Written on December 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Rachel Macy Stafford
From a very young age, my older daughter, Natalie, has been a gift giver. Like most children’s, her offerings consisted of items that adults wouldn’t ordinarily classify as gifts. Broken seashells, traumatized frogs, dying weeds and misshapen rocks were often presented in small, dirt-laden hands beneath a wide smile. In the past two years Natalie’s gift-giving practices have moved up a notch. Gifts are no longer found in nature; they are found in our home.
Yes, it’s re-gifting at its best—wrapping barely used items and presenting them with great love.
Although highly practical and earth-friendly, this gift-giving practice brought to mind words like “tacky” and “cheap.” But for some reason, I had enough sense to stand aside and let my child give as her heart dictated.
Last Christmas Eve, Natalie spent hours wrapping barely used bottles of lotion, tiny hotel shampoos and gently used books. She then declared she wanted to distribute the colorful packages to homeless people in the downtown area. Her very first recipient was a frail, elderly woman with sad eyes who clutched her life’s possessions in a ripped trash bag. It wasn’t until I watched this woman’s face completely transform at the mere sight of my pint-size gift-bearer that I got over myself.
Shortly thereafter, Natalie thought it would be nice to create a care package for a family in India with whom we’d connected through Operation Christmas Child. On top of the new pajamas, packaged toothbrushes and pristine white socks, she placed two hairbrushes that she and her little sister had used for almost a month. Natalie was adamant that the brushes must be included. It wasn’t until we received a thank-you note with this picture that I vowed I would never cringe at her gift-giving practices again.
In fact, when the mood strikes and a present is needed, I thoroughly enjoy watching Natalie search the bottom of her messy closet for the ideal gift. I am now quite certain there is something miraculous in the way my daughter gives—in the way all children give.
Children remind us on a daily basis that our most precious gift is when we stop in the midst of our busy lives and give a piece of ourselves—our undivided attention, a lingering embrace, a word of encouragement, snuggles in bed, one-on-one time or a helping hand. This season, consider giving like children do. Rather than spending hours at the mall shopping for the “perfect” gift, remember that what your loved ones want most this year is you.
If I had to give a name to such heartfelt gift giving, I would call it “hands-free”—letting go in order to give the gift that really matters. And you can’t put a price on it.
Just ask a child.
Join Rachel on her journey to let go of distraction, perfection and societal pressure to grasp what really matters by visiting www.handsfreemama.com or “The Hands Free Revolution” on Facebook. Rachel’s book, Hands Free Mama, is currently available for pre-order and hits shelves on January 7.
Written on December 11, 2013 at 11:00 am , by Family Circle
Written on December 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Lauren Onorato
To be honest, it was the promise of food that clinched the deal for me. This fall, I was invited to participate in a fitness night with Michelle Bridges, one of the lead trainers from The Biggest Loser Australia. I heard the event would include a 30-minute workout followed by a healthy cooking demonstration and a tasting. So even though images of a trainer screaming at the hunched-over body of a crying person kept flashing through my head, I showed up for the good eats.
Once I arrived, my fears were alleviated. The workout was quick but intense, the food demo was easy and delicious, and in Bridges, I found a woman who genuinely wanted to help people feel and look their best. (No screaming necessary). Even though you might not be able to work out with her in a studio like I did, there is a way for you to get all her weight loss secrets.
Next week, Bridges is bringing her signature “12 Week Body Transformation” (12WBT) program to the U.S. Starting December 16th, you can sign up for her online agenda offering fitness plans, printable shopping lists, weekly inspirational videos and more. I wanted to see if a program like this would work for busy moms like our Family Circle readers. Kristy Potts, an Australian mother of 3 who lost 62 pounds with it, convinced me. I asked her 7 questions about how she slimmed herself down. Here are her answers:
Name: Kristy Potts
Home: Kendall, NSW Australia
Children: Three, aged 17 years, 6 years, and 21 months
Weight prior to 12WBT: 259 lbs
Weight Lost: 62 lbs
FC: What was the motivation behind getting yourself in shape?
Kristy: My children are my life and I couldn’t keep up with any of them! I just wanted to sloth at home on the lounge with my chocolate and feel sorry for myself! My health was going downhill fast. I had contracted pneumonia three times in one year. Plus, I have a family history of diabetes and obesity. I was so sick and unhealthy. I needed to find “me” again. Michelle’s program helped me achieve that. I made my first goal to get under 220 lbs. In the first 12 weeks, I achieved this. Afterwards, I re-assessed with smaller, weight specific goals. My last was to get under 200 lbs and I did it!
FC: What was the best part of Michelle Bridges’ 12WBT program?
Kristy: The food. The recipes are family friendly, healthy and taste so good. My kids eat it too!
FC:What differentiated 12WBT from other diets you had tried before?
Kristy: Michelle’s 12WBT is soo much more than a weight loss program. It is very much the combination of the motivational videos, food plans and workouts that make her program unique. No other program offers you so much support either. In addition, she begins with preseason tasks to set you up for the following 12 weeks.
FC: Was this a transition that you took with your family or a solo journey?
Kristy: It started out as a solo journey but it has turned into very much a family affair! The kids help out in the kitchen now and my husband comes walking with me. I love how supportive everyone has been.
FC: As a mother of three children, what was your biggest challenge with sticking with the 12WTB?
Kristy: My biggest challenge was my time constraints. As a full time working mother of three children, I had to plan in advance from meals to slotting in exercise to assisting the kids with their homework. Preparation is certainly the key. One day a week, I plan ahead and cook a batch of freezable meals from the 12WBT and stack them in the freezer. This stops me from relying on food at work or unhealthy choices. I get home from work, feed the children and then we go on a walk together. I also have some small weights at home, a skipping rope and a kettle bell.
FC: Why would you recommend this program to another mom?
Kristy: Being a mom is so stressful and busy at times, it is hard to put yourself first. This program teaches you that you can put yourself first and begin your own journey without having major impacts on your family.
FC: How has your life changed for the better since you have lost the weight?
Kristy: Time with your family is so important. I used to come home from work too tired to cook, order in pizza, eat a family sized block of chocolate by myself and sit on the lounge for hours! I was so unhappy. Now, I come home, organize dinner, get out and walk, settle the kids into bed and then get a full night sleep! I am happy. I can play with the kids and keep up with my busy teenager! In fact, the family time we have no longer revolves around what is on TV our family life now revolves around what activities we can do!
Written on December 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Glennon Doyle Melton
All I want for Christmas is for my kids to be happy, but too often I forget that the kind of happiness I can buy them at the mall doesn’t last. That kind is superficial and fleeting, and we shouldn’t teach our kids to rely on it. Because if our kids learn that joy comes from things they can write on a list, things they don’t already have, any sort of things, they will become the kind of adults who believe that joy is elusive—outside of themselves, something that only materially blessed people have—which we know is simply not true. Joy is within the grasp of each and every one of us. Joy is looking around at what we already have and counting it all as miraculous. The only lasting joy is gratitude.
This year, I’m going to spend some energy teaching my kids about lasting joy. A good holiday season is not about making lists of stuff we wish we had. It’s about making lists of what we already have and love. We just started a Holiday Gratitude Journal with our kids. Every night we sit together and write down three things each of us is grateful for. That’s my kind of list! I share more about how our family learned to make room for gratitude in the December issue of Family Circle.
Written on December 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by Family Circle
Recipes get passed down through the generations and so do healthy eating habits. Our guest blogger Melissa Halas-Liang, RD, founder of the wellness group SuperKids Nutrition, explains how diet can create a better destiny for your kids—and your whole family.
As parents we strive to raise our children to be the healthy adults of tomorrow. When they’re young, we teach them to apply sunblock, brush their teeth and look both ways when they cross the street. However, the relationship between our children’s current health and the risk for disease (type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease) is easy for even the most diligent of parents to miss.
I recently spoke with a well-educated mother who said the fight against childhood obesity doesn’t apply to her family. To this I replied that objectivity is a challenge, because parents often compare their kids to the heaviest child in class, distorting the degree of relative risk.
Don’t let yourself fall into this trap! As it turned out, this mother was intrigued by our conversation and checked her children’s body mass indexes (BMI), as I suggested. She emailed later to inform me her daughter in fact was considered overweight for her age and her son obese. Many parents are just not aware.
Here a few things to know about three diseases we should all be aware of.
Cancer: Did you know that one in three cancers are preventable through lifestyle, aka good nutrition and fitness? Recent research in the field of epigenetics reveals that children’s diet and fitness level will influence genetic behavior later in life. Many of the foods children eat today are cancer-promoting, not cancer-preventing. The American Institute for Cancer Research offers kid-friendly, fun, tasty recipes and other family resources for cancer prevention.
Heart Disease: Perception of body weight is too often skewed. In a recent study, only 10% of adults believed their children ages 6 to 19 were overweight when in reality 33% were overweight or obese. Even the youngest Americans have precursors to heart disease: 61% of overweight children 5 to 10 years of age had at least one major risk factor for heart disease, and 26% had two or more!
Diabetes: “Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents already appears to be a sizable and growing problem among U.S. children and adolescents,” per the Centers for Disease Control. Children with a family history of type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance and a BMI at or above 95th percentile are at increased risk. Kids’ eating habits now impact their habits later, which can increase their risk at age 20, 30 or 40.
Prevention of all three diseases is possible, and it must start today! So, how do we slow down our children’s risk for developing these chronic diseases? Here are 5 simple steps to get you started.
1) Check your child’s BMI. Weight is a sensitive topic that is too often ignored. Ask your pediatrician to discuss healthy eating with your child. Before the appointment, visit the CDC website to check your child’s body mass index.
2) Evaluate your family’s diet. Scan your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. If you see fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, beans, nuts, spices and herbs, then you’re golden. If the items are mostly overly processed, with 10-plus ingredients, then start subtracting. Add more whole foods to your shopping cart on your next trip to the supermarket.
3) Cook with your kids. Find a healthy recipe and set aside some time to cook together. Show your children how to make veggies taste good! Include raw and crunchy or lightly steamed/sautéed veggies in your meals. The veggies can be shredded, chopped, minced, bite-size or finger-size. Try out a variety of textures and temperatures.
4) Cut the sweets in half. Special treats can add up quickly, especially when consumed in addition to highly processed snack foods like chips.
5) Empower your children. Children will eat more healthy and colorful foods when given a choice. Offer your children two types of fruits or vegetables and let them choose the one they prefer. Track your colorful healthy foods together and see who gets the most color with the Super Crew Color Tracker.
How do you instill healthy eating habits in your children? Post a comment below and tell us!
Melissa Halas-Liang, a mom, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, is founder of SuperKidsNutrition.com, which provides nutrition and health content, curriculum and workshops to parents and educators nationwide. She is author of the Super Crew books Super Baby Abigail’s Lunch Time Adventure and Havoc at the Hillside Market.
Written on December 4, 2013 at 9:30 am , by Family Circle
We all know that bullying hurts. But sometimes the fear of being bullied can be just as painful.
Four-year-old Noah Fisher burst into tears when his mother, Lindsey, told him to put on his glasses. Noah was afraid that everyone was going to laugh at him because he had to wear them. So with the help of her friends, Lindsey used Facebook to show Noah that glasses were pretty cool.
She started the page “Glasses for Noah,“ and to her surprise around 40,000 people from all around the country expressed their support for him. They posted various pictures of themselves in glasses, and even some famous faces made an appearance. Noah’s favorite was The Hulk. According to his parents, Noah is getting more comfortable in his glasses every day.
We think Noah looks pretty cute and happy in his glasses. Don’t you?
Written on December 3, 2013 at 9:00 am , by Family Circle
(Note: Sweepstakes begins at 12:01am EST on December 9, 2013 and ends at 11:59pm EST on January 31, 2014)
Here’s a motivational boost to work out at home. We’re giving away a year’s subscription to Netflix and an Apple TV box to one lucky reader so she can stream her favorite shows while working out or stretching at home. To enter, post a comment below and tell us what show, video or movie you’d like to watch while exercising. For entry details, click here.
Looking for new ways to get fit? Read our story “Best Workout Routines to Try“ for expert suggestions and tips.
Written on December 3, 2013 at 8:45 am , by Family Circle
(Note: Sweepstakes begins at 12:01am EDT on December 10, 2013, and ends at 11:59pm EDT January 31, 2014.)
Three lucky readers will each win a Basis B1 fitness tracker, retailed for $199—a device that tracks your heart rate, number of steps logged, hours slept and more!
To enter, post a comment below and tell us what your go-to breakfast is in the morning. For official rules, click here.
Written on November 30, 2013 at 12:00 am , by Family Circle
Pets need exercise too! Tagg, an activity and location tracker that attaches to a collar, lets owners monitor the movement of their cats and dogs to keep them in shape. One lucky reader will win a Tagg Pet Tracker with 12 months of service! To enter, post a comment below and tell us how you work out with your pet. For official rules, click here.
Get your pet moving! Check out our great pet workouts here.
Written on November 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Lisa Kelsey
As a tail-end baby boomer who grew up during the ’70s in California, I technically don’t fit into the “GenMe” classification, as psychologist and author Polly Young-Eisendrath calls it. But as I read her book The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance, it became painfully obvious that I had not entirely escaped the self-esteem trap (California is always ahead of the curve, perhaps).
I grew up being told that I was talented and “special” and would be able to do anything I wanted—by my mother and by teachers. Fortunately, this was somewhat mitigated by my Catholic-school upbringing, as well as by my European-born parents’ “old-fashioned” parenting style in regards to respecting elders, making myself useful, etc. As I matured, I was able to see myself with more perspective. Still, even as an adult I have suffered from a vague sense of dissatisfaction—that I never lived up to my potential—which the author describes as one of the symptoms of the self-esteem trap. Anyhow, I am not a lost cause—I can still improve!
More important, this book provides insight into how to raise my kids to have real—and realistic—experienced-based self-confidence (i.e., confidence and pride based on achievements, not from being told they are special or talented, even though they may be). And to have compassion for others based on the realization that we all share a common humanity, we are all “ordinary.” This doesn’t diminish my kids’ talents—it just places them in perspective and relieves them from the pressure to be exceptional in every way. True happiness will come only if they realize they are human and acknowledge their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Charity and compassion should not merely be given lip service, however. It’s fine to raise children with progressive values and tell them to “treat others as you would like to be treated,” but kids need to practice those things—not just talk about them. They need to experience it directly, in their own lives. They need to put the needs of others—people who are right around them, in their own homes and communities—before their own. They won’t get that experience from clicking on a KONY 2012 link and watching a YouTube video.
Written on November 22, 2013 at 3:34 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Jm Randolph
My husband was out of town for nearly half of 2012. I refer to that time as my Metamorphosis, only instead of waking up as a cockroach, I woke up the sole adult in a house with five stepkids. At Thanksgiving we took our first family holiday road trip: 700 miles to my mother’s house in Indianapolis, where my husband would meet us from Chicago.
I’ve driven across the country alone more than once. For five years as a touring stagehand, I lived in hotel rooms and out of suitcases; I know how to pack and move…myself, that is. Family road trips are a different beast, and my husband was gone.
My husband makes things happen; he’s like Atz Kilcher, MacGyver and Chuck Norris all rolled into one. I’m Lucille Ball, Oscar Madison and Peg Bundy, without the comedy.
As a stepparent, I constantly second-guess my abilities. My first week on the job, I let a 6-year-old go on an apple-picking trip on a 39-degree day without even realizing she wasn’t wearing a long-sleeve shirt, let alone a coat, until she came home with a note from her teacher.
So I prepped for this trip like a mother.
I laid out the minivan by feel: first-aid kit, water, tissues, hand sanitizer, trash bags, chocolate, flashlight, multi-tool and the next six CDs to go in the changer were all within arm’s reach. Each kid’s station was similarly stocked. We had enough food to last us a week in case we got stranded in a blizzard.
Bringing along Jack and Casey, our puggles, was not part of the plan.
Jack spontaneously developed kennel cough the night before his vaccination appointment. He couldn’t be vaccinated while sick, which completely changed the timing for boarding. All of a sudden I had to find a place to board the dogs in Indiana. They were road-tripping with us.
I let this news slip to one kid. Word spread, and this conversation happened five times:
Kid: The dogs are coming over 700 miles in the car with us?
Kid: Our dogs? The badly behaved ones that bark and eat everything in sight and throw up?
Kid: Are you crazy?
I definitely didn’t tell my mother. She found out from someone’s Facebook status and called me right away for reassurance that they had a place to stay. My mother’s hospitality is legendary and she easily accommodates all of us on a moment’s notice, but the puggles were not invited. They could be counted on to terrorize her cats and elderly toy poodle; if left in the garage unattended they would create a Slip ’N Slide with her Turtle Wax and eat the tread off her tires.
By 5:15 a.m. the day of departure, all eight of us were packed into the minivan. By 5:16, the dogs began crying and did not stop for the next four hours. They jockeyed for position, attempting to both be on the same lap at the same time. When that didn’t work out, they were content to displace the owner of said lap, Kid No. 4. Before this trip, she was the puggles’ biggest fan. Now she was ready to leave them at the next rest stop. I looked back and saw Nos. 4 and 5 mushed up together while Jack and Casey stretched out comfortably across two-thirds of the seat eating the last of someone’s sandwich. I’m pretty sure Casey was asking for more mayo.
We made decent time, considering, but it wasn’t enough. I was panicking when I called my sister.
Me: The boarding place closes in 15 minutes and I’m still an hour outside of town and Mom’s going to—
Beth: Come to my house. Don’t tell Mom!
Some things never change.
Even though two kids had to stay with Beth to watch our dogs (who never settled down all night and also tried to kill my sister’s dog), it worked out. We got Jack and Casey boarded the next day, and Beth and I demonstrated gratitude in action for my kids: the lesson that siblings are always there for each other and they’ll go to any lengths to keep secrets from parents.
JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.
Written on November 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm , by Family Circle
Last Friday, we followed Batkid as he kept the streets of Gotham/San Francisco safe. Batkid, aka Miles Scott, is a 5-year-old who has battled leukemia for years. His wish to become Batman was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation and thousands of San Francisco residents.
After being called into service by San Francisco police chief Greg Suhr, Batkid performed various missions, which were chronicled by the media and won him fans all over the world.
We can’t get enough of Batkid, and now we have a trailer featuring our new favorite pint-size Caped Crusader.
It’s wonderful what people can do when they come together, isn’t it?