Modern Life: Two Dads, Two Kids and Two Dogs Make a Happy Home in the Heartland

Written on October 8, 2014 at 10:13 am , by


Mornings that begin with a big family hug are a sweet way to start the day for Chris Osner-Hackett, his husband, Bob Osner-Hackett, and daughters Cai and Ava. Their busy schedules are tempered by calm weekend activities like Friday movie night, long walks with their two dogs, and jaunts to the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market.

Questions answered by Chris Osner-Hackett unless otherwise noted.

Which three words best capture your family?
Loving, grateful and supportive.

How would you describe your parenting styles?
Bob and I have completely different parenting styles. While we’re both supportive of our girls trying new things, Bob is by far the adventurer while I lean toward measured caution. Chris is the worrier and Bob is the encourager. We share the role of disciplinarian. Our styles, for the most, complement each other.

Have you felt accepted by your community?
Yes! First and foremost, we have a truly supportive network of family and friends who love and accept our family unconditionally. We have truly felt welcome wherever we have lived—whether Ohio, New Jersey or Michigan. We like to think it’s because once people get to know our family, it doesn’t matter that we are gay dads. Or it could just be that everyone loves Bob. Sure, there’s an occasional stare where you know someone’s thinking, “Must be dads’ night out with the kids” or “What is the dynamic of that family?” It really doesn’t faze the girls or us.

What surprises you most about parenthood?
How two children brought up in the same home could be so totally different. We have a serious and logical 8-year-old with a dry sense of humor, and a three-and-half-year-old who is animated, boisterous and keeps us laughing.

What are the biggest challenges that your family faces?
Finding time to have a sit-down dinner together.

No different than any other family—balancing the needs/wants of both a three-and-half- and an 8-year-old. We do believe we may face tougher challenges in the years ahead as we deal with questions around adoption and our nontraditional family. —Bob

What is the best moment of the day?
When Ava, our three-and-a-half-year-old, initiates the morning family hug.

What happens on a typical weekend?
The kids love Friday movie night. Saturdays are usually filled with dog walks around the lake, the Kalamazoo Farmer’s Market and lots of outdoor activities, like bike riding and tennis.

What are your tips for balancing work and family?
We are fortunate that Bob is able to be a stay-at-home parent. The benefit of having him home with the girls cannot be measured. As for me, I’m fortunate that my employer allows for good work/life balance, allowing me to prioritize the kids’ activities (sports, plays, lessons).

What is dinnertime like at your home?
Organized chaos—while our goal is to have a sit-down family meal, it doesn’t always go that way. Dinners are often preempted by an 8-year-old that, like daddy, is a picky eater, and a three-and-a-half-year-old who would rather play than eat, and the uncertainty of Chris’s arrival time.

Are you cooking this Thanksgiving? Any specialties?
Chris likes to boast about his homemade pumpkin pie, which he claimed for years was a family recipe until one year when he learned that “the secret family recipe” could also be found on the side of the Libby’s Pure Pumpkin can! —Bob


How did you feel when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down and you were able to make your marriage legal? What was that moment like?
A big step forward, however, there’s still a lot of work to be done at the individual state level. We’ve been together for 14 years and have considered ourselves “married” since our June 2003 commitment ceremony in Maui. We then filed for a domestic partnership while living in New Jersey, and finally had a legal wedding in Toronto in September 2013, post-DOMA. The striking down of DOMA, while momentous and exciting for the LGBT community, didn’t change the way we felt about each other. We had felt married for 10 years.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about homes with same-sex parents?
The biggest misconception is probably that children need parents of both genders; that with same-sex parents a kid is missing out by not having both a mom and a dad present. We believe this to be false for many reasons. Our daughters know of their circumstances. We’ve been open and honest about their adoptions and the fact that not all families are alike. We have also surrounded them with strong female role models—they have three grandmothers plus godmothers and many aunts/great-aunts/surrogate aunts that are very active in their lives. As long as kids are shown love every day and have a committed person in their lives dedicated to providing them a safe, loving environment, it shouldn’t matter what their gender is. In the end, love makes a family.



Have You Talked to Your Kids About Hannah Graham?

Written on October 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm , by


As an 8-year-old thrilled to be in the beautiful, green outdoors of Michigan for summer camp, I learned a lifelong lesson. While splashing in the cool water, I heard a whistle blow. It was a “buddy check.” The piercing sound meant that you had to quickly find your assigned buddy. Panic ensued when it was determined that a camper—my assigned buddy—was missing.

Thankfully, I had been told in advance that this would happen. The camp counselors had planned the exercise to keep the head swim counselor on his toes and teach the campers the importance of looking out for your buddy. Their scheme worked. I have never forgotten the emotion and chaos of that afternoon, as well as the relief when the camper turned up on the sandy shores of the beach.

With my own daughters, I’ve tried to pass along the importance of simply staying in contact with and keeping an eye on friends in social situations, especially late at night. I still say it, tolerating the rolled eyes or silence as they saunter out my door.

Hannah Graham

A few weekends ago I went to visit my youngest daughter, who is now in her fourth year at the University of Virginia. It was the same weekend that first-year student Hannah Graham went missing. Like most of you, I have watched the news coverage hoping that Hannah will be found safe, and feeling heartbroken at the sight of the anguish etched into the faces of her loving parents.

Tragedies have a way of generating what-ifs and identifying ways to prevent them from happening again. One of the more touching tips came from Hannah’s devastated parents, John and Sue Graham, who stated: ”For those students planning to unwind this weekend, please be extra vigilant when you are out and walk with a buddy.”

We can also remind our teenagers to keep their cell phones charged, to let their friends know where they are going, to never leave a party or event with someone they don’t know, to keep their eyes on their cups at all times, and to choose someone to buddy up with and call the police immediately if they can’t locate them. It’s better to raise a false alarm then to lose time in a search.

My prayers and thoughts are with the Graham family and any other families with missing loved ones. May they all return safely.





Have you talked to your child about buddying up whether they’re at the beach or on a college campus? Post a comment and tell me what you suggested.

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


What’s Up with Your Son and His Sneaker Obsession?

Written on October 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm , by



When little boys get into their first superhero costume, magic occurs. They know they have super powers. They think they can fly, bend steel and outrun the wind. A few years later, when it dawns on boys that maybe their Batman capes don’t give them these powers, they seek out something else. Sneakers.

A boy’s love affair with his “kicks” is intense. If you’ve ever seen a boy lace up his new sneakers (that word moms usually use) and run around the shoe store, you know what I mean. In the right pair, boys believe they will jump higher and run faster. You can see it in the gleam in their eyes—they are invincible.

But there’s nothing new about shoes being a big deal for boys. From Vans to PF Flyers to Chuck Taylors (“Chucks”), shoes matter. The love of kicks is deep. And for this generation of boys, it’s basketball shoes.

The first Air Jordans came onto the market in 1985, right after Michael Jordan first laced up those black-and-red shoes to match the colors of the Chicago Bulls. David Stern, the NBA commissioner at the time, fined Jordan five thousand dollars each time he stepped out on the court because his shoes didn’t have enough white on them. There was nothing David Stern could have done to make Michael Jordan or his shoes look cooler. Jordan was breaking the rules and he looked good doing it.

But why else are shoes such a big deal for boys?

Shoes are the fashion choice that all boys can participate in without being teased. When you go with your son to a store like Foot Locker and the salesperson in that black-and-white striped shirt comes over to your son, what does he ask? Does he ask what size shoe your son wears? No. The smart ones say, “Hey, man, what are your colors?” What other article of clothing could that happen with? Where else could that question be asked without drawing embarrassment from your kid?

The last time I went with my sons, I had a hard time holding back my laughter as I listened to their intense discussion with the salesman. I watched them wander in front of the wall of shoes, saw their intense gaze and subsequent handling of the shoes while they each stared off visualizing their future greatness on the basketball court. The entire thing was completely ridiculous—a fact that I kept to myself.

What isn’t ridiculous and what parents need to be very aware of, is that shoes are a huge indicator among boys about status and money. The shoes boys most covet are heavily marketed to them and extremely expensive. (Nike Kobes are about $170 and LeBrons can go up to $250.) If parents are willing to pay for them, that says a lot about how they’re buying into the marketing campaigns that are targeting our boys and, by extension, our wallets.

Also keep in mind that boys often have judgments about who has the right to wear these shoes. As in, if you wear them but you can’t hold your own athletically, boys are going to make fun of you to your face or ridicule you behind your back.

I am writing about this to suggest that when your son is begging for new shoes and spends hours looking at his various options online, don’t make fun of him or belittle his apparent superficiality. Instead, see this an opportunity to talk about financial responsibility and perception of his image. Tell him how much you are willing to spend. If he still insists that he has to get expensive shoes, tell him he has to use his savings or work to pay for the rest. Then ask him how he thinks his life will be better if he has the shoes he covets and really listen to his answers, because he is giving you a window into his world.

But what if you’re having the opposite experience and your son won’t get rid of his shoes. Are you that mom who’s desperate to buy him new ones because the old ones are so disgusting? The reason he’s doing this may be because he doesn’t want to buy into the materialism of the other kids. Boys can do things for amazing reasons, but it’s hard to see—even when it’s right in front of our eyes. Again, this is an opportunity to look beyond the shoes and ask the boys in our lives why they’re doing things that make so little sense to us. The strange thing is that if we do, we really may learn something.

How does your son feel about his favorite pair of sneakers? 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 Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice, here

Do you have a parenting question? Email


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on September 22, 2014 at 12:25 pm , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @thecraftyhostess who made our slow cooker dinner, Chicken in Marsala Sauce!


 Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

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You Make It, We Post It!

Written on September 15, 2014 at 4:58 pm , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @sugarcoatedcali who made our seasonal dessert, Salted Caramel Apple Cake!

 Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

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Keep Your Naked Selfie Covered

Written on September 12, 2014 at 5:00 am , by

We’re used to hearing celebrities bare all in interviews and watching them bare all on movie screens. But this month, when news broke of hackers using the iCloud to leak nude photos of stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, many were shocked. How did the hackers pull it off? What other information could be hacked into? Who’s at risk? Aside from the obvious concerns about such a privacy breach, however, another issue loomed. Why take a naked photo?

Maybe it’s because I don’t even like to pose for, much less share, a photo of myself in a bathing suit sans cover-up. So I can’t help but wonder why folks want naked selfies.

One group worth approaching to answer that question: teenagers. Most teens sext to maintain or ignite a relationship, or are pressured into the behavior. A recent study indicated that more than 50% of college students sent sexually explicit texts—with or without photos—as minors. (About a quarter admitted to sending sexually explicit photographs.) These numbers would indicate that among young people sexting is increasing in prevalence. In fact, it has tripled or quadrupled in some ages and categories of teens over the past five years. Boys and girls sext at the same rate, but boys forward more.

As moms and dads, we need to shift our focus to parenting in the digital age. We need to talk to our children and teens about sending pictures, receiving pictures and passing them on. We need to tell them that not everyone is doing it and cyberspace does not have a button for forgiveness. Images that are deleted can be retrieved, and pictures that are sent can be passed along.

The message to our children and teens should be clear and consistent. Do not ever post or send a naked or half-naked selfie to anyone. Ever. They should delete images that are sent to them and not forward them. I want to remind young people that there are many ways to feel good about yourself: practice kindness to others, volunteer in schools and communities, simply contribute to the common good. But keep your naked selfie covered.

Have you talked to your child about sexting? Do you think your son or daughter would ever do it? Post a comment and tell me.

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

The Downside of Dress Codes

Written on September 11, 2014 at 5:36 pm , by

A few days before I started sixth grade at a private school, I went with my mother to get my uniforms. While she beamed, I remember miserably pulling the green-and-white-striped dress over my head. My mother, like many parents to this day, believed that uniforms were the answer to stopping social competition among students and contributed to an overall positive school atmosphere.

But here’s the problem: Way too often administrators and teachers enforce their school’s dress code by disrespecting and shaming their students, as with a recent incident involving a superintendent in Oklahoma. Not only is this unethical but it contributes to a school environment where the children don’t trust the adults to exercise their authority ethically. What should be a moment in the hall of “Please take off your hat” or “That skirt is a little short” becomes a humiliating power struggle where the child has no opportunity to learn whatever lesson the adult believes they are trying to teach.

Before I go on, let’s articulate the standard arguments to support school uniforms and dress codes. It is said that they:

1. Set a standard for students that learning environments should be given respect and prepares them for a professional environment as adults.

2. Contribute to students respecting themselves.

3. Decrease materialism and social competition.

4. Stop children from wearing clothes that are offensive or promote illegal or unhealthy substances like drugs and alcohol.

5. Contribute to school spirit and unity.

On the face of it, all these goals are entirely reasonable. Unfortunately, uniforms aren’t a magic bullet to stop “fashion show” competition between students. Kids know who has more money either because the student boasts about it (which is common) or other people talk about it. If it’s important to a student to show how rich their family is, they will figure out a way to do so, from donning $300 headphones to sporting $200 sneakers to bragging about what cars their parents have.

What’s more, no matter how great the school or how well-intentioned the rules are, a dress code and the way it is enforced can mask double standards and abuse of power. For example, the way boys and girls get in trouble for violating dress codes is different. Boys get in trouble for wearing clothes that are “disrespectful.” However they define that (sagging and baggy pants, wearing a hat inside), far too many adults start the interaction with boys by using their power as an adult to dominate them in public (by yelling at them in the hallway in front of their peers). And if the boy doesn’t immediately comply, his behavior is seen as defiant and requiring punishment. I am not excusing bad manners, but adults need to have common sense when they talk to people with adolescent brains. No one likes to be called out in public—especially teens—and when you do that, the teachable moment is lost.

In contrast, girls get in trouble more often for violating the dress code and are usually accused of presenting themselves in sexually inappropriate ways. Girls who go through puberty earlier and/or are more voluptuous are also disproportionately targeted (which also disproportionately impacts African American and Latina girls). Yes, a girl with a voluptuous body can be distracting, but that doesn’t mean the male students around her should be held to such a low standard that they aren’t expected to treat her respectfully. Teaching girls to respect themselves should focus on being proud of who they are—not shaming them for looking sexually promiscuous. This is a teachable moment about your hopes for your girl.

If your kid’s school has a dress code, it’s critical to instruct your child how to accept the responsibility they have as a member of the school community while recognizing that sometimes the way the code is applied is unfair.

Whether you have a son or a daughter, here’s what you can say:

If someone talks to you about being out of dress code, do what they say. If you feel that they have been rude to you, I still want you to do what they say but then tell me and/or tell the administrator you trust the most. But if you’re genuinely confused about why you’re out of dress code, or what you’re wearing is important to you and it’s not communicating something rude or degrading about someone else, you have the right to respectfully ask why you are in violation. If you feel strongly about this, you can research your rights about freedom of expression in school and bring that to the administration. You may not get what you want, but it’s important to know your rights and I will support that.


Here’s what you should say specifically to your daughter:

This is difficult to speak about with you, but it’s important to me that I do. Your school has a dress code. For girls, that often means not presenting yourself in a sexual manner. I want you to be proud of your body and I never want you to be ashamed of it. But way more important to me than the dress code is you. You are a smart young woman with a lot to contribute to this world. Like all young women, you’re growing up in a world that dismisses your opinions and rights by trying to convince you that the most important thing about you is your physical appearance. Obviously, you are so much more than that. I want you to be proud and comfortable with how you look. But I also want you to be proud and comfortable about who you are beyond that. So I’d like you to think about that when you get dressed for school. Can you put the clothes you like and that are within the dress code on one side of your closet and the ones that are not on the other side? 

If administrators at your school are shaming girls, you need to speak out against it. Schools can have standards. They can even have standards that you disagree with but need to learn to live with. What you should not tolerate are adults who are responsible for the safety and education of your children to think enforcing the dress code gives them the right to shame and disrespect children.

How do you feel about dress codes at school? Post a comment and tell me below.

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 Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice, here

Do you have a parenting question? Email



Diet Tell-All: “It’s a Way to Honor Your Body While Slimming Down”

Written on September 9, 2014 at 8:20 am , by


By Karmen Lizzul, Family Circle creative director 

I was really excited to try Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live diet, as I had thought of doing it a couple of years ago when I first heard about it. Back then, I was moving and things got really hectic and I totally forgot about it.

The plan has so many of my favorite foods. I love vegetables and fruit and, as suggested, ate as much as I wanted during mealtimes. (Dr. Furhman recommends fasting between meals.) The six-week plan does not include meats or dairy. A salad and four fresh fruits are suggested daily. I loved eating all the fruit I wanted, but I did miss some stuff, like olive oil. I love my olive oil. And I am a creature of habit, so I missed my go-to dishes like poached eggs with whole wheat toast and grilled chicken. I did create a flexible new staple dish where switching up the vegetables let me change the flavor: a stir-fry with light coconut milk, Thai green curry and tofu. I would have it with a salad, and organic fruit for dessert. For a treat, I would bake an apple and sprinkle cinnamon on it.

It was hard at times, I won’t lie. One particularly tough day I was at the shore with friends and everyone was getting ice cream. I admit it: I caved. Dr. Fuhrman would not have been proud. But I still lost weight. I think that’s why this is a way to live more than a diet. It’s not as if I want to go back to eating processed foods, saturated fats and antibiotic-soaked meats. I like knowing that everything going into my body is clean. And even if I detour once in a while, it’s not as damaging as the way I ate before.

If you’re looking for a lifestyle change and a way to eat clean and healthy food, I highly recommend this diet. But I wouldn’t call it a diet. It’s really a new way to look at food and honor your body so it can take you on a long and happy journey.



Have you ever tried the Eat to Live diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.

Click here to read our feature “Losing It!“ from the October issue or here to see more blog posts from staffers on the diets they tried.

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on September 8, 2014 at 4:29 pm , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @paxregina who made our classic meat lasagna!

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.


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How I Jump-Started My Fitness Routine

Written on September 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm , by

 By Syden Abrenica

When it comes to exercising, I’m not diligent when going it alone. It’s easy to simply skip a workout, especially after a long day at the office. After a few months of sporadic exercise and no results, I decided to make a big change and join a boot camp.

Enter Parsippany Adventure Boot Camp, located in New Jersey.

Two trainers head the four-week programs: Jessica Federici, a NESTA Personal Fitness Trainer and Mad Dog Spin Instructor and Tracy Seland, an HKC Kettleball Instructor and NESTA Personal Fitness Trainer.

The programs are based on circuit training, so every daily workout is different. Circuit training focuses on building your strength and muscular endurance, so think bursts of heart-pumping cardio, squat jumps, burpees and more. Each session runs 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the exercises.

Not only is your body reaping the benefits of daily workouts, the trainers are also in constant communication with you (along with your fellow campers). They share healthy recipes, provide tips on working out at home, and try to inspire and motivate you to become a healthy version of yourself.  There’s no intimidation here–both Jessica and Tracy foster an encouraging and supportive environment.

After two monthlong programs, I’ve lost inches all around. But my biggest success is in how I now view exercising and dieting. I’ve stopped overthinking and simply plan out my weeks.


To learn more about the Adventure Boot Camp, visit their website and Facebook page.  To find a certified Adventure Boot Camp near you, visit

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Modern Life: Young Ethiopian Orphan Steals the Heart of an American Family

Written on September 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm , by

A trip to Ethiopia was a life changer for Allie Haley and Tim Hill. While volunteering at an orphanage, they met, fell in love with and eventually adopted a 3-year-old boy named Bini. The couple brought their son back to America 10 months later and grew the family with daughter Bronwyn—all of which made Hamish, their Labrador retriever, very happy. They gave us a peek inside the world of the Haley-Hill clan, or as their friends like to call them, “the Hillaleys.”

Three Words for Family

Bronwyn says loving, Bini says grateful, Tim says crazy. I’d go with all three of those.

Haley and Hill Parenting

We’re pretty relaxed and very silly. Tim and I are both deeply sarcastic people, and we spend a lot of time joking with the kids. We also spend a lot of time together.

Redefining Luck

As Bini says, adoption is happy and sad. You’re happy you found a family, but you’re sad you lost the first one. I think that sums it up perfectly. People are always telling Bini how lucky he is, and it makes me want to scream. It’s not lucky to have your parents die or to be abandoned, to be left at an orphanage and live there for months or years, to be taken halfway across the world by people you don’t know, who probably don’t look like you, to a place that is completely different from your home. There’s nothing lucky about it. Something has to go pretty terribly wrong for a child to have to be adopted, and to tell kids they’re lucky is an insult to them and their history. Tim and I feel that we are the fortunate ones, to have found this amazing child and to be allowed to be his parents. We are all happy to be able to be a family. That’s the lucky part.

Morning Perk

Both children come into our bed early in the morning. The dog jumps on the bed too, and it’s just all of us together for a brief moment. The kids are getting too big for this to happen much longer, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

Feeding Frenzy

Mealtime is cuckoo, crazy and loud; it’s sheer insanity. We eat together every night, and by the time dinner rolls around, everyone is either wired or tired. It’s a lot of the kids singing songs and telling stories and jumping around and drumming on the table with a little eating thrown in.

Gaining a Son

We have an unusual adoption story. We met Bini when we were volunteering at his orphanage in Ethiopia. I’ve known I wanted to adopt since I was 3 years old, and I thought it would be a good way to make sure we saw what happens at an orphanage (to be confident that it was a good idea). In order to get Tim to agree to volunteer there, I had to promise him I wouldn’t try to adopt any of the kids, which I did because adopting would have been foolhardy and idiotic since we were traveling around the world and didn’t even have a place to live when we came back to America. About two weeks in, Bini was brought to the orphanage by his grandmother. As you can imagine, it was totally devastating. He had just turned 3 and had been abandoned by the only family he had in the world. I tried to befriend him to cheer him up and fell in love with him pretty quickly. It took a couple of weeks to get Tim on board, but by the time we left Ethiopia two months later, we knew we would be coming back for Bini. Fortunately, Tim says it was the best promise I ever broke. We applied to the adoption agency on June 17 and arrived in Ethiopia on January 12. It was a surprisingly short time because we identified a specific child, and he was an older boy.

The Adjustment

We were very lucky in myriad ways, not least of which was his adjustment. We spent about a month with him in Ethiopia, which helped, and we spoke a little bit of Amharic, which also helped. When he got to America, he had trouble sleeping through the night for a while, and I had to stay with him for three weeks when he started preschool, but comparatively, he had a very smooth transition. Helping him then is the same as helping him now: We sit with him and try to calmly soothe him.


We have a difficult time educating other people about trauma and abandonment issues. If you don’t have a child with a history of trauma or loss, it can be difficult to understand their reactions. Most children who have been adopted have a trauma history, even if it’s “just” the trauma of being separated from their birth mothers. Trauma and abandonment issues manifest themselves in countless different ways, and we are still learning about them as we try to educate the other people in Bini’s life.

Peas in a Pod

Bronwyn was born almost 18 months after we adopted Bini, and 17 months to the day after we brought him home. He was thrilled to have a sister. While she was in utero, she would kick when he talked, but she would only do it for him. He called her his baby for years. He helped feed her, and he played with her, and he took very good care of her. To this day, they are best friends. She idolizes him and he teaches and protects her. We were very, very lucky. We always knew he would be a great big brother, but we had no idea they would have such a beautiful friendship.

Happy Campers

A few years ago, we went camping with friends in Botswana. We all became hooked immediately (because who isn’t going to love camping in Botswana?) and started camping around here. It’s not nearly as glamorous, but we all get away from the iPad and the TV and spend some time together. And we’re actually becoming better at cooking things other than s’mores, which is exciting.

Trick or Treat

The kids don’t know what they want to be for sure. They have done combined costumes for the last few years (Crocodile Dundee and his croc, Michael Jackson and a zombie, and a Ghostbuster and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man). This year, they are still debating: It’s between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia or Wonder Woman and Superman. Star Wars is winning!

Allie’s Cause: Lola Children’s Fund

I’m the director of Lola Children’s Fund, a nonprofit organization that funds an orphanage and community programs for HIV-affected kids and families in Mekelle, Ethiopia. I started it five years ago, when we went to Ethiopia to adopt Bini. Abebe Fantahun, a friend of ours, asked if I would help him start an orphanage in northern Ethiopia because HIV-positive kids were literally dying in the streets. I said yes, and now we have three different programs: Lola Children’s Home, the day care and the community outreach program. Abebe is a gifted social worker who was orphaned himself as a young child, so he really understands children, and the kids and their families are amazing. It’s been a real privilege to be able to work with them.





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Moms Aren’t the Only Ones Trying to Juggle It All

Written on September 4, 2014 at 11:10 am , by

This August, software mogul Max Schireson announced that he was stepping down as CEO of a billion-dollar company. It was scandalous—but not for the reasons you might think. News that the hardworking former child prodigy was leaving his high-ranking position was met with shock and awe because he was leaning back, if you will, to spend more time with his family. Schireson will still work at his company, but in a lesser role.

Some critics responded with venom, stating that other men would love to do the same but would be left with financial woes. However, most of the response was supportive and highlighted the increasing number of men who choose to be homemakers.

The number of dads in the U.S. who don’t work outside the home hit 2 million in 2012, and there’s a myriad of reasons why these fathers remain in-house. When explaining his decision, Schireson used the B-word: balance. He felt like his life was out of balance and wanted to realign it in favor of his family. Of note is the fact that his wife is a well-respected clinician and professor of medicine at Stanford University who has managed the seesaw of motherhood and a demanding career in academia.

So what gives? Should it be newsworthy when a high-powered male makes an apparent sacrifice to spend time with his children when women do it all the time?

Well, yeah…

Our kids and families need to have fathers who are on active duty throughout their lives. The way that men play with their children can teach them independence and fearlessness. When fathers ask about school and attend parent-teacher conferences, our children do better in school. It takes both parents to help teens navigate their adolescent years. Discussing paternal attitudes and experiences with difficult topics like sex and drug usage has been shown to delay inappropriate activity.

When fathers like Max Schireson make a conscious decision to be more involved in the day-to-day activities of the their children’s lives and support their partners, they are not stepping down but stepping up. I applaud his decision and hope it inspires other fathers to do the same.

What do you think of Max Schireson’s decision? Post a comment and tell me.


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.

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