The Small Things That Mean The Most...

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

5 Things Parents of Preemies Should Know

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

Spicy Quinoa Chickpea Patties (Quinoa Falafel)

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

How Young is Too Young for Facebook?

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

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

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

Mommy Moments: It's All About the Little Things

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

5 Fun Family Earth Day Activities

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

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

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

Buffalo Egg Salad Sliders

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

My Daughter Isn't Who I Thought She Was

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

7 Mistakes Parents Make When Kids Wet The Bed

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

Gluten-Free Zucchini Patties

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

How to Make Passover Chocolate Toffee Matzah

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

Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs

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

Get A Holiday Workout With These Easter Egg Exercise Moves

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

Traditional Italian Ricotta Pie Recipe

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

Last Minute Easter Table Decorating Ideas

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

The Perfect Spring Break Craft Project To Do With Your Kids

Looking for a fun way to entertain your kids during those long summer days? We've got the perfect mother-daughter craft idea! These bracelets are absolutely adorable and so simple to make - all for less than $5!!! Here's what you need: 10 small hex nuts, available at any hardware store 1 slightly larger hex nut Old nail polish Leather or nylon cord (We used 1/8 in thick leather cording for Mom's bracelet, and 2 mm "sparkly silky" cord for the child's bracelet) Scissors Scotch tape   Directions Cut three lengths of cord, approximately 18 inches long for a child's bracelet or 21 inches long for an adult's bracelet. Then, using old nail polish, paint the smaller hex nuts some fun colors. Let dry completely.  (Moms can leave their hex nuts gold or silver for a more sophisticated look.) Tie a knot at the top, then thread the cords through the larger hex nut and tie a second knot about an inch from the top.  Tape the top of your cord to a table or flat surface and begin braiding. Braid about two inches down, then stop. Braid in your hex nuts, alternating sides, until you have five on each side. Finish braiding for another two inches and knot the end - but DON'T CUT OFF THE EXTRA LENGTH YET! Thread the extra length through the larger hex nut in the opposite direction, so the two ends will lie flat against the arm. Tip: you may need a toothpick to poke the cord through. Tie another knot about an inch from the end. Cut off the extra length and there you go! Mother/daughter best friend bracelets!  

How to Make Passover Chocolate Toffee Matzah

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

The Parenting Paradox

Motherhood is a comedy.  And the joke seems always on me.The latest episode featured the fourth grade end-of-year music performance. My youngest child is ten. This is her last year of lower school. She attends the school my two older children, my younger sister, and I, all attended. At times, it feels as though I’ve been imprisoned inside the same white brick building for the past forty years in an endless bad dream.  How many back to school nights am I expected to attend?  Do teacher conferences at this age really matter?  Exactly how many perfectly-brown-edged chocolate chip cookies must I bake in my role as a good mother?  Can’t we just fastforward through the slow parts of this movie? So when other parents, also facing “goodbye” to lower school, mentioned how teary they were going to be, I laughed sardonically.  Not me!  I couldn’t wait for the last day, the final music performance.  I’d be cheering. You know where this is going. I, however, was clueless. The morning I walked confidently into the music assembly, I involuntarily recalled my favorite motherhood quote by Dorothy Evslin, which I read years before when my children were still wearing footed pajamas: “It will be gone before you know it. The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher. Then suddenly they disappear.” I saw my blonde daughter in her pink dress in the back row. My eyes watered, my heart swelled, and there was nothing I could do.  I felt like I’d been driving a race car quite skillfully towards the waving red finish line flag, when suddenly, involuntarily, an unseen hand slammed the clutch into reverse. How is it fair that in the space of two seconds, I went from wishing away this tedious phase of childhood, to romanticizing it and wanting, quite desperately, to press the rewind button?  How did I travel from glee to tears as I walked through the doorway of that music room? Parenthood can be downright cruel.  You spend what feels like a lifetime cursing those grimy fingerprints on your beautiful pale yellow walls, the dirty diapers, the wet towels on the bathroom floors, the ketchup stains on your favorite jeans.  The days and nights ruined by vomit and urine-soaked crib sheets, and then by failed tests, mean girl battles and blown curfews. Then, wrong footed, you want it all back. Once it’s almost over. In the darkened auditorium, the children sang from the Wizard of Oz (cue sweet little high-pitched preteen voices warbling, “I could wile away the hours, Conferrin' with the flowers, Consultin' with the rain”). I started to daydream of my oldest child, the high school sophomore.  He will be driving a car soon.  Heading off to college in three years.  Away from me forever! And my 13-year-old daughter, the diva.  I hadn’t seen her in two days. She prefers to spend her nights elsewhere.  The moms at her friends’ houses are nicer, she says. Maybe I’ve lost her already! Motherhood is endless. Motherhood is almost over! Motherhood is a comedy.  Motherhood is a tragedy!  Parenthood is a paradox, making us laugh and cry in a sequence too fast for the average human constitution to absorb. How could any parenting book possibly capture all this? Parenthood stinks and it soars, nearly at the same time, ruining us and saving us simultaneously, and we are forever changed.

New Tra-Dish: Deep Dish Taco Pizza

The following post is sponsored by Ragú®Put a fun new spin on a classic recipe and make a New Tra-Dish! This one comes from Betsy over at The Dallas Socials, who put a twist on Ragú's Upside-Down Deep Dish Pizza.The result: a super easy dinner recipe that's perfect for busy weeknights! Check out her post below:Tonight, just like every night in my house, started off with a conversation between my fiance and I debating what should be eaten for dinner.“What should I make for dinner?”“I don’t know.”“How about taco pizza?”“Ew, that sounds gross. I don’t want that.”“Okay, well that’s what I’m having. You can eat it or get something else.”We usually always come to agree on what to eat but tonight, he really didn't want Taco Pizza. He thought it sounded gross, he didn't want ground beef on his pizza, blah blah blah blah. I've actually never made taco pizza before but I saw this Upside-Down Deep Dish Pizza and it inspired me. I like to put a Mexican twist on everything and since I knew I already loved Taco Pizza, I thought I would make it a Deep Dish Taco Pizza.First thing I did was preheat my oven to 400 degrees. While my oven was preheating, I browned my ground beef and added Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce. (Fun Fact: Did you know each jar is made with 11 juicy tomatoes making it its richest, thickest recipe?)Next, I took a can of refrigerated pizza dough and cut it in half to make two squares. The dough needed to be pre-baked so I put both halves over their own pie pan and baked at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.Once the dough was done, I took it out of the oven and filled it with Ragú and meat mixture. Don’t use all of the mixture, leave about 1/4 cup to use for the top of your pizza.Then I topped it with cheese. I only used about a half of a cup of Mexican and mozzarella cheese. You can use more depending on your taste.Then I took the other pizza dough that I pre-baked and put it on top of the other dough so that I’m covering all of meat and spaghetti sauce mixture. I pinched the sides of the dough all the way around the dish to make sure it was sealed with the other dough.I know, I know. It doesn't look that pretty.  I then put the whole dish back into the over for another 7 minutes. (Your time may differ depending on your oven and which pizza dough you bought.)Once the dough is completed cooking, I took it out of the over and covered it with the remaining spaghetti sauce and meat mixture to give it a base. You can see from looking directly down, it looks just like a pizza.After adding the sauce, I sprinkled on chopped iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, jalapenos and avocados.It turned out absolutely delicious! Maybe the best part about it was when I went back in the kitchen to put my plate up, I noticed that my fiance had a serving or two of the pizza even though he said he didn't want any. So that means that he didn't only try it, but he liked it and came back for more!Let me know how you like the recipe and if you would make any changes!Want more easy recipes that your family will love? Check out Ragú on Facebook for tons of New Tra-Dish ideas! Plus, enter The Ragú Better & Better Sweepstakes for the chance to win a trip to Italy and other amazing prizes - 11 weeks, 11 juicy prizes for the 11 tomatoes in each jar of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce!

7 Mistakes Parents Make When Kids Wet The Bed

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

6 Kid-Friendly Ways To Decorate Easter Eggs Without Dye

So you’ve boiled the eggs - now what? Before you go out and buy that cheap egg dying kit from the nearest grocery story, take a look at some of these tips to make egg decorating even more fun with your kids. Add a little twist to this Easter ritual with some of the following ideas we’ve collected from other creative minds. Get those artistic juices flowing! 1. Egg AnimalsMake your boring egg into a cute critter by using materials like felt, construction paper, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes to create bunnies, chicks, and other springtime characters. 2. Glitter Add a little sparkle to your egg dying process. Mix together white glue and water and dip your eggs into the mixture before rolling them in glitter. Or, opt for a more simple technique with glitter pens.  3. Washable MarkerThis option may be better for little ones that may get too messy with dye. You can give them full control to decorate the eggs how they like without staining their hands.4. StickersHere’s another mess-free option that can be used with younger kids. Buy a bunch of fun Easter-themed or springtime stickers and let them go nuts!5. Oil and Food Coloring Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the vinegar and food coloring mix and dip your eggs in multiple colors for a cool marble tie-dye effect!  6. Ribbons, Gems, and Lace Use whatever tactile materials you have around your house to add a fun 3-D touch to your eggs.

Step-Family Stress

No matter how long you’ve been a step-parent or have been a part of your stepchild’s life, there will inevitably be times when you you are reminded that you are not a biological parent. And even though there was probably a legitimate and logical reason that this little reminder came up, it can hurt nonetheless.Since I've been part of my husband’s son "D’s" life for more than two and a half years now, I have a been a constant authority and parental figure in his life. Even though I love spending time with him and taking care of him and I see him as my son, it doesn’t mean I have the same rights that a biological parent does - especially in the big life moments. There are many times when I get frustrated because I’m not included in big decisions like what school he will attend or being there for doctor’s appointments. Sometimes I'm able to realize the absurdity of my feelings, but other times I just feel left out of things that are important to D’s overall well being. So how do I stay sane when my emotions begin to overpower my logical side? Here are my tips: 1. Never let your feelings impact how you treat your step-child. Children, no matter their age, should be protected from those types of feelings. There is never a need for them to know there is tension between parents or feel that the tension is transferring to the relationship they have with a step-parent.  2. Share how you feel with your spouse. Your spouse may not be aware how you feel and may either be able to help change the situation or at least be more cognizant of your feelings going forward. Your spouse should be a sounding board and should want to make you comfortable in your situation. 3. Reflect on yourself.  Be introspective and determine if your feelings have anything to do with your own insecurities or self-consciousness. Sometimes we project our feelings onto a situation and have to take a step back to realize if the feelings are legitimate or based on other reasons. 4. Focus only on those things you can control and let the rest go. Like everything in life, we can only control so much, the rest is out of our hands and no amount of stress or complaining is going to make it change. 5. Stop thinking that you’re not a part of the family. When big decisions are made without your input, it can make you feel like you’re not a critical part of the family structure - like you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But you’re just as important part of the family as anyone else. Just remember that this family unit is bigger than you, your husband and your step-child. And it’s not about you, but the best interests of the child. Do you have any coping mechanisms that help you get through those times you feel frustrated or stressed?

We've Been Having The Same Fight For 20 Years

My husband and I have been together since 1993.  If you’re not so good at math, that’s coming up on 20 years.  Or, to put it another way, it’s officially half of my life. We met in college, and he was supposed to be a senior year fling, nothing serious, just a little fun before I moved away, went to law school and started my life for real. Sometimes, I think it’s pretty amazing that we’re still together, given the lack of serious thought I put into dating him.  I mean, if I had met him when were older and had to consider whether he was marriage material or not on the first date, I probably would have passed based on his musical preferences alone.  But here we are, amazingly, still in love.  A lot has changed in twenty years.  We have kids, a dog, a mortgage.  When we met, I was burning to become a lawyer, and he was obsessed with producing movies.  We both ended up on completely different paths.  Along the way, our dreams have changed, our taste has changed, the kinds of vacations we like have changed.  But one thing has remained a constant, always.  One thing has never wavered: We still fight about exactly the same thing.  It seems to me that most couples have one thing they fight about over and over again, like a recurring dream.  No matter how many times you argue about it, no matter how sick you may be of having the same argument, no matter how many times you swear that you will try harder, that you will not fight about this anymore, no matter what, the fight always finds a way to suck you in, and you find yourself yelling the same words you've yelled a thousand times before, like you’re stuck in an angry version of Groundhog Day.  Our fight is about the tone of voice I use when I am frustrated, or annoyed.  For example, DH will ask me a question, which I will then answer, pleasantly.  A minute later, DH will ask the same question.  I will usually answer pleasantly again, unless I am getting my period.  The third time he asks, PMS or not, I am usually annoyed that he has not listened to me the first two times, so I might, perhaps, have a slight edge to my tone when I ask why he didn’t listen to me the first two times.  At which point he will, predictably, say, "that doesn’t mean you have to yell at me."  And I will say, "that wasn’t yelling.  I didn’t even raise my voice."  And he will say, "it is yelling, and it’s unacceptable."  And I will say, "no, it’s not yelling.  It’s being human and humans have feelings and one of those feelings is annoyance when they’re not being listened to, so I was just expressing my feeling of annoyance."  And he will say, "oh, so I annoy you?"  And I will say, "yes, you do when you don’t listen to me."  And he will say, "I don’t care if I annoy you, it’s unacceptable for you to yell at me."  And I will then yell, "this is so f-ing stupid, why can’t you just let things roll of your back?  Why can’t you just let me have my two seconds of annoyance and let it go?  Why does it have to be a fight every time?"  And he will say, "you just yelled at me again."  And I will yell, "yes!  Yes, I did!  Because now I’m angry, and when people are angry they yell!"  I swear, if the whole thing wasn’t so annoying it would make an amazing comedy routine.  Most of my friends have a similar kind of fight that they constantly engage in with their husbands.  It’s a different subject matter for them, yes, but the frequency and the I-have-had-this-fight-so-many-times-I-could-do-it-in-my-sleep quality is the same.  It’s not serious enough to be divorce-inducing, and it’s not angry enough to be makeup-sex inducing.  It’s just run of the mill, low-level marriage kind of stuff, like putting his dirty dishes in the dishwasher because he always leaves them in the sink.  I have learned in therapy how to avoid engaging in this fight, but yet, I still engage it every time.  Honestly, if we were to ever stop having this fight, I think I’d be afraid; afraid that we’d be leaving time and space open for other, scarier kinds of fights that we wouldn’t recover from quite so quickly.  At this point, even though I know our fight isn’t good for us, there’s almost something comforting about it, like mac and cheese.  After all, I have been doing it for half of my life.