Archive for the ‘ Q&A With Authors ’ Category

5 Tips to Avoid Co-Parenting Drama and Have Fun on the Holidays

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Are you co-parenting this holiday with your ex? Former spouses Deesha Philyaw and Michael D. Thomas know what you’re going through. They’ve been doing it for 8 years. Luckily, they’ve had good experiences, and they want to share them with you. As the co-authors of Co-Parenting 101: Helping You Children Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, they have 5 Tips to Avoid Co-Parenting Drama and Have Fun on the Holidays. Also, check out their website, Co-Parenting 101.

1. Have a Plan B.
Ideally, co-parents will have a previously agreed upon shared parenting plan in place that spells out where the kids will spend the holidays and what the drop-off and pick-up times will be. For example, the kids might spend Thanksgiving with one parent in even years, and with the other parent in odd years. Christmas might be split into Eve with one parent, and Day with the other, and then also alternated each year. And ideally, co-parents will stick to the plan so that their kids can anticipate and then enjoy their celebrations. But if your co-parent doesn’t stick to the plan, have a back-up plan ready. If you can’t count on your ex to pick up the kids as scheduled, be prepared to bake cookies together or play a game as a pleasant way to pass the time without focusing on the delay. If, on the other hand, your co-parent is always late dropping off the kids, make plans for holiday outings that start hours after pick up time, or the next day.

2. Remember that the memories you create are more important than the date on the calendar.
If your co-parent doesn’t adhere to the holiday parenting time schedule, or if the schedule doesn’t call for your children to be with you on a particular holiday, you can still celebrate whenever your children are with you. Some co-parents serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal long after everyone has tired of the turkey they ate in November, or they might observe Christmas in July. Kids won’t like their presents any less just because they open them before or after December 25th. Far more important than when you celebrate the holidays is how you celebrate. Celebrating in ways that are memorable because of the warmth and laughter you share with your children trumps fighting over specific dates and leaving your kids to fret over the uncertainty and the parental conflict.

3. Start new family traditions.
Your kids will remember your family’s holiday traditions from before your break-up, and they may want to replicate them. Or they may decide that it’s just not the same or just not possible without the other parent. Don’t force it. Instead, you can introduce new fun and meaningful ideas related to the holidays that, if they catch on, just might become new traditions that your kids look forward to each year. Non-traditional celebrations can be the start of new family traditions. Instead of a traditional holiday meal, why not try out new recipes and cook with your kids? If your family used to spend a lot of time indoors decorating and cooking, get everyone outside this year and go ice-skating or see community holiday light displays. If the days leading up to the holidays have typically been spent shopping and being on the go, slow down and hunker down at home. Listen to holiday music, make ornaments together, and read stories. New traditions don’t have to be grandiose or expensive. Anything that allows you and your family to be close and at peace can become a tradition over time.

4. Don’t make gift-giving a competition.
Are you and your co-parent able to communicate and coordinate your holiday gift-giving efforts? If not, that’s okay, but be sure to avoid the trap of trying to outspend each other or drawing lines in the sand when it comes to buying the gift at the top of your child’s wishlist. Parents’ bickering over gifts can diminish the spirit of giving for your child and put undue pressure on the her. And trying to outspend can put undue pressure on your wallet! If your co-parent tries to compete in this way, refuse to play that game. And remember, one of the greatest gifts that you both can give your child is your civility towards one another as you parent her together.

Speaking of gift-giving, when you help your child buy or make a gift for the other parent, you’re saying to her, “I know that you love your mom/dad, and it’s important to you to give him/her a gift for the holidays.” This is just one more way you can affirm her right and need to having a loving relationship with both parents.

5. Encourage your child to enjoy her time with the other parent.
Even moms and dads who have been co-parenting for years still struggle sometimes when they are not with their kids for all or part of the holiday season. For some co-parents, feelings of loss, hurt, or anger related to their break-up can resurface during the holidays and make it difficult to accept that their child will be with the other parent. But we as adults have to deal with our emotional issues so that they do not become burdens for our children. We can tell our kids that we will miss them, but still encourage them to go and have a good time celebrating with the otherparent. This frees them to enjoy the holidays without worrying about us. It may be easier to let go in this way if you have plans of your own to enjoy. Do something non-holiday-related for a change of pace, or scenery. Spend time with relatives and friends, or get together with other co-parents whose kids are also away for the holidays. Or use the time to relax and pursue activities that you don’t have time for when you’re parenting.

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Kids Book Pick: Aspiring Little Dancers Need ‘Ballet for Beginners’ by Prima Princessa

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Two hardworking, kick-booty moms who live in my town of Montclair, New Jersey, created top-selling ballerina DVDs for little girls called Prima PrincessaTheir version of The Nutcracker breaks down the story and features little girls and professionals performing it. It’s no less than spectacular–my two girls and even my boy twirled around to it when they were preschoolers. You might have caught the programs when they aired on public television stations around the world in recent years. They also produced Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.

This year, Stephanie and Mary Kate have added a beautiful hardback book called Ballet for Beginners to their line of dance-inspiring products. In Ballet for Beginners, they break down the beautiful moves in photos and descriptions. It’s great for little girls just starting all the way up to teenage girls who would like to have references.

I got in touch with Stephanie and Mary Kate to see what they’ve been up to. Check out their answers below and find out why ballet is good for our kids, how to get little girls started and more!

KK: What ages does your new book, Ballet for Beginners, target?
Stephanie Troeller and Mary Kate Mellow (see left): Our book is designed for preschool children up to teenagers as well as parents looking for an overview of the world of ballet training. Little kids love the book because it is full of fun photos of preschool kids dancing and cartoons of Prima Princessa, our ballerina fairy. Children just starting out in ballet class as well as more serious student get to see great photos of some of the best ballet students in the world demonstrating most of the major steps and positions in ballet.

KK: What tips do you have for moms with small children who would like their kids to love ballet?
ST and MKM: Well we would have to say take your children to see a real ballet or you can have them watch one of our 3 Prima Princessa DVDs: Prima Princessa Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. Each of these shows features a real ballet on stage performed by top ballet companies. The ballets have been edited in a child-friendly fashion, and they feature narration by our animated ballerina fairy Prima Princessa so children can follow the plot. Interspersed throughout the show are mini-dance breaks where children get to practice the ballet steps the they saw on stage with students from the School of American Ballet, official academy of the New York City Ballet.

We have tons of parents writing to us all the time about how their children love to dress up in their tutus and dance along to Prima Princessa shows. We specifically designed these shows to inspire children to dance.

KK: Is ballet just for little girls?
ST and MKM: Ballet is for everyone! Our shows and book are designed to inspire both future ballet dancers as well as ballet lovers right now! Are shows and book are something families will enjoy watching and reading together.

KK: How is ballet good for our kids?
ST and MKM: Ballet is not only great exercise, but it teaches children how hard work and discipline can pay off. Whether your children sticks with ballet or not, exposing them to ballet at an early age will develop in them an appreciation of the performing arts. In this age of instant gratification with downloadable games, apps, texting and snap chat the experience of watching a ballet performance is completely different. It really gets a child’s brain working in a more in depth fashion where they take the time to absorb and enjoy a classic fairy tale story like The Nutcracker as it unfolds through breathtaking dancing set to Tchaikovsky’s music.

KK: What’s a fun ballet move we can learn right now?
ST and MKM: Well our guess is your kids have probably been doing a bunch of ballet moves without even knowing it. Jumps, Spins, kicks and standing on ones tippy toes are all ballet movements. While our book shows precise ballet steps executed perfectly by the best students in the world, our shows feature preschooler, ballet students, professional ballerina as well as animals and toys doing ballet moves! We are not only showing ballet moves, but the spirit behind each ballet movement. On our website on our Be a Ballerina Page you can watch a video and learn how to do a Bouree.

Click to the Prima Princessa site for holiday games, tutus, DVDs and even this printable magic wand.

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Eighth Grader Ravina Thakkar Writes a Novel Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Sourcebooks

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Ravina Thakkar, an eighth-grader in Plainfield, IL, has cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening medical condition that affects her lungs and digestive system. She doesn’t define herself that way, though. She thinks of herself as a writer–and a girl who loves to dance and listen to music.

When she became eligible, her social worker helped make her dreams come true through the Make-A-Wish® Illinois foundation.

Ravina wanted to write a book for middle graders, and she did just that yesterday when Sourcebooks released her new title. The publisher gave Ravina the entire author experience–from working with editors and designers to revising the manuscript and weighing in on the cover art.

Ravina’s book is called Adventure of a Lifetime and was written when she was 8-years-old. It’s about a 9-year-old girl named Betty who battles alongside a character from her favorite fiction series as they race from one danger to the next.Adventure of a Lifetime It was released on her 14th birthday. Ravina’s doing a marketing and publicity campaign that includes this Q&A with me: nts and bravery.

KK: How old were you when you wanted to become a writer? What age should we parents start encouraging our little ones who seem interested in it?
RT: (At left.) I was 6 when I decided I wanted to be a writer, I think…or at least, that was when the idea first got in my head. If children show interest in writing, then I would definitely suggest encouraging them early on! My parents’ support is one of the reasons I’m here today.

KK: How does your illness tie into your deep desire to write? How do your experiences affect your writing?
RT: Well, in my case, Cystic Fibrosis affects my lungs more than anything else. I take medication and do three treatments a day to stay healthy, and since those treatments take up much time in my day, they’re usually the time when I sit down to write. However, I don’t think Cystic Fibrosis has really affected my actual writing in anyway though…I’ve never really written about it.

KK: Kids your age are really busy. How did you communicate your passion to your parents, and make sure you had enough time to write, while juggling school, friends and after-school activities?
RT: The time I had during treatments helped a lot. I’m not in many extra-curricular activities anyway, but as school gets harder and harder, there’s less time to write. I’ve been juggling ideas around in my head and jotting them down for a later date, so I can write them out once everything gets less hectic.

KK: What advice do you have for other parents whose kids are interested in writing?
RT: Support them! If they want to, let your children tell you about their stories. Readers make the best writers, so encourage that. However, some kids just like writing as a hobby and that’s fine–never make it into a chore of sorts for them.

KK: If you could meet any writer, who would it be?
RT: Oh, this is funny, considering my first ‘wish’ with the foundation was to meet J.K. Rowling. Sadly, she’s not a participant in the Make A Wish foundation, but I’d still love to meet her! Either her or John Green, most definitely.

KK: If you could write another book, what would it be about?
RT: I’m not quite sure yet…I’ve kind of gravitated towards realistic fiction instead of adventure fiction, so if I did write something else, it would probably be that genre.

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Love Food? Author Rachel Hofstetter of ‘Cooking Up a Business’ Thinks You Can Become an Entrepreneur, Too

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

If you’ve ever daydreamed about turning that secret spaghetti sauce recipe into more than a family crowd pleaser, here’s your playbook: Author Rachel Hofstetter interviewed dozens of successful food entrepreneurs–mostly women–for her new book, Cooking Up a Business and gives you tips for getting started.

Her biggest takeaway? Moms make the best food entrepreneurs. Here’s how they turned their passion into a career—and how you can, too. Rachel knows what she’s talking about. She’s the former food editor at O, The Oprah Magazine. She’s also an entrepreneur herself with her company guesterly that creates custom magazines. (So super cool–check it out.)

KK: What are some examples of good food businesses that other moms have cooked up?
Rachel Hofstetter
Moms make great food entrepreneurs because kids provide great inspiration—and they are excellent taste testers! If your picky eater likes what you’re cooking up or if you, as a mom, care about the issue your product is solving, chances are other kids and moms will agree.

For example, when Shannan Swanson (at left) and Liane Weintraub were dismayed at the baby food they found at their local supermarkets, they began to make their own, dreaming up and pureeing combinations of fruits and vegetables that they deemed worthy of their little ones’ developing taste buds. And they began to talk, simply hypothetically, about selling this healthier baby food. That inspiration eventually led to Tasty Brand.

I also love Kara Goldin’s story of how she stumbled upon the idea of Hint Water. Kara’s family was drinking tons of sugary drinks—and she herself was drinking way too much Diet Coke! So she cleaned out the kitchen and put everyone on good old tap water—a moratorium that lasted all of two weeks. But instead of drinking water, they ended up drinking…nothing at all.  Kara knew she had to change something or she’d have a home full of dangerously dehydrated kids. Her eyes drifted around the kitchen, looking for an idea, and landed on the big bowl of fruit on her counter, part of her new attempt to stock the house with real, wholesome foods. Kara chopped up a handful, tossed it in a pitcher, added water, and put it in the fridge to chill. A few hours later, she poured a glass to try. It was interesting. It had taste. It was . . . delicious. She poured another glass, and then some for her kids. Everyone approved! And after accolades started pouring in from other parents, Kara decided to turn her fruit-flavored waters into a business; today her waters are sold at over half the grocery stores in the U.S.

KK: How do you gauge whether your idea for a business is a good one?
Have your friends and family taste test your product: Do they rave about it? Do they ask you to bring it to every event? Ask them: “If this was in a store, would you be willing to pay for it? How much?” It’s okay to change your product as you respond to feedback! Liane and Shannan at Tasty Brand started by making organic baby food—and now they only make snacks. Food businesses are great because you don’t need a lot of special equipment to test your idea: just a kitchen and the ability to make a recipe. So you can jump in, try it out, and gauge if your idea works as you go along.

KK: What are your top three tips on starting up your own shop–doing something you really, really love?
1. Pick a product that makes your life easy once it’s out of your kitchen. For example, in Cooking Up a Business I share the story of Love Grown Foods. They originally thought they’d sell founder Maddy D’Amato’s famous pesto. But they found that while it’s easy to make pesto for your dinner party of ten, it’s exponentially more difficult to make and store 50 batches for your local farmers market. Instead, make a product that’s easy to cook in large batches and is shelf stable (non-perishable).

2. Create a name for your product and tell a story. Why is this special? What’s memorable about it?

3. The best way to get people excited about your product (and to get them to buy it!) is to let them taste. Give away as many tastes or free samples as you can at farmer’s market, grocery store demos, local festival and fairs, mom’s events and more.

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You Need Pilates! Brooke Siler’s New Book and Moves Can Help

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

You need Pilates! Wait, maybe that’s me I’m talking about. Anyway, Pilates celebrity expert Brooke Siler just came out with a hiptastic new book that will get you moving and toning in no time. I’ll just cut to the chase: The Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates is awesome. It has great moves and pretty pictures. Just flipping through it makes me feel automatically healthier. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Brooke Siler told me about her latest project. And check out her workout move photo at the end.

KK: How can a new mom (assuming she’s physically ready) make time to work out?
BS: Creating a Pilates home practice is a great way for a new mom to get started and since most Pilates matwork is done low to the ground, there are plenty of ways to stay close to baby during the routine. And since Pilates is about sound body mechanics, its principles can be practiced throughout the day simply by becoming aware of how you are sitting, standing, walking, etc.

KK: Can you suggest a new mom sequence or Pilates move to get started?
BS: Pelvic Lift! See below.

KK: How much time will it take every day to get back into a routine?
BS: Allowing yourself 20 to 30 minutes a day to get down on the mat and just move well is a great habit to get into. If you can change your thinking from “ugh, I have to workout” to “it feels great to move my body” a lot of the negative exercise connotation can be tossed out. In the end, the positions and habits developed in taking care of baby (carrying baby on one hip, poor posture during breast-feeding, increased bouts of sitting, etc) can all take a rough toll on your body. By allowing yourself time to undo the damage of these habits you can create a routine of self-care that might just last a lifetime.

KK: Why is Pilates so good for moms who’ve recently had babies?
BK: Besides the benefits of Pilates being non-impact and ab-centric, my teacher Romana liked to say that Pilates was about fighting gravity because we are always drawing our musculature “In and Up”. Pregnancy and birth are very gravity-heavy events in that everything is moving downward in order to accommodate the process. By employing Pilates moves and methodology new moms can work to bring everything back up to where they belong.


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