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Archive for the Baby Category

Feed The Family Fast, Flavorful Foods They’ll Love

Nutrition, exercise and good health is more than just a trend. It’s a new way of life for more and more families. Here are some ideas to encourage healthy eating habits for your whole family.

Healthy Eating = Healthy Weight Loss

Convenient, nutritious, delicious! Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating can help you lose weight, or simply provide a way to enjoy healthy foods without planning and cooking. Each week you get 21 freshly-prepared, portion- and calorie-controlled meals delivered to your door, such as spiced apple pancakes, southwest chopped salad and Florentine-stuffed pasta shells. Unlike other prepared food plans, meals include fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus, foods are provided on a five-week menu rotation to spice up mealtime with new, delicious choices. To learn more, visit www.seattlesutton.com or call (800-442-3438).

Nourishing and Wholesome Goodness

A versatile and nutritious addition to any meal, Minute® Multi-Grain Medley is a delicious blend of four gluten-free 100 percent whole grains: brown rice, Thai red rice, wild rice and quinoa. Packed in four pre-portioned bags and ready in just 10 minutes, this blend can be served during any meal of the day. For an easy breakfast, try cooking the medley in apple juice or other fruit juices then add your favorite fresh/dried fruit and nuts. Want a complete dinnertime idea? Stir fry Minute® Multi-Grain Medley cooked in vegetable broth, with sesame oil, rotisserie chicken, frozen vegetables, onion, garlic and eggs for a simple Asian twist. Visit www.minuterice.com for a variety of recipe ideas.

Antioxidant-Rich Blueberries

Blueberries are grown mostly in inland Florida counties. The blueberry is available from March until May, with peak-production in April. Blueberries, like all dark purple and blue fruits, are high in antioxidants, which help with the aging process. When buying, they should be firm and brightly colored. Store blueberries with a damp paper towel in the package to keep them moist. They can also be stored frozen for up to six months. Visit http://bit.ly/flblueberries for more information.

Wholesome Mealtime Swaps

Need a better-for-you ingredient to swap out calorie-laden mayonnaise, dressings and other spreads? Go with the deliciously creamy option of Wholly Guacamole instead. Made from the freshest avocados and other all-natural ingredients, this tasty spread is low-calorie, with the basic recipe containing only 120 calories per quarter cup. Wholly Guacamole is nutrient-dense too, boasting about 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Plus, it’s naturally sodium and cholesterol free. Visit www.eatwholly.com for more recipes and information.

Dos and Don’ts of Dating for Single Moms

A divorce or end of a relationship leaves both partners feeling conflicted, guilty and upset. Having a new relationship is usually not the first thing most exes think about, especially when children are involved. Making sure the kids are okay–and trying to ease their pain with the changes in the family–is a full-time job. Like all changes, some days are good and others are a challenge.

As time goes by though, you realize you have a life too, and it can be lonely without an adult companion to share your life. Dating is a step that most single moms will consider. When they do, the first couple dates can be scary. Times have changed, and with the times, social media is becoming more and more a part of the dating scene. One of mom’s fears is how will her dating effect her children, and how can she avoid getting into the same type of relationship she left with her children’s dad?

There are no guarantees with dating someone new, but these ten tips can help.

  1. Let go of guilt. You don’t owe your children a lifetime of abstinence from having a new partner to share your life.
  2. Don’t rush into a commitment or trust your date with your kids. Your date should not meet your children for at least four months or until you are in a committed relationship.
  3. Never allow your date access to your children without you being there.
  4. Don’t lose yourself in the relationship. If you dislike football, then don’t go to football games every weekend just because he likes it. This makes you look too eager, and eager can be misconstrued as desperate or co-dependent.
  5. Don’t tell your kids all the details in the beginning of your relationship. This is a friend, not their new daddy.
  6. Put your kids first. Your child’s school performance is more important than a weekend away. If your date doesn’t honor this or deal with it maturely, he may not be right for you.
  7. Keep your boundaries strong. You’ve come a long way; prioritize what is most important for you. Don’t give into someone because you are afraid of being alone.
  8. Don’t panic if your kids treat your date badly the first time they meet him. They may feel threatened, or worried that they are losing you. The more you reassure them beforehand that you will always love them and be there for them, the better they will adjust.
  9. Make the first meeting with your children casual and easy.
  10. If your children do become attached to your new partner but you don’t, let him go. Children should never be placed in a situation where their feelings are what keep two people together. If that had worked the first time, you wouldn’t have an ex. Your children will adjust and do better the happier and more fulfilled you are.

With motherhood comes wisdom, but when you are head over heels infatuated with someone, you often don’t rely on the wisdom inherent in motherhood. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want helps you find what you do.

5 Types Single Moms Should Avoid:

  1. Deadbeat dad. If he doesn’t care for his own kids, he won’t care for yours….ever.
  2. He texts, but won’t talk face to face. If he doesn’t want to have a conversation with you, he is either having other relationships or he isn’t into communication. Neither is okay for you.
  3. He has issues and they are Big Issues, and he wants to talk about them…all the time. Women like vulnerability and they like sharing, but if your date shares too much and his issues are too big, he needs a therapist, not a date.
  4. He’s separated but not divorced yet. You will regret getting into a relationship with someone who hasn’t had time to get out on his own and heal.
  5. He wants to be the father of your children today. Although this may seem helpful and sweet, there is a reason, which isn’t as sweet underneath. This guy is desperate to connect.

The majority of single moms do get married to wonderful partners. Don’t let your lack of confidence or low self-esteem discourage you from dating or allow you to settle for just anyone to avoid being alone. If you’re a single mom, you are capable of running a home, raising a family, and achieving what you prioritize. Never lower your standards when you can inspire someone to respect and live up to yours.

Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.

Understanding the Angst of the Adoptive Teen’s Identity Crisis

As my friend Laura, an adoptive parent of teenage twins, talks with me today about the latest issues with her kids, I remember the peculiar angst of being an adopted teen, wrestling with the existential questions many teens face at that age: Who am I? Where was I going? Where did I come from? As these questions opened the door to the painful and complex dilemma beyond the “normal” angst of identity questions of teens, it is clear the antics of Laura’s twins also have an extra charge: their behavior is stormy, out of control. I look at Laura, “Do your kids talk about being adopted”?

She shakes her head. “Never.”

I hesitate. “I never mentioned it to my adoptive parents. But I thought about being adopted–every single day.”

Laura sharpens her gaze and becomes still for a few seconds, locking eyes with me. “Why didn’t you mention it?”

I shrug. “I was afraid if I said how much I thought about being adopted, it might hurt their feelings. She absorbs that information. “Laura, ask your kids – how often do you think about being adopted?” She nods.

As a teen adoptee, my silence kept those questions in the realm of fantasy because the fantasy was possible. Anyone could have been my parent. My favorite Queen album, A Night at the Opera, had a picture of Freddie Mercury, one of the band members. I looked like him. Maybe Freddie Mercury was my father!

As a teen, I did not realize although I did need to know about my biological father, who I really need to know was about me and my future identity. If Freddie Mercury was my father, wouldn’t that mean I also had artistic or musical talent?

The lost child who is suddenly found, and found to be royalty, permeates our culture through myths and fairytales. When we are younger children, we live in an imaginary world. But as a teen, the answers to those existential questions need grounding in one’s human life. It seems people who are not adopted can find that grounding stability in the stories of their families; e.g., your grandfather was a lawyer, and your grandmother worked as a nurse during the War. Your father works as a lawyer in environmental sciences and your mother works for a public health agency. In their individual ways, your mother and father have carved their life paths as a continuation of the paths of their parents, and their parents before them.

The roots and decisions of our family ancestors shape the present and the future paths of the newest generations. Her father, my grandfather, was a lawyer. Even though my biological mother wanted to be a lawyer, she became a nurse. At one point, three of my mother’s seven children worked in the legal profession. One of my siblings works as a midwife. Somehow, without knowing our family lines, we shaped our identities based on those who had come before us.

But for an adoptee, because the realm of fantasy has the potential of reality, the identity questions of teens provoke a terrible problem: how does that adoptee find the path to ground herself and begin carving out a path to adulthood when she does not know the paths of her biological parents and ancestors?

This is a mystery of adoption, and a mystery faced not only by adoptees, but also by adoptive parents. The following week when Laura and I meet again, she bursts with the story before she sits. “I asked them, and they said they thought about it every single day. They were afraid I would feel hurt if they talked about their adoption.” Laura had opened the subject, and now her kids knew they could talk about the confusion of not knowing their roots, and most importantly, separate the fantasies of from whom they might originate from their questions and confusion about their adult paths and identities.

My friend Laura deserves accolades for her hard work as an adoptive parent: Her willingness to engage her children with the topic they feared to discuss–identity as an adoptee—allowed her children the room they needed to work through the fantasy and get grounded into the serious work of becoming responsible, self-respecting adults. If I could make any suggestion to adoptive parents, it would be to ask the same question Laura asked her kids: “How often do you think about being adopted?” And then, perhaps, other conversations to the thorny problem of identity can emerge.

Barbara Ohrstrom is the author of Searching for the Castle, available at iuniverse.com. The book, told from the point of view of a young adult, details her search for her biological parents and shows compassion for people involved in adoption and foster care. She works with young adults through her work as project manager for writing centers at Northeastern University.

6 Annoying Things Your Children Do that Are Actually Good for Them

Kids test parents’ patience all the time. They whine, bargain, cry, mope, and dawdle. They yell and scream and make themselves the center of attention. Sometimes they dig their heels in and simply refuse to budge.

While we may wish our kids would be compliant, cooperative, and sunny in temperament, the reality is that they are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. They are learning how to manage their emotions, whether it’s sadness, anger, or fear. Kids do this by expressing themselves in the moment. Unlike adults, most young children don’t hold in what they are feeling. They release pent-up emotions right when they feel them, if we let them, and then they move on!

This is so healthy. As a parent, the lesson is to learn patience, rather than being ashamed and rushing children out of what they are doing. Letting children express their emotions constructively and physically helps them develop into happy, normal, full-functioning kids, teens, and adults.

Here are 6 annoying things children do that are actually very healthy behaviors.

1. Have temper tantrums. When toddlers have meltdowns, they’re expressing their anger at injustices and violations. They release the hot, aggressive energy of anger by screaming, crying, pounding their fists, and kicking. After a full-blown tantrum, small children quickly return to their sweet and joyful selves. The best thing parents can do is to allow the child to do it–safely. For older children as well as adults, parents can set up an “OK Room” where anyone can pound, stomp, yell, or cry constructively when upset. Anger, sadness, and fear will quickly pass, and calm will be naturally restored.

2. Cry easily. In generations past, children were told not to cry. Boys who cried were “sissies” and girls who cried were “babies.” In reality, tears are very healing. Research shows that crying almost immediately reduces the level of stress hormones in the body. Letting a child wail after she’s fallen down actually helps her feel better. Crying allows kids to resolve and self-heal their physical, emotional, and psychological hurts and losses.

3. Act scared. Many young kids are afraid of the dark, get scared by lightning and thunder, and feel anxious when they’re in a new place with strangers, especially without their parents. Rather than telling them “Don’t be a scaredy cat,” validate their fear. They are feeling what they feel because their sense of safety is threatened. Fear is normal and healthy. In fact, it can be life-saving. Offer reassurances, and give them permission to shiver and quiver (kids love to do this–and they soon dissolve into laughter). Letting kids express their fear helps them stay present, rather than feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and ashamed of being weak.

4. Dawdle. For parents who are focused on getting kids bathed, dressed, fed, and ready for school, there’s almost nothing more irritating than a child who seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. Children have to learn how family schedules operate and how to gain mastery over new skills–and that takes time. Moving like molasses can also be a child’s way of expressing his or her discomfort with transitions. If you have a child who’s always one step behind everyone else in the family, instead of getting angry at him for holding up the show, give him extra time by letting him eat in the car, for example, or by waking him up earlier. This will honor his individuality and help him adjust at his own pace.

5. Plead and whine. Children and teens are geniuses at getting what they want and need. They plead and nag and whine until their parents toss up their hands in surrender. What they’re doing is important. They’re learning to test limits–theirs and yours–and they’re working hard to negotiate their side and be heard. It’s important that children feel their position is taken into consideration, so listen a bit to understand and validate them. It’s equally important to lovingly set and enforce reasonable limits so children learn that they’re not always going to get what they want.

6. Be resistant. When a child stomps her feet and yells “No, I won’t do it!” she’s expressing a spontaneous emotion. Anger. Outrage. Injustice. Violation. It’s as essential that children are allowed to assert themselves as it is for adults to do this. It’s just that we’ve been programmed as parents to expect our kids to obey us. If it’s inappropriate to the situation, parents should explain to the child that she needs to help and be part of the team right now, but tell her when you will be able to listen to her side. If a child is adamant in her resistance, pause. She is telling you what emotions she needs to express in order to feel happy. Help her find a safe place at an appropriate time and let her do that.

Jude Bijou MA MFT is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her multi-award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.

Kids Nutrition: Simple Changes = Big Rewards

A wise man – or woman – once said that “it’s the small things in life that matter.” This philosophy could not ring more true than when applied to the health and well-being of our nation’s children. There is no one thing that, no matter how consistently done, will assure good health. Rather, it’s the culmination of many single, relatively small behaviors that, altogether and over time, will help children foster a healthy body.

When asked what choices ‘my’ family makes relative to nutrition and fitness that keeps us all healthy and fit, a specific answer often varies, but it always simply conveys easy ways to make healthy options the norm in a family’s daily routine rather than the exception – and without the family feeling any sense of loss or deprivation.

With this in mind, here are a few sure-fire, yet simple, success strategies to help children eat more nutritiously:

  • First and foremost, require that your child finish his or her healthy meal before any “treat” type foods are made available. Simply put, the child can NOT have that even occasional cupcake if (s)he has not eaten those veggies! End of story.
  • We live in an age where food manufacturers are the most health-conscious in history. Take full advantage of these healthy alternatives. It’s simply not an option to choose those refined sugar-loaded gummy bears when dried fruit and trail mix snacks of every sort are a mere aisle or two away.
  • Make fresh fruit an exciting dessert. Yes, dessert. Low-fat and low-calorie whipped cream with just a touch of colorful sprinkles atop sliced strawberries or other berries can make children squeal with delight. Rainbow Jell-O jam packed with citrus fruit is always a crowd pleaser. When it comes to nature’s dessert, get creative, build the anticipation in advance, and offer it up with as much excitement and reverence as you would a chocolate cake.
  • Don’t expect utter perfection of yourself as you work toward your family’s collective health goal. Do what you can to make healthy changes, as dong “something” is better than doing nothing. No time to make homemade oatmeal? Go for those instant bags instead! Any oatmeal is better than no oatmeal, and it’s certainly better than skipping breakfast or opting for any of those sugary cereals. You can’t get all the way there if you never get out of the starting gate!
  • Don’t ask if your family wants a certain veggie or fruit with dinner. Make an executive [chef] decision and just serve it up! Knowing that such choices are not an option per se removes the possibility that your family may choose to eat a given healthy items or not. Praise the child who enthusiastically eats his or her healthy fare or at least tries it and does “well enough.” And, leverage your kid’s competitive spirit. Offer an eating challenge that he or she simply cannot resist, such as “I bet you can’t eat all of your peas in the next 10 minutes. You’ll be surprised how far this will take you.
  • Be willing to concede for the greater good. My son will only eat a healthy tuna fish sandwich with low-fat mayonnaise in a wheat pita if it has about four potato chips placed inside the pocket, too. I figure 2 or 3 potato chips is a fair concession to make for a wheat pita full of Omega-3 fatty acid-packed tuna. With kids, all or nothing doesn’t work – be willing to find that middle ground!

Ensuring a child eats nutritiously is not about denial which, especially with the younger set, will surely prove self-defeating. Rather, it’s about strategy, systems, consistency and moderation to establish a balance of what is, and is not, health-promoting. It’s not rocket science…it just takes some forethought and some good old common sense.

Children’s health advocate, health industry veteran, and two-time fitness champion Merilee Kern is the author of the award-winning, ground-breaking illustrated fictional children’s book, “Making Healthy Choices – A Story to Inspire Fit, Weight-Wise Kids.” She may be reached online at www.KidsMakingHealthyChoices.com.

Fight the Flu with Healthy Habits

With cold and flu season upon us, it may be tempting to hibernate until the danger of red, puffy eyes and a stuffy nose disappears. Waiting for a cold or flu to run its course can truly feel like an eternity, especially when the symptoms have you looking as bad as you feel.

While there is no guaranteed strategy for avoiding the flu or sniffles, there are steps you can take to safeguard yourself and your family. And if you do fall ill, taking extra care will help ease you through until you’re on the mend.

While the Centers for Disease Control recommends the flu shot as the single best preventive measure, you can also help ward off illness with healthy habits like these:

  • Keep yourself and your belongings away from others who may be sick to prevent the spread of germs. Don’t share dishes and utensils in the kitchen, and provide sick family members with their own hand towels in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based rub. Avoid unnecessarily touching your eyes, nose and mouth, which are easy portals for germs to enter your body.
  • Keep your immune system running strong by eating sensible and nutritious meals, exercising regularly, managing stress in a healthy way and getting plenty of sleep.

If your prevention falls short and you find yourself combatting sniffles, take these steps to nudge yourself back to good health:

  • Consult with your pharmacist or doctor about which medications may help relieve your symptoms.
  • Use a soft facial tissue on your irritated skin. Puffs Plus Lotion is dermatologist-tested to be gentle and helps soothe irritated skin by locking in moisture
  • Stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever passes. This will help you catch up on much-needed rest and prevent the chance of passing anything contagious on to your friends and co-workers.
  • Calm stuffy sinuses with the steam of a long, hot shower. Take the sinus soothing a step further by using Puffs Plus Lotion with the Scent of Vicks.
  • Cover your nose or mouth with a tissue like Puffs when sneezing or coughing to minimize the spread of germs.

As your symptoms ease, remember to take it easy and allow your body to fully recover so you don’t suffer a setback that needlessly prolongs your illness.

For more tips for warding off discomfort from a cold, flu or allergies, visit www.puffs.com.

Start Early for Good Oral Health Habits

You may wonder whether it’s important to take care of your child’s first teeth, which will fall out in early childhood. However, healthy adult teeth start with healthy teeth during childhood. That’s why starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.

A baby’s 20 primary teeth are already present in the jaw at birth. Baby teeth that begin coming through the gums around six months help set the stage for future smiles by keeping space in the jaw for adult teeth. The American Dental Association recommends that parents take children to a dentist no later than their first birthday and then at intervals recommended by their dentist.

To help ensure you are well prepared to provide your little one a lifetime of good dental health, the experts at Ameritas offer this information about the leading oral health concerns for youngsters:

Cavities. Early childhood caries (cavities) is the number one chronic disease affecting young children. It is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Tooth pain keeps many children home from school or distracts them from learning.

Consumption of sugary foods, soda, juice or energy drinks increases the risk for tooth decay and gum disease, so minimizing these items is an important aspect of dental health. It’s also important to always brush teeth twice daily for two minutes and floss once a day.

Another option to protect children’s teeth is sealants, which act as barriers to cavity-prone areas. They are applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars after the teeth erupt and are completely above the gum. Both primary and permanent teeth can benefit from sealants.

Sports Injuries. Mouth guards can help protect children from a dental emergency. They should be worn whenever children participate in sports and recreational activities. Mouth guards cushion blows that can otherwise cause broken teeth, injuries to the lips and face, and even jaw fractures. Mouth guards are available at many retail stores or may be custom-made by a dentist.

Jaw and bite problems. Malocclusion, or bad bite, is a condition in which the teeth are crowded, crooked, out of alignment or the jaws don’t meet properly. This may become particularly noticeable between ages six and 12, when a child’s permanent teeth are developing.

If not treated early, a bad bite can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean where teeth are crooked or crowded, increasing the risk for cavities and gum disease. Bad bites can also affect proper jaw development, making protruding teeth at risk for chips and fractures. It can also affect eating and speaking, and make some teeth more likely to wear abnormally or faster than those that are properly aligned.

Teaching children good oral hygiene habits early is a simple way to create a lifetime of happy, healthy smiles. Remember, modeling your own good oral hygiene habits not only reinforces your advice, it improves your own dental health.

For more information on children’s dental health visit the dental section at www.ameritasinsight.com, where you also can find out how recent health care reforms affect dental insurance.

Seven Tips for Parents – Changing A Child’s Room To Make Room For A New Baby

Telling a child that a new baby is joining the family is no small task. Some children are excited and overjoyed, but many are apprehensive and skeptical. This is a particularly big transition for an only child. They have been the sole benefactor of their parent’s love and attention for their entire existence.

A young child might have lots of questions. They might act out. They might regress into behaviors that they have outgrown. All of this is normal. Hopefully, with time, they will adjust to the idea of a new sibling and start to get excited, or at least curious!

For some families, the next hurdle is telling their child that their room situation must change when the baby arrives. They must give their room to the new baby, or they must share a room. Not surprisingly, these announcements are often not welcome ones.

When your child resists the change, there are many things to try:

  • Get your child involved in the process! If your child has to move rooms, ask your child what they would like their new room to be like. Perhaps you and your partner can work with your child to make the room really special. Could they help you pick out a paint color? Is there something that your child loves that you could incorporate somehow? If your son loves cars or your daughter loves fairies, maybe you can find a way to include them.
  • If your child is changing rooms, explain that their current room is more of a nursery, where he/she lived when they came home from the hospital. Just like their new sibling, the nursery is for babies! Show them pictures from when they came home from the hospital, and how much they have grown. Emphasize how little the baby will be, what a big boy or girl they are becoming, and how much you’ll need their help when the baby comes.
  • If your child is going to share a room with the baby, is there something you can do to your child’s section that they will be excited about — a new bedspread, a new lamp, a new stuffed animal for them to love?
  • If your child is exhibiting regressive behavior, try to give it as little attention as possible, as early as possible. You don’t want to teach your child that acting out gets attention from you. Nip this in the bud quickly as you will have much less time after the baby arrives.
  • Is there a special toy or animal that your child enjoyed in their room that they would like to leave for the new baby? Or maybe you could pick out something special to leave for the baby in your child’s “old room.
  • Make time for your child when they want to talk. Just spending time with you is special to them.
  • Read books about welcoming a new sibling into the family.

Perhaps your child will be excited about a new sibling from the very beginning! But even in that case, there will be bumps along the road. Every situation is different, and communication with your child is so important all long — starting when you tell your child about the baby and long after the baby comes home. Good luck!!!

Adrienne Durkin is the author of Sam and Coodles: The Room at the End of the Hall, a Mom’s Choice Award Winner and a Creative Child Magazine’s 2013 Book of the Year. The idea for the series began when Adrienne and her husband moved their son from the nursery outside their bedroom to a room down the hall when they were expecting their second child. Sam and Coodles: Naming Baby is scheduled for a late 2014 release. To contact Adrienne or read about the series, visit SamandCoodles.com.

Gadgets, Great Outdoors Can Co-Exist

Advancements in technology over the last decade have children spending more time with gadgets and gizmos, and less time enjoying the great outdoors. In fact, kids are now indoors up to 10 hours a day, according to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. But kids’ increasing use of technology and opportunities to appreciate Mother Nature do not have to be mutually exclusive.

The Importance of Outside Play

A new National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report shows that kids’ media habits can both positively and negatively impact health, and provides real-world advice to help parents serve as positive role models and teach children to use technology in moderation.

“Kids need to be outside all year long, especially in the winter when days are short and we’re all a little more cooped up than usual,” said Maureen Smith, chief marketing officer for National Wildlife Federation. “In addition to developing a deeper appreciation for the outdoors and the wildlife around them no matter where they live, it helps them burn off energy, stay fit, and be mentally focused for school, homework and all activities in their busy day.”

Screen Time Plus Green Time

Technology can be a valuable tool to help families balance the lure of screen time with the importance of green time for kids. Today’s connected world enables children to experience nature in ways never before imagined.

NWF’s report offers families these ideas for combining technology with the outdoors:

  1. Rely on technology to plan or inspire outdoor adventures. This can include anything – from finding great nearby hiking trails to interactive, outdoor treasure hunts.
  2. Keep a record of outdoor experiences with the help of electronic photos, videos or an electronic journal. They’ll love the ability to share their experiences with family and friends.
  3. When safe and practical, take hand-held devices outdoors to combine the best of both worlds (just remember to plan for some fully unplugged time outside, too).
  4. Use tools such as Ubooly, an app-based learning toy that can turn a walk in the park into an interactive experience with activities such as scavenger hunts, nature hikes, mindfulness games and plenty of exercise.

For other helpful resources and to learn more about NWF’s goal to get 10 million more kids spending regular time in the great outdoors visit www.BeOutThere.org.

Nesting in the New Year: 9 Projects to Tackle if You’re Expecting a Baby in 2014

You couldn’t be more excited about the new year, because you’ve gotten some wonderful news: You’re going to be a mother in 2014! Right now you’re probably daydreaming about chubby cheeks, adorable onesies, and the bundle of joy you’ll be holding in your arms this time next year. And depending on your personality and how far along you are into your pregnancy, you may also be feeling the urge to clean, organize, de-clutter, and redecorate.

Congratulations! You’re nesting; in other words, feeling the desire to prepare your home for your new arrival. There are some specific pre-baby projects to put on your list of New Year’s resolutions.

If your inner neat freak and home decorator is making herself known to a much greater extent than ever before, don’t worry. What mother wouldn’t want her baby to come home to the most comfortable, healthy, and welcoming place possible? Nesting is an important ‘stage’ of pregnancy for you and your baby, and of course you’ll want to make sure that you have all of your bases covered.

During both of my pregnancies, the nesting instinct hit me hard. I couldn’t rest until everything that might impact my babies was just right. Like most first-time parents, there was a certain amount of ‘winging it’ and guesswork before my son was born. But by the time I became pregnant with my daughter, I knew with a little more accuracy what I needed to do before my baby’s birth.

Read on for nine nesting tips to take into account as you anticipate your 2014 baby:

Put your paperwork, etc. in order. You might not think of paperwork as being a nesting activity…which is why I place it in first position. Even more important than a well-decorated nursery and organized closet are your child’s medical needs and daily care.

Before you do anything else, find a pediatrician. Make sure your insurance is in order. If you’ll be delivering at a hospital, look into pre-admitting. And if you think you’ll be going back to work after taking maternity leave, start researching daycare options. None of these are things you want to wait till the last minute on…and you definitely don’t want to have to take care of them while caring for a newborn.

Tackle your budget. Much like taking care of paperwork, you might be so focused on straightening up the house that you’ve pushed your budget to the back of your mind. However, it’s no secret that children cost money, and you can expect your family’s expenditures to shoot up after your newborn arrives.

The exact amount of your baby-related budget can vary quite a bit depending on your personal choices, where you live, whether or not you’re a first-time parent, and much more. Before your focus shifts to your new child (and before you become perpetually sleep-deprived), do your best to figure up how much money you’ll need to spend on baby paraphernalia, during maternity leave, for future daycare, etc. If you’ll be a stay-at-home mom and you’re currently working, think about how the loss of income will impact your family. And don’t forget to factor in new ‘constant’ expenses like diapers and formula. Then start budgeting now so that you aren’t taken by surprise!

Organize. Now we’re getting into more traditional nesting territory! Unless you’re the exception to the expectant-mother rule, you’re probably feeling the urge to organize everything: the pantry, your closet, the garage, your DVD collection, and of course, the baby’s room. Before you get elbow-deep in clothes you haven’t worn since college, take a step back and prioritize the projects that will be most useful for you with a new baby at home.

If you’re in the later stages of your pregnancy, time is limited. And even if you’re not, you never know what might crop up and demand your attention later. Besides the obvious organizing projects that involve your baby’s room, clothes, and gear, I would recommend cleaning out kitchen cabinets to make room for baby supplies, like bottles. Another project I personally found helpful was cleaning out junk drawers so that you’ll be able to easily locate things like screwdrivers, batteries, and other essentials. You never know when the swing will stop working in the middle of the night, or when the baby monitor will go silent!

Follow the fingertip rule. In other words, when you’re organizing and de-cluttering, keep the most important things at your fingertips. So many of us have drawers, dressers, cabinets, and closets full of things we don’t often need (which makes it more difficult to store and find the things we do!). With a new baby, space is at a premium, so get tough on yourself and clean out things you use only once or twice a year.

Put these items in big plastic tubs, and store them in the garage, the attic, or a storage unit. You don’t have to get rid of them entirely—just get them out of the way. Make sure premium space is filled with things you’ll use frequently, and that there’s room for all of the baby paraphernalia that will soon be flooding your home!

Get low. It’s time to take a fresh look at your home from a baby’s point of view. Clean or replace carpets, change the air filters, get a new vacuum bag (and some spares), etc.—anything to improve the air quality in your house and make the floors a safe place for you and baby to play.

“You and your child will be spending a lot of time on the floor over the next few years. Since it will be a little while before your baby becomes mobile, you can hold off on baby-proofing the house…although if you have the time and feel the urge, it’s never too early to start!

Finish baby’s room. Decorating, organizing, and stocking the baby’s room is a favorite activity for most soon-to-be moms. Get started as early as you want, and tweak to your heart’s content (as long as you stay within your budget, that is!).

I really enjoyed painting, getting the crib assembled, organizing all of those precious onesies, and finding special touches like lamps, pictures, and rugs. I promise, having a designated space for the baby that you feel good about will give you a lot of confidence going into the new year and your third trimester.

Take care of any pesky chores you’ve been putting off. No, these probably won’t be as fun as getting the nursery ready. But they’re just as necessary—and like figuring out insurance and daycare, they’re not things you’re going to have the time, energy, and mental clarity to tackle with a newborn in the house.

Take the car in for a tune-up. Get your gutters cleaned. Take the cat to the vet. Renew your license. You’ll feel so much better once the tasks you’ve been putting off have been checked off your list. And most importantly, you’ll avoid so many hassles later, like toting a newborn and a sick cat to the vet!

Hire help. The fact is, you can’t do it all. In some instances—such as heavy lifting and cleaning with strong chemicals, or if you’re on bed rest—doing it all might harm you and/or your baby. That’s why I encourage you to hire help if you and your family are feeling overwhelmed.

If you want to rearrange a room, paint, or deep clean your house, for example, your peace of mind alone might be worth the cost of hiring someone. If your budget is tight but there’s work you’d like to be done, try to enlist friends and extended family. Or look for good deals on LivingSocial, Groupon, etc.

Pencil in some time for yourself. This might be the most important nesting practice of all: making sure that you yourself are in order and at peace. It’s natural for moms—and moms-to-be—to put others’ needs first. But remember, this is the calm before the proverbial storm. While you’ll love your baby more than words can say, you’ll be operating on low margins of time and energy once he or she arrives.

Schedule a pedicure. Read a book. If there’s time, sign up for a class you’ve been wanting to take. The next year is going to be a busy one, so taking a little time for yourself now is a must!

Ultimately, smart nesting is all about planning, prioritizing, and above all, making sure you’re comfortable bringing your baby home. Now’s the time to tie up all of those loose ends—before your bundle of joy arrives!

Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes is the author of A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year, which was co-written with her mother, Magdalene Smith, and her sister, Marisa Smith, and is the recipient of a Mom’s Choice Award and a SheKnows Parenting Award. Their blog, Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, is a blend of humor, practical advice, and lifestyle tips on the essentials. Ivana is also a featured blogger on Modern Mom.

While she’s a modern-day princess, she comes from modest means and met her Italian Prince Charming (if you’re curious, he’s Adriano Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire) while on scholarship at Pepperdine. She didn’t wait for his kiss to save her, though—using her master’s degree in education, she forged a career of her own as a digital strategy consultant.

Ivana and her husband have two fabulous kids (ages four and two) who are the latest additions to a 1,000-year lineage that includes kings of Sicily and Spain, Catherine of Aragon, a pope, and a saint. Ivana is wild about kids and motherhood. For the past twenty years, she has worked with children, from designing learning toys to tutoring homeless kids.

Ivana’s Super Mom juggling act between life, love, kids, and career inspired her new book. She believes that life is more about attitude than money, and her goal is to help mothers live well on any budget. Consider her “Dear Abby” with a tiara and a baby sling!

For more information, please visit www.princessivana.com

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