact that he seemed to have paralysis when it came to picking up his dirty socks was not that big of a deal.  Familiarity over time can make a couple look more at what’s wrong than what is right.  Focus on each other’s strengths. Practice the 20-to-1 positivity ratio.  Dr. John Gottman’s research finds that successful long-term couples have a 20-to-1 positivity ratio.  That is, for every negative moment, happy couples have 20 positive moments.  These can be as simple as a smile, shared laughter, a loving look, or affectionate touch. If you’re not there yet in your relationship, it’s never too late to start.  Sprinkle your days with positive affirmations such as “I love you,” “thank you,” “wow, you amaze me,” or “I admire how you did that.” Mix it up.  When things get boring, give yourself a boost.  Do new things together.  We all remember our favorite falling-in-love memories, but don’t leave it at that.  Create new memories by making time and space for love.  Try things that thrill you, maybe things you never thought you would do but always wanted to.  The element of surprise and mystery releases dopamine in the brain, which is related to romantic love.  But you don’t have to go whitewater rafting to boost your love factor.  Just reminiscing about your happiest times can create a renewed sense of togetherness. Passion ebbs and flows.  Long-time love learns to ride the waves.  Find your adventurous self from time to time, but trust also in those quiet moments when you are just holding hands.  Get to know your partner’s inner world, says Dr. Terry Orbuch, otherwise known as The Love Doctor.  The relationship expert suggests building this daily habit into your routine:  “For at least 10 minutes every day, talk together about something other than work, family, who’s going to do what around the house or your relationship.”  If you’re not sure how to enter that inner world, ask questions like:  “What have you been most proud of this year?” “If you won the lottery, where would you want to travel to and why?” Recognize calls for attention.  In Dr. Gottman’s Love Lab, his team studied 120 newlyweds.  Couples who were still happily married six years later had this in common: they were mindful of the little signals their partners made asking for attention.   Happy couples responded 86% of the time to their partner’s signals, compared to only 33% of the time in couples who eventually got a divorce. Be generous with gratitude and do so daily.  In Dr. Orbuch’s long-term study of 343 couples, those who expressed frequent gratitude to each other were significantly happier in their marriages than those who didn’t.  Of the happy couples in her study, 61% said their partners “often made them feel good about the kind of person they are, compared to only 27 percent of the other couples.” Love is a daily action.  It shows up in bedrooms and kitchens, in household chores, in how we speak to one another, what we talk about, and how we see our loved ones and ourselves.  It’s not a separate act late at night.  It is a thousand acts of sharing, listening, honesty, forgiving and honoring one another for who we are.  Here’s to your happily ever after! Ciao, Princess Ivana

10 Ways to Turn Fitness into a Family Affair

The following is a guest post by Brant Secunda and Mark Allen Does obesity run in the family? According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, if one parent is overweight, there is a 50 percent chance that their children will also be overweight.  But when exercise becomes a family affair, everyone wins!  There are several tips to keep in mind when it comes to kids and exercise. First, most young kids prefer "activities" to conventional exercise - for example, they're more likely to do a nature hike than run laps around a track. Second, as kids get older, they're more apt to become engaged if their friends are invited. And third, many kids are very motivated by goals, targets, and tracking progress. Watch how your child responds to different activities and scenarios, and find the best ways to make fitness easy and natural for him or her to enjoy. Here are 10 ways to turn exercise into a regular family activity that's fun, motivating, and healthy: 1. Pick the right time. Plan your workouts for a time with the highest probability that everyone will actually do them. After dinner is a great time for a family walk, game of badminton, or workout DVD, because you're all together. After school is also a great time for kids who've been sitting all day and have a lot of pent-up energy. 2. Vary it. Adults often forget that play is exercise. If you take a walk one day, go bowling the next. Work, such as gardening or stacking wood, is also exercise. Don't limit your idea of exercise to going to the gym. Anything that gets your family moving together counts. 3. Track it. Mark the calendar every time you do an activity, and keep track of your progress. It's very motivating to see how often everyone is exercising. If your kid responds to competition, keep a chart of games won, best times, miles cycled, and so on. Tracking is a good way to make new fitness-oriented behaviors stick. 4. Give me five. If getting the kids to commit to exercising is difficult, tell them you're only going to do it for five minutes--long enough to at least break a small sweat. Doing a five-minute bike ride or a five-minute jog is easy for anyone. Most likely, it will turn into 10. 5. Get outside. Make it a habit to get the family out in nature. An easy way to do this is to swap an indoor workout session with an outdoor one. Playing a backyard game or walking around the block delivers a motivational twofer. Not only will the exercise make everyone feel better, but fresh air and sunshine are mood boosters as well. 6. Do it for a cause. If you're a family of couch potatoes, sometimes a good cause can get you motivated. Research which local organizations are hosting fund-raising walks--and then get your friends and relatives to sponsor your family. If you can't find one, organize your own walk for a cause such as your kid's PTA or Little League. 7. Schedule it. Kids and adults alike respond well to a structured schedule. Set a time and place for your family activity and write it on the family calendar. Ask everyone to commit to your fitness appointment. If you've scheduled a bike ride but the weather is uncooperative, then turn on the Wii and play tennis indoors, or blast some music and have a dance competition. 8. Put it in writing. Write a three-month contract with family members and have everyone sign it. If weight loss is a goal, write down a reasonable goal (no more than 6 pounds a month). Sign it and keep it in a place where all family members can see it. 9. Get their input. Ask your kids to take charge of the family exercise schedule for a week--and promise that you'll do whatever they choose. You'll probably be surprised at the creative ideas they come up with. You can also rotate weekly--every family member gets to be the chooser for a week. 10. Think outside the box.  Just because it's winter doesn't mean you can't go swimming. Find a nearby hotel chain and ask how much an hour of indoor pool costs. Or do an activity you've never done--such as learning to rock climb at a climbing gym, or riding horses. Parents vs. kids competitions are always a hit. So are "old-fashioned" games like Twister, jump rope, and kick the can. * * * * * Shaman-healer Brant Secunda and six-time world champion Ironman Mark Allen teach seminars worldwide on fitness, health, and well-being. Their bestselling book, based on the approach they developed, is Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You (BenBella Books). Find out more at http://www.fitsoul-fitbody.com./

The Hardest Part of Parenting is Letting Go

In the week after my first child, a daughter, was born, my hormones took me on one heck of a thrill ride. Up, down, exuberant, weeping, weirdly angry with my husband for not understanding. And who could blame him? I didn't understand it myself. Yet every feeling was so deeply real and rational in the moment, it seemed he should be right there with me. Thank God he wasn't. I remember with crystal clarity staring at this tiny bundle of soft vulnerability, and realizing at full volume what I had taken on. Not just the care and feeding of another human being, for which I was fully prepared -- I'm an oldest child, had babysat my way through high school and worked with kids for a large portion of my career. I'd had thirty years of preparation. What I hadn't figured on was this: I had willingly agreed to a lifetime of desperation. Desperate love of a kind I'd never known. Desperate worry. And a thought blinked across my hormone-addled, sleep-starved brain like an LED warning sign over the highway: THIS WILL NEVER END. Before she was born, I had considered parenthood from my own daughterly perspective. I grew up and moved away and my parents stopped taking care of me. Their job wound down to check-ins when I went to college, and ended completely when I graduated and moved across the country. They have their own jobs and lives; they don't "parent" anymore. Right? Well sorta. But not really. Like muscle memory, the instinct never quite goes away. I figured that out quite abruptly in a recovery bay in a large urban maternity ward, gazing starry-eyed at my newborn girl. That's when I understood with anvil-dropping certainty that no matter what happens to either of us, I would belong to this child for all eternity. Which means an eternity of parental desperation. I would love and worry about someone who's bound to leave me. Forever. Because that's how real love works: it permanently alters the soul. One of stranger thoughts I had (remember those hormones) went something like: "Ohmygod (sniff, weep), I'm going to be ninety, and she's going to be sixty and I'll be worried about her retirement package (sob, sob)." At every crossroads in her life, big or small, I would be holding my breath and praying for good results. Eighteen years later, I'm even more certain it's true. Because this is when she leaves. She's chosen a path for herself -- yes, with guidance from us, but not that much. In truth, we only nudged her away from places we thought would be a bad fit, toward places that would provide fertile soil for her her-ness. And while I feel completely confident in her ability to make her way in the world without our daily presence, I don't feel nearly as confident in myself. Me and my altered soul aren't so sure about it. My desperation meter is inching into the red zone. I recently watched a movie in which a young woman was deciding who would walk her down the aisle at her impending wedding -- who would "give her away." Years ago, as I planned my own nuptials, people would occasionally ask if my father would be "giving me away." My reply was generally along the lines that both my parents would be walking me down the aisle, but I would be giving myself. I wasn't theirs to give. I still feel that's a true statement. No one can give your heart but you. However, I now realize my parents, who held my hands and cried all the way to the altar, weren't really capable of handing me over, anyway. They love me -- desperately -- and so I am engraved upon them in ways that they, and I, have no control over. They're not the them they used to be before I came along. I get it now. Boy, do I ever. By the way, at the end of that aisle, I saw my beloved soon-to-be husband, dropped my parents' hands and went to him without so much as a backward glance or a "thanks for the ride." When I saw the wedding video a couple of days later I felt kind of bad about it. My guilt has grown over the years, as my own "letting go" time draws near. If we're any good at it at all, we parents are, day by day, hug by hug, door-slamming fight by door-slamming fight, supposed to be working our way out of a job. The point is for them to go off and find their own deep and desperate loves. And I take some secret pride in how excited I am for her to leave the confines of this small, sweet town, and in the fact that she has no idea how often I bite back sad, selfish tears at the very thought of it. That's my girl. Her future is bright. And so I am letting her go. But let us be clear: I will never, ever give her away.

13 Tips for Dealing With Picky Eaters

As moms, we all have those (dirty) little secrets that we only share with our closest mom friends, or after we have had one too many glasses of wine. Well, I have decided to come clean with mine.  You may be able to guess by my bio and Twitter handle (@Musclemommy), that I have a passion for fitness and nutrition.  In fact, I am obsessed with nutrition and eating healthy. And that is why one of my secrets (other than how often I really bathe my kids) is so distressing to me. My son, who is six, has never eaten a vegetable (that he knew was a vegetable)… to my knowledge. And trust me, I have tried.  Luckily, I have gotten pretty good at pureeing veggies and sneaking them into his food, but I am hoping he will be able to learn to eat them on his own, at least by the time he goes off to college. Most parents have probably been there at one point or another, trying desperately to get a child to eat their food and nothing seems to work.  It is called PES - Picky Eater syndrome. Okay, I actually made that up, but why not give it a name? So after doing some research, because the whole yelling/time out/punishment/bribery thing wasn’t getting the right results, here are some general tips (in no particular order): 1. Focus on three basics of diet: Balance, variety, and moderation. 2. Encourage a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all the food groups, but also in moderation. Yea, I know… easier said than done. 3. No matter what, offer at least one fruit and/or one veggie at each snack and meal. 4. Offer variety, even just a little. No one food has all the nutrients that you need, so if you find that you're giving your kids the same foods everyday (yea, I’m guilty of this one), even if it’s a really healthy food, it means that they're getting the same nutrients, vitamins, and minerals every day. This means they are probably missing a few key nutrients every day too. 5. All foods can be included in a healthy diet. This is where the moderation part comes in… see #6. 6. Limit the crap. Foods high in fat, calories, or processed sugar should be limited, and be mindful of portion sizes -- too much of any food isn't good. My husband is a numbers guy, so after my daughter ate a bag of skittles one day, he calculated what the equivalent of that would be for him. My daughter eating one bag of Skittles was the same as him eating SIX bags of Skittles. Yikes! 7.  Divide foods into three categories: Foods that are okay to eat all the time, foods that are okay sometimes, and foods that kids are almost never allowed to eat. 8. Do not use food as a reward. I am way guilty of this one. And I may not be able to completely comply, but when we use food as a reward, kids can get really focused on the reward foods as being better than all the other foods… the ones that are healthy and good for them. Most moms I know don’t reward their child with a piece of broccoli. 9. Consider overall nutrition over a week, not per day, or per meal, because it's normal for children's eating to be inconsistent from day to day or meal to meal. This also helps to alleviate stress out of every mealtime when your child decides to eat one grape and one Ritz cracker for dinner.  You know you can make up for it later. 10. Provide a go-to food. By offering at least one preferred food at a meal or snack, you know your child is at least going to eat something on the plate. Even if it is a hot dog, cheese burrito, or bowl of baked beans. And only offer one new or “challenging” food at a meal or snack. When you present a new food, offer their preferred food first to set the tone, then offer a new food followed by another familiar or preferred food. 11. Don’t force feed your kids. My husband and his parents often bring up the time when they stuffed garbanzo beans down his throat (and possibly up his nose). To this day, my husband refuses to eat garbanzos beans.  When we force a child to eat something it teaches them to eat out of fear, but when the fear goes away the eating stops. And the child's not learning the positives associated with food. It can be overall damaging to the child's relationship with food… and the child's relationship with you. Be their support system, not their enemy. 12. Hold off on beverages. Don’t give your child their drink until at least halfway through the meal; so the child doesn't guzzle down the drink and then not eat anything. 13. Allow children to make choices whenever possible, and present choices where all outcomes are acceptable. Don't set yourself up for a choice, that when they choose it, you won't accept it. It's up to us to provide the food, but it's up to our kids to eat it. So if we make it as enjoyable for them and as stress free for us, everyone wins. Good Luck.

When One Parent Travels... A Lot

For the last 2.5 years, Daddy-o has been a FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) Father. His current client requires that he be onsite during the week so as such, he arrives home on Friday nights, then leaves again on Sunday evenings. I have not written about it because I was advised not to go public that I was ‘alone’ during the week. But since I don’t feel “vulnerable”, if someone wants to break into my house based on the fact that there is no man around, they will have to get through Mama Bear first. Yeah, good luck with that. So there is no ‘man of the house’ around during the week. Although an initial adjustment, we have worked with our situation quite well. Since my youngest is now five-years-old, ‘flying solo’ in the parenting department is much easier than it would have been a few years ago. Making this arrangement work can be a bit of a trick. These are the lessons I have learned: The FIFO parent: Daddy-o was very excited to tell me about all the new and exciting things he could do now that he didn’t have the usual parent responsibilities. He got to exercise and get fit. He would tell me about his morning 1 km swims and how his post-work training sessions were going. Although happy for him, I would find myself feeling a little glum. All I could think was “and here I am, happy to get 30-seconds a day to move my bowels without interruption”. Daddy-o was also excited to tell me about all the cool things he was watching on Netflix. He’s all caught up on “Lost” and watches all the amazing shows I only know about because of Twitter. The last TV show I watched was the season finale of “Seinfeld” in the mid-90s. Occasionally on a Saturday, Daddy-o would turn to me and say “Wow – is the house always this noisy?” Yes. Yes, it is. Lesson for the FIFO: Keep on doing what you’re doing. Enjoy this time while you have it. Perhaps keeping a little bit of it to yourself is not a bad idea. It’s OK to share – but not too much or too often. Don’t go overboard relaying how much “me time” is happening. Stay at Home Parents: I know too well the temptation of handing off the kids when Daddy-o walks through the door on a Friday. He walks in and you kind of want to say, “Here you go! They’re all yours and I’m OUTTA here”. But here’s the thing – FIFOs don’t actually WANT to be away from their families. They are doing this for work. It is a sacrifice for them too and they don’t need to feel punished for it. Inevitably, the kids will feel like they are a burden on you during the week and that you only want your spouse home so that he can relieve you of that burden. That’s no fun for anyone. It’s a tricky situation for everyone, but manageable if you have the right attitude and remember that everyone is doing the best they can for the family. Do you have a FIFO parent in your family? Are you a FIFO? How has your family managed the transition?

Protecting Our Daughters from Campus Rape

In 1983, I was a Harvard freshman.  I was happy to be at Harvard, naturally. Harvard was pleased too, mostly because the college, which had welcomed female students for only 11 years, had recently taken progressive steps to protect us from being raped on campus. During freshman orientation, the campus police proudly showed female students all the blue light phones that had been installed on campus walkways.  If you ran to the phone at night after being attacked, and picked up the receiver, the campus police who would come rescue you.  There were other safety measures, too.  A nice police officer would escort any female student from spot A to spot B after dark, no questions asked.  There was also a free nighttime shuttle bus service so we didn’t have to walk the dark streets around Cambridge alone and unprotected. All the measures were focused on female students keeping ourselves safe from unknown assailants.  Nothing was said about stopping rapists from raping.  The assumption was always that female students would be attacked by older strange men in ski masks wielding knives, criminals who came onto campus in search of vulnerable young women. To my knowledge, male students received no education about how, or why, it was important to not rape their classmates.  None of us were told what acquaintance rape was.  No one explained that the true risk were the guys sitting next to you in calculus and history classes, the nice boys who Harvard had invited onto campus with an acceptance letter from the Admissions Office. Now we know differently. Research shows that 20% of female college students will be raped, and that roughly 10% of male college students commit rape.  Two thirds rape repeatedly, with an average of six victims. Many start raping girls while still in high school; the recent sexual assault of a St. Paul boarding school freshman by a senior (who coincidentally is heading to Harvard in a few days) is one recent, high profile example. We know now that the riskiest time for a female student is freshman year, from day one through Thanksgiving, a period known as The Red Zone. Unused to living alone, and sometimes new to the risks of drinking alcohol, freshman females are particularly vulnerable to campus rapists, fellow students they meet at campus parties. The perpetrators are almost never caught or punished.  In fact, they don’t even consider what they are doing to be rape. Since alcohol is often their weapon, not a ski mask or jagged knife, many rapists deny that they are forcing a woman to have sex against her will.  Little has changed since I was a college freshman 30 years ago. Fortunately, thanks to a slew of young activists including Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino, the founders of End Rape on Campus, victims are being empowered to break the silence about campus rape.  The focus is shifting to perpetrators, and the obligation universities have to protect students from rape.  Using federal legislation including Title IX and the Clery Act, victims are pressuring colleges and secondary schools to prevent campus rape and punish rapists.  The reason I wasn’t raped in college was simple. Harvard’s administration didn’t warn me about the real risks. But fortunately, one other person did.  My 19-year-old sister had been at Harvard for 12 months longer than I had, and here’s what she told me freshman week: “Les, you think you know everything but you know nothing.  A guy is going to come up to you at a party.  He will be cute and probably a hockey or football player.  After talking to you for a while, for some reason, he will want you to go up to his room alone.  Don’t go.  Just don’t go.” I thought she was ridiculous.  I had no idea she was a one-woman rape prevention task force. I secretly suspected she was playing a practical joke on her pathetic younger sister (it wouldn’t have been the first time). Then, only a few days later at the Ice Cream Social, a cute, muscular guy came up to me and started talking.  He was also a freshman.  He was also a hockey player.   I was so flattered!  He was attentive, smiling, and obviously liked me. Now this was college, finally. Hockey Boy told me that he’d heard about a better party elsewhere with upperclassmen.  If I wanted to go, he’d take me. He smiled again and touched my arm.  A delicious shiver went through me.  Sure, I said, smiling back. However the evening had gotten chilly, he said, rubbing his shoulders. Would I mind going up to his dorm room with him to get his sweatshirt?  I stared at him in horror. Because of my sister’s warning, I didn’t go.  Who knows whether he would have attacked me, or innocently gotten his sweatshirt and later kissed me goodnight.  I am glad I never had to find out. What I still wonder today, 30 years later: if my 19-year-old sister, who no matter what she says was not a genius, knew who the true perpetrators of campus rape were, and how to keep me safe, how could my college not know?  If they knew the risks, how could they not warn me and the other freshman girls?  Could it really be that my university, and hundreds of other colleges, have for too long placed their sanitized reputation above the sexual safety of their female students? It’s up to all of us today – college administrators, parents, and the federal government, plus a few older sisters and activists --  to make sure that we all break the silence about the risks of campus rape. Today, thanks to outspoken rape survivors and painstaking research, we have the information to make sure students can minimize the risks of rape.  Today, we can punish the students, and administrators, who don’t care about protecting women from sexual violence, on campus and off. We can, and for all future college students, we need to.

10 Tips to Raise a Reader

Reading books to your kids is one of the most important things you can do to promote literacy development - but why stop there? In addition to just regurgitating the words on the page, try these creative strategies to foster your child's love of reading: 1. Add a little play-acting. Instead of just reciting the same old story, improvise a little. Don’t be afraid to deviate from what’s on the page. Incorporate different accents for the characters, add drama with theatrical hand gestures, build anticipation by including pauses, and let the emotions of the story register on your face. 2. Encourage interaction. When reading to your preschooler, pause every now and then to ask questions about the story, wonder aloud about alternate endings, or propose new character names. 3. Talk about books. The benefits of reading to children don’t have to stop after you’ve closed the book. After sharing a story together, bring it up in conversation throughout the day. Compare a real-life event to something that happened in the book, or ask how they think a certain character would handle a specific situation. Incorporate key vocabulary that was presented in the book, so your child gets an idea of how the words fit into different contexts. 4. Introduce books in new scenarios. Why wait until bedtime to pull out a book? For babies and toddlers, bath times and mealtimes provide great opportunities for enjoying a story. 5. Consider joining a book club for children. With the overwhelming number of kids’ books on the market, it can seem like a daunting task to select the ones that are right for your child. When you join a book club for children, you’ll receive hand-picked titles tailored to your kids’ ages and interests. Getting shipments of high-quality children's books delivered right to your doorstep is a great way to encourage excitement about reading. 6. Explore reading resources for children. The Internet offers an abundance of children's Web sites with creative ideas for promoting early literacy, fun literacy games, and reading tools for children. 7. Encourage reading outside of books. Throughout a typical day, there are hundreds of opportunities to recognize words and phrases. Challenge your child to find new mediums for reading, whether it’s a billboard, newspaper, cereal box, or storefront sign. This will help your child grasp the significance of reading in the real world and give him a chance to apply what he’s learned. 8. Introduce your own childhood favorites. Remember those timeless classics you couldn’t get enough of as a kid? Bring them back into the limelight by reading them to your own child. Your excitement for those old beloved stories is sure to rub off on your little one. 9. Volunteer your reading services. If your child is of school age (or even in daycare), reading aloud to his class is an excellent way to foster his love of books and to demonstrate your support and commitment to his reading success. Most daycare centers, preschools, and elementary schools welcome parent volunteers. 10. Take field trips to the library. The library is an invaluable reading resource. Acquaint your budding reader with the book loaning process, emphasizing a respect for the facility and the books. Many libraries feature designated story hours, where a librarian reads selections aloud to a targeted age group. Check with your local branch for more activities to promote reading. The importance of reading to children can’t be disputed. By utilizing literacy resources for children, incorporating books as part of your child’s everyday routine, and looking for creative ways to promote reading, you’ll be giving your youngster a head start toward academic success and a rich, vivid imagination.  

Shielding Our Kids From the Harsh Realities of Life

This is a lovely guest post by Stuart M. Perkins from Storyshucker. My daughter is an intelligent, funny, beautiful young lady already in her late teens – I still wrestle with that fact. Not long ago I watched as she drove up in her car, walked in high heels, and made a phone call about her job. I was reminded that sadly I was no longer looking at my little girl. I’d been reminded of that before and she knew what I was thinking when she saw my face. Where did that tiny kid go I used to carry in my arms? “Will you always think of me as a five year old?” she asked as she rolled her eyes. “Yes Baby Doll.” I answered, calling her the name I’ve called her since the days I carried her in my arms. Even as that five year old kid she was outgoing, curious, and questioning. Like every child with every parent, she often asked questions that forced me, I felt, to come up with the tiniest of white lies in order to shield her from the harsher realities of life for as long as I thought I could. How dare anything ruin her happy, innocent world? I couldn’t stand the thought of her sweet little head being contaminated by life’s occasional negatives. For instance, the time she softly asked why the cute raccoon was lying on the side of the road, I naturally told her he was just taking a nap. I rolled up the window before she could ask about the odor. And who could fault me for telling her that our goldfish was simply learning to float on his back the day she saw him belly up in the tank? I turned on her music box so she wouldn’t hear the toilet flush him away. Once day we watched a program on television about Africa and before I could grab the remote she saw a crocodile drag a gazelle into the river. “Everybody likes to wrestle their friends in the water, Baby Doll.” I said as I hurriedly switched to cartoons. I couldn’t stand her innocent little mind being tainted by such things and I found myself constantly on guard for additional realities I might need to protectively water down. I was off my game the day the chicken truck pulled up beside us at a red light. Just a few miles past where we lived at the time were chicken “factories”. Periodically, trucks with loads of live chickens traveled down a major road near our house. Several times in the past I had done illegal U-turns just to avoid them if I had my daughter in the car. I couldn’t imagine what I would say if she ever asked me about those trucks with stacks and stacks of pitiful live chickens, obviously miserable, being hauled off to their deaths. I was always mindful when I used that road. Except that day. Only she and I were in the car at the time and I hadn’t even noticed it was a chicken truck as it pulled up and stopped beside me at the red light. I noticed the truck cab beside me, but trucks of all sorts used that road and nothing in particular was triggered until I reached over to change the radio station. That’s when I saw, through the windshield, a huge white feather float slowly down and land on the hood of my car. I sat bolt upright. “Chickens.” I said to myself. As I leaned over to look, almost afraid to confirm what sort of truck it was, I noticed my daughter in the back seat looking intently through her window. Just feet away from her dear, chubby little face were hundreds of terrified white chickens crammed into tiny metal cages. Feathers floated everywhere. My daughter stared at the birds. I can still see her red cheeks and wide eyes as she scanned the many cages full of chickens. I whirled around to face the front, said nothing, and prayed for a green light. It remained agonizingly red. I thought maybe she wouldn’t ask me anything. I thought wrong. “Daddy?” she asked, in that sweet little girl voice. This was it, I realized. Please let me think of a good one. “Yes?” I answered, willing the light to turn green. It would not. “Is that what chicken nuggets look like before we eat them?” she asked. Through the rear view mirror I saw her lean forward to get a better look at the birds. I couldn’t think of anything to say. In fact, I had no idea she even knew chicken nuggets came from chickens. She apparently hadn’t paid attention the day I told her they were made by nugget elves. Well, she was five after all. I guessed it was time she start processing some of those harsh realities of life. I could think of nothing to say to avoid this one. She was staring face to beak at a truckload of misery and there was no way I could save her. I nearly teared up as I resigned myself to the ruination of her innocence. “Yes, Baby Doll.” I finally answered, in the saddest of tones. “That’s what chicken nuggets look like before we eat them.” I held on to the steering wheel, stared at the stubborn red light, and waited for her to scream, cry, and wail from the pain of that awful truth. “Mmmm!” she said with a huge grin. “I love chicken meat!” The light turned green. She asked to go to McDonald’s.      

Almost-Instant Chicken Fajitas

The following recipe was originally published on RebelGrain.com. Visit the website for more great ideas and cooking tips! This dish uses one of the greatest ‘cheats’ available to us mamas: a store-bought rotisserie chicken. I pick a rotisserie up at least once a week (because I know it will come in handy for instant dinner somewhere), and I always ‘re-create’ it somehow – like with these fajitas, for example. Simple. Flavorful. Fragrant. Deconstructable, which means everyone can prepare theirs just the way they want it. And, most importantly: FAST. Enjoy… and come back and tell me after you try them at home. (I bet they’ll become one of your favorite family go-tos.) Here’s the recipe: Ingredients - serves 5 (with 2-3 corn tortilla-sized fajitas each) 1 rotisserie chicken, breast and thigh meat removed and rough chopped (save the rest of the chicken for soup!) 2-3 large bell peppers, variety of colors – cut into thin strips 1 onion, sliced into thin strips 1/4 cup chicken stock (or water) Zest from 1 lime Juice from 1/2 a lime Corn tortillas Fajita seasoning: 1 TBSP cornstarch 1 TBSP garlic powder 1 TBSP ground cumin 1 TBSP chili powder 1 TBSP paprika 1.5 tbs sea salt 1 tsp oregano Directions Heat large skillet and add enough olive oil (or canola oil) to coat the bottom of the pan. When oil begins to smoke, add in bell peppers and onions. Saute for a minute or so, then cover and saute for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add in chopped chicken, chicken stock, and sprinkle fajita mix over entire pan. Stir everything to coat evenly; add lime zest and the juice from 1/2 the lime. Recover and allow to cook on medium high heat for two minutes so flavors can meld together. Uncover, stir again, turn off heat, and prepare your tortillas. Heat up a griddle (or flat pan of some sort) to warm tortillas. After you flip the tortillas to warm the flip side, sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese and top with warm chicken fajita mix. Top with fresh cilantro, salsa, sliced avocado, and sour cream. For more great recipe ideas, visit www.rebelgrain.com

Morning Sickness Remedies for Moms-To-Be

Morning sickness normally starts around the first 4 weeks of pregnancy and generally ends around the third month, once the hormones, HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and estrogen hormonal levels stabilize and the body has adjusted to the pregnancy.Interestingly, actual vomiting is only experienced by a relatively small number of women. Most pregnant women experience nausea during the first trimester (the first 3 - 4 months) of pregnancy, but don't have the vomiting associated with the condition. The good news: morning sickness is unpleasant but generally not dangerous. What does morning sickness feel like? Morning sickness is characterized by feelings of nausea and vomiting. Secondary symptoms may include an improved sense of smell, dizziness and headaches. It is however, poorly named as morning sickness can affect pregnant women at any time during the day. I personally used to feel sick when I was traveling in cars. About 33% of pregnant woman actually vomit because of it, but about 80% of women do feel nauseous at some point in the early stages of their pregnancy. What causes morning sickness? Morning sickness probably triggered by hormonal changes, also blood sugar levels, lifestyle and genetic factors can affect the severity of the condition. Although doctors aren’t exactly sure about the exact causes of morning sickness, there have been studies that suggest that vomiting is more common in women who consume fatty food or foods high in sugars, than woman who eat a healthy whole gain, low fat diet. This could be interpreted as that the body is trying to remove toxins from an unhealthy diet that may harm the baby by vomiting. Can morning sickness be dangerous or life threatening? Hyperemesis Gravidarium is a rare genetic condition that can cause life threatening symptoms. Ask your mother and grandmothers if they experienced this form of severe morning sickness. Morning Sickness Remedies- Peppermint or ginger teas, sodas or candies- Hypnosis- Acupuncture or Acupressure  Another way to relieve morning sickness is by taking care of your diet. Here are a few guidelines to follow:1. Eat as soon as you wake up in the morning or even eat in bed before you start moving - This is a great excuse for breakfast in bed.2. Avoid high fat food or foods high in sugars - They are not good in general and they are even worse during pregnancy.3. Eat and chew tour food slowly - Take your time while you are eating. This will also prevent you from overeating.4. Eat food that are rich in protein such as milk, fruit, cheese, nuts and yogurt.5. Drink a lot of water - Nothing moves inside the body without water. So water is crucial especially during this crucial period.Morning sickness may come with unpleasant symptoms but it also brings an opportunity to start a healthy lifestyle. And trust me, you will need all the energy you can get when your little one comes along.