How To Tell Kids They’re Not Getting What They Want With Positive Discipline

I have a busy house full of my kids, their friends, neighbourhood kids, and an assorted number of random drop-ins. I’d rather not sound like the meanest mommy on the block, so I have a few key phrases that allow me to say “NO WAY” to my kids, without using those exact words. Here are a few of my favourites: “Asked and Answered” You know that annoying habit kids have of asking you the same thing over and over again in hopes of wearing you down so they get their own way?  Rather than saying, “NO” a hundred times, I simply answer the question once. If the nagging child continues asking, I respond with, “asked and answered.” It shows them that I’m unwavering and saves me from saying, “NO” repeatedly. For example: Kid: “Mom, can Addie sleep over?” Me:  “No, not tonight.” Kid: “Mom, PLEASE can Addie sleep over?” Me:  “Asked and answered.” (End conversation) “One per Customer” One of the downsides of giving a kid a treat is that they don’t just appreciate that one treat, they always beg for more. When I have a houseful of kids and I have them all screaming for more of this or another of that, I feel like going all “Soup Nazi” on them and screaming, “NO WAY, you greedy brats!” Instead, I use positive discipline to smile and say, “Sorry, it’s one per customer.”  In other words, take whatever is being served up and move right along. “Try Again With Your Cool Voice” You know that whiney voice kids use whenever they possibly can? Rather than disciplining children by telling them what NOT to do (i.e. “Stop your whining, it’s driving me CRAZY!”) I try to be proactive and tell them what TO DO (i.e. “Can you try asking again with your cool voice?) That way I’m not whining, about their whining. “No Opinion Shopping” Opinion shopping is when kids go to one parent for permission to do something and when they don’t like the answer they get, they go to the other parent hoping for a different outcome. When my kids or their friends try this, rather than screaming, “No, you manipulative little freaks!” I smile and remind them that there is no opinion shopping allowed. All these phrases tell my kids they’re not getting their way, and allow me to appear calm, cool and collected while delivering the message. Do you have any parenting tips or “go to” key phrases in your family?

Watermelon: The Miracle Skin-Saver!

After winter, our skin yearns for moisture and replenishing. Watermelon is a great skin saver, with its 93% water content and its multi-vitamin combination of vitamins A, B6 and C.  It will not only hydrate your skin, but also repair and protect your skin for the coming sunny months. The following are recipes for utilizing watermelon to bring vibrance back to wintery skin and to prepare for the sun: For Dry Skin Mix 1 teaspoon watermelon juice with 1 teaspoon organic honey. Honey is a natural humectant, meaning it will help bring moisture deep into your skin, making the watermelon juice work double duty in hydrating your skin. Apply to your face and let sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing with warm water. For Glowing, Softer Skin Mix 1 teaspoon watermelon juice with 1 teaspoon plain Greek Yogurt. The lactic acid and enzymes in the yogurt will help gently exfoliate and purify while the watermelon hydrates and heals. Apply the mask to your face and neck for 10 minutes before rinsing off. For Sun-Damaged Skin Soak cotton pads with fresh watermelon juiceand apply to any sunburned areas. Let the juice sit on your skin for 15 minutes before rinsing off with cool water. For Aging Skin Mix 1 teaspoon watermelon juice with 1 teaspoon of mashed avocado. The avocado is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps plump the skin, as well as vitamin C and vitamin E, which act as antioxidants for a powerful anti-aging combination. Apply to your face and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water. For Inflamed, Acne-Prone Skin Mix 1 teaspoon watermelon juice with 1 teaspoon of mashed Banana. The banana, which contains vitamins B2, B6 and B12, will help to reduce skin inflammation while simultaneously making the skin supple and soft all as the watermelon works its magic too as an oil-free moisturizer. Apply to your face and let sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing with warm water.

The Perfect Marinade for a Summertime BBQ!

Summertime has to be one of my favorite times of the year...sunshine, swimming pools and, of course, BBQ's!  And what's better than BBQ-ing on a Saturday afternoon?  It's probably about the only meal I prepare that I can get my kids to eat all of their chicken, steak or fish without any fuss. They gobble it down!  The one thing that's just the worst to me about BBQ-ing throughout the summer though are all of those store bought marinades! Now I'm not saying that they aren't delicious, but between all of the extra salt, additives, preservatives and, in some cases MSG, they aren't all that healthy for you or your family.  This recipe for my super secret marinade is not only free from all of those things but actually contains fresh, healthy, easy ingredients and oh yeah, it's perfect for ALL types of meats!  Whether it's for fish, shell fish, beef, pork, chicken or even your veggies, it's gonna taste G-O-O-D.  All you need is a blender and you're good to go!  Michelle's Super "Not-So-Secret" Marinade: 1 bunch of curly or flat leaf parsley 4-6 cloves of garlic 1 whole or 1/2 large onion 1 whole green bell pepper 1/2 red bell pepper 1 tbs red pepper flakes 1 tbs garlic powder 1/4 cup white vinegar 1/2 cup oil (can use olive oil, canola, corn)salt & pepper Wash and roughly chop parsley, peppers, onion and other fresh herbs. No need to fuss... it's all going to be blended!  Put all ingredients into the blender and pulse until everything is emulsified. Pulse to desired consistency. I usually blend it into a puree. It looks green and mushy but it's got so much aroma and flavor!  Pour onto your meat, fish or chicken and marinate for at least an hour. The longer you marinate it, the more intense the flavor will be. Can marinate overnight for best flavor.  Go ahead and experiment with this, too!  Try cilantro, rosemary or other herbs depending on what you like!  If you like spice you can even add some fresh jalapenos in there too! 

Why You Should Create Family Values to Live By

“Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built." - Dr. James C. Dobson How do we get our kids to live according to the highest values in our homes? What are Family Values? Is it how we treat one another? Are they life skills? YES! I thought I’d share our Family Values as an example: INTEGRITY - Honesty, sincerity and morality.     COMMON SENSE - Ask yourself, “Am I making a good choice in behavior?” “Am I using good judgement?” (3)   SENSE OF HUMOR - Not teasing, but laughing together and playing together encourages loving feelings.    RESPONSIBILITY - Holding oneself accountable for your actions in deed and word.    EFFORT - I always say, you will get a better outcome or grade with good effort. Effort shows that you tried your very best.   COOPERATION - The ability to work with others.   RESPECT - Courtesy toward others and yourself. As an aside, I read recently that men in general would prefer to be respected than loved! You can respect someone without loving them, but can you love someone you don’t respect?! Interesting.    CARING - demonstrating kindness, thoughtfulness and empathy.   How to make your list: Discuss with your family their top 10 priorities...write them down and collectively come to a definition for each priority. Then, set rules around your values - if Sunday family dinner is important, for example, then it is important that each family member be present at Sunday dinner, etc. Once your family values have been decided, rules in place, you are all held accountable to stick to them. Often it’s easy to let things slide, but this is not an option if the items on your list are truly valued. You can also use your list to play a game for the week. Pick one value and practice it all week outside of the house...at Sunday dinner you can all share your experiences of what it was like to practice your family value with others. Teaching and modeling Family Values can create a foundation which allows your children to make good sound choices on their own. Your values become your child's moral guide and form the cornerstone of her conscience.

Pumpkin Spiced Donut Holes Recipe [vegan, gluten-free]

A few weekends ago, the four of us jumped in the car and drove to a beautiful spot in the forest along a river. It is times like this I feel incredibly grateful to live in scenic North Idaho. My husband and kids had a wonderful time fishing. It’s all catch and release in this particular area. The sound of the river and smell of the pines does wonders for the soul.    "There is certainly something in fishing that tends to produce a gentleness of spirit, a pure serenity of mind."  ~ Washington Irvin Some of my very favorite memories are special family weekends. It is such a nice change of pace to take a break from the routines of the week. Making a special breakfast or treat is also a favorite weekend activity of mine. The easy-going atmosphere and smiles on everyone’s face makes for a really good day. When you’re looking for a special treat to make, may I suggest these scrumptious donut holes? The donut holes are made with pumpkin and the delicious spiced flavors of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and all-spice that accompany it so perfectly. Just thinking about them makes my face beam and invokes a gentle warmth within my soul. I hope this recipe adds to many good memories, and slow moments of happiness! Pour yourself a cup of something warm to go along with and toast to gratitude for life. Pumpkin Spiced Donut Holes     Yields: 24 donut holes   Ingredients: Donut: 1 ½ cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour) 2 tsp. baking powder ½ tsp. sea salt ½ cup cane sugar 1/3 cup vegan butter substitute, + 1 tsp. for greasing pan (I used Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread) 2 Tbsp. pumpkin puree 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice ½ cup vanilla rice milk Topping: 1 cup cane sugar 2 tsp. cinnamon 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice ½ cup vegan butter substitute, melted (I used Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread)   Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a mini muffin pan with vegan butter alternative. In a medium bowl add gluten-free flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Whisk to sift ingredients, set aside. In a large mixing bowl add 1/3 cup vegan butter alternative, ½ cup cane sugar, and pumpkin puree. Beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture ½ at a time, and mix until combined. Add the rice milk and beat until smooth. Divide the batter amongst the 24 mini muffin cups, about 1 Tbsp. batter or a rounded melon baller per muffin cup. Bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. For The Topping: Add 1 cup of cane sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon and 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice to a large zip top bag, and shake to mix ingredients together. Melt the ½ cup of vegan butter alternative. Dip each donut hole into the melted vegan butter, turning to coat the entire donut hole. Drop the donut hole into the bag of spiced sugar. Shake to evenly coat each donut hole. Repeat for all 24 donut holes. To Print, Email, or Text recipe click here. With love & warmth, Wendy Irene  

The Do's and Don'ts of Firework Photography

Few things spark that sense of awe like a well-done fireworks show.  But capturing those special moments on film - especially at night - can be tricky. Luckily, we have a few "Do's and Don'ts" from the photo enthusiasts at Pholium, the digital photo book design and giving app for the iPad. Here are some tips to help you get the perfect shots this Independence Day. 1.  DO have the right equipment. A camera with manual controls and a tripod is crucial, and a remote shutter release is highly reccomended. Setting the camera on manual allows you to control the focus of your pictures, and a tripod provides a stable place to rest the camera while taking shots, which also allows you to join the photo fun! 2.  DON’T use the flash. A flash is not necessary for capturing fireworks displays since it’s already brighter than the light we normally photograph. Turn off your flash setting and let the natural light take control. 3.  DO use a lens that is wide enough to capture a more visible area than you think you need. You don’t want to miss the candid shots of your kids running around while the fireworks are in motion. 4.  DON’T be afraid to reposition. When the fireworks start going off, look at your preview screen and reposition your camera to frame the images the way you want. Feel free to move the tripod around and make sure the landscape is captured as you intend. 5.  DO lower your film speed. Lowering your film speed (or ISO in tech terms) reduces the opportunity for shadows, color specs, and grain and makes for a clearer image. Because the fireworks you are capturing will be very bright, 100 ISO is an ideal place to start. 6.  DON’T forget to adjust the f-stop. The f-stop measures lens aperture and will show you if the firework photos are over or under exposed. If colored fireworks are white and not well defined, the shot is overexposed and the f-stop number needs to be increased. If the fireworks aren’t bright enough, the aperture needs to be opened by reducing the f-stop number. 7.  DO adjust your shutter speed. Because the length of each firework blast varies, setting your shutter speed to B instead of a pre-determined setting will allow you to control how long your camera’s shutter is open to capture blasts. The B setting allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you press it to capture the perfect shot. So whether you're shooting photos of the fireworks to show the kids the next day (little ones tend to fall asleep before the show starts) or just trying to get a great collection together for some awesome wall art, keep these tips ready - along with your camera. Enjoy the fireworks display and be prepared to snap the greatest photos ever!

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! 

Calories Burned While Swimming for Women

Swimming is a good exercise to improve your overall fitness, but myths abound that you cannot lose weight swimming. There is no magic to the formula for weight loss, though -- if you burn more calories than you eat each day, you lose weight. Swimming burns a great deal of calories, but it does not leave you worn out like some other forms of exercise. Aerobic Exercise Swimming is an aerobic form of exercise, meaning that you use all your major muscle groups, and your heart and breathing rates increase, too. Aerobic exercise builds your endurance and cardiovascular health in addition to burning calories. You work harder to move forward in water than on land, because water is denser than air. You must overcome the resistance of water itself, and deal with the turbulence you create when you move through it. Staying Afloat Women actually benefit from having higher levels of body fat when they swim. You are more buoyant in the water than most men, particularly in your lower body and legs. You expend less energy just staying horizontal in the water and not sinking down and are more efficient in the water than leaner swimmers. Women excel at endurance swims for this reason, and also fare better swimming in colder temperatures because of the extra insulation they naturally have. Calories Burned How many calories you burn swimming depends on how much you weigh, how long you swim, and the intensity of your workout. You burn 413 calories per hour swimming slow freestyle if you weigh 130 lbs. You burn 493 calories if you weigh 155 lbs. When you pick up the pace and swim fast freestyle, you burn 590 and 704 calories if you weigh 130 and 155 lbs., respectively. Breaststroke takes a lot of energy, even if you swim slower, so you burn the same number of calories per hour as you do swimming fast freestyle. Weight Loss Swimming does not suppress appetite like some other forms of exercise, in part because of the cooling effect of water, says Alicia Kendig, M.S., R.D., and swimmer in "Swimmer" magazine. Typically, you emerge from a swimming workout very hungry. Bring along a small healthy snack, such as a yogurt or some nuts, to quell your hunger pangs after you get out of the pool, and keep a watch on the number of calories you eat each day. Considerations Always check with your doctor before starting on a new exercise routine if you have any health concerns or existing health conditions. Some people experience eye and skin irritation when they swim in indoor pools, so try outdoor pools if the weather permits, or find a pool that has better ventilation, and better maintenance.

How to Beat Summer Heat

Summer is here, kids are playing outdoors, and the temperatures are rising. As moms try to keep their kids healthy during the hot summer weather, dehydration is a top concern. Water is the most abundant and essential component in the human body, and comprises on average about 60% of total body weight for young adults.* Don’t wait until you’re thirsty, drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated, especially in summer weather. Below are five other tips and tricks on how to stay healthy and hydrated when protecting yourself from the heat! Check the Weather Temperatures above 90 degrees can quickly affect your child’s health. Knowing how hot it will be prior to making outdoor plans allows for weather-appropriate plans and preparation. If it’s sweltering outside, limit playtime to 10-15 minute intervals with water breaks in between. Drink Water Kids are more likely to drink water if it's readily available. Keeping water bottles on hand is a great way to keep them hydrated, especially on the go! Put a few in your car, your purse, beach bag, diaper bags and anywhere else you stash your stuff to stay hydrated throughout the day! Choose Natural Fruit It’s easy to grab pre-packaged fruit snacks when you’re in a hurry. However, these snacks contain high amounts of sugar and other preservatives. Instead, pack watermelon chunks, grapes, and peaches. These fruits contain 70-95% water - so your little ones can enjoy a refreshing, healthy treat. Dress the Part Synthetic fibers increase perspiration because they do not breathe as well as cotton. Light colored clothing combined with 100% natural cotton creates optimal ventilation while the kids are at play. Wear Sunscreen Keep your skin safe and moisturized! In an effort to stay hydrated, we need to protect our body’s first line of defense, the skin. Sunscreen keeps you safe from harmful UV rays while also protecting skin from drying out. *Source: USDA Center for Nutriiton Policy and Promotion http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/NutritionInsights/Insight27.pdf

4th of July Exploding Ice Cream Surprise

Practical jokes are always fun... especially when MOM is perpetrator! I decided to freak out my kids out a little bit by putting Pop Rocks as a dessert topping on their ice cream. It looked like candy sprinkles, so they were unsuspecting, but lo and behold, they ate it and started screaming and giggling at the same time! BINGO, score one for mom. So if you want to give your friends and family a fun 4th of July dessert, bring on the fire works with an "exploding" ice cream surprise! With just a little sprinkle, this sweet treat gives you a ton of bang for your buck! What you need: A few packets of Pop Rocks and your favorite ice cream flavors. Directions: Scoop ice cream into bowls. Then, break out the Pop Rocks and sprinkle on ice cream IMMEDIATELY before serving. Immediately, as in, as you are walking to deliver the bowl. If you sprinkle too far in advance then the Pop Rocks will start to crackle tipping your guests/kids off that you’re up to something…. Sass It Up: Put strawberry Pop Rocks on strawberry ice cream or over a bowl of fresh dry raspberries. Put watermelon Pop Rocks on Baskin Robbins Wild 'n Reckless Sherbet or bubblegum Pop Rocks on any bubblegum flavored ice cream. Warning: We are lawyers, ya know. Know your audience! Please don’t put pop rocks on anyone’s dessert who may not enjoy the surprise, get ill, or who is elderly and may experience a health concern from the shock/surprise.

Is Your Babysitter Afraid of The Dog?

Grabbing your keys, kissing the kids and rushing out the door is certainly a familiar routine for most busy moms. Taking the time to formally introduce your dog to the babysitter... is not. One of my client's babysitters recently stopped by and asked me to please write about this topic. She explained that not everyone takes the time to introduce their dogs and over the years she has been growled at by some of the "the nicest dogs."  She asked me for advice: How do you address the situation if you feel uneasy with someone's dog? For example, she had been babysitting for a family with a dog that was middle-aged, rather scary in appearance (at least to her) and un-trained. Nothing had actually happened but she felt the dog's behavior was spooky and she didn't know how to deal with it. People who are not comfortable with dogs can misinterpret a stare as having a different meaning. She was told by the owners to just ignore him, as they left to go out to dinner.  Does this sound familiar? Many dog owners have the "great" family dog who may be getting a little older, set in it's ways and/or giving off a vibe that is either misunderstood or needs to be acknowledged by you. Even if there are no behavioral changes with your dog, often the babysitter never gets a proper introduction. This can lead to a big misunderstanding and possible trouble. Remember, sensing a person's fear can send mixed signals to your dog, especially when you're not in the house. It's your responsibility as the owner to be aware and make sure all is cool.  Take the time to ask your babysitter about his or her past dog experiences. You may find out that they like dogs (in general) but that they were been bitten in the past and are cautious. Awareness is key. The more information you have, the better prepared you are to ease and address issues you didn't even know existed.  Finally, take the time to formally introduce your dog to new babysitters - even if only for a few minutes. I recommend doing so on a leash and using obedience commands. The leash adds an exciting element to the process and focus. Then treats, of course, help finish off the introduction with some Emmy award-winning tricks. This awareness can ward off any silent problem that may have been brewing behind your back. It will create the best possible experience for everyone!  For more info:  www.pawsforaminute.com

How can I organize a July 4th party without too much stress?

It’s easy to organize a part for the 4th!  Here are some ideas you can incorporate to make your Holiday less stressful: 1.    If you Barbeque; supply the main grilling items and have your guests bring the fillers – chips, dips, potato salad, soda pop, coleslaw, bread/buns, ice cream & cones, firecrackers, fruit, salads, baked beans – typical picnic fare! 2.    If you prefer to prepare the food – have your guests bring paper plates and drinks!  Let them bring the fireworks to the party! 3.    You can use Red White & Blue napkins to keep in the 4th spirit; you can make a red white and blue punch (using ice cream, red pop and food coloring); to decorate, you can put small American Flags lining the driveway or your back yard.  These items are probably in your grocery store this week – so when you shop, look for fun decorating ideas – including fun flowers for your tables! 4.    If you want to have games for the kids, a simple penny or dime toss will keep them happy!  Or set up a badminton net/volley ball net on the lawn.  Or ask the parents of the kids to bring a game!

5 Things NOT To Do While Driving

Almost 40,000 people die in car accidents each year, according to the Center for Disease Control. Every 10 seconds, a victim of a car accident is treated in an emergency room for accident-related injuries. Sixteen percent of all fatal crashes in 2008 were caused by driver distraction, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These are some scary statistics and many of these crashes could have been prevented. To lower your chances of getting into an unnecessary car accident (or worse), here are 5 things you should NEVER do while (or, in some cases, right before) driving: 1. Fall Asleep The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes annually involve drowsiness and/or fatigue as the primary causal factor. A survey by Famers Insurance reports than more than 10% of drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. Falling asleep is often referred to as the "silent killer" because it is often overlooked as the cause of many accidents. Do not drive when drowsy! Things you can do to prevent drowsiness: stop driving and pull over to nap, switch drivers, and try to arrive before midnight because that's when our bodies are most tired. Some people try to combat drowsy driving by opening the windows or turning on the AC, listening to the radio, and drinking caffeine. Experts, however, will not vouch for these methods, saying that these methods have not been proven to prevent falling asleep at the wheel. In fact, they could even prove more dangerous because they distract you from driving and give you a false sense of security because you keep on driving when you should really stop. Getting sufficient sleep, especially the night before a long drive, is the only way to truly prevent drowsy driving.  2. Multitask While women, especially moms, are excellent at multitasking, no one should attempt to do too much while driving. We've all done it in the car -- putting on mascara on the way to work, eating a burger because there's no time to stop, etc. But, these seemingly harmless acts are distracting and can potentially lead to a crash. Pull over on the side of the road to apply make-up, check a map or anything else that diverts your attention away from the road. In the bigger scheme of things, all of these little tasks can wait until you've reached your destination. 3. Drink Alcohol Research has shown that alcohol-related impairment begins long before a person reaches the legal blood alcohol concentration level (0.08) necessary to be convicted of a DUI. A 120-pound woman can reach this BAC level after just two drinks -- a "drink" meaning either a shot of liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine or one beer. At a .08 BAC level, drivers are 11 times more likely to crash than drivers with no alcohol in their system. But, recent research shows that impairment can begin after just one drink. One drink can impair your visual functioning, multitasking skills, and reaction time. So, for that reason, the only truly safe driving alcohol limit is 0.0. 4. Text While cell phones have made communication way easier, they're a total hazard when it comes to road safety. Texting while driving is responsible for accidents that claimed 16,141 lives between 2001 – 2007, according to the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Driving requires your full attention, and reading, writing and sending a text is distracting no matter how you put it. The Highway Loss Data Institute reported that state laws prohibiting texting while driving have not reduced the number of car crashes. The best way to avoid the temptation? Put your phone on silent, or better yet, keep it in the backseat and out of reach! 5. Get Emotional It's ok to be emotional, but not on the road. Never get in your car and start driving when you are in an extremely emotional state. Your mind will not be focused on the road, but on your problems and worries. Also, when a person is angry or upset, s/he becomes a much more aggressive driver, putting themselves and other drivers in danger. Take the time to compose yourself and calm down before driving off in a fit of rage.

Seven Tips For A Happy Summer

 “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  – Albert Einstein Summer is here.  Lush green days lie ahead, simple pleasures, wildflowers, picnics, a walk in the park.  Are these the things that make us happy?  Yes.  According to a growing body of scientific research, nature makes us happy.  Our brains and bodies are hardwired for the great outdoors.  Nature strengthens the immune system, lifts depression, increases anti-cancer white blood cells, and contributes to better mental health.  Connection with nature is a crucial part of healthy childhood development.  It enhances creativity, confidence, social skills, physical competence and problem-solving. In short, being in nature makes us happier, healthier and smarter.  What’s not to like?   In our over-booked, often stressed lives, we all know how good it feels to step outside and take a deep breath.  Yet most of us rarely find the time to get out in nature.  But it’s not as hard as we might think.  Whether you live in an urban setting, the suburbs or a rural area, summer is the perfect time for your family to go green. Seven Tips for a Happy Summer Get outdoors.  Whether you have an hour or 15 minutes, connect to nature wherever you are.  Go for a walk around the block.  Take a green lunch break.  Look at the trees, listen to the birds, smell the flowers.  You don’t have to trek to the High Sierras to get your nature fix.  Beauty is everywhere.  Skip the gym and take a forest bath.   The Japanese call walking in deep nature “forest bathing” because of the health benefits.  Microbes and bacteria found in forests strengthen the immune system, lower stress, and act as anti-depressants.  People who go for walks in nature have higher energy levels than those who do the same amount of exercise on an indoor treadmill.  Go to a park or botanical gardens.  Take a picnic and a blanket.  Stretch out.  Spend quality family time lying back and watching the clouds go by.  Hang out near water.  Go to the beach, a pool, fountains, streams, rivers, lakes.  Ever wonder why it feels so good to be near water?  Water gives off negative ions that increase oxygen and blood flow to the brain, enhancing our sense of well-being. Make your own garden of delights.  Add a bird bath or bird feeders to your garden so your children can observe wildlife close-up.  Plant some flowers, or a simple veggie or herb garden.  Children who have positive interactions with nature tend to grow up to be more environmentally conscious.  Get a pair of kiddie binoculars.  My children’s favorite toy both indoors and out.  Great for bird watching, bug watching, examining distant peaks or staring into your sister’s ear on a long drive.  It makes things fun wherever we go.  Camp in your own backyard.  Don’t forget to bring marshmallows, flashlights, and your favorite ghost story.   You don’t even have to know what you’re doing.  You can still have fun—maybe more.  Everyone feels a sense of accomplishment putting up the tent, even if it does fall down in the middle of the night.  Ciao, Princess Ivana

Brooke Burke: Planes, Ships and Parasails

I recently worked on a family vacation campaign with Embassy Suites about how to plan a family trip that’s enjoyable for everyone and how the hotel you choose can make or break a family getaway.  I think it's fair to say the same about the company you keep.  We all know that when it comes to family we don’t get to choose but there are ways to make a family vacation with the best memories ever!  We just returned from a cruise with many of my friends from NCL.  Years ago I worked with NCL and became the God Mother of the Sun.  David and I took all our kids plus a extra teenager and set sail on an ambitious family adventure. First we had a family meeting and let everyone chime in on things they hoped to do and activities they wished to explore.  Everyone got to pick certain activities and had to honor and respect the others’ wishes.  I love this “own a day” concept because it gets the kids involved in planning and its not all on Ms. Brooke Burke, the family concierge. The kids did their own research and got excited about exploring new destinations. We also all agreed to have an adventurous spirit and try new things.  In St. Thomas my big girls went parasailing and little Rain was too scared to even ride the jet ski to get out to the launch boat.  After a little support and some convincing she decided to give it a try and soon enough was facing her fears high above the Indie Skies.  It was such a treat for Shaya, who is super brave, but always too young for the fun stuff.  Only in the French West Indies will they waive all liabilities to make a little guy smile.  He said “Mama this is my dream.”  Experiencing those words was a dream for me too. We also decided that everyone would be allowed some privacy and freedom to do there own thing.  That is hard to come by when traveling together and is tougher for the little ones, but David and I were able to schedule a date night while my teenager watched the little ones. Then my older kids were able to hook up with friends while we sucked it up at the kid slides.  We met another family with 4 kids of all ages which was a total miracle. I was reminded  that no matter how much there is to do, most kids are happy chilling in one room, enjoying each other’s company.  I found 8 kids crammed into 1 room playing a game of charades while the rest of the ship raged on. One of my favorite sites was watching my girls conquer the ropes course.  They are so fearless. We spent a day on the Bahamian beach listening to a wise local woman named Chubby.  She spent hours braiding my kids’ hair and sharing her Bahamian stories.  She held a captive audience for most of the day. I love a great story teller.  Her cultural differences and outlook on life opened my children’s eyes.  It was a 4 hour learning experience…better than most classes.  I think traveling is one of the most educational of life experiences.   We had a family dinner almost every night, to connect, stay together and make sure everyone was getting what they needed.  I’ve been on trips before with all our kids and someone is always off, not happy or dissatisfied.  I used to get so deflated but now I’ve learned to let everyone fly their own flag and that my job is to stick to my intention to have daily dialogue with each of them.  Talking about best and worst parts of each day and wishes for the following days makes my kids feel heard and that their voices matter.  David and I also planned time to escape to the spa and work out which fueled us with more tolerance to get lost in kid-ville.  Funny enough with all the activities to explore my son loved the arcade best.  My older girls loved the freedom to break the rules a bit, stay out late and meet up with friends in a safe environment. I hate to be totally boring , but while everything feels calmer and more peaceful in the island air, I slept like a mama bear on board! Good zzz’s are hard to come by in my world.  I even took afternoon naps. Maybe it was the gentle movement of the ocean or maybe because I finally could really relax, no cooking, no cleaning, no organizing….who knows, but that was a HUGE plus for me. Cruising is a super easy way to entertain a big family of all ages with plenty of romantic opportunities for Mom and Dad too.  I’m not doing an ad, I’m just saying that I’ve been on my share of family getaways and this one was a 10 for all. Too soon we found ourselves back in Miami, at Starbys, ordering our usual dbl tall non fat lattes  and buying our fashion mags.  Is funny how those silly pleasures bring us quickly back to reality.  It was an amazing escape to totally check out and totally check in together as a family.  We took a needed tech break. We found our groove together as a family and learned how to respect our differences in confined quarters.  Family vacations can go one of many ways.  Maybe it was new places or simply a new attitude that lead us to such a fun trip.  As my children get older I am enjoying them in such a different way aside from the obvious.  We all can contribute now and we  all can plan the best of times.   What lies ahead for us this week will surely have us jonesing for the calming breeze of the Caribbean sea.  Eight of us will move into a new home tomorrow….Wish me luck!

When Divorce Becomes Part of Good Parenting

Years ago, a neighbor with two young daughters, ages 6 and 8, went through a divorce.I remember thinking how busy I was at that precise moment.I was working fulltime and taking care of three children under age 10.I didn't have time to get divorced.I didn't have time to even think about getting divorced.I didn't want to get divorced, which helped.But now, eight years later, it's time. And fortunatey, I have time to make this change, and help my kids get through it.My children are teenagers, far more independent and mature now. They fix their own breakfasts, drive themselves to school, and keep me only vaguely posted about their daily dramas.I am no longer the prison warden of their lives, as I was when they were younger, when at any moment they risked sticking their head in the toilet and drowning, or sending a naked selfie to their classmates and destroying their entire future.My children now have their own lives, a foundation of inner strength, and (fingers crossed) are able to handle the emotional and logistical changes divorce, even the friendliest divorce, brings to kids.But me, I am not so sure about.This morning, after six months of nonstop, sometimes amicable, sometimes acrimonious, always complex negotiations over alimony, child custody, college tuition payments, and where the four cats will live, I left the house  -- which is now known as MY house.I was late, of course, because as a mom I am always frantically rushing somewhere and thinking of the needs of several people besides myself.This all came to an abrupt stop when I discovered that my car had been stolen.It wasn't in the garage, or behind the garage, or anywhere near the garage.My first bewildered thought was that my soon-to-be-Wasband had hidden it from me, just to mess with my head.But that didn't seem quite possible, even given the other nutty stuff he has done lately (note to the uninitiated: everyone does crazy stuff when they are getting divorced).Then it hit me: over the weekend, I had parked my car on one of the busiest streets in the city because I was late for something else.  When the something was over, I had walked right by my own automobile and come home under my own steam, never noticing my car was not in the garage. That was two days ago.I had stolen my own car, essentially.I grabbed my car key and took off running, envisioning tow trucks, iron boots and wads of neon orange parking tickets.  I am pretty sure no neighbors saw me -- or at least chose not to call the loony bin to report a hairbrained woman running down the alley waving a car key and shouting incoherently.Fortunately my beloved car (one of the few constants in my life these days) was:A) Still parked contentedly on the busy main street.B) Did not have a single whopping ticket on the windshield.Thank you, parking gods.Then a few hours later, on my lunch break, I went to yoga power hour to unwind and de-stress.  Ten minutes into class, I started to notice a stinky smell.  Not totally uncommon in a crowded, sweaty, hot yoga room.But the stink was bad.  And close.  Who could it be?Then I realized: it was me.I had not taken a shower in 72 hours. And I had not known so until that precise moment, even though halfway through that 72 hour period, I had attended a black tie dinner and a parenting event at the kids' school.Without showering or noticing my own lack of showering.Not exactly the picture of mental health.Divorce is hard.  Getting divorced while caring for children is close to impossible -- only for the truly desperate.  Staying in a marriage that is sapping your identity and appreciation for life is worse, because without yourself at the center of your life, sooner or later, you lose it all.The roughest lesson of parenthood, for me and for most people I know, is how to put your children first, as good parents must, often 24/7 for years on end, without losing your health, your sanity, your ability to work, your friendships, your marriage, your laughter, yourself. Often it is too late when you discover what you've lost by putting your kids front and center for decades.  Sometimes, you get so distracted by motherhood, you lose contact with yourself.Parenting is all about balance, right?  But in a world with children, balance never comes easy.  Sometimes, no matter the craziness that ensues, you need to find a new balancing act.  For me, in order to continue putting my kids first, I had to put myself first. For years, although I'd taken wonderful care of them, I hadn't been setting a good example of taking care of myself.My balancing act now means ending a dead marriage.  But I'm hoping my new balance won't involve becoming my own car thief, and will involve taking regular showers. And of course, finding new ways to put both myself and my kids first.  

How to Fly Your Family First Class for (Almost) Free

Do you ever dream about taking your family on an amazing family vacation in which you fly first class to London, Paris, or even further afield - perhaps a safari in Africa or snorkeling in the Maldives? But then the reality of an expensive and harrowing long-haul flight in coach sinks in, and you sigh, starting to plan a trip to see relatives or a quick jaunt to Florida, the Caribbean or the West Coast. Actually, you can fly your family in first class or business class internationally more easily than you think - and for just the cost of taxes and fees on the ticket, making it in many cases almost free, and certainly less than you’d spend on coach tickets. How? Read on for our step by step tips: 1. Get a Great Credit Score and Protect It This is something you probably want to have anyway, since it ensures you get the lowest possible rates for a home mortgage and other loans. The tips I suggest below to fly first class using miles and points all depend on the following, so please make sure these are true for you before you embark on flying first class for (almost) free: Make sure your and your spouse’s current credit scores are above 720, and preferably above 750. For a free FICO score, you could try myFICO - make sure you cancel within 10 days to avoid paying them $14.95 monthly. Pay off all your credit cards every month; don’t carry any kind of balance, as the high interest charges will likely negate the value of the miles and points you accrue, and then some. If you plan to apply for a major loan (such as home mortgage or refinancing, student loans) within the next year or two, hold off on applying for credit cards until after you’ve secured your loan. While credit card applications in moderation don’t hurt your score much and generally your score regains the few points within 6 months to 1 year, you want to ensure your score is as high as it can possibly be for those kind of major loans. By the same token, if you don’t have a major home mortgage, refinancing or student loan application looming in the next year or two, don’t be afraid of applying for several new credit cards every year, even several at a time (although aim for no more than 1-2 from each given issuer, such as Chase, AMEX or Citi). A lot of people stay with the same couple of credit cards for years, when they could have earned hundreds of thousands if not millions of frequent flyer miles and points just through the right credit card applications and their normal spend. Don’t miss out on giving your family first and business class travel!   2. Convince Your Spouse One of the most important things you can do is convince your spouse that leveraging a great credit score to apply for credit cards with attractive miles and points bonuses, and maximizing miles and points through strategic use of category bonuses, is worth it, so that you both accrue miles and points. Often, one spouse will prefer a cash back card that gets 1 or 2% cash back. What many people don’t realize is just how great the value can be when instead redeeming miles and points for international first and business class seats. And even Chase and other card issuers don’t advertise these highest value redemptions. For example, the Ink Bold is advertised as offering 50,000 bonus points, “worth $625 toward travel booked through Ultimate Rewards.” But that’s NOT how you want to use those points; if you instead transfer them to United MileagePlus, you’d have enough for one way to Europe in Business Class. Business Class flights to Europe can easily run $6000 or more, so one-way would equate to about $3000. Even if you yourself only value business class at about $2500, that’s still $1250 instead of $625. With First Class flights, the relative value is even higher. 3. Decide What Your Vacation Goal Is Is your dream to fly your family first class to Bali or somewhere in Asia? Or is the goal business class to the UK or a European destination? Perhaps business class to Ecuador followed by a Galapagos cruise, or to Lima then Machu Picchu? It helps to focus on where you want your dream vacation to be, in order to figure out the combination of miles and points that will work best to get you there. 4. Prioritize the Credit Card Applications That Will Enable You to Earn the Needed Miles and Points If, for example, your goal is to fly your family first class to Asia, we at TravelSort would recommend Cathay Pacific, which both has an excellent first class product, and tends to be quite generous in releasing seats in advance. Cathay Pacific is a member of the Oneworld Alliance, so you could redeem either British Airways Avios points or American Airlines AAdvantage miles, but you’ll need fewer AAdvantage miles - 135,000 AAdvantage miles for a first class round trip, compared to 210,000 Avios points for New York-Hong Kong. We’d recommend that you and your spouse each apply for two American AAdvantage Citi cards (Visa and AMEX) at the same time and meet the minimum spend on each to accrue 200,000 total points (50,000 AA miles for each AA card). See Best Travel Credit Cards for more tips. Then, a few months later, each of you can apply for the American AAdvantage Business card to earn an additional 100,000 miles. That would pay for 2 first class tickets, and you could use existing American miles or transfer hotel points from Wyndham, Hilton, or other hotel loyalty programs to American miles to redeem for a third business or first class ticket. Or let’s say you wanted to fly your four family members business class to Europe. Your spouse and you could each apply for the current British Airways Visa - 100,000 Avios points offer, put the required spend on each card to attain 100,000 points each for a total of 200,000 points, and redeem for 4 business class tickets from Boston to Dublin on Irish carrier Aer Lingus (business class Boston-Dublin round trip is 50,000 Avios points), then either buy cheap tickets on Ryanair or redeem miles or points for flights to London, Paris, or your final European destination. Is snorkeling in the Maldives your goal? 120,000 United miles will get you round trip business class on Qatar, and business class on Qatar is as good as first class on many other airlines. Apply for the United Mileageplus Explorer and the Ink Bold business card (Chase will often approve 1 personal and 1 business credit card if you apply for them at the same time) and you’ll have 100,000 miles total; then a few months later, apply for the Sapphire Preferred Visa for another 40,000 miles. 5. Take Advantage of Bonus Categories   Different credit cards have different bonus categories. For example: The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card awards triple points for airfare purchases, and double points for grocery and gas purchases. Most airline credit cards earn at least double miles (sometimes more) per dollar spent on that airline Hotel cards can earn as much as 5x points for spend at that hotel The Ink Bold Business Card earns 5x points for purchases from office supply stores and spend on cable services, wireless and landline communications, and double points for spend on hotels and gas. The Sapphire Preferred Visa earns double points for all travel and dining spend. The Chase Freedom Visa offers 5x points on specific categories that change every quarter, such as Amazon and gas stations (Q1 2012), grocery stores and movie theaters (Q2 2012), etc.   Make sure you use the card that gets you the highest bonus for a given purchase type, so that you can accumulate your points (and your free flights) faster. 6. Take Advantage of Transfer Bonuses There are often transfer bonuses, particularly for AMEX Membership Rewards. For example, until May 31, you can transfer Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios with a 50% bonus. As an example, you could transfer 54,000 Membership Rewards points (points transfer in increments of 1000) to obtain 80,000 British Airways Avios, enough for business class from NYC to London, or NYC to Lima, Peru. Hotel loyalty programs sometimes also offer transfer bonuses to airline frequent flyer programs. 7. Leverage Alliance Partners Many people don’t realize just how many options they have for award tickets, due to airline alliance partners. For example, use United or US Airways miles to fly Lufthansa First Class to Europe, Asiana or Thai First Class to Asia, or Qatar or Singapore Business Class. Use British Airways miles to fly Cathay Pacific, LAN, Qantas, or American Airlines. Use Delta to fly AirFrance/KLM, V Australia, Air Tahiti Nui and others. 8. Don’t Forget “Secret” Non-Alliance Partners Don’t just stop at the three major alliances in your quest to secure a first class award. For example, you can use Alaska Airlines miles to fly Cathay Pacific First Class from the U.S. to South Africa, with a stopover in Hong Kong. In late 2012, you’ll be able to redeem Alaska Airlines on Emirates, which offers one of the most sought-after first class products (who else offers a shower onboard?) And you can use ANA or even American miles to fly Etihad Airways First Class. 9. Make Award Bookings Well in Advance It’s a myth that all the award seats disappear 1 year in advance, since typically airlines release some then but also continue to release award seats several months and weeks out based on how the flight is filling relative to projections. That said, especially when working on getting 3, 4 or more award seats on a single flight, you want to start trying to book award seats as soon as the schedule opens (usually 355 or so days in advance) and then keep checking back to book the remaining award seats that you need. You can use a paid service such as ExpertFlyer to send you an alert when an award seat opens up, although unfortunately it doesn’t track all airlines - Cathay Pacific, for example, one of our favorite first class products, is not tracked, so you’ll just need to keep checking. 10. Be Flexible There’s no question that it can  be tough to nail down three or four award seats in the same cabin, depending on the airline and flight. Consider splitting up, so that one parent and one child fly in first class, and the other parent and child flies in business class, or, if you don’t have enough miles, paid coach. While airlines won’t allow you to change the name on the ticket, you could swap on the way back so that each of you gets to experience first class at least once! Generally airlines don’t mind if you switch seats before the flight leaves, as long as you don’t try to switch again during the flight or have a family member visiting you in first class (it’s fine for first class passengers to visit the ones in economy though). If worst comes to worst, you can even have two family members on one flight, and two on another flight that arrives close in time. I’ve done this before with my family, and so far, it’s worked pretty well. Hilary Stockton is the founder of TravelSort, an innovative travel site that helps savvy travelers find their perfect luxury or boutique hotel at up to 50% off every day, and also advises on how to maximize frequent flyer miles and points to fly business and first class for less than the cost of coach. You can follow her on Twitter @TravelSort

Infants & Pet Allergies

Sometimes, infants and pets just don't mix. When they do mix, your infant may have an allergic reaction. Any type of pet -- dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, cats -- can cause an allergic reaction in an infant or a toddler. It can be difficult to determine whether your infant is having a seasonal allergy or is allergic to your pet. If your baby has symptoms year-round, that usually means an allergy to dust mites, mold or Fido. Symptoms Pet allergy symptoms include itchy and watery eyes, a rash, sneezing, a runny nose, coughing and wheezing. Babies can also get purple or bluish skin under the eyes. Doctors call this condition "allergic shiners." Your baby doesn't have to be around your pet to have these symptoms because if you have a pet, the allergen is all over the house. Temporarily removing your pet from the house probably won't help you determine whether the pet is the cause. It usually takes an extended stay away from your home to tell. Once an allergy triggers, it can take a few days to get out of your baby's system. See an Allergist Before you rid your home of pets, take your baby to an allergist. Even if you think you know for certain that your baby is allergic to your pet, you could be wrong. The allergist can perform a skin test to help you determine if the pet is the cause of the allergies. If so, you still may not have to remove the pet. You may just have to do a thorough cleaning of your house and keep your pet clean. It can take several months to tell if your efforts work. Of course, if your baby is definitely allergic to your pet and the cleaning doesn't help after giving it a few months, you probably need to give your pet away. Wait Until Age 6 If you don't already have a pet and you or your partner have allergies, wait until your baby is at least 6 years old to try out a pet, recommends the BabyCenter website. Allergy symptoms are less pronounced in older children. An intolerable wheezing situation in a toddler, for example, might only be a slight cough in an older child. About Dander Cat dander tends to affect people the most, whether the allergy sufferers are infants, children or adults. They are not allergic to the animal itself; they are allergic to the dander, which is made up of skin flakes that get in the fur. A cat has smaller and stickier dander particles than a dog. Saliva is another culprit for allergies, and cats continually lick themselves, which means your baby has plenty of opportunity to encounter the saliva. Hamsters and gerbils can be bad for allergic children because of the droppings and urine these animals step in when caged, which can cause an allergic reaction in children. Allergy Shots When you baby is old enough, around toddler-age, ask your allergist about allergy shots. Allergy shots provide immediate relief for symptoms and can prevent future allergies. Other actions you can take are to keep pets out of the room where your baby sleeps, restrict the pet to uncarpeted rooms only, such as the kitchen, install a house filtration system and clean your house thoroughly and often.

Home Alone With The Baby - Crap This Is Hard!

This weekend, I had my baby all by myself. Now, to some of you this may sound absolutely ridiculous, like "what's the big friggin' deal you're watching your kid by yourself, but honestly, I nearly died. Well, that's a little dramatic. It was very, VERY hard. Am I doing something wrong?First Time AloneWith the husband in Las Vegas for the weekend on a so-called, uhum, "company retreat," I was excited to get to spend the entire weekend with my daughter -- the one that takes naps everyday at 9, 1 and 4. The baby that kicks her feet when I get home from work and says mama, the one who for the most part, has been a super easy baby. All this went out the window when her dad went to Vegas and this baby suddenly rebelled against all the "rules." And let me tell you, I was so exhausted after just ONE day, I had to crack open a bottle of champagne at about 3 o'clock to relax and feel like I was having somewhat of a weekend. All this, while my husband was doing God knows what (ever seen the movie "Hangover"?). My imagination was running wild that while I was trying to handle a fussy (and that's putting it very nicely) baby, he was off drinking martinis, gambling at receiving a lap dance.Bed Time? Not...I kid you not, the child went from going to bed in two seconds, to standing at the railing of her crib for over an hour -- crying, saying "mamamamama." I am not exaggerating, when I tell you that she has never climbed on the bumpers of her bed before, yet this weekend she turned into a little monkey, climbing and falling and hitting her head on the planks of the crib, then doing it again -- about fifty times. When I took her out on a stroll, she fussed, she cried, she screamed, she squirmed. What the hell happened to my baby?I Had NO Idea!My husband texted me at 2:30 am on Saturday night saying he got "home safe." Uhuh, I bet you did. I was still up, not sleeping because I was scared someone would come into the house. I didn't realize I would be so afraid without him. I put both of the strollers in front of the front door so that if someone were to try to get in, I'd hear it. Not that they would come in through the front door if they were breaking in... Needless to say, I got zero sleep. Especially since my baby was up at 5 crying at the railing again. Oy.ComplainingAt 6 am I called him and left a message "Oh. My. God. I don't know how single parents do this - I am terrible at this by myself! She seriously turned into a different baby, you have no idea." Complain, complain, complain, complain...All I did was complain. Did I already say how much I now respect single parents -- I am bowing as I write...He Comes Home"Ha! Just wait until you put her down tonight, she is going to give you so much s$#t!" I tell him as he walks into the house Sunday night. Tonight, I am going to bed and he is doing the night feeding, I don't care how hungover he is! I bathe her, give her a bottle and hand her over to him, his blood shot eyes and all, and I'm secretly giggling inside. He has no idea...I climb into bed at 8pm, just as he's putting her down to sleep. He doesn't sing her five lullabies (as I did), he doesn't read her three books, he barely says "night night." He just puts her in her crib and that's it. Two minutes later she's out.She RebelledHe peeks his head inside our bedroom and says: "What are you talking about honey? she went right to sleep! Maybe you didn't put her down at the right time this weekend." I'm too tired to respond. I roll over and go to sleep. I'm glad he's home, that's all. And I'll never underestimate the value of having someone to help again!

Keep Your Kids Safe in the Water this 4th of July

If you are planning on hitting the beach, pool, or nearby lake to celebrate the 4th this year, make sure you keep your little ones safe while enjoying the water with family and friends!  The Infant Swimming Resource provided the following tips to help families protect their young children in and around the water this 4th of July weekend. "Research shows that most drownings occur when a child is in the direct care of an adult care giver," said Dr. Harvey Barnett, founder of Infant Swimming Resource. "This holiday weekend with picnics, pool parties, day trips to the beach or on the boat, it is important that parents are exercising their most important defense against drowning - Constant Eyes On (CEO) Supervision." Lake and Beach Safety Tips 1. CEO Supervision - Never turn your back on your child around water. It takes just seconds for him/her to be in serious trouble.  At the beach, it’s important that the supervising adult is no farther away than 10 feet from a young child.  Segment the supervision responsibilities so there are never questions about which adult is responsible for watching the child.  Be aware of the distractions unique to the beach/shore setting: heat, noise, people-watching, sun glare, and the monotony of a young child’s repetitive play.  Even professional beach lifeguards guard the beach in timed segments. So you should too. 2. Bright Colors - Dress your child in bright colors when going to the lake or the beach. Use a consistent bright color and style of swim suit so all family members have a consistent image of what the child is wearing. 3. Pictures - Have a picture of your child in the consistent "beach suit or lake outfit" with you to show the life guard or others who may be with you.  That way they know to keep an eye on him or her.  Put it in a plastic bag. 4. Cell Phones - Your cell phone is VERY important. You may want to protect it from the salt spray by putting it in plastic bag. 5. Self-rescue Skills - Teach young children self-rescue skills as the final layer of defense if they go unnoticed into a body of water.  Survival swimming and a demonstration of the roll back to float skills prior to all water recreation is important.  Let your certified Infant Swimming Resource instructor know you are going to the beach or lake so skills that are of greater benefit in rapidly moving, turbulent water with poor visibility, can be stabilized, or practiced more during lessons. 6. Dock Safety - Have a hook, rope, and throw ring attached to the dock. Such that these can be used at a moment's notice. Teach and practice their use, but do not allow unsupervised practice or play with these vital survival tools. 7. Rope off a wading/swimming area - Begin at the shore and extend a rope out to a depth of your choice. Allow your children to swim off of the shore ONLY in this area. It reduces where you might have to search, where they might be upon evading your home supervision. 8. Go no further line - Paint a "go no further" line 2.5 feet in from all edges of the dock.  Teach children to hold an adult’s hand between that line and the any edge of the dock. This is better than the verbal and vague “do not get too close to the edge” saying. Install a dock gate at the entrance of the dock that is armed with an alarm. 9. Life Jackets - Life jackets must be worn in a boat or around the water when there is the potential for an accidental submersion. But, life jackets are not a substitute for the ability to swim nor for adult supervision. When picking out a life jacket, please read the warning labels as some of them will not float a child face-up. 10. Floaties - Flotation devices such as floaties, inflatable rings, etc., can often times provide a false sense of security for parents and children.  These items can easily deflate or fall off your child’s arm leaving them in a potentially dangerous situation.   Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) is nationally recognized as the safest provider of swimming lessons for children six months to six years. With a passionate focus on baby swimming safety, and as the nation’s only behaviorally-based swim instruction program, ISR designed its program for parents who are dedicated to their child’s safety, education and developmental needs. Our emphasis on ensuring that not one more child drowns is founded on Dr. Harvey Barnett’s self-rescue training, proven to help young children survive in a drowning scenario. For more information on ISR, water and swim safety or to find an instructor in your area, please visit www.infantswim.com.  

The Perfect 4th of July BBQ Menu

The 4th of July is fast approaching, which means it’s time to bring out the BBQ and invite some friends over for a great time. Independence Day has always been characterized by hardy All-American foods that are loved by all. Below we’ve collected some of our favorite recipes to help you find the perfect combination of everything from starters to main courses to help make your 4th of July BBQ a success. All Time Fave: Pigs-in-a-Blanket Pigs-in-a-blanket are always a fan favorite. Easy to make and bite size, they are a hit at any party. Follow these three easy steps to make these treats in less than ½ an hour. Start by heating the oven to 375?. Cut your dough (crescent roll dough work best) into triangles. Wrap them around your hot dogs. Bake them on an ungreased cookie sheet for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve on a platter with ketchup and mustard, and they’ll be gone before you know it! Create Your Own Hamburger Hamburgers are the perfect food for a 4th of July BBQ!  Everybody has their own preference, so let your guests make their own! Have a wide selection of hamburgers ready: beef, turkey, veggie, or salmon (you might even have your guests write their preference on their RSVP).  Grill them to perfection, and then set out with a toppings bar. Have labels prepared for each meat/meatless type.  Be sure to include lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, a variety of cheeses, sliced onion, avocado, grilled mushrooms, or whatever else suits you! [Read "Mini-Sliders: Burgers With a Twist!"] Finish it off with some fun sauces. Stray away from the classic ketchup and mustard and add some BBQ sauce, relish, pesto sauce, ranch dressing, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, salsa, or even guacamole to make your burger bar more exciting. For some more variety, mix in some different buns; try multigrain, English muffins, onion, or pretzel buns! With all of these great choices, your guests will be able to make their hamburgers just the way they want! Easy Caesar Salad Want a delicious caesar salad to serve to your guests? Look no further! Start by throwing some chicken in a preheated skillet with a mix of seasoning and oil. Cook until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Then in your salad bowl, combine lettuce, the Caesar dressing of your choice, Parmesan cheese, and your chicken. Toss and serve it to your guests with their delicious custom hamburger! [Read "Hearty and Crunchy - Brooke's 'Junk Salad'"] The Best Strawberry Lemonade On a hot day, plenty of ice cold drinks are a must, and there’s nothing better than a nice glass of strawberry lemonade to cool you down. To add to your party, why not serve a homemade concoction? Start by bringing water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Then lower the heat and let simmer, stirring every so often until the sugar dissolves. Throw in some lemon peels and lemon juice, then remove from the heat and throw it in a clean pitcher. In a blender, puree a pint of strawberries and add it to a pitcher with lemon juice. Stir well and refrigerate until it’s chilled! Add sparking water if you wish then serve to your guests! No Stress Cake Pops Love cake pops but think they’re too complicated to make at home? ModernMom has an easy way for you to make homemade cake pops an everyday dessert. Buy a package of doughnut holes from your local bakery or grocery store, a bag of candy melts of your choice and some festive sprinkles. Microwave the candy melts at 50% power until melted and place in a bowl. Line up your doughnut holes, stick them with a wooden skewer, dip into the melted candy bowl, and then into the sprinkles. Decorate and serve to your hungry guests! Our favorite serving tip to make the cake pops look their best is to get our your colander and place a cake pop in each hole! [Read "Bake Easy & Delicious Cake Pops with Your Kid!"] A 4th of July BBQ can be so effortless if done right. With the right food, it can be minimal work for you and maximum enjoyment for your guests! We always recommend adding something special, whether it’s some red, white, or blue sparkle or a personal flare, it’s the little details that make a party the enjoyable for all! Best of luck! 

Jobs & Money Making Ideas for Kids of All Ages!

Want your child to learn some responsibility? Does your child constantly ask you for money for mall outings? Does your kid really think money grows on trees? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, we’ve got the perfect solution – help your kid get a job! A job instills responsibility, independence, discipline and a self-pride into kids that they can’t get anywhere else. They will also begin to understand how hard you work as parents and will stop taking you for granted. Additionally, their entrepreneurial endeavors may pleasantly surprise you and have you beaming to your friends about how proud you are! Here are some great ideas for jobs, for kids of all ages!Younger Kids (8-10)While younger kids cannot legally get a traditional job, nor should they, there are a number of ways you can encourage your little one to make some extra money. Of course, you need to play an integral part in any of these “jobs” as your kid is not ready to be on their own. When it's hot out, setting up a lemonade stand on a residential, busy block is sure to bring in some bucks. Who can resist ice cold lemonade and an eager kid? If your kid is creative, they could make some money by making greeting cards for people. Pet-sitting for a neighbor is yet another great job for kids of this age. If you'd rather your kid stay close to home, you could pay your kid for doing chores around the house. A set weekly allowance for doing X amount of chores would work well rather than, say, $5 for any chore they do, so that they don’t leave your house spotless but your wallet empty. If you have a home office, your kid could help you out with administrative duties, like stapling, typing, filing, mailing letters, shredding, etc. With the extra money they’ll be making, you can visit the toy store every so often and let them pick out something they really want. They'll appreciate their new toy because of how hard they worked to earn it!Tweens and Younger Teens (11-14)Kids ages 11-15 are also too young for traditional jobs, but there are plenty of things that they could do at this age to make some extra money. When the holidays come around, your child can offer to wrap presents for friends, family and neighbors. Additionally, they could ask their local bookstore to set up a booth in the corner where they could offer “donation only” gift wrapping. Other jobs include dog walking for the neighbors, tutoring younger kids, and teaching older people how to use computers. For the slightly older, mature kids, they can make some good money by babysitting. Kids this age probably won’t be content with a trip to the toy store with their hard-earned money. They want the bigger stuff, the Nintendo DS or the iPod Touch. If they are getting discouraged because they are not making enough money in a timely manner, you can make a deal with them where you will match every dollar they make to help them reach their goal. That is, if they make $100, you will give them $100 so they can buy their gotta-have-it-because-all-my-friends-have-it electronic.Older Teens (15 and up)Older teens are ready for the more traditional jobs. But, the real question is, what are some appropriate jobs for teens? Movie theatres, smoothie joints, ice cream shop, coffee place barista, retail (hello employee discount!), summer camps, restaurants, grocery stores are all great choices for the kid that wants to make money quick. Internships are another great option that will not only teach them responsibility, but will give them experience in a field they are interested in. However, many internships are unpaid. If your kid prefers valuable experience over making money (rare, but it can happen), they may want to volunteer somewhere, like a hospital. If your kid doesn’t want to commit to an official part-time job just yet, they can do tasks around the house or neighborhood, like washing cars or mowing laws.More Tips for Older Teen JobsDon’t know where to start? They should channel into what they’re good at, and find jobs that pertain to that. If your kid loves to be outdoors and is a great swimmer, they can apply to be a lifeguard at a local community or school pool. If your kid spends almost every waking moment on the computer, why not suggest they get into web or graphic design? If your child loves to paint, suggest they make some extra money by selling their paintings or offering their artistic services to someone. This "first job hunt" is the perfect opportunity for your kid to not only make money, but start to hone into their life's desire. But, remember one thing: Before you allow your kid to get their first official job, make an agreement with them – their job will not interfere with school or other duties. If you see your kid is tired all time or their grades are slipping, then they will be forced to quit!

What is Your Money Type?

Do you know your money type? Knowing this simple piece of information is the first, HUGE step in your financial healing.  Why?  It will help you: To better understand your current relationship with money. To illuminate which financial habits are and are not working for you. To point yourself squarely in the direction of healing. The Nurturer, Warrior Princess, Martyr, Oppressor, Material–Girl, Under-Spender, Creative Spirit, Timid, Clueless, and Alchemist.  (It’s perfectly normal to see yourself as a combination of two types.) The Nurturer:  This type always thinks of caring for others first, putting herself and her financial needs last.  The Nurturer may also have “The Hidden White Knight Syndrome” which means that somewhere deep inside she believes a man (or family member) will come along and solve all her financial issues.  The Nurturer tends to underestimate her worth and may not claim it to others (rarely asks for a raise, always volunteers her time, etc.).  The Good News:  The Nurturer has been trained to view the world a certain way and can retrain her brain for self-care.  Whether she acknowledges it or not, Nurturers are tremendously capable. Warrior Princess:  Blazes her own trail.  Takes risks.  Thinks logically and acts decisively.  Likes to take on the world with a smile.  Tenacious.  Generally adept and successful in financial matters.  Enjoys the business mindset – she likes negotiating, winning contracts, moving and shaking.  At times, struggles to see the big picture or to recognize opportunities to learn.  Sometimes struggles with intimacy, sharing and true connection with others.  May fall into the trap of the Material Girl where she views herself in terms of her financial success.  The Good News:  Feels at home in the moneymaking world.  With some shifts in thinking, she can increase her emotional capacity to live a rich life full of intimate connection. The Martyr:  Suffers from overly negative “Stick-With-What-I-Know” thinking, doing the same repetitive behaviors over and over even if what she is doing is clearly not working.  Martyrs are often attached to their own suffering and may fear moving up in financial status.  May find herself judging those with money due to a belief that having money means being greedy and/or unspiritual.  Yet, at the same time, they may feel that having no money means they are not intelligent/worthy.  Goes between trying to be in control and controlling others.  Can create similar money experience as The Nurturer who saves others and lives in self-neglect.  The Good News:  A paradigm shift and behavioral conditioning can transform The Martyr from a life attached to suffering to a life attached to prosperity. The Oppressor:  This type uses money to manipulate and/or control others.  Can be a win-at-all costs type where power and self-interest rule.  (We see this type in some politicians or ruthless business people.)  Some lack remorse.  Rarely feels satisfied or at peace.  It’s never enough.  Can fall into all types of addictive behaviors.  The “never enough” mentality may stem from fear/lack thinking.  Our society may view money as evil due to images of The Oppressor as the only money type.  The Good News:  There are many ways to have a successful relationship with money.  An awakened Oppressor can utilize her natural tenacious spirit to create a more balanced approach to life. The Material Girl:  This type associates her financial worth with her self-worth.  There is a desire to live a lavish life – to want to impress others (and may live beyond her means to keep up).  Some Material Girls rely on money as financial therapy – have slippery hands – an experience where the money always seems to fall through their fingers.  Like The Oppressor, they may find it hard to feel satisfied or like they have “enough.”  The Good News:  Material Girls have mad skills!  The shift is usually internal.  Great things happen when they begin to build a life that resonates with authentic meaning. The Under-Spender:  This type experiences anxiety at the thought of spending even if she has the money to spend.  Sometimes they experience nervousness even when they are spending money they need to spend (for bills or necessary expenses).  Income makes no difference – low earners to top earners alike have this aversion to parting with their cash.  May have a difficult time enjoying their money.  Experiences feelings or thoughts of guilt, wastefulness.  Often seriously dislikes their own behavior.  In extreme cases, they believe they are on the verge of financial collapse no matter what their actual situation may be. The Good News:  This type can experience tremendous relief when they view their spending as an investment (in friendship, positive endeavors and happiness!). The Creative Spirit:  What motivates this type of person is making art and/or pursuing spiritual realms.  They may shun the material world and choose to spend their time and energy on their rich inner world.  Often this type experiences an up/down or love/hate relationship with money.  They seek authentic connection and expression and may view money as unspiritual.  Disconnected from a balanced understanding of money, they seek money for the freedom it affords them but struggle mightily to master their financial lives.  The Good News:  Once open to learning new tools and armed with the right knowledge this type can fairly easily maneuver into the realm of The Alchemist. The Timid:  Fear surrounds this type when it comes to money.  She may be so scared that she unconsciously plays the part of an Ostrich, thinking: “If I ignore my money issues they will go away.”  She can also play the part of the Lamb, tending to underestimate her own power and following the lead of others.  The Good News:  Pulling their heads out of the sand can be empowering when they realize they are not alone, they have more power than they know and that there are always solutions!  Clueless:  This type was never taught about money or has ignored the lessons that have come her way.  She may make a lot of money or a little but whatever she brings in, she is clearly not in control of her money.  This type tends to be impulsive and get caught up in the excitement of the moment.  May suffer from short-term thinking – spending most of what she has due to the thought that, “I can always make more.”  May gamble or seek short cuts.  Like the Creative Spirit, she may be unable to maintain a consistently, healthy relationship with money, bouncing in and out of abundance and lack.  The Good News:  Often optimistic adventurers with energy and heart, armed with knowledge and an earnest plan, the sky can be the limit. The Alchemist:  The Alchemist is the most balanced kind of money type.  Connected, knowledgeable and at peace, they see and accept the spiritual aspects of prosperity and abundance.  They do not suffer from an internal struggle instead embracing a life of spiritual wealth.  They are skilled at adapting to a rapidly changing world.  The Alchemist knows where she’s been, where she’s at and where she’s going.  She resides in the faith that all needs will be met.  She may experience a strong connection with a higher power.  The Good News:  We all possess the power of The Alchemist within us.  With the right tools and a willing spirit, we all have the power to transform our lives into gold. For more information on Women and Money, please visit www.womenwealthywise.com

New Tra-Dish: Italian Cheesesteak Pot Pie

Put a fun new spin on a classic recipe and make a New Tra-Dish! This one comes from Rosemary over at Not Just Paper and Paint, who came up with a delicious twist on the traditional Italian Cheesesteak.   The result: a cheesesteak pot pie!    Check out her post below:    Do you follow directions on recipes or are you like me and want to tweak them a bit to make your own?  I was given a challenge from Ragú to make over a recipe for The Italian Cheesesteak Sandwich.  This needed to be a family-friendly recipe with ingredients which might already be in your pantry or easily found in your local grocery store.   Since I’m all about one-dish meals, or those that can be made ahead of time, I immediately thought of a casserole - but wanted to take it up a notch by making it a pot pie.  With Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce, along with meat and cheese as the base, I added other ingredients which I regularly use in other pasta dishes.  I hope you will add this to your recipe box and make it a family favorite, as I have mine.   Ingredients 1 lb Italian sausage 3 cloves garlic, chopped 1 small onion, chopped 8 oz pkg mushrooms, cut into quarters 1 large bell pepper, cut into ½” pieces 2 jars Ragu Old World Traditional Pasta Sauce (reserve 1 cup for dipping) 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning ½ cup black olive slices ½ cup grated parmesan cheese 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese 1 sheet puff pastry – thawed as directed on package   Directions Follow directions on puff pastry package for thawing before beginning your recipe.  After thawing, make an X or other decorative design in the center for venting of steam. Brown the sausage, stirring often, until no longer pink. Remove from pan and drain onto paper towels, leaving 1 tablespoon of sausage drippings in your skillet. While this is browning, cook ¾ cup of your favorite small penne pasta to al dente.  Do not overcook.  Drain well and set aside. Over medium heat, saute onions in sausage drippings for 2 minutes, then add garlic and cook 1 more minute being careful not to let your garlic burn. Add mushrooms and bell peppers and saute for 6 – 7 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and these just start to become tender.  Stir in browned sausage, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese, black olives, cooked pasta, and  Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce. Heat this mixture just until hot, about 2 – 3 minutes. Pour this into a 2-quart casserole dish which has been lightly sprayed with a non-stick coating spray, then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Place the puff pastry on top, trimming edges to about 1 inch around.  Fold this under and press to seal edges. Bake for 20 minutes until crust is a golden brown. Remove and let stand 10 minutes before serving.  Heat your 1 cup reserved Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce to use as dipping for crusty French Bread.  Adding a nice tossed or chopped salad will complete the meal. Did you know: Each jar of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce is made with 11 juicy tomatoes making it its  richest, thickest recipe *versus our previous OWS formula.

BBQ Party Decorating Ideas

Decorating for parties, even simple backyard barbecues, really sets the tone for the celebration!  Add a festive vibe or fun theme to your decorations to wow your guests and transform your barbecue party into something special. Keep the decorations low-key for a simple, casual gathering or go all-out for a special occasion, such as a birthday party or wedding reception. Themes Follow a theme for your barbecue party to make decorating easier. A luau barbecue theme could include tiki torches and grass skirts around the tables or barbecue grill, as long as the decorations don't create a fire hazard. Common themes for barbecues include nautical, pool parties (even if there is no actual pool), beach or country themes. Choose a theme, or at least a color scheme, that works for your style and taste to complement your barbecue party. Yard Decorations Decorate your outside space and yard so guests feel like it's a party from the moment they arrive. Line the entryway with lanterns or LED candles to guide guests to and from their cars. String twinkling lights or hang paper lanterns from nearby trees, pillars, poles or other structures. String clotheslines across the party space to hang other decorations, such as streamers, balloons or banners, that fit into the party theme. For example, cowboy hats or bandannas might hang from the lines for a western-themed barbecue. Make yard signs out of wooden dowels and thick poster board to complement the party. For example, make large bug shapes, such as honeybees, butterflies and ladybugs for a garden-themed barbecue. Guests will love seeing a creative and welcoming touch! Table Decorations The tables will likely see most of the action since the point of a barbecue party is the food. Use tablecloths as the base of your table decor. Red-and-white checkered tablecloths are common for barbecues, but they might not work for your theme. Use a bright color, such as orange, yellow, lime green or fuchsia, for a cheerful summery feel. Tie a bow or add a cushion to each chair with a complementary color. Pair red-and-white checkered tablecloths with bales of hay for seating if you're hosting a country- or western-themed barbecue. Add centerpieces to each table. Galvanized pails, watering cans or decorative vases can hold a bouquet of flowers, such as roses, posies, sunflowers, wildflowers or daisies. Fill large containers, jars or pitchers with lemons, limes, green apples or oranges for a colorful effect. Float candles or place candles in hurricane vases if you want to create a relaxed, somewhat romantic effect. Fill jars with colorful candy or stack desserts on cupcake platters if you want a centerpiece that also provides guests with a sweet favor. What are you best BBQ decorating ideas? Share them in the comment section!