How Much Time Do You Spend On Your (Facebook) Appearance?

Facebook.Love or hate it.FB Feast or FB Fast.I ran into a long lost pal of mine at Trader Joe’s, a girl that I had been pals with in my teens. We had both been theater geeks in Washington DC together and there we were in the middle of a Los Angeles Trader Joe’s, coffee samples in hand, shooting the proverbial shit.  Even though it had been close to thirty years since we’d seen one another, it didn't feel that way, due in large part to Facebook. I’d seen the pics of Evie and her fabulous life. There were photos of Evie, with countless men, holding her drink at yet another social or work “gathering.”Turns out, Evie’s life is not so fabulous. Nor is mine, for that matter, but you’d never know it from our Facebook pages. Why? Because we both give good Facebook.We both know that Facebook is--THE MUSEUM OF US.  And that’s what Evie and I, chewing on a sample of cranberry crunch granola, were deeply pontificating about.  Not about our professions or our kids. Not about our lovers or husbands. Bloody FACEBOOK.“What you post says a lot about you,” Evie said. “I can’t stand people who don’t know the rules, the etiquette. We don’t want to hear about your bad day with the plumber. Come on!"She’s right. We are the curators. We are the “content specialists” and it is our job to showcase our “heritage” in the best light.  We add flattering photos of ourselves that shave off ten years, the family-friendly pics that display our offspring, the non-offensive posts that won’t offend our base. We brand ourselves. “Marathon Mom” “Nerdy/Witty Writer” “Porn Star Wanna-Be.” But sometimes, just sometimes, there are people who break the rules. Buck the system.  They make snarky comments.  Post political diatribe.  Post overtly sexual pics of themselves. Tag people who don’t want to be bothered.  Cause fights and name drop and reek conversational havoc.  Their candle burns out fast but then they re-emerge, under a new pseudonym. Now they are “Frankenstruedel” or “Joe Shmo” or “FB White.”  When you’re in a “war” with one of these rebels, Facebook can be a very disturbing landscape.“Facebook is like a vacuous lover” Evie continued. “It fills that hole inside you. You post pics of yourself, of your loved ones, then feed off all the adulation. It’s a quick fix. Then you need a cold shower, ‘cause you feel like a WHORE.”That’s one way to look at it.Another way to look at it is that Facebook is like having your own talk show.  As effortless as late night comedy shows make it look, stand-up is a hard gig.  We all have that one Facebook pal who is perpetually witty. Every post they make cracks us up. This is a rare talent and most of us are not up to the task.  KNOW YOUR TALK SHOW.  If you’re more daytime Katie Couric or sassy Wendy Williams, stick to that format. Don’t try to be Craig Ferguson.  The Scottish accent alone will trip you up.My friend was passionate about a few basic Facebook rules:1. “People should not post what they are eating. Please! By the time they post it, they will have chewed, digested and excreted it.  It’s already part of the sewage water!”2. “If you’re going to post only pics of yourself drinking, that’s fine, but know that we’re all going to think of you as still in high school.”  And lastly…3. “Your ‘selfie’ is Exhibit A.  Know your lighting.”Off the record, I admire people who are too busy, too secure and just plain over Facebook.  They have a life.  They already have enough spackle to fill their pot hole. No need to contract out.Okay kids, I gotta run.  It’s been 12.6 minutes since I checked my new profile shot.

The Parent Gossip Train: Do You Ever Talk About Other People's Kids?

“Lainie’s mom said Kira’s shorts are too short and she shouldn’t wear makeup to school.” “Anil’s parents told him he’s lucky both his parents are Indian.  His family feels sorry for Sarah because her dad is African American and her mom is White.” “Jill told me it is too bad you’re Christian and Dad is Jewish.  That’s why I don’t get a bat mitzvah.” “Erin’s mom says Jordan is NEVER welcome in their house again.” Parenting books never prepped me for a child coming home parroting these kind of perplexations.  Parenting books focus on children.  Some of the good ones even specialize in what your kids say and how to respond.  But I don’t have a book for appropriate reactions, in today’s politically correct world, when parents hand down judgments at home in private family discussions that their kids then make very public at school. Especially when the comments are so disparaging of individual children and different families’ values. My first reaction is that these are children, give them a break!  However, I give parents the benefit of the doubt, too.  What happens is somewhat like the old parlor game of Telephone.  I can imagine the conversations around the dinner table.  I can hear the parents’ good intentions: they are just trying to instill their own family values, and sometimes using other families as examples of what NOT to do.  As in: “No, just because Kira wears those shorts doesn’t mean you can. In this family, girls don’t wear bootie shorts or makeup to school.” “Mommy and Daddy’s families pick marriages for each other, Anil.  It matters to us that you marry someone of the same culture and religion.” “Jill, not every one has a bat mitzvah especially if the mom in the family isn’t Jewish.” “This is why you can’t have Jordan over again: good behavior in other people’s houses is an important sign of respect.” And actually, I am one of the offenders in this case.  After a boy sassed me about the radio station playing in my car, fought back when I asked him to buckle his seatbelt, and then broke a large light fixture in my basement (without telling me or apologizing), I criticized him at home, in a moment of pique. It was only later that I realized my daughter quoted me at school, her friends repeated what I’d said on the playground, and feelings got hurt. What are the etiquette rules in this gossipy murk? Tell the teacher?  Jeez, I hope they have better things to do - like teach long division.   Call the parent and say, “My daughter said her friend said that your daughter said she dresses like a slut?”   Stop a mom at the potluck and confess, “I’m so sorry I said that terrible thing about your son’s destroying my rec room and my daughter told all 23 classmates, making everything one hundred times worse?”   Send a mass email: “Please, could everyone stop calling my daughter spoiled because she is the only one in class who has an iPhone?”   The first thing I did was clean up my own backyard.  I’ve come to realize that even my most innocent, cherished parenting wisdom, when broadcast by a 12-year-old in the school cafeteria, can sound catty and sometimes downright prejudiced.  In trying to explain my family values to my kids, by accident I slam others.  Nuff said.  I’ve learned my lesson. No more. But I’m still at a loss on how to curtail other parents, or elucidate to my kids why parents gossiping about their kids’ friends is wrong.  The problem is too subtle.  It’s not bullying, it’s not sexting…it’s just plain old-fashioned sniping. The hardest task is deconstructing what’s going on in ways kids can understand - without appearing to criticize the adult in question.  Adults are authority figures in their lives.  They respect Lainie’s mom. They listen to what she says.  How do I explain that sometimes adults make mistakes too?  Ever try clarifying to a nine-year-old what it means to take something with a grain of salt? “Salt, Mom?  What does that have to do with Jessica wearing a thong?” That’s when you really need one of those parenting books.

This Week In Funny Parenting Tweets

 The week's best parenting humor, in 140 characters or lessMistook my daughter's leggings for my own. I may not be smarter than a 5th grader, but I'm fatter than a 3rd grader.— Nicole Leigh Shaw (@NicoleLeighShaw) February 25, 2014 3 year old calls licorice "sugar ish." 3 year olds should name everything. #SoLiteral— Jill Krause (@babyrabies) February 27, 2014 Daughter, if you ask me to brush Elsa's hair 1 more time I'm going to put her in the freezer & see if the cold really doesn't bother her.— Martinis & Minivans (@martinisandmini) February 25, 2014 Never tell your kids you're in a hurry. They smell fear.— Maggie Knows Best (@BlackCatBettie) February 25, 2014 Just ordered a happy meal at Starbucks in case you're wondering how people operate with out coffee in their life.— Not so Awesome Alex (@Alex_LaVallee) February 22, 2014 2 year old walks out of bathroom with a handful of tampons. Son says to her, "I just want you to know...those are not glow sticks."— BadParentingMoments (@BPMbadassmama) February 23, 2014 Time to go pick up the kids. Or as I like to call it: Who's ready for some loudness?— LetMeStartBySaying (@LetMeStart) February 24, 2014 Eight reasons I hate quinoa - like, it's spelled wrong - but the main reason is that I spent ten years learning how to cook rice.— Vesta Tot (@VestaTot) February 22, 2014 Ahh 18 months, that beautiful age where, "I'm going to set you down for a second" and "I'm abandoning you forever," sound exactly the same.— Paige Kellerman (@PaigeKellerman) February 25, 2014 The universe made up for giving me 2 kids who can’t put anything in their mouths by giving me a dog who puts EVERYTHING in his. Asshole dog.— Tanis Miller (@redneckmommy) February 24, 2014 A Barbie got moldy from the tub, so I pulled off her limbs and put her in bleach. I accidentally taught my toddler how to cover up a murder.— Exploding Unicorn (@XplodingUnicorn) February 23, 2014 If ever there was an argument encouraging car seats on the roof of the car, my kids are making it. Right. Now. #dontmakemehavetopullover— YKIHAYHT (@YKIHAYHT) February 23, 2014 Message from my kitchen floor: Don't ever serve a baby couscous.— Ilana Wiles (@mommyshorts) February 26, 2014 Read last week's Funny Parenting Tweets round-up here.Want more parenting humor? Check out the links below:What Kids Think About Love & MarriageParenting Test: Are You Ready To Have A Baby?Funny Homework Answers From Kids6 Parenting Mistakes You're Probably, Definitely Going To Make

Butternut Squash And Leek Soup

I'm on a soup kick this week... and LOVING it! The cold weather gives me such a craving for some hot, luxurious and delicious soup.  This is a truly light, tasty, guilt-free recipe for Butternut Squash and Leek Soup... it's like nothing you've ever had before! Light on fat, BIG on flavor. Oh, did I mention it's easy too?! The beauty of this soup is you don't have to finely or precisely chop anything. Just throw it all into a pot, boil, blend and eat!   Butternut Squash & Leek Soup Ingredients 1 butternut squash (or you can buy it pre-packaged and cubed during the fall/winter months) 2 stalks of leek, cleaned and roughly chopped  3 or 4 stalks of celery 1/2 yellow or red bell pepper 2 medium potatoes 2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock (I use chicken... but if you want to keep it vegetarian, it's great that way too!) Pinch of salt 1/2 teaspoon white pepper Drizzle of olive oil Directions In a large stock pot, saute the leek, celery and pepper in the olive oil. Roughly chop all of them- truly it doesn't matter how it's chopped, it's all going in the blender anyways! :-) Let them cook down for a few minutes on medium heat until the celery becomes translucent. Add the butternut squash and the potatoes (which are peeled and cubed), the salt and pepper, and then add the stock. You're going to add enough just to cover the vegetables.  Make sure you don't add too too much liquid or your puree will become too watery. Allow the soup to cook uncovered on a medium low boil for 20 minutes. While you could technically just put this all in the blender now and give it a little blend until it's a smooth consistency (and it would be incredible!), here's where the optional ingredients come into play. If you wanted to throw it over the edge just a bit, add a pat of butter and a couple tablespoons of heavy cream to it.  It will be smooth & creamy and oh so good! You could chop up some fresh herbs, dill, cilantro or chervil and sprinkle on top. Maybe a bit of parmegiano regiano cheese... or a dash of hot sauce.YUM!  This is one of my favorite soups that are just all natural and the vegetables really speak for themselves. Plus, here are some of the great health benefits of butternut squash:No offense to my other summer time fave squash, Mr. Zucchini, but butternut squash is also low in fat, super heart-friendly and has a ton of fiber. It's filled with vitamin B6 which is essential for immune and nervous systems and it's chock full of potassium, which is important for your bones. It also has folate, which is the vitamin that doctors recommend for pregnant women because it protects babies against some birth defects and is a boost for heart health!  And just when you thought this little squash couldn’t give any more …well it does!  That gorgeous pale orange color signals it’s best health benefit. That hue is the color of nutrients known as carotenoids and beta carotene, the same found in carrots.  It fights against some cancers, (like breast cancer) and supports healthy lungs in the development of babies. With only a 1 cup serving of this (which if you’re making this soup recipe you’ll get WAY more than that cause you’ll be going back for seconds!), you get the daily serving of vitamin C -a powerhouse antioxidant. So enjoy the season my friends! Stay warm! Eat some soup!RELATED ARTICLESLasagna SoupSoulful Chick'n Noodle Soup [Vegan]Gourmet Grilled Cheese with Tomato SoupBrooke Burke's Lentil Soup 

10 Promises I Make To My Children

Life is a beautiful mess.  It comes at us so fast, at times, we are spun around and lose sight of who we are and what is important.  This is true for parents and children alike - we almost need a map to navigate this ever-changing world.  Yes, there will always be ups and downs, which makes life both challenging and a joyful adventure.  Helping your children learn their centering place, and knowing your own as a parent, are key to growing with your child.  As we all know, perfect parenting doesn't exist, but it sure helps to have a few guideposts to help us on our way.  That’s how I came up with my Parenting Pledge: 10 of the most important aspects of parenting for me, and what I aspire to in becoming the best mom I can be.  :1. I wil guide, not controlControl is for those who are insecure and unsure. If I catch myself trying to control, I will stop, reflect and redirect in an attempt to guide you towards the right decisions.I will always try to let you lead where you are capable and it is appropriate. The sooner you learn to make the right decisions on your own, the more confident and better off we will all be.2. I will discipline, not punishThe original Latin meaning of discipline is “to teach by example.” Punishment means to chastise, get even with, or penalize. In our home discipline is welcome, punishment is not.I will always set you up for success to right your wrong, seeking solutions instead of criticizing.  Kindness, love and compassion will be at the root of all discipline, not anger.3. I will respect your individualityYou are a beautifully unique person with individual interests, feelings, and motivations.  What works for you, may not work for your brother/sister.I will always respect your individuality by listening, paying attention to your cues, and trying to understand your needs and who you are as a person.4. I will laugh with you every day  As Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”Every day, I will find moments to pause, connect, and laugh with you. It doesn’t have to be roaring-out-loud, pee-your-pants laughter.  Some days a simple smile will do.5. I will ignite your imaginationI will encourage your talents, give you opportunities to explore your interests, and discover the beauty of the world around us in as many ways as possible through arts, dance, music, reading, spirituality, math, science, travel.I will encourage your interests, even if they are not mine, because I want you to discover what you love and who you are. 6. I will let you failThis might be one of the most challenging pledges for me, but also one of the most important. As Albert Einstein said, “Someone who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”I want you to be okay with failure. We all fail, but those who succeed in life pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again.I will encourage you to try new things and not coddle you through the process. Learning from failure can teach us more than succeeding the first try. The more you learn, the less afraid you are, the more confident you become, and the greater your chances for success.7. I will be a good role modelYou will learn about growing up by watching me. I will always try to be the best example possible. And that means behaving in a way that is in line with the aspirations I have for you: living a balanced life, staying healthy by eating right and being active, having fun and being responsible.But most importantly, I will love and be kind to myself, and have a positive self-image by accepting myself as I am, strengths and weaknesses, ups and downs. For without love of the self, life can pull you down quite easily.8. We will learn all we can togetherThere is so much to learn in life and it’s a bit daunting to think of all the values that make up a good human being: gratitude, self-control, empathy, love of learning, spirituality, positive thinking, solution-oriented, community-minded, charity and generosity.  I will strive to be present and in the moment each and every day, so that when a teachable moment presents itself, we can enjoy it and learn together.  Inspiration and discovery are all around us; we just have to be present to realize them.9. I will let you know you are #1No matter how busy life and our daily routines become, we will have family time where we stop the world of noise and busyness (cell phones off, TV’s silent) and you will be my #1 priority above anything else.  We will talk, listen, laugh and have fun together, and remember what really matters:  there is nothing more important than you.10. I will make sureyou always feel lovedLast, but certainly not least, I will make you feel loved each and every day. I will say, “I love you” loudly, softly, in whispers and tickles, many times a day.  I will hug you, cuddle and kiss you, look deep in to your eyes and smile with you.  Sorry kiddos, but this is going to last a lifetime, yes, even into your teenage years.  As a mommy, this is already becoming a daily habit - and you know how hard those are to break.  So look forward to it for years to come.     Ciao, Princess Ivana

Why I'm Putting Off Ear Piercing

I discovered yet another parenting “hot button” topic this week. In the past, I’ve been sucked into every controversial parenting topic possible. We’ve all beaten a dead horse talking about our stance on different types of vaccinations, circumcision, breastfeeding - the list goes on and on.And now, the hot topic du jour is ear piercing for kids. It came up in a discussion with a group of moms. They asked my opinion and it turns out - I have one! They wanted to hear it, so, let’s chat about it.I have three daughters who are tweens. None of them have their ears pierced. There has been some mild interest from one or two of them occasionally, but nothing more than that.I must admit - I’m not a fan of ear piercing. And I quickly talked them out of it for a few reasons: 1. I kind of like my kids exactly how they are the day they arrive from my uterus. They just seem so perfect. Mother Nature is good that way. It’s the same reason I don’t circumcise my boys. If my kids want to alter their bodies, they are more than welcome to when they are older. They can have all the tats and piercings they want – on their own dime – when the time comes. 2. I worry about the notion of “beauty”, and wonder if putting holes in their ear lobes sends them the message that it’s OK if it hurts because it makes you “beautiful.”  I also don’t take my daughters for manicures or pedicures. I don’t want them associating being made “beautiful” to be relaxing. I like them to relax by shooting baskets or walking the dog with the neighbourhood kids. Besides, I don’t enjoy getting “pampered” so, for me, it wouldn’t be the mother/daughter bonding thing that I think it is meant to be.  Again, they can have all the spa days they can afford once they’ve paid off their student loans. 3. I have no cultural or religious reasons compelling me to partake in body-altering activities. We have not delved into shaving or waxing yet, so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I honestly don’t care what other people do with their children’s ears, penises or toenails. As always, mama knows best for her own peeps.Has your family gone through the ear-piercing debate? Any conflict between parents on the issue? What age did you do it and how did that work out? 

10 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

The Pregnant Mom's Guide To Eating For TwoIt’s clear that gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy involves eating a healthy and well-balanced diet so that your baby gets all the nutrients he or she needs to grow in a healthy way. Weight GainIn general, you will need to consume up to 300 more calories a day to meet the needs of your growing baby.  Ideally you want to gain about 2 to 4 pounds during your first three months of pregnancy and 1 pound a week for the remainder of your pregnancy.Here are some guidelines for typical weight gain during a singleton pregnancy (one baby!):Underweight women (BMI < 18.5) should gain 28-40 pounds.Normal-weight women (BMI, 18.5-24.9) should gain 25-35 pounds.Overweight women (BMI, 25-29.9) should gain 15-25 pounds.Obese women (BMI, 30 or higher) should gain 11-20 pounds.It's important to talk to your health care provider about how much weight you should gain during pregnancy. A woman of average weight before pregnancy should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women should gain 28-40 pounds while overweight women may need to gain only 15-25 pounds.  Food Choices During pregnancy, choosing the right foods to eat not only affects you but also your unborn baby. Consuming 40% protein, 30% carbohydrates and 30% fats is a perfect balance for a healthy pregnancy diet.  You can use the basic 5 food groups to make certain that you are eating the right types of foods:1. Grains - Bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, and tortilla’s.  Whole grains are the unprocessed grains and best for your health.  Examples include oats, barley, quinoa and brown rice.2. Fruits - Fresh fruits are always best, but canned, frozen, dried and juice is also an option.3. Vegetables - Fresh veggies are best but canned, frozen, dried and juice is also acceptable.4. Proteins - Lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soy, tofu, nuts and seeds.  Shrimp, salmon, catfish and Pollock are safe fish to consume.5. Dairy - Milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.Healthy oils, such as olive oil, and fats are also important to include in a well balanced diet.  Vegetarians need to get their protein from soy milk, tofu and beans.Controlled, healthy and well-balanced eating reduces your risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood pressure of pregnancy (preeclampsia), preterm delivery and cesarean delivery.  It also minimizes the baby’s risk of having a very large baby (macrosomia) and future childhood obesityVitamins and MineralsPrenatal vitamins with folic acid-prevents brain and spinal defects.Vitamin D-helps the baby’s bones and teeth develop.Omega 3 Fish Oil-helpful for brain development.Iron-helps build the blood to supply oxygen to your baby.Calcium-used to build your baby’s bones and teeth.(DR. ROSS DEFY combines the best of a prenatal vitamin with the essence of a multivitamin)What to Eat in Limited AmountsCaffeine - Consuming less than 200mg of caffeine a day is considered a safe amount for a growing baby.  This translates to a 12-ounce cup of coffee or 2 cups of tea a day.Fish - Limit your white (albacore) tuna intake to 6 ounces a week.Sodium - The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting your sodium intake to less than 2,300mg a day.  Read the food labels!Processed, fried, fatty, sugary, and refined grains.What NOT to Eat During Pregnancy1. Fish containing high amounts of mercury - avoid fish that have are higher in mercury such as Shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish.2. Unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized milk, which may contain a bacteria called listeria that can cause miscarriage.3. Soft cheeses such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, Camembert, brie, or blue-veined cheeses unless the label says "made with pasteurized milk."4. Hot dogs, luncheon/deli meats and cold cuts unless they are heated until steaming.5. Refrigerated pate and meats spreads.6. Refrigerated smoked seafood.7. Raw and undercooked shellfish and seafood (sorry no sushi!), beef, pork and poultry.8. Raw eggs - remember, some homemade Caesar dressings, mayonnaise and Hollandaise sauces could be made with raw eggs.Note:9. Unwashed vegetables - according to, veggies need to be washed to avoid potential exposure to toxoplasmosis which can contaminate soil where vegetables are grown.10. Alcohol.These foods should be avoided to decrease the risk of getting a food-borne illness caused by the bacteria Listeriosis.  Listeriosis is 13 times more common to occur in pregnant women causing serious complications to you and your baby. Salmonella and E.Coli are other bacterial infections that can be passed through undercooked meat, poultry and eggs.The first gift you will give your baby is a healthy start to nutrition while in the womb.  The best way to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby is gaining the appropriate amount of weight and eating well-balanced diet.Dr. Ross is the creator of DR. ROSS DEFY, a line of high potency vitamins that combine the best of a prenatal vitamin with the essence of a multivitamin.

Why My Son Wears Pink

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."  - Steve Jobs “What’s wrong with pink?” I said to my husband.  “Are you threatened by our son wearing a pink baseball cap?” “Well, no.  Not until my brother said something, then I thought twice and agreed with him.  Pink is just not a color for boys.  Any other color but pink.  Kids will make fun of him.” “He’s two,” I said.  “Nobody is going to make fun of him.  Alessio picked it out.  He likes it.  What’s wrong with that?” We both knew we were talking about more than a color. “Are you worried our son will be gay?” I finally said.  “Do you actually think wearing pink or blue makes any difference to sexuality?   Besides, so what if our son is gay?” The real thing the pink hat symbolizes is the outdated prejudices in our society.  How will they change, and when?  It depends on us.  Do we simply accept and enable the outmoded thinking, and worse yet, pass it on?  As parents, one of our jobs is to teach our children to honor who they are - exactly who they are.  In teaching tolerance and acceptance, we are contributing to a better world.  It’s a little hat with a big meaning, at least for me.  My dad is gay. My dad is an incredible man.  I seriously couldn’t wish for a better father.  I’m so proud he is my dad.  Granted, I do have concerns for my kids if they are gay - for the discrimination they would face in daily life, and not just as kids, but into adulthood.  This has to change! It’s a touchy subject: How to raise open children in a culture that is often closed to those who are different. The best thing I can do as a parent is encourage confidence and independence in my children, by letting them know they are loved for who they are, not who I want them to be.  Creative expression comes in all colors. Gender exploration is a natural part of growing up.  The princess craze of dressing up pink and frilly extends to little boys, too.   Kids emulate whoever is around them, whether female or male.  It’s totally normal for pre-schoolers to gender bend as princesses, pirates, mommy, daddy - any number of roles. My son’s best friend, Leo, likes to wear his mom’s high heels and jewelry.  At the same time, Leo is all-boy and loves kissing girls. Experts say, let them play.  They are trying on the world around them and what it is like to be in other people’s shoes (literally!).  Parents who are too rigid about gender stereotypes can damage their children’s self-esteem by teaching them to dislike their natural feelings.  Not only that, if your child is going through a phase you would like to discourage, rigidity will often make the phase last longer. Between two and three is the age of anatomy, exploration, and defining just what a boy or girl is.  Sometimes Alessio announces, “I’m a girl.”   At other times, he asserts he’s a boy.  He asks me what I am.  “A girl,” I say.  “And daddy?”  Children this age do not understand gender constancy.  They are able to correctly identify males and females, but are too young to understand that genders (ordinarily) do not change. Alessio and I have long conversations.  I patiently try to answer his questions, though it went a little too far when Alessio asked to see my friend’s boobs! Whether your daughter wants to play football or your son loves bright colors, be proud of your children and support them unconditionally.  Teach them to hear their own voice above the clamor of all the others.  This is the only way to raise healthy, well-rounded kids. Do I really want to teach my son to be afraid of a color?  Alessio still wears the pink hat.  It’s his favorite one. Ciao, Princess Ivana Ivana is a modern princess married to a real Italian prince! Follow the Modern Princess on Facebook and Twitter 2PrincessIvana.  

The Stranger You Know: How to Spot a Child Molester’s Tricks

Do you think you would be able to tell if a sexual predator was using deceptive “grooming techniques” to gain access to your child?  In many instances, the red flags can practically be under our noses. Yet often, parents who learn that their child has been victimized will share the same reaction… “I had no idea… He was so nice… He didn’t look like a molester.”FACT #1 - A predator doesn’t look like the “boogeyman.”If they did, it would be easy to stay away from them. Child molesters are cunning experts at deception. If they weren’t, they’d never get away with their despicable acts.FACT #2 - Molesters are typically NOT strangers. In fact, 90% of the time, they have a relationship with their victims and the family.FACT #3 - They use deliberate tricks and ploys to gain a child’s (or our) trust.That’s their first step. Once they’ve accomplished that, they can proceed with their second step, which is to sexually victimize their target.Who Are They?Relatives, a family friend who spends a lot of time at your home, a married neighbor or co-worker, cousins or older siblings, the ice cream man, that nice old man who lives next door and seems so harmless, the soccer coach or teacher who takes such a special interest in one particular child, above all the others. Someone who works very hard at arranging “alone-time” with your child, making it seem like they’re doing you a favor!What Do Sexual Predators Look For?A vulnerable target - a child in need of some extra attention or affection, or one who seems shy and lacking in confidence, sometimes a child who is more of a loner or in need of friendship or guidance.What Else?An opportunity. For example, at social gatherings, most adults will chat for a few minutes with the kids, and then turn their attention to the other adults for conversation, etc. But if all the grown-ups are in the kitchen, and “Uncle Bob” always prefers to stay in the living room with the kids playing “Twister”, pay attention to that red flag.How Do They Do It?By using the things that kids love as bribes or gifts. Toys, video games, computer gadgets, extravagant gifts. “Mom and Dad can’t afford to get you that new Wii game? Come on over to my place, you can play with it here.” “You’re not allowed to watch a certain TV show at home? You can watch it at my house, with me!” A child molester is an expert at relating to kids, speaking their language, and working very hard at being “one of the gang.”What’s The One Thing That Deters A Child Molester?The fear of being caught. If a molester thinks your child won’t “keep the secret” or sees that you’re a visible parent, involved in your child’s daily life and activities, he will often move on to an easier target – one that will be “safer” for him!DOES THAT MEAN I CAN’T TRUST ANYONE??No one wants to go through life distrustful of everyone. And you don’t have to. But smart parents know that there are certain red flag behaviors that are usually present when someone is “grooming” a child for their own devious purposes. It’s our job to be aware and alert to certain behaviors in those who interact with our kids. If you or your child become aware of the following red flags, do not allow “one-on-one” alone time with that person. By recognizing these tricks early on, we can intercept the grooming process BEFORE it feeds itself into actual molestation.Red Flag Behaviors And Warning Signs1. Someone who repeatedly ignores social, emotional or physical boundaries or limits. 2. Someone who singles out one child as a “special friend”, lavishing them with a lot of extra attention, gifts, flattery – developing an age-inappropriate relationship with that child. 3. Someone who often insists upon or suggests a lot of uninterrupted “alone” time with a child. 4. Someone who refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits. 5. Someone who insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want this physical contact or attention.6. Someone who shares inappropriate personal or private information with a child, that should normally by shared with adults only. 7. Someone who frequently points out sexual images or tells inappropriate, suggestive stories or jokes with children present. 8. Someone who seems overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen, and talks repeatedly about the child's developing body. 9. Someone who appears to be “too good to be true”, frequently offering to baby sit different children for free; taking children on special outings alone; often buying children gifts or giving them money for no apparent reason - especially an adult who does not have children of their own.10. Someone who frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom.  

New Tra-Dish: Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

The following post is sponsored by Ragú®Put a fun spin on a classic recipe and make a New Tra-Dish! Today's dinner idea is a twist on Chicken Parmesan brought to you by The WiC Project blot - and wow does it look delish!Check out her post below:We love eating Italian food – whether it’s a simple spaghetti and meat sauce or a savory ravioli. At the same time, I’m always looking to find ways to mix things up a little – find a fun way to add my own twist to a dish that we eat so frequently, if I didn’t switch it up, it would become “What, again?” But not only that, I like recipes that are easy to follow and – above all things (other than deliciousness) – quick and easy to prepare.Today, I decided to do my own lunch-version of Chicken Parmesan, based on Ragú’s No Frying Chicken Parmesan recipe. My new “Tra-Dish” is the no-fry Chicken Parmesan Sandwich. My new “Tra-Dish” is the no-fry Chicken Parmesan Sandwich. One of the great things about this recipe is that it isn’t complicated and is totally delicious, so everyone in the family will love it.You start off creating your bread mixture by combine the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.Next, dip the chicken thighs (or chicken breasts – we prefer dark meat) into the beaten egg and then coat both sides of the chicken in the crumb mixture. Place the coated chicken in your baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.When the chicken comes out of the oven, top it with Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce. This Ragú sauce is made with 11 juicy tomatoes and is packed with flavor. One of the tricks I learned from Gil was brown sugar. Whenever I cook up any pasta sauce, I add brown sugar for a little mystery oomph. “Brown sugar in pasta sauce???” you ask? Yes. Try it. Love it. I used about half a jar of Ragú and only used 1/8 cup of brown sugar, but if you like saucy chicken parm, then use the whole jar of Ragú and sprinkle 1/4 cup of brown sugar.After sprinkling the chicken with brown sugar, top it with mozzarella cheese and return it to the oven to finish baking.While the chicken is finishing, you can prepare your bread. We’d just picked up a loaf of French bread from the store so I decided to use it to make sandwiches. First, cut the loaf into portions about the width of a piece of chicken. Then cut the pieces in half so you create a top and bottom of the sandwich. I didn’t want to overpower the chicken with bread, so I used my knife to cut out little widgets in the middle of each piece of bread (yes, you can totally eat the pieces of soft bread you cut out.)Finally, put the cooked chicken between the bread, serve with a nice Caesar salad, and you have yourself a delicious No-Fry Chicken Parmesan sandwich that’s perfect for lunch or dinner! You can also add your own twist to this Tra-Dish by making an open-face sandwich or cutting it into slices for finger Chicken Parmesan sandwiches.Want more easy recipes that your family will love? Check out Ragú on Facebook for tons of New Tra-Dish ideas! Plus, enter The Ragú Better & Better Sweepstakes for the chance to win a trip to Italy and other amazing prizes - 11 weeks, 11 juicy prizes for the 11 tomatoes in each jar of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce!Follow ModernMom's board Ragú NewTraDish Family Recipes on Pinterest. 

When Is It Cool To Play The Kid Card?

The other day, a close family relative of mine (or at least I think of her as close) came to visit. I hadn’t seen her in a year and a half. She and her 3-year-old were only in town for five days. Prior to her arrival, I invited them to stay at my place the night before her flight so we could catch up. She said yes. The day before her departure, she changed her plans and decided to stay at an airport hotel because her flight left at 6 a.m. the next day. This had happened in the past, but she and her daughter still stayed at my place. She first offered up one alternative plan (which I couldn't do) and then politely but firmly told me that she would be going to an airport hotel because she wanted her daughter to get a good night's sleep before the flight. Basically, I was S.O.L. in seeing her because her child’s sleep took priority. I was stunned - she had played the kid card. Look, I get it. She’s a mom with a 3-year-old, who is about to embark on a 5+ hour flight. But at what point do you stop using your kid as an excuse? I have two kids, and I’ll be honest, I've played the kid card myself. I've used “Nope, I can’t come over because my son needs to nap,” or “Little Johnny has the sniffles so we can’t visit today,” and looking back (because hindsight is 20/20), I probably damaged a friendship or two along the way by playing the kid card. Being a parent isn't all bonbons and cotton candy and sometimes we take the easy way out because our kids have made us tired and sleep-deprived. It also seems to me that playing the kid card is less about the child and more about the adult. It’s quicker and faster to use your child as an excuse than deal with the real issues at hand. I, however, would much rather hear the truth than be played. If our friendship isn't a priority, that’s fine. Tell me so that I can stop wasting my time and move on. For me, the incident raised several questions: Should your child’s comfort take priority over a close familial relationship? When do you stop playing the kid card? Will I be making these excuses when my son starts playing soccer and his soccer games conflict with a family function or a family member coming to town? It’s tricky and I suspect it will only get more difficult. Whew!  Well, I’m glad I got that off my chest. Now what do you think? How often do you play the kid card

The One Thing I'll Never Understand About My Son

When I was a kid, I pretty much loved school.  Learning was fun for me, probably because it came easily and because I did well.  I never broke the rules, I never got in trouble, I did what I was told, and I loved the praise and the positive feedback that I got from my teachers.  My husband, too, was a similar kind of student.  As adults, we relate to each other in terms of our enjoyment of learning new things, our motivation to do well, and our willingness to work hard for what we want.My husband and I chose to be with each other because (among other things), we both value these traits in a partner.  But as parents, we don’t get to choose who our children are.  We’re partnered for life with these little people, even if they have personalities that are completely opposite from our own, even if they have character traits that we don’t quite understand.  Even if we can’t totally relate to them.  It’s an exercise in patience and tolerance, and in learning how not to project our own feelings onto the children we’ve created.  It is, in short, not easy.My son does not enjoy school.  There are things about school that he enjoys – recess, lunch, PE, sometimes Computer and Library – but when it comes to the actual core subjects, he more or less just tolerates them.  I have to force him to read books, and he wants to know, up front, the minimum number of pages he has to read.  When his friends’ parents ask if he’d be interested in joining their kids for math or science camp in the summer, I politely decline.  He’s addicted to Minecraft, but when I suggest that he take a class in order to learn how to build his own Minecraft mods or to create his own server, he says he’d rather just play.  As someone who reads voraciously and who still gets excited when browsing through college course descriptions, it’s hard for me to relate. I’m fairly sure that my son’s distaste for school is directly correlated to the fact that school isn’t easy for him.  He’s a disastrous speller, he can’t seem to memorize his math facts no matter how many flash cards or iPad math games he does, and reading is still not effortless for him.  I know he’s not dumb – he can think critically and he’s far more creative and imaginative than my husband and I ever were – he just has a hard time fitting those skills into the box that is a traditional classroom.As someone who once defined herself as a “student,” it’s hard to understand someone who would define themselves as anything but.  As someone who cared about achieving in school more than anything else, it’s hard to understand someone who cares about it so little.  As someone who looked forward to going to school every day, it’s hard to understand someone who counts the minutes until Saturday.  And yet, he’s my son, and it’s my job to try to understand him.  I’ve given up fighting with him.  You can’t make someone like things they don’t like, and you can’t make someone care about things they don’t care about.  All I can do is encourage the things he is interested in, and continue to cultivate the skills that he does care about.  He likes to write song parodies, so I help him with that.  He likes to come up with clever inventions, so we talk about them.  I hope that one day, when he’s older, he’ll discover the joy that can come from learning.  But he’ll have to come to that on his own.  And if he never does, then I guess that’s just how it will be.  It won’t be easy, and I won’t relate, but I’m his mom and I love him, so I’ll try. 

20 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Had Kids

After seeing and holding the newest member of our family I've realized that there is nothing as pure, beautiful and amazing as the sight of a new born baby, but the smell, the smell of a newborn so lovely, so clean, it actually reminded me of the air in Oregon, strange I know, but it did. That wonderful smell was like a spell cast over me, it almost made me tell my husband that we should go for number three, well for a good five minutes until that feeling of being knocked over by a wave and tossed around in the surf made me realize that I can't possibly have another baby. No way. No how. Having a baby is hard work, as cute and cuddly, as beautiful and loving it is to have a child it's also scary, exhausting, literally exhausting, and hard.  And I'm done.  I actually applaud the moms that have more than two children, to me they are just amazing, how do they do it all? I feel faint just thinking about it. Nevertheless, all stages of Mommyhood are hard, and I really wish someone sat me down before I had children to really tell me the in’s and outs, to explain that there will be very high highs’ and extremely low low’s. And maybe just maybe I wouldn't be such a mental case. So here are some things I wish I knew before I had my kids: 1. You won’t sleep. Even if your baby is a “sleeper” you still won’t sleep; how can you? The media, doctors and everyone in between will worry you so much you’ll never sleep soundly again. The only real sleep you’ll get is when you go away, without your kids, all by yourself in a hotel room, or a padded room. 2. Little bitty babies - think of them as little bitty humans - some days you're cold, some days you're hot, some days you’re cranky, some days you’re not, some days you’re not hungry, some days you can eat an entire cake - in one bite. Babies have their moods too! It’s one of the most challenging “things” to grasp and can be rough if you’re a Type A-person and want things a certain way but try to go with the flow, it will help a lot - trust me. TRY! 3. Choose two or three close family or friends that you can bounce your questions off of, if you ask too many people you’ll end up in that padded room. 4. Mommy brain. You won’t remember a thing, don’t worry it happens to all of us. 5. TRUST yourself. Please trust yourself. PLEASE. 6. You will make mistakes and it’s okay. 7. Don’t compare your child to anyone, even a sibling. If Johnny walks at 8 months, and Samantha at 12 months, so be it, it happens. 8. There is an END in sight with every stage of child rearing. From the early months of sleep deprivation to the terrible two’s to the potty training to the biting to the everything, even the puberty, the teenage angst - you’ll get through it, be patient. 9. Trust your instincts, it may take a little fine tuning but you do have natural maternal instincts, yes, I’m still finding mine but they are there. 10. When someone is watching your child, ok when your mom or mother-in-law is watching your child, don’t be a control freak. Let them care for their grandchild the way they want and the way they know how. They’ve raised you, and your spouse…didn’t they? 11. You are not strange or alone when you feel that a trip to Target is liberating. It is. 12. Bottle fed, breast fed, cereal, fruits, vegetables and whatever else, feeding your child is a chore. The only joy you’ll get when you feed your child is in the early months - breast or bottle fed - except maybe at 2 am, sleep deprived, your husband is sleeping in your cozy bed and you want to drive a hammer to his head because well, he’s sleeping. But yes, the early stages are wonderful, anything past six months is horrible and not at all enjoyable. 13. Listen to your children - all ages, listening is hard but do it, you'll learn so much. 14. You will become a human napkin. Invest in spot cleaner. 15. They grow up quickly.  It's cliche I realize but it's true, stop to ENJOY your children. 16. The laundry never ends. Much like the mail, it never stops, it never will, the laundry room will be your best friend. 17. You will feel everything your child is going through and then some. The amazing, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The amazing is well amazing, the good is great, the bad and ugly hurt so much you’ll feel like you can’t breathe and that your heart will stop. So painful. Imagine being a grandparent? Holy moly! This has to be 100x worse. 18. Be kind to yourself, take care of yourself, take time for yourself - an hour a week - if it’s a walk, reading a book, taking a class, mani/pedi do something, you have to decompress or you won’t be able to take care of anyone. 19. Let your children be themselves. A psychologist told me that our children are exaggerated versions of ourselves, I get that but they do have their own personality, quirks, and interests as well. If Johnny doesn’t like tennis as much as mommy, well so be it. 20. Your children define unconditional love. Yes, you love your husband, partner, parents, siblings, friends, relatives but there is nothing like the love you have for your child. It’s overwhelming, unexplainable, real, and exhausting.

Don't Ask Me, "So, When Are You Having Kids?"

I am not sure how the question, “When are you guys going to have kids?” or “When are you guys going to have another baby?” became a casual, innocent question to ask. If I knew, I would turn back time to that moment and thwart any attempts to make those questions socially acceptable. As with many things in life, what appears innocent and friendly to some, is actually painful and hurtful to others. It is never okay to ask anyone that question or other questions like those.That Question Brings Me PainWhile my husband and I were desperately trying to conceive our little one, people would ask us all the time the dreaded question, “SO when are you guys having kids?” We had been married for four years before we got pregnant with our little one, and unbeknownst to most, almost half of that time was spent trying to conceive. I suppose to the outside world it seemed odd that we hadn't started a family yet. But simply hearing the question always brought me pain and heartache.How To Respond?I never knew how to handle that question. Was I really supposed to tell my cousin Frankie that I see once a year my whole sordid tale of infertility? Did my husband’s co-worker’s wife really want to know about my ovarian cysts at the annual office holiday party? Probably not. These people thought they were just making simple conversation. Then there were those closer relatives and friends who felt like they were doing me a favor by asking. They went on to explain how my husband and I would make amazing parents. They sometimes went further by saying how they could not wait to see what our kids would look like. (just put a knife in my already broken heart and twist it some more)It Never EndsOnce my husband and I had our daughter, I thought the days of awkward questions were over. Then after my daughter turned six months, coincidentally when we started trying to conceive again unsuccessfully, the awkward questions returned and still haunt me today. Most of our closer relatives and friends now know of our difficulties in trying to conceive and have stopped asking. But the people in our lives who are not aware of our struggles say things like, “So isn't it time for another one? Your daughter needs a sibling you know. She can’t be an only child.” I find that after all of the miscarriages I have had since my daughter‘s birth, I have a lot less patience for this kind of thing. These questions do not make me sad anymore, now they make me angry. How dare these people ask such intrusive questions?People Don't See the HurtWhat I eventually do is remind myself is that these people truly do not know inappropriate these questions are. An article in Self magazine reported that, “One in eight American couples will experience infertility, and 1.1 million women will undergo treatment this year." The fact that most women won’t talk about it makes it that much more painful: A recent survey of infertility patients reveals that 61% hide the struggle to get pregnant from friends and family. Most of the time, I do not feel like educating people about how horrible their questions make me feel. It never seems like the time nor the place.I also hold back from responding to these questions with something equally inappropriate such as, “Yeah, we had hoped that our last four pregnancies had not ended in miscarriage, so we could in fact provide a sibling for our daughter. Thanks for asking”Taking the High RoadMy husband always has a knack for taking the “high road” in most situations. When he is asked about our intentions of having more children, he always replies longingly, “I sure hope so.” Not the answer a person expects, mind you, but it is enough to drop the topic of future family building and make the interrogator think a little. 

Let's Craft: How to Make an Adorable Bandana Skirt

This project comes from crafty mom Jill Alexander:  "Today we're going to be making a bandana skirt. It's darling and just perfect for your little toddler!" Here's how to make this super sweet skirt: Supplies Strip of elastic - approximately one inch thick Bandanas - for a more colorful skirt, use a variety of different shades Scissors   Directions Take your piece of elastic, measure the waist on your child and then add two inches. Cut the bandanas into quarters - so you have four triangle pieces. Wash and dry the pieces get the wrinkles and pressed edges out. It will also make them softer and easier to work with. Lay out the piece of elastic in front of you, with the pointed edge of the bandana piece pointing away from you. Flip the bandana away from you (over the elastic) to make your first knot. Then flip it over again to make a double knot. Continue all the way down the elastic until the entire piece is full of bandana pieces. Save one bandana strip aside to cover the knot. Tie the two ends of the elastic together, to create a circle. Use the saved strip of bandana and tie it around the knot to secure. And there you go! A darling bandana skirt! Want to watch Jill take you through this project step by step? Check out the video below - and be sure to take a look at all the other great craft videos on the ModernMom YouTube Channel. Planning to try this at home? We'd love to see how it turns out! Tweet us photos of your crafty efforts @ModernMom and we'll add them to our photo gallery!

Practical Life Lessons From My Dad

My dad is a spitting image of Tim Allen - Tim Allen from Tool Time, how’s that for dating myself?  Was the name of the show Tool Time or was that just the show on the show? Either way, my dad is that character, although I’m not sure he would look as much like him if their personalities didn't seem so spot on.  When I asked my dad if he knew what celebrity I thought he looked like, he said Pierce Brosnan (he’s going to kill me for saying that).  But he’s kind of right, sort of, he’s a Pierce/Tim hybrid, with all "Tim the Tool Time" personality. There was once an episode where Tim Allen electrocuted himself trying to change the panel on a light switch and I swear that same week, my dad did the very same thing, not enough to hurt himself just enough to singe his fingertips - enough that it was funny. He’s always doing crazy stuff that just never seems safe to me but he always says, "Don’t worry, I got it".  He was once installing a dock that was at water level and he thought it would be neat if it had a curve to it so he pulled out his chainsaw and started sawing in the water, in bare feet.   I have to give him credit though, he does get things done, albeit in an unconventional way and with a huge dose of creativity.  I've learned to stay away from him while he’s fixing something, for my own personal safety, but whenever something needed fixing, he’d be the first I’d ask. Over the years he has offered up some pretty blunt and dramatic advice that you may not consider telling your 10 year old daughter, but nonetheless it is all very practical, and I will no doubt pass it on to my own kids. What to Do if Held at Gunpoint: When I was 10, we moved to Mexico City. It wasn't the safest city at the time, not horrible, but a little bit different than Toronto.  My dad, I guess, figured it was best if he drilled some street sense into our brain from the get-go and didn't care if we had nightmares about what could happen to us.  He was an Eagle Scout, so ‘Be Prepared’ is part of his make-up.  His advice was, if someone grabs you and says they’ll shoot you if you don’t get in their car, call their bluff and make them shoot you on the street.  Awesome. That’s my best option? But from a practical standpoint, it is good advice.  What they will do to you if they get you in the car is much worse than being shot on the street was his theory, plus the likelihood of them actually shooting you is slim to none.   So I walked a little taller and a little more confident waiting for someone to hold me up at gunpoint because I knew I had the knowledge to be able to react. What to Do if Your Car Goes off a Bridge into Water: When I first got my driver’s license we got the house rules as every new driver does: "Absolutely, under no circumstances, whatsoever, I don’t care if you have to call me at 4 in the morning (which I’d be grounded for anyway because that was way past my curfew) to pick you up, you never ever drive if you've been drinking.  You will never get in trouble for calling me for a ride." Got it, Dad. I won’t do that (drink and drive).  And I never did.  Second, if you go off a bridge into water the first thing you do is roll down your windows and unlock your door.  Huh?  What are you talking about?  How am I going to go off a bridge into water? What about wear a seatbelt and don’t speed?  Can’t you just give me that kind of advice?  But when you are 16, you don’t really consider every potentially dangerous scenario and what to do if it occurs.  It gave me something to think about every time I was around water, sometimes I still put my hand on the window button, just in case.  While my dad’s advice sounds like it's straight out of a Worst Case Scenario handbook, there are many other useful tips that he has enlightened us with.  Tying knots, starting a fire, how to take a sip from a 2 liter bottle without backwashing, how to whistle, getting a fish off the line (gross), changing a burnt out fuse (old school), changing light switch panels (cut the power first), and docking a boat are some of the ones that come to mind.  My dad sees each of us as someone to pass useful information along to and I was happy it wasn't just my brother that was the sole recipient of life skills. The moral of the story, is your kids are never too young to learn useful life skills.  Treat them as mature people that are paying attention even if they seem as though they’re not, because you never know what is going to stick. 

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'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.