Motivation to Move: How to Get Excited About Your Fitness Resolutions Again

Written on February 26, 2015 at 10:38 am , by

Remember that goal you set a little over a month ago? The one about losing weight or exercising more? According to data from Gold’s Gym, that motivation you had on January 1st is probably waning right now. In fact, February 24th (deemed the “fitness cliff”) is the day that check-in numbers drop and never rebound. But we want you to defy those odds and get pumped about getting in shape again. So we asked Jeff Na, vice president of fitness for Gold’s Gym, to reveal his top tips for boosting your enthusiasm for health. “The only difference between January 1st and February 24th is prioritization,” he says. Make exercise a must-do again, reevaluate what you wanted to achieve and why, and adopt these ideas to get back on track.

Focus on the details
“The clients who see the best results come in not just with a goal in mind but with the steps for how to get there,” says Na. So if you made a general target of dropping 10 pounds, figure out a realistic time frame for getting there (probably about five weeks), how often you’ll exercise and healthy meal options. Then put each workout and kitchen prep day on your calendar so you can plan ahead. If want to remove the guesswork, sign up for a program like Gold’s Gym 12-Week Transformation Plan or Michelle Bridges’ 12 Week Body Transformation.

Find something exciting
Even before you start feeling bored with your usual routine, you should have an idea of how to switch things up and keep your regimen fresh. Otherwise, when your workout starts feeling too bland, it’ll fall to your B-list of priorities. Look at your local health club’s schedule to see if one of the classes seems enticing, or chat with a fitness-loving friend for a suggestion. “Group classes are great for workout newbies because they give you a sense of community and some professional instruction,” says Na. You may find that Pilates or Spinning naturally keeps you coming back for more. If you can’t get to a class, try a new walking route or fitness DVD. Adding variety to your schedule keeps you interested mentally and challenges your muscles physically so you don’t hit a plateau.

Reduce injury risk
Many people skip a proper warm-up and cool-down, but going from no movement to intense exercise or stopping immediately afterward increases your risk of strained ligaments or other overuse issues—which puts you off the workout wagon longer. Just take an easy stroll for about five minutes to up your heart rate and lightly stretch any tight muscles. When you’re done sweating it out, take another five minutes for deeper stretches.

Get back to basics
“Your body is your best machine,” says Na. “That’s why fitness professionals often recommend body-weight-only exercises—they translate to the movements you do in everyday life and make them easier.” So squeeze in some squats, lunges, push-ups and rows whenever you can. And when your body gets sick of those moves, add resistance with dumbbells or bands.

Make it a family affair
You shouldn’t be the only one at home who’s moving more often. Get the kids involved in your physical plans by doing a yoga DVD together or taking a walk outside (just bundle up!). Try organizing a quick team workout by doing jumping jacks before dinner or running in place during the commercials of your favorite show. It gives you time to bond with your kids and get everyone healthier, plus you’ll set an active trend for your teens and tweens to mimic when they’re older.

Don’t forget food
If you haven’t seen any results, it may be because you haven’t paid enough attention to your diet. Keep a journal for one week, writing down everything you eat, and then figure out what you need to cut back on. It’s best to munch on more foods that are close to their original source (read: no pre-packaged meals) and to create a realistic diet plan. For instance, if you aim to cut out all sweets, you’ll probably want to revert to your overeating habits in a few days. Instead, make portion sizes smaller.


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on February 23, 2015 at 10:00 am , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @groundednspokanewho made our Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Spinach Salad!

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 #FAMILYCIRCLEFOOD.

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What Every Parent Should Know About the Growing Trend of Slut-Shaming

Written on February 17, 2015 at 12:02 pm , by

Leora Tanenbaum, author of the newly released I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internetsheds light on some dark and dangerous behavior. By APRIL MCFADDEN

While boys are often encouraged to explore their sexuality, girls must usually toe the tricky line between being alluring but not lewd. These days that sexual double standard is more difficult than ever to navigate. In this Q&A with Family Circle, author Leora Tanenbaum, who coined the term “slut-bashing” back in the 90s, helps us understand the struggles girls encounter today and explains how every parent can more responsibly raise a kid in the Internet age.

You break down the difference between slut-bashing and slut-shaming in your book. Why is it important for parents to know the difference?
Because the effects of each get played out differently. Slut-shaming isn’t necessarily repeated—it could be a one-time thing and the intent may not even be negative. I haven’t met any female in the United States under the age of 25 who has not been called a “slut” or a “ho” in some context, usually more than once. But slut-bashing is a very specific form of harassment that takes place over time and the intent is to hurt. Slut-bashing makes life horrible for a girl. What they have in common is that regardless of the intent, at the end of the day female sexuality is being policed and the sexual double standard is being reinforced and hammered in. We need to pay attention to both experiences.

How can parents allow their daughters to experiment with femininity without letting them fall into harmful categories?
You don’t ever want to tell her or make her feel that she is a slut. You want her to feel good about her body, her sexuality and her clothing choices. If you strongly believe that her clothing is inappropriate for her age or for the occasion, you need to talk with her about it. Say something supportive that gives her space like, “Wow! You look fantastic in that outfit, but there are so many people out there that aren’t as enlightened as we are about girls revealing their bodies. And unfortunately there are people who may treat you like a sexual object if you wear that outfit.”

 

What critical lessons should parents teach their sons about this?
Talk about consent with your children, boys and girls, and explain that consent is never present unless it has been verbally communicated. I think that’s really essential. It’s probably the most important thing many parents aren’t doing that we should be doing that better. It’s never ever too soon to talk about sexual consent.

What is your opinion about the recent campus sexual assault movement, including It’s On Us, Know Your IX and Carry That Weight?
I feel invigorated by the movement. It ties into this culture of slut-shaming where so many people—including women—believe that it’s acceptable to have sex with a girl even if she hasn’t actually said yes. They think, “Well, because she’s a ‘slut’ or a ‘ho’ it doesn’t matter what she says.” And this is certainly true in high schools too.

What can parents learn from stories like Jada’s from the #IAmJada campaign?
I do find those individual examples of girls talking back and raising awareness really great, but they’re kids and that should not be their responsibility. That should be our responsibility. We need to be the ones orchestrating that and helping the young people in our lives.

What is the most shocking thing you discovered while writing I Am Not a Slut?
How people hate the “slut” so much—even if she’s somebody they don’t know—that they will tell her she should kill herself or that she shouldn’t be alive.

What is one thing you would ask parents to change when it comes to slut-shaming?
Never, ever use words like “slut” or “ho,” even in a lighthearted or joking way. Just never use them, because our kids look to us as role models and if we make it acceptable then it becomes acceptable to them.

 

Leora Tanenbaum is the author of the newly released I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet. She is also senior writer and editor at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a mom of two boys.

 





Beat the Top Five Heart Health Hazards

Written on February 12, 2015 at 4:26 pm , by

This story will help you save your own life. That’s because one in four deaths in the U.S. each year are caused by heart disease, making it the number one killer of women. But right here is where you’ll learn how to outsmart the condition. Just a few simple swaps in your day-to-day routine can lower your odds of cardiovascular disease by more than 80%. “It’s empowering to know that our lifestyle choices can eradicate the top risk factors,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, a cardiologist and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women. So in honor of February being Heart Month, we asked Steinbaum to share her best strategies for avoiding leading risk factors for the disease.

Danger zone: Obesity
How to dodge it: Catch more shut-eye
Getting those coveted seven hours of zzz’s isn’t only important for being alert the next day—it’s vital for your physical well-being too. People who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of being overweight or obese. Make it easy to doze off in your room by removing the TV and computer, cleaning up any clutter and making a to-do list for the next day, then leaving it in another room. Also, give yourself ample time to relax before closing your eyes.

Smiley face heart balloonDanger zone: High blood pressure
How to dodge it: Get zen
“There’s an important link between our mind and our heart,” says Steinbaum. “How we feel affects our cardiovascular status.” Wind down by incorporating stress management into your daily schedule. Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and yoga, have been shown to lower blood pressure, but you can also squeeze in simple breathing exercises. That could be as easy as taking a few minutes to focus on inhaling and exhaling while waiting for your kids at school. All these practices help decrease stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and inflammatory markers in the body that are released during a stress response and temporarily cause your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to constrict.

Danger zone: Diabetes
How to dodge it: Make moves
Several studies have shown that one mega-beneficial workout method for those with diabetes is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves short bursts of difficult exercise followed by brief periods of active rest. “A big mistake people make when doing HIIT is letting their heart rate drop too low at the recovery intervals,” says Steinbaum. Track your numbers by wearing a monitor, like the FitBit Charge HR ($150) or Garmin Forerunner 15 ($140). To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Don’t let your heart rate fall below 75% of max during the less-intense intervals; you should be at 90% to 95% during the rigorous ones. Fitness novices take note, though: HIIT can be hard on your joints, so ease into it. The more in shape you get, the longer and more extreme the intervals should become.

Heart-healthy foodsDanger zone: High cholesterol
How to dodge it: Revamp your diet
In general, aim for 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day of primarily fruits, vegetables, fiber-filled legumes and nuts, which provide good-for-you fats. Opt for fish rich in omega-3s to help lower your bad LDL cholesterol. Limit items loaded with saturated fat, like full-fat dairy products, butter and red meats, and cut back on trans fats, found in many processed and fast foods. Also, keep your salt intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams a day. (For a full refresher on what your plate should look like, go here.)

 

Danger zone: Smoking
How to dodge it: Quit ASAP
Smoking is the most preventable risk factor for heart disease, one that every woman can and should avoid. Stop cold turkey, chew gum, wear a patch or head to cessation seminars—whatever method works for you. (Also, encourage your kids to never pick up a cigarette, even electronic ones. A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that teens who used e-cigarettes were more likely to smoke the conventional type.) To stop for good, it’s also essential to avoid any triggers that make you want a puff, like a morning coffee break or post-work happy hour with friends.

 

Suzanne Steinbaum, MDSuzanne Steinbaum, DO, is a cardiologist and the director of Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She’s also the mother of a son and author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life—Reduce the Effects of Stress, Promote Heart Health, and Restore the Balance in Your Life. You can learn more about her at srsheart.com.


Take Your Workout to the Next Level!

Written on February 10, 2015 at 11:39 am , by

Check out Rosante’s book, The 30-Second Body, for more get-fit motivation.

If you’ve started sweating to our March fitness story but want to turn up the burn, these intensified moves will do it. Follow the 5-, 10- or 15-minute plan in the magazine, but swap out the modified versions in print for the exercises below. (Most of them include explosive jumps to increase the cardio and fat-melting effects.) Also, each time you perform a routine, aim to increase the number of reps you do in 30 seconds and eliminate any breaks you may have needed between each move. These simple switches will help you torch even more calories on the way to a trim, toned new you!

Instead of Modified Tuck Jumps…

Do Leaping Tuck Jumps
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms bent, elbows up to form a T at your chest with your fingers stacked. Press the hips back into a squat and instead of just lifting one leg at a time, immediately jump upward as high as you can, driving the knees toward your arms. Land softly on the mid-foot, rolling back to the heels and pushing the hips back to absorb the impact of the landing. Repeat.

Instead of 3-Point Plankers…
Do 3-Point Plank Jumps
Start in push-up position. With your hands flat on the floor and wrists under your shoulders, jump (don’t step!) the feet as close as you can to the outside of the left hand. Return to start. Jump feet as close as you can to the outside of your right hand. Return to start. Jump feet between hands. Return to start. Continue switching between left, right and middle as fast as possible.

Instead of Standing Mountain Climbers…
Do Sprinting Mountain Climbers
Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands in front of shoulders with palms facing forward. Instead of just lifting your knees, add more power as you jump and raise your left knee to hip height and your right fingertips to the sky. Jump to switch sides, shooting your left fingertips to the sky as you raise your right knee to hip height. Continue alternating.

Instead of Tap-Ups…
Do Tougher Tap-Ups
Start in regular push-up position, with your knees off the floor and your body in a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Tap your left shoulder with your right fingertips. Return to start. Tap your right shoulder with your left fingertips. Return to start. Then perform a regular push-up, lowering down as close to the floor as possible. Return to start and repeat.

Instead of Star Bursts…
Do Explosive Star Bursts
Stand with feet together. Bend the knees and push your hips back into a low squat, engaging your core and drawing your arms into the center of your body. Pause briefly, then jump up as high as you can, extending your arms and both legs out to form an X. Land softly on your feet, absorbing the jump by bending your knees and pushing your hips back. Repeat.

Instead of Power Thrusts…
Do Hardcore Power Thrusts
Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart. Squat down, placing your hands on the floor, wrists under your shoulders. Jump your feet back so you’re at the top of a push-up position. Immediately return both feet to the squat position. Explosively jump up off the floor, shooting your fingertips to the sky and bringing your knees up toward your chest. Land softly on the mid-foot, rolling back to the heels and pushing your hips back to absorb the impact. Repeat.

Instead of Pencil Squats…
Do Hopping Pencil Squats
Stand with your feet together, arms raised overhead at shoulder width. Hop the feet apart to drop down into a low squat and touch the floor just between your ankles. Jump to return to the starting position.


Modern Life: The Joys and Challenges Of Running A Dairy Farm

Written on February 10, 2015 at 11:21 am , by

Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt, 38, Co-owners of Blue Ledge Farm, Hayden, 9, Livia, 12, and Boomer.

By: Suzanne Rust

Photography by: John Huba

When they were younger, despite their artistic tendencies, Hannah Sessions thought she might become a lawyer and Greg Bernhardt imagined a career in education. So how did they wind up down on the farm? A love of Vermont and good food plus a yearning for a bucolic lifestyle and creative work inspired the couple to invest in a property that they converted to a goat dairy. Fifteen years later, their Blue Ledge Farm boasts 140 goats and produces award-winning artisan cheeses. Now these first-generation farmers cannot image a better life for their family of four.

Which three words best describe your family?

Active, creative, earnest.

What made you choose a goat dairy and cheese making operation?

Goats were an affordable alternative to cows when it came to the capital investment involved in starting a dairy. We always had our sights set on making cheese and we were very excited by the diversity of cheeses you can make with goat’s milk. Lastly, we felt like there was room in the market for excellent artisanal goat cheese. Hannah says that since getting to know goats and their personalities, she would be hard-pressed to work with any other animal.

What is the most rewarding thing about your lifestyle? What is the most challenging?

The things that are the most rewarding are also the most challenging! It is very rewarding to work where we live, and that is also the greatest challenge. Working where you live allows you to be very efficient with your time, to multi-task and to seamlessly blend family and work life together. We get to work together every day, and we are available for our kids.

It is also challenging because you never actually leave your place of work and there is always something that needs tending to. It is rewarding to be deeply connected to weather and the seasons, but that, of course, it also very challenging as weather dictates our ability to harvest feed and many other things. It is wonderful to live with the companionship of hundreds of animals, but challenging to never travel because we are responsible for their care.

You are both first generation farmers. What are the biggest misconceptions about farm life?

One big misconception is that farming is easy, and anyone who can hoe a row of lettuce or muck out a pig pen can do it. You do have to do physical, dirty jobs from time to time, but farming is high tech and takes an incredible amount of knowledge. We wear many “hats”: plumber, electrician, veterinarian, mechanic, accountant, public relations, builder, and graphic designer to name a few. We weren’t born into a farming family so we have learned to gather knowledge when and where we can! Fortunately, folks more experienced than us have been very generous with their time since the birth of Blue Ledge Farm. And we can always “Google it”!

How hands-on are you two at this point? Do either of you actually milk the 80 goats twice a day?

Hannah manages the herd of 140 goats and is very active in vaccinating, breeding and general care of the animals, and takes a few milking shifts per week. We have a great team of milkers so that no one person is burdened with milking twice a day!

Greg manages the cheese production, but between making hay, keeping the books and maintaining operations about the farm, our cheese maker, Megan, has her hands in more actual cheese curds than he does.

What do you love most about the cheese making process?

I enjoy seeing the development from milk, to curd, to a formed shape, and then a fully aged cheese. I also like the fact that we are creating a product that is nourishing to body and soul. (Greg)

How do the kids help around the farm?

Our kids are busy with their school and sports lives during the academic year.  They will bottle feed kids during kidding season and in the summer they help harvest hay, give farm tours to visitors, and they sell cheese at our local farmer’s market. Like all of the farm kids I’ve ever known, they are willing to lend a hand when needed!

How do you think they are benefitting from the life you have chosen?

Our kids have never wondered what it is that their parents actually do for a living. They see us working, and they understand that hard work and diligence makes an idea reality. They have a lot of pride in the product that we produce and our part in the community.

Were you two always very environmentally conscious, or did that come once you started working on the farm?

Hannah was voted “most environmental” in high school, and both were vegetarians before starting Blue Ledge Farm and raising their own animals for meat.

Did either of you ever imagine that you would be running a dairy farm?

No, Hannah thought she would be a lawyer and Greg thought teaching was his future. We both always aspired to be artists.

You are both painters. Tell me a bit about that creative side and how you make time for it.

We paint during the slower months on the farm (September through March), but a painter never really stops working! We are always craving more time in the studio, but the farm, the landscape, and our animals are our muse, our subject matter, and our source of inspiration. I think our deep connection to these things comes through in our paintings, and if we weren’t constantly juggling the farm and the art, our paintings might be missing something.

Any short “farm bloopers” to share?

Years ago we answered a local ad for three piglets, so wild that they were “free to anyone who can catch them!” We felt we were up for the challenge but after chasing piglets for two hours we drove away with one lone piglet in the back of the truck. After stopping in town for a quick errand we headed for home, only to discover upon arrival that the lone piglet had in fact escaped from the truck! What followed was three days of heavy rain and no sign of the pig. Then, out of the blue we get a call from a nearby town “you missing a piglet?” The poor pig had taken residence under a porch, chasing away their dog. With help, we went and retrieved the piglet. How this person traced the piglet back to us is still a bit of a mystery– small town Vermont!

For more information check out: www.blueledgefarm.com


When It “Takes a Village,” Here’s How to Create Yours

Written on February 10, 2015 at 10:03 am , by

It’s one of the most common parenting slogans we hear, affirmed by everyone from politicians to pediatricians: “It takes a village.” On the face of it, that’s true. But when you really think about it, there are a lot of assumptions going on here. Like, that everyone in the village agrees about the way to raise children. Or that everyone in the village is a mature adult who knows how and when to get involved in children’s lives.

I don’t know about your village, but in mine there are all sorts of people. Some of them I definitely want helping me out with my kids. Some of them…not so much. Plus, I’ve seen countless times when we actually have a problem involving our kids that also happens to involve other people (teachers, coaches, other parents, other kids) in our village.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: Do you trust your village or not? Why do so many of us assume the worst of our village’s intentions? And how do you define your village? The first two questions you’ll have to answer yourself. But the last I can help with. Here are the top three ways to create your village.

1. Identify the most important characteristics of your “villagers.” Mine are:

* treats kids with dignity,

* is comfortable calling children out when they do something boneheaded,

* is warmhearted (they can still be tough on the outside) and not a pushover

* laughs when kids make “foolish” mistakes

* and—most important—knows my children and still likes them.

2. With these characteristics in mind, try to identify two people who have most of these attributes in each of your smaller villages: at your child’s school, in your neighborhood, among your friends, your family and adults in your children’s extracurricular activities (that includes coaches, of course).

3. Make a list for yourself. You don’t have to go up to each of these people and tell them they’ve officially made your list, but write it down so you don’t forget it when you need it most.

The next step in the process is considering how you’ll use them when the moment comes. Read this letter from a mother who recently emailed me and see how her village worked.

Just as my 15-year-old son was supposed to get out of the car to go to school (already 5 minutes late), he mentioned he was being bullied there. He went on to school. I watched him walk in so he couldn’t ditch. Then I called his counselor at school, who checked on him today. When I picked him up I asked if he wanted to talk and he said, “Not now.” In the past I would have pushed him to talk right away, but I gave him space and he came to me later in the afternoon and we talked.

This is a difficult moment for any parent. Her 15-year-old son (a group not known for talking about their problems) drops a bomb as he’s getting out of the car. He did that on purpose. He wanted to tell her, but he didn’t want to talk to her about it.

She could have run after him. She could have run into the school assuming that the school would do nothing about it unless she broke into the principal’s office. But she didn’t. She thought about what would work for her son. She didn’t let her emotions get the best of her. She reached out to her (and, most important, her son’s) village by contacting his counselor and asking him to check in on her son. She trusted that the process would work. Then she gave her son a little bit of space, and her son reacted by telling her what happened—when he was ready.

Who’s in your village? And do you trust them? Post a comment and tell me. 

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

 


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on February 9, 2015 at 12:43 pm , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @audreyelisedantowho made our Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili!

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 #FAMILYCIRCLEFOOD.

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Local Hero: Michelle Humphries

Written on February 4, 2015 at 11:38 am , by

By: Louise Farr

For Michelle Humphries, who founded Arms Outstretched Ministry to help the homeless, veterans and families in need, giving is a matter of faith.

Meal Plan
Michelle Humphries has always been a humanitarian at heart. As a teen, she went on church missions to Central America to distribute food and clothing to the poor. Back home in Stafford, VA, she joined the Fairfax County police department in 1994 and saw firsthand the link between homelessness, poverty and crime. “When I had to handcuff people for disturbing the peace, I’d talk to them on the way to jail about where they could find jobs,” she says. “But I didn’t feel I was doing enough.” Michelle began hosting monthly dinners at the First Assembly of God church, serving up steak and potatoes donated by residents and food pantries. “I call them ‘elegant meals,’ ” she says. “People are seated and served instead of waiting in line. That way they know we love them.”

Support System
Noting that many of the homeless were veterans, Michelle enlisted her brother Michael, who was stationed in Iraq with the Air Force, to launch an Adopt
A Soldier program. She got volunteers to assemble care packages, and he set up the network to get them to troops overseas. In 2001 she founded the Arms Outstretched Ministry (AOM), which quickly went forth and multiplied. Veterans from nearby counties, as well as financially strapped families of active servicemen, began attending AOM dinners, where they were given groceries supplied in part by the Food Lion supermarket chain. AOM extended its reach by counseling troubled teens, offering spiritual support to adults and juveniles in prison, and providing companionship to senior citizens. “It’s a lot of legwork,” says Michelle. “I’m hands-on with everything.”

Holiday Cheer

The ministry makes an extra effort to spread joy this time of year. At Arlington’s Pentagon City mall, volunteers wrap gifts in exchange for donations. Last year AOM raised several thousand dollars, which, combined with private contributions, was enough to fly several families cross-country to visit relatives at Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir military hospitals. In the group’s main office is an Angel Tree decorated with tags bearing the names and wish lists of children in local foster homes and detention centers. People pluck a tag off a branch, then mail or personally deliver presents to a child.

Helping Hands
Finding time for AOM isn’t easy, but Michelle, 44, manages to squeeze it into her schedule. She works four 10-hour shifts a week at the police department, where she teaches emergency driving skills, reserving Fridays for her six- year-old, Taylor. “She’s been serving drinks at the dinners since she could walk,” says Michelle. “Now she writes letters to wounded warriors.” Husband Kevin loads trucks with food and other items, while sister-in-law Cindy pitches in with the Bread of Life program, delivering freshly baked goods to families in need.

Many Happy Returns
Thanks to a huge corps of volunteers, AOM has helped some 5,000 people in the past year alone. As Michelle sees it, compassion is a choice, and those who lean in reap huge rewards. “Knowing you’ve eased hardship and brought peace to others,” she says, “is a warm and wonderful feeling.”

To learn more or make a donation, visit armsoutstrectedministry.com.

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Modern Life: The Joys and Challenges of a Three-Generation Household

Written on February 3, 2015 at 9:55 am , by

Photography by Amy Postle

Necessity is the mother of reinvention. Jennifer Conlin and Daniel Rivkin, foreign correspondents with posts in Europe and Africa until 2010, felt it was time to return to the States with their children. But after two decades of living abroad, they realized that the transition would be tricky—especially in the middle of a recession. A move to Michigan with Jennifer’s parents and brother turned out to be the winning solution. Jennifer shares her multigenerational you-can-go-home-again experience.

Describe your family in three words.
Hilariously thriving together.

How did your living arrangement come about?
The simple answer? It was a combination of being homeless refugees dodging a revolution and returning somewhat jobless to America to ensure our family’s safety.

We moved in with my parents full-time in late August of 2010, having lived in Cairo, Egypt, the previous year. We sensed the country was about to go through a difficult transition by the increasing restrictions being imposed on journalists working there (our livelihood), and decided to leave at the last minute before the next school year started. Six months later, the first revolution occurred.

My children knew Ann Arbor well, having spent part of every summer of their lives at my parents’ rambling colonial home, so they felt comfortable in the house and already had bedrooms here, as did Daniel and I.

Harriet was starting her first year of college in England, so she didn’t move in with us. Daniel didn’t arrive until late October, since he had to move us out of our home in Egypt and finish up his job there.

How do most people react when you tell them about your situation?
Shock. They tell me that if they lived with their parents there would be a homicide within months. But then, after they come over and see us all together they get very jealous. They see the wisdom in it, the love, and what a great time we all have together.

What was the transition like?
Enormous. We were used to living overseas, as we had for 20 years (the children had never lived in the States and were mostly raised in London). As a result, we were accustomed to having zero family nearby. Suddenly, we were all under one roof, my older sister was just down the street, and I also have dozens of cousins in town. At first it felt rather smothering because we were so used to being fiercely independent. But we needed family.

Our transition was harder outside of the house, where we were all trying to adjust to living in the U.S. for the first time as a family. Inside the house, we could break down when we faced difficulties. My parents and brother gave lots of hugs and advice during those first months when we all felt like complete foreigners despite all being American.

Have you reverted to old family dynamics now that you’re living with your parents and your brother?
Yes, but in a good way. I have always been close to my mother and father, and we never argued much when I was growing up and still don’t. Also, because I lived so far away, our visits usually lasted about a month, whether they were coming to visit us overseas or I was going to stay at their home with the kids. But I do find myself tiptoeing into the house if I come in late, like a teenager, not wanting them to know I stayed out past midnight. My brother and I were close growing up, but we also always teased each other a lot and still do—I tease him about women, he teases me about staying in shape because we were always very athletic together.

Photography by Amy Postle

What is the biggest reward you get from your arrangement? What is the most challenging aspect?
By far the biggest reward is that there’s always someone here to help out, whether it is cooking, babysitting, dog sitting or helping with homework. My mom and dad both still drive, so they helped pick the kids (now just Charles) up from after-school activities when I had to work. I never have to turn down a work trip with them here to watch the children, and they have us to help them take care of the house, get to doctor’s appointments and entertain. They love having people over but it was getting too tiring for them, as was keeping up the house. My husband and I love to entertain, so we have a lot of multigenerational parties and dinners now. 

The most challenging part is that we ended up buying their house three years ago, since we decided our living situation made us all better off economically. But Daniel and I would really like to make some decorating changes. Given that my mother was an interior decorator, she has a lot of opinions on how the house should look. She is pretty classic in her style and a lot of our things are fairly exotic because we’ve lived all over the world, so we don’t always agree. We only finally got our belongings out of storage six months ago, and a lot of them went straight to the attic. It still looks more like my parents’ house than our house.

How do you divide the household duties?
My brother always takes out the trash; my father orders all of us around the garden, telling us what to cut back and weed; my mother is obsessed with vacuuming the house and dusting. I do most of the cooking and shopping, and my husband is like Mr. Clean. He sweeps through the house every night, putting everything away and making sure the house is spic-and-span for all of us in the morning. The kids do next to nothing, I hate to admit. But they have zero time. One of the biggest shocks we had moving to the States was how full-on American childhood is: sports, extracurricular activities, community service and then huge academic pressures. They clean up their rooms….once in a while.

What does dinnertime look like?
This year we’re eating together less often, with everyone busy, but we still sit down at least twice during the week for dinner—and nearly every Sunday night. My mother acts as sous chef for me, chopping things and setting the table. I love to cook so we eat very well, but it’s not always to everyone’s liking. We have serious food issues here. My dad thinks every meal should be meat and potatoes, Florence is a vegetarian, Charles hates tomatoes, my mother has lots of allergies (including garlic!), and my brother is slim but eats a TON of food (though, thankfully, anything). Daniel and I like grains and fish and eat lots of trendy health foods, like quinoa and farro, that my father thinks taste like dust. But I don’t cater to anyone—what you’re served is what you get!

How are your children benefiting from living with their grandparents? And how do their grandparents benefit?
The children are now so much closer to their grandparents, obviously, but they are also wiser for the experience. My dad is a World War II history buff and my mother was an English major (she won the same fiction writing prize at the University of Michigan that Arthur Miller won while he was a student here). Between them they are great homework helpers. They also love to tell stories of their childhood to my kids. Charles, an avid piano player, has learned to play Cole Porter, Gershwin and a million musical theater songs thanks to my parents, who bought him a book of their favorite tunes. My mother has had her granddaughter, Florence, in town and learned all about modern feminism from my activist daughter. She will soon have her other granddaughter, Harriet, here direct from England, as she is moving into our home in January. My mom is a huge Anglophile, so having Harriet around to watch Downton Abbey with her will be a treat. My parents have little time to feel old with so many of my kids’ friends around all the time. And their friends love my parents. I came home the other day to find two of Charles’ friends sitting watching football with my father. Charles wasn’t even here! They stayed anyway to hang out with my dad. It was the cutest thing ever. And my parents have 24-hour tech support, since they can barely operate a television, let alone the computer.

What is your advice to others for making it all work?
You have to have a sense of humor, lots of patience and be able to compromise. But you also have to communicate well and say what you feel when you feel it so things don’t boil over into an explosion. You have to really love each other but also give space when it’s needed. Sometimes we need time alone with our kids, and my parents have to leave so we can have our own family time. And sometimes they need time alone and need us to go out so they can relax without chaos.

Privacy can be the hardest part. As my kids say, they will never be able to throw a party we don’t know about. For that to happen they’d have to have five adults out of the house all at the same time. Good luck with that!

What is the most surprising thing that you’ve discovered about living in a multigenerational household?
How economical it is—we can all live so much better together, sharing costs, than apart. And how mentally helpful, not harmful, it is—all of us are there for each other if someone has a bad day. Plus we have lots of different viewpoints on how to solve problems if someone is facing something difficult.

Please share a funny moment that has come out of all this.
When we first moved in, Florence had a new friend over and her mother came to pick her up from our house. I answered the door, having never met her before, and could see her looking around at all these antiques, floral couches, chandeliers, etc., wondering about my old-fashioned taste. But it was my mother’s taste, of course. I’m more Pottery Barn than Laura Ashley.

Then my brother suddenly came up behind me. She assumed it was my husband, and I had to tell her it was my brother. Then my parents waltzed into the room and she was even more confused.

“Whose house is this?” she suddenly asked.

My face went red and I had to say for the first time, “All of ours.” She soon became a great friend and we laugh now at how awkward I was admitting for the first time that I was living in a multigenerational home.

 


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on February 2, 2015 at 10:00 am , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @hustlemom73, who made our Sunday Roast Chicken with a few tweaks of her own!

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 #FAMILYCIRCLEFOOD.

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Is It Ever Okay to Cheat?

Written on January 30, 2015 at 11:00 am , by

One of the greatest lessons that parents try to teach their children is honesty. Winners never cheat and cheaters never win. There is no game or test or outcome that is worth going back on your word or compromising your integrity. So when I hear revered sports figures acknowledge or minimize their role in cheating, it’s disheartening. Winners never cheat? Try telling that to the New England Patriots and their fans. They’re going to Superbowl 2015 while still defending themselves in DeflateGate. For those of you unaware of DeflateGate, it basically involves a preponderance of deflated balls for one team that provided an unfair advantage. The situation begs the question: Is it ever okay to cheat?

Just the other day, in a BBC interview, Lance Armstrong was questioned about his infamous ban from racing after doping. When asked if he’d do it all again, in regards to doping, he said: “If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn’t do it again because I don’t think you have to . . . If you take me back to 1995, when it was completely and totally pervasive, I would probably do it again. People don’t like to hear that.” With all due respect to Lance Armstrong, I have a question: Huh? Did he actually say that he would cheat again? Yes, he did.

I have wiped tears from the cheeks of every single one of my four daughters because of a game that was hard fought but lost and other disappointing outcomes. As competitive athletes, they didn’t just learn to win, they learned to lose in spite of their best efforts. Cheating was not an option or part of the game plan.

To reinforce that message with our kids, it may be time to take another look at what cheating really is. One definition of being cheated is to be deprived of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud. We often look at the victim with pity. Why not flip the script? Perhaps it’s time to look at what the cheater loses as we teach our children the lessons of playing and losing fairly. How sweet could that victory truly be? Let’s show our kids who the real winners are.

What lessons do you teach your children about cheating? Post a comment below and let us know.

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

 

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