Family Ties

My sister and I spent our childhood pretty much attached at the hip. We have subsequently spent most of our adult lives thousands of miles apart. She has a job that has moved her around quite a bit, I have my own business here in Phoenix and am, therefore, not moving any time soon.

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My sister

little boys

The early years: my sons

For a while, our lives were quite different. She was rising up through the ranks  in her career,  and I was beginning to have babies and trying to start a business while keeping my head above water. She was flying to a premiere in L.A., wearing a fabulous dress and getting her hair and make-up done, and I was trying to get breastmilk out of my work shirt, and trying to picture a life without a “Boppy” and immunization records.

 

 

cute mom and toddler

My sis & niece

More recently, with the birth of her first baby about 22 months ago, my sister  is in the forays of early motherhood and chasing a toddler, and I am navigating a household where no more naps are taken, but two school-aged boys may or may not jump off the dog kennel onto the couch in superhero fashion. The divergence of our lives the past 20 years is narrowing again and our circle is beginning to get smaller.

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A recent family picture

There was a time when my boys were really young and I was a nap Nazi and a hyper-scheduler and every time my sister  looked at me I felt like she thought I had three heads, and maybe I did. I had my second son on a Thursday and saw my first patient in my new practice on a Tuesday. Not exactly the best timing, but at the time, it is what I felt I had to do. I don’t imagine I was much fun in those days, and she probably wondered whether I ever would be again. I wondered if there was ever going to be a time where she would understand the pressures and demands and stress I was experiencing. I wanted her to love my babies as much as I did, but seeing them once or twice a year was not really enough to forge the tight bond for which I had hoped. When your kids are under the age of three, they are only friendly with people they see often, people with whom they have established memories.

Fast forward almost nine years from the time I had my first, and she was finally having her first. Although I hated the desperation in her voice as she was describing the frustrations of no sleep and early mommyhood, I loved being the one she called for advice or for simply an ear. I wished I could have given her a shoulder. It was very hard to be so far away and not have the ability to hold my sweet little niece and give my sister a break without her having to worry about her baby being cared for. Because to me, that is what family does. They are the people with whom you can trust in caring for your most valued possessions without worrying about them. We had two or three days here and there–not nearly enough time for me to be a trusted face for my niece or for my boys to really spend some quality time with their aunt.

Then this past summer came. My sister was in the throws of looking for a different job….she had some time to spare–we planned a family vacation, and then my boys got to spend an extra week with my parents and my sister, her husband, and their new niece. They came home with the kinds of stories that can only come with time real time spent in the company of the ones you love. They loved their niece, they constantly played with their uncle, and they were doted on by their aunt. The story was coming together….closer to what I had always wanted for us.Toddler and her cousins

Now there is a real possibility of her finding work here where I live. I can barely think about it because I dare not, lest I jinx it. They have been staying with us and other family off and on the past few weeks–and any time they aren’t at our house, my boys are wondering when they are coming back. You see, there is no other reason that 9 and 7 year old boys would be so infatuated with a 22 month old cutie pie, except for that family bond and time that establishes and cements these core relationships. My sister is over the hump and confident in her motherhood and I am basking in these boy years where they still let me kiss them. We are both relaxed for the most part, sharing the best bond of sisterhood and motherhood. She watches  me looking adoringly at her daughter and I look at her cracking up at my silly boys’ antics. It just doesn’t get much better. And my niece? No stranger danger with me anymore. This morning I got a kiss and a smile–none of that “Who is this lady that loves me?” look. My sister and I are geographically and emotionally closer all at once. Our lives are converging–no longer parallel three time zones apart…..attached at the hip, and hopefully within the same time zone, state, county, and maybe even zip code.

Sisters

Is it Okay to Discipline Someone Else’s Child?

As parents, we often encounter kids behaving badly–many times our own!  Do you think it’s okay to discipline someone else’s kids?  How would you feel if someone disciplined your kids?  Here’s my latest video from Momversation.com.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Perfect for Summer: Light Taco Salad

You know it’s summertime when you get back from the pool with the kids around 5 o’clock and the thought of making dinner is… exhausting.  Don’t call pizza delivery or pick up Chinese take out! This light taco salad recipe makes a delicious and nutritious quick weeknight dinner (or lunch!).  This is the time of the year we rely on friends and family for extra help in the kitchen, right?  I saw this recipe over at The Nourishing Home, tweaked it, and made it my own.

You’ll be done making this dish in 15min or less and will have an easy family meal everyone will love.  I mean, who doesn’t like making their own salad? Or, lay out flour tortillas and make individual wraps.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey (or substitute with grass-fed ground beef)
  • 1 TB  Mexican/Taco seasoning 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (only if seasoning above is salt free)
  • 1 cup salsa or pico de gallo
  • 2 tbsp cultured sour cream
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, cut into pieces/shredded almost (about 8 cups)
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans (15oz can drained)
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • whole wheat tortilla chips

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of olive, oil, the ground turkey, Mexican/taco seasoning and salt. Cook, breaking the meat up, until no longer pink, about 5 to 6 minutes. Pour off any excess liquid. Stir in 1/2 cup of the salsa, 1 cup of corn and cook until heated through, about one minute.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and remaining 1/2 cup of salsa to create the taco salad dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place the lettuce, turkey mixture, beans, avocado, cheese and olives into separate bowls. Serve buffet-style so your family can make their own salad. Top with the taco salad dressing.
  4. Serve with whole wheat tortilla chips.  These also make great wraps!

(Photo credit: Real Simple. Recipe adapted from www.realsimple.com)

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Do You Have a Reality TV Addiction?

Hi, my name is Kristin, and I am a Reality TV junkie.  Reality TV is my crack.  I’m addicted.  I admit it.  I’m sure it sounds pathetic, but after a day of tending to the kids, the house, the bills, volunteering at schools, and everything else that Moms do, it’s nice to get that break from my reality.  I am not ashamed at all (well, some shows I watch I should be ashamed of, so says my husband).  I was going to do my normal Top 5 List that you all know I am such a fan of (see Top Books, Top Websites, Top Movies, Top Exercises, etc.), but in this case it seems impossible.  I like too many!!!  Here is my most recent crack list (and I am admitting all – true confessions):

  1. Survivor
  2. The Amazing Race
  3. Big Brother
  4. Teen Mom
  5. 16 & Pregnant
  6. Jersey Shore
  7. The Real World
  8. The Challenge
  9. The Bachelor
  10. The Bachelorette
  11. Bachelor Pad
  12. Celebrity Rehab
  13. House Hunters
  14. Property Virgins
  15. Hoarders
  16. Intervention
  17. Top Chef
  18. The Hills
  19. The City
  20. The Apprentice
  21. The Biggest Loser
  22. Secret Millionaire
  23. Undercover Boss

I will also have to say, I do not watch the Real Housewives series, the Fashion/Runway series, Top Models, American Idol, Dancing with The Stars, America’s Got Talent, etc.  I’m sure I would have enjoyed all of these as well, but there are only so many I can keep watching and fit them into my schedule (I do have a family and two book clubs to keep up with!).  Here is a list of others I have watched in the past (I had to really think about these, and some I’m not too proud of):

  1. Rock of Love (all of them)
  2. The Joe Schmo Show (both)
  3. I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here!
  4. Flavor of Love
  5. Confessions of a Teen Idol
  6. Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica
  7. The Osbournes
  8. The Mole
  9. Temptation Island
  10. Paradise Hotel
  11. Wife Swap
  12. The Anna Nicole Show
  13. The Surreal Life
  14. Farmer Wants a Wife
  15. The Swan
  16. Celebrity Fit Club
  17. Supernanny
  18. Pimp My Ride
  19. Parental Control
  20. Next
  21. Elimindate
  22. Sober House
  23. Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?

Well, these are just a few throughout the past few years.  I’m sure there are many more since Reality TV as we know it today basically began in 1992 with MTV’s The Real World (yes, I’ve probably seen every season since).  I’m not sure what it is that makes me enjoy these programs more than dramas or comedies on television, but once I get hooked on one then I’m hooked!  It might be the real tears (in some cases) and real drama (again, in some cases) that happens unscripted.  Unfortunately, the “reality” of the shows has become more fake over the past few years, but I do keep watching anyway.

(The original Teen Moms)

Big Brother Season 13 just started this week!  I’m a huge fan of this show, and I’ve even printed out the application to tryout a few times (I always chicken out).  Already from the first show of the season I am hooked.  It probably helped that they brought back six former players, so I already knew them and what craziness they will bring.  My husband would like to be on The Amazing Race (I would too), or Survivor (for the record, I would probably NEVER survive)!

Shows that I am currently watching:  The Bachelorette, Big Brother 13, Teen Mom, Celebrity Rehab, and The Challenge: Rivals (not too many shows on this summer, but I think Bachelor Pad is starting soon!).

Disclaimer: As labeling myself a “junkie,” I guess my addiction is not a true addiction, as I can read books, go out with friends, and hang with the kids and the hubby, all while missing an episode or two.  I will probably check the Internet though to see what I missed, but the “addiction” does not interfere with my normal daily and family life.

* Do you watch Reality TV?  What is your favorite show?

 

Kristin Wheeler

Klout: What Is It and How Do You Give +K to Others?

Klout +KI found myself asking this very same question, not long ago, to my good friend Joanna who writes as a contributor to aMomKnowsBest, but also has her own very popular blog Baby Gators Den.  I already knew what Klout what, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to give others +K.  Joanna is pretty hip on such matters, so I knew she would be able to lead me in the right direction.  I’ve since had probably a dozen people ask me how to give +K to others, and what exactly it means…so I thought it was time for a little tutorial.

According to its website, your Klout score is the measurement of your overall online influence. The scores range from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.  I actually have two Klout scores, one associated with each twitter handle: AlliAlexander, which I use for primarily news/media/TV related tweets and aMomKnowsBest, which is everything mom (though there is plenty crossover!).  My Klout on aMomKnowsBest  is 61 and I’m seen as influential on parenting, moms & blogging.  My Klout on AlliAlexander is 48 and I’m influential on Rhode Island, media & moms.

Now to +K.  If someone on Klout, or twitter, has recently influenced you on a topic…the neighborly thing to do is to give them +K.  How do you do it?  Easy peasy.  Log in to Klout.  Type that person’s twitter handle in the search bar, see the topics they are influential in and click on the +K button of the topic you want to give them +K about.

What do you think of Klout’s new +K tool?  Have you tried it yet?

A FREE Women’s Get Away for Amomknowsbest.com Readers!

Southern New England Women's ExpoHere’s a great chance to grab your girlfriends and get away for the day for FREE! The co-organizer of the Southern New England’s Women’s Expo, Pat Paolino Cruz,  is offering our readers FREE admission!  Just print out this article. To easily print this article just go the bottom of this page (but above the comment section) where there are several buttons (ie. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc). The 2nd button in from the right is the “Print with PrintFriendly” button.

The SNE Women’s Expo is 4/17 from 11am-5pm @ Twin River Event Center, 100 Twin River Rd, Lincoln, RI. Parking is free.  Regular cost (without printing this article) is $18 at the door. If you pre-register you can get $8.00 off or 2-for-1.  Children under 10 are free but no strollers permitted.

I’ve been to the event before and it’s a lot of fun. You can see some pictures from previous years on their website. There are a variety of presentations and vendors to check out.

Jessica-GranatieroOne of our own writers on amomknowsbest.com will be speaking at this year’s event. Jessica Norris Granatierois is the owner of The Savory Grape, a boutique wine store.  Her presentation is titled “Wonderful Wine Tasting Tips for Women”. A true wine aficionado, she will be just returning home from visiting a vineyard in France!

 

Tara Sage SteevesI noticed another speaker who I knew on the presenter list. Tara Sage Steeves of Create Your Life will be presenting on the topic “The #1 Misconception About Dream Realization and How to Prevent It From Sabotaging Your Dreams”.  Tara is an author, a speaker and a life coach who focuses on helping people achieve their dreams.

 

Fellow mommy  blogger, Jennifer Frosch Leal of Savor the Thyme, will be presenting on the topic “Time Saving Tips and Techniques for Getting Meals on the Table”

 

 

In addition to variety of other speakers, there will also be fashion shows and cooking demonstrations. If you visit the exhibitors at the show you can have a chance to win Gift Certificates or Prizes Valued at $500 .

On the SNE Women’s Expo’s website this event is described as,

“…dedicated to the celebration of women. One special day where women can be pampered, shop, sample great food, watch fashion shows, attend seminars, relax, de-stress, laugh, be entertained and learn about things relating to their lives and well being”.

 

For more info just check out the SNE Women’s Expo website, follow them on Facebook and Twitter or check out their T.V. ad.
Of course don’t forget to print this article out for your FREE admission.
A special thank you to Pat Paolino Cruz, Co-Producer SNE Women’s Expo, for this generous offer to amomknowsbest.com readers!

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3 Happy Mommy Tips

frazzled cat

Ever have one of those days where from the time you woke up to the time you went to sleep  on your ultra-soft pillow and 500 count sheets everything went perfectly? A day when what you wanted to wear was perfectly clean and loose (gasp!), the kids woke up happy and using their best manners? A day when you zoomed to work with no traffic on the road, and the radio had you singing; the work day flew by and before you know it you were being whisked away for a secret date night totally planned by your husband? Seriously? Yeah, me neither. I am sure it is coming though. In the meantime, most of my days involve arguments about Vans vs. Tennis shoes, collared shirts vs. t-shirts, a slow commute, boring radio, too cold office A/C, and me feeling like a member of the World Wrestling Federation as I am pulled to and fro all day long.   Oh, and then I get home and figure out we are out of milk. This may or may not result in a glass of Chardonnay being tipped down my throat at 5:01. On. The. Dot. Until I get the aforementioned perfect day, here are a few things that help me along the way from the kitchen to the gym.

1). Start Early. I am one of those annoying people who really likes to be on time. And although I am relatively happy in the morning, I can’t say I am pumped to see my alarm set at 4:45 am on any day. That being said, when I get up at zero dark thirty, I have no excuse not to get in the exercise. It leaves me time to get home, make lunches, feed my three peeps, brush teeth, do hair and take the kids to school as I head to work. The more you put things off till later, the less likely they will get done. Why? Because life happens. But there just isn’t a whole lot to interfere with your day at 5 am!

2). Stick to a Schedule/Routine. Now, I would really like to be spontaneous and leave for the Maldives tomorrow, but let’s be realistic. It’s not going to happen. I can save the spontaneity for things later in life, like say choosing between Bran and Fiber. The most efficient people I know thrive on routines and schedules. From doing the wash to going to the store to exercise to kids bedtimes, everyone gets more accomplished when they know what to expect. Try to do things like laundry, cleaning and shopping the same day every week. Write it down and cross it off, if need be; make a plan and follow through.

3). Do Something Now that Saves Time Later. One of the things that works best for me in the kitchen is if I prep a lot of things right when I get home from the store. For example, I wash the berries and bag it up, same with the lettuce and other veggies so that they are ready to go when I need them. Put an extra trash bag in the bottom of the can so that it is easier the next time you change it. Make longer phone calls as you sit in traffic (on a Bluetooth of course!), pay bills or read a book while you wait at the doctor’s office or in the pick-up line at school. Lay the kids’ clothes out the night prior, and yours too! Plan your meals out on Sunday. The more you can multi-task, the less you have to do later in the day or week when you are more tired!

Let’s face it. Life doesn’t always mirror The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills!! In reality, busy moms like us don’t usually have drivers, assistants, 3 nannies, personal chefs and trainers, oh and hair extensions! It really is a lot of little things that can make the difference between needing that glass of wine at 5 pm, or simply sitting down to savor it, because you have time.

Do you have any tips you want to share?  As a busy mom, what helps you get through a chaotic day?

 

Can’t we keep our babies from growing up?

If you are a mom, the following most likely sounds very familiar on some level. It seems like just yesterday I was laying in a hospital delivery room after a luxurious 29-hours of labor to hear the doctor say “It’s a boy!!!”  From that moment on, it has been a constant struggle to try and make time stand still to keep my little baby just that — a little baby!

 You constantly tell your children all the time, do not rush growing up. Stay a kid for as long as you can.  Are we really giving them this advice for the sake of our children, or is it more for us?   How ironic it is that children spend their entire childhood wanting to be older than they are, while we as parents spend our childrens lives wishing they would stay forever young.

 

How does this happen? Where does the time go? Please stop the ride, I wanna get off!  Truth is, my friends: you cannot stop the ride. You can only hope to slow it down a little to enjoy it for as long as possible.   You look once, and your children are small and look to you for everything. Then, within the blink of an eye, you are waving to them as you drop them off for their first year of college.  I am actually holding back tears now just thinking about it.

 As each day goes by, I see my son growing up so fast before my eyes.  He is growing taller and acting older, and it is sometimes bittersweet, as I have to let him go a little in certain ways.   I have to let go of his little baby face and embrace his big boy face.   I have to let go of the goo goos and gaa gaas, and try to embrace a boy with ideas and thoughts of his own.  I have to let go of my little boy wanting a hug and kiss from his mommy before school, and try to embrace a growing boy who would rather have a high-five from his mom so people will not make fun of him.   Sigh.   These are the things that come with our ever-growing and changing children.

My son has just turned eleven years old, and he’s asking me about the birds and the bees (GULP), asking me to buy him the new brand of deodorant with the chocolate scent in it because the girls like it and then– get ready for this one folks– my son is about to take his first trip on a plane ALONE!!!   Am I ready to throw up??  Ummm, YES!

 I wish there was a way to give some magical advice to all of your parents out there, or some remedy to stop it from happening, but unfortunately, I can’t — because truthfully, it doesn’t exist.  All I can say is your children WILL grow up. They WILL change, and although they will not need you in some of the ways you wish they still would, the fact of the matter is your children WILL always need you in some way.  There is a song that I have heard, and each time I hear it, I think of my little boy who is now growing into a wonderful little man who I love more than myself.  I will leave all of you with a piece of it. Please enjoy every minute you have with your children while they are still young.

 Sunrise, Sunset

 Is this the little girl I carried?

Is this the little boy at play?

I don’t remember growing older.

When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?

When did he grow to be so tall?

Wasn’t it yesterday?

When they were small

Sunrise, Sunset.

Sunrise, Sunset.

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Five Ways to Make a Problem an Opportunity

I recently went to a women’s event with an inspiring speaker.  There were some great lessons I learned that I wanted to share with you…Inspiration point

The event was sponsored and hosted by Soul at Work.  According to their website, Soul at Work helps cultivate, connect and inspire “strong women to lead in their own terms and create more Soul at Work.” Organizer, Michelle Gonzalez, hosts events with inspiring speakers who simply share their story.  Michelle then helps the audience pick out themes that are interesting, challenging or inspiring. Each theme is created into the form of a question and then placed at each table to promote discussions by attendees.   The speaker that night was Navyn Salem of Edesia, Global Nutrition Solutions .  The mission of this non-profit  mission is to decrease malnutrition and it’s long term effects in children.  Her quest started in Tanzania but continues to expand.plumpynut

How Navyn accomplished her goal is a very interesting and inspiring story.  She is married with 4 kids (which in itself can be admirable). She also had a dream that she was able to make a reality. She was able to create a program in Tanzania, Africa that helps malnourished children.  You can imagine the immense task of raising funds and starting a program in another country. But she did it and she also was asked to create a factory in RI to create the product that helps malnourished children called Plumpy’nut®. 

While there are many lessons to be learned from her journey, one thing I readily noticed was Navyn’s attitude. She actually gets excited when there is a problem. She loves the challenge.  This is a very different perspective than some of us may have when our very big efforts lead to very big setbacks.   So my question is, “How do you make a problem an opportunity and not just a set back?”  Here’s what I learned from her story but I’d also love to hear your answer to this question.

What do I love in this?  Navyn looked for what she loved and followed her passion.  Sometimes solving the biggest problems starts with focusing on one small part that is deeply connected to your passion. In Navyn’s case, when she first visited Tanzania she could have become overwhelmed by all the help that was needed. Instead, she clarified what her passion was ( kids) and started to find a way to help from there. 

Hooray I don’t know this! That means I can learn something!  As I previously indicated, Navyn gets excited when there’s a road block. She loves a challenge and knows she will learn from it. I try to teach my kids that too.  There’s always going to be in life some homework or some problem in general that they get frustrated with.  We try to re-frame a problem in our house and in a joking manner say “That’s exciting, that means you get to learn something new!”.  Ok, it doesn’t always work with my kids. But I also get them laughing by referring to a silly movie called “Meet the Robinsons” which has the same message.  There’s a focus in that movie on an excitement of learning and not giving up when you fail, just “keep moving forward.”

Confidence in a skill VSSuccess Image confidence in your ability to learn. Navyn did not initially have the skills she needed to accomplish all she needed to accomplish.  She could have stopped there and said, “I don’t know enough to do this”. But she didn’t say that. She realized that while she didn’t have confidence in her skills yet, she DID have confidence in her ability to learn.  How often do we not try something because we don’t think we know enough? 

Let go of your ego. Sometimes you don’t have the time to learn everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Navyn started the project herself but now has a team of people who each have a different background. She pools their knowledge and expertise together to trouble shoot problems and accomplish their goals.  

Sometimes a setback is an opportunity in disguise. While we’re talking about egos, Navyn shared an interesting story where she didn’t let her ego get the best of her. As a result, things worked out better than she imagined.  Navyn had the exciting experience of having her non-profit written up by a well known newspaper.  However,  she went from big excitement to a big disappointment.  In response to her article, someone prominent in her field wrote a derogatory article challenging her and her non-profit.  This was someone whose books she had read and been inspired by.   Imagine having one of your role models publicly put you and your project down.  Some people might have written an angry response from their hurt or let themselves feel beaten down. However, Navyn let it sit and gave herself some time to process before responding.  Realizing  that the author misunderstood some things,  Navyn  wrote a respectful letter back to him.  She  truthfully indicated how she had been inspired by him to start her non-profit.  She also clarified her message (that the reporter had altered) and shared some quotes from his own books to support her points.  The author quickly apologized!  He also wanted to meet her and offered his help with her project.  What looked initially like a roadblock turned into a new pathway.

Ultimately, Navyn’s story was a great reminder to me to not limit my goals and dreams to who I think I am or what I think I can do.  I just need to focus on where I want to go and learn how to get there.  I’m sure along the way I’ll need to remind myself that problems are just ways to challenge us to learn and grow.  Sometimes those problems are even opportunities in disguise. At the very least, they are opportunities to learn.

What do you think? How do you make a problem an opportunity and not just a set back? Have you had times where a problem turned into an opportunity?  Or, do you find it difficult to see problems as anything but barriers?

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