Must Reads

Summer Reading Rewards

Written on May 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm , by

Just because the school year is winding down doesn’t mean your kids should put away their books. Encourage them to keep reading with four fun programs. Don’t worry, cool swag is involved!

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Dare your kids to break the world record for minutes read. They can enter their times online, then play games and collect digital prizes like sample chapters and virtual badges.

Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program: Kids collect HPB Bookworm Bucks if they read for at least 15 minutes every day in June and July.

TD Bank Summer Reading Program: Reading literally pays off: When kids in grades K-5 complete 10 books, $10 is added to a new or existing Young Saver bank account.

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program: Kids earn a complimentary book after reading eight.

Q&A with the Author of “Year of No Sugar”

Written on May 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm , by

Listening to NPR, I heard about a new memoir called Year of No Sugar. The author, writer Eve Schaub, is a married mom of two school-aged girls who got her family to agree to avoid all foods with any added sugar for an entire year. As a mom with a wicked (and too-often-indulged) sweet tooth, I was fascinated by this. The book was an enjoyable read (gotta love chapters called “Out of the Opium Den,” “Waitresses Hate Us” and “Poop Doesn’t Lie”) and offered plenty of food for thought about the amount of sugar in a typical family’s day-to-day diet and the Herculean effort required to circumvent it. Last week I had a chance to speak to Eve. This is an edited, condensed version of our lively conversation. To learn more about her, go to

Family Circle: Okay, first things first. I was sort of obsessed with your book and mentioned it to a bunch of my work buddies and friends. Every one of them asked me the same question: Did she lose a bunch of weight?

Eve Schaub: (Laughs.) Everyone asks that. Everyone asks two questions, actually: The first one is, Did you lose weight? And the second one is, Were the kids so much calmer without the sugar? I hate to disappoint people, but the answers are no and no. That said, weight wasn’t an issue for me before the Year of No Sugar, and losing weight was not my goal. As for my girls, they were never what I would call hyper, so that wasn’t a problem I was looking to solve. In other words, cutting out sugar wasn’t about either of those issues. In my mind, the whole thing was really about sugar as a long-term toxin, as something that could make us sick in the long term if we kept eating so much of it.

FC: How receptive were your husband and daughters to this concept?

ES: I would say they were pretty open. The girls cried at first, but we talked it through quite a bit. They were willing to give it a go as a family. But let’s also just say that I’m aware I’ve likely used up my allotment of crazy-things-mom-gets-us-to-do ideas for a while.

FC: In terms of eliminating sugar, how did that play out? Did you do a hard cutover or a gradual phase-in?

ES: We went cold turkey. Some people might prefer to do more of a phaseout, and of course, that’s fine too. For us, though, at a certain point it was “Let’s just start.”

FC: How did you feel as the sugar left your system—any different?

ES:  Well, I don’t have that usual midafternoon slump anymore; my energy is very consistent throughout the day. There’s no more roller-coaster effect from sugar surges and then crashes.

FC: Did you all crave sweets?

ES: Actually, I was pretty astounded at how dramatically our taste buds changed. Craving sweets wasn’t a big deal. Figuring out the logistics of how to shop for groceries, navigate social events like parties and order in restaurants, those things were huge. Huge.

FC: How did you manage?

ES: Definitely one day at a time. If I thought about the big picture, it was way too overwhelming. The first few times we ate out at restaurants were extraordinarily challenging. Grocery shopping literally took hours, because I had to scour all the tiny print on all the labels, looking for any of the many different names of sugar. Parties were hard. Like, can you really celebrate someone’s birthday but refuse a piece of their cake? And to be honest, for a while I was worried it was just going to keep getting harder. But over time, I learned a lot. We found our strategies. After about six months, we really just knew what to do, and it wasn’t a big deal anymore.

FC: So now that the Year of No Sugar project is officially over, what’s your status sugar-wise?

ES: We aren’t as totally fanatical as we had to be during the Year of No Sugar, but I would definitely classify us as high-level sugar avoiders. We still read food labels closely and don’t buy anything that has sugar as an added ingredient. It’s just not necessary. Also, we never drink sugared beverages. But we do enjoy treats now and then, at parties and on special occasions.

FC: In the end, was the Year of No Sugar harder, easier or about what you expected?

ES: At points throughout, I would say it was all of those things.


Are you concerned about your family’s day-to-day sugar consumption? Would you consider taking action? Tell me in the comments.

Good Reads: Four Books for Pet Lovers

Written on April 1, 2014 at 4:09 pm , by

By Cristina Corvino

Raise a paw to these clever new canine and feline books. From an addictive game of I Spy to an irresistibly catchy tune come to life, these are sure to satisfy your Internet pet craving for the day.














Cat vs. Human: Another Dose of Catnip by Yasmine Surovec

Explore the unique and unconditionally loving relationship that only cat parents understand best. Yasmine Surovec, author of the successful blog, debuts 21 brand-new comics for your enjoyment.













Find Momo by Andrew Knapp

We spy…a black-and-white border collie. Based on designer and photographer Andrew Knapp’s addictive blog ( and Instagram account (@andrewknapp), Find Momo includes images of his dog camouflaged in unusual landscapes. Warning: Once you start searching, it’s hard to stop.
















Downton Tabby by Chris Kelly

Felines sit atop their aristocratic thrones in this amusing storybook parody of the PBS television hit Downton Abbey. Among the lessons you’ll learn: “How to Argue with Lord Grimalkin About His Most Deeply Held Beliefs.”
















What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis, Christian Løchstøer and Svein Nyhus

Sing along to the viral hit song (over 380 million views and counting on YouTube!) by Ylvis as you read the entertaining lyrics and get lost in the charming illustrations. What do you say to that?

What Parents Can Learn From Reading “The Self-Esteem Trap”

Written on November 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by

Written by Lisa Kelsey 

As a tail-end baby boomer who grew up during the ’70s in California, I technically don’t fit into the “GenMe” classification, as psychologist and author Polly Young-Eisendrath calls it. But as I read her book The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance, it became painfully obvious that I had not entirely escaped the self-esteem trap (California is always ahead of the curve, perhaps).

I grew up being told that I was talented and “special” and would be able to do anything I wanted—by my mother and by teachers. Fortunately, this was somewhat mitigated by my Catholic-school upbringing, as well as by my European-born parents’ “old-fashioned” parenting style in regards to respecting elders, making myself useful, etc. As I matured, I was able to see myself with more perspective. Still, even as an adult I have suffered from a vague sense of dissatisfaction—that I never lived up to my potential—which the author describes as one of the symptoms of the self-esteem trap. Anyhow, I am not a lost cause—I can still improve!

More important, this book provides insight into how to raise my kids to have real—and realistic—experienced-based self-confidence (i.e., confidence and pride based on achievements, not from being told they are special or talented, even though they may be). And to have compassion for others based on the realization that we all share a common humanity, we are all “ordinary.” This doesn’t diminish my kids’ talents—it just places them in perspective and relieves them from the pressure to be exceptional in every way. True happiness will come only if they realize they are human and acknowledge their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Charity and compassion should not merely be given lip service, however. It’s fine to raise children with progressive values and tell them to “treat others as you would like to be treated,” but kids need to practice those things—not just talk about them. They need to experience it directly, in their own lives. They need to put the needs of others—people who are right around them, in their own homes and communities—before their own. They won’t get that experience from clicking on a KONY 2012 link and watching a YouTube video.

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