Brooke Burke: My Slim Down Secrets

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

Start Daydreaming - It's Good for You

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

Yes! Yes! Yes!

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

Easy Summer Soup Recipes

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

Signs of an Ear Infection in an Infant

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

Must-have Make-Up Tips from Celebrity Makeup Artist

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

Can’t We Be Girl Scouts and Barbies?

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

Easy Vegan Chocolate Glaze for Brownies & Desserts

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

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

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

Dealing with Insomnia During Pregnancy

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

How To Calm Young Children While Traveling On An Airplane

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

"8 Glasses of Water Per Day" is a Myth

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

Top Ten 'Creative Practicing' Tips for Kids!

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

Empower Your Kids Through Creative Cleaning

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

The Power of a Simple Smile

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

The Two-Letter Word Every Mom Should Learn to Say

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

Guided Meditation: Clear Away the Excess in Life

A few weeks ago, I was explaining to someone why and how it is I create guided meditations. Sometimes they are messages I need in my own life, and I share them because I hope they will help others too. Other times I get an overwhelming urge within me to share a particular meditation that comes to me often when I am meditating myself. Most of the time it feels like the meditations comes through me, not from me and that is when I know they are meant to be shared. The best way I can describe it is that the guided meditations feel like a greater voice from within. I always recognize the need for the meditation to be released because the urge within me speaks and only gets louder. The reason I share this with you is because my hope is for you too to be still and recognize that voice and urge within you. You can try to ignore it but it doesn’t go away. That is your heart calling to you, giving you the messages and guidance you need. Listen to that voice; it is your calling and your purpose. You’ll know it’s the real thing because it will keep reoccurring and it may even get louder and the urge to act stronger. Be brave enough to listen to your heart. That is your purpose in this moment. That is why you are here. The meditation I share with you today is to clear away the excess in your life. Excess can build up from all around us, and in many forms. It could be excess clutter in your home, or excess weight holding you back from being the healthiest version of yourself. It could also be excess emotions overwhelming you, or baggage from the past emerging and suffocating your joy. Whatever the excess is in your life, it feels the same. It feels like it’s weighing you down, as if you can’t take a big, huge, deep, freeing breath that you so desperately seek. This guided meditation will help you remove the blocks, and begin to change your internal dialog so that you can break free of the excess, and truly feel the lightness of your soul. I highly recommend when the meditation is over that you continue to meditate in silence for 10 minutes. It is your own voice within that is your greatest teacher, and it can be heard best in silence. May the words in this meditation help you unlock your true divine self.                                     YouTube Video:   Return to this video whenever you feel weighed down by excess in life. You may be feeling the urge within you to simplify. This is also a great video for when you’re feeling the toll excess takes on your body, whether that is an overabundance of emotions, baggage from past events, too much weight, clutter, or an overloaded schedule.   With love & deep gratitude, Wendy Irene

Getting The Stink Eye in Restaurants

You know how sometimes there can be so much cutlery in the road it seems like every which way you turn, you're getting stabbed by a fork?  Me too.  It's enough to make you want to just sit down and have a slice of pie.  So tonight I sit with my pie (wine) and discuss an issue that has come up recently. Apparently kids in restaurants can be a real nuisance for those who don’t have kids or for those who have chosen to leave theirs at home.  Now before I had a little one, I must admit I was one of those people whose shoulders sank the second a baby would board the plane.  I did my very best to keep my unintentional stink eye to myself but it was not easy.  This same pattern went for restaurants.  I wanted to embrace the fact that we are all in this big ‘ol life endeavor together, maybe sing “Joy to the World” and hold hands or something but God help me folks, that was nowhere near gonna happen as the 2-year old sitting next to me screamed bloody murder because she had to stop putting her hand in her water and throwing it at me. Now with my, ahem, sweet and perfectly behaved 15-month old, I am on the other side of the fence.  We have gone out to dinner the last two Saturday nights and we've,  gasp, brought our son with us!  The first outing was to the restaurant, Street, on Highland.  Let me first off say that everyone around us was so sweet to our son.  There was lots of cooing, smiling and contorting of faces to make our child laugh.  I find this kind of stuff so endearing.  I mean the chef even brought Luca a bowl of strawberries and little appetizer puff balls instead of bread.  Now, we have a delivery company (LJ Gourmet) that delivers all organic, local food to toddlers throughout LA twice a week so we always have prepared meals in our fridge for our son which is a pretty awesome perk for me.  I like to cook ok but Luca’s dad is the chef and I’m happy to leave that duty to him.  When we venture out we usually pop some LJ food in a container and take it with us but on this particular Saturday night we forgot.  While at the restaurant my son ate whatever we ordereed which was a lot of different things to share (side note: I love the food at STREET! If you haven’t been, just go and get the appetizer grilled cheese with coconut butter, soy, and egg.  IT’S TO DIE FOR - and order two!).  But as soon as his last slurp of sesame noodle went down, he was finished.  We weren’t of course, but that was it.  He screamed at the top of his lungs for what in reality was probably only five seconds, but felt like 20 minutes.  The two guys that loved him twenty minutes earlier gave each other a look and then politely avoided my apologetic glance.  The waiters wouldn’t look at us.  The bartender kind of did but then realized she had and unintentional stink eye going on and quickly turned away.  We got the check within a matter of seconds and got our butts out of there.  Ok so the next Saturday slid even more into the down low and went to El Compadre on Sunset for simple, old school Mexican food.  We were in by 5:15 and out by around 6:30. Here’s how it went:  The second Luca got in his high chair he screamed.  Ok.  So we quietly moved to the outside patio and for some reason he liked it out there.   All he seems to want to do lately is run and laugh and run and play and run and run, so the fact that he was chilaxing in the high chair before any food came was good.  Then of course the ants in the pants arrived but luckily so did the chips and salsa.  We gave him chips.  We bribed him with chips. Within 2 minutes of ordering our meal, out came Ben’s salad that had some ranch dressing on the side.  Luca quizzically looked over at the white goopy goop and of course dipped his chip in it.  I would have done that had I been him too.  The look on his face was one of wonder and ecstasy and fear, fear that we would take that ranch dressing anywhere but underneath his chip.  I tried to get Luca to partake in some beans, rice, and avocado that in my grand scheme were going to be right up his ally.  But no.  He looked at me as if I were a crazy person for thinking he was not going to just eat ranch dressing off tortilla chips for dinner.  In order to avoid any kind of screaming and me reasoning with him, of course we let him eat the tortilla chips and ranch dressing.  In exchange we got to eat our dinner in some kind of peace and actually have a little conversation.  Since we were outside no one bugged us and we didn’t bug anyone.  We did our best to clean up, leave a sizable tip, then skedaddle.  I am not sure about the whole taking kids out to eat scenario. I’m not sure it’s fair to ask a 15-month-old  or even a 3-year old for that matter to sit still for an hour or more while grown ups have civilized conversation and enjoy their food.   But who wants to stay in every night?  And who wants to pay a babysitter a bunch of money a couple of times a week, on top of what we pay our nanny, so you can go out?  And who wants to put up with screaming kids eating next to them when maybe they did suck it up and pony up for the babysitter?  Maybe there is a happy medium.  Maybe there should be a cut off at 7 pm.  Parents with kids under seven must vacate restaurants by 7.  The 7/7 rule.  So that means if someone’s kid is screaming at 5:45, other patrons can’t get mad.  And if there is a big ‘ol mess where the little one ate, you must tip at least 25%.  There, a happy medium.  I could be a politician.

How to Raise Independent Kids

I have found that many teenagers are being coddled too much by doting parents.  So when it comes time to go to college, they break down because they haven’t been taught independence skills.  I have seen so many kids so sheltered that they have a terrible time with the basics of doing laundry, cleaning, and making a schedule ( that the teenager makes and follows).  I truly believe practicality and common sense are just as important as book knowledge to be able to deal with the pressures of the world. This was an e-mail that I received in response to my last blog, right after someone asked me to write one on how to make kids more independent. Time and again, I hear the same story from educators: they are seeing a steady decline in basic independence skills. They are struck by how, across the board, children seem less able to problem solve. Last year, I was at a playground and a little boy dropped his toy and couldn’t reach it. His mom was on the other side of the playground, but I was right beside him. He sat down and screamed for his mother until she came over to pick up the toy for him. It was a perfect opportunity for her to teach him how to solve the problem--how to ask the adult that is right next to him, “Could you please pick up my toy for me.” But the opportunity was missed. The lesson he learned? When I am having trouble, I can cry and my mom will come fix it for me. But what about when mom is not there? Independence breeds the feeling of competence. When kids feel competent they gain an improved sense of self. Kids need to have opportunities to do things themselves as early as possible. Because I have four children very close in age, I had to teach independence skills early--it was a matter of survival. We are not doing our kids any favors by doing things for them. Yes, it many ways it is easier to do things yourself. Yes, in many ways it is faster to do things yourself. But, it is better for them if they learn to do it themselves. Here are a few strategies that can help: 1) Create structures and routines that encourage independence When you provide children with physical structures and routine, they can be very independent. It makes them feel more responsible, and it builds their self-confidence. You know those cubby spaces and lockers that they have in schools? There is a reason they have them: they give kids a structure to help them organize themselves. There is no way that a teacher can help hang up 20 coats and backpacks--so they teach them to do it themselves. The same should be done at home. Whether you have one or twenty, provide them with a spot to organize and keep track of their own things (for example cubby spaces at the entryway) and a routine for stopping and putting things away. This can happen throughout the house. In their rooms, get dressers instead of hanging everything. A child as young as three can begin to put his or her laundry away in dressers--which can also help them with sorting, a great brain-building skill. In the kitchen, have cups in a low drawer and water in a place where they can reach, so that when they ask for a drink of water, you can show them how to get it. Keep track of the little requests that drive you nuts and think about a structure that may help them to be able to meet that need--it just might take a little creativity. 2) Teach them how to problem-solve When your kids call for you, don’t automatically solve the problem. Instead, stop and think, “Is there a way that they could solve this without me?” If there is, take the time and teach them. Our kids have a lot more skills than we give them credit for, but they get into the habit of calling on us because it is easy. When kids are first learning a new skill, it does take some time to teach them. They need support and often it takes a few times before they get the hang of it. And that takes time. Sometimes we can’t do it--we are running late or we are just in a rush. Sometimes we are just too tired to put in the extra time and effort it takes to support that learning--that is fine. But sometimes, we do have that time, and we need to take the opportunity. In the long run, it is well worth it. 3) Teach them language--Actively “Use your words!” It doesn’t work. Why? Because usually children do not know what words to use or how to use them. By reading to a child and teaching them the alphabet, we do not expect them to learn to read on their own. We teach them. However, we expect language development to happen through modeling alone. Unfortunately, this is often not enough. In general, we are not good communicators. It doesn’t come naturally. Think about the last time you tried to confront your coworker, spouse or boss. If we want our children to become more independent, we need to teach them social language. We need to teach them how to ask another adult for help. We need to give them the words to call a friend and arrange a playdate. We need to teach them how to tell the teacher that they didn’t understand the assignment. One way that children learn that they can be independent is to learn how to resolve their own conflicts. So often, parents intervene and resolve the conflict for their children. Instead, give them the words to talk to one another--you will be amazed at how well it works. Here is an example: Marco grabs a toy from Jenna. Me: Marco, you may not grab. You may say “Jenna, may I have a turn please” Marco: “Jenna, may I have a turn please?” Jenna: No Me: You may not say no, you may say “You can have a turn in a minute” (or when I am through, or any number of reasonable comments) Jenna: You can have a turn in 25 minutes (my kids are wise guys) Me: You need to be reasonable. How about 3 minutes? Say, “you can have a turn in three minutes.” Jenna: “You can have a turn in three minutes.” Inevitably, after about a minute, she hands over the toy. It’s true. Rarely have I seen the argument continue once the child with the toys has been given control as to when to give it up and the child without the toy knows that he or she will get a turn. Parents are usually stunned to see that it works so well. What does this interaction teach? That kids have the control to fix their own problems, which in the long run, will not only give us more time, it will give them the confidence that they need to solve the problems that really count. 

How to Cope With Your Kid's Jet Lag

Traveling can be exhausting, stressful and just plain uncomfortable. Top it all off with jet lag and you’ve got quite a miserable situation on your hands. If you’ve ever traveled to a different time zone with your children, you know how miserable they feel when they’re jet lagged. Tired, cranky and whiny kids are no fun to take anywhere. Here are some coping strategies to deal with your kids’ jet lag and make your vacation experience more relaxing.What is Jet Lag?We all know jet lag occurs when we travel to a different time zone, but what exactly is making us feel so terrible? Our internal clock has gotten adjusted to a certain cycle of daylight hours, and jet lag occurs when that cycle has been disturbed. When our bodies are adjusting to our new time zone, our internal clocks are resetting, which is why we feel the common symptoms of jet lag, like tiredness, headache, diarrhea or constipation, irritability, and so on.Keep Them HydratedOne of the primary reasons people feel so miserable when they’re jet lagged is due to dehydration. Make sure your kids are drinking plenty of water to prevent this from happening.Get Your Kid MovingA nice walk around your new destination or a swim in the hotel pool is a great way to fight off jet lag. Doing this kind of light physical activity before nap time or bedtime will tire them out so that they’ll be able to get some rest once and for all later that evening.Feed Them Healthy FoodsEating healthy foods and snacks, packed with complex carbs, protein and fiber, will keep them fuller longer and hopefully, keep their behavior in check. Avoid feeding them sugary snacks and drinks, which will give them a quick energy boost but then make them crash hard later.Preserve the Comforts of HomeKids get attached to routine and any vacation is taking them out of their comfort zone. For toddlers, bring along their favorite toy or blankie so that they can carry around something that makes them feel at home. Try to preserve some of the same routines you do at home, such as nap time or a bedtime story.Take It Easy for the First Few DaysTry to relax and keep your schedule light for the first few days of a trip with the family. In other words, don’t go crazy with trying to follow strict itineraries during that time. As any mom knows, that’s difficult enough as it is without your kids being jet lagged. Give all of your bodies time to get over the initial fatigue before you start sightseeing and going on day trips.Get Adjusted to Your New Time Zone ASAPOne you’ve arrived at your destination, adjust your watches to local time and try to encourage your kids to stay awake during daylight hours and sleep when it’s dark outside. It’s important to get your whole family on local time as soon as possible. The quicker you do this, the sooner the jet lag will go away and the sooner you can start enjoying your vacation.Be PatientUnderstand that your kids’ little bodies may not be able to cope as well with traveling. Be prepared for the jet lag to continue on for several days, and plan accordingly. And know that once all of you are feeling more adjusted to your new time zone, you will have an unforgettable time!

Late Summer Citrus Cake

It seems every time I turn on the news, the weather map displays local Los Angeles temperatures of 60° and Texas cities at 100°+.   I find myself sympathizing with Texans.  It seems they’ve had brutally hot temperatures for months, if not longer. My internal Doppler radar is telling me that Los Angeles has had unseasonably cold temperatures all summer long. I don’t need to dig out my Patagonia down vest this fall because it never left the grab ‘n go spot in my closet. Perhaps I am empathizing with Texans as I brace myself for the Santa Ana winds that are undoubtedly on their way bringing temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s.  Our heat wave is lurking in the Pacific somewhere.  As a cruel joke, our summer will surely descend on us October through December.  Can our national jet streams be having a mid life crisis? In honor of Texas and every other state suffering through abnormally high temperatures, we made this Late Summer Citrus Cake for you.   Late Summer Citrus Cake Recipe provided by Catherine Wood via her Momma, Catherine Watson; adapted by The Sugar Mommas   Graham Cracker Crust 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. While the machine is on, add the melted butter and pulse several times until the mixture forms moist crumbs. Press the mixture firmly and evenly in the bottom and half way up the sides of a 9 or 10 inch Springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes until you begin to smell that nutty graham cracker aroma wafting from the oven. Remove crust from the oven and cool completely before filling. Citrus Cake Filling 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened* 1 (16 ounce) tube of frozen lemonade 1 (8 ounce) tub of sour cream 1 (8 ounce) tub Cool Whip Place the sweetened condensed milk and the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add frozen lemonade until well blended.  On the very lowest setting, mix in the sour cream until just combined.  Use a spatula to fold in the Cool Whip one huge spoonful at a time until the filling is smooth. No beating! “You don't want to kill the "Poof" of the cool whip.”-C.W. Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Cover the top of the cake with a large piece of wax paper. Then wrap the pan in aluminum foil.  Place in freezer for 5 hours or overnight until set.  Keep cake in the freezer until ready to use.  Remove the cake from the freezer fifteen minutes before serving to soften slightly. Remove from Springform pan and serve immediately. Enjoy! Sugar Mommas Tip: The cream Cheese must be softened or your filling will have lumps. Put the cream cheese on a microwave safe plate microwave for 10-20 seconds.  Check it by slightly pushing with your finger...still 10 seconds more.  You're not cooking it but making it very soft so that it will push off the plate with your spoon.   Lighten the Load: Trying to shave off a few calories before we head into “Baking Holiday Season?”  You may use low-fat sour cream and Cool Whip, but don’t blame us if you loose of the “creamy” texture. Carpool Crunch: Don’t have time to make the crust? Pour your filling into two pre-made graham cracker crusts. Do not bake. Freeze to set as instructed above.   

Edamame Guacamole Recipe

With all the summer gatherings and picnics that will take place all summer long, we are still thinking "Slim & Trim" on the recipes! This is guacamole taken to the next (nutritional) level, punched up with extra protein and fiber from edamame, otherwise known as the "gorge green soybean." It is significantly less fat than traditional guacamole and adds heart-healthy soy protein. Served with raw vegetables or alongside baked chili lime pita chips..... we're thinking..... Yum! Ingredients 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted1-2 tomatoes, optional1/2 cup chopped cilantro2 cloves garlic, minced1/4 red onion, roughly chopped1/2 jalepeno, finely chopped, optionalJuice of 2 limes2 to 3 tablespoons watersea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste  Directions Add edamame, avocado, cilantro, garlic, onion, jalapeno, and lime juice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add enough water to make a creamy consistency and pulse again until smooth. Now add the chopped tomatoes. Transfer edamame guacamole to a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper. *this guacamole is also fabulous as a spread on sandwiches. Baked Chili-Lime Chips Ingredients 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice1 teaspoons canola oil1 teaspoon ground cumin1 teaspoon chili powder1 teaspoon sea salt12 (6-inch) corn tortillas or pitas Directions Preheat oven to 400°F. Stir together lime juice and canola oil,  brush on both sides of each tortilla/pita using a pastry brush.  Mix together cumin, chili powder and salt. Stack tortillas, and cut into 6 to 8 triangles (if you like them larger or smaller, it’s up to you). Spread out on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with mixture. Bake about 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. 

How to Get a Baby to Wear Glasses

Glasses can help a child develop normal vision as she grows. Therefore, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that all babies have their eyes examined between the age of 6 months and 1 year. In some cases, a child may need her first pair of glasses when she is only a few months old. Parents shouldn't worry, though, as even infants and toddlers will wear eyeglasses without much trouble once they realize how much better they can see. Step 1 Get your child properly fitted for the glasses. The frames should be comfortable for your baby's eyes, ears and nose. A child's eyes should be centered in the lenses. Buy frames that fit your child on the day she is being fitted rather than choosing frames she can grow into. Step 2 Draw attention to other members of your family who wear glasses. If you or your spouse wears glasses, it may help to tell your child that he looks like Mommy or Daddy when he is wearing his glasses. Step 3 Point out any of your child's favorite television or cartoon characters that wear glasses. Read your child storybooks that have pictures of children wearing glasses. Your child may actually like wearing glasses if she can identify with others who do. Step 4 Have your child wear his glasses only for short periods of time at first. If he takes them off, wait a bit before you put them back on. Toddlers will often wear glasses without a fight when they are well-rested and in a good mood. Give your child a reward each time he succeeds at keeping his glasses on for a certain length of time. Step 5 Hold the glasses in place with an elastic band that reaches behind your child's head. Just watch so that your baby doesn't try to grab the glasses off by pulling at them from the front. Step 6 Fuss over your baby whenever she is wearing her glasses. Let her know how cute she looks. Take pictures of your child wearing her glasses. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in helping a baby adjust to wearing eyeglasses.

Why I'm Teaching My Kid NOT to Share!

People make a huge deal about their kids sharing. At any given time in any given playground you will hear a chorus of moms and dads yelling, “Honey, share with your sister,” “Lucy, can you let that other little boy use your shovel?” “Ian, give your friend some of your goldfish crackers!”   We as a society are big on sharing. It seems that we find it to be a reflection of our own and our child’s good manners. I’m not immune to the pressure to make my children share but lately I’ve been wondering why we insist on forcing this issue when it clearly doesn’t come naturally. My fourteen-month-old twins are already fighting over toys, attention and their fuh-fuh blankets (I know fuh-fuh is cloying but my friend Diana came up with the name for those little taggy blankets from Target. The real name is Chi-Chi which happens to be slang for boob in Spanish so I went with her on fuh-fuh). I’m pretty sure if left to their own devices my girls would fight to the death over a yogurt covered blueberry that fell on the floor. It’s a good thing I don’t keep any weaponry lying around the house or it would be like medieval times around here. And the only person in this house who detests sharing more than the babies is Elby, their four-year-old sister. At the mere sight of one of her sisters grabbing for one of her toys, Elby reacts like she’s being mugged - which I guess she sort of is. “No Mattie,” she’ll scream, “That’s mine!” Of course my first reaction is to ask her to share but at the same time I sort of get it. I just have to put myself in her size nine light-up shoes to realize, sharing sucks. Why would I want to let anyone who comes in contact with something of mine have it? What if a friend of mine came into my office right now while I was writing this and just started grabbing my computer? I’d be pissed. So why do I expect my child to just hand over her prized possessions? And by prized possessions, I mean anything she’s claimed ownership of in the span of her existence. At my daughter’s preschool, if a child pees their pants and doesn’t have a spare pair of underwear, that child will be given a pair out of another kid’s backpack. How do I know this? Because Elby’s been on the receiving end of quite a few pairs of someone else’s Cinderella panties during the months after the babies were born and she had a few months of potty regression (read: a year). I wonder how I’d feel if someone at work broke a heel on their shoe and the boss just grabbed a pair of my Jimmy Choos and handed them over? I’ll never know because A) I don’t work in an office and B) I’ve never owned a pair of shoes that cost more than fifty bucks but still! Granted there are times when all kids need to share - like when they have a friend over for a playdate and the other kid doesn’t think to bring their entire collection of toys with them so they have something to do - and at those times, I guess we as parents have to be the Share Police because plain old reasoning never seems to work. But, the next time I’m at the park and another kid hops on my kid’s bicycle, I may not be so quick to insist that she “let the other child try it for a little while.” I may just tell her that it’s okay to say “Sorry but that’s mine.” After all, if I don’t know you and you decide to take my Volvo for a spin around the neighborhood, you’re going to get the exact same response. The more I think about it, the less natural sharing seems to be and the less apt I am to insist that my child do it against her will. There’s something so sweet about Elby’s face when she decides on her own to let Sadie hold one of the million stuffed animals on her bed or when she hands over a bite of her ice cream sandwich to Mattie after asking, “Can Mattie try some of my ice cream, mommy? It’s really yummy.”

3 Foolproof Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies

Have you ever wondered why kids give us such a hard time about eating their veggies? New research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (previously known as the Journal of the American Dietetic Association) sheds some light on the issue. And good news, this insight may be just the thing we need to finally end this veggie battle once and for all!  In the recent study, 70 percent of the kids tested were bitter-sensitive, meaning they don't like bitter foods like broccoli and cucumber. Bitter-sensitive kids who were offered a dip, in this case Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Dressing, ate 80 percent more vegetables than kids who weren’t given a dip. The findings held true regardless of the fat content of the dip, with kids consuming as many vegetables with low-fat ranch dressing as they did with a full fat version - good news for parents concerned about offering kids too much fat. It's a relief to know kids aren't just trying to torture us by refusing to eat what’s good for them. And what’s more, now that we know what’s really getting in the way of our kids and their veggies, we can work around this “bitter taste” and we actually can get our kids to eat their veggies! As your kids’ palates develop and you work to help them establish good eating habits, a little dip goes a long way, but there are a lot of things you can do to help kids learn to love their veggies. Here are some additional tips Tammy uses with her own kids. 1. Lead by example. Let’s face it, one of many wonderful things about little kids is that they idolize their parents. (And I can tell you first hand that they go from idolizing you to being embarrassed to be seen with you way too fast!) So when they see you eating your veggies, they’ll want to be more like you and they’re more likely to eat their veggies.   2. Be persistent!  Tastes are acquired. And this isn’t just referring to the old saying about beer. This pertains to vegetables too! It can take up to 23 exposures to a vegetable before your child may eat it.  So, put that broccoli, corn or carrots on your kids’ plate and continue to offer it and not make a fuss about it if your kid doesn’t eat it or like it. If your little one complains and says don’t give it to me, explain to them that it’s part of dinner and everyone in the family has some on their plate. The secret is to not make a big deal about it. (We know, this is easier said than done! But do your best and the results will speak for themselves.) 3. Make it fun! Kids love to be entertained with foods--whether it’s train tracks in their mashed potatoes or for raisins in peanut butter and celery (a.k.a. “ants on a log”), kids are more likely to appreciate the food they eat if they enjoy the eating experience.  Try this: Slice carrots, bell peppers, broccoli stalks, celery and squash into strips and coins. Wash some cherry tomatoes. Use the vegetable pieces to make pictures--it can be anything--silly faces, an animal, a caterpillar, a boat, a stick figure or a snow man. You can incorporate the dressing right into your picture. Put the dressing into a mini round dish and use it for a silly mouth or caterpillar section or a head for your stick figure. Your kids will have fun eating their veggies! One of Tammy’s kids’ favorites is when Tammy drizzles a little ranch dressing on their plates to make the hair on their silly vegetable face. What do you do to get your kids to eat their veggies? The Nutrition Twins work with Hidden Valley Ranch to help kids to get more nourishment by eating their vegetables.