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My Unusual New Year’s Wish for My Children

Kids just being kidsMost parents can easily blurt out wonderful, inspiring wishes for their children for the coming year- health, happiness, maybe a better year in school. But this year as I look at my kids, I realize I’m not wishing for things to change– In fact, I’m wishing they stay the same.

Do I want them to be happy, healthy…of course I do, always. But something is finally becoming clear to me –something my children have actually taught me over the years (and I will give anything for them to continue to do so for many years to come). These children and the path they’re on – they are wonderful and perfect exactly the way they are… and being part of their journey…I’m the one who gets “better”. It’s a wonderful feeling when you are a parent and you realize that you have been doing your “job” but it’s even better when you realize that all along, your children have actually been teaching you how to do your job.

I realized that part of being a parent is to learn to adapt, good or bad. This also means that sometimes the adapting is something a parent has to be taught by their child and not the other way around. But what happens when you have a child that does things outside of the box and makes you think that maybe you need to change your thinking, even if it’s not what you were always told to do? What if you realize that your child has actually told you (in a roundabout way) that it’s actually not your way or the highway?

I have learned from my children that there is no list of rules that works with every single child exactly the same way. I have learned that sometimes you do have to give in and do something that is the total opposite of what you always swore you would never do as a parent. I have realized that just because we always have “grown-up time” does not mean that “children’s time” is any less important. Your child grows up and learns to be their own, unique person. They show you that sometimes it’s ok to eat cold pizza for breakfast or to have ice cream for dinner an hour past bedtime. You have to bend and just say ok sometimes.

Thinking back, what do you remember more – the rule that your parents had about going to bed on time or the time when they actually let you eat cookies in your bed past your bedtime and not brush your teeth? I am willing to bet that you seem to remember the second choice.

As our children grow and enlighten us, we begin to realize how short life is. Change does not have to be a bad thing all of the time. Step into the unknown and just go with it. This is how ice cream was invented and this is how The Nobel Peace Prize is won. In today’s society, people are so fast to judge others that they don’t stop to think about all of the “what ifs”. So many of our children today are deemed hyperactive or unfocused because they don’t want to be a typically developing child…what do you think would happen if Mozart or Albert Einstein was alive today as a child?

Embrace your children and let them ask questions. Listen to them when they disagree with you, don’t shut them out. If they are coloring outside of the lines, don’t correct them. Learn to respect them, even when they are very young because children know when people do not respect them. Don’t be embarrassed if they want to know about sex or why people are different colors. They learn from you. The only time you should be (embarrassed? concerned?) is when they don’t ask questions or they don’t want to know. Love them, no matter what.

So this year, my wish for them is to continue to help me grow as they do; to help me become a better person, a better parent and better at things that I didn’t even know I needed to be better at.

I wish with all of my heart that they never stop questioning me because this would mean they had given up and refuse to think about the people they want to become.

And that is one thing that I never wish to happen to them.

Cooking with Herbs and Spices to Boost Family Health

Herbs and spices for family healthYou and your kids don’t have to eat nutrient-packed meals at the expense of your taste buds. In fact, the contrary is true: Adding flavorful herbs and spices can make your dishes even healthier. According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, many spices contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than fruits and vegetables, making them a tasty and natural home remedy. To start spicing up your family’s life, make the following five your new pantry staples.

1. Oregano

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that, ounce for ounce, oregano packs in four times as many antioxidants as blueberries. Meanwhile, other studies show that oregano has antibacterial and antifungal properties that may fend off food poisoning and infections alike.

Serving suggestion: Besides sprinkling it on pizza and adding it to marinara sauce, try stirring it into salad dressings and marinades.

2. Cinnamon

This warm spice is loaded with health-boosting antioxidants. According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, cinnamon may help your body counteract the heart-harming effects of a high-fat meal. Other research suggests that it may regulate blood sugar to help fend off diabetes, although the results are mixed. Historically, cinnamon has been used for muscle aches, stomach woes and respiratory ailments, says Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D., in Healing Spices.

Serving suggestion: Add a dash of cinnamon to baked goods, tea, yogurt and peanut butter sandwiches. Use it to top fruit and ice cream, or mix it into beef or meatloaf. Bonus: Scientists say that the scent of cinnamon can improve memory and reduce anxiety, so take a big whiff.

3. Thyme

You definitely want this herb on your side: Research shows that it can protect against electronic cigarette big mountain gum disease, infections, ulcers and even certain cancers. And German research shows that thyme extracts can soothe the coughing caused by colds and bronchitis. Thyme’s health benefits can be chalked up to thymol, a germ-killing oil, explains Aggarwal.

Serving suggestion: Sprinkle thyme over potatoes, meat, vegetables and salads. For infused oil, add a thyme branch to a small bottle of olive oil. Or mix thyme into scrambled eggs.

4. Ginger

This spicy root contains anti-inflammatory compounds, such as gingerols, that may combat headaches, arthritis and stomachaches. Science also proves that it can calm queasiness, nausea and morning sickness.

Serving suggestion: Someone feeling sick? Brew a ginger tea by steeping it in hot water. Or grate fresh ginger or sprinkle the dried stuff into stir-fries, marinades and Asian dipping sauces.

5. Rosemary

Firing up the grill? Flavor meat with this fragrant herb. Exposing meat to high heat creates cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). But adding rosemary to the meat mixture can protect against the formation of HCAs, say scientists from Kansas State University. Plus, you’ll do some good for everyone’s skin and memory, according to Aggarwal.

Serving suggestion: Whip up a simple meat marinade with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Or chop up the herb and add it to vegetable, meats, soups and bread mixtures. You can also add it to simple syrup for a tasty rosemary-infused lemonade.

Finally, to eliminate food odors from your kitchen, be sure to spray a dash of air freshener in a fresh scent after you finish cooking. Your family will be in for a treat any day of the week – during meals and in between.

What Foods Will Keep Your Family Healthy All Winter??

Chicken soup for the common coldThis winter, a whopping 20 percent of Americans will come down with a bad case of the flu. But you don’t have to be one of them…and neither does anyone else in your family! Research shows that, in addition to getting your flu shot, eating certain foods can help you avoid the flu — as well as colds and illness in general. Here’s what to add to your grocery cart.

Yogurt

Probiotics, the healthy bacteria in yogurt, literally crowds out invading bad bacteria that’s trying to get into your system. That’s why, in one study, people who consumed a yogurt drink that contained Lactobacillus reuteri over an 80-day period took 33 percent fewer sick days. To make sure you’re getting a good dose of probiotics, look for the words “live bacteria” and “active cultures” on the label. Bonus: Yogurt is rich in calcium, which is essential for strong, healthy teeth, and most kids love it!

Garlic

This favorite flavor-booster contains allicin, a compound that fights off bacteria. According to a large British study, people who downed a daily garlic capsule for three winter months were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. If they did get sick, they suffered for about four fewer days. Adding cooked garlic to your food might be even more effective.

Tea

According to a Harvard study, drinking black or green tea can rev up your immune system’s T cells so they destroy bacteria more quickly. And the antioxidants in green tea are great for your teeth. A large Japanese study found that every cup reduces gum inflammation.

Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in this flavorful fish, help cells remove toxins and take in nutrients more efficiently. And a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who consumed the most omega-3s decreased their risk of gum disease by 22 percent.

Chicken Soup

Don’t wait until someone in your family is sick to serve up some soup. Cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking, helps calm the usual over-the-top response your immune system has to cold germs that causes many of the worst symptoms from a stuffed-up nose to a wracking cough. And it doesn’t have to be homemade. A University of Nebraska study published in Chest found that most supermarket brands prevented and alleviated cold symptoms just as effectively. On a cold winter day, think hot bowl of soup.

The Smart Mom’s Tips for Healthy, Quick Homemade Meals

Quick healthy family mealsCooking at home is more cost-effective than ordering in, better for your family’s health, and if you do it right, quicker, too. New York based nutrition expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It, shares the items you should always have in stock for healthy, delicious, kid-friendly 30-minute meals.

When you don’t feel like cooking …

Taub-Dix loves making salads – and, yes, even for her kids. For those who find all that chopping and shredding a hassle, she recommends salads in a bag. Several bagged lettuce companies now make medleys with pea pods, carrots, croutons and even bacon bits. “You don’t have to start from scratch,” says Taub-Dix — although she does advocate washing even prewashed ready-to-eat produce. To make your salads kid-friendly, create a salad bar at home. Lay out their favorite ingredients, like dried cranberries, sliced almonds, cheese and mandarin slices, and let them build their own. For a quick protein topper, use canned tuna or salmon, canned beans or a store-bought rotisserie chicken.

When you’re craving comfort food …

“Carbs and comfort go hand in hand,” says Taub-Dix. Luckily, satisfying that yen can be achieved in 20 minutes or less. Her go-to recipe for a heart-warming dish includes just six ingredients: chicken, pasta, chicken broth, frozen or fresh vegetables, olive oil and garlic – all of which you should always have on-hand. Boil your pasta in low-sodium chicken broth. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan and add your vegetables. If you like a lot of flavor, season to taste with your favorite herbs, like pepper, thyme and oregano. Buying an already-barbecued chicken is the easiest way to go when in a time crunch, but you can just as easily sauté a pan of chicken tenders with your vegetables. (Just remember to toss them into the fridge to defrost in the morning). For picky kids, serve with shredded parmesan cheese.

When your kid is extra-finicky …

Sometimes there’s just no getting around your child’s cravings. When they refuse to eat anything but chicken nuggets, Taub-Dix says it’s okay to give them what they want – with a few rules, of course. Tell them they can have chicken nuggets for dinner, as long as they eat them with vegetables or a fruit cup, says Taub-Dix. “Secondly, not every chicken nugget is created equal. Some are more like cardboard and some are really chicken,” she says, which is why she advises a close inspection of the label. Make sure the first ingredient is chicken, so that the breading doesn’t outweigh the meat. Also, avoid brands that use sugar or hydrogenated fat.

The surefire crowd pleaser …

Who doesn’t love pizza? It’s a fun activity you can do with your kids, and an easy way to get vegetables onto their plate. According to Taub-Dix, you can buy pizza dough at the supermarket, go to the pizza store and buy dough, or just keep flatbread, pita or English muffins on-hand. “Every week, I would make different pizzas and they could choose their own toppings, like grilled chicken, pineapple or mushrooms, and have fun with it,” she says.

When your kids are done playing chef in the kitchen, make cleanup a breeze by letting them wipe down the counters and freshen up the air with odor-eliminating candles while your hubby does the dishes.

Print & Go Grocery List For Healthy, Quick Family Meals:

Flatbread

Shredded cheese

Bagged salads

Canned beans

Chicken tenders

Canned tuna or salmon

Frozen vegetables

Pasta or couscous

Pasta sauce

Olive oil

Garlic

Chicken broth

Dried cranberries, pineapple, mango or other fruit

Sliced almonds

Fresh chopped fruit like watermelon or pineapple

6 Cures for Family Morning Madness

Family Eating BreakfastMornings with kids may be the most tiring part of the day, but parents often make it worse by getting caught in a cycle of nagging and yelling. Without meaning to, they train kids to expect to hear multiple times what they need to do to get ready.

“If you’re yelling at your kids, and things aren’t changing, then they’re not the slow learners here,” says Ann Pleshette Murphy, author of The 7 Stages of Motherhood: Loving Your Life without Losing Your Mind.

A certain amount of morning craziness is inevitable, but you can control it with a little detective work and planning. “Step outside the circus ring and figure out which of the acrobats is tripping you up,” says Murphy. Then, with your family’s help, ritualize the process of preparation. Here’s how:

Morning Madness Cure No. 1:

Start the day before, not the night before. The moment your kids get home from school (or as soon as you get home from work), begin organizing for the next morning, suggests certified professional organizer Kristi Meyer. Pull homework and lunch boxes out of their backpacks immediately. While you make dinner, have the kids pick out their snacks for the next day’s lunch. Make the rest of their lunch then and clean up just once.

Morning Madness Cure No. 2:

Set the stage. After the dinner dishes are cleared, ask your kids to set the table for breakfast. Before bed, have (or help) them lay out their clothes for the next day. Put their coats, boots and backpacks (with completed homework) in their designated spot (yes, you should have one) so they won’t have to hunt them down in the morning.

Morning Madness Cure No. 3:

Tuck them in on time. Set an early bedtime so they get enough sleep to wake up focused and energized.

Morning Madness Cure No. 4:

Beat the crowds. Get up at least 15 minutes before your kids do so you have a few minutes alone — with your coffee — to prepare for the day. You’ll be better able to cope when the mad dash begins.

Morning Madness Cure No. 5:

Give them enough time. Set the alarm for your kids at a time that allows them to complete their morning routine comfortably. Build in some cushion for them to chill out or cuddle with you too. A lot of morning dawdling or crankiness is really a cry for connection, says Murphy.

Morning Madness Cure No. 6:

Limit the breakfast options. Create a weekly menu or a small list of choices, such as yogurt and granola, healthy cereal with fruit, or hard-boiled eggs and toast. You can even prepare smoothie ingredients ahead and store them in the refrigerator overnight. Keep it simple. Few decisions make for peaceful mornings.

Adding controls can greatly reduce morning madness and nagging. Be patient, though: New routines require explanation and practice. Think ahead and get your children involved. Then prepare to have a great day!

Family Fitness: Stretches Everyone Will Love

Happy healthy family making gym exercisesDuring the winter, it can be difficult to get yourself, not to mention your family, to do any exercise. Now toss a PANDEMIC with social distancing and quarantines into the mix!!! My suggestion: Get everyone going with a gentle stretch session. Stretching will not only help relieve stress, but also energize your entire body. It’s also a great way to get kids moving in a focused manner.

Below are a few great stretches for you and your family to enjoy. All you need is comfortable clothing, a carpeted floor (or a yoga/exercise mat on hardwood), lighting that’s easy on the eyes and down- to mid-tempo music. On a last note, if you are going to help one another stretch, heed the advice of Dr. Timothy McCall in Yoga As Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing: Adjustments should be gentle, like the “laying on of hands” from biblical folklore. Never push too hard or tug too firmly. Remember: You are attempting to reduce, not aggravate, stress!

Cat/Cow Sequence: Moving Your Spine

Nothing feels as good as getting your spine moving, which is why many yoga classes begin with a simple cat/cow sequence. It loosens the muscles around your spine and gets blood flowing into your shoulders and intestines, which helps digestion.

  • Begin on your hands and knees with your hands placed directly underneath your shoulders, and your knees placed directly below your hips.
  • With your inhale, allow your midsection to relax while you draw your shoulders together on your back and gently gaze up. Try not to arch your neck too much; instead let your shoulder blades guide your gaze upward slightly. Let your tailbone lift and feel your sit bones widen.
  • Begin to draw your belly button in and up as you exhale, tucking your chin into your chest and rounding your upper back, like you are pushing the floor away. Try not to cramp up around your neck; there should be a stretch, but you don’t want your collarbones to feel as if they are being pinched together. As your navel pulls up and in, your tailbone will lengthen, giving you a nice release in your lower back. Repeat for 10-15 breaths.

Cobra: Energize While Calming

After you finish your cat/cow stretches, lie flat on your stomach for Bhujangasana, or Cobra. If you’ve ever read Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, you might recall that “the Swede’s” father had no affiliation with yoga but did Cobra every day to alleviate stress. It’s also a wonderful pose to do if you’re feeing sluggish and tired, as it offers you a burst of energy.

  • Place your hands next to your chest, with your thumbs just behind the level of your armpits. Allow your forehead or chin to rest on the ground.
  • Keeping your hands on the ground, begin to draw your shoulder blades onto your back, like you were trying to squeeze your elbows together. Press the top of your feet firmly into the ground; this is important, as you don’t want to clench your butt and tighten your lower back.
  • As you draw your elbows in, begin to gently straighten your arms. (They most likely won’t straighten fully; don’t force it.) Let the action of your shoulders begin to lift your chest and, lastly, your head. It’s important to keep your pelvis (around where you’d wear a belt) on the ground. Cobra pose is an energizing movement that really works your shoulders and upper back. When lifting your pelvis, you are relying on arm strength (and probably crunching your low back). After a few breaths, easily lower your head back to the ground. Repeat five to eight times.

Child’s Pose: Finding Strength in Relaxation

Perhaps the most relaxing pose is Child’s Pose. It stretches your lower back and hip flexors, as well as your ankles.

  • After your Cobra sequence, place your hands underneath your shoulders and gently press your seat to your heels, allowing your upper body to rest on your thighs. Don’t worry if it does not reach, especially if your hips are tight; again, don’t force any of these movements. If this position bothers your knees, roll a towel or blanket up and place it behind the backs of your knees, as this will take pressure off the joints.
  • Either rest your arms straight out in front of you or next to your hips, with your head on the ground (or a block or pillow, if this position bothers your upper back or neck).
  • Take 10 deep breaths into your lower back. With every exhale, see if you can allow your hips to rest downward a little more.

Twisting out the Rest

Twisting will not only calm your nervous system, but also stimulate digestion, which can also be very helpful around this time of year!

  • Slowly lift yourself out of Child’s Pose to sit on your heels. If this bothers your knees, you can sit cross-legged. If sitting on the ground doesn’t feel good, you can sit in a chair.
  • Place your left hand outside of your right thigh and easily twist your upper body to the right. Try not to twist your hips; allow the twist to begin in your abdominal region, using your shoulders drawing together once again to accentuate the movement.
  • Feel like you’re growing taller with each inhale, and as you exhale, draw your navel into your lower back and shoulders together a little more to enhance the twist. You can rest your right hand on the ground behind you, though you don’t want to feel like you’re leaning back at all.
  • Take 8-10 long breaths here. Slowly return to center, take a breath and try the other side.

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