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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.

 

 

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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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.

Kirstie Alley’s Top Six Weight Loss Tips

Written on January 28, 2015 at 1:19 pm , by

Kirstie Alley for Jenny CraigBesides returning to the big screen in 2015 for Accidental Love (out February 10), actress Kirstie Alley has also resumed her role as the face of Jenny Craig. She signed up for the program nine months ago, and when we met up with the 64-year-old this month in NYC, she revealed her svelte figure—50 pounds lighter! We asked the mom of two, who’s clearly a weight-loss champion, to share her lessons on diet, exercise and having some fun too.

Tip #1: Get your children eating well when they’re young, so you can all have good-for-you meals when you’re older.
“My kids actually eat really healthy; they always have. They were raised that way. Sometimes they’ll even steal my Jenny Craig food. They love the fettuccine and the turkey burgers.”

Tip #2: Find a physical activity you love, so it’s much more maintainable.
“There are just certain exercise things I dread, and I really wanted to find something that would carry through the rest of my life. I thought, ‘When in my life did I love being really active?’ And it was riding a bicycle. So I started riding my Townie bike around, visiting people, bribing them to ride with me, and then people started joining in. Now we have a group of three to eight people riding to dinner or to the grocery store. I just made it a part of my routine and it never feels like drudgery.”

Tip #3: And switch things up.
“I want to start doing more yoga. It makes my body strong really fast. I like doing dance-y stuff too. I’ll go to a Zumba class or any type of dance class.”

Tip #4: Pick an unbiased person to help you with your goal.
“With Jenny Craig, you’re choosing to have a person that holds you accountable [each member gets a consultant to help them create and stick to to a weight-loss strategy], which I think is really important. It’s this trained person, who’s independent of your family and friends, who stays very neutral and just helps. But if you choose somebody who’s a friend of yours, I think you could become bitter if that person was giving advice. So it’s essential to have that nonpartisan person who’s literally just there to see you through your goals. I think it’s also fun to have a buddy who’s doing it with you.”

Tip #5: Plan each week in advance.
“It takes about three minutes to look at what you have coming up in that week that can be challenging or could be a pitfall or could just be a lot of fun. (I mean, usually if you’re overeating it’s because you’re either really sad or you’re really happy.) So look at that week in advance and you’ll see you have this or that, so you know you’re going to have to eat before and if they have hors d’oeuvres, you’re going to have one. Just make a lightly planned schedule.”

Tip #6: Know success will affect all areas of your life.
“I think anytime you reach any goal that you set for yourself, it strengthens you and then it helps you in all other aspects of your life. So I would say that same thing about conquering the weight. I think that’s the best part. Weight loss isn’t just about wearing a smaller dress; it’s about getting healthier and you instantly have more energy and you feel more outgoing. Plus, you don’t have to look in your closet and think, ‘What can I get into?’ and ‘How can I hide this or that?’”

 

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How to Avoid Your Kid’s Video Game Meltdowns

Written on January 22, 2015 at 10:15 am , by

Video games have come a long way since the days when we were just trying to gobble up dots and steer clear of four pesky ghosts. Now they’re 10 times as complex—just look at all the buttons on the joystick, ahem, controller. Story lines are far more elaborate. And a kid’s desire to play just a little bit longer? Infinite. So how do you get your child to put the controller down? Our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman received an email from a concerned school official dealing with just such a dilemma. Here’s Rosalind’s advice for putting playtime in its place.

Dear Rosalind:

I am an elementary school counselor, and so many parents have asked me for guidance on enforcing rules about video games. They don’t have problems setting the rules, but with enforcing them without meltdowns. What’s your advice?

Maybe some of you reading this have kids who follow your rules about games. Maybe some of you have kids who never argue or, worse, pretend not to hear you, when you say, “Your game time is up.” But for those of you who don’t, this is what I try to keep in mind.

Meltdowns are going to happen when your child stops playing a video game. As a parent, expect it and don’t take it personally. Don’t get annoyed. Don’t think your child is insane. He’s going from fighting monsters or competing in a world championship sports event to… sitting on the couch listening to his parent nag him about going over his screen time limits. Come to think of it, maybe our kids get into fights with us in these moments to continue the adrenaline rush.

When my boys disconnect, I give them about 10 minutes to be grumpy, rude, butt heads. They don’t get a free pass to be brats or say something personally horrible to me or about me. (“I hate you” doesn’t count as horrible. That’s a standard thing for your children to say and also should not be taken personally.) You should expect that they will lie (or be in denial) about how long they’ve played or argue with you about how much longer their sibling has been playing and how unfair the whole thing is. This is because they truly feel that they have been playing for only a few minutes and that their sibling(s) has hogged the controllers. Their passion fuels their justification about how unfair the situation is, which in turn fuels their belief that they are justified in being obnoxious brats.

Here’s how I try to manage myself so they don’t drag me into their tantrums: When I come into the house and they’re gaming, I try not to greet them with, “How long have you been playing?” (which, to be honest, is not a question—it’s an accusation) or “You better get off in 10 minutes” or “Have you walked the dog yet?” (again, an accusation). Instead—and this is very hard—I go in, say hi and let them play for 10 more minutes. Then I come back, tell them to pause the game and ask them about homework, the dog, cleaning the kitchen, etc. If they don’t pause the game after one warning, I do turn it off because that’s in our rules. (Rule #7: “I’ll pause the game within one minute after being told my time is up. If I don’t comply, I understand that my parent will turn off the screen so that any unsaved progress I lose will be because of my actions, not because my mom turned off the screen.”)

I have found that no matter what rules I have about food, leaving dirty socks on the floor or placing the cushions back on the couch, my kids still violate all of them. I don’t think I have ever come into the room where they play games and not found several dirty socks lying around. But when they stop playing, they have to clean up the space. Nothing happens until they clean up that room.

Bottom line: Don’t take their behavior personally. Don’t think they’re insane or game addicts. And don’t let them get you into a bad mood, stomping around the house resenting them. Stay strong, keep calm, and when in doubt you can always hide the controllers in the laundry room.


What rules do you place on video games in your house? 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.

Flu Fighters: Six Easy Ways to Avoid Getting Sick This Season

Written on January 21, 2015 at 11:00 am , by

Runny nose

Don’t let fevers, body aches, congestion and coughs creep through your front door! While flu activity is especially high this season—nearly 5,500 people have been hospitalized since October—and the CDC predicts it will remain elevated for the next few months, there are simple ways to stay protected. The vaccine offers your best defense, even if it doesn’t cover all strains. “A shot will still decrease your chances of getting sick, and it’s never too late in the season to get it,” says Keri Peterson, MD, an internal medicine doctor in NYC. In addition to getting vaccinated, shield yourself and your family with these strategies from Peterson.

1. Make Your Face Off-Limits.
“A big thing people forget is that they shouldn’t touch their eyes, nose or mouth, because that’s a direct entry point for germs,” says Peterson. Pretend there’s a glass table around your neck, meaning your hands cannot go above it.

2. Lather Up Often.
Scrub your hands with soap and water several times a day, especially if you’ve touched a potentially contaminated area like a subway pole, doorknobs, faucet handles, kitchen sponges or that pen on a chain at the bank. When you’re on the go, use hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wipes (try Wet Ones, from $2), which kill germs as well as remove them.

3. Stop the Spread of Bacteria.
A few easy tricks will help minimize the germs you disperse and pick up. Cough into your elbow instead of your hand, and fist-bump instead of shaking hands. At home, regularly clean surfaces—like counters, handles, faucets, your phone, laptop and mouse and the toilet—with a disinfectant product or a bleach-and-water solution. Finally, skip the office when necessary. According to a Vicks survey, 48% of us still head to work outside the home with cold and flu symptoms, which just ups the risk of infecting others.

4. Boost Your Immune System.
Help your body fight off ailments by getting enough sleep and reducing stress, whether by practicing yoga or reading a good book. Exercise will also help you stay healthy, so break a sweat when you can—just remember to wipe down equipment if you head to the gym. Also, munch on more immunity-boosting foods like green leafy vegetables, antioxidant-packed berries and vitamin C−filled oranges.

5. Bundle Up.
The old wives’ tale turns out to be true: You’re more susceptible to contracting an illness if you’re exposed to the pathogen outside in the cold. Chilly temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict, and without sufficient blood flow to the back of the throat or the nose (where cold viruses live), your body can’t readily deliver immune system cells to those areas. This makes battling germs much more difficult.

6. Stay Away from the Sick.
If someone in your family does end up with influenza, get her to a doc. Antiviral meds should be taken within the first 48 hours to reduce the severity and duration of the condition. Then quarantine that individual to her room with instructions to cough and sneeze into tissues, drink lots of fluids, sip chicken soup (it has anti-inflammatory effects and loosens up mucus) and get lots of rest.

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Learning from Loss: Why We Need to Embrace Goodness

Written on January 16, 2015 at 5:41 pm , by

 

Being blessed with four daughters means that I never had to have the “driving while black” talk. (For those who don’t know, that’s the conversation parents with black sons must have about the extra precautions you need to take should you be pulled over by a police officer.) Now, let me say up front, I respect, defer to and have admiration for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep our citizens and communities safe. However, as a mother my heart has been broken over the recent events involving innocent black youngsters and black men who have died in police encounters in Missouri, New York and Ohio, to name a few.

Just because these events happened in 2014 doesn’t make them any easier to manage emotionally in 2015. Last month, on the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, my heart was broken again as I saw images of the sweet, innocent smiles of victims contrasted with video of the ongoing pain of their surviving family members. A brave mother who lost her outgoing, curious and beautiful daughter stated: “You have bad days and even worse days…but you go on step by step.”

Yes, you go on, but how? Maybe the answer is closer than we imagine. The same ability that allows us to feel our own and others’ pain gives us the power to recognize that hope is all around us. We just have to make a conscious decision to see it, believe it and state it out loud. Our children need to hear us talk about the good in our lives—good people, good actions, good hearts and good words. That goodness connects us. It connects the people of Sandy Hook and the diverse group of people who are marching together for justice.

The new year provides a prime opportunity to teach our children with renewed spirit about giving, loving and being kind…just because. We can teach our children that the most important aspect of the recent holidays were not presents but presence. Interact in a gentle caring way, share history, swap stories and dole out tight hugs. Grief and heartbreak are part of life, but so are hope, goodness, love. And love heals.

How do you move forward from losses you’ve experienced or watched others experience? 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.

 

A Wheel Good Time: How to Pick the Perfect Bike and Helmet for Your Kid

Written on December 18, 2014 at 11:21 am , by

Girl on bikeAt some point in time, almost every kid gets a two-wheeler for the holidays. It’s a gift that can keep on giving through spring, summer, fall and beyond, as long as you pay attention to a few key details that allow for an enjoyable ride. That’s where the experts—Pacific Cycle‘s Terry Collins, vice president of sales, and Joe Werwie, global director of product development—chime in. Follow their advice for finding the best bike and helmet for your teen or tween to pedal with pride.

For the bicycle…

Size It Right
Many parents opt for a larger ride, thinking their son or daughter will grow into it. The problem with that approach: Bikes become much more difficult to handle when they’re a size too big, and that can diminish a kid’s confidence on two wheels. Avoid this by heading to the bike shop knowing your child’s exact height. That way a pro can help you pick the ideal frame or you can base it on the retailer’s sizing chart.

Determine the Terrain
The second most important info you need before purchasing is where your child will ride. If he or she plans to pedal mostly on paved roads, a thinner tire is ideal, whereas a wider one works best on gravel or trails, since it’ll have a better grip on rough surfaces. Also consider whether your kid will have to carry the bike up and down steps—a lighter model makes that much easier.

Get Set Up
Before your child starts spinning, hold the front of the bike steady and have him or her sit on it. Crank the right pedal to its lowest position and make sure your kid’s heel rests on it. If the knee is bent, raise the seat so that it’s straight. If the foot doesn’t touch the pedal, lower the saddle until the heel makes contact. The handlebars should be adjusted to a comfortable riding position that balances the pressure on your child’s upper body and lower half. The rider’s hands, arms, shoulders, back and neck should feel relaxed and natural.

For the helmet…

Find a good fit
Helmet size is usually listed by age, but if you want an exact fit, it’s best to bring your kid along to the store. (A helmet’s tightness is most important for safety.) Most options will have a dial in the back for adjustments, so use that to ensure security. Kids can test the snugness by rocking their heads forward and backward—doing so shouldn’t shake the helmet. Or put your hands on top and try to move it front to back and side to side, and modify accordingly if it budges.

Place properly
Many riders wear their helmets too far back on the head, with the front pointing upward, but it should really face straight forward. Aim for the front edge to be about one inch above the eyebrow. As for the straps, they should form a triangle around the ear, coming together below the earlobe. Tighten these so they’re directly under the chin and not swaying freely.

The Best Christmas Gift I Ever Got from My Child

Written on December 15, 2014 at 11:18 am , by

Attention moms: This is a post you’re going to want to share, forward, copy and paste.

You see, right about now, plenty of little kids are wondering: What’s in Mom’s letter to Santa? And, well, bigger ones are pondering which treasured item Mom secretly hopes to find wrapped under the tree, too.

Contrary to all the commercials on endless repeat for the rest of December, you told us it’s not really diamond earrings or a luxury car. (Although we must admit those would make pretty fabulous holiday gifts. And if anyone out there has already put in an order for the VERY BIG BOW, don’t cancel it on our account.)

So what does Mom really want? Hundreds of them wrote in to tell us about the best present they ever received from their kid. The overwhelming majority of these gifts didn’t come in a box. The presence of loved ones was especially treasured, as were things like having an argument-free day. There were also a few items created, coordinated or purchased by their kids that were big hits. So without further ado, here are the gifts that were a huge hit:

1. HANDCRAFTED MASTERPIECES

“My daughter made a heart on canvas with pictures of our family.” —Annette S.

“Twelve handmade coupons from my adult son promising one day/afternoon together each month, just the two of us.” —Linda S.

“A hand-painted Santa egg by my son who is 28 and has been creating one each year for 12 years. I treasure each one.” —Janice W.

“The rocking chair I rocked all my kids in—refurbished. Such a special gift!” —Millie U.

“Our son passed away in April 2008 at the age of 16, and my daughter had a memory book made for us by having different family members and friends email her a memory of him. Priceless!” —Michelle T.

2. A HELPING HAND

“They decorated my tree, put up my lights and cleaned my home for Christmas.” —Pearl M.

“An IOU for keeping his room clean for a year!” —Sharon K.

“I was sick for the week leading up to Christmas, and my two daughters planned and prepared the whole Christmas meal. My sons cleaned up afterward. All I had to do was come to the table and then go back to my room. I was never so grateful for their help. I didn’t even know they knew how to do it. They even baked the pies!” —Ginny S.

3. TREASURED ITEMS

“Nail polish in my favorite colors.” —Linda M.

“Some of my favorite perfume.” —Petra M.

“A really soft throw blanket with a tiger on it. Tigers are my favorite animal.” —Robin N.

4. A LATE START

“Waiting until 8:30 a.m. before coming out [of the bedroom]. Yay!” —Heidi C.

“She slept in. First time in 11 years I’ve gotten a shower in before opening gifts” —Leeann A.

“A sleep-in. Our five kids all decided to sleep in Christmas day and we had to wake them up.” —Kylie B.

5. A SHOW OF SUPPORT

“My eyesight. They paid for me to have cataracts removed.” —Donna C.

“I’m going through chemo for breast cancer, and when I walked into my daughter’s house for Christmas dinner, everyone had on pink kerchiefs!” —Anita K.

“I was crying because I couldn’t afford to get them a whole lot. My 10-year-old son was in the room and asked me why I was crying. I told him I was afraid he and his sister would be disappointed with their gifts. He said, ‘It’s okay, Mom. That’s not what Christmas is about! Anything you got we’ll be happy with!’ That made me so happy and relieved! It was the best gift I could have ever been given!” —Allison B.

 

 

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Six Ways to Fight Holiday Weight Gain

Written on December 12, 2014 at 11:51 am , by

Dessert trays, cocktail parties, big family meals—it’s the perfect combo for a happy holiday, but for a trim waistline? Not so much. Of course, occasional indulging is okay, but to stop you from overdoing it, we pinged Amanda Butler, a trainer at NYC’s BFX studio, a boutique gym that offers classes like barre, group cycling and circuit workouts. She gave her top exercising and eating tips for keeping the number on the scale steady throughout the season.

Amanda doing the squat for a burpee

1. Take Four for Fitness
Making time to break a sweat will torch some of those calories from pie and cake. To quickly maximize the burn, try a Tabata routine—a type of high-intensity interval training that requires you to push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds and repeat for eight rounds. That’s just four minutes of work!

The move Amanda says works best to sculpt from head to toe: burpees. To tackle this exercise, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, then jump your feet behind you so you’re in a push-up position. Perform one push-up. Next, jump your feet forward toward your arms, then stand and jump straight up, clapping your hands over your head. You’ll burn approximately 75 calories in just four minutes with this move—that’s about one chocolate chip cookie. For similar results without the full-on burpee, alternate jump squats and push-ups (you can put your knees on the floor to modify it) for your 20-second intervals.

2. Keep Moving
While you’re waiting to take the ham or casserole out of the oven, do a few quick moves, such as triceps dips or step-ups with the kitchen chair. It always helps to take the stairs and walk more too, so park farther from the mall entrance or grocery store to get more steps.

3. Grab and Go
At the dessert table, put the two treats you love the most on your plate and walk away. Enjoy each bite and then start a conversation with someone at a spot located away from the sweets so you’re not tempted to snag more.

4. Graze at a Slow Pace
When you’re having a group dinner, eat slowly and put your utensils down every now and then to help you do so. Savor the flavors and pay attention to how you feel. If you let out a big sigh from being so full, it’s definitely time to stop nibbling.

5. Plan for Celebrations
Don’t show up to your company’s or friend’s bash on an empty stomach. Have a snack, like an apple, before you go so you’re not feeling ravenous and ready to scarf down whatever you see first. Also, sip water between cocktails and swap the sugar- and fat-filled choices, such as eggnog or a flavored martini, for lighter beverages, like a vodka soda with lime or red wine.

6. Mentally (and Socially) Prepare
Give yourself a little pep talk before a full day of dining so you’re ready to turn down the second (or third) helping. And let others know you’re trying to watch your weight so they don’t peer pressure you into having more food and drinks.

 

When Friends Turn to Foes

Written on December 3, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Two’s company and three can be a crowd when it comes to tween girls and friendships. So how can a mom help her daughter smooth things over when an expanding circle of friendship starts to wreak havoc? Our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman received an email from a worried mother dealing with just such a dilemma. Here’s Rosalind’s advice for keeping the peace.

Dear Rosalind,
My 8-year-old daughter (I’ll call her Alexa) has known another 8-year-old girl (let’s call her Becky) since they were 4 and they’ve gone to the same school. Last year a new girl (let’s call her Jamie) came in halfway through the year and my daughter befriended her. Jamie has a difficult home situation and lives with her great-grandmother. Sadly, Becky is one of several people—including Becky’s overprotective mom—who don’t like Jamie and are giving my daughter a very hard time over the friendship. They’ve begun excluding Alexa. Becky used to cling to Alexa like glue and Alexa never pushed her away. I can’t understand why this girl has become so unkind to my daughter.

As hard as this is to believe, I’d bet any amount of money that the overprotective mom thinks she’s in the right—that in her mind she has a perfectively justified reason for supporting her daughter (Becky) in excluding your daughter’s (Alexa’s) new friend. So let go of “understanding” this woman’s perspective or why her daughter can’t accept the new friendship and focus on supporting your daughter and her new friend.

The only time I would talk to the nasty mom is if she confronts you or something happens between the girls that necessitates you speak with her. If that does happen, I’d say to her, “My daughter likes this new girl and we support the friendship. Our daughters don’t have to be friends, but I would like your support in allowing the girls to go their separate ways without being hurtful to each other.” Then get ready for this woman to be defensive or tell you the reasons why the new girl is a bad influence. Don’t get sucked in. The most you should say in response is, “That’s not been my or my daughter’s experience with this girl and I hope you would respect that.”

You also need to talk to your daughter. Tell her that you’re disappointed that her old friend isn’t being nice to her or the new girl. Maybe she’ll turn around one day but for right now, ask your daughter to give her some space until she can be a good friend.

If the old friend continues to be mean to her or the new girl, she needs to tell you and/or the person she thinks is the smartest adult at school what’s happening. But at base, this is an opportunity for your daughter to learn an important lesson from you: Sometimes good friends do things that make it impossible to continue the friendship for right now. Maybe later things will change. But in the present, it’s important to have friendships with people you actually like who allow you to be friends with others as well.

How would you handle a girl (and her mom) putting friendship pressure on your child? 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.