Momster

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.

Fool Me Once…

Written on March 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm , by

By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

It’s that time of year again, when I peruse the Internet for ideas for April Fools’ Day pranks I can play on the kids that won’t require either a trip to the emergency room or some intervention from the authorities.

You get a glimpse into the deep psyche of the prank-posters when you do this. They reveal a great deal about their daily routines, how they keep house and how they raise children. I feel like I’m creeping through their bushes and peeking in their windows at dinnertime.

Gretchen Rubin’s Facebook page is great for prank ideas. If you don’t know her, you should definitely check out this author of The Happiness Project. I do love her, even though her suggestions and those of her like-minded fans (read: more organized than merely being able to consistently leave the house wearing pants) are for a seemingly different species of mom than I am. I find a ton of great ideas that simply won’t work in my house.

Dye the milk green. My kids would reach for that gallon in the fridge, notice that it was green, and walk away without realizing it was a prank, or thinking to tell an adult there was something wrong with the milk. Someone finally revealed that you have to have a cardboard carton for the element of surprise, i.e., something smaller than a gallon. The only reason we don’t buy milk in containers larger than a gallon is because it only comes in Cow after that, and I’m not going there.

Glue their toilet paper together.
 They regularly are without toilet paper for days at a time in their bathroom before telling me. I do not know what they use instead. I refuse to go in that room.

Put towels in the sleeves of the jackets so they can’t get their hands through. I could pull this off if I knew which sweatshirt of their dad’s they would swipe that morning when forced to wear a jacket, and if I could use dirty towels. I can never find a clean hand towel, but I know exactly where 17 used-only-once hand towels are: on their bathroom counter. I dearly hope the hand towels are not related to my previous observations regarding toilet paper.

Fold the top sheet of their bed in two and put the cover on as usual. They will not be able to get into bed. This implies that we make the beds and that they have both a sheet and a cover of some sort.

Crumble a biscuit into their bed. Wouldn’t notice (see above).

Mix up all their morning ritual stuff: toothbrush in the shower, shampoo where the blow-dryer belongs, etc. This assumes that these items actually have a place that they are regularly returned to. In my house, this will likely lead to the blow-dryer going in the shower and electrocuting somebody.

Superglue coins to the sidewalk.
 This could work if my sidewalk were made of wood, and the kids hadn’t stolen all my change and let the dog eat the superglue.

Wake the kids up 45 minutes early and tell them the time changed again and they’re late. Did I mention I work nights?

Tell your kids the lawn mower is broken and the homeowners’ association is about to fine you and you need them to cut the lawn. Give them each a pair of scissors and a ruler and tell them to cut it to an inch and a half. Let them go for about 5 minutes before you call out “April Fools!” The woman who submitted this is my hero. Her little boys were quite enthusiastic about the task and her daughter was mortified that her friends would see her. Unfortunately, my “lawn” is so small you actually could cut it with a pair of scissors, in about 10 minutes. To pull this off, I would first have to find one of our six pairs of Magically Vanishing scissors. I would then set the kids on task, pour myself a cup of tea and, due to the peace and quiet, completely forget I was in the middle of an April Fools’ prank. They would be done cutting the lawn before I finished my tea. Also, we don’t have a homeowners’ association, which is truly for the best. If we did, they would have mandated martial law on our property by now.

What are your best April Fools’ pranks?

 

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

 

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on March 24, 2014 at 10:46 am , by

Instagram user @aforkineachhand beautifully made our Bombay Chicken Salad—with her own tweak. She subbed in quinoa for the recipe’s couscous, making the dish even more protein-packed. Head over to her blog, A Fork In Each Hand, to read more about her step-by-step re-creation of this meal.

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.

Lights, Camera, Discounts!

Written on March 21, 2014 at 10:00 am , 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.

Catching a movie doesn’t have to break the bank, thanks to these great offers. Talk about cinematic genius! (Who doesn’t love a free Disney film?)

• Watch the latest releases and timeless classics from the comfort of your home with a One-Month FREE Trial of Redbox Instant by Verizon. You’ll earn four free DVD credits plus access to the Sony Movie Channel.

• Download the Disney Movies Anywhere App—the go-to way to stream your collection of Disney, Pixar and Marvel movies and buy new ones—and you’ll receive a FREE Digital Copy of The Incredibles.

• Sign up for Two FREE Months of Hulu Plus courtesy of Best Buy Mobile Specialty Stores. (Just be sure to cancel after your deal is over, so you’re not charged a monthly fee.)

• Load up on snacks at Regal Theatres. When you buy a large drink and/or large popcorn, you’ll receive One FREE Refill.

• Flying just got a little more appealing. Beginning April 1 on select planes, United Airlines will allow passengers with an Apple device running iOS 6 and higher to choose from FREE Movies and TV Shows preloaded onto their official app.

 

For more tips that’ll save you money at the movies, watch our video below.

Your Kid’s Homework Load Isn’t Too Much, New Study Suggests

Written on March 19, 2014 at 12:44 pm , by

So the kids are all right. That, at least, is the conclusion of a new study on homework by the Brookings Institution, which says that the average homework load for 9- to 17-year-olds has pretty much stayed the same over the last 30 years. This, of course, flies in the face of all the horror stories we’ve heard about kids drowning in nightly homework, of exhausted parents who can’t cope, and of families fraying at the seams because of it all.

So what to think? My own experience, or I should say that of my 12-year-old, is that she consistently has at least 2 or 3 hours every night—about double what the Brookings study found. She’s not suffering under the load—I half-jokingly describe it as “only mildly soul-crushing”—and our family isn’t falling apart, though it’s still too much. Then again, she’s in an honors program at a public school that’s something of a learning factory, but that was the choice we made, since the alternative was a school that wouldn’t have challenged her enough.

I’m grateful for the excellent education she’s getting. And the homework isn’t busywork. It does what I believe take-home assignments are supposed to do: that is, reinforce the lessons learned in class. So I gripe a little, but not too much. At the same time, I don’t dismiss the complainers as whiners. But here’s the thing—the gap between the homework horror stories and what the study found is a pretty big one, which says plenty about the inequality of education nationwide. That’s a much bigger problem, and one that won’t be easily solved.

Tell us what you think in the comments below. 

Be Willing to Learn from Failure

Written on March 18, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Inspired by my work at an inner-city hospital—but dismayed by what seemed a revolving door of the same critical patients—I decided to obtain a graduate degree in public health 10 years ago. I was exhausted by having a job during the day and school at night, but I felt like the luckiest student in the world when I confidently turned in my first paper.

I can still remember gasping for air when I checked my grade on my smartphone: C minus. I had let myself and my family down. I was an academic disappointment—or was I?

Looking back, that episode taught me a valuable lesson. I realized that there is a difference between a moment and an experience. Yes, I had let myself down in that moment. But the experience made me want to improve. This was not a fatal event, but one from which I could regroup.

Whenever you attempt a victory—whether it’s hitting a fundraising goal for your child’s school trip or creating the ultimate Easter basket—there is a risk that you may not succeed. The question is whether you stay in the game, knowing that there is always room for improvement, or slink over to the sidelines and never try, try again.

Be willing to learn from the experience of failing and be determined to turn things around. I did so with hard work and a willingness to listen to painful but honest feedback from my advisor. You can too. Remember: Failure is a symptom. It does not have to be a condition.

 

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

7 Ways to Survive a Sleepless Night

Written on March 17, 2014 at 8:30 am , by

By Jessica Girdwain

 

What do you do when you’re lying awake staring at the alarm clock? Try these expert tips on how to survive a sleepless night.

 

1. Practice mindful breathing

Sit quietly and focus on taking deep breaths. When your mind wanders, return your focus to your inhales and exhales. Research shows this helps stop your mind from racing and lessens insomnia symptoms.

2. Try self-massage

Twice-weekly rubdowns helped the women in a Brazilian study drift off quicker, improve their sleep quality and wake up feeling more refreshed.

3. Read

Using as dim a light as possible, pick up a paper book or magazine (avoid e-readers, which emit blue light). Aim for a relaxing read, not a page-turner that keeps you wide-eyed.

4. Tidy up

Some light, monotonous cleaning (like dusting or straightening up your desk, not rearranging the fridge or scrubbing baseboards) can be soothing, making you rest-ready.

5. Do yoga

The relaxing practice is associated with better-quality sleep, according to new research. Get up and perform a few gentle stances, like the child’s pose or corpse pose, to unwind.

6. Relax your muscles

Starting at your toes, tense and release your muscles, working your way up to your face. This method, called progressive muscle relaxation, helped lull insomniacs to sleep in a study in the Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies.

7. Turn on tunes

In a Dutch study review, music helped participants relax enough to improve sleep quality. Light tunes before bed (think smooth jazz) cue your body to wind down.

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High School Teachers Read Mean Tweets About Themselves

Written on March 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm , by

While we know that it’s impossible to post anything online truly anonymously, sometimes we all need a bit of reminding. Especially teens.

But that wisdom will definitely stick for the video production students of Los Alamitos High School. The students drove home the “be careful what you post” message in this very funny video in the style of the popular Jimmy Kimmel segment “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets”.

Teachers (one of whom didn’t even know what a tweet was) read mean messages about themselves as the song “Everybody Hurts” plays lightly in the background. Although the tweets are not real, they’re all based on the students’ most common thoughts about the teachers. Besides proving a point, this video shows that high school teachers have a pretty good sense of humor.

Be sure to share this video with your teen.

My Baby Book Fail and Other Maternal Inadequacies

Written on March 13, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Getty Images/Seth Joel

Mothers. We are forever finding ways to beat ourselves up about something we did or didn’t do for our children, whether it’s a big or small something.

My friend Jill just recently came out with a wonderful baby book, When We Became Three: A Memory Book for the Modern Family.  As I admired her handiwork, I confessed that the subject brought up pangs of maternal inadequacy. I never made a memory book, and with two kids, now ages 14 and 20, it’s probably not going to happen.

Apparently, it runs in the family.

When I was a kid, I remember digging through our giant box of family photos and finding a memory book buried in the mix. I opened it to discover that most of the pages were blank. I asked my mom what the deal was, and she told me, “We were too busy loving you to keep track of everything!” I was an a cherished and doted on only child. My parents saved all my artwork, baby shoes and the like, but still, I would have liked to see my youth annotated and immortalized. I vowed that I would fill out such book when I had my own kids. Well, ha to that…

J’s first word was ball. He took his first steps at 13.5 months; I remember the first items of clothing on his tiny body, dinosaur onesie and pale yellow sweater.

S started her drunken sailor walk at 10.5 months; her first word was dog, and at barely two years of age, she could put together a puzzle like nobody’s business. I remember it well, but so many of the other things? Not so much. I honestly don’t recall the exact age they where when they cut their first teeth, or really put that little plastic potty to use. Too bad I didn’t write it down.

Does that make me a bad mother?

I adore my kids, really, I do.  And I am very sentimental. I have kept most of their various diplomas, awards, random cute shoes, stacks of lovely scribbles that then turned into real artwork, book reports, school papers, graduation programs, and all that good stuff.  I savor the whole experience of motherhood (well, most of it); it’s just that I don’t carry it out in an organized fashion.

While I’m at it, I never photographed my children wearing the same giant t-shirt from kindergarten to college to mark and marvel at their growth, (thanks Internet, for reminding of all of the other adorable things I never did for my children). I never wrote a loving letter to each of them on their birthdays with the intention of handing over a ribbon wrapped bundle on their 21st, but I meant to. I did take pictures of them on most first days of school; I’m not sure where all of those photos actually are, but they are most certainly not in a memory book.

Part of me wishes that I was that scrapbooking mom, who has a clearly marked, brightly colored books for each year of her children, but I know that I am not.

After many years, I compiled their first photo albums from sonogram to about the age of 10, but now that we rarely print out photos anymore, heavens knows what kind of evidence they’ll have of their tween and teen years beyond what’s trapped in mom and dad’s phone and Facebook. If they complain that there’s not more information, I’ll just use my mother’s line, “We were too busy loving you to keep track of everything!”

How do you keep track of your family memories?  Please share in the comments below.