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Kerri Walsh Jennings On Positivity, Competition, And Athlete Mommyhood

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings, the newest addition to Team ASICS, has as many children as she does Olympic gold medals. Her older boys, Joey and Sundance, will turn five and four, respectively, before the end of May, and her baby girl, Scout, just turned one. We caught Kerri in between a tournament in China and birthday party planning to chat about her life as an athlete mommy.

Are your kids already active and competitive?

Yes! Joey is so competitive it’s amazing. We have to decide which teams he’s going to play on, and the first question he asked was, “Does this team win?” That kind of scared me. It just reminds me so much of me. And Sundance is a worker. They all are. They’re super physical and really coordinated. But lately, the kids have been playing family with their stuffed animals and superheroes, and they have a mommy and daddy and big brothers and little sisters. It’s really sweet.

How are the kids involved in your volleyball training?

Today I had all three kids with me in the Pilates studio. The boys were going crazy on the big plyo balls, and Scout was running around touching everything. That’s not normal, but it happens from time to time. Certainly when we train on the weekends or when we’re at the beach competing, they come, and they’re involved. My husband and I like to bring them to the gym once in a while just so they see us working hard, and they know what we do. They’re part of our team, so we like them to stay informed.

What do you want your kids to learn from your athlete lifestyle?

Just the joy of using your body and being fit and healthy, and that it’s a privilege to do all these things. My husband [Casey Jennings, who also plays beach volleyball for Team USA] and I truly love what we do, and we hope that they see that. I certainly want them to learn how to win and lose with integrity and grace. That’s hard for me even these days. I hate losing, and I don’t handle it very well, but I want them to learn from me. We just had our parent-teacher conference, and the teacher said that when Joey gets to choose work, he always goes for the easiest thing, because he likes to be great at it. So I told him when I got home from China that we got fifth place in a tournament and that I was so excited because in losing, I was going to have to work harder and get so much better. It’s okay not to be great right away, and he’s slowly getting that. Now if he picks something more difficult to do at home, he wants recognition, and that’s something that we’re so proud to give, so we’re planting seeds with whatever we do.

How do you cope with being away from your kids and husband for long periods of training or competition?

It’s the worst thing ever. I just got back from two weeks in China, and it felt like two months. We take the good with the bad with our job, and that’s certainly the worst part of our jobs when we have to leave our family. That being said, when I travel and my husband is home, I know that the kids are in the best hands possible. We Skype and Facetime and take advantage of technology, but sometimes I feel selfish because it kind of trips up the kids.

What’s one thing that you do with the kids no matter what, even if you’re away from them?

Something that we always do when we’re traveling is send a video to the kids. So for me in China, I would send a video before I went to bed, and the kids would wake up and have the video to see. And then my husband would return the favor and send me stuff. It’s the little things that keep us connected. We really want the kids to understand that travel is part of our job, and sometimes mommy and daddy are going to have to leave, but it doesn’t mean that we’re inaccessible or that we don’t think about them all the time, regardless of where we are.

What’s the worst part about being an athlete mommy? 

Time. Time is so elusive. I feel like if I added 12 more hours to every day, it still wouldn’t be enough. I love working, and I love being a mommy, but combining both is really challenging, because when the kids are done with school, I want to be with them, and sometimes it’s really hard to get all my stuff done before I pick them up. I feel like I’m so busy that it interferes with my mommy time, but that’s okay. I like that the kids know to get your obligations down and to take care of what’s most important.

And what’s the best?

Everything. I love being a mommy so much, and I feel like I’m truly living my dream life. I’m a working mommy, I have a beautiful family, my kids are amazing, my husband is absolutely amazing, and I’m a chasing a fourth gold medal in Rio doing something that I’ve loved since I was 10 years old. I don’t care how hard it is or how many obstacles there are. I know how blessed I am.

Speaking of Rio, what can we expect from you?

The goal is to absolutely win a gold medal and to play the best volleyball that I’ve ever played in my whole career. My partner, April, and I want to be best the team in the world.

Your social media accounts emanate all good vibes, all the time. Where is your positivity rooted, and what role does it play in your athletic and parenting pursuits?

My parents are very positive, optimistic people, and my family has a lot of faith. There’s a lot of hope when you have faith. That’s the lens I look through life with. There’s good in every situation, even if you don’t understand what it is at that current time. Mindset is such an important part of life. So often, we want things to be easy, and when things get uncomfortable, we tend to not relish the challenge; we tend to be overwhelmed by it. I have a mindset where I can say, “I got this. It’s going to be hard, but who cares, because it’s going to make me stronger,” instead of “Oh my gosh, this is going to be so hard. It’s daunting. What am I going to do?” My sports psychologist said that the only true confidence comes from yourself, so I try to set that tone every day in my house and in my career – to be very positive and to focus on the possibilities and not on the challenges.

What’s your favorite thing to do with the kids?

My favorite thing is just to be at home with them doing nothing. We travel so much, so our kids really love being home. I really cherish when there’s music on in the house, and we’re running around and having fun and not really doing anything.

What’s the most hilarious things that your kids do?

They all love to dance and be really silly, and we love to encourage that, but sometimes it’s just the things that come out of their mouths. For some reason, every time Sundance sees me, or every time I send a video, he says, “Mommy, you’re beautiful.” And then he goes, “Does that make you happy, mommy?” And then Joey will want to outdo him and make me feel even happier, and say something like “Your green eyes are the most beautiful, mom.”

Final thoughts?

Everyone who reads Parents magazine knows that it takes a village, and I have an amazing village of support around me. It’s my family, friends, trainers, and partners who help me to chase my dream and show my kids that dreams come true, and I’m really grateful for that.

Glory Days
Glory Days
Glory Days

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Marching for Premature Babies

Friday, April 18th, 2014

“Your friends, your moms, your sisters, your cousins – they don’t get it,” said Briana Tortoso. “Unless they’ve been there, they don’t get it.”

More than 450,000 babies are born prematurely each year, and Tortoso, pictured at right with supermodel Niki Taylor, son JohnCarlo, and husband Matthew, is the mother of two of them. She gave birth twelve weeks early to twins JohnCarlo and Andrew almost two years ago, but sadly, Andrew passed away just days after birth.

Tortoso is now a proponent of the immense help of the resources provided to her by the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enabling healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, during her time of need.

Last year, the March of Dimes nationwide annual fundraiser walk, March for Babies, raised over $100 million to fund research and advocacy projects for safer births.

March for Babies participants walk three miles with thousands of people all devoted to one goal. Interested in getting involved? Head to the March of Dimes website to join a preexisting team, or to start one of your own. There are 700 locations and walks to choose from nationwide, so finding one locally is as easy as typing in your zip code.

Once you’ve chosen a walk, click “register,” and complete a profile that includes standard participation details, plus your fundraising goal. Then, rally your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to sponsor your walk. All donations will help to improve the lives of premature babies and their families.

Premature birth qualifies as a national health crisis, affecting one out of every eight babies born in the United States. Be a part of eliminating that statistic, one step at a time.

Visit Shop Parents for prenatal health products.

Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies
Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies
Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies

 

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Fighting Toddler Temper Tantrums With Supernanny Jo Frost

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Can’t handle one more toddler temper tantrum? “Supernanny” Jo Frost can handle them all, and in her new book Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior, she shares her child caring superpowers with you. Parents caught up with the (wo)man of steel for an expert take on toddler discipline. 

Parents: At what point did you realize that you had a knack for connecting with children and that you could help other families?

Jo Frost: I got into this industry because I’m passionate about looking after children and helping families. As a professional nanny, dealing with different dynamics and circumstances and problemswhether they be eating or sleeping, or life experiences like families moving from different countries or divorced parentscertainly gave me a vast amount of real, practical experience in the field. It wasn’t a light box switching on and me saying, “I’m good at this.” It was very instinctual for me to do the job that I was doing every day and enjoying. And, of course, I had the opportunity in 2004 when “Supernanny” came about to take my knowledge and experience to a much wider platform.

P: What will your audience get from reading your books that they can’t get from watching your show?

JF: I can talk the hind legs off a donkey. Being able to write books is a wonderful way for me to put not just the techniques that we use, but also to help parents understand why situations happen, to understand how your toddler ticks, to really understand the practicalities of living your life to the best of your ability. And to be able to do so, you have to know what parents want. People share their issues and challenges with me, and I’ve found that many a parent are in disarray when it comes to temper tantrums and knowing how to handle and understand them. How can they do best by their children? How can they give them a helping start? There’s a general feeling of parents really wanting to do the best that they can and needing a frank, honest, practical solution in being able to do so.

P: What do you think about the state of discipline in America today?

JF: You turn on the television and see airlines that are turning around the airplane because children are having temper tantrums. You’re seeing restaurants kicking out families because their child is having a melt down because they don’t want to eat their dinner. This isn’t okay. We need to be realistic in understanding what is appropriate behavior and how disciplined we need to be as parents. In America, we need to take away that stigma associated with being a disciplinarian. When you mention the word “discipline” in America, people think that you are harsh and unreasonable. Let’s break that word so that we understand the importance of what’s necessary to give our kids the best.

P: What was your goal in writing Toddler Rules?

JF: I wanted to very clearly, through my 25 years of observation in watching children interact with other children, whether in a classroom or at playgroup, identify: What are the types of temper tantrums that children have? How can we identify them? And how can we respond? The immediate response when a child has a temper tantrum is how to control it, rather than how to understand that every time your child has a temper tantrum, it’s an opportunity to learn exactly what’s going on in the child’s life at that particular moment and connect and respond to the situation at hand.

Browse other parenting books at Shop Parents.  

P: The book emphasizes your S.O.S. methodStep back, Observe, Step inwhich is applied to sleep, food, and play. Can you give us an overview of how this method works? 

JF: S.O.S. is what I use all the time, and I think that if parents could stand to adopt the S.O.S., we can healthily identify what is going on so that we can step in with a resolution. The resolution may be listening to both sides and making a decision, recognizing that we have to jump in and do something that protects our children, or empowering them so that they feel they’ve got some choice. We can’t do that if we continue to be sidetracked by emotion and not proactive in helping. You have to do; you can’t just ignore. You have to be active in actually making decisions and knowing what’s going on. You have to be able to make things better.

P: What would you say to parents who claim to have tried everything, yet still can’t get their kids to behave?

JF: Stop trying, and do. “Try” has become this great word in the land of nowhere. You’re either going to do it, or you’re not.

P: Any final words of wisdom?

JF: I love helping families and answering questions that come up. Sometimes they’re questions about challenges, and sometimes they might be practical questions that they’re just not too sure about. I would love for people to reach out to me on Twitter @Jo_Frost and on my website at www.jofrost.com. It’s more resources for them that may be very helpful.

Looking for a supernanny of your own? Use this nanny candidate interview guide.

Photo Courtesy: David Carlson 

Tempering Tantrums
Tempering Tantrums
Tempering Tantrums

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New Delivery Services Make Dinner Easier

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Picture this: it’s 4:30 PM. You’re running the kids from soccer to dance to guitar, then back to dance because your daughter left her backpack in the studio. And then you have to feed them. Sure, ordering pizza or Chinese is an easy option. But, we all know that home-cooked food is a much healthier choice. Unfortunately, meal planning and grocery shopping can be a pipe dream in the whirlwind of a modern family’s everyday activities.

Now there is a new option for families that want the convenience of delivery with the healthfulness of home-cooking. Three companies, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Plated–recently launched to help busy people who don’t have the time to plan and shop for meals. Once a week, these companies ship recipes and fresh ingredients for a fixed number of meals right to your door. All that you have to do is cook and enjoy.

HelloFresh

  • Three meals per box, choose from classic or vegetarian
  • Each meal serves either two or four people
  • Delivers to the entire East Coast
  • $129 per classic 4-person box, $109 per veggie 4-person box
  • For more information, visit hellofresh.com.

Blue Apron 

  • Three meals per box
  • Each meal serves any multiple of two
  • Delivers to the western third and eastern half of the U.S.
  • $120 per 4-person box
  • For more information, visit blueapron.com.

Plated

  • Two, four, or six plates per box
  • Each plate serves one person
  • Delivers to 80 percent of the U.S.
  • $15 per plate
  • For more information, visit plated.com.

All ingredients are pre-portioned, eliminating food waste. And to spare your sanity, meals vary–no more “chicken, again?” protests. Another perk: all of the companies allow cancellation at any time. Sadly, clean up is on you.

Obviously, services like this cost more money than simply planning, shopping, and cooking for yourself. But, if time is more precious than money at this point, a meal delivery service could be the difference between a health family dinner and the drive-through.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Groceries via Shutterstock.

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