My Work is My Fun: Productive or Pathetic?

What do you do for fun? Lately, I've struggled with this question. I've discovered I'm either the most PRODUCTIVE person ever or the most PATHETIC person ever. A friendly acquaintance recently asked me what I like to do for fun in my spare time. First of all, no mom of two babies under two years old has any spare time, but I digress... Fun. Fun. Hmm. Fun.  I know what fun is. Shopping. Ice cream. Cocktails. Vegas. Fun makes you laugh. Fun makes you feel like a teenager again. Fun makes you feel fabulous. So, what do I do for fun these days? Well, I like to blog, pursue work opportunities, go to meetings, and auditions... No wait. That's my work. But it makes me laugh, feel like a teenager, and really does make me feel fabulous. Does that count, then? Or does that mean that I don't have any fun? Or, does that mean that I'm reaaaaaalllly lucky? Sheesh. Before babies, work was WORK. Now, it's different. Work is FUN. Fun (for me) means getting dressed up, getting out of the house, talking to interesting people and doing something for myself. Work gets me out of the house. Work gets me dressed up. Work allows me to talk to interesting people. Work gets me focusing on ME. More and more, I'm finding I'm more playful, less stressed, and honestly, I feel good inside about chipping away at my various professional goals when I get the opportunity to work now and again. Granted, I count my blessings that I'm able to work a freelance schedule at this point in my life, and that my family is not dependent on my income to put food on the table. Not to mention, I do get a twisted ego boost dealing with poopy diapers in high heels. On the days that I do work, I feel more complete and surprisingly return home refreshed and READY to go back to being Mommy.  I'm happier on the days I work... which makes me much more fun to play puzzles, dress-up, and read books with. So, isn't that the purpose of creating 'fun' in your life: to feel all of those energizing feelings that reset you back to zero? But as I thought about this, I started to worry a bit. I can't remember the last time I laid on the couch to read something frivolous, zone out, or just file my nails. PATHETIC? And the most frightening thing is that I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. Really! I'm genuinely happy and content with my life right now (and my oddball chase-and-balance of career and raising babies) but I have to wonder if I'm causing irreparable damage to my inner-self that's going to bite me in the butt later. Will I resent not carving out time to aimlessly bop around my local mall for the sake of fulfilling a mainstream idea of "having fun?"  Marissa Mayer (new CEO of Yahoo) has gotten a lot of flack for wanting to work through pregnancy and her baby's first weeks (a whole other issue that I both fully understand and appreciate, yet also question the morality and reality of it all), but here's a thought: Maybe HER work is HER fun? Hmm. Does anyone else consider work their 'fun' time? Who's with me, and who thinks I just need a serious girls night out to set me straight?

Best Ever Juicy Burger with Roasted Garlic

The following post is sponsored by Hellmann's® Looking for a new twist on your regular burger for 4th of July? This yummy recipe for a decandently juicy burger comes from Mindy, founder of The TipToe Fairy.   This year, just in time for the 4th of July, Hellmann’s is staging a #Burgervention to put an end to dry burgers across America.  Are you sick and tired of dried out, hockey puck burgers?  I’ve finally found the secret — Hellman’s Mayonnaise!   If you want to create the Best Ever Juicy Burger this summer, mix 1/2 cup of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise directly into 2 lbs of ground beef when preparing your burgers. It’s amazing! The mayonnaise helps to lock in moisture and flavor as the burger cooks on the grill or in the oven to give you a juicy, delicious burger every time.   I adapted Hellman’s Best Ever Juicy Burger recipe with my own twist – Cheddar and Roasted Garlic!  There really is nothing better than freshly roasted garlic topped on a burger.  For a great burger opt for great ingredients like Hellmann’s, which is committed to cage free eggs, quality oils and vinegar. These juicy burgers topped with roasted garlic and cheddar cheese with Hellman’s and Worcestershire sauce mixed into the beef taste absolutely amazing!  My family loved this meal. My son can never get enough onions on his burger, so adding the onion soup mix really made his burger extra delicious. It is really amazing how adding Hellman’s and the soup mix to the burgers gives them so much flavor that each bite just explodes in your mouth.  My family was even asking for seconds! To see how easy it is to roast garlic, you can find my recipe here. Ingredients 1/2 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs 1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Soup Mix 2 lbs. ground beef 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1/4 tsp salt 8 bulbs of roasted garlic 8 slices of cheddar cheese 8 hamburger buns Instructions Roast garlic earlier in the day.Preheat oven to 350 Preheat ove to 350 Chop 2-3 cloves of roasted garlic Mix together Hellman's, bread crumbs, Onion soup mix, Worcestershire sauce, salt, chopped garlic, and ground beef. Form patties with a small indentation in the middle Spray a glass casserole dish with cooking spray and then place patties into dish Bake 15 minutes on each side Remove from oven and prepare burgers immediately and serve. Make sure you visit Hellman’s or tweet @Hellmanns #Burgervention for recipes and tips to make the Best Ever Juicy Burger for your family and friends this summer.  If you’re having a barbecue over the holidays, have a #Burgervention and try some Hellman’s in your burgers. It will be a huge hit! I can’t wait to make it again.

7 Ways to Keep Your Home Safe While on Vacation

So, you’ve finally decided to go on a family vacation. Good for you! But, as any traveler knows, there is a lot of stress involved in getting ready to leave. One source of stress comes from leaving the house empty while away. How can you protect your home while you are away on vacation? Here are some tips: So, you’ve finally decided to go on a family vacation. Good for you! But, as any traveler knows, there is a lot of stress involved in getting ready to leave. One source of stress comes from leaving the house empty while away. How can you protect your home while you are away on vacation? Here are some tips: 1. Recruit a Friend's Help The best way to ensure that your house is safe is by asking a trusted friend or relative to house sit or at least come by every day or so to check on the place. You should give him a key so he can water the plants, feed the fish, etc. This friend should have your contact info and a copy of your itinerary in case of any emergencies. 2. Inform the Neighbors Inform your neighbors about your trip and ask them to keep an eye on your house, too. Make sure to let them know if you are having a friend or relative come by every so often. Also, give them a copy of your contact info and itinerary in case they see something amiss. 3. Stop Newspaper Deliveries If you do not have a friend to visit your home daily or every other day to take the newspaper in, then make sure to call the newspaper company and have them stop deliveries when you are away. You are informing the world you are not home when you have a stack of old newspapers outside your house. You can also call the post office to hold your mail, if you like. They offer this free service from three to thirty days. 4. Timer for your Lights When lights are on inside or outside the house, it scares away potential intruders. But, of course, you can’t keep the lights on the entire time you’re gone – that’s just a huge waste of energy. A good idea is to purchase light timers and have them go on and off at random times, for the illusion that people are home. 5. Lock the Windows This may sound obvious but it’s easy to forget. If you don’t have safety locks already installed on your windows and you don’t want to invest in them just yet, you can buy cheap dowels to secure your window and stop someone from opening it up. 6. Disconnect the Electronics Disconnecting your electronics, like TV, computer or coffee pot, will not only save you money but also get rid of you worrying that you left them on by mistake. Additionally, disabling the power to the garage door stops burglars from opening it up with a universal remote. 7. Don't Announce it to the World Try not to discuss your vacation plans in public places because you never know what kind of information could leak out and to whom. On that same note, do not announce your plans via Facebook, Twitter or your personal blog.

Vegetables for Container Growing

Don't let the fact that you live in an apartment or a home with no yard deter you from growing your own vegetables. Even with limited space or less than ideal lighting conditions, many vegetables thrive in containers as long as they are watered frequently. Put your green thumb to good use and plant a container vegetable garden right outside your patio door or on your balcony.TomatoesOne of the easiest to grow and most-loved summer vegetables is the tomato -- it also happens to be perfectly suited to be grown in a container. Most tomato plants require support in the form of staking or a tomato cage, so it's best to use the largest container possible, ideally a 5-gallon pot measuring at least 22 inches in diameter. Some varieties that work well in a container garden are Pixie, Yellow Pear, Tumbling Tom, Red Cherry and Sundrop. All these plants produce smaller vines and fruit that are ideal in salads and pasta, or chopped into a mix to make a spread, such as bruschetta. Plant tomatoes as deeply as possible since hot summer days can easily dry out soil, leading to wilted plants and poor growth and fruit production.Salad GreensSalad greens thrive in containers, where the confined habit of growth works to the plant's advantage. Most salad greens tend to have shallow roots, making them good candidates for a wider, but shallower container. The more plants you pot together, the better yield you will have. Plant salad greens in the late summer or early fall. Some good choices for containers are Green Leaf, Oak Leaf, Butter Leaf and Salad Bowl. To encourage continued growth, harvest salad leaves frequently. If you intend to eat a lot of greens, transplant more plants or reseed about every two weeks.CarrotsFor carrots, select a large, deep container to provide ample room for the carrots to reach deep into the soil -- a long rectangular container works well. The types of carrots best suited for container gardening are Little Finger, Thumbelina, Gold Nugget and Baby Spike. Plant carrots from seeds in the spring through fall for a continued harvest, thinning the seedlings out when they sprout to allow for proper development. Too many carrots compacted together leads to immature and deformed carrots.RadishesPerfect for the novice gardener, radishes are easy to grow and have a wide variety of uses. Toss them in a salad, soup or coleslaw or slice them thin to add a zesty crunch to a tea sandwich. Plant radishes in spring and fall when the days are cooler, using at least a 2-gallon container with a planting depth of 4 to 6 inches. Good choices for containers are Early Scarlet, Sparkler and French Breakfast. Like all container gardens, be sure the container you choose allows for sufficient drainage. According to Texas A&M University Agricultural Extension, mixing 1 inch of coarse gravel at the bottom of the container will also aid in drainage.

Keep Your Skin Healthy in the Summer Sun!

I love summertime, especially when that includes fun in the sun with family and friends.  Where I live now, this also means pool, lake or beach get-togethers. This is all great, but I have one big, big request that you PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE SUN. While the sun is our friend, the National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that reducing unprotected exposure to the sun and artificial light from tanning beds, tanning booths, and sun lamps can lower the risk of skin cancer. OK, we all know that, so why aren’t we doing something about it? Simple steps like using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, or seeking shade when we step outside can do a great deal to protect us. However, the NIH’s latest trend data shows that only 58% of adults are protecting themselves from the sun, and adults 25 years and older have increased their use of tanning beds.  For these people, leathery skin, wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer may be in their future. I am absolutely concerned with parents who don't protect themselves or their children from the sun.  According to a study published in the February 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published by the American Academy of Pediatrics), only 25 percent of children use sunscreen regularly.  In the same study, it was also found that at least 25 percent of the participating children experienced sunburns before the age of 11.  Have a baby? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:  “babies under six months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. If adequate clothing and shade are not available, sunscreen may be used on small areas of the body, such as the face and the backs of the hands.” Are you using skin protection?  Hopefully so, because using sunscreen lotion, cream or sprays consistently can protect against skin cancer.  That truly is good news and it’s easy to do.  Here are some important safe sun practices: Avoid the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Put on sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you hit the sun. Check that the sunscreen you use is waterproof. Use enough. It takes about an ounce to cover the average adult. Reapply every two hours. Wear large sunglasses and a hat with a three-inch brim. Remember a baseball cap will only help if the brim is facing front.   SPF is one of those terms we use frequently, but are you familiar with what it means?  According to, “A product's SPF (skin protection factor) is calculated by measuring the time it takes to produce redness on the skin protected by sunscreen divided by the time required for unprotected skin to arrive at the same color. Experts who just a few years ago believed that SPFs of 15 were adequate, now recommend using the maximum - up to 50 - to filter out a greater percentage of harmful rays.” Are you using SPF regularly to protect yourself and the ones you love? Here are some additional resources where you can learn more about how to stay sun-safe this summer: Summer Safety Tips Sun Protection Melanoma Prevention

6 Tips for Staying Slim During BBQ (and Bikini) Season!

Barbeque season is here along with all of its usual fun - outdoor games and delicious food! A few weeks ago, we had our annual Memorial Day cookout and each arrived with the platters of food that everyone expects (our vegetable crudité) in addition to something else healthy and also yummy.   This year, Lyssie brought a spinach, artichoke, and fennel salad with citrus salsa, and Tammy took fruit kebabs.  They were both a hit, if we do say so ourselves! Our clients have told us that as much as they love the summer barbeque season, they struggle to maintain their weight with the constant temptation of chips, burgers, hot dogs, macaroni salad, brownies, alcoholic beverages, and other less-than-healthy lures that seem to stare them down at outdoor parties and events. We always tell them not to worry.  They can stay lean and be swimsuit ready throughout the cook-out season! Here are our surefire tricks for keeping slender at the barbeque: 1.  Fill up with a veggie “pre-load” before the barbecue.  Before you head to the barbecue, fill up on veggies.  In fact, go crazy!  Munch and crunch away on bell peppers, celery, carrots, summer squash… whatever floats your boat.  You’ll fill up for very few calories and you’ll be stuffed when you get to the barbecue and have a lot less room for unhealthy temptations. Note: Avoid dipping the vegetables in a high calorie dressing. If you don’t like your veggies on their own dip them in salsa or balsamic vinegar.  If you prefer a higher calorie dip, limit it to 50 calories worth. 2. Make fruit kebabs.  If you want to be the hit of the party, you should know that fruit on a stick is the ultimate crowd pleaser -- kids and adults love them, and they’ll go like hot cakes.  Simply take wooden skewers (you can get them at most grocery stores) and thread on chunks of watermelon, grapes, and cantaloupe.  Watermelon goes a long way and can make upwards of 20 kebabs.  Plus it’s hydrating due to its high water content.  It’s a good source of vitamin C, potassium (needed to keep you hydrated in the summer heat), and it’s a great source of lycopene, which can help to protect your skin from the sun.  Turn to the fruit kebabs instead of the chips and cookies, and you’ll save a lot of calories! 3. Choose the chicken breast instead of the burger or hot dog.  We know you’ve heard this before, but it’s so important, especially if you skip the bun too.  You’ll save a couple hundred calories and hundreds of milligrams of bloating sodium, even more so when it comes to the hotdog and hamburger condiments.  4. Avoid the white “salads.”  Unless it’s a green salad, it’s typically best to stay away.  The macaroni, pasta, and potato salad are usually so mayo-loaded that a half cup can set you back several hundred calories.  You’ll still be full from your veggie “pre-load” so you’ll have an easier time turning it down.  5. Follow our “one-two” rule for alcoholic beverages.  For every alcoholic beverage you have, drink two non-alcoholic, non-caloric beverages.  This will certainly slow you down -- how much liquid can one person take before they give up on it?  This will also keep you hydrated and prevent a hangover the next day. 6. Be active!  Play Frisbee, toss a football, swim in the pool, play tag with the kids...  Not only will it distract you from the food, but you’ll have fun while burning calories.    The Nutrition Twins work with the National Watermelon Promotion Board to help people to improve their health by consuming more vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene by enjoying watermelon.

What's In Your Inner Beauty Bag?

While Facebook is not the most comprehensive look at a person’s life, you often learn a lot about priorities and patterns examining social media posts. Me? You’d learn that I’m passionate about autism, my writing, my family and my friends. May sound like an amateur move, but I thought I’d poke around the Facebook page of Felita Harris, Senior Vice President of Global Sales for Donna Karan New York, before diving into her interview for our MOMMIES DO THE MOST AMAZING THINGS series. What I found there was not what you would see on my Facebook page. You won’t stumble upon pictures of me in the showrooms of one of high fashion’s most esteemed houses. You won’t find me posing with supermodels in chic ensembles. You won’t find albums labeled “PARIS” or “MILAN”. But after the glare of all that glamor wears off, the similarities begin to emerge. Not between just Felita and me, but Felita and any mother who has to manage the work-life tension under debate in our nation right now. You’ll find a mom celebrating with birthday cakes, piano recitals, and sharing snowy days between her mad dashes to Milan and Dubai. And dare I say, doing it all with style. TINA: You are a single parent who travels a lot, and works a lot and hard. How do you manage it all?  FELITA: It’s extremely difficult to have a career and manage your home. My daughter Kennedy is the love of my life.  She is at the forefront of every career decision I make.  I've been blessed to have a very supportive family and care givers who support my desires for Kennedy.  Without #TeamKennedy,  I wouldn't sleep at night.  I've also made changes to my schedule so that I'm available during important moments.   TINA: There’s no way I can have a professional fashionista here and not ask some girly questions! What 5 items would you recommend every woman have as a foundation for a great wardrobe?FELITA: The five items that I recommend to any woman are: 1. Crisp white cotton shirts. The tailoring should be fitted to the body. I've been in the industry for 20 years. Trust me, "the white shirt" is here to stay.2. Black trousers: slim fit and wide leg.  Easily interchangeable during the year. I love trousers because you can wear them year round.  3. Leather blazer jacket. I'm obsessed with leather jackets and blazers.  They are great investments and can easily be worn as a business blazer, depending on the industry you work in.  Leather is an easy way to register luxe.4.  Heels... Every lady needs a pair of black heels.  They will take you from breakfast to after work cocktails.5.  Good makeup:  Most women don't understand the power of a polished face.  Before a person looks at what you're wearing, they are fixated on your face.  Invest in high quality products, starting with a cleansing system.  Makeup only highlights what's underneath the skin.  Never underestimate the power of a polished face that is accented with color.TINA: I want to talk some about the deeper beauty. We know most women have 5 or so things in their beauty bag they could not do without. What are the 5 characteristics you recommend for every woman's inner beauty bag? FELITA: I love this question! The 5 characteristics that I recommend for every woman's inner beauty bag are: 1. Confidence2. Integrity3. Kindness4. Spiritual countenance5. Gratitude.All of these characteristics will keep you centered in the midst of professional and personal trials. Likewise, as you experience success, these characteristics will keep you centered and focused. TINA: Felita, you say you never imagined you would get as far and as high as you have in the world of high fashion. Farther and higher than most ever will. Looking back, what do you think were "difference maker" decisions/experiences for you?FELITA: Looking back, I believe that having a strong support system truly made the difference.  I was blessed to meet extraordinary people who were willing to provide opportunities and mentoring so I could develop my strengths.  My mother was very hardworking and set high expectations for her kids.  I believe having a strong work ethic and undying willingness to succeed made a huge difference. TINA: Working in high fashion, traveling the world all seems glamorous. Share something that makes you say, "Yeah, THIS is the life." And share something that makes you think "If only they knew." FELITA: Working in the luxury segment of the industry has provided an incredible opportunity for me to experience a life that is rarefied. On most of my business trips, I'm staying at luxury hotels and dining at 5-star restaurants. In my day-to-day life, this certainly isn't the norm, so I truly enjoy every moment.   As amazing as the travel and cultural experiences are, there are countless hours invested behind the scenes. Working 12-14 hours for 20 days straight without time zone adjustments can be brutal on your body.  I don't think people understand the physical and emotional demands of the fashion industry. Not to mention, the relational sacrifices I make. It's impossible to have a career of this scope and be present for every celebratory moment in your friends’ and family’s lives.   The bottom line is I've made this decision and I don't regret it.  The fashion industry is a full contact sport. It demands the mind, body and exuberant passion.  I love every moment.  TINA: What is the most challenging thing about your job? And what do you love the most? FELITA: The most challenging part of my job is staying abreast of the luxury consumers’ buying habits.  It's my role to anticipate when, where, and how to convey the brand experience in stores around the world.  Without a crystal ball, it can be very challenging to anticipate.  I love the autonomy, travel, and strategic thinking components of the job.  I never imagined that I would travel around the world. TINA: What do you wish someone had told you when you first started out? FELITA: I wish someone had emphasized the importance of socialization.  In a corporate environment, it is critical to have support and strategic alliances in order to advance your objectives.  In simple terms, I spend nearly 50% of my day with co-workers across divisions.  It's important to have their support and input on ideas and strategies.  TINA: You are just coming off Fashion Week in New York City, something most of us only dream about being a part of. Describe the energy of Fashion Week in NYC. FELITA: I would describe Fashion Week as a seven-day summit filled with of glamour, inspiration, and strategy.  It is one of the most unified events in fashion. We definitely work unbelievably long hours, but it pales in comparison to working with a team of people who constantly inspire you. In the end, Fashion Week is comprised of the best people and product around the world.  Everyone has a shared goal, to GET IT SOLD!

Bacon & Smoked Gouda Stuffed Jalapeno Burger Recipe

The following post is sponsored by Hellmann's® Looking for a new twist on your regular burger for 4th of July? This yummy recipe for a decandently juicy burger comes from Mindy, founder of Sincerely, Mindy. Check out her post below: The 4th of July is just around the corner, and that means families all across the USA will be gathering in their back yards, and grilling up some burgers.  Just in time for the holiday, Hellmann’s is staging a “Burgervention,” putting an end to dry burgers across America. I’ve had my fair share of burgers over the years, and often times they are flavorless and dried out, and sometimes even burned to a crisp and barely recognizable as a burger.  Let’s just say that some people are better at making burgers than others.  Guilty parties shall remain nameless. It’s Time for a #BURGERVENTION If you want to blow your friends and family away with a juicy burger that’s bursting with flavor this summer,  I challenge you to try out my recipe for a Bacon & Smoked Gouda Stuffed Jalapeno Burger.  There is one little secret ingredient in this burger that makes it so moist, you won’t even believe it.  That secret ingredient, is Hellmann’s mayonnaise.  You probably already have a jar of that in your fridge, and if you don’t, I suggest you run out and buy one asap! For years, I have used Hellmann’s mayonnaise as a topping on my cooked burgers, but never once thought to put the mayonnaise directly into the meat mixture before cooking them.  I’m so happy that I have finally found the secret to a juicy burger though! I created this burger by starting with all of the ingredients in Hellmann’s Best Ever Juicy Burger recipe.  You can take this recipe and pretty much add whatever you want to it, and your burger will come out juicier than you could ever imagine.  These burgers were pretty much the best burgers I have ever had in my life – even better than ones I have had in a restaurant.  They just melted in my mouth, and were bursting with a spicy flavor from the fresh jalapenos.  The warm and melty smoked Gouda and crispy bacon in the middle was so delicious.  I can’t stop thinking about it. Ingredients: 1/2 cup Hellmann’s®  Real Mayonnaise1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Soup Mix2 lbs. ground beef [or ground turkey]Smoked Gouda cheese2 jalapenos (diced w/seeds)8 slices cooked bacon8 hamburger buns Directions: Mix hamburger meat, bread crumbs, onion soup mix, Hellmanns Real Mayonnaise and diced jalapenos together in a large bowl.  Separate hamburger mixture into 2 large portions, and then each large portion into 8 smaller portions.  This makes it easier to get uniform sized burgers.  Flatten 8 of the hamburger mixture portions out into thin patties and lay out on a plate or tray. Top each patty with 1 slice of bacon and 2 slices of smoked Gouda cheese.  I used about 2/3 of a 10 oz. block of smoked Gouda and kept my slices on the thick side.  I love cheese!! Form the remaining 8 portions of hamburger mixture into thin patties and lay on top of the patties with the bacon and smoked Gouda cheese. Seal the 2 patties together around the bacon and smoked Gouda cheese and shape into a round burger. Grill or broil burgers to your liking, and add any toppings that you wish.  I like to cook them long enough to just start melting the smoked cheese a little bit.  When you sink your teeth into the middle of the burger, and bite into that warm and melty pile of smoked Gouda, it’s so heavenly.  Have a safe & happy 4th of July, and enjoy your JUICY burgers! Visit or tweet @Hellmanns #Burgervention for recipes and tips to make the Best Ever Juicy Burger for family and friends this summer. What ingredients will you add to your Best Juicy Burger?      

Teaching Kids True Grit

Last week, after school got out but before my three kids scattered to camp and basketball tournaments, we kicked off summer at our new lake cabin in New England.  Although none of us had ever driven a boat solo, we purchased an old 1986 13-foot Boston Whaler for the lake.  The marine salesman gave us a 20-minute lesson.  Then he pushed the boat away from the dock and we were off. The first day went beautifully.  The second day, my 15-year-old son and his 10-year-old sister got stranded a mile out in the middle of the lake.  The motor wouldn’t start (corroded spark plugs, we later discovered).  As marine neophytes, we’d neglected to supply the boat with a paddle or rope for towing. It took the kids two hours to get back to shore.  I had no idea what had transpired until it was all over. Thank goodness.  Because I had no chance to save them, to call the lake patrol, to swim out to rescue them! Instead, they gritted it out. And the next day, once new spark plugs had been installed, the 10-year-old took the boat out alone. Which got me thinking: how do you teach kids resilience? Funny paradox here.  The only way parents can teach kids to be resilient is to do nothing.  To back off and let go. There is no AP prep course or Mommy & Me session for teaching determination.  The only solution is a little bit of neglect. Which it’s so hard for parents today. “This generation of parents,” explains psychologist Michael Thompson, author of Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Kid Grow, “has invested an enormous amount of time in being emotionally close with their children and having very deep attachments. They’ve also invested an enormous amount in protecting their children from trauma. We have doubled the amount of time spent with children in the last 20 years. When you’re all in, it’s hard to step out - it’s just that simple.” During the school year, my kids all work hard in school and on their various sports teams.  They have teachers, tutors, coaches, two parents and four grandparents advising them, pushing them, cheering them and drilling them every step of the way.  This is a top-down, dictatorial, linear path to achievement.  Useful in life, certainly.  But how and when will our kids ever find out what’s inside if we adults never leave them alone? Perhaps not surprisingly, my children have all been eager to use their summers to get away from the rigors of school and adult oversight.  To take the subway and bus alone.  To walk to Five Guys by themselves. To spend weeks at sleepaway camp. Perhaps my children know, better than I do, what they need to grow up and find their own ballast. One daughter went away to camp at age nine - her choice, her insistence actually - even though I thought she was too young.  Last Sunday I deposited her sister for three weeks alone with 300 girls and 70 horses in the wilds of West Virginia.  She is only ten.  Their brother will travel solo to tournaments in Philadelphia, Boston and Orlando now that he’s 15 and “legal” from the airlines point of view. More from Michael Thompson: “One of the things that troubles me about this generation is that we want our children endlessly challenged academically, but we don’t seem to want their resilience challenged in other ways. You can’t know you’re resilient until your resilience is challenged. And resilience or grit is key because it’s what gets you through the hard times in life.” The summer parenting to do list is short and simple: do nothing. Which is, of course, one of the toughest things for us to do.

Veggie Platters: Tips and Tricks

I had a blast this morning during my appearance on Table Talk.  We talked about the blog and I shared my passion for putting together a gorgeous veggie platter.  Below are the tips we discussed and links to some of my tasty dip recipes: Tips for Arranging a Veggie Platter I love to serve a veggie platter/crudités for many reasons. Whether I’m hosting a formal sit down dinner party or serving up an easy meal for my own family, fresh veggies from the garden are always on the menu. Garden fresh produce is healthy, beautiful, and delicious. A pre-dinner veggie snack plate is an easy way to get my kids crunching on carrots and radishes rather than crackers or chips. When serving a platter of fresh veggies, you want to keep it simple and seek out the best tasting produce you can find. If you don’t grow the vegetables in your own garden, then head to your local farmers market or produce stand and shop with your eyes, seeking out the most beautiful colors for your plate. If you seek out in-season ingredients, you’ll be rewarded with the best taste. A great example of this is celery. Pre-garden, I considered celery bland, but after growing it in my garden and finding organically grown celery at the farmers market, I have discovered that it has a robust flavor, sweet with a bit of bitterness that is wonderful. Here are some vegetables that you will find in season now that are ideal for a raw platter: Asparagus, baby turnips, radishes, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, celery, romanesco, broccoli, colorful cauliflower and fennel. Also, feel free to add cooked vegetables to your platter, such as beets, baby potatoes or kale chips - I throw those in a small bowl that I place on the platter. Prepare your ingredients: Prep your veggies by cleaning them well with cool water (I use a little assistance with a scrub brush, too).  After cleaning, dry and slice them with a sharp knife into bite-sized pieces.  I like to keep about two inches of stem intact on my carrots, turnips and radishes for easy dipping - think of it as a little handle.  If you’re dealing with larger produce, slice it in half but still keep that stem on for dipping. Making your platter pretty: Once the veggies are prepped, my favorite method is to mound each vegetable up on a platter all together in blocks of colors like a color wheel. For example, to make a pretty mound of carrots, I hold a bunch of carrots in my hand, all going in the same direction, then literally drop them onto the dish, allowing them to land naturally - if they get too scattered, squish them together to create a heap on the plate. I’ll repeat the same method for the other vegetables in the wheel. This creates symmetry, but also gives the platter a little personality and an organic feel. You don’t want them to be too perfect, you want it to feel like a fresh from-the-garden bounty. Want some ideas? Here are a couple of my tried and true favorite veggie dips: Whipped Feta Dip , Gorgonzola Dressing/Dip , White Bean Dip

Thrifty Yet Beautiful: Our Ten Year Vow Renewal

My husband and I are celebrating our ten year wedding anniversary this year! Like many couples, our road has not been easy and we have had many difficult journeys which have made us only grow in love and learn to appreciate and respect each other even more. We wanted to do something really special for our ten year anniversary, but didn't have a huge budget to do so. We also felt strongly that we wanted our daughter to be a part of whatever we did. We decided to renew our vows on our annual vacation to a beach within driving distance from our house. We usually rent a condo right on the beach, an inexpensive option to staying at a hotel.  We ended up spending only a few hundred dollars on everything from our outfits, to the cake, to the ceremony itself. Here is how we did it! First I shopped around and found us really nice beach wedding attire for a low cost. I bought this dress at a local boutique for a mere $23.00, 70% off.  I bought my daughter's dress at a discount at Burlington Coat Factory and found a matching ivory shirt for my husband, 60% at Macy's. When I first researched bouquets I realized how expensive they were. Also we just needed small bouquets which are hard to find at a florist and still really expensive. So I found a video on YouTube on making bouquets and bought the flowers in the local supermarket. I made a bouquet for my daughter and I the night before and refrigerated them. They came out perfect!   They came out perfect! We planned to recite our vows at sunrise right outside our condo on the beach.  We hoped doing the ceremony at this time would give us an extraordinary view and a beach without crowds. But, we needed an aisle to walk down. The day the before the ceremony, my husband and I went to a local Dollar Store. We bought ten vases and a bag tea light candles.  We also bought bamboo sticks traditionally used to help keep tomato plants up. We made an arch to stand under with the bamboo sticks. We filled the vases half way up with sand and put a few tea lights on top and made an aisle out of them. To get a minister to come for five minutes and help us recite our vows cost hundreds of dollars! So we just wrote a little something and stood in front of our daughter as we renewed our vows. What we did splurge on was a photographer to come and take family pictures of us on the beach. When we were all done, we had a picnic on the beach with some sparkling lemonade and a homemade carrot cake with white cream cheese frosting. After looking into the price of cakes and realizing how expensive they were, I just made a small cake before I went I left for vacation and put it in the freezer when we got to the condo and thawed it the night before.    Our vow renewal was something we will never forget. My daughter, who is four, had a wonderful time and truly enjoyed the experience also. I am looking forward to the next ten years of our marriage and beyond!

Why You Should Go on Family Vacation Now!

Summer brings about a natural sense of exploration. How do you know your family is ready for a vacation? Well besides it being August, are you experiencing any of the following symptoms: burnt out, stuck in a rut, cabin fever, snapping at everything, feel like it’s groundhog day and can’t bear to hear another “Dora the Explorer” travel adventures? Yeah, you’re ready to pack it up.It's the Journey AND the DestinationWhether your family prefers adventure, sight seeing, hiking, skiing, sporting, exploring ancient ruins or beach bumming, one thing’s for certain, when traveling as a family unit, the journey creating the memories is the destination.Make Family Outings a PriorityTraveling with my family as a child embodies the hysterical, utterly ridiculous, educational, joyous, inspiring and unfathomable moments of my life thus far. No matter how much money we did or didn’t have, our family outings were a priority. We went camping (where I read my first novel on my own), rafting (hilarious and absurd), cruising (the Litman’s at sea, where I learned that Jamaica the island is not located in Queens), driving up and down both coasts (I learned there is such a thing as overpacking when your dad has to rent the largest size car available), Canada (where my sister had to pee and I kept reminding her of Niagra Falls), and elsewhere. Each trip strengthened our family bonds and made the world much more beautiful, fun and generous than I could’ve ever envisioned from the confines of my parent’s house, classroom or computer.While the Scenery May Change, You Stay the SameLike my mom says, “it’s amazingly fulfilling seeing your family do their thing in different settings.” The beauty is experiencing your kids and yourself outside the norm. Many forget why we take vacations in the first place. It’s not just about having “obligatory time with your parents” or “seeing the Mona Lisa” but a chance to enjoy your family in a new setting. We laugh our heads off no matter where we are. But, traveling also allows each person to break out of their shell and be free to explore. Even with my parents, it wasn’t the same structure as home and we were all looking to have fun, enjoy and explore. My family’s personality was somehow exaggerated on vacation, like my dad getting rip roaring drunk on New Years Eve in London and dancing with perfect strangers; my mom morphing into Dory (the forgetful fish from “Finding Nemo”) while in Paris; or my sister listening to me and continuing to gamble instead of cashing in her chips (still haven’t lived that one down).Money MattersYou can build wonderful memories anywhere, anyplace, anytime and on any budget. Last summer, my family had “Family Fridays.” We explored the parks on Long Island with picnic lunches, took road trips to visit friends and explore new towns, and clipped coupons for Aquariums. It was five star fun on a shoe string budget.Adjust Your Attitude to the LongitudeSeize any moment that appears as a “negative setback” and re-label it as a “Classic Family Moment.” So let’s say your taxi’s late for an airport pickup and your dad practically breaks the speed barrier to get to the airport only to find your plane is delayed 4 hours or they lose your luggage - see it as a shoportunity; or you get lost (just take the scenic route); or your credit card maxes out; or your baby sister gets a wicked sunburn and her face blows up like a poufy china doll, but you get to stay by her side. Stuff will always happen whether at home or abroad, embrace it. It’s a personal family trip, not business, so relax!Making Priceless MemoriesThe world is your oyster and there’s a trillion dollar tourist/travel industry waiting to service you. Follow your family’s passions. My husband’s method to select destinations is to go where the Olympics were last held (Look out China!). If the thought of packing for your family sends your heart racing and eyes rolling, perhaps travel with a group so there are extra hands or to a place that has all the child gear readily available. Wherever we set our compass, I treasure the memories and adventures that await our growing brood. Especially as our travels will turn into college scouting trips – yikes! When you walk back through your front door, your spirit will be refreshed, eyes opened and you’ll carry much more then souvenirs, you’ll have priceless memories to last a lifetime!About the Author Cynthia Litman is a working modern mom with a classic twist. She has two delicious children and is the spiritual and visionary guide of Mommas Pearls. Cynthia began Momma's Pearls in 2009 when her grandparents passed away as an outlet to remember and pass down their wisdom and integrate it into the quickly passing moments with her young family. Mommas Pearls provides insight and support to other everyday busy parents. Mommas Pearls has since dovetailed into the Mommas Pearls blog, talk radio show and M’S Gems – a blog written by her BFF Melissa who brings the practical, give it to you straight side of Mommas Pearls. Cynthia is also an entertainment lawyer with a niche in spiritual entertainment. Her firm Cynthia R. Litman, Esq., PLLC caters to the spiritual entertainment market. She is a founding partner of The Spiritual Cinema Circle (, a DVD club for spiritual films, Executive Producer of the Independent films “Lost In Sunshine” and “Boost”, production attorney for "Conversations With God" (film based upon the books by Neale Donald Walsch) and distribution attorney for Debbie Ford's documentary film "The Shadow Effect" and Nicole Clark's documentary film "Cover Girl Culture". Cynthia is a contributing writer for the online magazine Bella Life and a Lifestyle expert for Skimbaco Lifestyle.Visit Mommas

New Tra-Dish: Italian Cheesesteak Bake

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 Angela over at LeMoine Family Kitchen, who came up with a delicious twist on the traditional Italian Cheesesteak.   She turned it into a casserole! Love!   Check out her post below:   I am so excited to share this post with you! I was recently given the fantastic opportunity to take part in a sort of makeover challenge by Ragú. I was assigned to put my own twist on The Italian Cheesesteak Sandwich by Ragú. Living in NJ, we are lucky enough to have Philadelphia just a short car ride away and what is Philly known for if not their cheesesteaks and I am a HUGE fan of them! What's not to love about a cheesesteak? Beef, peppers, onions, cheese and crusty bread!  Despite my French last name, I am 100% Italian and I love giving dishes an Italian twist, so I was thrilled to get the Italian Cheesesteak as my challenge! All the same basic components but with the addition of a great go-to sauce like Ragu® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce and the use of some Italian cheese. FUN FACT:  Each jar of Ragu® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce is made with 11 juicy tomatoes, making it its richest, thickest recipe {*versus previous OWS formula}. Here's my twist: take all the goodness that makes up an Italian Cheesesteak and turn it into a oven baked dish! This dish was a huge hit and so perfect for a quick weeknight meal! Ragú New Tra-Dish Italian Cheesesteak Bake Ingredients 1 - 1lb loaf of ciabatta bread, cut into large cubes and dried overnight 1 1/2 lbs of sandwich steak, rough chopped 3 - 4 bell peppers, rough chopped 1 small red onion, rough chopped 1 1/2 jars Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce 3 cups Italian blend shredded cheese (provolone, pecorino, mozzarella) Instructions 1. Cut the loaf of ciabatta bread into large cubes and place onto a baking sheet. Let them sit overnight to dry out, which will prevent the bread from getting overly soft during the cooking process. If you don't have time, no worries, simply pop the baking sheet in the oven for about 10 minutes to draw out the moisture.   2. Add the bread, steak, peppers, onions, 1 jar of Ragú sauce and 2 cups of cheese to a large bowl.   3. Toss to combine well and pour into a large baking dish.   4. Top with an additional 1/2 jar of Ragú sauce and the remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven until bubbly and golden.       Be sure to visit for more easy and delicious authentic Italian recipe ideas!

Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing

You know what's one of the best parts of having a newborn? When they're blissfully, beautifully asleep!   We're kidding (mostly), but it's true that sometimes you want to put your baby done and actually use BOTH of your hands for five minutes - and it's moments like that when a swing rocker can feel like a gift directly from heaven.   The Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing is cozy and soft with micro-plush cushioning that feels just like a hug. It has an airy canopy and a sweet bird mobile that hangs over your little one's head, as well as removable side support for newborns.   The swing has 2 recline positions and 3 seat position, so you can make sure your baby is super duper comfortable. Plus, it allows your baby to be rocked in a side to side motion as well as head to toe swing motion.   Complete with soothing music and even nature sound effects, this cradle swing will lull your little one into sleepytime with ease.  

How Do You Handle Backseat Parenting?

Last week while on holidays, my family went on a whale-watching tour. The boat looked very much like a pirate ship, so the kids were fairly impressed.  About halfway into the adventure, a visibly stressed out older woman went over to my four-year old, took him by the hand and brought him over to where I was sitting with Daddy-o and a friend. She explained that she was worried sick about him going overboard. At first I didn’t really know what to do with that information. I knew he was not going overboard and there were three adults keeping a very close eye on him. I think in situations like this, the knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Why don’t you worry about looking for whales and I’ll worry about my kid.”  But those words didn’t come out of my mouth because I didn’t feel angry or judged.  This woman was genuinely worried, albeit unnecessarily. I wanted her to enjoy the day, so from there on in one of us adults closely followed my fully capable kid around so that she could relax. It’s probably been years since she cared for a small child, and we quickly forget what they do at different stages. I could relate to how she was feeling. Sometimes other people’s children stress me out.  If I’m at the park and there’s a child running around with a lollipop, I go out of my mind. I completely obsess to the point of ignoring my own children. I’m paralyzed with fear that the child will fall and have the lollipop lodged down their little throat. My solution?  I either have to leave the park completely, or I explain to the mother that I’m a total crackpot and beg her to humour me and take the lolly away. While I want to enjoy my time at the park, so did this woman on the ship. It’s easy for parents to get defensive, but I found that by respecting her concerns, we had a day of smooth sailing on the high seas. Have you ever had anyone show unnecessary concern over your child? How did you respond?

Healthy Fruit Smoothie Recipe Your Kids Will Love!

We know it can be hard to get your kids to eat their fruits and veggies. But, if you use a little creativity, you can get your kids to eat right. With this fruit smoothie recipe, your kids wont even realize they're finally listening to you and getting their essential vitamins. They'll love the sweet taste and creamy texture and it makes a delicious summer snack. We challenge you to try it out with your kid today! Ingredients 2 cups of your kid's favorite fruit (frozen) - It can be strawberries, peaches, mixed berries, etc. 1 1/2 cups of juice - pineapple, orange, mango, whatever your kid will like. 1 large banana 1 cup organic light yogurt - plan is best as it contains less sugar than flavored yogurt. A hhandful of ice cubes.   Serve to Your Little One! Blend all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy. The best part about this recipe is that you don't need to add sugar because the fruit and juice will make the drink sweet enough. You can also substitute milk for fruit juice if you prefer. The recipe makes two 6 oz. smoothies. To make it even more appealing (not that you'll need to), serve it to your little one in a cool cup with a twisty straw. Irresistible!

Customize Your Style

As a mom, I don’t have a lot of time to go shopping. And, as a mom, my body has changed a bit since I’ve become a parent. I have found some really fun online stores where you can purchase clothing and customize it to fit you to a tee. But let’s not stop there! I’ve also found some great sites to customize shoes and accessories as well! You can personalize your look from head to toe with just a few clicks on the keyboard! Here are five of them: EShakti – this store is great and has a stylish, on trend collection of clothing. Lots of boho chic looks and vintage inspired looks at great prices. On this site, you can choose the clothing item you like as is, or you can modify it slightly by hem length, sleeve length and more. You can even give them your measurements to make sure it fits you just right. They have such a wide selection of dresses in so many colors, patterns and prints – so great for Spring and upcoming Summer! Bow & Drape – this is another fun store where you can customize your fashion. Here you can choose from a variety of styles. A popular one with this store is to customize fashion chic sweatshirts. You can go in their gallery and see what other customers have done with theirs. Again, lots of fun prints, colors and styles to choose from. Vans Shoes – My entire family loves Vans. So comfy, casual and cool looking! Now you can customize your own Vans online which I love. Customize matching ones for the whole family? Why not? Lots of styles to choose from and fun ways to make them your own. Erin Gallagher Jewelry – Okay, so you’ve got your outfits, you’ve got your shoes, well now you need some jewelry! Not only would this be fun to do for yourself, but it’s also a great gift for bridesmaids, daughters, mother-daughter, best friends, you get the idea. Lauren Merkin Handbags – Lauren Merkin is known for her elegant, simple clutches and handbags that can dress any outfit up. On her website you can customize styles and even get them monogrammed. Again, makes for a special treat for yourself, or a lovely gift to give for a special event.  

Birthday Party Politics

Kiddo birthday parties are a landmine.Throwing a kid's birthday party is high-risk behavior in the department of offending or excluding people. Clearly, no one intends to exclude kids from birthday party fun, but unless your party planning involves inviting every cousin, classmate and neighbor, there is no way around it. If you are looking for ways to avoid that sinking feeling you get from leaving a child out, here are a few easy ways to try to prevent it: 1. Don’t send paper invitations to class. I e-mail the parents of the children coming to my kids’ birthday parties. If I don’t have an e-mail address, I send a note into the school to go home with the child simply asking the parent to contact me. 2. Back-up plan: Invite everyone. If you want to send paper invitations, probably best you plan for a big party and invite the whole crew. 3. Have a talk about not talking. Talk to your children about not discussing their birthday party outside of the actual party. No child wants to go to school on Monday to hear all the kids talking about a party that they were not at. It’s fine to have this discussion with little party-goers as well.  Remind them how they would feel - it’s a good lesson in empathy. 4. Help your kids understand. Let your children know that not everyone can go to every party. This helps them realize that it’s not personal if/when they end up as the excluded kid. Not getting an invitation doesn’t necessarily reflect the friendship - it most likely has to do with the size of party the parent has planned. Often when one of my kids is invited to a party, the parents feel obliged to invite some siblings as well. I remind the parent (and my kids) that it’s not necessary - everyone gets their turn in their own time. It’s a good lesson to learn early in life. 5. Mind the Facebook sharing. If you’re going to post birthday party pictures on Facebook, remember that some of your Facebook friends may have children who didn’t get invited to that party. While the rational mind knows that it’s no big deal, it can sting a Mama’s heart to think her little darling was not taking part in the celebration. Keeping the politics out of parties helps to make the day a success for parents as well as kids. Have you encountered any birthday party politics since becoming a parent?  How did you deal with it?

Tasty Tomato Salad with Fennel and Feta Cheese

This tasty salad brings the delicious flavors of summer to your table all year round.   The sweet tomatoes, zesty fennel, salty feta cheese, and tangy balsamic vinegar combine for a fabulous alternative to a plain green salad. Tomato Salad with Fennel and Feta Cheese Recipe Ingredients 1 pint red cherry tomatoes 1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes 1 bulb fennel, sliced 1/4 cup olive oil 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar Dash of kosher salt 1 tbsp chopped shallots 8 oz chopped feta cheese 1/4 cup chopped parsley   Directions In a small jar with a lid, add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and shallots and shake to combine.   In a large bowl, add both kinds of tomatoes and chopped fennel.  Pour dressing over tomato mixture and stir to evenly distribute the dressing.   Transfer the tomato mixture to a serving bowl.   Sprinkle the feta cheese and parsley over the tomato mixture and serve! Want to watch Brooke Burke take you through this recipe step by step?  Check out the video below - and be sure to check out all of our other great cooking videos on the ModernMom YouTube Channel.

Organize and Simplify Your Life this Summer!

Summer is a great time to organize because the days are longer and people seem to have more free time on their hands. You can organize your car, those photos you’ve been meaning to put into albums, garden tools, and so much more! Here are some quick organizing projects you can do to get organized this summer: Place Loose Photos in Albums When you are sunbathing, you can organize your photos and pop them into albums - it’s more productive than reading the gossip mags, and almost as fun. Care for the Inside of Your Car Too Most folks give their cars a good wash & wax in the summer, but forget about the inside! Now is the time to take a few minutes and clear out all the clutter, add a bin to hold the maps and CD’s, and maybe a little plastic container to hold your loose change. Add a bin to the back to hold an emergency kit which include flares, flashlight, antifreeze, oil, and anything you may need if your car breaks down. Add a Receipt.catcher for the car to wrangle those loose receipts and a Collision.kit and you are golden! Organize Your Toolshed If you like to garden, summer is the time to organize your tool shed or tool storage. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find the perfect tool you need for the job at hand! If you don’t have a great deal of space – get creative – use an outdoor basket or pretty pot to hold your tools and gloves. Place it so it can be seen and so it looks like part of your garden! Keep a list of tools that you need to replace (because of breakage or rust) and add them to the storage. Clean Out the Freezer Organize your freezer this summer! If you have unknown items in there – it’s time to defrost and see if they are still good. If they are – have a fun barbeque! An added bonus is that cleaning out your freezer will cool you down in the summer heat! Clear Out the Garage Clear out the garage and make sure everything in it has a place. If your kids keep bikes, balls, sports equipment in the garage, it’s probably hard to find what they want to play with at any given time. Here are three steps to make clearing out your garage easier. (1) Set up zones for the toys. Create a bike parking zone where all the bikes should go. Use netting and laundry sorters to hold all balls. Get a broom holder – the kind you push the broom between two metal brackets – and use that for hockey sticks, baseball bats, lacrosse sticks, etc. Put a big toy chest in the garage for roller states, cleats, gym shoes and golf shoes. With the lid, they will be out of sight and out of bad weather! (2) Organize tools and use peg board to hang tools up. Take chalk and outline each tool so everyone will know where they go when they are put away. (3) Use crates to store automotive care items like oil, antifreeze, wax, rags, etc. Create an area for lawn care items. Just like with the kid’s bikes, create a parking area for the lawn mower, fertilizer distributor, wheel barrel, weed whacker, snow blower, shovels, rakes, and any other appliance for the yard. Maybe you will even be able to put a car in the garage when you are done! Visit Get Buttoned Up

If Movies Were Right About Summer Camp

During the hot summer months, kids all over the country pack their bags and head off for a few weeks of fun outdoor adventures at sleepaway camp.  In the 1980’s, sleepaway camp wasn’t an option for a lower middle-class family like mine.  Latchkey kids spent the summer parked in front of the TV. But don’t pity me! Thanks to the wonders of the VHS, I never felt bad missing out on camp. Instead I felt relieved! (With the exception of The Parent Trap (1961) when I developed a hope that I’d find my long-lost twin and reunite my divorced parents.) Here's everything I learned about summer camp from movies: 1. You Will Die! Thanks to Friday the 13th franchise it was obvious that if Jason at Camp Crystal Lake didn’t kill you then he’d slaughter your sex-crazed counselors. The slasher film Sleepaway Camp (1983) focused on another revenge-oriented sociopath. Even poor Charlie Brown wasn’t safe. He and his gang were stuck in dangerous storms and suffered attacks by a gang of evil rafters in Race For Your Life Charlie Brown! (1970). 2. Your Counselors Will Suck! Bill Murray starred as the wacky head counselor in Meatballs (1979). His pep talk centered on the fact that “all the really good-looking girls will still go out with the guys from Mohawk, ‘cause they got all the money.” Therefore, in the end whatever you do “doesn’t really matter.”  In Wet Hot American Summer (could the title be any worse?) counselors were miserable weirdos who hated camp as much as the kids.  Ernest Goes to Camp (1987) was set at a camp for juvenile delinquents with the bumbling character, Ernest P. Worrell in charge. Even cute Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon (Joe) were lousy counselors in Poison Ivy (1985), more focused on each other than the kids in their care. Movies like these made me miss school. 3. You Will Lose Your Virginity! Maybe at the time, this point was a draw. But now, forget Jason and his creepy hockey mask for a minute. This is the REALLY scary stuff. Little Darlings (1980) starring Tatum O’Neil, Kristy McNichol and Matt Dillon focuses on a competition between the two young girls and who will lose their virginity first. Although I can’t fault them for chasing after the ever-hot Dillon, the race between the little girls to lose their virginity (while smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol) now gives me the shakes. Forget fresh air and exercise. The TV kept me busy all summer and taught me some invaluable lessons. Is it any wonder that I’m scared to send my children to sleepaway camp? I wonder if these movies affected you too. Are there others that I missed?

Popular Three Letter Baby Names

When it comes to naming their beautiful bundle of joy, some parents feel that short and sweet is ideal. If you are looking for a simple moniker to fit your little one, consider selecting a name that, while low on letters, is not light on meaning and beauty. Ama Parents in search of a short name who also want to reflect their eco-friendliness may elect to name their new daughter Ama. This name comes from native word meaning "water," tying it clearly to the Earth and the concept of fluidity, grace and new beginnings. Ace Recently popularized by Jessica Simpson, Ace is of English origin and means "noble" or "number one."  It can also be a reference to World War I days, when the term "flying ace" was commonly used to describe brave or daring pilots. Ben Ben is a popular boy's nickname, but some parents elect to give their child this simple moniker as his proper name. This name comes from a Hebrew word meaning "son," making it supremely appropriate for a male child. Eka If you want to highlight your new baby boy's distinctiveness, the Sanskrit name Eka may be the moniker for you. This name comes from a term meaning "one," making it indicative of originality and a perfect choice for your one-on-a-kind tot. Eva Eva is a short, simple name from your new baby girl. This name is most commonly used in Germanic cultures and originated from Hebrew origins. The name comes from a word meaning "life," making it a nice fit for the new life you created. Foy Parents who want to reflect the principles of devotion and trust in a short and pithy name may enjoy the name Foy. This baby girl name comes from a French word meaning "faith," clearly tying it to belief and trust. Ida Of old German and Greek origin, the meaning of Ida is "hardworking" or "prosperous."  Kai Kai is a unisex name of Finish origins. This name comes from a word meaning "rejoice," reflecting the pleasure and delight you and your partner likely felt upon welcoming your new son or daughter into your family. Mao The name Mao, most commonly associated with prolific, and at times violent, Chinese ruler Mao Tsu Tung, is a Asian name appropriate for both boys or girls. This name comes from a Chinese term meaning "true center," allowing you to reflect the fact that you new addition is now the center of you and your partner's universe. Mia The name Mia sometimes derives from the Italian expression "cara mia," or "my dear."  

School Shootings and Why Boys Need Boys

Amidst the shock, horror, grief, and fury over school shootings, we all look for the cause of the violence, and the solution to stopping the next attack.  Some reason we need more guns -- armed schoolteachers and guards.  Others argue for fewer guns, regulated by stricter legislation. Mental health professionals maintain that we need better treatment and medication of troubled kids.  Others blame allegedly reckless antidepressant overmedication by mental health professionals. The ferocious debate overlooks one simple fact.  Almost all of the school shooters are boys. Why are some young men in our culture so angry, so isolated, so filled with rage that they plot and execute plans to kill their peers, without asking for help from adults, and without anyone in their lives noticing or being able to intervene? Professor Niobe Way from New York University and the author of Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, has studied boys and young men in our culture as her life's work (she started early, with her brother Lucan as her first subject).  Dr. Way offers insights and answers that every parent, politician, teacher and coach should absorb – or ignore at our own peril. “At the age of 15 to 16 years old…boys begin to lose their close male friendships [and] the suicide rate for boys in the United States increases dramatically — to five times the rate for girls. Similar to girls and women, boys want and need close friendships and strong social networks to thrive.” “We tell our children not to worry about what others think or feel, to rely on themselves and not trust others. We encourage them to separate from their loved ones in the name of maturity and, for boys, in the name of manhood. We implore our boys not to be ‘like a girl,’ which is ironic, of course, because when boys do indeed ‘act like girls,’ they often have close male friendships and are less likely to pick up a gun and shoot people.” “The hundreds of adolescent boys in my research over the past 20 years make the direct link between not having close friendships — friendships in which ‘deep secrets’ are shared — and going ‘wacko,’ committing suicide, doing drugs and ‘taking it out on others.’” “Our culture…devalues and even discourages close friendships, particularly among boys and men. And our definitions of manhood emphasize aggression, toughness and rugged individualism at the expense of girls, women and relationships.” “Isolation, boys report, makes them feel inadequate, envious of others with better connections, and angry. This, in turn, leads them to thoughts of self- and other-directed violence.” I have nothing to add – I’m just nodding in agreement.  I have seen this pressure  directed toward boys ever since my son entered 8th grade. Anyone who is raising a boy, coaching a boy, teaching a boy, trying to help a boy grow up – pay close attention.  Reaching out to, and connecting with, boys – and encouraging them to do the same with each other – may be the best way each one of us can help end school shootings.    

The Best Creamy Balsamic Dressing & Veggie Dip Recipe

When I asked my husband what I should name this recipe, he suggested The Best Balsamic Dressing/Veggie Dip I Have Made… EVER! We love this recipe! I learned a couple years ago, from one of my dearest friends, how great it is to make your own salad dressing instead of buying the expensive and often less tasty bottled ones. When I developed the recipe I wanted something more decedent than your basic balsamic vinaigrette. My family and I have been devouring it ever since. It’s so healthy and yet it tastes rich, creamy, and divine. This is a great recipe for anyone! The thick creamy texture of the dressing makes it an equally delicious vegetable dip. Raw broccoli tastes pretty amazing when you dip it in the creamy balsamic. Tossed on salad, my husband mentioned it has a Caesar like quality to it, except it is 100% plant based. I hope you enjoy the creamy balsamic every bit as much as we do!   Creamy Balsamic Dressing & Veggie Dip   Yields: 1 cup + Ingredients: ½ cup raw cashews ½ cup balsamic vinegar ¼ cup lemon juice or juice of 1 lemon 1 tsp. sea salt ½ tsp. pepper ½ tsp. thyme, dried 2 cloves garlic, roughly sliced ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil   Directions: Combine all ingredients in a high powered blender. Blend until dressing is thick and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge; a Mason jar works great! *Note: The texture of the dressing is thick and creamy, so I recommend tossing the salad with a spoonful or two of the dressing before serving to ensure that the leaves are nice and evenly coated.     To Print, Email, or Text Recipe click here. With love, gratitude & delicious healthy vibes, Wendy Irene

Restless Sleeping in Babies

The phrase "sleeping like a baby" implies a deep, restful sleep. But for many babies, nothing could be further from the truth. Restless sleeping in babies is caused by many different factors. For some babies, a certain amount of restlessness during sleep is normal, especially if they are very young. Older babies might be suffering from correctable environmental conditions that are causing the restlessness. Time Frame Infants go through a complete sleep cycle in less than an hour, according to the University of Michigan Health System website. This makes them very light sleepers. As babies grow, their sleep cycles lengthen. This helps them sleep more soundly. By the time a baby is around five months old, she can usually sleep at least for five hours at a time without waking up. Causes Newborns are naturally restless sleepers, according to In addition, their sleep patterns are shaped by their feeding habits. Newborns need to eat every two or three hours around the clock, which means they wake up often. By the time you feed a newborn, burp him and change him, he may only sleep for an hour before you start the process all over again. Other causes of restless sleeping besides personality and hunger include being too warm or too cold and having too much stimuli in the baby's room. Prevention/Solution First, create a calm, quiet sleeping environment for your baby. Noises nearby can cause restless sleep, such as if you have a TV on an adjoining wall near the crib. Establish a routine so that your baby becomes familiar with the idea of falling asleep. If a comfort object such as a pacifier soothes your baby, then place it in the crib. It may help your baby soothe himself back to sleep when he becomes restless. Never place a blanket or large stuffed objects or pillows in a crib with an infant, however, as they can pose a threat of suffocation. Considerations Restless sleeping might be a good thing for your baby, according to the What to Expect website. Your baby's fussing might be her way of finding her thumb, or a more comfortable position. In short, she is finding a way to soothe herself back to sleep rather than relying on you to do it for her. This is a healthy sleep habit for your baby to develop. For that reason, consider holding off on comforting your baby if she appears restless while sleeping. She just might drop off back to sleep on her own. Expert Insight In a very few cases, there may be a medical reason why your baby is a restless sleeper, according to the University of Illinois. Some babies have underlying digestive or other health issues that make it difficult for them to get a good night's rest. If you have cause for concern or if you are simply worried about your baby's sleep habits, make an appointment to speak with your pediatrician.