Mad for Martha

By Jillian Lauren

Martha Stewart Craft Book

I don’t usually do product reviews, but when the Martha Stewart people asked if I wanted to see a copy of the new kid craft book, it was too many of my favorite words in one sentence to turn down. For those of you who aren’t in on my darkest secrets, I love Martha Stewart, OK? I practically have a whole shelf of her entertaining books. I start anticipating the Halloween issue of her magazine in August. In line at the grocery store, I pass over all the gruesome Kardashian gossip and dive straight for her tips for a summer barbeque. I’m unlikely to take her investment advice, but when it comes to inventive ways to color Easter eggs, I defy you to challenge her.

I was not disappointed! Actually, the book surpassed my expectations. As much as I luuuuuv Martha, I was skeptical about a kid craft book, because sometimes she sets the bar a little high. I like to read her books but rarely follow through on the projects because for the normal humans among us, her suggestions can be over-complicated make you feel like a slacker about your messy house and the bread you didn’t make and the table centerpiece you didn’t craft and the chicken coop you didn’t build etc. Instead, I use her as sort of an organizing principle of bringing a joyful consciousness to domesticity. I like to imagine Martha to be a benevolent hearth-and-home deity who smiles down at me from above when I manage to go outside and pick a few figs off the tree and make a cake. Or when I feel inspired once in a while to put out the nice table linens for dinner just because.

These crafts, however, are not only inspiring but also surprisingly simple and adorable. Very do-able and fun! Check out their crafts for kids video collection to see some crafting in action. Above is a picture of T making the monster salt crystals- so cute! We’re doing snow globes next.



If you would like to read more from Jillian Lauren, check out her blog.  You can also find her books on Amazon. 


Yummy Snacks For Kids

March 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Family, Kids

Crispy Cauliflower


Chopped Cauliflower, Olive Oil, light sprinkle of chili spices, salt and bake at 500 for 15 minutes. Shake at the halfway point. Your kids will love this.  Adjust the spice accordingly.

Banana Pudding

banana pudding

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1½ cups ice cold water
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (preferably Jell-O brand)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers (no substitutions!)  (PS: I think this recipe needs more wafers than the 12 oz box.  Next time I make this, I will use half of a box more than what the recipe calls)
  • 4 cups sliced ripe bananas
  • In a small bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight, before continuing. It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set.In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain. To assemble the dessert, select a large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5-quart capacity. Arrange one-third of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, then one-third of the bananas and one-third of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or wafer crumbs on the top layer of the pudding. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours – or up to 8 hours – before serving.

Pancake Bacon Dipper

pancake bacon dippers

1 box Bisquick pancake batter; 12 slices center cut bacon; lite syrup Cook bacon+set aside. Mix batter according to pkg . Pour into squeeze bottle with big enough hole for batter to pour from. (ketchup bottle). Cut tip bigger. Heat griddle to 300 ºF. Squirt batter in long oval shape little longer+wider bacon+place slice cooked bacon in center. Lightly press bacon into batter. Squeeze more batter over bacon. Serve syrup in 4 oz mason jars.

Kids Sushi


Remove crusts from bread. With a rolling pin or large soup can, completely flatten bread. Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter/sunbutter and 1 tablespoon of Jam on each slice of bread. Roll each slice into a tight spiral. Cut each spiral into 4 pieces.

Chunky Apple Muffins

Chunky Apple Muffins

½ c raw sugar
3 T canola oil
1 large egg plus 2 large egg whites
½ c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c organic all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp each: baking soda, ground cinnamon
1 medium Granny Smith apple or 1 Fuji apple, cored, cut into 1/3” dice

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat sugar and oil in bowl of electric mixer until smooth. Add egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and vanilla; beat until smooth.

Add 1 c of flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Toss together apples and remaining ½ c flour in medium bowl. Stir apples into batter by hand.

Spoon batter into paper lined or greased muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.

Bake until golden brown and make sure wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 22 minutes.

Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan; serve warm or at room temperature.

Sweet Greek Yogurt Dip

greek yogurt dip

Use my basic recipe and then stir-in any of the add-ins that sound yummy to you.

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use 2% and it must be Greek)
3 tsp honey or maple syrup (to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Add ins: 3 tbsp creamy peanut or almond butter, nutella, 1 tbsp cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix, chocolate chips, mashed raspberries, mashed strawberries, a tbsp of jam, graham crumbs, cinnamon.

In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, sweetener, vanilla and salt. Stir until combined and smooth. Stir in any add-ins you like – to taste. Mix well. Serve with cut up fruit, graham crackers, pretzels, or cookies.


Sprinkled Poundcake


Let your children top their snack with raspberries, nuts, blueberries, whipped cream and more.

Broccoli Frittata


1 c finely chopped onions
2 c chopped broccoli (about ½ inch pieces)
2 tsp chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried, optional
1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
8 egg whites
¼ c grated pecorino or mozzarella cheese

1. In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions for 5 minutes, until tender. Add the broccoli, garlic, and basil and sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is crisp-tender but still vivid green.

2. Combine the salt, pepper, and egg whites and whisk until frothy. Pour the froth over the broccoli, tilting the skillet so the egg whites flow evenly throughout the broccoli.

3. Cook on low for 3-4 minutes, until egg whites are opaque and close to firm.

4. Sprinkle grated cheese over egg mixture and place skillet under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until cheese has melted and begins to brown. Halve the frittata and serve.

Photo Credits: Gloria Cabada-Leman,Meng He, Aunt Emile


The Bumpy Road

January 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Family, Kids, Urban Dweller


oh you know…

it’s like this…

here is the path i took to sitting down to write this blog


i put the toddler in her bed

moved the kindergartener from our bed to hers

checked on the suffering of the insufferable 8 year old

and flopped down next to my wife…

who was more exhausted than me

having spent the weekend casting

Much Ado About Nothing…

in addition to the usual stuff…


i started to talk to her,

to explain..

and justify my bedtime actions:

sticking to my guns,

being hardline,

so that i dont get pushed

to the point of

losing my temper.

letting the child

get emotional

and remaining

in control of my own…



my temper gets the better of me


like it did yesterday…


i feel like

a pretty crummy parent


a pretty crummy human being.


i looked up..

knowing that she knew all this,

but wanting affirmation,

of my actions…



or even a reprove.

she was snoring…


I gathered up my stuff…

notes from the week

playlists etc

writing supplies…(the computer)


came downstairs to the living room

went to the cupboard to find

the tylenol pm…


sometimes i go for the stress relief tea…

but sometimes i need a guarantee…


And my head hurt…

and there was a lot of stuff knocking around in there,

likely to keep me awake.


So as I reached up into the basket that holds the various remedies and medicines

my hand hit something sticky… something gooey and grapey.


I pulled down the basket to confirm that indeed…

childrens tylenol had leaked, spilled, upended…

slathering the entire basket with a viscous purplish, graying syrup.


so… there I was – ready to settle in to the evening

and write for an hour until the painkillers kicked in and took me to dozy, drowsy land

and instead what did i have before me but a goddamn



this is the way my week has been…


mishaps and misfires.

misunderstandings and crossed wires.


every time I come up with an on-the-fly solution…

a last minute wrench just fucks the whole situation even further.


i’m not sure what is happening – if it’s the cosmos…

or just a function of being too busy

hurried, harried, hassled…



i could make you a list.


the best example, other than the medicine basket,

is the leotard fiasco…


Wednesdays ‘Zilla has ballet at 6:10.

and Lil’ Chaos has piano at 6:15.

Somedays Jen is not busy,

and we split this up.

Otherdays i attempt to defeat the laws of physics

to be in both places on time.

I don’t know how we thought this schedule was possible…

i think we didn’t realize how often Jen was going to need to be somewhere or doing something.


Some Wednesdays we manage to feed the rugrats prior to all their cultural inculculation,

but more often than not, they get some apple sauce and/or a granola bar on the way,

and a sandwich or a bowl of soup before bed when we get home.


Wednesdays are hard.


This Wednesday had an added layer of complexity which involved Jennifer and I

misunderstanding each other about dinner plans with a friend/colleague visiting from out of

town, and not communicating very well about it.


As a result,

I waited until the last minute to pick Zuzu up from daycare… and neglected to feed the children –

though there was – as per our meal plan – roasted chicken and sweet potatoes available to them…


The latest possible pick up for Zuzu is 5:30pm…

The day care is only a few blocks away…

Much of the year – if we wait until 5:19 to leave the house – no sweat.

If we wait ’till 5:19 this time of year – we are pushing our luck.


Boots, hats gloves, coats…

these things take time to locate and apply…

but are necessary even for a car ride when windchill is pushing the temp to 20 below.


So the Elder two and I slammed out of the house in breakneck speed.

But in a stroke of inspriation I had everyone grab lesson supplies

‘Zilla had checked her dance bag for appropriate contents and it was slung over her shoulder

Li’l Chaos had her piano books…

I grabbed granola bars…

we’d be fine.


We’d arrive at the dance studio

early enough to change ‘Zilla there…

We’d have some time to relax – a few minutes at least.

And then we’d load up, leaving ‘Zilla in class,

to take Li’l Chaos to piano…


We even had time to accommodate Zuzu’s toddler rebellion..

Allowing her a good 5-8 minute protest about sitting in the car seat.


It was a masterful rejiggering of a sticky situation.


You’d think.


But the plan went to shit

when, at the dance studio changing room, ‘Zilla looked in her ballet bag and discovered it was

lacking a leotard or tights…


“What!?-Didn’t you look? I Thought you looked!”


(waitaminute dad, she’s five… she “checked her bag”)


oh well, nothing to be done. had to head home get the leotard – maybe we’d make it.

of course Zuzu was compelled to stage another protest…

my metaphorical tanks mowed her down

the car seat was Tiananmen Square,

I was riot police… with tear gas.

no time… sorry Zuzu.


So… still not having a clear understanding of what our evening plans were, and in need of

re-enforcements with the terrorist uprising in the toddler seat behind me, i frantically attempted

to call my wife…


who had just wrapped what sounded to be a slogging but significant needs assessment meeting

for her department. Needless to say, my frantic pleas were not what she was most in the mood to

hear and thus was not as receptive as I had hoped she’d be to my preternatural howling through

the phone…


she dug deep however…

I heard her take a breath and say, “I will find a leotard and tights for you.”

We had to cut the conversation off – the light changed – it was probly for the best.

But I needed  more…



i needed her to understand – the riot – the leotard – the ruined plan – i needed to know what was

happening – i needed her to jump in and help…


if only i had been as articulate in the moment as i was in that paragraph.


so it was like the leotard

and the purplegraysticky mess

all week


maybe all year…


maybe my whole life…



I have been thinking a lot

of this little bump

in the sidewalk…

it’s about halfway

to Zuzu’s daycare

I have been trying to figure out the

right context

to write about it

and thinking about it a lot.


The thing about it is this…


Back in July or August when we first started walking to the Daycare with Zuzu

She was pretty new at walking…


And that bump was a big deal

It caught her off guard

more than once.

Jumped out

and pulled her to the hard pavement

like a troll under a bridge.


But here is the key point.

On the days she did see it…

She would walk to it

check to see if it was still there

and stand on the fucker.


and celebrate.


Conquer it.


And pretty soon

she saw it more often than she tripped over it.

And so

most days,

had a reason to celebrate,

a little reason,

on the three block walk to school.


Ha! you didnt get me, bump.


And then…

Pretty soon after that

she didn’t even notice it anymore.


And as much as I was sad to say goodbye to those little celebrations…

I guess forgetting about it

is another form of conquering it



And so,

I guess the lesson to learn

from my toddler

is that, as trite as it may sound,

life really is full of bumps in the road

both literal and figurative.

And you will conquer them…

and then forget they were ever there.

They won’t even bother you anymore.

You may take your accomplishments for granted as you move on to new challenges,

but be sure to take a little time to celebrate the things you do right as you go.


Thanks Zuzu.

Once again.


A Loose Tooth

by Tanya Ward Goodman
My Grandmother’s death has brought the family together, but my daughter’s loose tooth has given us something cheerful to do. We are united by Sadie’s tooth. When she wiggles that darned thing, we stop thinking for a moment about how hard it will be to sell the house and what a waste it would be to send that antique cameo necklace into a hole in the ground. No matter how we feel about the President, gun control or healthcare, the loose tooth brings us all together. We plot and plan for extraction when wills and accounts and phone conversations with lawyers are the dark alternative.

Sweet Sadie with her big smile and her curly hair is an eight year old in a house full of sad adults. She feeds her virtual Ipod horse and talks to the very real cat. She curls up on the wingback sofa and flips through scrapbooks hoping to find photos of someone she knows. My uncle says we should reach up behind the tooth – get a nail under the raw edge. “Move it sideways,” he says. My brother makes a lasso of dental floss and spends the better part of an hour trying to slip it around the tiny tooth. Sadie chews gum and eats the hardened caramels we find in the kitchen cupboard. She wonders if she started running fast and fell down the big hill, the tooth would get knocked out on its own. When she is tired of grown up conversation, she cries and shouts that it’s not fair to have a loose tooth. It’s painful and keeps her from eating all the things she doesn’t like, though a child at a funeral can get by on only Jell-o salad and soft white rolls. She wiggles the tooth and lets others wiggle it. Fingers yellow with nicotine have touched the pearl of this little tooth. The funeral leaves us soggy with tears and chilled to the bone in the Dakota wind, but the tooth doesn’t come out.

The tooth is wiggly on the plane and in the taxi and keeps my girl awake all through our first night at home. She rages and gnashes and I think perhaps the tight set of her jaw will push the thing right out.

At dinner on our second night home, she asks for pliers. We have guests, but they seem not to mind, so I give her a Leatherman. We watch as she grabs and slips, grabs and slips. Someone suggests a paper towel. Once again this tooth is a project. We’re in it together and Sadie is happy to be right in the middle. There is wiggling and working. There is a ten-minute bout of frustration. Tears are shed. And just when we are all feeling like it should be over, just when we’ve begun to turn back to grown up talk, she pulls it out. Her smile is broad and bloody. The tooth is white and shiny in the black metal pincers.

And then, like that, we’re back on the girl.


Work and play. Play and work…

April 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Kids, Parenting, Urban Dweller


By: Danny ThomasIMG_2290I think it’s interesting
and not insignificant
that Jennifer and I
both seem to use the words
“work” and “play”

we are both students of theatre
so that has to be a factor
on some levels,
like many arts,
if you’re doing it right
I think,
is a vocation
largely devoted
to playing.

in my music
and my writing
I work at playing too
and I play at working…

I was in the kitchen…
cleaning the thing
which we can’t decide
whether to call
a griddle or a skillet
so we call it a skiddle…

I was cleaning that
and I heard Jennifer say to the girls.
“You guys are working really well together…
you are playing nice.”
to the older girls
who were playing some math games
on the iPad.

I guess
I am just grateful that
I have partnered with
and get to co-parent
with someone
who, like me,
sees these things; “work” and “play”
as intertwined or symbiotic, if not actually one and the same…
who takes playing seriously and sees the fun in work.

Not long after Maya was born
I was talking with an acquaintance,
a guy who modeled at the art gallery where I worked.
(I got to meet some interesting characters in that job!)
I was talking about the idea that as much as I had wanted to be a dad
for nigh on 10 years
and that as much as we had prepared
by reading books
and watching movies
and talking to parents
our minds were still blown…
by becoming parents

and the responsibility…
the work of parenting
was particularly mind-blowing
in that it is work… it is Work.
but it is different than any other kind of work
i’ll ever do.
and the difference is ineffable
here I am trying to eff the ineffable…
but these are the places
my mind occupies
when I sit down
to write…
or maybe I should say
these are the things
that occupy my mind…

It is a unique work, and a work that relates to art making
in that it is creative
and compelling
and born out of love,
at least under the best circumstances.
it is a work that most of us who do it
do because
we feel obliged to or inspired to
or both.
It is a unique kind of
not free of resentment
but an commitment that comes with a tender reward
that can only marginally be expressed by the joy I feel watching the flicker of an eyelash and last final sigh before the rhythmic breathing of deep sleep settles in… or the ecstasy on the face of a mudcovered child… or the profound fear of watching a ball roll down the driveway, child in tow… knowing that I can’t get there in time and hoping that my voice does the trick… and the relief I feel when it does.

back to the story…

I was talking to this guy
who was not a parent…
But definitely was a dude
with an interesting perspective
and outlook.
a model, working on a degree
in ecology… sustainability in particular…
our previous conversations had ranged from
Carlos Castaneda, to Kurt Vonnegut…
and Pink Floyd to Complexity Theory…
This was in Eugene, Oregon, mind you,
a place where chances are high that your bartender has a PhD in Physics…
or is high on psilocybin…
or both.

So this shaggy, brainy male model and I were having a conversation on parenting and he recommended a book to me… the book was The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff…

A book not originally intended as a parenting book… but over time was adopted as one…

Many, many ideas from the book resonated with me, and as I have mentioned in the past, I don’t believe any book or author is a panacea, there is no magic recipe for any family, relationship or person… however… there are certainly lessons to be gleaned and important ideas to share and think about in so much of what is floating around…

So, of the many ideas that struck a chord with me – one of the prominent ones that applies to the ideas bouncing around in my brain today – is the notion that these indigenous tribes that Jean Liedloff spent time with had no concept of a distinction between work and play… they all just did what they could, with the faith that everyone was making a valid and significant contribution…

I should probably go look up that section of the book,
I may be characterizing it incorrectly
but it was something along the lines of they had no separate words for work or play…

We don’t live among the tribes of the Yequana Indians in the jungles of South America, so the reality is we can’t exactly mirror their lifestyle… but there certainly are lessons to be learned, and that knowledge can inform how we approach our work, and our play, and the work/play of raising kids.


Parenting Young Children: Rejection

March 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Kids, Parenting

By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant


Poor, Poor, Pitiful You

Every once in a while I kinda wish we could all just sit down and discuss these parenting articles. Sitting together, maybe a little wine, talking face to face, instead of me sitting here all alone (with a little wine; it’s the weekend; don’t judge), so far away.

If you know me personally, you are rolling your eyes right now. It is no secret that I eschew most human contact outside of my job. I hide behind sofas and hit the lights when I see someone coming up my driveway. I look at my ringing phone and go through all the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. I am a wee bit protective of my solitude.

Still, this is one topic that warrants discussion because it can easily be misunderstood. Although as I sit here, it does occur to me that the clarity of my writing might be a factor in the misunderstandings. Hunh. Maybe I should have lain off that third glass of wine…

I want to write about rejection.

I am going to be stereotypical here by referring to the parent who is typically (oh wait. STEREOtypically) home with the kids. Please don’t give me any crap over this. I am not politically incorrect or misogynistic or chauvinistic or reactionary; I am merely lazy and it’s easier to just write “mom” instead of “mom or dad” or “mom or dad or grandma” or “adult caregiver who spends most of the day with the child” or even “ACWSMOTDWTC”.

First, a quiz:

1. When your child yells, “GO AWAY!” at you, do you feel:
A. Sad
B. Mad
C. Happy and FREE because the last thing you wanted was to have to deal with that obnoxious kid.

2. When your child prefers your spouse to you for bath time, bedtime, playtime, eating and everything else, do you feel:
A. Sad
B. Mad
C. Happy and FREE

3. When you walk in the door after being gone all day at work and your child looks up for a nanosecond, barely gives you a nod hello and returns to his/her activity, do you feel:
A. Sad
B. Mad
C. Happy and FREE

Are you beginning to get the picture? I want to talk first to those of you who answered either “Sad” or “Mad” to the three questions. The rest of you, those who checked off “Happy and FREE”, may be excused. You are not miserable so we don’t need to look at your happy and free faces right now. Shoo. Begone.

Okay. Let’s look around the room. You. The parent who is gone most of the day, the parent who only gets to spend quality time with your kids at night when they are exhausted or on the weekends, when you are exhausted. You. Les Miserables.

It can go like this: You finally get home from the cold, cruel world and you walk into your warm safe haven, brimming with love for your family, and you say to your four-year old, “I’m home! Give me a big hug and a kiss!” and your kid says, “GO AWAY!”

Or you make a huge Saturday morning breakfast for your child because you haven’t been able to spend much time with him/her and you make all his/her favorite foods, you even draw a picture with blueberries on the pancakes – a picture of Leonardo, your kid’s absolutely favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle – and you present it to your child with a flourish. And s/he says, “YUCK. I HATE pancakes. I like the breakfasts Mommy makes!” (Which, by the looks of the wrappers in the car is pretty much turkey jerky and Capri Sun) And then your kid adds, “Also? Leonardo is NOT my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, anyway! Go away!”

Yeah. Rejection blows.

But here’s the thing: it’s not exactly the same rejection as an adult’s rejection. I know that it feels the same, but it’s not. In fact, I wish there were a different word for it because the word “rejection” brings into it a whole lotta adult stuff that isn’t applicable.

Young children live close to their emotions. And they don’t have well- developed filters yet. They live pretty much in the world of archetypes – you are good if you give them a cookie; you are evil if you don’t – and not so much in the world of nuance and tact.

Plus, they are exercising their right to have some say in their lives.

This is so often where issues and hurt feelings happen, when imagine does NOT meet reality, and we get upset. In our minds, all the drive home, we are imagining a scene out of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, you know, Pa comes in from the fields and all the kids gather around him and shower him with affection.

Uh-huh. And they don’t want to stop what they were doing to get up and give you a hug. And you feel rejected. And pissed off because, let’s face it, what the heck did that kid do all day that was so hard that s/he can’t even get up off the sofa and hug you? Who appreciates you?

I hear you. I feel your pain. I – as my husband likes to say, – I am picking up what you are laying down. But I have some bad news for you: the kind of appreciation you are craving, the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE kind? Yeah, it generally doesn’t look like that right now when the kids are young.

Please don’t get me wrong – I am not condoning alienation of affection. I am not suggesting we allow our children to ignore us or be rude or blow us off. I am, however, suggesting that we help our kids find a less disrespectful way to tell us what they want.

For instance:
Saturday morning. You declined an invitation to do something fabulous for yourself because you want (need, feel obligated) to spend the day with your child. You walk into your child’s room and give him/her a big hug and you say, “Guess what? We are going to the zoo today! Just you and me! YAY!”

And your kid says, “Gross. Your breath smells yucky.”

And you bury the rejection and say, “Okay, get dressed for the ZOO! Yay!”

And your kid says, “Go away! I am playing with this piece of used dental floss and a wine cork and I am having fun. I don’t want to go to the zoo.”

And you think to yourself, “Do you know how much I wanted a day to myself? And that I gave it up to be with you? Why are you so ungrateful? Did your mother make you this way? Because I am gonna level with you, she doesn’t appreciate me, either.”

And you wind up carrying yor screaming kid into the car and forcing a happy Daddy day at the zoo on him.

Now, let’s rewind and reconstruct. We’ll go back to the statement about your morning breath being gross. Because, let’s just be honest, it probably is. Your kid isn’t lying. She might be lacking a certain, I don’t know, finesse in letting you know. But she might have a point.
You can say, “Is it gross? Sorry. I will not put my face so close to yours until after I brush my teeth.” And THEN you can say, “Also, can you think of a way to tell me that my breath is bad in a way that is nicer and not so rude?” This way, you are acknowledging her right to not have to smell your funky morning breath but you are also defining the parameters of HOW she says it to you.

Okay. Next. S/he doesn’t want to go to the zoo.
Now I know that you have been planning this. I know what you gave up to do it. But is it possible, just possible, that maybe you are putting a little bit too much on the fact that you planned the zoo trip? That you are letting yourself feel a bit too much rejection over it? I mean, if your wife surprised you by saying she had planned an entire day for you, might you want to have been given the option of being part of the decision?
So, you reach deep into yourself to find the higher road, and you say to your child, “Oh. I thought you’d want to do that. Well, since I don’t have to work today, I want to spend time with you. What would you like to do?”

And then you have a conversation about it. And you share your ideas. And you come up with options and alternatives and compromises and finally, common ground. And you don’t take it personally that your child had initially said s/he didn’t want to go to the zoo with you. Because it really wasn’t a personal rejection. It was how a young child was learning to express his/her opinions.

Well, that brings us to a close. If you have questions or comments, please use the comment section below. You can try to come over or call me, but I will be hiding behind the couch.


Three Tips to Check Toxic Toys Off Your List

December 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Healthy, Kids

By Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff

You’re making your list and checking it twice, but do you know what’s in the toys you’re stuffing in those stockings? Here are some quick tips to follow:

1. Avoid plastics made from or including BPA, PET, PVC and Styrofoam. 2. Look for toys made from natural materials like wood and cloth. 3. Choose gifts that are made locally.

That last tip is a quick and easy way to limit the levels of cadmium, lead and other toxic chemicals to which children are exposed.

In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed to regulate lead and phthalates in toys and infant products after a public scare related to the problem of tainted toys, imported mainly from China.

Some states are looking even closer at products marketed to kids, such as Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act, Maine’s Kid’s Safe Products Act and California’s Green Chemistry Initiative.

How to tell which toys are naughty and which are nice? Before you shop, take a minute to check Parents magazine’s list of this year’s toy recalls.

And if you’re still set on plastic, try to assess what type you’re buying by looking for a “chasing arrow” symbol on the bottom of the toy. As with all plastic products, avoid the numbers 1 (PET), 3 (PVC) and 6 (Styrofoam), and seek out those marked “BPA-free.”

PET and PVC (also known as vinyl) are softened with phthalates. Even low levels of phthalates have been linked to birth defects, obesity and asthma.

Styrofoam takes 500 years to degrade, dissolves into tiny bits that end up in the ocean, is rarely recyclable, and last year it was assessed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the government.

And BPA, used to harden plastics, is a hormone disruptor; it mimics estrogen in the body and has been linked to obesity, anxiety and a brain tumor called meningloma, among other problems.

That’s a list worth checking twice.

This post first appeared on my Huffington Post Parents blog. Check it out!

Update 12.10.12: Hasbro commits to eliminating PVC from toy and game packaging beginning in 2013, and has already started phasing out PVC from packaging; BPA was voluntarily eliminated from their products in 2011. I’d like to see PVC out of product, too, but looks like this company is on the right track! Read more in Hasbro’s corporate report, which I learned about from blogger Richard Liroff.

This post originally appeared on


The Holiday Gift Guide For Active Kids

December 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Kids

By:  K. Pearson Brown

Get kids outdoors this year with some great gifts that will keep them going all year round.

A long winter break means lots of time for play this holiday season, so give on-the-go kids holiday gifts that will keep them busy and having fun ‘til next year, and beyond.

Classic Ride

You never forget the sound of a Big Wheel rumbling down the sidewalk, and now kids can make their own fond memories on the updated version of this 40-year-old iconic ride-on toy.  The oversized trike for big kids is back in several new styles by Kids Only, including the 9″ My First Big Wheel, the 11″ Big Wheel Sidewalk Screamer and the 16″ Big Wheel Spin Out Racer.   $49.99 at toy retailers nationwide.

Kick It Good

Not all soccer balls are created equally.  Senda soccer balls are made with fair trade labor, so your own child can play with pride, and you can feel good about supporting the craftspeople who made them.  The hand-stitched ball features a high-quality, water resistant synthetic leather cover over a cotton-polyester liner for optimal bounce, durability, and shape retention.  Senda’s premiere competitive balls are available with latex bladders for better touch and flight.  For kids, the Valor Training ball is perfectly sized and weighted.  $21.99.  Available at, on Amazon, and on Ebay.

Let’s Roll

Kids can roll in style with the latest line of Heelys wheel-in-the-heel skates, now in lighter styles resembling athletic shoes for active and sporty kids.  Other new styles look like street shoes, and the new lifestyle fashion-forward line is designed for girls.   As with all Heely’s, the wheel can be removed and replaced with an included heel plug for walking.  $47 and up.  Available a sporting goods and specialty stores nationwide.

Fun Pack

gift guide for the holidays

Every kid needs a backpack – for school, playdates, overnights, and other outings. So get them a versatile backpack made to last from the pros at Kelty, like the lightweight Minnow ($29.95) for little ones who need to pack a lunch and blankie for preschool, the sporty Grommet ($34.95) for kids 5-10 to carry their notebooks, school supplies, and a water bottle for school or a day on the trail, or the comfy Captain ($80) for the high schooler or college-bound kid, or even Mom or Dad, for carrying all you need for classes, a day about town, or a weekender.  Available at REI or


Lay N Go

The Lay-n-Go  play and activity mat is the ingenious creation that allows kids to play while traveling without lost pieces and airport or on-the-road drama. Its unique design makes cleaning up hassle-free all with the tug of a cord. It’s that simple. $24.95- $64.95 depending on size.

Water Balloons, Water Balloons Everywhere

holiday gift guide

Nothing spells fun like a water balloon exploding on your back.  Kids will love to build their arsenal for the equivalent of a warm-weather snowball fight with the Kaos Tie-Not Battle Pump.  The portable one-gallon filling station features a carry handle and an easy-to-use nozzle with a notched tool for quick and easy knot tying, and the pump comes with 250 water balloons to get the party started. Watch a fun video about the pump at  $14.99.  Available at



Tater Tots Not! Healthy Habits for Kids

October 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Healthy, Kids

By Susan Howard

This is Part Two of my Tater Tot series where I suggest ways for you to keep your child at a healthy weight and instill in them good habits for years to come.

Never tell your child to eat everything on her plate. Teach her to listen to her body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness.  Let her be in charge of taking inventory as much as possible.

Fill their plates with tons of colorful nutritious options and then let them decide how much of what they eat.  Our pediatrician, Dr. Liddy, told us kids will self-regulate if given the chance.  Isn’t that what you ultimately want? When they are out of the house you aren’t going to be there telling them to finish their veggies (unless they are still in the house after college, which seems common these days, but that’s a different story).

Teach them about what food does.  Brandy is tireless in explaining to the kids that protein builds muscles, milk helps bones get strong, carbohydrates give energy, and veggies give vitamins to see and keep you feeling good.  It doesn’t have to be too complex - simple stuff like “that broccoli has fiber in it so you can poop.”  Then they understand what a balanced diet is and why they need it.

Take them to local farmers’ markets, farms, and berry picking spots.  Teach them that food doesn’t come from a package; it comes from the ground or a pasture.  Allow your children to have a connection with what real food is.  No it’s not in a Twinkie wrapper.

Plant a garden. Herbs are an easy way to start.  And let your kids help!  My daughter loves dirt and worms and being a little pioneer toddler; she’s a regular Laura Ingalls. She also now loves basil, parsley, and rosemary, and can pick it right off the vine.

Cook with your kids.  Start with something easy that involves a lot of stirring and pouring.  A fun recipe to try is basically penne pasta, veggies, and cheese in a muffin tin –super easy pasta muffins!

Make healthy foods flavorful.  Take a cooking class, buy a new cookbook, watch the Food Network.  If your kids aren’t eating it, up your game.

Limit excessive television watching.  One of my clients just told me her house rule: if the sun is out no television.  I like that because it seems to encourage kids to take on the day and be active.

Inquire about the hot lunch program at your school.  Be involved! Try to link fresh produce with the cafeteria.  It is a battle worth fighting for.


In the Great Vaccine Debate, Parents’ Fears Should be Respected

September 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Healthy, Kids

By Mark A. Largent / Take Part

Vaccines, once the savior of an entire generation, have become a hotly contested issue in American culture, and fears that they might cause autism have dominated parents’ discussions about vaccines for more than a decade.

Parents of as many as one in 10 children refuse to vaccinate their children with a state-mandated vaccine, and more than a third of American parents may delay or outright refuse a doctor-recommended vaccine for their children. To make matters worse, officials have found that vaccine exemptions cluster in particular areas within a state and around the country, so some communities have very high rates of under-vaccinated children.

Claims about a potential link between vaccines and autism emerged in the late 1990s from two independent sources. In Britain, a group of researchers published a paper suggesting a potential link between the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine [MMR] and symptoms associated with autism.

Subsequent researchers roundly rejected their hypothesis, and the journal eventually retracted the paper. At the same time in the U.S., parents learned that many childhood vaccines contained a mercury-based preservative, thimerosal, and they grew concerned about its effects on their children.

MORE: Quick Study: Getting More Sleep Helps Vaccines Do Their Job

Studies have failed to demonstrate any deleterious effects from thimerosal, but it has nonetheless been removed from most childhood vaccines. By the turn of the century, these two separate claims merged and the so-called vaccine/autism debate flowered.

Health officials aggressively defend the safety, effectiveness, and necessity of childhood vaccines, and they are dismayed by the resiliency of parents’ fears that vaccines might cause autism. Hundreds of published studies and countless authoritative statements from health authorities seem to have little influence on the debate.

Physicians and public health officials allege that ignorance and anti-science attitudes are to blame, and they worry that science alone is not enough to compel parents to vaccinate their children. Nonetheless, medical professionals continue to attack the claim that vaccines cause autism as they call for increasingly strict laws to compel vaccine compliance.

MORE: Alarming Whooping Cough Rates May Hit a Record High

The fear that vaccines might cause autism is in fact proxy for a complex set of concerns that many parents have about the modern vaccine schedule. Health officials have failed to address parents’ underlying fears, and most parents lack the technical knowledge to effectively parse the many intertwined concerns that they have about vaccines.

What are parents really worried about? They are worried about the high number of shots kids get in the first several months of their lives. Today, a fully vaccinated six-year-old will receive nearly three-dozen inoculations, most of them in the first 18 months of life.

The routine vaccination schedule now calls for shots at almost every well-child checkup, including four inoculations at the two-month appointment and five inoculations at both the four- and six-month appointments. As parents scramble to explain their fears, the only explanation available to them is the claim that vaccines might cause autism. But when their anxieties are carefully and respectfully examined, we see that they emerge from a wide variety of often well-informed philosophical and moral concerns parents have about their children’s health.

MORE: Germ Airways, You’re Cleared for Takeoff: The U.S. Airports Most Likely to Spread Pandemics

The solution for the problem of vaccine non-compliance is not increased pressure on parents or more passionate rhetoric from health officials. State legislatures that have made it easier than ever for parents to opt out of mandatory vaccines and the increasing number of “vaccine friendly” doctors who authorize medical exemptions mean that most American children can be legally exempted from some or all of their vaccines.

The only way to effectively address parents’ vaccine anxieties is to admit them and respect the fact that their concerns ought to be considered alongside scientific evidence as we add new vaccines to the modern vaccination schedule. If our ultimate goal is to ensure that as many children as possible are vaccinated against as many dangerous diseases as possible, it is critical that we preserve parents’ trust in vaccines and in their medical care providers.

This requires respectful engagement with vaccine-anxious parents and careful consideration of their particular concerns and contexts. Pediatricians who kick non-compliant parents out of their practices and health officials who continue to insist that vaccine anxieties are merely the result of ignorance and anti-scientism heighten the growing tension between vaccine-anxious parents and mainstream medicine. Their actions drive parents into the arms of the anti-vaccinators and undermine their own efforts to increase vaccine compliance rates.

This article has been reposted from


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