You Make It, We Post It!

Written on May 26, 2014 at 8:30 am , by

Dessert is served! Instagram user @oohallicat whipped up this delicious Strawberry Fool from Ellie Krieger, host of the Food Network’s Healthy Appetite. The dish packs a hefty dose of vitamins C and B12 plus calcium—and is just as good with blueberries or raspberries. Click here for more celebrity chef recipes.

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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Turning Fear into Empowerment

Written on May 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm , by

By Erin Rabitcheff

“Maybe this year will empower you.” This was the advice I received one day at a friend’s gathering when worrying aloud about the prospect of solo parenting my two young boys for a year. My husband had accepted a post abroad, and for the first time we would be separated as a family.

Three years ago, my husband came home and told me there was a job opportunity in another city. For your average American family that might mean New York, Houston or Los Angeles. For us it meant Kabul, Afghanistan.

My husband is an American diplomat working for the U.S. State Department, and we are an average Foreign Service family. When he signed up for the Foreign Service, he agreed to go anywhere in the world, and when I married him, I agreed to be open to wherever we might go, for as long as I could.

The U.S. invaded Iraq when our first son was not yet a year old. During the months that followed, my husband expressed interest in going there to serve at the U.S. embassy. I was nervous about it but did my best to be open and supportive. I almost agreed to let him go, until four Americans were killed in the 2004 Fallujah ambush. I feared I would be left a widow with a toddler. I told him I didn’t want him to go, and his friends and family agreed that he shouldn’t. He stayed, and although I was relieved, I always felt bad that I had prevented him from pursuing his dreams. So this time when he said he wanted to serve in Afghanistan, I supported his decision.

And then I panicked. He was due to go in a year, so I had 12 months to nurse my fears of becoming a widow, of being a single mother with two young sons, of falling apart from the stress, of how the boys were going to react because they are very close to their father.

When I spoke about my situation at a friend’s gathering, a guy there said, “I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, but maybe this year will empower you.” I stopped in my tracks. I had been so focused on my fears that I had not considered being empowered by this experience.

I had grown up with a single mother and it was no picnic. I could only imagine being like my mother—constantly struggling, stressed-out, overworked. Yet in a moment, the calm words of this acquaintance shifted my entire perspective. I remembered I was not my mother. I was married to a man who loved his kids very much. We had technology and could stay in touch as much as possible. I had friends I could rely on for emotional support.              

That year, I had many opportunities to build up my confidence, everything from the mundane (figuring out how to change the clock in the car, a typical duty of my husband’s) to writing a song with my children, which turned out to be one of my greatest joys. I talked to them about how they felt about their father going away, and we set their thoughts to music, using their words and perspective. I shot footage and edited the video myself, something I had never done before, and I posted the video on YouTube.

My greatest lesson was that by taking care of myself, I would take better care of my children. One of my dreams was to be a singer-songwriter. During the year that my husband was away, I carved out time to write music and to show up at open mics. I decided not to give up singing in a choir I loved, and took the kids with me. I made sure to meet up with friends and go and do something fun from time to time. I meditated and joined a gym and actually went regularly.

My husband made it home safe and sound. The year was very challenging emotionally for the entire family, and there were days when I felt nothing but exhaustion and worry. But I kept up with my music and tried to see my friends whenever I could. That self-care fueled me enough to be a happier person and a more loving, and empowered, mother.

 

———

Erin Rabitcheff, of Pixiegrowsup.com, is a singer-songwriter, blogger and mother living in New York. The song she wrote with her kids, “September 1st,” recently received runner-up status in the Song of the Year Song and Lyric Writing Competition. It is available on iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby.

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Memorial Day Savings

Written on May 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm , by

Kick off summer with awesome shopping steals!

• Up to 20% off at Macy’s
*Code: MEMDAY

• Extra 15% off at JCPenney
*Code: SUNNYDAY

• 40% off regular-price items at Gap
*Code: EVENT

• 40% off at Banana Republic
*Code: BRHEAT

• 20% off select styles at Aldo

• Extra 30% off sale pieces at J.Crew
*Code: PACKME

• Extra 20% off clearance items at Lord & Taylor
*Code: MEMDAY

• Up to 70% off select styles at H&M

• Up to 60% off select products at Pottery Barn

• 10% off $100 at West Elm
*Code: SUMMER


Parent Shaming: Should We Criticize Will and Jada Smith for Their Parenting Skills?

Written on May 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm , by

 

Here we go with the latest episode of Celebrity Family Antics…

Over the past few years, the unconventional parenting choices of Hollywood power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith have been under a microscope: their decision to let their children Jaden and Willow “self-govern,” allowing a then 12-year-old Willow to shave her head, permitting Jaden to unleash his views about the “evils” of education on Twitter, and their general belief in a no-punishment-zone for their teens.

However, when their latest drama, an Instagram photograph featuring 13-year-old Willow languishing on a bed with shirtless 20-year-old actor and family friend Moises Arias blew up on social media, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services took notice. They have launched an investigation on the Smith family.

Have you seen the photograph? I like to think of myself as a very open-minded person, and an open-minded parent. I lean toward a live-and-let-live philosophy, and it takes quite a bit to ruffle my feathers about other people’s choice. But I have to admit, that image did indeed ruffle them; it just didn’t look right, no matter which way I flipped it. I am not a prude, nor do I think I have a particularly dirty mind, but I tried to envision a scenario in which I would feel comfortable seeing my 14-year-old on a bed, draped at the feet of a half-naked young man, even a good friend of the family’s, and I really couldn’t.

Apparently, the couple has no issue with the photo; Pinkett-Smith has lashed out, saying that the image is not sexual in nature, and she has accused the media of acting like a bunch of pedophiles. I can’t image the authorities removing those kids from the house, but a thorough investigation is happening. I’m not sure if the situation merits such close attention. Although I am not  fully comfortable with what I saw, there is chance that a photo is a photo. Willow just hanging out with a family friend. I queried my kids for a reality check. My 21-year-old son, who tends to be the more conservative of the two, did not like what he saw, and even my 14-year-old, who didn’t immediately think it was wrong, understood how it would upset people.

I think all the uproar has, in part, to do with the fact that for so long the Smiths were seen as a golden couple who could do no wrong. Glimpses of their kids acting out a bit in the past few years have made them more human, and put a little chink in their dazzling armor. Who wants that kind of scrutiny?

Parenting is the great equalizer: You will be judged whether you live in a trailer or a mansion. I would never pretend to tell others how to raise their children, because I certainly don’t want to be told how to raise mine. As parents we all make choices that are seen, at one time or another, as unsatisfactory to other parents. For the record, I am not “parent-shaming” the Smiths, but I am scratching my head and having a bit of a what-the-heck moment with this latest conflama.

What are your feelings about it? Do you even care? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Living Without Regrets

Written on May 23, 2014 at 10:12 am , by

By Sandra Bornstein, author of May This Be the Best Year of Your Life

Sandra Bornstein in India

In the wake of the 1960s feminist revolution, I made an unusual choice for a college-educated woman in her mid-20s: I waived the opportunity to embark on a career track and decided to be a stay-at-home mother in the northern suburbs of Chicago. When I chose this path, I never anticipated that it was the first step toward moving to India to become a teacher.

While I respected the feminists at the time who encouraged women to pursue their careers, I did not feel that this option was the right fit for me. Fortunately, a second income was not an economic necessity. I devoted all my energies to our growing family. I embraced motherhood and ignored the criticism that was directed toward college-educated stay-at-home mothers. I had been raised by a revolving door of maids and did not want to repeat that undesirable pattern with my kids.

During my early years of motherhood, I was content with my choice, although I knew other stay-at-home mothers who did not share my positive feelings. (Likewise, I observed some career-driven peers who struggled to maintain a balanced lifestyle while others coped well and thrived.)

But something changed in my late 30s, after my father unexpectedly passed away. Losing a parent can have a profound effect on one’s perspective. I suddenly felt the need to pursue a master’s degree that I’d been unable to afford in my early 20s. I wanted to delve deeper into my heritage by studying Jewish history and culture. I chose a flexible program at Spertus Institute in Chicago that allowed me to attend classes at my own pace. My time-management skills were honed as I balanced the obligations of graduate school with the responsibilities of running a household with young children. I treaded carefully as I ventured into unfamiliar territory.

After graduating and relocating to Colorado, I reentered the workforce as a part-time teacher at a private Jewish high school in Denver but was soon back in school, this time to pursue a second master’s degree at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where I studied instruction and curriculum with an emphasis on multicultural education and second-language learners. This time around, I was part of a cohort that was required to graduate within two years.

Pursuing back-to-back graduate degrees while simultaneously raising a family forced me to evaluate my priorities. There were only so many hours in a day to complete required tasks. Getting a sufficient amount of sleep was at the top of the list. If there was a conflict between a class obligation and a family responsibility, my children and husband always came first. This decision sometimes created tension with my professors. If I hadn’t asked for accommodations, my family’s well-being would have been disrupted.

After graduating, I chose flexible teaching opportunities in the private and public sectors. I always aimed for a balance between work and home. Even though I was approaching empty-nester status, I wanted to maximize my time with my youngest children. I knew that my two youngest sons’ high school years would zoom by like the fastest train in the world, the Shanghai Maglev.

Right after my youngest child entered college, my husband was offered an unusual legal position that required him to split his time between India and the West. As a middle-aged woman, I had to decide whether I would remain in Colorado or relocate. I chose to become an expat. After interviewing at a handful of private schools, I accepted a teaching position at a highly respected international boarding school in Bangalore, India. Even though it was a dream job for a multicultural educator, I had many reservations and concerns:

Was I ready to step out of my safe and secure suburban existence and travel halfway around the world?

After 30 years of putting motherhood first, was I equipped to handle such an unusual adventure?

How would I cope with culture shock and being occasionally separated from my husband and sons?

And what would happen to my career after I returned to the USA?

I usually feel intense waves of anxiety while making life-altering decisions. But most of the time, I refuse to let go of my proposed plan. I take control of my emotions and discard elements of inflexibility. I simultaneously accept the idea to hop outside of my comfort zone and follow through with my journey.

Nothing could have adequately prepared me for what I encountered when I stepped off the plane in India. My new environment was filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells and tastes that bombarded my senses. My Bangalore apartment was the antithesis of my suburban home. I never would have dreamed that a wild monkey would be hopping on my kitchen table or that a family of monkeys would visit my classroom on a regular basis. Each day, I faced an assortment of unpredictable events that I was forced to address.

But I never regretted going to India, because, whenever possible, I have followed my dreams to seek out enriching experiences.

 

Sandra BornsteinSandra Bornstein is the author of the award-winning book May This Be the Best Year of Your Life. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India.  Sandra currently writes a blog that focuses on life as an empty nester, book reviews, author interviews and travel. For more information visit www.sandrabornstein.com.

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One of these days, Alice—pow! Straight to the moon!

Written on May 22, 2014 at 4:17 pm , by

“One of these days, Alice—pow! Straight to the moon!”

I know, I know, the Jackie Gleason line dates me, but it kept running through my head last weekend when my 13-year-old and I were lucky enough to be invited on a two-day tour of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In a word, spectacular. We saw the launchpads and the ginormous vehicle assembly building. We witnessed an actual launch (unmanned), met and dined with astronauts (really nice guys), and peppered them with questions. (Nat’s comment afterward: “I will never forget this!”) We clambered through a model of the International Space Station, saw the Atlantis shuttle with its charred, atmosphere-reentry scars, and experienced the face-stretching g-force of the orbiter rocketing into space. We saw an amazing iMax movie about the last-ditch attempt to repair the Hubble telescope, with actual footage of space walks, and the impossibly awesome photos it captured of distant galaxies, mist-shrouded nebulae and dying stars. At times it was so moving I cried.

Plus we took an airboat ride along the St. John River with an outfit called Midway and saw gators up close! 

If you can get down to Orlando, don’t just head for Disney World and Universal Studios (though Nat was disappointed we didn’t have time to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). Take a detour to Florida’s Space Coast and give your teen the best STEM lesson ever. My girl now wants to be an astronaut. One of these days, Nat…


A Grassroots Effort to Bring Computer Science to Your Teen’s School

Written on May 22, 2014 at 11:18 am , by

Family Circle editor Jonna Gallo and I were on a whirlwind tour of the Microsoft campus. As it happened, there was also a field trip under way: Busloads of high school students who had learned programming through Microsoft’s TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program, were enjoying a full day of activities.

The TEALS program, which puts Microsoft computer scientists and engineers in high schools across the U.S. to teach computer science, started with just a few volunteers. It’s been growing rapidly, nearly doubling in size this school year, offering classes in 70 schools in 12 states to more than 3,000 students.

“Do you want to look in on the YouthSpark app-building competition?” Lindsey, our handler, asked. “Sure!” Jonna and I agreed. I imagined we’d be lurking in the back of a computer lab while students worked quietly and teachers helped. What we walked in on was more like a rock festival.

The room was vast and crammed with over 1,000 students settled into friendly clumps on the carpeted floor with phones, tablets and computers. A speaker stood in front of a projector announcing coding challenges. And the kids were having a blast. They knew what they were doing and they were in it to win, laughing, cheering and pumped up by the throbbing music.

“Do you want to talk to one of the students?” Lindsey shouted over the din. I didn’t want to be responsible for any of these kids missing a solve—and a chance to win prizes (which included Xbox One gaming consoles). But somehow I found myself chatting with Justin Austin, a senior from Kentucky. He had enrolled in a TEALS class at his high school. That class came about almost by chance, when a Microsoft engineer on a rock-climbing trip found herself chatting with a local school-board member. There was no one in the county who could teach computer programming. But these days you don’t actually have to be in the room to teach, so a Skype intro to computer science class was born. Justin loved it and wanted more. With only six other students, he signed up for an advanced class, also via Skype from Microsoft. That’s how he came to be coding his way (if these reporters would stop distracting him) into the possibility of some sweet prizes. It’s also a big part of how he got a full ride to the University of Pennsylvania to study computer science.

There may be some debate about the value of teaching computer science in kindergarten, but there’s no doubt it should be offered in high school. Yet in many school districts it’s considered an elective rather than a core subject. That means guidance counselors don’t encourage students to take it, and students who are trying to get mandatory classes under their belt don’t enroll. This has to change at a legislative level. And many states are working on it.

Meanwhile, though, at least the remote approach taken by Justin’s school gives kids access to computer science education. It’s a grassroots effort, but those can be very effective once they get traction. If you’d rather not wait for a vacationing engineer to bring computer science to your school, contact the TEALS program directly at schools@tealsk12.org.


At Last! 7 Must-See Summer Blockbusters for the Family

Written on May 21, 2014 at 2:59 pm , by

At last! After a long, dreary winter—during which it felt like at least one member of my family was sick on any given day—it’s almost Memorial Day. Traditionally, the long weekend kicks off three months of major movie releases, and this year is no exception. First up on May 23: Wolverine travels back in time to prevent an event that spells d-o-o-m for humans and mutants in X-Men: Days of Future Past. I’m sure my husband and son will be clamoring to be among the first to see it, but I’ll likely pass—just not my thing. Here’s a list of movies that are on my radar for the next few months.

5/30 Maleficent

The title character—ripped from Sleeping Beauty and played in grand fashion by Angelia Jolie—is a sinister Disney villain who curses the infant princess Aurora to die before her 16th birthday.

6/6 The Fault in Our Stars

Based on a quirky, touching, wildly popular YA novel about love between two teenagers battling cancer. I loved the book and will definitely get a sitter and do a date night with my husband for this one.

 

6/13 How to Train Your Dragon 2

My kids loved the first film, and I anticipate lots of “Mom-can-we-go-see-that-please” requests when the TV ads for this sequel start. The short of it: Once again, Hiccup and Toothless must work together to unite feuding factions and keep the peace.

 

6/27 Transformers: Age of Extinction

The fourth installment in this sci-fi series—executive produced by movie master Steven Spielberg—stars hunky Mark Wahlberg and picks up five years after the last one left off. Watch for the cinematic debut of the Dinobots. And of course, Optimus Prime is back.

 

7/18 Planes: Fire and Rescue

The sequel to last summer’s Planes (a spin-off from the Disney Cars franchise) finds air racer Dusty with a badly damaged engine and becoming part of a team battling a massive wildfire. He ends up learning a thing or two about being a hero.


8/8 Deepsea Challenge 3D

From Titanic talent James Cameron comes a mesmerizing journey into the deepest recesses of the ocean. A slam-dunk to get kids excited about science.

 

8/8 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Four brothers rise from the NYC sewers and discover their destiny as teenage ninja turtles. Teaming up with an ambitious reporter and her cameraman, they vow to save the city from Shredder’s evil plan.

 

What movies are on your summer must-see list? Tell me in the comments.

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Hey, Kids, Guess What: Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

Written on May 19, 2014 at 2:21 pm , by

By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

In a town where the majority of third-graders have their own iPhone (not an exaggeration), my husband and I have had a challenging time teaching our kids the connection between work and money. As in: You get paid when you work, period.

In our house, there are chores everyone is expected to do because they’re part of the family, and then there are extra-money chores. The kids have all come to degrees of understanding about this. Of course, in a family of four girls and one boy, everyone has to find their own way to stand out…which brings us to number 4.

At 14, she is the youngest girl. This is the kid who will let her ice cream melt on the table because she’s on the couch and doesn’t want to exert the effort to get up and get it.

After we’d had the “We’re not buying you iPhones or paying for a data plan” conversation about nine times, the kids figured out that nearly everything they wanted to do could be done on an iPod touch and started saving their money. One by one, they hit their goal and bought iPods.

Number 4 didn’t work and save so much as she managed to hold on to her Christmas and birthday money (they’re three months apart). This was quite a feat for her, but she felt no emotional connection to that money. She just waited, and it turned into an iPod.

A month after she got it, she cracked the screen. It still worked, sort of. She discovered she could exchange it with $100 for a refurbished one. With ample opportunity to earn extra money, it still took her over six months to save up. Somehow she made no connection between working and earning.

When I took her to the store she learned about tax, which I covered (I’m not that wicked). And all went well…until she broke it again a few months later.

With the charger cable stretched within an inch of its life across the main entrance to the living room, the iPod balanced precariously on the arm of the loveseat. It fell when her 11-year-old brother predictably ran into the room and tripped over the cable. The iPod’s power input broke off and it could no longer be charged.

I came up with an aggressive four-week earning plan for her, hoping that this time it would take and she would finally know the rewards of a job well done.

We made a list of weekly chores with dollar amounts. There would be a bonus each week if she did all of them, and an extra bonus if she did all four weeks in a row. I added on a special, one-time-only chore of picking up some trash on the property adjacent to ours to cover the sales tax.

After the iPod, this would be her regular thing. She’d have her own money for her Starbucks habit and whatever else she wanted. She seemed all for it.

But she forgot about it for a few days, and then it snowed and the trash was buried. Her friends harassed her to do the chores because they were tired of not being able to group chat. Six weeks later, she finally began.

The week after she got her iPod replaced, when I reminded her she still could earn money if she did her chores she said, “Nah, I don’t want to work.”

Interesting thing about these chores: When they aren’t done for money on the weekend, they become mandatory chores done for free during the week.

Once the snow melted, her little brother asked if he could pick up the trash for extra money. He filled five trash bags in half an hour and earned $15. He invested half in supplies for a lemonade stand for when it gets warmer, bought some candy and held on to the rest.

Last week, number 4 walked into my room holding her iPod with a brand-new set of cracks running up the screen.

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


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on May 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm , by

Today’s Made-It (Meatless) Monday featured chef is @absmomma1, who made the Quinoa and Bean Burritos from our March issue. For an added touch, she topped off the recipe with sour cream and avocado, which not only adds taste but can also help lower cholesterol. Find other hearty vegetarian meals here.

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.


Sleep Your Way to Savings

Written on May 16, 2014 at 11:22 am , by

 

 

You’re not the only one struggling to catch enough zzz’s—two-thirds of all women have trouble sleeping at night. Ease your way to plenty of shut-eye with these five free remedies.

• Fall asleep to ambient soundtracks, record your movements and sounds throughout the night, and be woken up with a gentle alarm when you download the FREE SleepBot App.

• “Like” the Anti Snoring Center’s Facebook page to receive a FREE sleeping mask.

• Purchase Dream Essence’s Sleep Mask and receive a FREE Sleep Booster Herb Sachet to help you breathe in the calming effects of lavender and chamomile.

• Your brain waves will be soothingly lulled into a deep sleep with these FREE MP3 tracks.

• Learn whether it’s time to upgrade your mattress for a better snooze with a FREE Tempur-Pedic Information Kit.

Find more tips for getting enough rest here.


Six Demands Parents Should Make of Their Kids

Written on May 15, 2014 at 9:30 am , by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the first time I’d spoken at a high school graduation and I was nervous. The senior class—a group of young women I’d worked with off and on over the last two years—had invited me. In the weeks before, I had rewritten the speech countless times. I wanted it to be inspirational but not superficial.

Graduation day was beautiful, but even more wonderful was watching these incredible young women walk past their beaming families as they joined me on the stage. I stood up and walked to the podium. I looked out again at the parents and then turned to the students. Overcome by the moment, I put my speech notes down and spoke from my heart—as a teacher and a parent. This is what I said:

I demand great things of you. Not that you go to the “best” schools, make a lot of money or grow up to have perfect-looking lives. I demand that you have the courage to ask yourself and others hard questions that make you uncomfortable. I demand that you do so with an unshakable commitment to civil dialogue in every aspect of your life.

I demand that whenever possible, you collaborate with smart, passionate, capable people who don’t take themselves too seriously and have a good sense of humor. Keep people close who will tell you when you messed up but say it with love and care. As a special bonus, if you have complementary skills you can work together to accomplish great things.

I demand that in your jobs, families and community you look for ways to address social, political and economic injustice.

I demand that you always remember that your dignity and the dignity of others is not negotiable—ever.

I demand that you remember that your dignity and the dignity of others matters the most when it’s hard. Like when you see someone being taken advantage of, when you are so angry with someone and all you want to do is get revenge, or when you face someone who believes that their truth trumps all others.

I demand that when you are in a group of people, you be aware of whose voices in the room are being dismissed. When you notice this silence, support that person’s right to speak and be heard.

When it gets hard, and it probably will, the people who love you and care for you will be on your side. That is our obligation to you.

I could barely get through the speech because it was in that moment that I truly remembered why I love and value working with young people so much.

As my sons get older and I’m yelling at them about picking up their dirty socks off the living room floor and could they please take their headphones off before I throw them in the trash, I easily forget what I remembered so clearly on that podium with those girls. And then, I take a breath and it all comes back.

What’s the number one demand that you make of your child? Post a comment and tell us 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 rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice, here

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