Momster

Your “Useless” Gown Could Be the Perfect Prom Dress for a Teen

Written on April 9, 2014 at 9:17 am , by

By Dori Katz

Getty Images
Nocturnus / iStock Vectors

Having been a bridesmaid over 10 times (yes, it’s true), I’ve accumulated quite the assortment of solid-colored chiffon and taffeta gowns. While every bride promises you’ll be able to wear your bridesmaid dress again, we all know that never happens. I’d been looking for some way to repurpose or give away my collection and finally found the perfect recipient: W GIRLS INC. Project G.L.A.M.

W GIRLS INC. Project G.L.A.M. provides underprivileged teens with prom dresses and accessories so they can attend and enjoy this monumental high school event. To date, they’ve dressed over 8,000 girls! As a beauty and fashion editor, I know how much it means to put on a pretty dress and instantly feel good. I truly hope I can help a few teens shine brightly at their prom this year.

The organization takes new and gently worn dresses and accessories year-round. Donating is super easy: Either drop off your items at one of the many pickup locations or send them by mail. For more info, check out their website, here.

 

 

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Is It Still PC to Buy Your Daughter a Barbie?

Written on April 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm , by

By Julie D. Andrews

Barbie’s back…and making headlines. She’s got a hot new Twitter feed boasting 200K-plus followers. She’s “unapologetic” about scoring the cover of Sports Illustrated‘s famous (or infamous, depending) swimsuit issue. And she has a new cousin: Entrepreneur Barbie (pink-yet-sophisticated shift dress, check; smartphone, check; tablet, check).

Modern makeover or not, Barbie still evokes body-image controversies, making us unsure about coughing up 20 bucks so our girls can tote around the hot-to-trot miss.

Confession: I played with Barbies. And I liked it. A lot. (I also loved pink and still do, but now I call it fuchsia.) I didn’t know Barbie’s body proportions weren’t realistic. I also didn’t realize most men were not Ken—without six-pack abs, towering height and billowing ascots.

It’s not fair to ascribe adult hangups to kids, to burden their playful little hearts with body-image stressors. Dolls, by nature, are aspirational. They wear stylish clothes and inhabit lavish dollhouses. My Barbies had it all, sans regret: hot-rod convertible, flashy mansion, steamy boyfriend, runway wardrobe. But they also drove Tonkas (thanks to my brother), zoomed to important meetings and fraternized with G.I. Joe operatives on secret-spy missions.

Some researchers say it’s this mix that’s important for girls. A recent study concluded that playing with only Barbies could limit girls’ career choices. Take-home? “The most important thing is to make sure there is a wide variety of toys to play with,” said researcher Aurora Sherman.

But maybe it was something else that “saved me.” Maybe I was just who I was no matter what I played with. I was me, playing Barbies. Or me, climbing trees, jumping off rocks (once nearly chomping off my tongue), leaping into pools not knowing how to swim (a story my mother still tells) or refusing to part with my Wonder Woman slippers. I boldly went—and, by extension, so did my Barbies—jumping off buildings and kung-fu kicking too-fresh boys. Perhaps I saw Barbie as just like me, not the reverse.

Not everyone agrees (some screens are likely iced in steely stares). Artist Nickolay Lamm’s recent online crowdfunding campaign to manufacture Average Barbie, officially named Lammily, raised $95K within days.

That’s cool; I get it. But I can’t help but wonder if girls would know the difference if we didn’t point it out to them. I don’t want girls to settle for “good enough” but to go for gold and dream up lives they can aspire to. As comfortable as they are, sweatpants don’t fly in the corporate world.

So, secret’s out: I can’t wait for my niece to get her first Barbie and to rekindle my glory days of inventing story lines. For good measure, I’ll ask about Barbie’s board meeting and whether her startup’s secured expansion funding.

 

Julie D. Andrews is a writer living in New York City. Her new book, Real Is the New Natural, dismantles the negative, destructive messaging about body image and beauty bombarding us daily under the guise of health. Moms are calling it an excellent vehicle for propelling discussions about tough topics with their daughters.

Holiday Traditions in Blended Families: Easter Edition

Written on April 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm , by

By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

It’s time to break the silence on one of the more problematic issues facing blended families today: what to do about the Easter Bunny.

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, my stepkids adjusted far more easily to all holiday celebrations other than Easter in our new family situation. I place the blame squarely on that nebulous bunny.

When I was a kid, the Easter Bunny brought the baskets and hid the eggs that my sister and I then found, but even then I knew it didn’t happen the same way at everyone’s house.

The Easter Bunny has no standards. He has neither sidekicks nor clearly delineated responsibilities. In the realm of mythical childhood mascots, every other one of them has a well-defined job description. At least with Santa, you can connect the goodness and giving part of his gig to the deeper spiritual nature of the holiday. The validity of connecting a bunny to an empty tomb is a stretch. Even if we connect him to the prolific…proliferation…of bunnies in order to symbolize the rebirth and fertility of spring, in no tradition anywhere does a rabbit lay chicken eggs.

Trying to understand the Easter Bunny is like reading a technical manual that has been badly translated from Arabic to French to Chinese to English. Some words are there on the page, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense.

My husband wasn’t terribly helpful when it came to sharing Easter traditions. “That was their mom’s holiday,” he said. “I did Christmas.” So that first year, we guessed. The Easter baskets were ready when they woke up in the morning. They contained bubbles, chalk, Frisbees, balsa airplanes, two Hula Hoops and enough candy to send a small village into a stupor.

13-year-old girl: What’s all this?

Me: Easter baskets. From the Easter Bunny.

13-y-o: Why did the “Easter Bunny” come so early? He usually doesn’t come until after church and he only brings candy. [Insert sarcastic teen voice.] Mom would get us all in the car to go to church waaay early, and suddenly remember that she forgot something in the house. She’d go back inside for like fifteen minutes, and then when we got home from church the “Easter Bunny” would have miraculously delivered the Easter baskets.

Me: Easter is all about the miracles.

Where things really broke down was the egg hunt. If you’re not raised with the belief that the Easter Bunny hides the eggs, nothing will convince you otherwise. Not even the 4-year-old was buying it.

The only egg hunts they had done were at churches or parks in large groups. These kids are super competitive to begin with, so we hid some easy, some hard, and let them stagger the start youngest to oldest. That only made the oldest notice all her siblings occupied in the back and immediately move to the front yard to find every single egg there in about ninety seconds.

They were sorely disappointed that only real eggs were hidden. Apparently there were supposed to be plastic eggs filled with candy and money.

Easter remains the holiday that I never get right. I’ve stopped trying, and instead look for ways to amuse myself.

I have to give the Easter Bunny due credit: He saved me one time by stepping in for the Tooth Fairy. After the Tooth Fairy forgot to show up several nights in a row, the Easter Bunny covered the duties and wrote a note of apology, which was unquestioningly and gleefully accepted by the loser of the tooth (the Easter Bunny being more generous than the Tooth Fairy).

I was interrupted during story time the other day by the 18-year-old barging into her brother’s room to ask me to pass along to the Easter Bunny the fact that she doesn’t like the large robin’s eggs candy, only the small ones.

I decided it’s time for the Tooth Fairy to repay the debt to the Easter Bunny by taking over duties this Easter.

JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.

 

My Birthday Bucket List

Written on April 7, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

On my special day, I asked Facebook friends for something out of the ordinary. When you’re careful what you wish for, amazing things come true.

You know that moment when you’re in the midst of doing something…and then suddenly, vividly recall why years ago you stopped doing that thing? (Think: generously inviting a clingy neighbor to a girls’ night out.) Well, I had one of those moments last November.

I was staring at myself in the mirror of a studio at New York Sports Club. The instructor queued up a hip-hop song I’d never heard before and started counting down 3-2-1 until a group of us would knock out a 46-move combo. Ah, cardio dance classes. I’ve always been horrible at them, much preferring the two-step of the treadmill. I fumbled my way through the shoulder pops and sideways slides, sneaking cheating glances at the rest of the class. Why was I putting myself through the wringer at 11 a.m. on a Saturday? Because of my Facebook friend request.

A few years ago, I started asking my friends to skip posting on my wall the simple (but appreciated) “Have a great birthday!” Instead, I made specific requests for my big day. One year, it was to share a favorite time together. (“Dinner at Emeril’s flagship restaurant in New Orleans,” wrote a former coworker.) Another, it was to share the best piece of advice they’d ever received. (“If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain,” a friend declared. I love that.) Last year, though, I was craving adventure. And something that would deepen my relationships with my friends, coworkers and relatives. People may complain about how technology distances us from those we love, but I’m pretty adamant that it can actually bring us together.

So I posted:

“Dear Friends: I’m marking tomorrow as my Bucket List Birthday. As I celebrate another year, I humbly ask you all a favor. If you leave birthday
wishes on my page, please note one epic adventure that we haven’t been on that you hope we will have one day soon. It can be anything: Running a marathon  together. Crafting an award-winning  story. Anything. And I promise I’ll  spend the rest of my life trying to make  it come true. Love you all!”

Flash-forward to me at 11 a.m. one Saturday in a hip-hop dance class with my friend Jeffrey. And—surprisingly enough—the Saturday after that as well.
You see, when Jeffrey left a message on my wall about the class, he was just hoping we’d spend time doing something he loved. But after failing pretty miserably at the first class, I realized that while my body was willing, my brain was weak. My muscles had gotten a good workout; it was my mind that was lagging behind. I’d had the dance equivalent of talking on your cell phone while pedaling on an exercise bike. Next class, I brought my Dancing with the Stars A-game and recalled three times as many combinations. When I high-fived Jeffrey at the end, you would’ve thought I’d scored a touchdown at the Super Bowl.

Admittedly, some of the escapades on my bucket list may take a lifetime to achieve—so I’m glad I gave myself that long. One friend asked to co-author a book together, another wants to kayak in Maui, and a third hopes to host a reunion concert by our favorite band from the ’80s (Guns N’ Roses) with a red-carpet guest list including, well, our friends from junior high.

The very first reply to my birthday request was about a recipe—no surprise, considering the number of culinary successes I’ve posted. Apparently I had uploaded pictures of some homemade Oreos to my feed no fewer than four times in the past year, and my friend was tired of the mouthwatering tease. Okay, okay, whipping up Oreos isn’t exactly an adventure, but it did lead to quality time together when I dropped off a tin full of the cookies.

A few of the requests helped me hone serious negotiating skills. One friend wanted us to run the San Francisco Marathon. Ever since my first marathon, which was hilly and slow, I’ve had two requirements for the course of my next one: flat and fast, two things the City by the Bay’s course most certainly is not. As thrilling as the idea of booking it through Golden Gate Park and past Fisherman’s Wharf sounded, the idea of all those hills had me mentally pulling the covers over my head. The elevation chart for the race looked like a 26.2-mile EKG chart—pun intended. I countered with the Chicago Marathon, she came back with Philly, and for now, we’ve agreed to run the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon in New York.

Other friendly posts required an arsenal of planning tools, from vision boards to travel guides. I’m not sure when CBS is taking applications for The Amazing Race, but I know who my partner will be and we’ve got to start working on our audition video. I’ve also been asked to plan an epic night of cocktail-bar-hopping in Manhattan. I don’t know if that means the entrance has to be hidden behind a phone booth (yes, that does exist here) or the drinks need to arrive on fire, or something in between. But either way, I’m sure it’ll be a night to remember. Every time an encounter gets crossed off my list, I write about it on Facebook. As with any to-do list, it feels like a pat on the back when you check off items. But I’ve also noticed that each “task” has me challenging myself in a new way, learning more about myself and encouraging my loved ones to dream big. A friend once told me, “You have to take the journey to know where the journey will take you.” I couldn’t have asked for better road maps than last year’s birthday wishes.

 

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Beauty Bargains

Written on April 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm , by

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best deals on the Web! We love a bargain as much as the next person, so check back every Friday for our favorite family-friendly discounts.

April is Stress Awareness Month. And we can’t think of a better way to stay serene than with a little pampering. Let these beauty freebies be your stress cure-all.

 

• Stop by an Origins store for a FREE Mini Facial that’ll include a one-on-one consultation.

• Sign up at Gucciparfums.com for a FREE sample of Gucci Guilty Fragrance.

• Aveda products offer tons of natural benefits. Try a FREE 3-Step System Sample Pack, which includes exfoliating shampoo, thickening conditioner and scalp revitalizer.

• Get a FREE Sample of Suave Professionals Natural Infusion when you register online.

• Try out a FREE sample of Ice Elements 2-Minute Miracle Gel, a deep-cleansing skin treatment.

 

Gamer Moms

Written on April 3, 2014 at 1:35 pm , by

When I met some friends for dinner at a popular restaurant recently, waiting for a table was a given. We all happily used the time to start catching up—except for Annette, who whipped out her smartphone. Hoping to lure her into our group chatter, I teased her a little about being all work and no play. “Oh, this is play,” she said. “My mother lives by herself in Texas, so we do our best to connect every day through Words with Friends.”

Turns out, as gamers, these two are in good company. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 74% of moms play video games, usually on smartphones and mobile devices. Even more surprising: Women over age 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population than boys age 17 or younger. (Hello, Candy Crush Saga!)

Like Annette, I enjoy playing games on my smartphone and tablet. Developers at Zynga (the California-based social game company that racked up 10 million users in six weeks when it debuted FarmVille on Facebook in 2009) say women tend to gravitate to games that suit their personality. Artistic, visually driven types tend to enjoy FarmVille 2: Country Escape (Google Play, iTunes, free for April), in which players create beautiful environments as they complete short quests. Personally, I like logic, trivia, narrative and word games that test my knowledge rather than my reflexes.

For me, a few minutes playing Mah Jong solitaire is a terrific way to recharge my weary brain. So is playing QuizUp (iTunes, free) with a stranger whose total recall of literary character names never ceases to impress me, or clashing vocabulary swords with my game-addicted teen in Wordament. And when all is said and done, let’s just say I’m not averse to passing time by tossing birds at pigs (Angry Birds; all mobile devices) or growing plants to kill the invading horde of zombies (Plants vs. Zombies; Google Play and iTunes, 99 cents).

After all, as the old saying goes, fun is where you find it. And my smartphone is always within reach.

Ivy League Home Run: Long Island Teen Accepted to All 8 Ivy League Universities

Written on April 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm , by

Awaiting college acceptance letters can be one of the most unnerving experiences for a high school senior, unless of course you are Kwasi Enin, the Long Island teen who scored big-time with fat envelopes from all eight Ivy League schools: Harvard, Brown, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania. (Oh yes, and he also got into Duke, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Geneseo and Stony Brook University.)

Enin is the product of a public school education, at William Floyd High School in Mastic, Long Island, and is a first-generation American, the son of immigrants from Ghana; they made huge sacrifices for their children and expected excellence in return. Under their guidance he studied religiously and was expected never to come back with a grade below 95.

Enin took the SATs three times before he was satisfied with his score: 2,250 out of 2,400, placing him in the 99th percentile for all students taking the exam. He’s also a straight-A student who scored highly on many of his Advanced Placement exams.

In addition, Enin is a viola player, and a cappella singer and a shot-putter—in short, perfect Ivy League material. (I smiled and was relieved to hear that the 17-year-old aspiring doctor is also a fan of video games.)

I feel so proud of this kid, bless him and his parents, but it’s easy to feel like an underachiever next to such accomplishment. I’m also the parent of bright kids, but my parenting style is definitely not of the Tiger Mom persuasion, and my kids, although no slouches, just might not pull off such a dazzling Ivy League coup. I can live with that, truly I can, but I have to say Enin has certainly raised the bar for what is possible.

As a parent, how does Enin’s story make you feel? Does it inspire you? Let us know in the comments below.

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Good Reads: Four Books for Pet Lovers

Written on April 1, 2014 at 4:09 pm , by

By Cristina Corvino

Raise a paw to these clever new canine and feline books. From an addictive game of I Spy to an irresistibly catchy tune come to life, these are sure to satisfy your Internet pet craving for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat vs. Human: Another Dose of Catnip by Yasmine Surovec

Explore the unique and unconditionally loving relationship that only cat parents understand best. Yasmine Surovec, author of the successful blog catversushuman.com, debuts 21 brand-new comics for your enjoyment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find Momo by Andrew Knapp

We spy…a black-and-white border collie. Based on designer and photographer Andrew Knapp’s addictive blog (gofindmomo.com) and Instagram account (@andrewknapp), Find Momo includes images of his dog camouflaged in unusual landscapes. Warning: Once you start searching, it’s hard to stop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downton Tabby by Chris Kelly

Felines sit atop their aristocratic thrones in this amusing storybook parody of the PBS television hit Downton Abbey. Among the lessons you’ll learn: “How to Argue with Lord Grimalkin About His Most Deeply Held Beliefs.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis, Christian Løchstøer and Svein Nyhus

Sing along to the viral hit song (over 380 million views and counting on YouTube!) by Ylvis as you read the entertaining lyrics and get lost in the charming illustrations. What do you say to that?

Chew on This: Talking Breakfast with Teens and Tweens

Written on March 31, 2014 at 2:28 pm , by

By Danielle Blundell

The ironic thing about breakfast is that we’ve been hearing it’s the most important meal of the day for years, yet many of us skip it anyway. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become better about eating in the morning. But for teens, staying up late watching TV or texting with friends, then hitting the snooze button repeatedly in the a.m. sometimes makes breakfast a luxury reserved for the weekends. A good analogy to illustrate the importance of breakfast for kids—and even ourselves—might be sports. Performing like an athlete requires the proper fuel, and it all starts with breakfast.

To that end we asked the New York Giants’ colorful running back Victor Cruz and The Chew’s Carla Hall, who’ve partnered up with Fuel Up to Play 60 to increase school breakfast participation across the country, for their tips on getting tweens and teens excited about breakfast. And who better than skeleton silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace, fresh off the Sochi podium and now spokesperson for Kellogg’s Give a Great Start Program, for additional ideas, since she’s mom to—and chief breakfast maker for—children Traycen and Lacee.

1. Convenience is key. 

Kids are always on the go, so breakfast options should be flexible too. Stock up on breakfast bars and instant oatmeal, or prepare baggies of dry cereal ahead of time, like Pikus-Pace does, for kids to grab fast from the pantry. Cruz remembers, “Even if I was running late, I always fit breakfast in because of my mom. She’d say, ‘At least eat some cereal,’ or she’d have a granola bar ready for me to eat in the car on the way to school.”

2. Splurge once in a while.

Sure, a well-balanced, healthy breakfast is ideal, but sometimes kids form good habits faster when you let them indulge in their favorites from time to time. For Cruz, it’s French toast. “I’d eat that every day if I could,” he says. Hall favors pancakes. Make it a point to get the family together and enjoy a splurge breakfast at least once a month.

3. Go pro athlete with your menu.

“On game days, I’ll have a vegetable omelet for protein, oatmeal for extra energy and a glass of orange juice,” says Cruz. Before your athlete’s big game or on a test day, give that combo a try. You don’t even have to bust out a pan or skillet if you don’t have the time. Hall uses an on-the-go omelet recipe made with eggs, a little bit of milk, cheese and veggies or meat that she shakes up in a microwave-safe Mason jar and microwaves for 2 minutes.

4. Make breakfast a group effort when you can.

“Today’s kids are more little foodies than we think,” says Hall. “Getting them involved is key, and it starts with taking kids to the store to pick items out. Or ask them for a list.” Let kids customize their own jar omelets or pick out the fruits they want to top their cereal, oatmeal or yogurt. And remind them that not everybody has it so easy when it comes to breakfast. “Everyone deserves a great start, but every day one in five kids don’t get breakfast,” says Pikus-Pace. You and your teen or tween can help. Watch her video and share it with the hashtag #greatstart on Twitter or Facebook, and you’ll provide a meal to a child in need through Kellogg’s.

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on March 31, 2014 at 9:30 am , by

Now serving: pie for dinner! Instagram user @mobraves expertly made and styled our take on a savory meal switch-up—Broccoli Onion Pies. The simple recipe takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, perfect for busy weeknights. Click here for more quick and easy meals.

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef? 

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

March Madness

Written on March 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm , by

 Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best deals on the Web! We love a bargain as much as the next person, so check back every Friday for our favorite family-friendly discounts.

Regardless of whether your team’s been ousted from the tournament, get in on the action with these 3-point discounts. You’ll score nothing but net in savings.

• Grab college Hooded Sweatshirts for everyone in the family—they’re only $9.99 instead of $40.

• Complete your school spirit look with a team iPhone Case, on sale for $11.99, marked down from $29.99.

• Get ready to be the official game-watch house. After you place an order for $15 or more at Papa John’s, you’ll receive 25 bonus Papa Rewards points the next day, valid for a FREE Large Pizza with Three Toppings.

• Round the gang up for Buy 10 Get 10 Wings at Hooters.

• Keep your eyes on all the action with multiple TVs and $5 Off Two Dinner Entrees at Outback Steakhouse.

• You may have a new vested interest in who wins the big game on April 7. If a team with a “winged” mascot wins, Pizza Hut will be giving out a FREE Four-Count Sample of WingStreet Wings. If not, you can still enjoy a limited-time deal of Eight Wings for $5.

Free SAT Prep Classes

Written on March 26, 2014 at 2:24 pm , by

My kids have frequently used the Khan Academy to improve their grades, catch up on classes and complete their homework. So the announcement (above) that this free online classroom has partnered with the College Board to make SAT prep free to everyone made me very happy.

My son has taken the SAT three times and plans to take it again. Every time he does, he plans to study. But somehow he never manages to get in enough studying before test day. Next time, he won’t be trying to drag himself through a book. And I won’t feel guilty if I can’t afford to buy him an expensive test preparation class. Because, according to David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, the Khan Academy will be the best place to prepare for this exam going forward. “To be clear,” explains Coleman in the above video, “this will be the only place in the world—and free to the world—besides on our own website, that students will be able to encounter materials for the exam that are focused on the core of the math and the literacy that matters most…There will be no other partnerships, so this will be the best there is.”

So that’s where my son will be taking practice tests, watching Sal Khan work through actual SAT questions, retaking tests, practicing with real SAT reading and writing problems provided by the College Board, and doing it all from whatever tablet, smartphone or computer he happens to be in front of. To make sure he’s on track, I can act as coach and check his progress online.

For 2016, the SAT will be completely redesigned to put the emphasis back on testing knowledge rather than mastery of test-taking tricks. The Khan Academy is working in partnership with the College Board to create study materials—available for free to everyone!—to go with the revamped SAT, too.

Free test prep for college, free college classes for all students. I love the democratic, egalitarian place the Internet is taking education. All we have to do is dial up learning instead of silly cat videos and we can change the world. It gives me hope.

 

Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.