Brooke Burke: My "Aha" Moment

Just in, holy moly, my girlfriend's daughter got an "A" on her math test and I had to share this and re-evaluate my recent blog. A couple of things crossed my mind: do we stress our kids out so much that they're destined to fail? Do we not have as much confidence in them as they do in themselves? Do we totally underestimate our kids? Do we project negative feelings on our kids?  Are we more consumed with the worst case scenario than they are? ... probably, I mean that’s part of the mommy make-up.Or was it simply knowing that an "F" wasn't the end all - life would go on - and then letting go of that worry that freed up an opportunity to conquer?I had to know what the turning point was and how a potential failing grade became a mark of excellence.  "What the heck happened?," I asked my Malibu mama. “Who knew?!?"She said, "Just telling her to do her best and know that whatever grade she received - it was going to be ok, lifted so much pressure off of both of us that she went in there and kicked ass."The opportunity to grow from a challenge and to learn how to deal with failure was both crucial in her development and amazing. But even more so, the lesson of knowing how to let go of stress, to value the importance of hard work and to have faith that your best is good enough was a huge growth spurt for both mother and child.  It could possibly free up anyone to achieve the impossible.Best news of the day was my friend’s daughter’s A. As my little Rainbow would say, "she turned that frown upside down."I remember when Derek Hough and I won Season 7 of Dancing with the Stars. We stood in the ballroom wings, before we stepped onto the dance floor to perform our freestyle – which by the way we had never run beginning to end because of a couple injuries and some very risky tricks – and we were scared out of our minds! We gave each other that "we’re-already-winners" kind of look. Not the competition, but the experience. We knew that getting that far was good enough and that we had already done the impossible. We felt like winners regardless of the impossible chance that we'd be hoisting the Mirror Ball above our heads that night.I remember that feeling. I remember the moments we let go of the pressure that too many people put on themselves.  That freedom allowed us to get out there and kill it and win it. Kind of crazy, but think about it: don't dwell on the negative, let go of the stress it’s toxic. Always, every day do your best and know that it's good enough. You never know, you just might surprise yourself.

What Makes The Perfect Marriage?

The title of a new marriage handbook caught my eye: The Secret Lives of Wives. At first the book terrified me. Another submission and sacrifice manual?Instead, journalist and longtime wife Iris Krasnow delivers astonishing candor, realistic compassion, and invaluable wisdom when it comes to how paradoxically infuriating and rewarding long-term relationships can be. It’s the only book on marriage I’ve read that didn’t make me want to throw up. Krasnow tenders the type of honest account that will inspire some people to stay in their marriage.  The same sincerity might prompt others to leave.  After reading this book, some people will realize they should never marry.  Others will gain insight into the alchemy that makes long-term unions flourish. The author, herself married for 23 years, interviewed more than 200 women who had been married anywhere from fifteen to seventy years.  The resulting wisdom challenges the traditional, male, religious construct that “happily ever after” requires suppression of one’s individuality.  Krasnow argues persuasively that women must do what men have done for centuries- decide for ourselves what constitutes a satisfying relationship. The Secret Lives of Wives shares stories of how summers apart saved relationships.  How affairs were positive influences.  How boredom and frustration and loathing can be normal parts of 20 plus year unions. Krasnow gives dozens of reasons why you should stay married - and why you shouldn’t.  The point being, it’s all up to you. “There is no gold standard of what a marriage should be and no perfect marriage toward which to aspire,” writes Krasnow. “Individual ingenuity -- not pack mentality -- fuels a long marriage.”At a recent book signing at Washington D.C.’s famed independent bookstore, Politics and Prose, Krasnow gave a powerful reading to a crowd of men and women packed around bookshelves and display tables. During the Q&A, an attractive 50ish woman approached the microphone. She explained that she spoke from experience of not one, but two, long-term marriages. “It took me 20 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart - and three kids - to realize I’d married someone who did not meet my needs,” she shared.  “Now I’m happily remarried to a man who loves me the way I need to be loved.  This is the only marriage advice I give my daughters.  Don’t worry what he looks like, how much money he makes, his family or his hobbies.  Just find someone who loves you the way you need to be loved.” Eloquent, simple, unambiguous - and exhilarating - advice.

#MeatlessMonday: Spinach & Tomato Quinoa Recipe

If you’re looking for an easy-to-prepare dinner to help to squeeze some nutrients and fiber into your family, you've found your perfect match! Say hello to quinoa and chickpeas, both packed with protein and fiber - gotta love that! This delicious dish is also a great way to introduce your kids to quinoa with the tomato-ey sauce.  Enjoy!Tip: This recipe serves two but we double the recipe to make enough for the entire family  Then we team it up with a side of steamed broccoli.Ingredients½ cup chickpeas, canned, rinsed, and drained½ cup onions, finely choppedCooking spray or oil in a spray container.1 cup fresh spinach, tightly packed½ 15 oz. can tomatoes w/ juice (no salt added)½ c. mushrooms, sliced¼ c. water1 tsp. garlic chopped1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped½ c. quinoa, cookedDirectionsSpritz a frying pan with cooking spray or oil from spray container and sauté onions and mushrooms on med- high heat. After onions and mushrooms are golden and tender, add spinach, garlic and a ¼ c. of water and stir. Sauté the spinach, onions, and mushrooms until the spinach is wilted. Then, add canned tomatoes, and chickpeas. Sauté all ingredients on low- medium for about 5-7 minutes. Afterwards, pour ingredients on ¼ c. of cooked quinoa and garnish with chopped basil.Nutrition Facts: Serves: 2, Serving Size: 1/2 recipe; Calories per Serving: 149; Total Fat: 2g; Protein: 7g; Carbohydrate: 27g; Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 5g; Sodium: 88mgGet the book!For more recipes like this, please check out The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure, available now on Amazon.

Brooke Burke: Watching Your Child Fail

The other day, I sat with a group of mommy friends waiting for our girls to get out of dance class.  We dished about the many challenges our kids are going through.  Always something, and in my case it’s a different problem with a different child every day.  My girlfriend had her feathers all ruffled up, struggling with her 10-year-old daughter who was failing math.  The girl is a super talented child, lovely and well-rounded.  She’s a great student but completely lost in math class and exhausted by her efforts to try to grasp new concepts that are way beyond her artistic mind. Her mom has met with her teacher (whose attitude was anything but helpful), hired a tutor as instructed, and even enrolled her daughter in a special after-school math program in the hopes of turning the numerical light bulb on.  My girlfriend was so upset, blaming herself for her demanding professional commitments - bicoastal issues that forced the family to move around - and totally drowning in mommy guilt.  She was considering pulling her daughter out of dance class, which by the way is one of her only joys and she’s SUPER talented.  All this chatter brought me back to the two years I struggled terribly with my own daughter's self-confidence issues. She was an honor student but couldn't get out of her own way to develop good study habits.  She worked 10 times harder than she had to, second-guessed every scholastic move she made and cried more than she wrote with every paper.  It was two of our saddest years.  The hardest part for me, as a mother, was feeling helpless to solve her issues and getting lost in my own frustrations alongside her.  I was filled with empathy for my girlfriend, remembering how difficult that phase was.   Then I remembered the conversations that helped us navigate through it. Reminding my daughter that she was only 10 and as important as school was, it wasn't the single most important thing in the world.  That doing her best was all I expected and that her best would always be good enough. That she needed to find a healthy balance between work and joy.  My daughter chose to give everything up - playdates, sleepovers, sports and so on - because she thought she needed to spend all her time studying. That seemed dangerous to me and too extreme. My daughter struggled for years and spent 2+ hours per night in 5th grade, trying to keep up. She did, and she did well, but her process was painful and consumed most of her time.We chatted as women and mothers, reminding our friend that she was not to blame for her daughter failing a subject. I couldn't imagine a teacher would actually fail a child, knowing that he or she worked as hard as they could and were simply struggling big time in a particular subject. None of us labor under the delusion that we'll make a living doing long division and my thoughts were basically:"So she gets a bad grade in math, so what! It's not the end of the world. As long as she works her tail off and does the best she can, so what?!"By no means was I saying that grades don’t matter, but I believe in the importance of challenge and being graded for your abilities and efforts.I was simply reminding this mother that she has a fantastic kid who is amazing on many levels - a great person and a smart young girl who just happens to suck at math and so what - it's not the end of her world. My girlfriend took a huge breath and we watched her face go from worry to relief. We wound up laughing about how unimportant an “F” in fifth grade math will be in the bigger life picture.My other brilliant mommy friend had a much less controversial way of putting it all into perspective.  She said, “These are the learning moments. Knowing how to deal with an “F” is full of life lessons.” The idea that your child will be great at everything is just not realistic. The ways in which we learn to deal with failure will shape us and teach us. We all digested the advice that allowing our children to fail at times and helping them learn to deal with that may be more valuable than killing ourselves to ensure they make the better grade.  We will fail as mothers, many times in many ways.  Our children will fail time and time again.  It’s how we deal with it and the lessons we learn along the way that will make us stronger, smarter and better prepared for the next round.

Surviving A Friend Break-Up

Who doesn't have a Facebook horror story, or a terrible Twitter tale, or has simple found themselves in desperate need of a friendship fix? Should you friend your ex on Facebook? Your co-workers? Your mother-in-law? How do you break up with a friend? How do you make friends, now that you’re a grown woman?It's no wonder we need a guide for choosing, losing, and keeping up with friends. Dr. Andrea Bonior, psychologist from Georgetown University and ModernMom "Friendship Expert," has written the definitive guide on how to navigate friendships in this ever-growing Facebook and texting/technology era.  Dr. Bonior delves into the newest friendship issues (both online and off) in her new book, "The Friendship Fix," perfect for 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings whose friendships have become as important as their relationships. Here are some tips from Bonior's book: 1. Let yourself grieve. Everyone knows that they’re granted permission to blast Alanis Morissette and eat ice cream right out of the carton, while wearing nothing but a Muppets T-shirt, in the aftermath of a romantic breakup. But few people allow themselves this same consideration when a platonic relationship hits the skids. They should!  Friend breakups can pack just as severe an emotional punch, sometimes even more so. Don’t try to push the feelings aside!  You’ll only postpone having to deal with the sting and risk the pain turning into something worse. 2. An ending doesn’t erase the relationship. Friendship breakups can be at their most painful when you feel like you have to completely rewrite the book of your history together. But this need not be the case: just because your friendship ran its course doesn’t mean you won’t still carry aspects of that person with you. The positives of what your relationship meant (and that hilarious story of getting locked out of your Myrtle Beach condo) are yours for the keeping, always. 3. Fairness goes far.  No matter who’s responsible for ending the friendship, you owe it to your history together to play fair. Yes, the Golden Rule still applies (perhaps more now than ever) as this ending might be your final interaction with the person for the rest of your lives. So, don’t string someone along, stab them in the back, or leave them with a ton of loose ends to clean up alone. Karma can be a killer! 4. Endings are natural. In this era of BFFs, it’s not always politically correct to acknowledge, but it’s true: most friendships have a shelf life. Just because you’re not destined to be toasting each other on your 80th birthdays doesn’t mean you friendship is flawed or lacking. Friendships, at their essence, are the connections of two people at one point in time. As lives change, friendships wax and wane.  Don’t beat yourself up or feel overly guilty for a natural drifting apart. 5. Don't torch the Earth. That said, you never know what the future might bring. From potentially becoming nursing home roommates to someday becoming close with a mutual friend, your ex-best friend may continue to play a role in your life, indirectly, for decades. Don’t do anything that will come back to nauseate you if your paths should cross again.

How To Raise A Teenager Without Losing Your Mind

Most parents do not relish parenting teenagers. Teaching them to drive is terrifying. Catching them drinking - and puking - for the first time is appalling.  The horrors of teenage sexuality.  The surliness, the lying, the sleeping until 3 pm…Dealing with teenagers is a grind, a bore, something to be SURVIVED.But I love being a parent to teenagers, as I recently told Michel Martin on NPR’s Tell Me More. There was a parenting roundtable discussion about Dr. Daniel Seigel’s terrific new book, Brainstorm: An Inside-Out Guide to The Emerging Adolescent Mind, Ages 12 to 24.Sure, parenting teenagers is tough. It’s the F**K-You-Now-Tuck-Me-In phase. Constant emotional whiplash. Hold me close, now get away.But I loved being a teenager. Luckily, as a 13 year old, I ended up at a summer camp in Pennsylvania called Longacre Leadership. Six idealistic high school teachers bought a 350-acre farm in the mid-1970s and turned it into a haven for teenagers to learn leadership, community responsibility, communication skills, and how to drive a tractor, pick tomatoes, and milk a goat. I went there for five years, including three as a counselor, and my kids spend the summers there today. The Farm celebrates teenagers, and all the chaos that goes along with their need for experimentation, rebellion, and adult guidance. Longacre Leadership formed me as a teenager and helped me see what a magical, powerful time adolescence is in a kid's -- and a parent's -- life.This particular parenting phase is fascinating.  Teenagers need adults just as much as toddlers do.  But at the same time, they are constantly -- rudely, emphatically -- pushing us away.  Teens crave their parents' love, approval and attention.But paradoxically, they do not want us to understand them. The teen battle cry is "You just don’t understand me." What they are really saying is: I don't WANT you to understand me. Teens need to separate from parents and be different.  They want adult respect and advice -- but not necessarily from us.The solution here is not to shift away or to turn a blind eye to teenagers’ rebelliousness, secrecy, short-sightedness and stupidity. Part of the answer is to let other adults into their lives. My 15-year-old recently decided to go to boarding school to get a heavy dose of other adults, and to distance herself from us. That’s not rejection – it’s independence.  Ditto for sleep away camp, a church youth group, spending the summer with Grandma or a favorite aunt, working part-time or for the entire summer, and developing friendships with favorite teachers. Other-adult relationships are essential for teenagers.How can this be? Why don’t they want US?  Just a nanosecond ago, we were their heroes. The leg they clung to the first day of school. The person they woke at midnight after a bad dream. And now…our kids hate us?This is a good time to remember time-outs are not just for five-year-olds.  Adults need time-outs too.  Give yourself a break when your teenagers exasperate you.  Fake maturity and wisdom…even if inside you are seething.For instance: a recent conversation with my 17-year-old son.Mom: So, you going to the Winter Formal this Saturday?Son: Maybe.Mom: Are you taking someone?Son: Yep.Mom: A girl? Son: Yes. Mom: And her name is? Son: Mom. I don’t want you to know who I'm taking to the Winter Formal. I don’t want you Googling her name.  I just don’t see why you need to know.  Mom: Um, ‘cause I am your mother? Son: ........Mom: Okay...Can I ask you a generic, hypothetical question instead? Do you like sporty girls?  Pretty girls?  Smart girls? I am just curious because I have known you for your whole life and I’d like to see how you've turned out.Son: Mom, this is what you don’t get. I don't want you to know the names of girls I like. I don’t want you to understand what kind of girls I like.  I don’t even want you to know that I like girls.  So stop.  He was laughing by this point, so I stopped interrogating him. And I started laughing, too.  Sometimes, that is the best you can hope for with your teenager. And it is actually totally, utterly, awesomely priceless.

An Open Letter To Men Who "Trade In" For Younger Wives

Dear Men in My Life:Now that we have gotten to 50ish, many of you, after divorce, are dating or remarrying younger women. I am so happy you are happy in your life with your younger honey, who is quite lovely by the way. You deserve happiness.I don't want to offend, hurt, or antagonize you.But I do feel compelled to reflect upon your regular jests that the solution to marital woes lies in "acquiring a younger wife," much as one might purchase a new Porsche Carrera.First of all, I know when you quip about the joys of a younger woman, you are joking, teasing, making light of our middle age dilemmas, our hopes, dreams, failures and frustrations.  In a kind-hearted, well-intentioned, light-hearted, typically nice guy way. Maybe other men chuckle knowingly when they hear your little jokes.  Maybe some women do too. I don't. I cringe. Joking about the merits of younger wives is….well, “eew” is all I can really say. I can’t imagine joking publicly about my lust for younger men - and not because I don’t understand the draw of someone with fewer age spots than I have. Rather, I keep quiet because I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings, or perpetuate the stereotype that younger is always better than older.  Especially since you and I and most of our friends fall into the “older” category ourselves these days.There are millions of women in the world, and perhaps even a few in our small group of friends and colleagues, who have struggled mightily with our self-worth, particularly as we age. Wonderful women whose lives and families have been pummeled by husbands and fathers they trusted who left wives for younger women.  There are millions of beautiful, generous spirited women who will never ever look young again no matter what they do. Women who have survived cancer, seen their bodies changed by pregnancy and childbirth, desperate women who have spent too much money, time and effort on plastic surgery, makeup, diets, compulsive exercise....all in hopes of looking younger and keeping a great man just like you.And men who have thrown away terrific women and families because they thought an answer to life's problems lay in a younger woman.I also feel like, wow: how does a younger wife feel when she hears a joke like that? Is her main value her youth, her age?  Hopefully not...hopefully love has nothing to do with birthdays or wrinkles or lack of them.  But how is a younger wife going to feel about inevitably getting older, knowing that her man values youth in a woman so mightily? Studying gender roles has become an enormous part of my professional life and my daily in-the-shower thought thread. Social language and casual comments among friend groups particularly intrigue me.  Drilling down, I am fascinated by the insidious power of a so-called "slug-in-a-tuxedo" (a comment dressed up as a joke or compliment, but one that intentionally or unintentionally reinforces an insecurity or stereotype). The stereotype that a younger woman is more valuable than an older one...that women should aspire to look and act younger...that most men prefer younger women...that a younger woman can cure a man's depression and low self-esteem and rejuvenate him...that acquiring a woman is on par with buying a sports car...that one can even "acquire" a woman period...it's all destructive and worthless. And in my experience, rarely true of either men or women. It goes without saying that stereotypes hurt everyone, and that they are particularly hard to recognize and combat when couched as harmless jokes.  Because then the people who object are made to feel like the jerks, the kill-joys, the angry black men, the ball-busting feminazis.  Which is kind of what I feel like right now, writing this.What's weird is that you already know all this.  Don't you?I expect (and can shrug off) obnoxious comments from jerks. But I have found that the most hurtful off-hand comments come from men like you, men I respect and adore, kind, gentle, wonderful guys who would never intentionally hurt any woman's feelings.  Racist/sexist/whatever-ist comments from guys like you hurt even more, because they make me realize how deeply ingrained the stereotypes are. Whew.  Feel like you are gonna want to kill me for piping up.  I am not attacking you. Having known you well for years, I believe in your kindness and sensitivity as much as I've ever believed in anything.  Which is, ironically, why your words hurt. Please try to consider this a dialogue, not a criticism.  I have great respect for you, your big hearts, your communication skills, your loyalty...which may be why I am gobsmacked by your barbs, and find myself wondering what the heck you are thinking when you make them. 

6 Parenting Mistakes You're Probably, Definitely Going To Make

Note: If you’re a perfect mom, then this article is not for you. For the rest of us, a perfect-mom-o-meter is likely nowhere to be found.Let’s be real: As moms, we mess up. And for some, it’s quite a lot. It’s like motherhood is a roller-coaster: we ride the ups and downs with elegance and humor. But then there’s those times when we forget our seat-belts and… fall off. It can be an ugly fall - one in which we’re splattered on the floor, only to look up and see our children staring at us with a not-so-happy expression. We note that expression, and it’s then we painfully realize we made a mistake in motherhood. A mommy mishap.1. You forget School Picture Day.Even with a ton of school reminders, some of us still forget. Like me, for example. Two years in a row, actually. One year my younger son wore a shirt with the following words displayed in a big font: My Aunt is my favorite. The next year on Picture Day, he wore a bright-colored tee that read: This shirt is my Halloween costume. To date, these are some of my most favorite pictures. Life can be funny like that - and you just have to laugh.[Read "Tips for Avoiding School Picture Day Disasters"] 2. The Tooth Fairy can be just as forgetful as you.This is not a fun mishap. In fact, panic sets in when the Tooth Fairy forgets to retrieve the tooth waiting patiently under your child’s pillow. This is your opportunity to get creative while problem-solving. I should know. Imagine my child’s joy when minutes after he discovered that his tooth was still under the pillow, there was a small treat outside his door. Apparently, the Tooth Fairy collects only some teeth, but gives rewards for all of them. Who knew? 3. You sneak your child’s Halloween candy… and they notice.  There should be a survey done someday about what happens to Halloween candy after children collect it. Do they eventually eat it all? Or, do they pick out their favorites and then toss the rest? At our house, I let my children select one candy from their bag each day. And so, as the duration of the candy bag is extended for weeks at a time, sometimes I just cannot resist the urge to sneak a Snickers® bar from the huge candy collection. Of course, I don’t know my son has counted ahead of time how many Snickers there are in his bag - and is keeping track. Note to self for next year. The dark chocolate Hershey bars might be less noticeable.Ed. note: The Halloween prank these parents played on their kids makes swiping a few pieces of candy look like a much more forgivable offense :) 4. You accidentally embarrass your children. Did you know that mothers can embarrass their children, without even knowing? I notice this almost on a daily basis. Whenever I see a mommy lick her finger, for example, and then use it to scrub her son’s face, I doubt that the child is thinking, “Wow, I’m so grateful my mother is washing my face.”  5. You’re way too eloquent. Or not. Although we’re super moms, we’re also human. And that means sometimes we say things we don’t intend - or that are misinterpreted by our little ones. Case in point: I was talking with a friend on the phone, and she mentioned she was getting married. “SHUT UP, are you serious?!” I blissfully yelled, with my younger son in the room. Little did I know that a couple of days later, he would announce to people that his mother says the “S-H” word. I’m pretty sure those people are referencing a different word. 6. You misinterpret their treasure for your trash. Children are creative. In fact, they’re so creative that sometimes you don’t recognize it. Take, for example, a whole bunch of blankets piled in the middle of your child’s room. Little did you know that it only looked like disorganized laundry, when in fact it was a blanket fort meticulously built by little ambitious hands - a fort that you apparently destroyed and sacrificed to the washing machine. Or, how about the seemingly random scraps of paper you nonchalantly threw away, only to later learn from your tearful young artist that those “scraps” were really works of art just waiting to be admired by a deserving and appreciative audience. Apparently, you’re not a part of that audience. Despite our mishaps, it’s important to remember that our faults help make us human. It’s not so bad that your children know you’re not perfect; in fact, they might just be able to relate to you better - especially when they grow up and have kids of their own. 

5 Simple Health Improvements You Can Make This Year

If you feel like your New Year’s resolution to get healthier has started to fall by the wayside but you still want to improve your lifestyle, don’t worry!We have some easy tips to help you jump-start your commitment to a better you. Best of all, they're totally doable, no matter how crazy the kids' schedules (or yours!) get. 1. Follow Our Red, Green and Orange RuleAt each of your meals, include either a red, green or orange fruit or vegetable.   You’ll focus on what you should be eating rather than what you should stay away from and you’ll fill up on nutrient, antioxidant and fiber-rich foods that are low in calories to keep you lean and healthy.  2. Swap Out The Processed CarbsReplace heavier, processed carbohydrates for quality ones like sweet potato, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, beans and oatmeal. As we explain in our newly released book, The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipe for Health, Energy and Beauty, these foods are fiber and and nutrient-packed sources of long lasting energy so your brain and muscles will be fueled appropriately to help stave of cravings and squash hunger. As an added bonus, each of the vegetables have their own specific health and beauty-related benefits, such as  beating bloat, fighting stress, improving skin tone and fighting cancer, etc.3. Sneak In ExerciseIf it feels like too much of a task to get to the gym each day, sneak in exercise wherever you can. Take stairs instead of the elevator at work or push your kids on the swings for an arm workout. Even if you walk around the neighborhood for 15 minutes, it counts. Just get moving!4. Don't Blow Calories On SweetenersUse zero-calorie sweeteners like Truvia® natural sweetener* in your coffee, tea, oatmeal and yogurt to cut calories.  Calories sneak up everywhere and any time you can save calories will benefit your waistline and ultimately your health! If you save 100 calories a day that equals a 10-pound weight loss over the course of the year!5. Shut Off Your Electronics 30 Minutes Before Bedtime  Computers, TVs, phones, IPads - they all stimulate your mind and disrupt sleep. Interrupted sleep and sleep deprivation slows your metabolism and negatively affects your immune system.  Have you made any lifestyle changes this year? Share them in the comments section below!* The Nutrition Twins work with Truvia to help people to enjoy delicious, sweet food without extra calories and without artificial sweeteners.

Is It Ok To Let Our Kids Settle For "Good Enough"?

When it comes to my kids, one of the things that stresses me out is this whole idea of “specializing.”Since my daughter was four or five, I've watched as many of her friends have streamlined their focus on piano or guitar, on club soccer or volleyball teams, on ice skating or acting or singing or swimming or tennis or dance.  The stakes seem to get really high really fast  - weekend tournaments in Las Vegas or Sacramento, private coaches before and after school, auditions for TV shows or equity theater groups, lessons or practices five or six days a week.  It culminated a few weeks ago – for me, anyway – with a New York Times article titled Committing to Play for a College, Then Starting 9th Grade, which detailed how women’s soccer coaches are recruiting girls as young as thirteen to play for their universities.  It seems like craziness to me…but is it?  Is there even room anymore in our college-obsessed world for kids who like to do lots of things but not do any of them at an elite level?My daughter is a Jill-of-all-trades who never met an activity she didn't love.  She’s been playing basketball with a group of friends in our local rec center league since kindergarten, and she has a blast.  Is she good?  Not especially.  She probably could be good if she worked at it for three hours every day, but she doesn't love it enough to want to do that.  She’s fine with being good enough.  My daughter has also been taking a musical theater class the last few years, which ends each semester with a performance.  They only rehearse once a week, and the shows are super cute, but they’re not jaw-droppingly awesome.  She doesn't want to audition for an actual theater company though, because those rehearsals are every day, and then she wouldn't be able to play basketball, or ice skate, which she also loves to do.  Lots of girls at the rink have multiple coaches and they skate before and after school and go to competitions every weekend.  My daughter enjoys skating and she likes getting better, but committing to skating at a competitive level would require her to give up theater and basketball, and she just doesn't love it that much.  She’s perfectly happy taking years to learn what other girls – girls who practice every day – achieve in three monthsIs that bad?  I don’t know.  Some kids, I think, are just born with an affinity for a certain sport or instrument, and they love it so much that there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing.  Some kids, though, take forever to find their thing, or never even find it at all.  I didn't specialize in anything when I was a kid.  I liked reading and writing, but those couldn't be translated into an extracurricular activity.  I was thirty before I realized that writing was the one thing I was passionate about, and I’d already gone to college and law school and had two different careers by then.  But I don’t think I ever would have come to that realization if I had put all of my energy into one activity when I was younger.  If I had played say, lacrosse, or softball, or become a concert pianist, I might never have spent so much of my time reading, and if I hadn't read so much, I can most certainly say that I wouldn't ever have been inspired to write, or even have known how to structure a novel.  My husband, on the other hand, knew in seventh grade that baseball was his path, and he played on all-star teams and traveling teams and even played in college.  He’s not complaining – he loves baseball and still plays in a hardball league – but who knows what else he might really enjoy as an adult if he’d had the time to explore other things when he was younger?The problem, I think, is that so many of us – myself included – tend to focus so much on outcomes.We want our kids to get into great colleges, and we keep hearing about this kid who got into Stanford because he plays the trombone, or that kid who got into Harvard because she runs cross country.  It’s hard not to be blinded by those kinds of stories, because you never hear about the kid who ice-skated just for fun, or who was in just-okay performances, getting into Yale.  When a kid loves something, and is good at it, it’s easy to just keep letting them go to higher and higher levels.  And if it will help them get into college, then why would you stop them? And yet, for those of us with kids who don’t love something, or who aren't naturally gifted at something, it’s troubling, especially as they begin to move into the middle school years, when everyone else seems to have settled on a “thing.”  Sometimes, when my neuroticism gets the better of me, I think that maybe I should just make my daughter pick ice skating or theater or basketball, and let that be her thing.  And sometimes, when I’m in a more rational mood, I feel like I should just let her keep exploring, and hope that, as she gets older, she’ll find the thing she loves to do above all else.  But as we all know, it’s hard not to compare your kid to others, and it’s even harder to not get caught up in the anxiety of what everyone else is doing.  But then I remind myself of what I used to tell parents years ago, when I worked as a college counselor:  It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.  And the truth is, if colleges were to suddenly declare that that none of it mattered, then I wonder how many of us would still schlep our kids out to Vegas for weekend tournaments, or get up at five am to take them to pre-school workouts.  And so, as hard as it is, I think I need to take my own advice.  I need to stop worrying about outcomes, let my daughter enjoy her journey, and have faith that she’ll still get to where ever it is she’s meant to go. 

New Tra-Dish: Kid-Friendly Chicken Parmesan Fingers

The following post is sponsored by Ragú® Put a fun new spin on a classic recipe and make a New Tra-Dish! This week, Sweeties Freebies came up with a twist on Chicken Parmesan that's perfect for picky kids. Chicken Parmesan Fingers!!Check out her dinner idea below:Spaghetti is a frequent visitor to dinner at our house. It’s something the whole family will eat and it’s simple to make. Pasta Sauce can be used for so much more than spaghetti so I decided to play around. Ragú is one of our favorite pasta sauces - it's affordable and flavorful so it’s a win-win for the wallet and the belly. Plus, did you know that each jar of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce is packed with 11 juicy tomatoes?! No wonder it has a richer, thicker, and better taste than other sauces! I started with the classic Ragú recipe for Chicken Parmesan and decided to give it an easy and kid-focused spin. I have two ways for you to prepare Kid-Friendly Chicken Parmesan Fingers - both recipes require four ingredients or less and can be thrown together in under 20 minutes! Option 1: Kid-Friendly Chicken Parmesan FingersIngredients1 Jar of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce 1 Cup of Mozzarella CheeseFrozen Chicken FingersDirectionsBake Chicken Fingers as directed on package.Heat Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce in a saucepan.Remove Chicken Fingers and top with Mozzarella Cheese until melted.Serve with Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce for dipping.Option 2: Mini Chicken Parmesan SandwichesIngredients1 Jar of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce 1 Cup of Mozzarella CheeseFrozen Chicken FingersDinner RollsDirectionsBake Chicken Fingers as directed on packageHeat Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce in a saucepanCut dinner rolls in half and heat if you would likeRemove Chicken Fingers and top with Mozzarella Cheese until meltedPlace 3 Chicken Fingers on each dinner rollTop with Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional SauceReplace top half of dinner roll to make sandwichWant more easy recipes that your family will love? Check out Ragú on Facebook for tons of New Tra-Dish ideas!Follow ModernMom's board Ragú NewTraDish Family Recipes on Pinterest. 

How To Raise A Teenager Without Losing Your Mind

Most parents do not relish parenting teenagers. Teaching them to drive is terrifying. Catching them drinking - and puking - for the first time is appalling.  The horrors of teenage sexuality.  The surliness, the lying, the sleeping until 3 pm…Dealing with teenagers is a grind, a bore, something to be SURVIVED.But I love being a parent to teenagers, as I recently told Michel Martin on NPR’s Tell Me More. There was a parenting roundtable discussion about Dr. Daniel Seigel’s terrific new book, Brainstorm: An Inside-Out Guide to The Emerging Adolescent Mind, Ages 12 to 24.Sure, parenting teenagers is tough. It’s the F**K-You-Now-Tuck-Me-In phase. Constant emotional whiplash. Hold me close, now get away.But I loved being a teenager. Luckily, as a 13 year old, I ended up at a summer camp in Pennsylvania called Longacre Leadership. Six idealistic high school teachers bought a 350-acre farm in the mid-1970s and turned it into a haven for teenagers to learn leadership, community responsibility, communication skills, and how to drive a tractor, pick tomatoes, and milk a goat. I went there for five years, including three as a counselor, and my kids spend the summers there today. The Farm celebrates teenagers, and all the chaos that goes along with their need for experimentation, rebellion, and adult guidance. Longacre Leadership formed me as a teenager and helped me see what a magical, powerful time adolescence is in a kid's -- and a parent's -- life.This particular parenting phase is fascinating.  Teenagers need adults just as much as toddlers do.  But at the same time, they are constantly -- rudely, emphatically -- pushing us away.  Teens crave their parents' love, approval and attention.But paradoxically, they do not want us to understand them. The teen battle cry is "You just don’t understand me." What they are really saying is: I don't WANT you to understand me. Teens need to separate from parents and be different.  They want adult respect and advice -- but not necessarily from us.The solution here is not to shift away or to turn a blind eye to teenagers’ rebelliousness, secrecy, short-sightedness and stupidity. Part of the answer is to let other adults into their lives. My 15-year-old recently decided to go to boarding school to get a heavy dose of other adults, and to distance herself from us. That’s not rejection – it’s independence.  Ditto for sleep away camp, a church youth group, spending the summer with Grandma or a favorite aunt, working part-time or for the entire summer, and developing friendships with favorite teachers. Other-adult relationships are essential for teenagers.How can this be? Why don’t they want US?  Just a nanosecond ago, we were their heroes. The leg they clung to the first day of school. The person they woke at midnight after a bad dream. And now…our kids hate us?This is a good time to remember time-outs are not just for five-year-olds.  Adults need time-outs too.  Give yourself a break when your teenagers exasperate you.  Fake maturity and wisdom…even if inside you are seething.For instance: a recent conversation with my 17-year-old son.Mom: So, you going to the Winter Formal this Saturday?Son: Maybe.Mom: Are you taking someone?Son: Yep.Mom: A girl? Son: Yes. Mom: And her name is? Son: Mom. I don’t want you to know who I'm taking to the Winter Formal. I don’t want you Googling her name.  I just don’t see why you need to know.  Mom: Um, ‘cause I am your mother? Son: ........Mom: Okay...Can I ask you a generic, hypothetical question instead? Do you like sporty girls?  Pretty girls?  Smart girls? I am just curious because I have known you for your whole life and I’d like to see how you've turned out.Son: Mom, this is what you don’t get. I don't want you to know the names of girls I like. I don’t want you to understand what kind of girls I like.  I don’t even want you to know that I like girls.  So stop.  He was laughing by this point, so I stopped interrogating him. And I started laughing, too.  Sometimes, that is the best you can hope for with your teenager. And it is actually totally, utterly, awesomely priceless.

When Snow Days Seem Like Evil Plots To Ruin Your Sanity...

Only a few weeks into 2014, East Coast moms have had a few too many snow days already. Isn't it funny how snow days change based on your kids’ ages?My friends with children under 12 dread snow days and take them as personal affronts. Last Tuesday morning, with every school in Washington closed before a single snowflake fell, my phone and Facebook were burning up with messages from moms of young kids.  “Nooooooo!  Not another day off school! Calgon take me away!”There was one mother who accused the school principal of personally targeting her sanity.I know how they feel.Snow days are evil, especially for a single working mom - or a happily married working mom whose husband sneaks out of the house before dawn on snow days.Sure, the snow is magical.  For the first ten minutes.But then it sinks in: all the critical meetings you’re going to miss at work…or the painstakingly scheduled volunteer commitments, or your slot at Zumba class…Sure you can go, if  you take little Timmy and Susie with you…so professional.Back in the day, I’d be sweating before I put on my own coat - from deep knee bends to stuff my toddlers’ limbs into the adorable-diabolical miniature boots, snow pants, gloves, jacket, hat.  Then blam - I was out in the freezing cold with snow down my socks, seeing tiny red fingers and runny noses everywhere I looked.  My kids would complain about how so-and-so put snow down his pants. Their feet got cold.  They wanted hot chocolate.  Back home, my formerly-clean house would get instantly redecorated with dirty snow boots, soaking snow pants, smelly socks drying on my radiator, and the kids whining that now they were bored.And forget sending them to the park with a sled while I got a few work calls made.  The uber-responsible moms at the park might decide to call Child Protective Services on me.But ahh, snow days now that my kids are teenagers?  Heaven.That same lovely man who used to sneak out to work before the kids and I discovered school was cancelled?  He still has to sneak out to work…before we wake up.  Somewhere along the way, I figured out working at home, for myself, met my family’s needs much better than working for a company that didn't seem to care about my attempt to “balance” working and raising three kids.  My husband faced no such epiphany.  So now, snow days mean Mom and kids sleep til noon.  Then we watch movies.  And not Snow Dogs or Bambi.  We watch Blood Diamond and Prison Break and Homeland.  We make popcorn and cookies and they clean up.  My daughters do my nails and hair.  We build a roaring fire - without me worrying the kids might run headfirst into the fireplace.The kids go to the park to sled for hours - without me.  From the fireside, I can watch my 16-year-old and his friends playing snow-football in my yard. If I want, I can take the dog for a snowy walk in the woods without lending one of my kids my mittens, or wrenching my shoulder pulling a heavy rope attached to all three of them lying on a piece of plastic, or wiping a single runny nose.  Imagine – today I have choices about how I spend my time. And when the kids get back from their adventures, they clean up their own wet junk, because they have been trained. Ahh, the peace and quiet of a winter world! I love snow days now.  They have come to mean precious unstructured stretches of time alone with my kids. And time with myself.  Everything a good snow day should be.So moms, just wait a few years.  Take a good long look at how adorable your kids look in snow boots and crazy snow hats.  Get through the hellish drudgery of the early snow days. Before we know it, there will be no more kids at home at all on snow days.  One day there will be no snow days at all. Because by then we will have all moved to Florida.Alone. 

Start Your Spring Cleaning Early!

With spring on the horizon, it's natural to revisit, revise, and resolve to spruce things up in the coming months. Similar to "resolutions," the choices we make each spring are really goals, and working towards and achieving our goals is a sure way to feeling accomplished and fulfilled. Whether you're looking to reinvent your life or just make a few small but important tweaks, here are some starter ideas to help you make your own "decorating resolutions" - and design the coming months to be your best yet: Start with a clean slateThe most economical way to make any home look brighter and better is to clear out what's no longer necessary. Take a weekend to tackle the home office, attic, basement, or crammed closet. Non-profits like the amazing Dress for Success accept gently used clothes to help struggling men and women feel confident when going on interviews. Freshen up the bathroomThe space that could function as your own private spa so often languishes as a home for neglected neglected lotions and potions. Review your medicine cabinet and toss any outdated medications, half-used bottles of skin treatments and years-old cosmetics, many of which lose their effectiveness after prolonged sitting. Once you've cleaned these out, consider freshening up your bathroom with a monogrammed bathmat, new hand towels, or scented candles. Bring the outside inTreat yourself to some fresh flowers, even if only on special occasions. A simple orchid in the guest bath or new potted plants grouped near patio doors introduce natural elements to your home and add a fresh, organic touch to your surroundings. Think little luxuries - with big impactSmall changes can make a big difference. A sofa is one of your biggest decorating investments, but you don’t have to buy a new one to bring up the tone. Instead, new throw pillows can give your sofa a fresh look, without a big price tag. A luxurious throw can make that old, cozy club chair your favorite new reading place. Curate your personal libraryMany people are switching to e-books for new book purchases. All the more reason to tend to your existing library. Decide on a system that works for you, be it grouping books by size, subject matter, or style. A stack of handsome coffee table books, magazines or periodicals next to a favorite reading spot is informal and inviting. Consider donating those texts that don’t inspire you anymore to a local nursing home or hospice. Picture your loved onesDigital cameras have us printing photos less - but they then often go unseen by visiting family and friends. Pick stand-out shots from the last few years, have them professionally printed, and group together those with a common thread in similar frames. Less is more, so choose only your favorites - and spread them throughout your home. Set down an anchorAnchor and define common living areas with large rugs in durable fabrics like seagrass, wovens, and durable sisal, over which you can layer smaller rugs. In doing so, you help guide the eye to gathering spaces in your home. Send the "orphans" packingWe've all got beloved "orphans" - the last remaining items of what once were stemware, silver, or china sets. Donate these items and start fresh with a new pattern - or, if you're still in love with a style, hunt down pieces to complete the set by scouring eBay or finding online companies that replace pieces of retired china patterns. Design the rest of your yearAs mentioned before, resolutions are really goals - and goals are worth pursuing year-round. So plot out your design goals for the entire year. With the inspirations you've torn from magazines - both from past issues and things you see throughout the year - start your own design notebook with patterns, objects, colors, and rooms that catch your eye. Tackle projects one-by-one - not all at once. Start smallMost importantly, start with a manageable mission. Repainting a bathroom or just getting your home office space clutter-free will give you a sense of accomplishment - and that feeling will inspire you to keep achieving your design resolutions at the speed that's right for you. Want more great cleaning tips? Join us for a Twitter Party with Zep Commercial on Wednesday, Feb. 19th at 10 am PST / 1 pm EST for the chance to win cool prizes! Get all the details and RSVP for the party here. 

Brooke Burke's Homemade Hummus

There's hummus among us! Try out this great homemade recipe for hummus without any of the additives or preservatives that you'll get in store-bought dips. It's easy and delicious! Ingredients: 1 can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed 1/4 cup of olive oil 1 heaping tbsp of tahini 1/4 tsp of salt juice of 1 lemon 1 tbsp water 1-2 clove(s) of garlic, depending on your tolerance! Directions: Combine all of your ingredients in a blender or food processor. Whirl it all together until you have a creamy paste. Serve with baked whole wheat pita chips, or alongside sliced jicama, carrots, and celery. Check out more cooking videos on ModernMom's YouTube Channel!

American Childbirth: A Human Rights Failure?

Data from the United Nations shows that between 1990 and 2008, the United States maternal mortality rate nearly doubled, while the overwhelming majority of countries collectively decreased their rates by 34% (Coeytauz et al 2011). We have a right to criticize the shameful state of American maternal care when more money is spent on childbirth than any of other area of hospitalization - $86 billion dollars a year; and with what Coeytauz et al deemed “a shockingly poor return on investment and human rights failure” (Coeytauz et al 2011, Andrews 2007, WHO 2010, Save the Children 2013). Additionally, postpartum care in the United States is notoriously poorly tracked and poorly delivered, with Cheng et al calling postpartum maternal health “a neglected aspect of women’s health care” (Cheng et al 2006). Amnesty International cites the lack of attention to postpartum care as a reason for the high maternal mortality rate in the US and states the neglect is “more than a matter of public health, but a human rights failure” (Amnesty International 2010). Women Deserve Better Birth Most of the women I have met or work with concerning prenatal or postpartum care are fearful of birth. Not just fearful, they are scared to death. And, they have good reason to be. Much of the care provided to women during labor and delivery is based on profit, not the evidence-base. Routine “admission strips” (intermittent fetal monitoring) on women in labor, according to the latest information from the Cochrane database and written by birth advocate Henci Goer, is clear: “According to the best evidence, the admission strip isn’t just ineffective, it’s harmful, and its use should be abandoned.” A recent randomized controlled trial shows that planned cesarean sections for twins are not any safer, yet 75% of twins were delivered by C-section in 2008 as compared to 54% in 1995.   And the list goes on, what about unnecessary inductions and the high rate of single birth C-sections, that all sit in contrast to World Health Organization recommendations? The shameful truth is that America is the least safe developed country to give birth in, with the highest infant and maternal mortality rate and the highest first day death rate for infants (Save the Children 2013).  Effective Maternal Health Care I believe there are three pillars of effective maternal health care, or any health care for that matter. Those three pillars are PSS, or Patient Advocacy, Solution Provision, and Standard Setting. Patient Advocacy:  Education. Mothers should be have the right to autonomous decision-making during the birth process and should be accurately informed of evidence-based options.    Solution Provision:  What will reduce the maternal mortality rate in the US? The State of the World's Mothers and the World Health Organization gives clear recommendations on what can lower mortality rates, including investing in low-tech health care workers, and addressing gender inequality, social support, and public policy issues. Providing de-medicalized, culturally sensitive, individualized care, including closing gaps in postpartum care are also part of the solution. But is the US listening? Currently nothing is being done in the US to overhaul prenatal or postpartum care, since the statistics are continuing to worsen for mothers and babies in the US.     Standard Setter:  What we need is compassionate, proactive, integrative care that follows a biopsyochosocial model (looks at holistic, "whole" person care). Mothers have to search for health care providers who practice using this model.  Empowerment & Advocacy for You As a mother, you have to look for a health care provider who advocates for you and your baby and who also treats you with dignity and respect (which does not always happen now). Women are often scared into medical procedures not condoned by the World Health Organization (like our high C-section rates, episiotomies, or continuous fetal monitoring, all of which are not supported to be a normal part of routine, low-risk birth) with the phrase “you need to do XX, because you would not want to harm (or kill) your baby would you?” Another scenario is a mother who thinks her health care provider (ob/gyn or midwife) supports her birth plan and is practicing evidence-based medicine, only to find out at birth that their provider was never listening.  Those stories are too common, whether mothers were “blamed” for their stalled labor or failure to progress. Yet Evidence-Based Birth blogger Rebecca Dekker Phd, RN, wrote a brilliant post about the antiquated system currently used to diagnose “stalled labor or failure to progress.” The bottom line is health care providers are not using current evidence-based guidelines to attend births. This must change.  It is our right as women and mothers (and future mothers) to educate ourselves about our options for birth. Jessica Bailey, Editor-in-Chief of Natural Mother Magazine is right when she says, "Anyone who discourages you from doing independent research is wrong." Here are some resources on choosing the right birth facility and choosing the right health care provider. Finding the right support and health care provider during pregnancy and birth, and asking for physical therapy after childbirth, are important ways we can turn the American birth human rights failure around. References 1. Garner, G. Excerpt from Yoga as Medicine for Pregnancy. Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute. Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Continuing Education Course Manual. September 2013. 2. Coeytauz F, Bingham D. and Strauss N. Maternal Mortality in the United States: A Human Rights Failure. Contraception 83 (March 2011) 189–193. Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Elsevier. 3. Andrews R. The National Hospital Bill: the most expensive conditions by payer, 2006, in Healthcare cost and utilization project, statistical brief. Health Cost Utilization Proj Stat Brief. 2008;7 4. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development . OECD health data 2010.  5. World Health Organization. Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2008 estimates developed by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank, World Health Organization 2010, Annex 1. 2010. 6. Save The Children, State of the World’s Mothers Report 2013. http://www.savethechildrenweb.org/SOWM-2013/ 7. Cheng CY, Fowles ER, Walker LO. Continuing education module: Postpartum maternal health care in the united states: A critical review. J Perinat Educ. 2006;15(3):34-42. doi: 10.1624/105812406X119002 8. Devane, D., Lalor, J. G., Daly, S., McGuire, W., & Smith, V. (2012). Cardiotocography versus intermittent auscultation of fetal heart on admission to labour ward for assessment of fetal wellbeing. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2, CD005122. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005122.pub4http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22336808 9. Amnesty International . Deadly delivery: the maternal health care crisis in the USA. New York: Amnesty International USA; 2010; http://www.amnestyusa.org/dignity/pdf/DeadlyDelivery.pdf. Last accessed September 9, 2013. 10. Goer H. Does the Hospital “Admission Strip” Conducted on Women in Labor Work as Hoped? Science and Sensibility: A Research Blog about Healthy Pregnancy, Birth, & Beyond. October 3, 2013. http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/?p=7409#.Uk4KmNDkoCA.twitter. Last accessed October 3, 2013.

Daughters In Danger

I have two teenage daughters.  I was a teenage girl myself once.  So anorexia is not a foreign concept to me. Especially because the summer before I went to Harvard, I lost 40 pounds myself. I spent my freshman year gaining the weight back, which was hard enough (think 1,600 classmates watching you change a pants size every month). But the really steep climb to mental health was admitting I had almost killed myself.  Although that was 30 years ago, I will never forget the grip anorexia had on me. So naturally I read with great interest a recent piece on Salon by the mother of a nine-year-old anorexic girl. Yes, nine years old and anorexic. The essay is one of the best windows into parenting an anorexic girl I've ever come across.  Anyone with a young girl under their roof should read it. Here’s a brief excerpt from the nine-year-old’s mother:“Slowly, the pieces fell into place: odd comments over the summer that I had dismissed, thinking if I didn’t make a big deal out of them, they would pass like so many other random fears and concerns that my children had.Questions, such as:“Are my legs fat?”“I feel full.”“Do you think I’m fat?”My response? It was so absurd I laughed and told her if anything she probably didn’t eat enough.I also didn’t pay attention when she lost interest in foods she had once loved. I thought it was just a phase. In her short nine years, my complex daughter had brought up unusual fears and concerns. Usually if I didn’t make a big deal — took it in stride and gave her a little reassurance — it went away.This time, it didn’t.When the scale showed she was only 50 pounds — seven pounds less than she’d been during a visit only a few months before — her pediatrician referred us to a children’s hospital. There, they diagnosed her as malnourished and suffering from an eating disorder."This is what I remember most vividly from being an 18-year-old shrinking to less than 90 pounds: anorexia is a seductive, beguiling affliction, more powerful than either of my parents.  Anorexia is one of those terrible psychological sirens that entice you to destruction while whispering sweet reassurances in your ears.  As I fingered my prominent collarbones, hip bones, and even one day, the outline of my liver, I was adamant that anorexia was my best friend. It was my shield, the solution to the terror I had about growing up, becoming a woman, leaving my family, and embarking on the big bad world of Ivy League competition and independence. At 18, I was old enough to know I would never be the smartest, the prettiest, the fastest runner, the most talented artist, or the most loved girl in the world. So I settled on being the thinnest.  Anorexia gave me round-the-clock, 24/7 solace to my deepest insecurities and fears, normal fears many teenagers experience.  What parent can possibly compete with mainlining that kind of comfort?  Especially parents like mine, who believed in me and knew I had to face my fears, head off to college, jump into adulthood and find my sea legs on my own.So, combining my parent-of-three perspective with my experience as a recovered anorexic myself, here’s my advice:1. Don’t ignore a child who makes negative comments about his or her body.  Use the intimacy of the parent-child relationship to lavish them with compliments and reality checks.  “You have such gorgeous legs,” or “You’re right, you are not as teeny as Sara, but you’re stronger and it’s great to be taller on the basketball court.”  Or whatever.  Compliment them daily.  But careful: don’t trivialize their doubts, or shame them for having them.  Heap self-esteem on them to counter the negative messages they are clearly hearing.2. Don’t hope the problem is a phase that will go away.  Anorexia can be a lifelong scourge, and it is one of the leading killers of women in America.  It is too lethal to dismiss.3. Don’t blame the media; don’t bothering ban magazines or the Kardashians from your home.  Also don’t ever blame yourself.  The blame-game is useless and will distract you from the real problem.4. If you have a child who has lost more than a few pounds, make her gain the weight back first - before sending her to a therapist to figure out why (though critical, that comes much later).  Just like getting an addict off drugs, you need to halt the starvation (and the endorphins losing weight releases in one’s brain) before you can reason with an anorexic.  Use behavior management, restrictions and rewards to get your child back to a physically and mentally healthy weight. Then tackle the “why’s”.5. Find out if there are support groups of girls who are committed to recovering in your area, by calling local hospitals, pediatricians or therapists who specialize in treating eating disorders. Active anorexics encourage each other to lose weight, and they are dangerous.  But actively recovering anorexics may be the only people who truly understand the strange suffering and superiority anorexics experience, and they can offer priceless self-help support.6. Once she’s gained the weight back, then encourage her to figure out how and why this happened to her, and to face the dangers that self-destructiveness brings.  This is the upside of recovering from anorexia:  a new kind of respect and love for yourself and your body, despite or even because of one’s imperfections.

Crazy Delicious Kale Pesto Recipe

The following recipe was originally published on RebelGrain.com. Visit the website for more great ideas and cooking tips!  I love pesto.Pesto, for me, brings back memories of my junior year in Italy. Of friends and laughs and love and long, lingering dinners where we’d hang our legs over the Arno bridge at sunset and dream of the future.Pesto is divine.I don’t often make pesto in the wintertime since basil (the base for traditional italian pesto) isn’t growing like a weed in my garden. So, the other day when a sweet friend told me about making pesto with kale instead of basil, I knew I had to try it… and then: I fell in love.What you'll need:Food processor with the blade attachmentmicroplane (or other fine cheese grater)1 bunch of organic kale (remember: kale is one of the ‘dirty dozen‘, so always buy organic)1 handful organic arugula1/2 cup parmigiano regianno1/4 cup of raw walnuts3 garlic cloves (peeled)olive oil1 lemon (for zest and juice)1 tsp sea salt1 tsp black pepperDirectionsChop off and discard the bottom two inches of your kale bunch, and then rough chop the rest.Place half of the chopped kale into the food processor and chop until fine, like this. hen add in the remaining kale and chop until no large pieces of kale remain, like this.Add in the arugula, walnuts, whole garlic cloves, and parmesan (and yes, it’s okay if there are some larger hunks of the cheese).Re-cover and chop and chop for approximately 8-10 seconds.Next, add in the zest of the lemon (approximately 1 tsp), juice from 1/2 of the lemon, salt, and pepper.Re-cover, and then, with processor ‘on’, slowly drizzle in your olive oil until mixture is smooth and ‘pasty’. And, when you’re all done, it should look like this:Now, what do you do with it? I say: what don’t you do with it! Pesto isn't just for pasta, even though I think that’s how most people think of it. To the contrary, think of pesto like a condiment - something to add a punch of flavor to just about anything. It’s like a cousin to Argentinian chimichurri (check out my special chimichurri recipe here!)You can toss potatoes in it or vegetables in it, like I did with these leftover Brussels sprouts from last night’s dinner, you can toss quinoa in it (which I LOVE to do) and use it as a bed for a perfectly fried egg or you can use it as a dip for raw veggies, like I did for my cherry tomatoes.You can slather it on a piece of toasted, rustic bread with a little turkey and brie, you can add it to soup, or meatballs, or use it as a spread for grilled steak or a hamburger. You can even mix it with a really yummy yogurt to make a perfect yogurt dipping sauce (my recipe is in the full post on RebelGrain.com).The key is this: just make it. Once you taste it, I promise you’ll invent ways to creatively get it into your mouth :)

Yes, I'm Actually Excited for My C-Section

I think C-sections have gotten a bad rap. It's not the real way to have a baby. The recovery sucks. You'll always have a scar. True. True. True. But I don't care. Didn't the first time (a year and a half ago), don't this time (2 weeks away).  My first baby required a last-minute C-section (thanks to her busy little unborn body tangling her neck in the umbilical cord!), so I'm fairly fresh from the experience. Although the experience turned out to be funny, being cut open was of course not fun. The pulling, the stretching, the straining, the healing (and I'm told that I luckily healed pretty quickly). It was painful. It was scary. It was weird. But I got over it, mentally and physically. There was no other choice. The object of the game was to get the baby out of my body safely, and I frankly didn't care the method of operation for which that process entailed. Baby born: Mission accomplished. Once I get past that again this time, the fun begins. What tired mommy (me) doesn't want to stay in the hospital for 4 days? What tired mommy (me) doesn't want the warm, chocolate chip cookies that my hospital offers to patients? What tired mommy (me) doesn't want to lay in bed, be relaxed and ooey-gooey on painkillers and watch idiotic episodes of Jerry Springer with no judgment (except for that one nurse who came in, looked at me sideways and asked "You're watching Jerry Springer?" to which I responded with "No, I just woke up" and promptly turned the channel.) You get my point. I'm especially looking forward to my husband bringing my favorite Italian takeout, drinking the large tubs of juice and 7-Up that I'll be encouraged to sip to stay hydrated (for healing), the friends and relatives that will inevitably - I mean, HOPEFULLY - come to see me and our new baby while I lay in bed with my chic new pink robe especially purchased for this impending mini-vacation of mine. I've even got a brand new fabulously-glitzy traveling bag to pack my essentials for my stay. I'm pretending as though I'm going to a spa. (Truth be told: this is the only way I know how to get through it.) Not to mention, I will be able to use (and abuse?) the phrase "I'm sorry, I can't do laundry/make dinner/load the dishwasher/change our toddler's diaper/vacuum/drive to the grocery store/get up in the middle of the night and a plethora of other things for WEEKS to come because "I've just had a C-section" and I need to heal. And although I'll sport a scar for the rest of my life, my hooha will remain intact. Now let's hope I don't go into labor before my big day and screw everything up. Anyone else with me?

Every Kid Has Their One "Thing"

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she was relaying the struggles that she's had with her daughter and potty training. After a more detailed explanation of everything under the sun that she has tried, she said "You know I get that this is just her ‘thing’, every kid has something that is a challenge and this is hers."I've thought about that a lot recently, and while I haven’t polled every mom I know, I would venture to say that it's probably fairly accurate. Every child goes through something that is difficult to get past and can stress out the parents and the kids as well. My two kids are each going through their own ‘things’ right now and I know I’m totally stressed out about it - which is either an indication that I need to chill out, get a job, or drink more.  Unfortunately the "drinking more" option is out because I’m preggers, which could also be adding to my underlying stress. A job is also out right now because of the aforementioned situation. So I guess that leaves me to just figure out how to chill out about it all. The tough thing about parenting is that you don’t know with certainty, what the long-term ramifications of your actions are going to be, so it's hard to know what line to take.I’ll give you an example: for the past six months my 4-year-old son has refused to participate in classes that he has asked me to sign him up for. We signed up for baseball with a good friend of his, and every week we would go to class and he couldn’t get himself to join in. I tried everything, I tried getting mad, I tried telling him I was disappointed, I tried bribing him and finally I just let him sit and watch and go at his own pace. He wasn’t allowed to sit with me, he had to sit across the gym near where they were playing and I thought it would make him more likely to join. The coaches were great, they’d come over and make him laugh but he still just wouldn't play. Moving on to summer, and he asked if he could take swimming lessons with his friend. My son already knows how to do everything in both Level 1 and Level 2 of the swimming classes that were available. So I intentionally put him in Level 1 to try and help build up his confidence. Again, no dice. He won’t participate. So I’m left wondering if my kid is going to be the only 14-year-old with floaties or will be the one in the hoodie, jeans and sneakers flopped beside the pool in 100 degree weather. Without getting too dramatic about the whole thing, my husband and I don’t want to send the message to our children that it's ok not to participate. We’re both active and my son is too, but its difficult getting him past the anxiety of joining in on something that can seem intimidating to him. I also don’t want to force him to do things that could in the long run make him never want to do them again. So I’m stuck trying to balance between the two, and its not working out well for either one of us right now. At the end of the day, we’re very lucky that this is all I’m concerned about and I know we’re fortunate to be happy and healthy. My kids’ pediatrician keeps reminding me that “this too shall pass” is applicable to nearly all things parenting. So for now I’ll just pour myself another fruit punch in my wine glass and wait until this too, comes to pass.

16 Snow Day Activities To Keep Your Kids From Driving You Crazy

The east coast has been hit with yet another snow storm, which equals parents everywhere slowly losing their minds while trying to entertain cooped up kids.Don't worry, we've got you covered with a few great ideas for snow day activities. Check them out below:1. Make your own paper snowflakes. Here's a tutorial for ones that are so pretty, you'll want to leave them hanging up on the walls.2. Build a blanket fort or pillow mountain.  3. Play beauty salon. Break out the supplies for DIY mani/pedis or try a new hairstyle - we love this braided heart do. Don't forget to hold a fashion shoot!4. Have some eco-friendly fun turning plastic bottle lids into silly and scary Monster Magnets.5. Throw an impromptu dance party with these family-friendly pop songs - you'll burn off your kids' extra energy and get a great workout. Here are some family-friendly pop tunes. 6. Try out this snow cream recipe (just watch out for yellow snow!)7. Homemade playdough is always a big hit with little ones.8. Make Glitter Easter Eggs, so what if you're a little early?9. Turn a milk jug into an elephant hat.10. Have breakfast for dinner and try one of these yummy pancake recipes (there's even one for pancake cupcakes!)11. Put the kids to work and tackle some of the cleaning jobs you'e been putting off. Organize your pantry, your closet or if you're really brave, the whole house.12. Make some last minute Valentines for your child's friends and classmates.13. Break out the board games for some good old fashioned fun.14. Lean in to the cold weather and whip up a batch of "Frozen" Hot Chocolate. 15. Turn old nuts and bolts into funky mother/daughter bracelets.16. Find your inner zen with a family yoga sesh. (Check out some tips for doing yoga with your kids.)Do you have any great ideas to add to this list? Share them in the comments section!

Brooke Burke: Making Something Out Of Nothing

I had a crazy manic mommy day last week, but one of the highlights in all the chaos was chaperoning my daughter's class field trip. A yellow school bus, headed downtown with 40 first-graders and lunch in a Ziploc baggy, woohoo! These experiences are so meaningful to my Rain and eye-opening for me. We went to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles to study habitats. The children were given a ball of clay and a box of weeds and plants.  I observed them for over an hour, creating their individual pieces of art.  I thought about how many toys I have at home to entertain my family - from board games to tech gadgets, art projects and everything in between - and still, it never seems to be enough to satisfy a child.  I've learned that the less they have, the more stimulated they are to play with their things. At the museum, I watched 40 six -years-olds create something from practically nothing…. masterpieces really.  I laughed, thinking about how much money we spend on things to entertain our children when a simple ball of clay and natural accessories could do the trick. Check out these beautiful pieces of art they made, so imaginative, creative and special to them: This weekend, I will spend a day in our garden with my kids, collecting leaves, branches and interesting plants that we can dry out to make a cool family collage. I love character pieces like that and too often I forget how little it takes to create a keepsake.  What I learned from first-graders: the importance of knowing how to make something from nothing… 

20 Fun Facts About Twins

These days, it seems every time you turn around there's another double stroller rolling down the street. Think about it - how many sets of twins do you know? Multiple births are on the rise, and two babies means double the fun but also twice the worry!  Here are some fun and interesting facts about twins:  1. In 1980, one in every 53 babies born in the United States was a twin. By 2009, that number had risen to one in 30, which means that over three decades, the twin birth rate (number of twins per 1,000 births) rose 76%. 2. The chances of having a twin pregnancy is increased by maternal age (30+). 3. There is a "twin gene" - fraternal twining, which is the result of a woman releasing more than one egg at the same time, is genetically predisposed.4. Identical twins are the result of a random split of a single egg and cannot be genetically predisposed. 5.  Male twins will not have twins unless their wives have the ability to produce two eggs. 6. Identical twins share the same DNA but do not have the same fingerprints. 7. About 1 in 250 pregnancies results in identical twins. 8. 22 % percent of twins are left handed, compared to 10% in singletons. 9. Fraternal twin girls have twice the chance of giving birth to twins than singletons. 10. Vanishing twin syndrome- 15-20% percent of all twin pregnancies will miscarry one fetus. 11. Some estimates suggest 1 in 8 people started life as a twin while 1 in 70 actually are a twin. 12. Once you have fraternal twins, you are 3 to 4 times more likely to have another set! 13.  Nigeria has the highest rate of multiple births and more identical twins. 14. China has the lowest rate for multiple births averaging 1 in 300. 15. A study shows vegans are five times less likely to have twins than women who consume diary. 16. For polar bears, twins aren't unusual at all. In fact, they most commonly give birth to twins, and rarely deliver single cubs or triplets. 17. Twins bond in the womb. By examining 3D ultrasound images, a study in Padova, Italy found that fetuses start deliberately interacting at 14 weeks. 18. 40% of twins invent their own language. 19. They tend to be early - over 50% of twins are born before 37 weeks. 20. The average birth weight for a twin is 5lbs, 5 oz. RELATED ARTICLESWhy Are More Women Having Twins?First Signs of Twin PregnancyAre You Ready For Twins? Take This Parenting Test!Twins And Birthday Parties: Do You Have To Invite Both?

15 Famous Love Quotes For Your Valentine

Wondering what to write on that Valentine's Day card for your sweetie? If you're suffering from a touch of writer's block, get inspired by reading some beautiful and beloved love quotes. Here are a few of our favorites: 1. "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery 2. "For you see, each day I love you more. Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow." ~ Rosemonde Gerard 3. "Love doesn't make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile" ~ Franklin P. Jones 4. "The best thing to hold onto in life is each other" ~ Audrey Hepburn 5. "There comes a time in every life, we find the heart we're waiting for." ~ LeAnn Rimes 6. "Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." ~ Robert Heinlein 7. "Brief is life but love is long." ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson 8. "After awhile, you just want to be with the one that makes you laugh.” ~ Sex and the City 9. "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." ~ Aristotle 10. "Love is a promise; love is a souvenir, once given never forgotten, never let it disappear." ~ John Lennon 11. "Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love." ~ Albert Einstein 12. "We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them in mutual weirdness and call it love.” - Unknown 13. "Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable." ~ Wizard of Oz 14. "To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven." ~ Karen Sunde 15. "All that we love deeply becomes a part of us." ~ Helen Keller

Heart-Shaped Apple Pastries [Vegan]

A special note: Valentine’s Day is almost here! One of the best ways to make a day special is to set the mood. It’s all about the feeling in the air. Before we get to today’s special recipe I wanted to let you know I’ll be taking next week off. I’ll be back with a new post February 25. Thank you so much for all the love and support you send our way!  Sending it right back to YOU.Have you ever dreamed of sitting at a quaint Parisian café, eating a delicious pastry and sipping the world’s finest espresso? Life’s a gift and I think you should do just that! Only today you can skip the expense and the long plane ride and create that feeling right at home. Let me show you how!In the thick of winter, we could all use a little cheerfulness to brighten our spirits. The apple pastry recipe I’m delighted to share with you today won’t take you long to make, and doesn't require many ingredients, but it will turn your home into a delightful café for you and your loved ones. There is one more important ingredient not listed below, and that’s music! My recommendation is to turn on the French Café station on Pandora Radio while you’re baking and enjoying. Your ears and taste buds will be delighted. Sending warm, cozy, café vibes your way!Ingredients (yields 18 pastries2 sheets of vegan frozen puff pastry, defrosted2 tsp. vegan butter substitute, melted (I used Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread)2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced very thinly¼ cup cane sugar1 tsp. apple pie spice½ tsp. cinnamonYou will also need:Heart shaped or round cookie cutter, approximately 2 ½ inches across Silpat, or parchment paper for bakingDirections:Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper to prevent sticking.In a small bowl, stir together sugar, apple pie spice and cinnamon, set aside.Unfold defrosted puff pastry sheets into 2 rectangles. Using a cookie cutter, cut each sheet into approximately 9 pastries each.Place pastries onto the baking sheet spaced apart, and brush with melted vegan butter substitute. For heart shaped pastries, place 4 thin apple slices on top, 2 per side of the heart. For round pastries, place three apples slices in a fan shape across the center.Sprinkle each pastry with ¼ - ½ tsp. spiced sugar mixture. Bake pastries until golden brown, approximately 12 - 15 minutes.Cool. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.To Print, Email, or Text recipe click here."Paris is always a good idea."  ~ Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina Fairchild in SabrinaWith love, sweetness, and sips of something hot,Wendy Irenep.s. See you when I return February 25, until then keep warm and smile big!