Written on April 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm , by Caren Oppenheim
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.
Finally, an upside to Tax Day—reward yourself for filing with any of these 10 awesome food steals. Thanks, Uncle Sam!
• Boston Market: $10.40 for Two Half-Chicken Individual Meals with Two Sides and Cornbread
• Arby’s: FREE Value Sized Curly Fries or Small Potato Cakes
• Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt: $4.15 for Unlimited Froyo and Toppings in One Cup
• Schlotzsky’s Bakery Cafe: FREE The Original Small Sandwich with Purchase of 32 oz Fountain Drink and Chips
• Sonny’s BBQ: Half-Price Rib Platter (Irresistible Ribs Special)
• Great American Cookies: FREE Original Chocolate Chip Cookie
• Sonic Drive-Ins: Half-Price Drinks and Slushes
• California Tortilla: FREE Chips and Queso with Any Entrée Purchase
*When you say “Taxes Shmaxes”
• Bruegger’s Bagels: $10.40 for a Big Bagel Bundle (Baker’s Dozen and 2 Tubs of Cream Cheese)
*Available April 12-15
• Hard Rock Cafe: FREE Dinner Entrée from Select Items
*One small caveat…You’ll have to get on the live music stage and “Sing for Your Supper!”
Written on April 10, 2014 at 11:27 am , by Family Circle
Written by Rachel Macy Stafford, The Hands Free Mama
Before I began my Hands Free journey, I pushed and pressured and rushed my way through life until I became too busy to breathe. I became too stressed to laugh. I became too distracted to see the precious moments slipping right through my multitasking fingers.
Through a painful revelation while out for a run one day, I realized I was missing my life—the best parts of life. I decided to take small steps toward change. I created designated times to use technology so it no longer consumed my time and attention. I lowered my standards from perfect to good enough. I stopped trying to do it all and made sleep a priority again. I began putting my family, my health and my happiness back on the priority list.
It’s been three and a half years since I began my Hands Free journey. I have not been cured of the Disease of Distraction, but I have made significant progress. I live in today, rather than putting life off for someday. I know my children and my spouse as unique individuals. My smile and laugh have returned. Living Hands Free has not only become the practice of my life but is now a necessity. Like food, water and air, I need it. I want it. I crave it. Connecting to what (and who) matters is what I live for each day.
But it is not always easy. Technology, responsibilities, deadlines and the pressures of daily life are always tapping me on the shoulder, beckoning me away from what matters most. And when I take time to rest, relax, play and simply be, my inner drill sergeant yells, “There is no time for this!”
Three and a half years ago, I would have listened to that demanding voice. I would have jumped up in the name of productivity, perfection, validation and people-pleasing. But now things are different. My Hands Free voice drowns out the drill sergeant, and here is what it says. May these words help you let go and live a little today.
To the Drill Sergeant in My Head
If I don’t have time to cuddle that warm, pajama-clad body with glorious bedhead first thing in the morning,
If I don’t have time to press my lips upon the cheek of the man I love at nighttime,
Then I have to ask.
If I don’t have time to call my aging parent for a quick check-in,
If I don’t have time to offer a smile to the weary cashier at checkout,
Then I have to ask.
If I don’t have time to listen, really listen, to what my child has to tell me from the backseat of the car,
If I don’t have time to tell her all the things I love about her from the edge of her bed,
Then I have to ask…
What DO I have time for?
Clearing the inbox
Scrolling the newsfeed
Cleaning the kitchen counter till it shines?
Buying things I don’t need
Saying yes because I can’t say no
Filling my days till my calendar overflows?
I have to ask…
What do I think makes life worth living?
I know. I know.
It’s the pajama cuddles,
It’s the nighttime kisses,
It’s knowing I said “I love you,” just in case my dad’s ripe old age catches up with him today.
It’s the dandelion bouquets,
It’s the uncontrollable laughter,
It’s the worries my child confesses at the most inconvenient times.
Today I refuse to be too busy,
To experience these moments—these moments that make life worth living.
Today I will not place life’s most pressing matters over the moments that matter most in life.
Because if there isn’t enough time to truly live, then I need to ask myself what I am living for.
Rachel is the New York Times best-selling Author of Hands Free Mama. She resides in Alabama with her husband and two daughters, who inspire her daily. You can join her on her journey to let go of distraction and grasp the moments that matter at www.handsfreemama.com.
Written on April 10, 2014 at 9:00 am , by Janet Taylor
I remember when memories had expiration dates. What I mean is that if someone had a picture that you liked, you actually had to ask for the negative or request a copy of the photo. Occasionally, by the time you received the keepsake, you had long forgotten about the event. The good thing about formally requesting a reproduction was the implicit approval residing in the delivery of the image.
That was then. This is now. These days, a photo is taken and uploaded faster than you can say “Cheese!” A quick turnaround is wonderful for sharing a joke and capturing good times, but if you are looking for private moments, you won’t find them in this technological age. And when it comes to children—and more specifically photos of other people’s children—we’re not dealing with a laughing matter anymore.
A recent poll indicated that 57% of parents on Facebook strongly dislike having unauthorized photographs of their children posted. However, most parents feel like they don’t have control over the images. Their wishes and wants are conflicted. As a parent, if you don’t have control, who does?
Perhaps the answer is that every family needs to have a social media and sharing policy. Decide if it’s okay to have your little cherub’s face posted at any time by folks who are not part of your family’s tribe. If it is, have at it. If not, then diligently make sure that your wishes are enforced. That may result in the potentially difficult task of asking friends and family to delete unauthorized photos. By the same token, if you post a picture and are asked to remove it, please do.
In the future, schools and organizations may need to require consent for the release of photographs to protect your wishes. Until that happens, the wiser decision may be to ask, not assume, before hitting the “post” button.
Have you ever asked someone not to post (or to remove) a photo of your child from a website? If so, post a comment and tell me what happened.
Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at email@example.com.
Written on April 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm , by Paula Chin
Yet another horrible and heartbreaking attack on campus—this time, at Franklin Regional High outside Pittsburgh, where a 16-year-old sophomore went on a violent stabbing spree, injuring at least 20 teens and adults in classrooms and a hallway before he was subdued and handcuffed by a courageous principal and a school resource officer. Somehow, amid the chaos and terror, everyone kept their wits about them—a fire alarm pulled during the attack helped get more people out of the school, and a female student applied pressure to the wounds of one male victim, possibly saving his life. We don’t yet know what prompted the attacks, but there are rumors that the assailant was a victim of bullying. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. I’ll be hugging my teen a little harder tonight.
We’d like to know:
1. How much do you worry about violence at your teen’s school (not much, somewhat, a lot)?
2. Have violent attacks occurred at your kid’s school (yes, no)?
3. Do you think enough safety measures are being taken (yes, no)?
Written on April 9, 2014 at 9:17 am , by Family Circle
By Dori Katz
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.
Written on April 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm , by Family Circle
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.
Written on April 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm , by Family Circle
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.
Written on April 7, 2014 at 10:00 am , by Lynya Floyd
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.
Written on April 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm , by Caren Oppenheim
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.
Written on April 3, 2014 at 1:35 pm , by Christina Tynan-Wood
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.
Written on April 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm , by Suzanne Rust
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.
Written on April 1, 2014 at 4:09 pm , by Family Circle
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?