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.


Broken Smartphones Are a Trend in My Household

Written on March 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm , by

 

It’s been a rough month for phones in my house. My daughter dropped hers on the floor in the locker room at school and shattered the screen. Mine took a small tumble out of my pocket, landed on an edge and suffered a crack. Both falls would have been immediately forgotten if we’d had a case on our phones. Instead, I found myself researching repairs. And while it’s not that difficult to get a phone fixed—or, in some instances, fix it yourself—it’s much easier not to break the phone in the first place.

I broke mine in the morning and got it fixed by noon at a small phone repair place that was only a few blocks away, but I spent nearly $200. (iPhones are probably cheaper to repair than my Nexus 5, since there are so many of them.) My son fixed a phone he broke by ordering a replacement kit from eBay and watching a how-to video on YouTube. Otherwise, you can usually call your phone’s manufacturer, ship it to them and have it back—good as new—two weeks later. The cost will depend on the model and the size of the screen. Newer phones are usually cheaper to fix, since replacement screens are more readily available.

For all the small drops we experienced, any case—even a cheap one—would have probably offered enough of a buffer to prevent the screen from cracking. Of course, you can also get a bit spendy and protect the phone from water, serious impact and other hazards.

Here’s a selection of cases to keep from shattering your screen—and your budget.

This simple Catch case ($35) from STM is also a wallet and offers a small amount of protection.

 

The Otterbox Commuter case ($45) also doubles as a wallet and offers lots of protection. (The video below, courtesy of Otterbox, demonstrates how cool it is!)

If you own an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy and want to express your interests, personality or fandom—or just have so much style that you can’t be limited by an off-the-rack product—check out the artist-designed cases at Redbubble.com. Warning! It’s very fun to shop there.

 

For utilitarian protection that will keep your phone out of trouble and give you the look of a pragmatic worker bee, consider this Pelican Vault ($75) case. You have to install it, but your phone will survive practically anything once you do.

If you don’t own one of the most popular phones, your search will be a bit more difficult. But until you find the perfect fit, swing by Amazon and buy a $10 case. Even a little protection is better than a shattered screen.

 

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.

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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.


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on March 17, 2014 at 10:29 am , by

Instagram user @erriiinnnns perfectly cooked and plated our Chicken, Apple and Spinach Empanadas. Not only does folate (found in the spinach) fight cardiovascular disease, but baking instead of frying the empanadas makes them an all-around better-for-you meal. Click here for more Healthy Family Dinners.

 

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.


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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Spring Discounts Are in the Air!

Written on March 14, 2014 at 5:39 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.

 

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, let the luck of the Irish be yours! Enjoy these fun and flavorful markdowns and giveaways (free Slurpee, anyone?).

• Jump on this great deal—12 festive crafts for both kids and adults in a FREE St. Patrick’s Day E-Book.

• Forgo the St. Patty’s Day aisle at the party store this year and download FREE Decorative Glasses.

• Deck out your fridge in FREE DIY Irish Magnets.

• Get ready to jig with a FREE Green Hill Celtic Music Sampler, downloadable from Amazon.

• Celebrate the official first day of spring on Thursday, 3/20, with a FREE Italian Ice from Rita’s.

• Text “DIETCOKE1” to 711711 and you’ll be sipping on a FREE Small Slurpee Drink in 7-Eleven’s newest flavor, Diet Coke Frost Cherry.

• Indulge in a cone of Carvel’s seasonal flavor, Mint, with $1 OFF any Medium or Large Cone through Saturday, 3/30.

• It’s smoothie season—score $1 OFF a Medium or Large Frozen Beverage at Baskin-Robbins.


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.