Seven Parent-Approved Games Your Teens Should Be Playing

The first question most parents ask when it comes to teens and video games is whether the game is appropriate. Video games are often stereotyped as violent, but more and more of them are challenging that old association. Many games feature complex, nuanced storytelling. They educate players about important topics like free will, gender politics and self-expression, and teach skills like improved visual processing, problem solving and fortitude. A growing amount of research shows that teens are even more receptive to learning while playing a game. To help parents sift through the millions of games available to their children, I’ve compiled a list of seven games that parents can not only tolerate, but feel thrilled their teens are playing. The Stanley Parable The Stanley Parable is a fun, narrative-driven game that teaches players rhetoric and decision-making. The game revolves around Stanley, an employee known as #427, who is just another number, taking orders, and following the directions of the company. Everything changes when, all of a sudden, the orders stop coming and Stanley is presented with his freedom (or so he thinks). This is where the game begins, as players guide Stanley deciding whether to follow his internal thought process, which narrates the game, or go against it. Through the game, players learn about critical thinking and the impact of their choices. One teacher compared the game to Henry James’ The Turn of The Screw, arguing that the game provides a modern context to understand James’ “unreliable narration” and the critical thinking needed to grasp the story. Gone Home Gone Home is an atmospheric, detective-style game that follows Kaitlin Greenbriar, a 21-year-old who returns home from a year abroad to find her family’s house is mysteriously empty. Kaitlin then wanders throughout the house searching for clues to explain her parents’ and sister’s disappearance. However, the game’s central narrative is actually about Kaitlin’s younger sister, Sam. Sam’s story unfolds as the player finds (and reads) her journal entries, which reveal that she was involved in a romantic relationship with a girl named Lonnie. The journal documents the progression of their relationship, as well as the challenges Sam faced in coming out to her parents, understanding her own emotions, and generally surviving adolescence. NPR’s Steve Mullus called Gone Home “one of the most deeply intimate and emotionally honest gaming experiences I’ve had in my more than 25 years of playing video games.” Spaceteam Spaceteam requires two to four players who become the "crew" of a spaceship. Each crew member has a control panel filled with a medley of switches, slider, knobs, buttons, etc.. The panel displays (often ridiculous) commands such as “engage hyperjig,” and “oscillate the optical refractor,” which the players must rapidly accomplish to keep the spaceship from crashing. The catch? Most commands can only be completed by another player. This means that every player must constantly yell out commands for her fellow crew members, while also listening for commands to fulfill herself. This game not only teaches teamwork, but also hones critical skills of communicating and listening to others, particularly in high-stress situations.  Monument Valley Monument Valley is an interactive puzzle game that throws the player into a mystical world of MC Escher-style visuals. Each puzzle is a piece of conceptual art, featuring impossible architecture, mazes, optical illusions, and geometric mind-benders. Players lead “Princess Ida” through the puzzles as she searches for the exits (and forgiveness). Ida will encounter moving platforms, mysterious staircases, crows, and other obstacles along the way, and each level holds a different central mechanic to figure out. Monument Valley teaches puzzle-solving skills and spatial reasoning. Furthermore, its beautiful design can inspire an appreciation for art in even the most apathetic of teens.   Sims 3 Sims 3 is a real-life simulation game where players create their own virtual worlds. The games are open-ended, leaving it up to the players to build characters, homes, and communities, and keep them functioning smoothly. Like actual humans, the customizable Sims go to work, have fun, create goals, form friendships, get married, buy houses, have children, do chores, shop, eat, sleep, get sick, and even die. Players have to work to keep their Sims happy, healthy, and productive. They will also encounter challenges along the way that they can complete to earn more money or social credit. The game helps teens practice time-management and goal-setting skills while also driving home the reminder that all actions have consequences, and small choices can have a large impact on the future. Hearthstone Hearthstone is a collectible card game that centers around turn-based matches between two opponents. Each player chooses a “hero” avatar and creates a deck of 30 cards. They draw and play cards each turn to cast spells, use weapons or special skills, or summon minions. A player’s actions are partially determined by their “mana,” or resource pool, which increases throughout the game. A match ends when one player reaches zero health or concedes. Hearthstone a strategy game, requiring forethought, discipline, and even math to win. It also encourages good sportsmanship. Papers, Please Papers, Please takes place in the fictional, communist state of Arstotzka, which has just ended a war with its neighbor Kolechia and reclaimed the border town of Grestin. Players assume the role of an immigration inspector tasked with controlling the flow of people entering Grestin from Kolechia. Hiding amidst the hordes of people are smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Players have to inspect the travelers’ documents to determine whether they are in order. They can also interrogate travelers that seem suspicious and demand more information, such as a body scan or fingerprints. Using limited information and resources, players have to decide who is allowed to enter Arstotzka, who gets turned away, and who gets arrested. This task is further complicated by financial incentives, bribes and penalties, not to mention escalating political crises in the region. Every action the border agents take intimately affects another person’s life, and causes players to carefully consider moral questions and make difficult decisions. In the process, players learn about passing judgment and the moral repercussions of decisions.    Getting a teenager’s attention can be a major obstacle, much less imparting life lessons and practical skills. Parents trying to engage with their kids in today’s fast-paced, digital world should be open to experimenting with new methods and channels. Video games present a powerful opportunity to reach teens while also preparing them (however stealthily) for adulthood.  What games have you found helpful in teaching your teens lessons? What type of lessons do you hope games can teach your kids?    ##### Kara Loo is a California girl who loves Dynasty Warriors, garden roses, and baking cupcakes. When she isn’t writing for Pixelberry’s hit game High School Story, she also runs a fictional fantasy high school in the world of School for Adventurers with her co-author Jennifer Young.

Surviving Sixteen Years and Six Kids

I recently celebrated my 16th wedding anniversary to Daddy-o. When I say “celebrated,” I actually just mean that we both “remembered.” It has been a busy sixteen years and I’d be lying if I said we’ve actually remembered all of our anniversaries. Usually we are reminded of this special occasion when his mother calls to offer congratulations. People have asked how we’ve survived 16 years and six kids. I could say all the usual healthy relationship tips: don’t go to bed angry, appreciate each other, say “I love you”, make time for each other, communicate honestly and often, blah, blah, blah. All this marriage advice is useful and we probably do them for the most part. What I really think has been useful is some of the advice that was given to me. Before we were married, Daddy-o’s mother sat us down and said this: “Just so you know, there are not going to be hard days, hard weeks and hard months – there are going to be hard YEARS. If you can just work through them it will all be worth it.” I also remember what my brother says: “If the grass is looking greener on the other side, try taking better care of your lawn.” Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually think people should be miserable with their spouse for years, and certainly some people take very good care of their lawns and still can’t avoid those poisonous weeds. Ending a marriage can sometimes be the very best thing for a family. Only those in the marriage are qualified to make that call and decide how to fix a relationship. But, I think these messages have been good reminders to me that relationships were never meant to be easy all the time and that part of my responsibility is to work on it. One thing I do know is that the guy who posted his dissatisfaction with his married sex life online last week should have kept this dissatisfaction to himself. I doubt it helped his marriage and I’m certain it won’t lead to him getting more action in the bedroom. So if nothing else, my relationship advice is DON’T DO WHAT THIS IDIOT DID. You’re welcome. You can thank me for saving your marriages henceforth. What keeps your marriage/relationship going strong? Did you get any good dating advice that has helped your partnership?

Why Moms Need Dreams...

A version of the following was originally posted on Jill Simonian's Jill Simonian is a TV & Digital personality seen frequenlty on HLN, Hallmark Channel and parenting blogs across the web.   We've all hit that metaphorical brick wall. You know, that thing we slam into every now and then when we’ve spun around in circles enough times to lose our orientation. BAM! There've been way too many times I've put both my girls down for a nap about an hour early just so I could lay on my couch and do nothing. You too? Uh-huh. Making dinner, peeling hot food from the floor, cleaning house, working, blogging, preschooling and all those other real life things that happen in between can wear a mother down, man. Did I mention auditions? Oh yeah. I still go to auditions. The big question is: WHY. WHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYY? I’m a busy mom now. (Ha, is there any other kind?) Between taking care of my girls, a husband who thankfully has a stable career and my little living online experiment to keep life fun and fab after babies…. it’s humbling for me to admit that I don’t NEED to work to pay our mortgage. So why am I bothering going to auditions and trying to get jobs? Friends of mine have flat-out asked: Why are you trying to work if you don’t absolutely NEED to? Is it my ego? Maybe. Am I scared to NOT go, for fear of totally abandoning my pre-baby life? Quite possible. Do I still enjoy the rush? YES. But why? Who needs a ‘rush’ when you’re rushing around all day after toddlers? I’ve been thinking about this more and more. Recently, I went to yet another audition. I showered. I makeuped (a lot). I slathered the stinky self-tanner all over my bare arms (it makes your arms look more toned… a little fab showbiz tip from me to you). I stood in front of my closet and mulled over and over about what to wear (“Don’t look like a mom” is my most common mantra when selecting audition-wardrobe… I ended up choosing a sleeveless coral top that I’ve worn about a hundred times). I tucked my wiry gray wisps of hair under the hair that isn’t gray and made a mental note to call my stylist once again to schedule a color. And as I drove in my two-carseated SUV from my suburban home all the way over the hill to my much-missed Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, I thought: Why am I still doing this? This is so stupid of me while parked in traffic at a stoplight. And just like magic, at that exact moment, my eyes wandered to my passenger window and I saw this: D-R-E-A-M. Whoa. Can you see it? Look closely. D-R-E-A-M. Spelled out in individual topiary pots on the side of the road. Are you kidding me?!? And then the tears came (which royally screwed up the amazing home-makeup job that I did just 30 minutes prior). But the sign told the truth: MOMS. NEED. DREAMS. Especially us moms, in this age. It’s no secret that our generation of women has collectively been brought up to accomplish, reinvent and conquer whatever it is we set out to do in high school, college and the years after (before we had babies). Very few women I know wanted to grow up and ‘be a mom’… there was always something ‘else’ (career-wise) that was supposed to come before the family portion of the program. (Not that there’s anything amiss about wanting to grow up and solely be a mom. Believe me, I grew up with – and am still friends with – the few women whose primary goals revolved solely around motherhood. We all know it’s much harder to stay at home than to work.) But for the rest of us, who thought we’d do something REALLY BIG before we were blessed with kids (and didn’t quite get as far as we imagined in our minds before the babies came), we still need our dreams to exist. We need our dreams to get us through those “Did I fulfill my potential?” moments that we have when we’re arguing about the size of crackers with our toddler. We need our dreams to distract us when it’s time to spend a beautiful day in our babies’ rooms cleaning out their closets to separate the too-small clothes from the just-right clothes (as we wonder why we’re not sitting at an outdoor lunch somewhere drinking a glass of wine). We need our dreams to remind us that “we” are still here (even though our reflection sometimes doesn’t convey it). It doesn't even matter if our dreams come true. We just NEED them to exist somewhere. When I was a freshman in high school, I went to a leadership conference with about a hundred students and a few incredible teachers. To say that it affected me is an understatement. The words of the vivacious, middle-aged man with a grey beard who was in charge of the event (I still remember his name, Jim Coiner) told all of us kids: “You need to dream for the rest of your life. When you stop having a dream, you stop living.” He then continued with how dreams and goals change over time, but as long as you have a dream or some kind of goal, you will be happy. I sometimes wish I could be brazen enough to give up all pre-baby goals and have faith that I’d be content staying at home Forever And Ever Amen. Maybe I would be happy? I’m just not ready to find out. Not right now. I’m taking that telling topiary on Sunset Blvd to heart: D.R.E.A.M. (It told me good.) No more doubting or trying to suppress the fact that the cat-and-mouse chase of my showbiz industry does still make me happy (despite my eyeliner looking a bit smudgy that day). I will happily put on the same sleeveless, coral top and drive my big momma car to Sunset Blvd when duty calls. Some dreams will come true, some will not, and some will stalk you, chase you and tackle you down as you run away screaming frantically while waving your arms to shoo them away (for me, this was motherhood). But that’s life, and that’s what makes a fabulous life (I think). It doesn’t matter if your dream is to conquer the world or to conquer the laundry. What matters most is that you just have one each day. WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD, WHAT’S YOUR DREAM?  

Baked Onion Rings (No Frying)

Looking for a delicious treat for your family- with out the guilt? Try this recipe for onion rings that uses no oil and only a bit of bread crumbs. So good your family will be begging to eat them  every night :) Ingredients 1 sweet onion sliced 1/4 cup Flour 2 egg whites beaten 1 tbsp onion powder 1 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs (you can make them gluten free by buying gluten free bread crumbs) 1/2 tsp salt Broiler Step 1 Boil a pot of salted water Step 2 Add the sliced onion. * Boil for 3 to 4 minutes * Drain Step 3 In a shallow bowl, mix flour, onion powder, and salt Step 4 Dip onion slices into flour. Step 5 Transfer directly into egg whites (in shallow bowl) Step 6 Next dip in crumb mixture Step 7 Lay out rings on cookie sheet. Step 8 Broil in oven (middle rack) for 3 minutes. Turn and repeat for 3 more minutes. * SERVE AND ENJOY *

Picky Toddler Eating Tips!

I have a vivid memory of my mother-in-law’s (formerly sparkling) California kitchen floor spattered over RIDICULOUSLY with sweet potatoes, chicken bits and cereal from our then one-year-old twin girls. We were vacationing (if you can call it that), and their routines were disrupted. Routines like New York bagels; my daughters knew the difference. The food they were getting here was called the same and looked pretty much the same, but the texture and taste were different to them. Toddlers are to FOOD like teenagers are to MOOD. Follow Dr. Jen’s OH PLEASE Picky Toddler Eating Tips! One food at a time is OK Toddlers need time to become acquainted and comfortable with new foods just like you do with a new pair of shoes. Some toddlers, actually, prefer to eat only one food at a time! Foods in the wrong order is OK It is OK to begin a meal with fruit and end it with veggies. Who cares what time it is Have breakfast for dinner, dinner for breakfast. Again, do what works for you and your toddler. Broken up pancakes, eggs and fruit for dinner and chicken bits for breakfast all end up in the same place! Pack a nutritional punch Make your choices count. Try and include COLORFUL fruits and veggies, whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, whole wheat bread) and lean protein (chicken breast, lower fat meat) at some points during the day. The average toddler needs about 1000 calories a day, a good way to judge this is 40 calories per INCH of height. Lighten up Toddlers are SUPPOSED TO BE PICKY! It is part of the territory. Don’t beat yourself up if he or she isn’t drooling over the sweet potatoes you remembered to bake, or that chicken you specifically went to the market for and cut into tiny bites. Eat together This is a tip that worked well in our house when our twins were toddlers. They ate what we ate! Rather, we ate what they ate! If I roasted a chicken, I included carrots and sweet potatoes in the pan and cut it up for our kids. Hamburgers and avocadoes cut up for the little ones were put onto a bun and jazzed up for us. All together Include your little on in meal preparation early on. By the end of a long day, making apple-slice flowers and smiley-face potatoes may be the last thing the busy parent can do - but try and make it FUN! Talk while you are cooking, explain what’s on the plate. Use meal time as a time to work on language and social development. Size and shape for safety My number one feeding tip is: Make sure you are feeding your toddler food that is appropriate in size, shape and texture. This means avoiding foods that may be swallowed whole (no whole grapes, raw carrots, nuts, raw celery, hot dogs) and assuring that any foods on your toddler’s plate are small, soft, and easy to chew. Enjoy Creating a mealtime that is a fun and loving part of the day, early on, is going to start you off on a good path. Smile when your child spits sweet potatoes across the room onto your new shirt. It’s going to pass soon (and you’ll miss it!). XOXO Dr. Jen   Originally posted on Dr. Jen's website! 

Ready, Set, Selfie: Should We Be Concerned About Our Kids On Social Media?

Think your child is only on Facebook and is probably aware of the dangers? Think again—and again, and again, and again. Your tweens and teens are on many social media sites, and chances are it’s not even Facebook. Most parents know about Facebook; heck, most parents are on Facebook. What parents don’t know about are the countless other social media experiences their children have on a daily basis.  The myriad of bizarre names would overwhelm even diligent parents who closely monitor their children’s social media activities. Oovoo, Yik Yak, and Wanelo are just the tip of the iceberg. This proliferation of social media opportunities aimed at tweens and teens suggests that parents need to shift into a high gear and roll out a revised plan for protecting their children. Know About It Just when we think we understand what Tumblr and Pinterest do, new social media apps appear out of nowhere, and our children are using them before we can even look them up online. Parents need to constantly update their knowledge of the current popular social media sites. Check news sites for stories about the latest trends and look into them yourself. Ask teachers and other parents what they know about the latest social media sites or what their children are always using. Look up the companies online and visit the website to learn about what the service does. Ask About It Once you’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular social media sites, ask your kids if they know about them and more importantly, use them. Given that most experts encourage parents to talk to their children about their online activities and dangers involved with technology, leverage your newfound knowledge about social media in their world to start another conversation with your kids.  Obviously, presenting your child with a list of sites to grill her with will produce the familiar eye-rolling, heavy sigh and utterance, “Oh, mom! Really?” Instead, try to bring up one or two conversationally and anchor it in your world: “My younger coworkers were debating about Vine and Yik Yak. What do you think?” Consider It If the conversations with your children don’t reveal much about their social media activities and you’re worried, you might consider phone monitoring software. As a parent, your number one priority should be to protect your children online and monitoring software is an excellent way to do so. Given a teenager’s vulnerability and inexperience, stepping in as a parent is one of the most loving things you can do. If you have reason to worry about the interactions your child is having online, and your relationship with your child is one of openness and honesty, they will likely understand that your use of a monitoring service is done out of love and care. You can approach the endeavor with your children by suggesting that you are not questioning their judgment or actions. Instead, you want to prevent electronic predators from finding and contacting them. You can mention that the speed and wide distribution of pictures and messages makes immediate alerts about dangers an important tool to stopping these people. Spot It Do you think your child may be having problems with social media use? Often, signs of trouble are similar to problems related to depression and substance abuse. These signs include: • Becomes shy or withdrawn • Displays increased irritability and anger • Gets in trouble at school • Stops eating • Has trouble sleeping If your child shows these or other signs of trouble, consult a health professional that can help develop a plan of action. Social media is not a trend that will go away in a matter of years. Social media is an ever-expanding world that we all live in. Learning how to navigate this unknown landscape safely will require parents to model the behaviors and virtues they want their kids to have. Beyond that essential practice, parents can learn more about social media sites and apps and prevent dangerous interactions that might harm their children needlessly. Amy Williams is a writer and former social worker in Southern California. She has two kids of her own and is constantly working to stay two steps ahead of them, ensuring their safety online. For more, follow her on Twitter! 

Herb-Beer Muffins Recipe (Perfect for Brunch)

Have you ever had a muffin with beer? Me either. These herb-beer muffins were my first time, and boy you don’t know what you’re missing! Picture this - a hot summer day, the smell of grass, and herbs growing beautifully in the garden. I felt like having a beer, which is kind of funny because I’m not much of a beer drinker. At the same time, I wanted a creative way to use more of the fresh herbs growing in pots around my patio. All of a sudden inspiration struck, and I knew I wanted to make an herb-beer muffin, perfect for summer brunch. One of these mornings when you have the day off and the sun is shining brightly, whip up a batch of these muffins with your coffee or tea and sit outside and take it all in. Life can be just so perfect at times. Those are the moments I want to create more of, as many as possible because I truly believe life is meant to be enjoyed. The fresh scent and taste of the herbs transports you to a happy place where you feel connected with nature. The beer bubbles up and makes the batter flavorful and fluffy. These muffins are light, airy and delicious.   Wishing you an amazing day! Ingredients  (yields 12 muffins) 2 cups flour 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup cane sugar 2 tsp. baking powder ½ tsp. baking soda ½ tsp. sea salt 1 cup beer, I used Eel River Brewing Company Organic I.P.A. ½ cup grapeseed oil 1 Tbsp. lemon zest, or zest of 1 lemon 2 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped 1 Tbsp. thyme, roughly chopped 1 Tbsp. rosemary, chopped   Topping 1 tsp. grapeseed oil 1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds, raw and shelled 1/16 tsp. sea salt, or a small pinch   Directions Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a muffin pan, insert 12 paper liners (they even make recycled now!) or parchment paper squares. In a large bowl add flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt, whisk to both combine and sift. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add beer and grapeseed oil. Stir only a few times then add lemon zest and herbs. Stir lightly just until combined and herbs and zest are mixed throughout the batter. Avoid over mixing to keep the batter light and fluffy. Fill muffin cups about ¾ full. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, add 1 tsp. grapeseed oil. Add the raw sunflower seeds and a pinch of salt to the pan to lightly toast, about 2 minutes, just until they become a light golden color. Keep a close eye because the seeds will burn quickly. Using a spoon or when the seeds have slightly cooled, sprinkle a few seeds on the top of each muffin. Bake for approximately 20 - 25 minutes (it took 23 minutes in my oven).   Enjoy! To Print, Email, or Text recipe click here. With love & gratitude, Wendy Irene  

Must-Have Baby Items (Great for gifts too)

Whether you are looking for a cool gift for a baby shower, something fun to bring when you visit a friend's new baby, or a cool little something for your little cutie-pie, we have you covered.  Snuggly Stuff These new blanky friends Little E and Little L from Baby Giraffe have us dying of cuteness overload. Who wouldn't want to snuggle with one of these? Oh, and check out the snow leopard towels, you'll thank me later.  Swaddle Blankets aden + anais has a brand new collection with J.Crew that launched this week. We are big fans of these soft muslin baby wraps and these new styles are adorable for girls and boys.  Cuddly Friend Elks and Angels' first collection "love, nature, etc" are the softest cuddle bears you've ever seen made with materials that help "calm and nurture your baby". Personalize It When you take your baby to the park, a music class, day care, or anywhere in public, it's so easy to lose items (i.e., when they throw it out of their stroller while you aren't looking...) Label your baby stuff with adorable Name Bubbles so you can easily identify your lost object. Chew on This Who doesn't like a product that has multiple uses? Chewbeads are just that - fun bead necklaces that look great on mom but also are safe for your baby to grab, play with, and yes, chew. These necklaces and bracelets are chic and non-toxic :) For Your Skin Babyganics are baby-safe products that can be used for the whole family. From laundry detergent to lotion to hand soap, these producs are natural, non-toxic, non-allergenic and non-irritating.

What Are The Odds?

This is the improbable story of Danisha Danielle Hoston, and I’m so pleased to have her in our MOMMIES DO THE MOST AMAZING THINGS series!   I’m not what you’d call a betting woman, but even I understand odds. Take a girl raised by a single dad. That girl’s mom struggles with addiction and is in and out of her life. That girl gets pregnant at a young age and the father of her child dies, leaving her on her own, surviving with government assistance. Even I know the odds are stacked against that girl. And yet… Possibility packs so much into those two words…and yet…that girl ends up a property mogul, a real estate broker running a multi-million dollar business, and maybe the biggest odds-busting curve? Finds herself hosting  #OWNShow on  This is a woman who, along the way, ignored the odds, checked impossible at the door and walked into possibility. This is the improbable story of Danisha Danielle Hoston. Tina: On paper, your story should have ended differently, but you beat the odds. You’ve accomplished things many live their whole lives reaching for, and you’re not even out of your 30s yet! Looking back on your life, are there any key influences or decisions that made you an odds-beater? Danisha:  Major decisions: Deciding to bet on myself by being a commission-based commercial real estate broker after I got laid off when my daughter was 10 months old.  Everybody thought it was wayyyyy too risky. The second decision was when I went against everybody's advice and bought a house and my first multi-unit property when I was only 25 years old. People told me the market was too high and I wasn't experienced enough to be a landlord.  I still have my house today, but I sold the multi-unit 5-6 years after I bought it for double the price I purchased it for.  Becoming an investor made me a better broker and allowed me to coach my team better.  I've had many great influences in my life but I give a lot of credit to my dad, Bill Hoston, for teaching me how to be independent, resourceful, and for being my inspiration to own my own business. I credit my mom, Carey Cooper, for teaching me attention to detail, inspiring me to go to UCLA, and for showing me how to be a lady as well as a fierce businesswoman.  One of my greatest influences was my mentor, in life and real estate, Jonathan Weiss.  I credit much of my success and hear his guidance and influence every single day. Tina:  I recently watched your #NoteToSelf on YouTube about grappling with perfectionism. I relate so completely to that. I often think my greatest fear is mediocrity. How do you leverage falling short of perfect to propel you forward? Danisha: Chasing perfection can be a blessing and a curse. I've always had a very high bar for myself and it has led me to accomplish a lot of things that did not immediately seem probable for me.  Trying to be perfect has also led me to feel unfulfilled and insecure, and that's definitely not fun! However, I've had a chance to learn a lot from interviewing many amazing guests on #OWNSHOW. I recently did a series about confidence with some brilliant women, and discovered that trying to be perfect is something many of us struggle with.  The best advice I heard was to feel the fear, embrace the imperfection, and do whatever it is anyway. Not getting things right used to be something I would hide from others, but now it's something I share! We're in this together, so we might as well be imperfect together. Photo Credit: #OWNshow Tina:  You worked hard to defeat the mindset and reality of poverty. In your work as a commercial real estate broker and investor, you have learned and taught a lot about material wealth. In your life, how do you define wealth that cannot be measured in dollars and cents? Danisha:  I've definitely learned that money doesn't buy happiness. I have some incredibly wealthy clients who don't have happy lives. On the other hand, I also have clients who have shown me that wealth can pave the way to great generosity, charity donations, amazing life experiences, and creating a different life for your family. I love what I do and I spend a lot of time working. Even though I feel fulfilled from my job, my real happiness comes from connecting with people, spending time with my family and friends, and becoming a better person everyday. Tina: There is a hot debate in our nation right now with work/life balance at the center. With the demands of running your own commercial real estate firm, and your hosting duties with #OWNSHOW, how do you protect your time with your family? Danisha:  The last 6 months have been very demanding of my time. Between my show, my real estate company & investments, and sleep, I haven't had nearly as much time as I would like with my family. I protect my time by keeping a fantastic Google calendar. I never want to miss any important events, and this is the best way I can keep it together. I also plan vacations and a lot of short getaways. I've always felt that vacations give you a chance to escape from the everyday and do something new and fun together. Tina:  For a long time, it was just you and your daughter. Now you’ve added your fiancé and his three children – two sons and a daughter - to the family equation. Blended families can be challenging. Any advice for negotiating that terrain? Danisha:  LOL! I used to hear people say that being a mother is a thankless job. Now, I think they MUST have been talking about stepmoms! Blending families is very tricky, and everybody involved has to make adjustments and work together.  I guess my best advice would be to learn how to leave your ego at the door and - no matter what - put the interest of the kids first.  Photo Courtesy of Danisha Danielle Hoston Tina:  I heard you say you and your daughter kind of debrief at the end of the day with: discuss your favorite thing, the most challenging thing, and three things you are grateful for. So I ask you, what are the three things you are most grateful for in your life right now? Danisha:  I am grateful for so many things that it's hard to narrow them down on any given day.  Today I'm grateful for meditation, new opportunities, and Midol! LOL Tina:  I can't let you get outta here without ONE Oprah-themed question! Oprah has her "favorite things" and famously gave a studio audience cars saying "You get a car! And you get a car!" What are Danisha's 5 favorite "right now" things you would give everyone if you could?  Danisha:  Ha! My favorite things that I would give away right now are: a fantastic vacation, an electric car, a guided meditation audio set, a great eyebrow kit, and - if I could bottle it up as a gift - the ability for everybody to laugh at themselves. What else do we need?  :-)  

Brooke Burke: My Slim Down Secrets

Everywhere I look, I hear about a new fitness fad, a quick fix or some kind of "get in shape fast" scheme - which is something I've never believed in.  I've never quite understood why people don't find a plan they can stick to all year long, instead the scramble to get bikini-ready for summer or January 1 - when they can set a goal and stick to it. My fitness philosophy hasn't really changed but I seem to be working out harder and stronger now than ever before. I totally believe in working to fatigue, which means pushing yourself to feel the burn - and if you dare, moving past the burn - which is when I truly believe your body starts to change. I've always loved the saying, "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great" and I truly believe that every day is a great day to work out. I know that exercise is the best medicine ever and the benefits you receive go far beyond just the physical. It gives us more energy, makes us feel better about ourselves inside and out, gives us a sense of accomplishment, increases our libido, makes us feel stronger and it's the best stress-reliever that I've ever experienced. For the past two and half years, I've been teaching my Booty Burn fitness class (oh, how time flies!) and I've witnessed firsthand women of all different shapes and sizes making a commitment, sticking to it and reaping the benefits. My classes range from age 16 up to age 65 and I encourage everyone to work out at their own pace, at their own level - but to push themselves beyond their own limits. As for me, I haven't changed much when it comes to my workout technique.  I still stick to my workout DVD plan when I don't have time to squeeze in a class. It's an awesome way of knocking it out and staying in shape and it takes less than 30 minutes.  I also designed a Sexy Abs DVD which only takes 20 minutes and has three different program options so you never get bored. I think that boredom can squash many fitness goals so it's important to mix it up. One of my best slim down secrets is the Baboosh Body Exercise Wrap. It will help you sweat your tummy off! Want to see your beautiful abs? You have to blast your tummy fat by working out hard, sweating, eating healthy and wearing the Baboosh Body wrap during every workout.  My 30 Day Slim Down gives you two DVDs that you can rotate - a cardio program and a tone and tighten program that you can interchange. I just recently changed up my morning shakes - if you've read some of my blogs before, you know that I never ever skip breakfast, and there's a variety of different shakes I make for myself and my family.  Brooke's Breakfast Shakes for the Whole Family Brooke's Healthy Morning Shake Recipe But after two plus years of the same recipes, even I needed a change.  Here's a new one... it's winter comfort and I love it:   Brooke's Winter Comfort Shake Recipe 8 oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk Scoop of vanilla protein powder  Frozen cut up pears 1 tsp cinnamon.  Tbl omega 3 6 9 oils  1/4 canned pumpkin    I believe that 95% of getting in the best shape of your life is what you eat and I've always said, eat more to lose weight. Even if you aren't trying to lose weight, designing a healthy eating plan is key to getting and staying in shape.   So don't skip meals and design a healthy eating plan with foods you enjoy so you can maintain it. Also, make sure you know how to find a sensible meal in any restaurant. Eating is so social for many of us and you should be able to find a delicious meal that you can enjoy anywhere you go. Thank God for YouTube because even if you aren't a DVD user, you can find workouts quickly every single day to mix it up and give yourself some movement - any time, anywhere.  

Start Daydreaming - It's Good for You

Quote:  “Everything starts as somebody’s daydream.” – Larry Niven Remember staring out the window at school, your daydream broken by the teacher calling your name?  What were you thinking about?  You might not have known, but the fact is, you were thinking.  Not in the logical 1- 2- 3 kind of way, but in a deeper way that is an important part of our brain’s functioning, and is crucial to emotional and intellectual health. According to famed cognitive psychologist Jerome Singer, daydreaming is our default state of mind. In other words, that’s where our mind automatically goes when we don’t need to place full attention on a task.  How much time do we spend daydreaming?  More than you think.  On average, people spend 1/3 to 1/2 of their waking hours daydreaming.  It happens while you’re in class, meetings, shopping or listening to your boss explain … whatever. I am happy to say that the old idea of a lazy daydreamer is over.  Science is now showing that people who daydream actually have better working memories, and can stay better focused with distractions.   Daydreaming helps personalities grow, including creativity, empathy, social skills, the capacity to reason, make choices, understand the complexities of life, try on different possibilities, and make sense of things you don’t understand. Children are natural dreamers. Their wandering minds are actually hard at work.  Role playing, imagining scenarios of winning, losing, what they might become one day. They are rehearsing life and it’s as important a task as study or sleep. Life is crammed full these days.  The time for reflection gets smaller and smaller.  Barely a blip in most of our hi-speed, hi-tech lives.  Our kids too.  They are the most overbooked generation in all of history.  There is less time for unstructured free play than ever before. Many parents equate overbooking with good parenting. Extracurricular activities are wonderful, but not so many that the child doesn’t have downtime for herself. Not only are our kids overbooked, even in downtime they are busy with cell phones and other distractions. The reality is our children are becoming uncomfortable with silence and time for reflection. It’s never too late to start scheduling unstructured time for daydreaming, and that goes for you too! Here are Some Tips Cell-free zone. Downtime is no-tech time. Your children will whine, but they’ll get used to it as long as you follow the rules too.  Look at your calendar and be as realistic about plotting your downtime as you are making time for other important activities. Create more space for daydreaming.  Put a chair by the window.  Leave books out.  Drawing paper.  Scratch pads.  Invite conversation.  Ask big questions like “What is happiness to you?” Dream together.  Talking with your child makes your whole family stronger.  Be a role model about your own downtime.  Put that cell phone down and start daydreaming! Ciao, Princess Ivana

Yes! Yes! Yes!

This morning I was so inspired. To my right was my daughter and my other daughter was close to me on my left. It was an emotional workout as I sat on my favorite bike at Soul Cycle.  Maybe it was PMS, maybe fatigue from maxing out my work out, but for sure it was true love.  The family fitness experience has been motivating and inspiring for all of my brood. The reality of being in a class with my 2 teenagers while all of us were pushing ourselves to our personal limits was a scene I never imagined.  When I looked over at my tween, head down with closed eyes, she was riding like there was no tomorrow.  Pushing herself further than she thought she could, and harder than I thought she would, made me so proud.  One thing I’ve realized as a mama of 4 is the only thing we can really do is lead by example.  I always preach about a healthy life style but its one thing to just say it and another things to really live it.  The only way we can empower our children to be their very best is if we show them how to do it. I’m not talking about fitness, I’m talking about life potential.  Even in a simple activity like my fitness commitment to myself, I show them its importance and how much my push benefits my day to day. One of my fav instructors, @lbuckleyw, said something today that really stuck with me.  I just love a connected and inspiring teacher that gets you to a place deeper than just the body.  I always leave her class with a great take-away.  During the home stretch of class she said, “To someone you are everything.”  I knew that both of my daughters heard that and I wondered if they knew I was thinking of them in that moment.  I wondered if they were thinking of me. Most all of us would say that our children are everything to us.  Mine certainly are and I hope its mutual. Not only in the moments of need but also in the moments of joy that we share.  Today wasn't just about the workout, it was about sharing an experience together and sharing some energy in a crazy hard sweat.  I was touched, inspired and moved. Doing something together with children, not just as an observer but as a participant is awesome.  So this week I’m trying to say yes as much as possible…I’m not talking about giving, I’m talking about doing.  Yes, I’ll bake a cake with you; yes, let’s go to the park, yes, I’ll jump on the trampoline; yes, we can make the best crepes in the world; yes, let’s draw: yes, get in my bath: yes, we can walk the dog; yes, let’s go on a scooter adventure; yes, you can sleep with me; yes, we can make food art.    Yes we can make an art project out of our food!  I know there are so many little things that mean the world to my children - things that are overlooked because of busy days and demanding schedules. For my children it’s often being out numbered by their siblings and sadly for me, just being too busy to stop and settle into some quality time.  It's moments like this morning with my children that mean so much to me.  The take away far exceeds the give.  YES YES YES… By the way, this week I was totally off so we took breakfast too a whole other level :)  yes, I have too much time on my hands LOL. xo - Brooke

Easy Summer Soup Recipes

Everyone enjoys eating soup, but in the summertime, most people put their soup-eating on hold.  The heat of summer is actually one of the best times for soup, as it is water-rich, uses the fresh garden produce that is so abundant in summer, and best of all, many soups are best when served cool. The following two soups are basic recipes. Feel free to spice them up if you wish, but they are truly fine on their own. The rich flavors of tomato, mango, and celery are enough to carry the recipes. If you wish to add some fresh herbs, chopped vegetables, or even some crushed nuts or seeds, feel free to do so. Every soup is unique. You can easily customize the recipes to meet your preferences. If it is really hot outside, you might even try chilling these soups before serving. Tomato Mango Soup It just is not possible to mess up this soup!  Any ratio of mango and tomato will work just fine.  Tomatoes and mangoes are both at their peak during the August heat, so enjoy this dish at room temperature or cooler while the weather is hot. You can blend or mix the two ingredients (tomato and mango) in any way you wish; coarse, fine, pureed smooth, or chunky.  Start with any variety of tomato that you enjoy, and a non-stringy variety of mango, such as Keitt or Kent.  Blend in roughly equal quantities to your desired coarseness and serve. Lime goes well as a garnish.   Tomato Celery Soup When the heat is really on, nothing beats this cool soup! Blend 2 or 3 large tomatoes.  Remove the leaves from 6-9 stalks of celery and cut the stalks into 1/4" pieces.  Put celery in the food processor, using the "S" blade, until it is quite fine.  Mix the celery and tomato in a bowl, and serve at room temperature or cooler.   Stay cool and enjoy! Want more soup recipes? Check out a few of our favorites below: Butternut Squash & Leek Soup Brooke Burke's Chicken Matzo Ball Soup Quinoa Veggie Soup Carrot and Avocado Soup [Vegan & Gluten-Free] Dr. Douglas Graham has been involved in the health and fitness field for over 40 years, and is still going strong. His revolutionary book, The 80/10/10 Diet, which came out hot on the heels of his book, Nutrition and Athletic Performance, is becoming ever more popular with athletes and mainstreamers alike.  You can learn more about Dr. Graham's teachings, programs, and events at

Signs of an Ear Infection in an Infant

Ear infections are common health problems among babies, and it can be quite difficult determining what is wrong with them since they cannot tell you.  However, there are a few common signs of ear infections that will help you pinpoint the problem.  If your baby is displaying any of the following symptoms, you should call your pediatrician immediately. Crying All the Time This is probably the most common sign of an ear infection in infants.  If your baby has an ear infection, he or she will cry almost constantly.  Nothing will seem to pacify or soothe the baby.  Since constant crying can be a sign of many different ailments in infants, you will want to take note whether or not your baby displays any of the following symptoms as well. Fever Over 101 Degrees Whenever you think that your baby may be sick, it is a smart idea to take the infant's temperature.  Temperatures over 100.5 degrees in babies are warning signs of illnesses. When a fever is present, the body is trying to fight off viruses or infections.  Thus, if your baby has a high temperature, you will want to make an appointment with your pediatrician. Before you can get your baby to see the pediatrician, treat the fever by giving the infant a fever-reducer like acetaminophen. If it does not seem to be working, you can try giving the baby a bath in lukewarm water.  If this does not work either, you should take the baby to a doctor. Pulling at Ears One of the best ways to tell that your baby probably has an ear infection is when the infant is continually pulling or tugging at his or her ears.  Babies will pull on their ears thinking that if they do, the pain will stop.  Of course, the pain does not stop.  As such, if you see this symptom in your baby, you will want to make an appointment with your pediatrician right away. Drainage from the Ears Many times, when babies have ear infections, there will be a thick, yellowish discharge coming out of the ears.  This is also a cause for concern, and you should call your baby's pediatrician as soon as possible.  While this could simply mean an over-abundance of wax buildup, it is also a common sign of ear infections. Loss of Balance Ear infections can also cause problems with your baby's balance.  Thus, if you notice that your baby is falling over while sitting or crawling, it could be a sign of an ear infection.  In this case, you will want to take note whether or not the baby exhibits any of the above symptoms as well. Impaired Hearing Additionally, if your baby does not seem to be hearing noises as well as before, this can also be a sign of an ear infection.  Maybe the baby is not responding to such things as barking dogs, vacuum cleaners or other loud noises like you think the infant should be.  This is another good reason to call your pediatrician. Treatments for Ear Infections in Infants The above symptoms can help your pediatrician determine whether or not your baby has an ear infection.  Fortunately, there are many great treatments for ear infections in infants.  In the past, doctors strictly treated these infections with antibiotics.  However, there are many more alternative treatments today that you can discuss with your pediatrician.  

Must-have Make-Up Tips from Celebrity Makeup Artist

Whether it's advice on new makeup styles and techniques, or tips on makeup for your wedding day, New York City makeup artist Kimara Ahnert has established a reputation as one of New York's most prominent. Her custom designed collection of makeup and skin care products and exclusive studio on Manhattan's Upper East Side have been somewhat of a secret address for models, celebrities, socialites and busy executives. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Amanda Peet, Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley, Isabella Rossellini and Tipper Gore have all been graced by Kimara's magic makeup wands. While makeup trends come and go, Kimara’s philosophy is to transend fashion, by determining skincare regimens and cosmetic palettes that best suit each and every lifestyle. She also believes that clients benefit from a little "makeup education," so they can learn how to create the professional-caliber looks –sans makeup artists! gasp! I don't know about you, but I quickly become overwhelmed with choices when I try to keep up with today's fashion trends while also trying to find a look that flatters me. Lucky for us, Kimara gave usTop her top tips for moms: 1. Three Must-Have Make-Up Products: Bronzing powder, mascara, and lipstick. 2. Her favorite product is bronzer for its versatility. You can use it as a blush, as an all over face powder, or sweep it over the eyes as a contouring eye shadow. 3. Buying makeup online is an easy way to purchase product during baby downtime. Most websites give a 30-day trial period to return product for a full refund. 4. For the mom on the go, keeping eyebrows properly shaped gives you a polished look with minimal effort. 5. Get that Celeb Mom Glow: Step 1: Create the perfect foundation by concealing all blemishes and dark circles with a solid foundation stick. Apply with a brush - always - and set with a powder foundation, applied with a sponge. Step 2: Apply bronzer from the décolletage on up – "I use this on everyone celeb and socialite that has walked though my door," says Kimara. You can contour the face by using a fan brush on cheekbones, chin and bridge of the nose. Bronzer warms the skin and brightens your eyes. If you want to minimize a larger nose, use a concealer over the bridge and bronze on the side to soften the angles. Don’t forget the blush – a touch of it adds the right hint of color. Hope these tips were helpful!

Can’t We Be Girl Scouts and Barbies?

Mattel and Girl Scouts of America announced a new $2 million, three-year partnership in March.  The topline is pretty simple: girls in a local scout troupe can earn a new Barbie “Be Anything, Do Everything” participation patch to sew on their uniforms. Sounds great to me. A simple way for an underfunded non-profit to earn some serious coin to keep doing good for America’s girls. So why does this partnership spew controversy? Actually, there are several good reasons why Barbie becoming a Girl Scout gets folks’ attention. First, advocates of a commercial-free childhood oppose any kind of financial sponsorship that shoves marketing messages down kids’ throats The Mattel funding is the Girl Scouts’ first corporate deal, a big departure for the Scouts, which historically has raised money through membership dues and cookie sales.  This change messes with a quintessential icon of American girlhood. Second, some people just don’t like Barbie.  She’s got a real passion for fashion and a boobs-waist-hips ratio that is impossible to achieve.  No one, not even Kim Kardashian or Jessica Simpson, can really look anything like Barbie. "Barbie is basically a terrible role model for girls, and she's not about what the Girl Scouts' principles are, which have to do with leadership and courage," Susan Linn, a psychologist and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. So ok -- people who felt that the wholesome, uniformed, do-gooder Girl Scouts were a nice antidote to Barbie’s shallow plasticity are naturally steamed about the Mattel-GSA marriage.  I get this too.  I worry terribly about my girls’ self-esteem and eating disorders and I don’t imagine that Barbie’s crazy figure helps with that stuff. But here’s the dirty little secret.  Although it doesn’t make sense that Barbie makes me feel good about myself, she does. I love Barbie.  I have four Barbies in my office smiling at me right now.  Millions of girls of all ages love Barbie. And I gotta say, Barbie made me feel better about myself than my years in the Girls Scouts learning to sew and sing campfire songs ever did. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem here runs far deeper, into the heart of why it is so hard to grow up female in America. America itself – not Barbie or the Girl Scouts -- sets a terrible (and terribly conflicting) mandate for girls and women.  Our culture, starting in preschool, tells girls and women that we need to be Girls Scouts and Barbies, simultaneously, and that if we want to be loved by men, we have to get this tricky balance exactly right.  Women and girls (and of course, men too) are bombarded daily through advertising, television, video games and Facebook posts that females are more valued, and more powerful, if we play up our Barbie attributes.  Strut those boobs.  Display our shapely calves in stiletto heels.  Shake our long blonde hair and lick our pouty pink lips.  And why not?  All people deserve to feel attractive, and sexual, and proud of our amazing bodies.  But women are also mandated to be Girl Scouts.  Strong.  Self-reliant.  Hard-working.  Team players.  And disguise that sexuality underneath a drab brown-olive green uniform, please! Nothing wrong with these messages, either.  Some days, it’s nifty to have a uniform to hide behind.  It can make you a lot stronger, whether you are a cop, a pilot, or a meter maid. But the most important American mandate is that, no matter what, women are supposed to feel badly about ourselves.  To denigrate our accomplishments.  To never ask for a raise.  To avoid saying no, even when someone is attempting to rape you. Taken together, the Barbie and Girl Scout cultural mandates are designed to make girls and adult women feel terribly about ourselves.  We can never live up to either ideal – the purity of the Scouts or the sensuality of Barbie. And we certainly cannot risk being too sexy-Barbie or too intense-Girls Scouts. Because then we get slapped with one of the following “patches”: Slut. Coyote Ugly. Competitive! Ambitious! Tramp. Ball Breaker. Bimbo. Dyke. Dumb blonde. Feminazi. Frigid. We are far less of a threat, to anyone, and definitely to our cultural status quo, if girls are raised with a profound lack of self-esteem.  Women who feel good about ourselves, and think we deserve to live in a world where men and women earn the same amount of money, have the same legal rights, can marry and divorce freely, and can prevent and prosecute rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment – we are dangerous. Got it? That is a lot for a little girl to absorb and overcome.  For a big girl like me to rise above, too, even though the hypocrisy of our culture has been clear to me for decades. The real issues here are complicated, and deserve the controversy engendered by Barbie and Girl Scouts colliding.  But the underlying question is simple: Why can’t we just let girls be girls?  Women be women?  I am little bit Barbie most days.  I love wearing pink lipstick.  I’ve got a whole lot of Girl Scout in me too.  I love being part of the sisterhood of girls, working hard on my goals, and achieving the life equivalent of a bunch of patches to sew on my uniform. Following the media outcry, Mattel stood by its deal with the Girl Scouts. The company made a statement to NBC News that Barbie's mission is a good fit with the Scouts, inspiring girls' imaginations and showing them we can be anything we want to be. True enough.  But we have to start by explaining to girls that they can be as much or as little Barbie, and Girl Scout, as each of us chooses on any given day.    

Easy Vegan Chocolate Glaze for Brownies & Desserts

If you ask anyone in my family, brownies are just not complete if they’re not frosted. It’s like why bother, right? Well today I’m going to share with you a super simple chocolate glaze that uses very few ingredients and takes little time to make.  The chocolate glaze is extremely versatile and could be used for any number of desserts. My favorite thing about this recipe is that the glaze becomes firm when it sets so you don’t have to worry about the frosting sliding off if it’s a warm day, or when you take it along to a party. In fact, that is exactly the reason I chose to use this recipe for a recent party. Temperatures were scorching but this chocolate glaze held up great! The chocolate glaze is rich, decadent and the perfect topping for delicious fudgy brownies, cake and so much more. Ingredients: 1 cup semi-sweet dairy free chocolate chips ½ cup vegan butter substitute (I used Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread) 1/8 tsp. sea salt   Directions: In a double broiler, or in a microwave stirring every 20 seconds, melt chocolate chips. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, cream together vegan butter substitute and sea salt until light and fluffy. Add melted chocolate and beat until combined. Spoon over your favorite desserts. When the glaze cools it will harden.                                                                                              Yum!                                                                                Ready to party!   To Print, Email, or Text recipe click here.   With fudgy, chocolaty love & gratitude, Wendy Irene   Similar Post: Very Tasty Vegan Brownies

Guardians of the Galaxy - It's a Must-See!

I have three words to say about Guardians of the Galaxy - GO SEE IT! Seriously, such a fun movie that the whole family will LOVE. The movie stars the hilarious Chris Pratt who is snatched by a space ship as a young boy. Fast forward twenty years and he's a mercenary who steals a powerful orb and ends up trying to save the planet by working with a ragtag group of misfits - an assassin named Gamora (played by the lovely Zoe Saldana), a killer named Drax (a pumped up Dave Bautista), Rocket Racoon (my kids' favorite - voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a large tree creature named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). This latest installment of the Marvel comic book series is by far my favorite. The movie blends spectacular special effects with toe-tapping music and hilarious one-liners. The movie keeps you entertained from the very beginning until the last credit rolls by - you have no idea the movie lasts 122 minutes.  Check out these great pics from the world premier and definitely go see Guardians of the Galaxy!  

Dealing with Insomnia During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, then most likely sleepless and restless nights have become the new normal for you. Some say it’s preparing you for the interrupted sleepless nights to come after your baby is born. But whatever the reason, it can be frustrating and exhausting not to be able to get a good night's sleep. Here are some holistic remedies I have gathered up over the years and have shared with all my clients: 1. No coffee, tea or chocolate after 12 pm in the afternoon. 2. Get lots of fresh air. 3. Get plenty of exercise - a physically tired body sleeps more soundly. 4. Don’t eat large meals late at night . 5. An over-active mind can result in insomnia. Keep a “ to do “ and / or journal by the side of your bed. By writing out all that you have to do - your excitement or fears of birth and all the changes that are happening in your life - you will  be moving  it out of your head and body and on to the paper. Most of the time you will find that it is so much bigger when it’s in your head. So write away!!!! 6. Limit fluid intake a few hours before bed. 7. Take a relaxing warm bath before bed with calming oils such as chamomile or lavender. 8. You can also diffuse in the air or put a few drops on your pillow. I sometimes put in a humidifier. 9. Avoid daytime naps. 10. Try a warm glass of organic milk before bed. 11. Chamomile tea or catnip tea. 12. Eat a high protein snack before bed. ( ex: hormone-free turkey and a warm glass of  organic milk.)     13. Natural calm-powered drink before bed ( available at all health food stores). Get the one with added calcium. 14. Take 50 mg of vitamin B6. 15. Get a relaxing massage 16. Restorative or yin yoga ( if you can’t find a class then check out online, many places stream great classes). 17. Breath work - just by doing some slow deep breathing can clam your whole being . Try breathing in thru your nose for the count of 4 and slowly breathing out the nose for the count of 4 .. do a few rounds .. the slower you breathe the calmer your energy will become . 18. Don’t watch the news or anything fear-based before going to bed . What you do right before you go to sleep stays with you in your subconscious. The news is filled with negativity and creates fear which in turn will disrupt your sleep. I remember years ago I read a study that found people that watch the news before bed had 80% or more fear and insomnia then people who didn’t. I get online in the late morning and look at the headlines and only read what I want to. This helps filter out the negativity . On this same note, the Internet is a wonderful tool to access amazing info; but if you look for something to worry about you will definitely find it on there. Limit your time searching for what could go wrong with your pregnancy. Remember 99% of the things you worry about NEVER happen.  www.  

How To Calm Young Children While Traveling On An Airplane

One of our Twitter followers asked if ModernMom had any recommendations for healthy/natural things to give a 2-year-old child for an airplane ride. We thought, who better to help us answer this question than real moms? So we asked our ModernMom community of readers. Here are some of the suggestions we got: "Chamomile or lavendar tea" "Homeopathic pills called Calms Forte - I used them on our 3 kids during flights and it worked great!" "Gum, Nintendo DS and holding them in a loving way :)" "Rescue Remedy lozenges" "Catnip tea" (We looked this one up, and good news - it's not made from catnip! It's a mild herbal sedative made from the leaves and flowers of the common catnip plant.) "Ginger root tea, it helps with the kids being sick on the plane." "Lavendar spray on a blanket"   Do you have any more suggestions or ideas? Share them in the comment section below! More Resources: How to Soothe Ear Pain in Toddlers on an Airplane FAA Approved Toddler Car Seats Toddler Airplane Safety   *This article is not intended as medical advice, and this information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

"8 Glasses of Water Per Day" is a Myth

Have you ever been told that proper hydration comes from gulping down eight cups of water every day? Turns out, that little bit of popular wisdom might be more fiction than fact. Researchers say the advice is an "urban myth" as it neglects the water content of healthy foods - and even the water content in coffee, tea and juices. Speros Tsindos from the department of dietetics and human nutrition at La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia published a new recommendation regarding how to get even better hydration.  The report appeared this week in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, according to CBC News in Canada. In terms of fluid balance, Tsindos says, “There is further evidence that water and a well-balanced diet does far more than water alone.” [Read "Official Guide To Lunchbox Beverages"] On behalf of the Canadian-U.S. research committee, Professor Susan Barr of the University of British Columbia noted that even a baked potato is 75% water.  She went on to say, “There’s nothing magical about water from a glass as opposed to water from a food or any other beverage.” Furthermore, research at the University of Pennsylvania shows that even caffeinated drinks hold hydrating power.  Dr. Stanley Goldfarb reviewed how the kidneys handle beverages such as coffee and tea, and he found that neither presents dehydration.  “Drinking the coffee will count towards your total water intake for the day,” he said.   But there are still a few things to remember when choosing a beverage: + Caffeine is a diuretic.  That means that even though your coffee counts as a cup of water, the caffeine has the power to flush stored water from your cells.  You may need additional hydration to make up for that. + Sugary drinks may also count toward your hydration, but they are also high in simple sugar calories that may lead to an energy crash later. + Natural fruit juices, fruits, and vegetables will still be your best sources of hydration if you’re looking to replace water.  However, when you’re thirsty and looking for a natural, zero-calorie sip, water may still be your best option. How much water do you drink every day? This article is not intended as medical advice, and this information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Top Ten 'Creative Practicing' Tips for Kids!

‘Creative Practicing’ improves technique but also builds your child’s motivation and self-esteem! “I don’t want to practice!” This daily statement can be like acrylic fingernails on a long chalkboard. The add-on sentence “Practicing is boring” is just as ugly to the point that you almost prefer to hear the nails instead of the whine. And when kids perpetually conclude their little paragraph with an “I want to quit!”…you almost want them to do just that--for you’re tired of the nagging. The reprimanding. The aggressive sigh your kid makes moments before picking up the musical instrument or whatever needs to be practiced. The teacher’s expression when you tell her your kid hasn’t practiced. And then what do you do? Even the most strong-willed parents can’t endure years of ‘motivating’ their child to practice, and so they pull him or her out. “My child won’t practice,” they confess. “I guess that music (or sport or hobby) isn’t her thing.” But that’s just it: It CAN be her thing…she just doesn’t know it yet. Why? Because she has to explore and discover it. She has to learn HOW to practice independently and how to measure results. But most importantly, she has to be inspired. Because if she becomes passionate about what she is learning, she will never have to be forced to practice. First, though, to truly reap the benefits of being skillful at something, she has to become good at it, and you will have to guide her in this. Unfortunately, it takes time. It also involves practicing---actually, ‘creative practicing’. There’s a difference.   Traditional Practicing v. Creative Practicing In my experience as a musician and a teacher, the traditional perspective and approach to practicing are grounded in rules, routine and rigidity. Theory, hand placement, and performance are paramount. That's important, of course! (I’m speaking mostly about playing musical instruments, for I have been a music teacher for almost 20 years.) However, too much focus on technique, form and posture--in the very beginning--can stifle a child, especially a young one, or even a teenager. When my son was four years old (before I started teaching him), his piano teacher made him practice music theory flash cards and memorize terms and note placement. No four-year-old should have to memorize flash cards. They don’t even know why they’re learning it. Ask them what type of music they like, and their first response might be “ummm.” It’s why I especially love when I teach children under the age of six. On the first day, I teach the little boys how to play the first few notes of the “Star Wars” theme song, and they’re hooked. The little girls learn the first few notes of “Part of Your World,” and music is suddenly their passion. Passion begets curiosity begets longevity. I’ve heard the parents of my students tell me they wish they would have stuck with piano or guitar or violin but that they hated practicing. It wasn’t the practicing they hated, however; it was what they had to practice and the negative reinforcement that made them quit. ‘Creative Practicing’ is built on the assumptions that most kids 1) don’t know ‘HOW’ to practice successfully, 2) don’t really value the benefits of practicing until they have actually experienced and recognized them, 3) need to use their imagination and creativity in whatever musical activity they pursue, and 4) need to be inspired. How-To Tips The following are just simple how-to steps to help you change your child’s perspective about practicing. Change the perspective, and you change the approach. Here’s some creative ways to do that. 1. Change how your child views practicing. One very simple way is to not refer to it as ‘practice.’ With young kids, for example, you could call it ‘music play.’ Of course this ‘play’ is more of the structured type of play, but the word “play” is so much more positive and fun to a little child than “practice.” Promote this ‘music play’ as an opportunity or a privilege, instead of a chore. Part of changing your child’s view is essentially changing your own. 2. Teach your child HOW to practice. Depending on the teacher, this may be told instead of taught. Many teachers have a regimented way they want the child to practice. Some kids thrive on that; others won’t. If they don’t, then get creative. One way to do that is to create a ‘Piano Plan’ or ‘Guitar Plan’, etc. For example, write five steps and then at the bottom draw some empty boxes. “Step One: Play ‘Yankee Doodle’ 3 times. Step Two: Play the right hand of ‘Jingle Bells’ 2 times and then left hand 2 times.” When the child gets to the fifth step, he may draw a picture (or put a sticker) in one of the boxes. The next time he completes all five steps, he gets to fill in another box. This way, he can literally measure his success...via boxes. When all boxes are completed at the end of the week he receives a treat or a positive reinforcement. 3. Empower your child with a sense of independence. I have some students create their own practicing plan, but then they have to stick to it. For the young ones, I let them ‘help’ me create a piano plan. For example, they get to tell me how many times they’ll play a song. This holds them accountable as well as empowers them. In fact, some of my students commit to more than what I would have assigned. One ambitious seven-year-old boy told me he was going to practice his song 60 times. And, he did!!! There were stickers covering the entire page. 4. Provide incentives and rewards. Note that rewards are different than bribes. A bribe tells them that if they do this, then you’ll give them that. A reward is acknowledging what they’ve already done. For example, maybe each time they practice, they get to put a dime in the music jar. When the jar is filled, they may use that money to buy a new music book. 5. Give them goals. Kids are not interested in long-term goals. Our beloved promise that “one day you’ll appreciate this” does nothing for them. Create goals: ones that appeal to your child. Inspire them. Not every kid craves recitals. But, he might be excited at the idea of you inviting the grandparents over for a performance in a month from now. Or, maybe there is a school talent show in a few months. I’ve found that the older kids like to (or are required to) do community service hours. Playing piano in a senior center is always a nice opportunity to use one’s skills for the good of society. Schedule the date and tell your teenager she is accountable to that. She won’t want to disappoint an entire room of senior citizens. 6. Appeal to your child’s creativity. Never believe anybody who tells you that your child is too young to compose music. Of course, they might be too young to write down the notes, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that they discover the beauty in creating music--even if it’s just playing a new little tune they made up. There’s many creative things you can do with that. You can record it on CD or DVD and give it to friends as a gift. Last Christmas, I recorded songs for each of my students, and created personalized ‘albums.’ All of them were so inspired to finish their songs so they could add them to the CD. Practicing the songs became a natural habit. My sons gave their teachers their piano albums, and we even made album covers. Or, if your child is older, he or she can write down the original song. Have him or her title it, sign it, frame it, and then give it as a gift. Your children may not be rehearsing a Beethoven piece for an upcoming competition, but they are doing something just as profound: They are discovering (and creating!) music. 7. Let your child teach you or somebody else. I was classically trained in music for nine years, but it wasn’t until I started teaching it as a teenager that I saw music from a completely different perspective! Many children love teaching other children as well as their parents. It empowers them. My older son occasionally teaches my younger son something, and if all goes well, I’ll ‘pay’ him. Heck, I’ll even pay the younger one a tiny something for good listening and follow-through. There are lessons (and benefits!) in teaching others that can’t be taught by somebody else. One of my eight-year-old students was so proud to share that she taught her four-year-old brother how to play a song. This is not traditional practicing, but it is creative practicing. And through it all, the child is building self-esteem. 8. Be creatively consistent. Just because the practicing approach is creative, that doesn’t mean that the child can choose when he or she wants to practice. I’m betting any child who gets to choose between practicing something or playing a video game will choose the latter. Enforce a consistent schedule, but let him or her be a part of creating that schedule. For example, if your child needs to practice five times a week, have him plan out the five days ahead of time and then hold him accountable to it. Make it part of their normal routine. I found that my kids like to practice right before bed, so I made it part of their bedtime routine. They eat dinner, bathe, put their PJs on, and then practice piano. After that is reading and lights out. Some kids are more productive right after school. Whatever is your child’s optimal practicing time, make it part of their routine. Soon, it will be a natural habit…just like brushing teeth. 9. Show them their progress. Don’t wait until a recital for them to feel validated at all their hard work. They need to SEE the results of their practicing firsthand. One creative way to do this is to videotape them playing a song. Then have them practice it for two weeks. Videotape them again, and then show both video files. There’s a reason why many of us love watching weight-loss shows. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures are powerful, aren’t they? 10. Enjoy them. As parents, we’re really good at ‘helping’ our kids perform better. We point out what they need to work on and tell them when they have made an ‘oopsy’ when they’ve messed up. But, despite our best intentions this ‘feedback’ is often interpreted by the child as criticism. Take the time to relax on the couch and just quietly listen to your child. Appreciate him and encourage him. Let the teacher provide the ‘helpful’ feedback. Bottom line: You know your children best and what makes them tick. You know what they value and what motivates them. Use that to your advantage. Thread that deeply into the art of practicing. Don’t be afraid to go against the traditional or the standard. Customize a practicing plan to your child that builds him up and inspires him. Remember: At some point, the ‘honeymoon’ period will most likely end with any instrument, any sport, any hobby. But that’s normal. Learning music won’t always be fun. It’s during those moments when they’re feeling ‘low’ that you can switch it up a bit and be creative. Have a little fun. There are ups and downs to everything we do. We don’t like our job every day, but we learn how to deal with it. It’s the same when it comes practicing. Just like music has different notes and rhythm, so will practicing. The point is to help your child discover his own melody.  

Empower Your Kids Through Creative Cleaning

I’ve recently become an addict of that TV show called “Hoarders.” It’s a series that documents people (supposedly, there’s over 2 million hoarders!) who collect trash in their homes and basically get lost in it—mentally and physically. The problem: an unhealthy attachment to ‘stuff.’ I won’t even mention the two several episodes showing people who collect animals—cats or rats. And, not all of them are living. I’ll leave it at that. Maybe it’s mere coincidence that I’m suddenly inspired to clean my son’s room, as his floor has become more of an oversized cluttered shelf. But, good parenting is about teaching your kids to clean their own room, and although we may think they know exactly how to do this—they don’t. It’s why so many adults need professional organizers; they never learned it as a kid. They never learned that a messy room can often hold the dirty hand of a messy life. Of course, many children simply don’t care that there’s stuff on their floor; in fact, that stuff suddenly takes on immediate importance the moment you try to throw it away. “Nooo,” your 6-year-old says. “I NEED that straw.” “Um, nooo, you don’t,” you answer. And that’s when you learn that the straw is needed because someday he plans to combine a whole bunch of them (which are all under his bed, but you don’t know that yet) and use it as a pretend sword. Stuffed animals—dusty and torn—are valued objects, even if they haven’t been touched in three years. A random party favor he received at friend’s birthday two years ago is something he’s saving because, well, he hasn’t really figured out why yet, but don’t worry, he assures you, he will. So, you face a dilemma: traumatize the kid by throwing out or ‘giving away’ the stuff while ignoring his protests, or keep it there and let it collect until one day you see a camera crew knocking on your door. What some parents don’t know, however, is that it can be a win-win situation, and here’s how. I call it ‘The Less is More Technique.’ It’s based off the premise that most children don’t see the ‘value’ in giving their stuff away. All they see is you taking away their possessions. Concepts like good hygiene, organization, order, cleanliness, etc. don’t mean a thing. Remember, a lot of kids embrace playing in the dirt—why should they care if a toy is on the floor or if they have way too much stuff they don’t use? They need to see the value in getting rid of their old toys, clothes and stuffed animals; hence, the beauty of the ‘Less is More' technique. Approach their room like it’s a consignment store. Your kid has the power to decide what he wants to ‘sell.’ The key concept here is that HE has the say-so; he’ll feel empowered. Here’s a dialogue to emphasize how this technique plays out. Mom: Johnny, I see a lot of old stuff in your room…stuff you don’t use anymore. Johnny: So. Mom: How would you feel about receiving a new toy or stuffed animal. Heck, how would you like to pick out your desired toy at the store? Johnny: YES! Mom: Well, seems like your room won’t hold any more stuff. Johnny: Huh? Mom: And, you need money to buy yourself a new toy, right? Johnny: Oh. Yeah. Mom: I have an idea. How about you look around your room and figure out what you can ‘sell’ back to me. Put stuff in a pile in front of me and then I’ll determine its value. You can then use that dollar value to buy one new toy. At first, they’ll test it out. They’ll throw some random object in front of you to see what it’s worth. If that happens, give them a value like a $1. They’ll start to see how the system works. Pretty soon, they’ll start adding stuff to the pile, thereby increasing the value. Conversation continues… Johnny: Mom, should I give up this stuffed animal? Mom: It’s up to you. Johnny: Yeah, but how much will it be? Mom: I can’t say. You’ll have to finish your pile and then I’ll give it a dollar value. I’ve used this technique many times. My son used to be the one who would, dare I say it, hoard some of his toys and such. After he realized that he could add to the pile a bunch of stuff he didn’t use and see that he made $30 to buy one new cool toy, he got the point. “Mom, can we do that again?” he always asks me. “That was fun, and there’s a new thing I want to buy at the store.” The beauty of creative approach is that children see firsthand the benefit of cleaning. Maybe they don’t see it the way we do, but they realize the value of it. And best of all, they feel empowered.

The Power of a Simple Smile

How often have you woken up on the wrong side of the bed or had a bad encounter with someone and assumed the rest of your day would follow suit? Then, out of the blue, you are side swapped with a smile from a stranger or friend. You physically feel lighter, with a glimpse of hope for the rest of your day. A simple smile actually turned your day around. Who can deny the power of a smile, the impact a smile can make from one person to another?Commit to SmilingWhat if you harnessed that same logic for yourself and committed to smile even when you weren't feeling in the best of moods. Could you change your own mood and situation by "faking" to be happy? At the very least you could make someone else feel good. Would the act of smiling impact your mood? It is truly amazing what a simple act of kindness can do for yourself and others around you. Who is to say your smile didn't come at the exact right moment for someone having a horrible day? Your actions will soon become habit and you will wonder why you are feeling more optimistic and genuinely happy. Here are three ways to get you smiling this week!1. Smile for the Sake of SmilingMake an effort to smile more during the day. Smile to yourself as well as others and notice the impact it has on everyone. Most of us don't realize the effect we can have on others' lives. Make it a point this week to smile when you least feel like smiling.2. Write it DownThis week, make a point of writing down your experiences with the "smile experiment". Keep a journal or notepad and write down every evening what effect your smiling had. Write down how you felt. Write down how it affected your day. Write down the differences it made. Being aware and fully present not only keeps you in the moment, but opens your eyes to the power of your actions.3. Impact AnotherThis week, make a commitment to smile at 5 strangers every day. It may feel awkward at first, but again, this is about expanding your comfort zone. You can truly make a difference in the life of another with a simple smile. Try it out this week and see how it feels. Notice how it changes your own outlook and mood.

The Two-Letter Word Every Mom Should Learn to Say

For the first year after the divorce was final, my auto-response to just about every question that flew out of the mouths of my three sons was “YES!” It was an automatic, rapid-fire and knee-jerk reaction to each and every query. Yes, I will be your room mom! Yes, I will be the team mom! Yes, we can still go on vacations, live in our super-sized house, drive our SUV, and eat out at restaurants! And the one that had me questioning my sanity: Sure, no problem, I am happy to drive six hours – round trip – to Six Flags Magic Mountain not once – but twice – over back-to-back weekends, all to spend $500 to stand in long lines – in 95 degree heat – to ride a roller coaster that will likely make me vomit! Like many women, I was haunted by divorce guilt and did everything I could during those 12 long months to compensate for any collateral damage to my boys. Despite my best intentions, all those “yeses” did come at a price. Not only did my face have a half a dozen more stress-induced wrinkles, but I also became the not-so-proud owner of a big fat credit card balance. Neither circumstance was how I wanted to kick off my new life as a single mom. This wasn’t the example I wanted to set for my sons. After yet another sleepless night, I found myself asking this hard question: What in the hell could I have done with all that money if I had simply said NO? The longer I stared at my year-end credit card statement, the more I realized the power that lives in that simple, two-letter word. No. I began to see that if I embraced the notion that “no” actually means “yes” to something else (e.g., zero debt, a growing emergency fund and/or a retirement account), the results could be life changing. As women we are told that we can “have it all” and “do it all” and that wearing our “yeses” on our chest makes us a superhero. Although these messages are meant to empower, they actually compound one of the most prevalent issues women face today – the lack of the ability to say “no.” But why? Why is it so hard for women to overcome the guilt and the shame around the word “no”? And when are we going to stop and realize the cost of always saying “yes” – both to our bank accounts and to our sanity? The answer just may lie in an economic concept called “opportunity cost.” (Oh, how proud my microeconomics professor at USC would be if he knew that after nearly two decades I was still throwing around that term.) By definition, opportunity cost is the benefit or value of something that is given up when one chooses one thing over another. Or – put more simply – it’s what you could do with your 10 minutes and $5 if you don’t walk into Starbucks each morning. Bottom line, you can do A LOT since that daily yes to a skinny vanilla latte over 15 years can cost you nearly 1,000 hours and close to $50,000. That is a lot of time and money that could be put to better use. And this is coming from a woman who LOVES her lattes! This same principle can be applied to the seemingly endless requests of our time and the obliging attitude some of us have as we “yes” ourselves into insanity and exhaustion. I am not suggesting that we all stop baking cookies or sewing several monkey costumes for our children’s school play after a long day at work -- or stop volunteering our time to worthy causes. But I am suggesting that before we shout out that “yes,” we stop to recognize that we are a worthy cause too.Just because you can’t always quantify the cost of a “yes” doesn’t mean there isn’t an impact on your bottom line. The extra time you take walking along the beach, feeling the sand between your toes, enjoying a little downtime with a glass of wine, or reading a book to gain a new perspective can yield an even higher return. So to all you Superwomen out there flying around with your “yeses” on your chest, it’s time to rip off the cape and stop for a moment to think about the true cost of “yes.” You just might fly higher if you embrace the power of no. For more information on women and money, please visit