No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Written on February 25, 2014 at 11:03 am , by

By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

There was a time it snowed while I was at home and my husband was at work. I did all the shoveling myself and did not ask the kids for help. It was not a dream, though it certainly doesn’t sound like me. I must have really needed to get out of the house.

Much like how my children are THE ONLY kids in town who don’t have iPhones, they say they are THE ONLY children with expected snow-shoveling duties. I wish these were merely exaggerations from a teen’s perspective, but observation has shown both counts to be somewhat valid.

I must confess that I never shoveled snow as a teen. I make that confession in the safety of knowing that my kids will never read this. The only thing they are less interested in than reading-in-general is reading anything I write specifically (I could tape a chore list to each of their foreheads and none of them would notice), so I am confident they will never find out my secret: By the time I was old enough to properly wield a shovel, we had moved to an apartment where we were not responsible for snow removal.

Most of my kids’ friends do not have chores at home. They don’t do their own laundry, their parents still clean their rooms, and they certainly don’t have to help dig out the cars or clear the walk. My kids groan and whine about the unfairness of having to shovel, but they suit up and head out to our driveway. They know no matter how badly they perform the job, they’re not getting out of it.

At the risk of being reported to DYFS, I should make my other confession: We expect our kids to help shovel and we don’t pay them for it. Shoveling the driveway so that we can continue functioning as a family is a necessary part of running a household. Like laundry, like dishes, like walking the dogs, like grocery shopping. We all do all of these things. I don’t think it’s wrong to pay a kid for helping out; the main reason we don’t pay for these necessary chores is the sheer size of our household and the fact that we’d go broke doing it.

However, this doesn’t mean other people won’t pay them to help. My kids have not yet connected their desire for cash and the gold mine that lies before them in a shed full of shovels, mountains of snow and a town populated by busy parents with kids who don’t know a handle from a blade.

Why should they? The oldest girls discovered they can make money babysitting without nearly as much physical exertion. The youngest girl resents having to expend the effort to move her own body off the couch in order to direct it to bed. The boy has decided that he doesn’t need to make money that badly, yet somehow he has managed to save up $54 and still gets our babysitters to buy him doughnuts.

Last week’s barrage of storms gave us our own Seinfeld episode. For the hundredth time (it seemed to them) the kids were out shoveling. Our neighbor is a retired lady who lives alone. Everyone in the neighborhood pitches in to help clear her drive. The kids had done it the day before when she wasn’t home, and we talked about how it’s important to help your neighbors even if they never know it was you.

When they went over to help this second day in a row, one stayed behind. Whether to more thoroughly scrape our own driveway or to avoid the heavy lifting across the street is known only to her. What is known is that the lady was home that day, and came out and expressed her deep gratitude by handing every kid a 10-dollar bill. Every kid in her driveway, that is.


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


Win a Tennis Racket Signed by Serena Williams

Written on February 25, 2014 at 8:00 am , by


Here’s your chance to win a racket signed by tennis great Serena Williams, who will once again be defending her title at the Family Circle Cup tournament in Charleston, South Carolina, from March 29 to April 6. If you can’t get there, tune in for live coverage of the matches on ESPN2 April 3 to 6, beginning at 1 p.m. ET. For official rules, click here.

To enter, post a comment below and tell us what you’d do with a signed racket.

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2 Must-Watch Videos for “Frozen”-Obsessed Kids

Written on February 24, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Disney’s Frozen—a haunting but happily-ending tale of sisters Elsa and Anna, one of whom possesses icy powers that have seemingly condemned the city of Arandel to a Forever Winter— has been the Big Thing in my house since the weekend it opened. We’ve seen it in 2D, 3D and, most recently, the Singalong version. (As if this were somehow inadequate, my kids, 9 and 6, ask regularly about getting the DVD, which isn’t even out until March 18.)

To get her daily Frozen fix, my daughter is loving Alex Boye’s tribal-inspired cover starring 11-year-old Lexi Walker, who seems poised to become a huge star. Her other current fave is ThePianoGuys’ amazing mash-up of music from Frozen with Vivaldi’s “Winter.“ Their obvious passion and the spectacularly icy setting make this a slam dunk. Watch and enjoy.

Tell me in the comments if your kid loves these as much as mine!


How These Strangers React to Seeing a Boy Shivering Outside Without a Coat

Written on February 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm , by

You see a boy shivering outside without a coat. What would you do?

Actions speak much louder than words. You may not understand what’s being said in this video, but the acts of kindness are universally understood. Watch as hidden cameras capture how strangers in Norway react to a little boy sitting at a bus stop in the cold without a coat.

The experiment was filmed by the Norwegian branch of the SOS Children’s Villages International charity as part of a campaign to provide warm clothing for displaced children in Syria, according to The Nordic Page.

Share your thoughts on the video in the comments below.



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A Crisis Line for Teens Via Text

Written on February 19, 2014 at 9:15 am , by

I have two teenagers, and I know a lot of things about these complicated young people. Here are two: They like to text so much that it’s become the best way to talk to them. And they tend to stay up late for no good reason. (I do my best to stop that, but you can’t force someone to sleep. All you can do is not provide distractions.) From those facts, I extrapolate that there will be times—probably some of them in the middle of the night—when they’ll want to send a text asking for help. I’d like to think that they would always feel comfortable sending that text to me. But I was a teenager once, so I’m pretty sure there may be things that seem too awful to those inexperienced minds to confess to Mom. That’s why I like the mission of Crisis Text Line: to provide teens with free, 24/7 emotional support and information via the medium they already use and trust, text.

The average teen sends 3,339 text messages a month (and opens every text she gets). Texting is quiet and discreet, so kids can do it even if they’re afraid of someone in the room. They can text from school, late at night, whenever and wherever they’re in need, and no one in their world has to know that their thumbs are sending out a cry for help. This makes it the perfect medium for teen crisis intervention.

But here’s the best case for why Crisis Text Line is a good idea: It didn’t come about because someone dreamed it up. It exists because teenagers asked for it.

Nancy Lublin is CEO of, an organization that helps young people take action on causes they care about. That outlet discovered that the best way to get messages out to teens was via text. Lublin started the project that became Crisis Text Line because the staff at started getting shocking cries for help from the teens they were communicating with. One of those texts read,

“He won’t stop raping me. He told me not to tell anyone. Are you there?”

Lublin could do little but refer that teen to a crisis center. But she decided she had to do something to create a texting help line for teens that was empowered to provide assistance.

And she did. So make sure the teens you know are aware that free help is available via text 24/7. They just text “LISTEN” TO 741-741.

A great side benefit is that this forum also provides terrific data on when, where and to whom bad things are happening. If the Crisis Text Line sees a spike in texts after specific events or at certain times of day, this tells them that schools or cities need to provide help in those places and at those times. Maybe, Lublin says, that will make it possible to stop kids from being bullied, from cutting themselves or from being raped. You can watch her explain all this herself in the video below.




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

Top 10 States for Telecommuting Jobs (Is Yours on the List?)

Written on February 14, 2014 at 10:43 am , by

Last August I wrote a feature about the best work-at-home jobs, because we know that interest in those types of opportunities continues to trend high. (The number of U.S. employees who telecommute multiple days per week grew 80% from 2005 to 2012, according to workplace strategy firm Global Workplace Analytics.) A good work-at-home gig can feel heaven-sent for a parent, who can contribute to the family financially but also be around to run a kid to sports practice or the dentist after school. Through my research and reporting I became acquainted with Sara Sutton Fell, the founder of job postings site FlexJobs, a terrific employment resource specializing in telecommuting, freelance and part-time positions. This week, FlexJobs released a list of the top 10 states for telecommuting jobs. Did yours make the cut? Drumroll, please…

1. California
2. Texas
3. New York
4. Florida
5. Illinois
6. Georgia
7. Pennsylvania
8. Virginia
9. North Carolina
10. Ohio



“Job seekers in these states interested in working from home have a bigger pool of jobs to choose from,” says Sara. “But it’s important to note that telecommuting jobs absolutely are available in all states.” For more info on the top states, companies and positions, visit the FlexJobs website.

Okay, let’s work it: Do you have a job that permits telecommuting? If not, do you wish you did? Would you consider switching jobs to be able to work from home at least some of the time? Tell me in the comments.

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Everything You Need for the Perfect Valentine’s Day Toast

Written on February 14, 2014 at 8:24 am , by

By Danielle Blundell

It’s not too late to do a little something special for Valentine’s Day, whether you’re celebrating with a significant other or a group of girlfriends. Here at Family Circle, we know what it’s like to play the role of hectic hostess, so we turned to our friends at POM for these two simple cocktail recipes that look effortlessly festive and taste delicious. Better yet, they’re even healthy—just one small container of POM POMS Fresh Arils has plenty of fiber, potassium and vitamins C and K. For more info and a store near you, visit Enjoy!

POM Sparkle

Sparkling wine
POM POMS Fresh Arils

Fill wineglasses or champagne flutes with sparkling wine about 3/4 of the way. Garnish by spooning arils into glasses.












POM Smash

1 tablespoon POM POMS Fresh Arils
1/2 oz lime juice
1 oz POM Hula
one-fourth of a passion fruit
1 1/2 oz dry gin
Soda water
Lime (for garnish)
Mint (for garnish)

Muddle arils with lime juice. Combine ingredients in a shaker and pour into a Collins glass over crushed ice with a splash of soda water. Garnish with lime and mint. A drink to remind us all of the “wonderful” things to come.

Safer Internet Day: Protect Your Kids Online

Written on February 12, 2014 at 3:15 pm , by


I worry about what my kids are up to online. I talk to them about it so often that they have started spewing back rules and advice at me every time I bring it up. This sort of sass makes me happy. They might still make mistakes, but at least it won’t be because no one told them to be careful.

Earlier this week was the first official Safer Internet Day in the U.S. Everyone from Microsoft to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children participated to get the message out to parents that we have to take Internet safety seriously. If you managed to miss it, don’t worry. It’s never too late to change a bad habit, and most of us have a few.

Do you know who can see what you post to social media? Do you have to type a pin to access your smartphone? (Oops. What happens to all that personal data if you leave the phone on the bus?) Do you have security software on your phone? On your computer? Do your kids understand how to behave safely online?

I’m sure you answered no to at least one of those questions. And you’re not alone. According to the Microsoft Computing Safety Index, only about one-third of people surveyed are practicing safe Internet habits. That is one expensive collective fail! Microsoft calculates that, globally, unsafe online behavior cost $23 billion last year. The biggest expense was recovering from a damaged professional reputation ($4.5 billion), and people are falling for phishing scams to the tune of $2.4 billion. But don’t panic. Just do something about it—right now! You’ll make the Internet more secure, not just for yourself but for everyone else who uses it.

Microsoft has launched a campaign and website to encourage people do “Do 1 Thing” to stay safer online. So do your one thing. Then go to and spread the world. We all live on the Internet, and the practices of each person affect how safe it is out there. If it was harder to steal your data, if no one overshared information, if phones were locked and not so fun to steal, criminals would have to work harder to make less money. Maybe some of them would be forced to look for honest work.

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

Video: Mom’s Heartwarming Birthday Surprise to Son Goes Viral

Written on February 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm , by

A Michigan boy is in for a very big birthday surprise, all thanks to his mom.

When Jennifer Cunningham asked her 10-year-old son, Colin, if he wanted a birthday party, the response she got back was heartbreaking. He said no, because he had no friends to invite.

Colin has a hard time connecting with kids because of a condition similar to Asperger’s syndrome.

Jennifer decided to make a Facebook page, “Happy Birthday Colin,” with the hope that friends and family would wish Colin well on his special day. To her surprise, the page went viral and now has over a million likes and counting. Strangers from across the world are sending messages for Colin’s big day. And the best part is Colin doesn’t know about the page at all. The plan is to reveal it on his birthday, March 9.

His little sister (who is keeping the secret as well) thinks that when Colin sees the messages he will “scream his pants off.”

The web can lead to wonderful things, don’t you think?


2.12.14: Wednesday Wisdom

Written on February 12, 2014 at 8:45 am , by

Categories: Momster, Wednesday Wisdom | Tags:
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What Made Teen Ethan Couch Think He Could Drink and Drive?

Written on February 11, 2014 at 2:53 pm , by

Ethan Couch

Just when I thought I had seen or heard everything, a news item really floored me—or in this case simply made me sick.

Recently, a 17-year-old young man, Ethan Couch, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and an unspecified amount of time at a rehabilitation facility for an unspeakable crime. While driving 70 miles per hour with a blood alcohol level three times the limit, he slammed into innocent bystanders who were trying to help someone get a car started. His foolish decision to drink and drive—30 miles per hour over the speed limit—killed four people and seriously injured two others. Legally, what would have appeared to be a very horrific and sad case for everyone involved became frustrating and complicated by a single word.


According to his defense, this condition—having a privileged upbringing and lacking parental boundaries—apparently resulted in the disastrous events. Ethan’s wealthy parents raised him with a sense of entitlement and poor judgment, and thus he was incapable of being held completely accountable. Yes, a sociological term used to define the downright destructiveness that results from greed, selfishness and ruthless behavior brought on by the quest for the almighty dollar became a defense.

Sad, crazy and true! As the grieving widower and father of two of the victims said, “I only wanted to hear two words at the trial: ‘I’m sorry.’” And Ethan never uttered them. The devastated father went on to say that his home is now empty and just a house. Tragic.

How did this happen? How can parents with or without economic resources raise children who have absolutely no regard for their peers or fellow citizens? Have we overindulged our children to the point that being responsible for multiple deaths is excusable because they didn’t know?

I can think of two people who are directly responsible and need to be held accountable for this tragedy: his parents. You would think that instead of hiring a high-priced lawyer, they should have invested in parenting classes and psychotherapy for their spoiled, remorseless son. You would think that multiple apologies would have been forthcoming from them. You would think that a judge would understand how her ruling reinforced the double standard of leniency largely related to class and socioeconomic status.

My hope is that as parents this tragic case reminds us that teaching individual responsibility to our children is more important than buying them a new iPad or the latest video game. May it force us to realize that we are raising not just children but citizens of the world, a world that needs compassion and just behavior instead of more senseless deaths and devastated communities.


Do you know any children that suffer from “affluenza”? Post a comment below and tell us about them.



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


Should Your Kid Get the HPV Vaccine?

Written on February 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm , by

By Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood

Recently, a friend asked me about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. She had heard that the virus can “clear up” on its own, so wanted to know whether the vaccine was really necessary for her child. Another friend wondered whether her daughter, a high school senior, should get the vaccine, though she may not have had sex yet.

These are common questions and concerns about the HPV vaccine among parents. I’d like to put them to rest and tell you why I advised both my friends to be sure to get the HPV vaccine for their kids. Vaccinating our children against HPV is one of the most effective things parents can do for their kids’ health. It helps protect against the types of HPV that can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis and throat, as well as genital warts.

Here are a few more frequently asked questions about the HPV vaccine.

How does the HPV vaccine protect against cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV, a very common sexually transmitted infection. In many cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally, but certain strains of HPV can lead to cervical and other cancers. Given in three separate injections over six months, the HPV vaccine protects against two HPV strains that cause 70% of all cervical cancer cases.

Is the vaccine safe?

Studies show that the HPV vaccine is extremely safe. It is FDA-approved and routine vaccination is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society and Planned Parenthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it be given to girls and boys ages 11-12.

Should my son get the HPV vaccine?

Yes, the HPV vaccine benefits boys as well as girls. For boys, it can prevent genital warts and some cancers of the anus, penis and throat, as well as prevent the spread of HPV to his future partners.

When should teens be vaccinated?

It’s recommended that preteens get the HPV vaccine when they’re 11 or 12 for maximum effectiveness, but for teens and young adults the vaccine still offers some protection against HPV and cancers associated with HPV, especially if given before a person becomes sexually active. The closer to age 11 or 12 it’s given, the better. At age 13 or older, the vaccine is considered a catch-up.

Does it cost a lot?

Under the new health care law, HPV vaccines are covered at no cost. Millions of Americans who are uninsured can enroll in new, more affordable health care plans right now. For additional information, check out There are also programs that allow some people without insurance to access the vaccine at reduced or no cost, based on income.  The staff at Planned Parenthood can help with accessing these programs.

Will giving my child the vaccine give him/her permission to have sex?

No, having the vaccine does not promote sexual activity among teens. Research shows that young people who get the HPV vaccine are no more likely to have sex than those who have not been vaccinated.

As parents, we certainly want to protect our kids from cancer—and this vaccine can do that.


Leslie Kantor is the vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. You can find her on Twitter at @LeslieKantor.