Posts Tagged ‘ Family ’

Sweet Charity

Thursday, May 16th, 2013


No matter how health-conscious you are or what diet you’re on, there are times when you just can’t pass on dessert.

When it comes to Sandra Lee’s pineapple-passion-fruit cupcakes, Guy Fieri’s caramel apple bread pudding, and Buddy Valastro’s Italian butter cookies, I can’t think of a single reason to say no.

On May 1, I perused the World’s Largest Bake Sale at Grand Central Station, sampling sweets, meeting local bakers, but most importantly, learning about child hunger in America.

Sponsored by the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, the bake sale raised both money for the cause and awareness for the more than 16 million children affected by hunger in America.

I chatted with of New York City’s best bakers and browsed their selection of champagne cupcakes, pistachio-cherry scones, and peanut-butter-strawberry-jam doughnuts. All sweets were sold for $5, the proceeds from which were put toward the campaign.

Bake sale host Sandra Lee whipped up her favorite strawberry shortcake and banana split cupcakes for the event, and spoke to me about the urgency of the child hunger epidemic.

“Some working moms are going home with one check, paying rent, and wondering how they are going to feed their kids. Sometimes they have to choose between paying bills and food,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way in America.”

Buddy Valastro, the “Cake Boss,” said that as a baker and a father, he just had to be part of the event. He also shared with me a personal story about his family history.

“My dad grew up in Sicily and I remember him telling stories of going to bed hungry, after sharing one plate with his family,” he said. “It really puts life in perspective. This is about more than raising money, it’s about saying, ‘Hey, America, this is happening!’”

Ty Pennington, former host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, expressed a personal connection to the cause and donated a colorful, handmade bake sale stand for the Share Our Strength Auction.

“I may not have a child of my own, per se, but it is staggering to hear that one in five kids goes hungry,” he said. “It really opens your eyes about not wasting as much and makes you think about what we can do to make sure they are fed.”

The Share Our Strength Auction for No Kid Hungry runs through May 31 and features items donated by food masters like Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. This is your chance to take a class in the Cake Boss’s kitchen, dig in to Bobby Flay’s signature Southwestern dishes, or learn to swirl icing like New York’s iconic Magnolia Bakery.

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How to Help Kids–And Adults–Process Traumatic Events

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Yesterday, our blogger Rosie Pope wrote a great post about talking to her kids about Hurricane Sandy. The devastating storm inspired them to reflect on the things that are really important, like the safety of the people they love. Even though the storm can help us put things in perspective and re-evaluate our priorities, it’s a stressful time for the millions of families impacted by it. You may feel overwhelmed by the news coverage–not to mention the lingering power outages, property damages, and transportation delays. New York City’s Department of Health has created some great resources to help families reduce and cope with disaster-related stress. To make this scary time easier for kids, limit their exposure to news coverage, and be sure to talk to them about the footage that they do see. Hopefully these tips will help the people in Sandy’s wake stay a little calmer as we rebuild.

Image: Family talk via Shutterstock

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How To Get Kids To Eat Veggies

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Jamie DeenI recently was lucky enough to eat lunch with Jamie Deen of The Food Network. The event was sponsored by Hidden Valley Original Ranch, and was promoting healthy eating for children. Deen’s mom is Paula Deen, whose recipes are certainly known for being delicious—but not necessarily for being healthy. Jamie, however, is the father of two boys, ages 6 and 17 months, so he has made it his mission to make sure they eat nutritious foods every day.

Here are some of his tips for parents on getting kids to eat those veggies and other healthy foods:

1. Get them eating healthy foods right away. “I think it’s important that you start them off when they’re young,” Deen says. “That’s really the key.” He and his wife bought a baby food maker and use it with fresh fruit and vegetables like butternut squash. Then, they’ll put some of the mix into an ice cube tray and freeze them, so they can pop them out later and feed to Matthew, his youngest son. “He’s eating different tastes and different textures at 17 months and that opens up his palate,” Deen explains.

2. Lead by example. “Kids emulate what they see,” he says. “If you’re eating healthy, it’s part of their life and that’s just what they eat. That’s what I cook, that’s what’s at the table, and that’s what we eat.”

3. Let kids get involved with meal preparation. “If my older son touches the food in the production stage, the more he’s likely to eat it and take ownership of it,” Deen explains. “He’s like, ‘Oh, I made this and this is mine.’” Deen and his wife encourage him to decorate his fish with zest or help his mom make fruit smoothies.

4. Pack a lunch. Deen makes sure to include a simple sandwich like peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and jelly, along with a fruit cup and pretzels.

5. Find new options, if necessary. If your child really cannot stand one particular food, look around and see if you can find a substitute. “Or, use a little low fat ranch dip and that helps mask some of the bitterness for the kids,” Deen suggests. “If that’s the trick you use to get your kids to eat more fresh vegetables, then that’s a good option too.”

Photo courtesy of Hidden Valley

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Whole Grains for the Whole Family

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Rye BreadKids (and parents!) need whole grains all year round, and autumn is the perfect time to incorporate these nourishing ingredients into your family meal plan. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children consume at least 2 to 3 servings of whole grain daily. In addition to lowering the risk of many chronic diseases, fiber-rich whole grains have been proven to keep you feeling full for longer, so you’ll eat less and feel energized all day long. There are plenty of fun ways to get kids eating nutritious and tasty meals, so what are you waiting for?

We spoke with Karen Mansur, program manager of the Whole Grains Council about how to help your family make the switch to whole grains. Here are a few of her tips:

1. Host a family taste test

Make three different whole grain pastas (brown rice, whole wheat and quinoa are some popular possibilities) and vote on the family favorite. Next time you make pasta, use the newly crowned whole grain favorite. Do the same with breads, cereals, pancakes mixes, etc. until you’ve switched out all of the classic meal components with whole grain options. And if your picky eater just does not like one particular grain, don’t worry—there are plenty of others to choose from.

2. Cook whole grains together

“Studies show that cooking with children encourages them to be more adventurous with flavors and textures,” Mansur says. Little ones can help out with simple tasks like measuring and stirring. “Getting their help in the kitchen also creates a bonding opportunity and best of all, teaches an appreciation for the effort required to put together a meal,” Mansur adds.

Here are some easy recipes that incorporate whole grains:

You can also adapt your current recipes by simple substitutions like switching from white to brown rice, or by replacing half the white flour with whole wheat flour for foods like cookies and quick breads.

3. Pack healthy lunches for school (or work)

Switch out potato chips for popcorn, make trail mix by combining whole grain cereal with dried fruit or nuts, or select an oatmeal cookie for dessert. Best of all, the whole grains will help kids stay full and focused for the rest of the school day.

4. Look for the Whole Grain Stamp

If you’re having trouble locating whole grains at the grocery store, just look for the Whole Grain Stamp. Food packages with more than a half serving of whole grains are eligible for the black and gold seal, making it easy for shoppers to identify nutritious options.

Image: Various rye bread via Shutterstock.

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“Don’t Divorce Me,” a Movie That Explains Separation to Kids

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

It’s a very lucky family tree these days that doesn’t have a least one of its branches spliced by a split-up. We have several divorces in our extended family, and now that our ever-curious kids are old enough to notice (4 and 5), I’ve had to explain several times why certain grandparents are unattached and other relatives are out of the picture all-together. Tricky stuff. So when I got an invite for a screening of HBO Family’s documentary, “Don’t Divorce Me,” which touchingly follows several preschoolers and elementary schoolers as they cope with their parents’ split, I RSVPed yes. You’ll blink back tears, but also come away with real-life ways to help your kids cope in the wake of an event that truly does rock their little world. My favorite tip (from a tween who hadn’t cut her hair since before her folks called it quits): Let your children hold onto their memories. “Don’t Divorce Me” airs Thursday September 21 at 6:30 p.m., and might be the most well-spent 30 minutes of your day.

Click here to watch the trailer.

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The 10 Best Cities to Raise Kids, According to Rent.com

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

In a survey of 1,000 people, Rent.com found 34% of parents are raising their kids in a big city. They cited cultural activities, educational opportunities, and population diversity as reasons for city living. Based on parents’ feedback, Rent.com compiled a list of the 10 best cities in America to raise kids. In no particular order:

  • Portland, OR – Portland’s low crime rate and high graduation stats are two of many factors that draw families to this green city.
  • Dallas, TX Children living in Dallas have endless attractions and learning experiences to take advantage of, from zoos to parks to children’s theater.
  • Columbus, OH – Columbus is an affordable city with some of the top public schools in the country and multiple indoor and outdoor themed parks.
  • Omaha, NE – Great public schools, a low crime rate, a low cost of living, and cultural attractions make Omaha a catch.
  • San Diego, CA  This city boasts great weather year-round and tons of kid-friendly attractions, including zoos and aquariums.
  • Austin, TX Austin has a grassroots, neighborhood spirit that makes families proud of belonging to the heart of Texas.
  • Denver, CO  Denver has the largest public parks system of any U.S. city – a draw for active families that love the outdoors.
  • Phoenix, AZ  Phoenix’s fun attractions like the Phoenix Zoo, the Children’s Museum, and plenty of outdoor activities entertain kids of all ages.
  • San Jose, CA  Parents and kids enjoy San Jose for its cultural attractions, including the Children’s Discovery Museum and Happy Hollow Park; plus, the city has a great public transportation system.
  • Seattle, WA  Seattle – known as a science and technology center – boasts an excellent academic reputation and beautiful scenery.

Are you raising your kids in a city? If so, which one and why do you love it?

Image: Small boy in big city, via Shutterstock

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Fun Ways to Prevent Summer “Brain Freeze”

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Family playing cardsEditor’s Note: In the first post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month.  He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Children’s brains go to sleep as soon as school ends for summer vacation, and they can hibernate until after school starts again in the fall. While kids need rest and rejuvenation, structured and unstructured play, physically active and tranquil days, and homework-free evenings, the summer “brain freeze” (a.k.a. “summer meltdown” or “summer slide”) can last too long. When resting brains slip into vegetative states defined by TV, video games, Facebook, text messaging marathons, and MP3 hypnosis, it’s time for an intervention.

Fortunately, there is a cure: enrollment at Family Summer University (FSU)! At FSU, there is no tuition and no homework, but there are tests (more like friendly and funny family competitions) every night.

As Dean of FSU, it’s your job to set aside a little time each day to write the quiz questions. Tailor them to the ages and learning levels of your kids, but don’t be limited to school subjects.  Instead, include a wide range of topics: celebrities, cartoon characters, favorite storybooks, sports teams, movies and TV shows, or any other topics that each family member will enjoy.  Fun trivia about Justin Bieber and Jeremy Lin can help camouflage the educational lessons about hypotenuses, homonyms, and Hamlet.  Mix and match questions every night from different subject areas or dedicate different nights of the week to certain subjects.

Look to brain teaser games, flash card sets, home versions of TV quiz shows, the library, the internet, and yes, your kids’ school books, to write your questions. But don’t overdo it — set a maximum of 20 questions per child per day, 10 questions if you have more than three kids! Remember, if you’re asking your 6 year old a tough question for his age, you should also be asking your 12 year old a tough one for her age.

Once your questions are written, gather the kids on the designated FSU campus (it can be the porch, patio, or another comfortable venue that’s preferably outdoors) and let the games begin! A great time for FSU to gather is after dinner because everyone is already together. Play every night or play a few days a week. Add bonus questions, musical prompts, and picture clues to make the game more interesting. Watch as scarce minutes with your kids turn into special moments.

After the answers are given, discuss them with your kids.  Gently explain the questions they missed and have them explain ones they got right. Tally the correct number of answers for each contestant each dayk. At the end of each week, give a prize to the child with the highest score, and then start scoring from scratch the next week.  This way, no one falls so far behind that they have no chance of catching up.  Good “prizes” can be letting the winner choose the DVD on family movie night or the theme for a special dinner night.  At the end of the summer, have an FSU “graduation” ceremony with cardboard caps, bed sheet gowns, and colorful paper diplomas. Then, make sure to go for ice cream!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.  He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


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Taylor Dayne: Surrogacy and Single Parenthood

Monday, July 16th, 2012

You probably remember Taylor Dayne as the big-haired,‘80s pop sensation that captured the world with her hit, “Tell It to My Heart,” but that’s not how she’s billing herself these days. For the past decade, Dayne has been center stage to a different crowd—her 10-year-old twins, Astaria and Levi, whom she had through surrogacy.

“I felt that it was all meant to be,” Dayne told Parents in a recent interview; “My children were just waiting for their time to come into my life.” For many of us, the thought of being a single mother and bringing two kids into the world seems daunting, but for Dayne, whose biological clock was a “time bomb,” it was a decision that she wanted—and needed—to make.

“I’m not a ‘coulda woulda shoulda’ girl. I didn’t want to be the woman who looked in her rear-view mirror and realized she never contributed something to this life,” she explains. “I wanted to have a larger purpose and I saw my chance at it through surrogacy.”

While the happy mom’s mantra is “single I am, but a family we are,” she admits that she would eventually like to share her life with a partner and expand her three-unit family. “Conventional or not, we’ve made our family work for 10 years,” says Dayne, “And for now, we’re happy.”

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