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Use These Tactics To Make Halloween Less Scary for Small Kids

decorated pumpkins

After a young child watches a scary movie or is frightened by a Halloween costume, parents should reach for a can of anti-monster spray before bedtime, says Theresa Kruczek, a counseling psychology professor at Ball State University.

“Preschool children and those in early elementary school often have a difficult time with Halloween,” she says. “Children this age often struggle with separating fantasy from reality and a result they may get confused and think the scary elements of Halloween are real.”.


 “After a frightening experience, children may have nightmares. They really can’t tell us too much about the dream, but we can take some precautions to ward off those dreams by using a can of air freshener, otherwise known as anti-monster spray, to keep monsters at bay. Monsters don’t like nice-smelling stuff.”

Kruczek also advises:

  1. Limit preschoolers to 30 minutes or less of activities, including trick-or-treating, and only during daylight hours.

  2. Ask friends and strangers to take off masks to show children that there really is a person under the costume.

  3. Parents and siblings should never wear masks around youngsters afraid of such items.

  4. In families with children of varying age ranges, allow each youngster to participate in age-appropriate activities.

  5. Avoid haunted houses unless the facility offers age-appropriate activities.

“Just because you love haunted houses doesn’t mean your 4-year-old will,” Kruczek says. “Parents are in the best position to know what frightens their child and to help them cope with Halloween.  If kids freak out during a scary movie, they’ll freak out at a haunted house or when someone in a scary outfit comes by.”



Delivery Day Countdown: 20 Things to Do Before Baby Arrives

Are you in your last month of pregnancy and flustered about what you need to do and worry if you have the time? No fret, cousin JJ is here to give you a checklist of crap you need to haul ass and get done.

A list should ease the stress:

What to Pack in the Baby Bag:

1. A warm and comfortable blanket but one you don’t mind getting ruined with all the juices, balms and secretions that accompany labor. It won’t be the same after. errrr.

2.  Mint or lollipops – You may be restricted from eating. The sugar in the lollipop can help curb hunger pangs and keep you from stink breath. Stink breath is no bueno.

3. Lip balm – You may get dehydrated. Keep your lips moisturized. I like ESOS!

4. Moisturizer – Get a very thick tube of moisturizer. I recommend Aquaphor because you don’t need a lot to do the trick.

5. Smart phone camera or digital camera – No explanation necessary

6. A couple pair of granny undies – But no more because you will get the mesh disposable undies plenty at the hospital. You can even take home extras the nurses bring in your room. They’re the best!

7. Baby going home outfit – This is the outfit you dress baby in when the hospital photography company comes by.

8. Gifts for the nurses – Some go above and beyond to make your short stay pleasant. Purchase a box of candy, or a mini spa kit or a journal or cards. I love Steep Seep’s Grapefruit Bergamot gift set which costs under $20!

9. Music – have a playlist of soothing music on a CD or on your phone’s portable speaker that you can plug in and help you calm down and get through a long labor.

10. Breast pad – You may leak so breast-pads and some Lansinoh Nipple Cream may come in handy for cracked or sore nipples from nursing.


11. Get the carpets cleaned and get rid of any cat or dog hair and other allergens.

12. Create a music playlist for labor and delivery.

13. Buy all the creams, lotions, medicines, and miscellaneous  items you need for yourself and baby.

14. Buy clear plastic containers to organize baby clothing, accessories, toys and a label maker

15. Organize baby’s clothes and label the bins: newborn, 0 to 3 months, 3 to 6months, 6 to 12 months.

16. Create a “call list” on your smart phone so your hubby, spouse or partner knows who to contact after you give birth.


You have to make sure you are presentable for labor and delivery, photos after baby arrives and just for feeling good about yourself and the end of the 40 week journey. Don’t know who said letting yourself go was okay during pregnancy, but they lied. If you feel fresh, clean, primmed and prepped, you will feel energetic and ready for pushing out that baby.

17. Get your nether regions waxed. You really don’t want doctors and nurses seeing your business looking like the Brazilian rain forest. Opt for a Brazilian wax instead. If it’s out of the budget, consider going with Nair Bikini removal gel which will not require you to use a razor and nick yourself, but be careful.

18. Wax your eyebrows. You’ll feel better and look great in the post birth pics. But if you’re going for the Anastasia the Russian Gladiator look, then no.

19. Get a Mani and Pedi – A mani because your hands will be in pics and you don’t want to cut baby with your hang nail. Not good.  A pedi because your toes may be in the air and/or in stirrups during the pushing stage and you don’t want to be embarrassed by crusty and ashy hammer toes in people’s faces.

20. Get a hair appointment and get your hair in braids and/or cornrows. You need a low maintenance style bc you will not have time to do your hair after baby arrives and braided styles look great in pics.

Don’t Buy Your Baby Crib Without Reading This First!

If you are expecting a baby and working on the nursery, by now, you know that there is a lot that goes into the process. There are a lot of safety considerations as well. It can be a matter of life and death if you don’t take seriously all the security precautions around purchasing the right product or installing equipment properly.

I do not want to scare you but things like SIDS, accidental suffocation and falls are horrific and I want my readers to take it very seriously. Your best bet is to do a simple Google search for consumer protection or product safety organizations that offer advice commercial free.

Here are some start up tips from the Consumer’s Union, an organization that I once consulted for and did legal work for years ago when I was a young attorney. They publish the Consumer’s Reports guides like this one on crib mattresses.

Please adhere to these tips:

Getting Started

Choosing a crib mattress might seem like a boring task but it’s one that warrants careful consideration. The mattress is as important as the crib. [editor’s note: Buy the very best one you can. Do not go cheap on the mattress.]

Why does it matter? For one thing, your baby will spend a lot of time in his crib. It might seem hard to believe, especially when you’re getting up to feed a fussy baby in the middle of the night, but infants sleep up to 18 hours a day.

You’ll want to make sure the mattress fits properly in the crib you’ve selected without gaps that could pose a danger to your baby. And the mattress should be firm. A soft one can conform to the shape of your baby’s head or face, increasing the risk of suffocation or even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

There are two general types of crib mattresses: foam and innerspring.

Both types—if they’re good quality—will keep their shape well and provide excellent support for infants and toddlers. There are differences, though.

Foam—usually made from polyurethane—tends to be lighter (about 5 to 13 pounds) compared with an innerspring mattress (about 15 to 30 pounds). So although you’ll probably be lifting just a corner at a time when changing your baby’s sheets, it might be a bit easier with a foam mattress. Foam is also less springy and therefore less likely to be used as a trampoline when your child is older.

Still, innerspring crib mattresses are more popular in the U.S., possibly because most adults sleep on innersprings, too. [editor’s note, they’re more comfy and less stiff in my opinion]

Naturepedic Organic Baby Mattresses

Look for Quality

Whichever type of mattress you chose, look for quality. The cheapest foam and innerspring mattresses have thin vinyl coverings and edgings that can tear, crack, and dry out over time. [editor’s note: this is why you avoid going with the cheap stuff]

As prices increase, coverings tend to be thicker, puncture-resistant, reinforced double or triple laminates, or very fine organic cotton. An innerspring mattress that has more or better-gauge steel and better-quality cushioning will weigh more. The same goes for a foam mattress that’s made of denser, better-quality foam.

Still, you don’t have to spend a fortune or try as many mattresses as the Princess and the Pea to get a good-quality one. A mattress that costs between $90 and $200 will generally serve your baby well. Prices for foam and innerspring mattresses are comparable, ranging from $50 to $400 and up. (The more expensive ones are made with organic cotton or natural latex.)

Low-priced models (less than $90) might be too soft and flimsy. Higher-priced models tend to be firmer and therefore safer.[Editor’s note: Please don’t scrimp on the mattress guys]

You Can’t Tell a Mattress by Its Cover

With a mattress, almost everything that matters is on the inside. Some crib mattresses feel great in the store but begin to falter once your baby starts to use it. We’ve learned that you can’t depend on sales staff, even at reputable retail outlets, to give you accurate information. One told us, quite convincingly, that innerspring mattresses were better than foam because foam tends to “break down” after 18 months.

Twenty-five years ago that may have been true, but not anymore. “A top-quality foam crib mattress will hold up just as long as an innerspring crib mattress with normal use,” says Dennis Schuetz, director of marketing for the Colgate Juvenile Products Company, a manufacturer in Atlanta. That’s because foam crib mattresses have become much more durable.

Hit the Stores

Once you get a sense of options in different price ranges, you should go to a store to see what a quality crib mattress looks and feels like. One place to start? The label. Manufacturers are required by law to reveal what a mattress is made of. Don’t buy one from a manufacturer or retailer that doesn’t tell you this with in-store information, displays, or online specifications. In fact, you should be able to find out the components of each layer. And when you push down on a mattress, your hand should spring right up. Schuetz says the biggest mistake parents make is picking a mattress that’s comfortable for them. It’s better to pick a crib mattress that’s harder than you would like it to be. “If it feels good to you, it’s too soft for your baby,” he says, adding that babies need more support than adults.


Buy New

Buy a new crib mattress, if possible. For one thing, it ensures that the mattress is sanitary. If you buy a used mattress or accept a hand-me-down, you won’t know for sure how it was cared for or stored. Mold can grow in improperly stored crib mattresses, and bacteria can fester on the surface from liquids (diaper leakage, spit-up) that weren’t properly cleaned up. If you buy a new one for your first child and keep it clean, you can use it for your next child if you store it in a dry environment and it stays firm.

Use a Cover

Use a tightly fitting, washable waterproof mattress cover to protect the mattress and keep the baby’s sleeping environment as clean and sanitary as possible. [editor’s note: also a firm grip is important to avoid creating a strangulation hazard]

Test the Fit

By law, all full-sized crib mattresses must be at least 27 1/4 inches by 51 5/8 inches, and no more than 6 inches thick. If you can, shop in a store that displays crib mattresses on the selling floor, and check the fit by putting it inside a sample crib before you buy it. If you can squeeze more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib, the mattress is too small.

Don’t Worry About Warranties

Some mattresses offer warranties for one year, seven years, or even a lifetime. Don’t be swayed by a long warranty, and don’t pay extra for a mattress with a warranty. “Warranties are mostly a marketing tool to entice the consumer to spend more,” Schuetz says.

In general, you can expect a quality crib mattress to last as long as you’re going to use it as long as the cover doesn’t rip or tear.

[editor’s note: I prefer Organic and eco-friendly mattresses because I’m eco-friendly and am concerned about our carbon footprint and being a good world citizen so here is a summary of what CR has to say about organic mattresses:]

Going Organic

If you are concerned about the safety of chemicals used in the manufacture of your baby’s bedding, or if buying eco-friendly products is important to you, you’ll find plenty of options for crib mattresses labeled “natural” or “organic.”

Naturepedic Banner Ad: 728x90 static jpg
Eco-friendly foam and innerspring mattresses tend to be made with fewer chemicals, plastics, and PVC (vinyl), and a greater percentage of renewable and sustainable materials, such as cotton, fast-growing bamboo, coir, plant-based foam, and natural latex (rubber from tree sap that’s been injected with air).

Also, “the manufacturing process for some eco-friendly crib mattresses tends to produce fewer carbon emissions,” says Dennis Schuetz of Colgate.

In general, prices for eco-friendly mattresses are higher than regular mattresses.

[editor’s note: My favorite brand comes from our blog partners at Naturpedic]

The Naturepedic No-Compromise Organic Cotton Classic 150 crib mattress shown here has a “U.S.-grown organic cotton filling” and a polyethylene plastic waterproof surface that, the manufacturer says, is free of vinyl/ PVC, phthalates, lead, or antimicrobial biocides. It sells for $260. The outer cover of this mattress might limit the exposure to toxins.

Some eco-friendly foam mattresses are made with soybeans or oils from other plants. Review all of CR’s report HERE!

Good luck parents and happy shopping!

Naturepedic Logo 550x480 .jpg

The 5 Things You Can Do To Beat Cold and Flu Season

As I sit in bed suffering from my first cold of the Cold and Flu season, I thought I’d repost this blog article from a few year’s back on what you, as parents, can do to help your child avoid getting sick.

It’s inevitable that from time to time you and your child will be exposed to people who have a cold or who are spreading airborne germs.  While the odds are that your child will catch the occasional cold, there are certainly a few ways to reduce the number of colds that she gets.

  1. Try to keep ahead of the germs.  Disinfecting wipes or a water and bleach solution can be used for this task.  Make sure that you are regularly cleaning door knobs, handles, cabinets, toys, and anything else that little hands might come into contact with.  For every gallon of water, 1 ½ teaspoons of bleach should be added to create a solution to disinfect surfaces and toys. For diapering and toileting areas, 1 tablespoon of bleach can be added to 1 gallon of water. Let the bleach solution sit for 2 minutes before wiping it down.  If you are worried about your child coming into contact with chemicals, look for all-natural sanitizing solutions.  You’ll also want to make sure that everyone in the house frequently washes their hands with warm water and soap.
  2. Change toothbrushes often.  Toothbrushes can harbor germs and re-infect your child if the germs are not killed.  Dentists recommend that toothbrushes be replaced every 3 months if you are healthy, more often if you are not.  Toothbrushes should also be replaced after an illness. To kill germs soak the toothbrush in antiseptic mouthwash for 5 minutes or run your toothbrush through the dishwasher.  Warning: Boiling your toothbrush or running it through the dishwasher will wear out the bristles faster.
  3. Feed your child a healthy diet.  If your child eats a proper diet it will strengthen his immune system and he will be better able to fight off cold-causing germs.  Make sure he eats plenty of fruits and vegetables, as these contain the proper vitamins and minerals needed to build up his body’s natural defenses.  Eating foods high in vitamins is better for absorption of those vitamins than taking vitamin tablets.
  4. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water.  Water not only keeps your body hydrated during the very dry winter season, but it helps your body flush out unwanted toxins.  Water also helps your lymph system run better, which is part of your body’s immune system, and it fights off illness.
  5. Make sure your child gets enough sleep.  Sleeping is extremely important, and most people don’t get enough of it.  Doctors recommend that children sleep 10-11 hours per night.  A lack of sleep can affect how well your child grows because the body produces a growth hormone during sleep.  Digestion also takes place during sleep.  Bodies need this down time to recover and rebuild after a busy day of being a kid.  By getting enough sleep the body is better prepared to fight off germs.

Also, study this chart or print it out to figure out if you or your child is suffering from seasonal allergies or a cold. I was not sure at first but this chart helped me figure it out:

12 Simple Baby Food Making Books to Add To Your Library

diy baby book collage

There have been a few baby food recalls in recent weeks that have prompted some new moms to consider making their own baby food from scratch for their little ones.

The idea of blending, pureeing, storing, thawing and making batches of baby food or toddler pouches can seem daunting, and time-consuming, but fortunately, in recent years, technology in the form of baby food blenders and scores of new books have cropped up to demystify and simplify the process.


To start, you may want to go out and get a blender with a puree function on it. I like the Magic Bullet for making smoothies and milkshakes for my little ones because it is easiest to clean. The company that makes it also sells a special version just for baby food making called Magic Bullet Baby Bullet Baby Care System which retails for $59.99 on Amazon but is sold in retail stores like Target, Walmart and the like.


Next, you’ll have to invest in tiny containers to store the foods you make. The Baby Bullet comes with its own containers and lids but you can also order storage containers. Sage Spoonfuls Big Batch Storage Set includes twelve 4 Ounce containers for about $20, enough for vegetable, desserts and other purees. They are freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe and durable portable jars with leak proof and easy to use screw on lids.


Then comes the hard part: whipping up yummy recipes. Here are some books with tips, recipes and other suggestions.


The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book: Make 3 Months of Homemade Purees in 3 Hours ($17.88)

This popular hardback book will give you to tools and tips for making up to three months’ worth of healthy, homemade baby food in just three one-hour blocks of time. It has unique combos like Peachy Strawberry Salad, Coconutty Mango Lassi, Plum-Gingered Brocco-Quinoa, and Purple Papaya Flax Yogurt, blending in a rainbow of nutritious options while expanding your baby’s palate.


Real Baby Food: Easy, All-Natural Recipes for Your Baby and Toddler ($10.79)

The toughest part really is making the time but this book helps new moms create a routine that is easy, fast and flexible. The author starts with the building blocks of solid foods, and shares how to recognize food allergies, and easy ways to cook in bulk. Recipes progress from single-ingredient purées to multi-flavor blends like Salmon, Kale, and Sweet Potato Smash; then move on to finger foods—Turkey Meatloaf Bites, Maple Graham Animals—and finally toddler meals and snacks. Most can be made ahead and frozen, many are easily adapted for grown-up tastes, and all include full nutritional information. Nice!


101 DIY Baby Food Pouches ($10.99) specializes in baby food pouches for older babies and toddlers. This book includes instructions for filling your own pouches for cheaper, healthier, and eco-friendly options for your little one.


Fast & Fresh Baby Food Cookbook: 120 Ridiculously Simple and Naturally Wholesome Baby Food Recipes ($11.87)

This book targets the early stage new mom who “can’t keep up with the laundry” or “can’t fit into anything but yoga pants” and “can’t make your baby sleep through the night.” The book promised to help this mom “make the best food for your baby in 30 minutes or less.”


Little Foodie: Baby Food Recipes for Babies and Toddlers with Taste ($13.59)

This book comes from a certified baby chef and blogger over at Baby FoodE, Michele Olivier.  She offers over 100 food recipes, helpful FAQs and a comprehensive overview.

Baby food recipes include: Apple + Mint + Ricotta Purée / Fennel + Pea + Peach Purée / Pumpkin + Thyme Purée / Sesame Tofu Sticks + Peanut Sauce / Curried Egg Finger Sandwiches + Mango Chutney / Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine + Couscous / Sausage + Kale Over Creamy Polenta / DIY Toddler Sushi Bar, and more.


Super Easy Baby Food Cookbook: Healthy Homemade Recipes for Every Age and Stage  ($11.74)

This book focuses on super simple recipes  with just 5- ingredients each and includes over 150+ nutritious recipes that grow with your developing child. It has time saving sample menus for kids 4 to 18 months.


The Baby and Toddler Cookbook: Fresh, Homemade Foods for a Healthy Start ($15.68)

Packed with over 90 recipes and loads of nutritional information, The Baby & Toddler Cookbook makes cooking healthy meals easy, even for busy parents. By setting aside only a few hours a week, you can make and store an array of nutritious foods to keep baby happy and fed. All along the way, this book will give you helpful hints, guidance, and plenty of recipes to ease your path to nutrition.


Top 100 Baby Purees ($10.52)

Like the other books, you’d learn to wean your baby who is transitioning to solid foods, discover food allergies and how to make  100 Baby Purees  with information tricks on finding the hidden nutrition in everyday foods. Dr. Michel Cohen, New York pediatrician and author of The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent opens the book with a forward.


Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious Foods for 6 to 18 Months ($12.30)

This book is organized by age and has smart tips on prep and storage with added suggestions on transitioning as baby grows. From celebrated children’s-food author Lisa BarnesCooking for Baby is a fully illustrated, gorgeous, four-color book that takes parents through the basics of preparing nutritious, delicious (and easy!) meals for your child, from six to eighteen months.


The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers: Practical Answers To Your Questions on Nutrition, Starting Solids, Allergies, Picky Eating, and More (For Parents, By Parents) ($12.30)

A team of doctors came up with this comprehensive manual for feeding your babies and toddlers during their first crucial yeas of life. With The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, you have the expertise of a team of pediatric medical and nutritional experts—who also happen to be parents—in a comprehensive manual that takes the guesswork out of feeding. This first-of-its-kind guide provides practical, easy-to-follow advice to help you navigate the nutrition issues, medical conditions, and parenting concerns that accompany feeding. With recipes, parenting stories, and recommendations based on the latest pediatric guidelines, this book will allow you to approach mealtime with confidence so you can spend more time enjoying your new family.


201 Organic Baby Purees: The Freshest, Most Wholesome Food Your Baby Can Eat! ($10.25)

When you can have 100 recipes, why not 201?! This book has even more healthy recipes that are organic and blends classic combinations such as turkey, sweet potato, and corn; Superfoods like avocado, blueberries, and spinach; and Puree-based transition recipes including soups, biscuits, frozen desserts.


The Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook For Baby & Toddler Hardcover ($14.54)

This book comes from the organic family-focused food company Happy Family Organics and Cricket Azima, founder and CEO of The Creative Kitchen. Inside, find more than 70 easy-to-prepare recipes made with all-natural ingredients. It includes recipes with ingredient vegetable and fruit purees, including Happy Family’s best-selling spinach, mango & pear recipe, to recipes with quinoa, chia, and kale —Shazi’s and Cricket’s superfood recipes will nourish and please every kind of baby. Recipes for toddlers (1–3 years) include avocado & chicken whole wheat pizza; 3 bean farro risotto; and baked salmon with peas & rice balls; toddlers will love tasty snacks like strawberry-beet pudding with coconut milk and chia; avocado, melon & mint smoothies; banana, chocolate chip & quinoa muffins; and grilled nut-butter sandwiches with smashed berries.

Good luck!

8 Remarkable Ways Cooking Is A Form of Self Care {INFOGRAPHIC}

Challenging is good, getting fed up is not.

Cooking provides a healthy balance. Julia Ohana, master social worker and culinary therapist, explains that the combo of engaging our brain and providing nourishment for ourselves and others leads to psychological benefits.

Getting pleasantly immersed in a challenge that will yield basic, pleasurable results (e.g. food), our bodies are calmly lulled into a meditative state when we mindfully cook — quite literally, we get lost in the sauce.

No, you’re not going to experience these feelings while throwing a Kid Cuisine into the microwave. Instead, truly think about what adds to the dish at hand when you make a meal from scratch. Maybe grabbing some tumeric from the drawer above will add the perfect amount of tang, or dashing some lemon juice from the fridge will spritz up your meal. Anything is a go-to ingredient, just customize thoughtfully and methodically.

continue reading

cooking as therapy infographic

A Secular Family’s Guide to Halloween and Religious Holidays

by Maria Polonchek

I don’t remember how my husband Chris and I ended up with six-month-old twins dressed as vegetables—a chili pepper and a pea pod, to be precise—the first Halloween we were parents. I’ll admit the whole thing sounds very much like the result of a middle-of-the-night-nursing and Internet-browsing session. Regardless, they were pretty cute, as far as produce goes, and we wanted to show them off. At the last minute, we decided to throw on overalls (an article of clothing every good Kansan should own), dress as farmers, and take the veggies downtown, where we’d heard there was annual storefront trick-or-treating.

We did not head out the door that night intending for Halloween to become our family thing. In our Midwestern college town, we discovered, students ranging in age from preschool to graduate school flock downtown to the local businesses, who open their doors after hours and hand out candy from cauldrons and wheelbarrows. Everyone dresses up and the restaurants overflow with happy witches and silly superheroes, nibbling candy, drinking beer, eating French fries. Neither of us had participated in the festivities before becoming parents but realized, at least in this town, you’re never too old to be something for Halloween.

For the next five years, the downtown trick-or-treat tour was tradition, and our family’s passion for Halloween blossomed. While the twins were young, we dressed in themes: the farmers and veggies, Dr. Seuss characters, a family of pirates. Within a few years, though, the boys were ready to fulfill their own costume visions and left Chris and I on our own to coordinate. Halloween became our immediate family’s most consistent annual tradition, the holiday we made our own. The summer we moved to California, I had a harder time thinking of being away for Halloween more than any other day.

Chris and I are raising our children outside of religion, which is not unlike relocating to a new place: it’s both liberating and daunting to be free from constraints that inform our rituals and traditions. On the one hand, the possibilities are endless. We can determine for ourselves what values we want to express, what connections we want to nurture, and when, where, and how we do it. On the other hand, precisely because the possibilities are endless and we can make adjustments, we may notice “tradition” lacking in qualities that help define it: predictability, commitment, endurance.

It’s worth taking on the challenge: a whole body of research points to the fact that rituals and traditions benefit children in a number of ways, including academically, emotionally, and socially.  As I’ve seen first hand, being able to count on a predictable set of behaviors and activities around certain landmark dates brings children a sense of stability and security. Opportunities to contribute to these activities helps kids feel useful and needed, shaping identity and a sense of purpose. Participating alongside family and community members, regardless of differences in age and lifestyle, combats sentiments of self-centeredness and encourages empathy and generosity — all while creating lasting memories of positive emotions. It seems important, then, for all families, religious or not, to find meaningful traditions of their own.

We’d begun our Halloween tradition haphazardly, out of convenience more than anything else, as the logistics—who, what, when, where, how—were already answered for us. We didn’t really need to think about it; we just showed up to a party that had already been planned. Over time we developed an approach that stuck, one we could emulate even after we moved away from our familiar environment near family.

Thus I realized: holidays like Halloween, with little or no religious baggage, are the perfect occasions for creating solid family traditions outside of religion.

Thanksgiving is another great example. It can be tricky to come up with a formula for creating tradition outside of the mainstream. I’ve learned, though, that creating new traditions can be a celebration of creativity and imagination.

Below are my suggestions for how to navigate the ins and outs of creating meaningful traditions for your family, with or without religion:

  • Pick your occasions. Take a look at some of the activities and holidays your family has already established as routine. Ask your children what parts they enjoy and why. Consider what the activity expresses about the group and how each person can participate. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, the summer equinox, or even Superbowl Sunday, make your picks and stick with them. Ritual and tradition is not so much what you do; it’s how you do it, together: with regularity, intention, and commitment.
  • Own it. Reflect on your values and the things that give your family life meaning so that you are fully behind the actions. Consider the historical and/or philosophical reasons and meanings behind established traditions and create versions of your own to honor those that resonate. If you notice something lacking—an activity that expresses generosity or service, for example—come up with an activity that reflects this value and fold it in.
  • Make room for others. Traditions are connectors; they link us to one another, which requires patience, understanding, and compromise. Remember, just as we don’t always resonate with traditions from past generations, so our children won’t always resonate with ours. Participating in tradition can be a practice in selflessness and acceptance.
  • Allow for flexibility. While a defining component of tradition is its predictability, we also must allow for (and even embrace) change and differences. The level of flexibility needed won’t be the same for every family. Perhaps the location is always different, but the activity is the same. Or the location is the same, but some of the people participating rotate. Families who struggle with differences in worldview or belief can still come together to celebrate shared values in creative ways that work for everyone.
  • Be committed. Because tradition can serve as a touchstone in times of change and difficulty, it’s important to keep it going even when the going gets rough. It can sometimes feel like pressure or burden on the leaders of the group, but if you’re struggling, take a moment to reflect on the benefits, talk to your kids about what they find meaningful, and make adjustments that work for the entire family.

About the Author

Maria Polonchek is author of In Good Faith: Secular Parenting in a Religious World (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, August 2017). Part memoir, part cultural exploration, In Good Faith examines how to raise children with a sense of identity, belonging and meaning outside of religion. Maria holds a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Kansas. Her parenting essays can be found in outlets such as Brain, Child, Have Milk, Will Travel, The Greater Good Science Center, The Friendly Atheist and Brian, Mother. A Kansas native, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. In addition to thinking, reading and writing about parenting, she is passionate about wellness, mindfulness, the outdoors, music, art – and the way all of these things relate to social justice.

Work out Your Arms Without Getting Bulk


Guest post

Cat Kom, founder and lead trainer of Studio SWEAT OnDemand


I know many women get worried about getting bulky arms! But, I am here to tell you: that’s not a problem sista! With these awesome arm workout tips, you will be able to flash your gorgeous slim and toned arms, worry – and bulk – free!

Beat the Bulk

The key to toning, not bulking, is to not take unnatural supplements. I know what you were expecting me to say… “low weight and high reps”. No, you can lift heavier; just so long as you’re not injecting yourself with testosterone, you likely will not bulk, ladies. Bulking requires super heavy weights AND a high-calorie intake, so unless you’re making a real effort to bulk up, you don’t have to worry! Before I forget to mention it, by the way, those trainers that you ask, “How can I tone-up my arms” that forget to mention diet, have NO clue what they’re doing. You canNOT spot train. What I mean by that is that you cannot tell fat where to leave your body without “intervention” by a cosmetic doc. When you burn fat, your body tells it where to go, not you and not your trainer. But… you CAN make sure the muscle under the fat is rarin’ and ready to show.

So… best way to start toning your arms is by minimizing fat (think healthy diet with plenty of protein, healthy carbs, fruits & veggies) and consistently working those triceps, biceps, and shoulders for the best results. I suggest you work them using resistance training 2 to 4 times per week. Some great upper body exercises can target those soft spots and make them lean and mean instead. So, if you are using weights, you will need enough weight to give yourself a challenge – but, make it an achievable one. And you don’t have to make up workouts on your own.

Find the Fun

Cardio and some weightlifting would definitely work. But let’s try something a little more… FUN!

If you want a great, convenient upper body workout at home, why not try and get those arms slim while you Spin? Nothing’s more motivating than hearing the beat of the music pound in your ears as you sweat the fat away!

You see, an important aspect of toned arms is minimizing the fat to let your toned muscles take center stage. And, a great way to burn fat and gain arm muscle at the same time is through Spin workouts that include arm exercises.

Also known as Spin and Sculpt, these classes are the perfect solution for the busy person who wants to get the most results out of their workout without the hassle of a brick-and-mortar gym membership. Because with Spin Sculpt, you can do push-ups or grab your fav dumbbells and get those arms busy! These workouts target the biceps, triceps, and deltoids during an intense cardio routine to give you the best fat-melting, muscle-toning, action-packed exercises into each session. That means our Spin and Sculpt classes will really show you just how to lose fat, fast! So get on that bike, get Spinnin’, and show the world what your arms are made of!

Workout Without Weights

What about arm workouts without weights? If you aren’t into weightlifting… Try SSoD TRX for full-body sculpting from head to toe! There are even TRX Sculpt Classes that target specific areas like the arms, so you can build your guns while you work on your buns! These bodyweight bicep exercises will tone you up FAST with the added benefit of helping you build strength, balance, and flexibility!

Remember to Relax

Yeah this all sounds FUN right? But we get it, you’re busy, and after a long day at work, sometimes you just don’t want to leave the comfort of your home. That is why SSoD Yoga Classes are a perfect solution to tone your arms while relaxing away the stress of the day. You’re doing double duty here, and it doesn’t even feel like work at all! This is the ideal solution for a busy mom who needs to wind down, a workaholic that needs to get their mind off the office, and everything in between. Yoga is another way to use your bodyweight to help create those toned arms. So, relax, gain strength, and get those sexy arms, all with SSoD yoga workouts.

Start Small

If you’re sitting there reading this and can’t help but think that this seems overwhelming, remember it’s okay to start small with something like arm circles and work your way up to workouts that are a little more intense. The goal is to make it fun and enjoyable! We highly recommend yoga for low impact and low intensity, or a 30-Minute Back to the Basics Spin class for something more upbeat and entertaining!


VIRAL: ‘Stop Asking Women When are They Getting Pregnant’ Sign

An Instagram post by Toront0, Canada-based Event Planner Barbara Nkansah went viral and has been re-shared because it simply states: “Stop Asking Women When are They Getting Pregnant”. In it is the Ghanaian-Canadian shares the hurt of being newly married and enduring probing questions and insensitive remarks by well-meaning family and friends.

“I remember being newly married and the first thing people started doing instead of greeting me was look right at my belly,” she shared. “Then when they noticed I was not pregnant the look of confusion following “oh you’re not pregnant yet” would be their conversation starter. I will never forget when just after 3 months of marriage church service ended and a member in the church who saw me yelled at the top of her lungs in front of everyone saying ‘BARBARA YOU’RE STILL NOT PREGNANT YET. WHEN WILL YOU GET PREGNANT? YOU’RE TAKING TOO LONG.'”


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This topic is an extremely sensitive one. I'll specifically speak from my own experiences with it. And the hardships us women and even men in my community face when it comes to pregnancy. ________________________________ For some reason pregnancy is something that is just automatically suppose to come after marriage. No idea who created such a rule or why such a rule exists. ________________________________ I remember being newly married and the first thing people started doing instead of greeting me was look right at my belly. Then when they noticed I was not pregnant the look of confusion following "oh you're not pregnant yet" would be their conversation starter. ________________________________ I will never forget when just after 3 months of marriage church service ended and a member in the church who saw me yelled at the top of her lungs in front of everyone saying "BARBARA YOU'RE STILL NOT PREGNANT YET. WHEN WILL YOU GET PREGNANT? YOU'RE TAKING TOO LONG." ________________________________ I remember standing their speechless because I could not believe someone could ask and act in such a way. My husband however, came to my rescue and respectfully told her everyone has plans and it's God who gives children. ________________________________ What made me so sad is what if I was really trying and had no success? What if I found out I could not conceive naturally? What if I just went through an unsuccessful expensive fertility procedure? What if I just recently miscarried? Do you know how all of these accounts affect women and men who are journeying this together? ________________________________ I always made sure I prayed for my future children regardless of when we decided to prepare. When God said it was my time, that was and the only timeline I followed through with and no one else's. ________________________________ Dont ever let anyone force their pregnancy timeline on you! Don't ever let anyone make you feel less of a woman or man because to them you're "taking too long." If pregnancy is something that you seek and whatever method you have to go through take it to the Lord in prayer. For it is he who provides. Photography by @mennydc5

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The statistics are jarring: 1 in 8 couples have a hard time getting pregnant and at least 1 in 4 will experience a pregnancy loss. People who are trying to conceive are fed up and would like you to stop asking them when they are going to have children or even worse, “why don’t they have children.”

In the celebrity world, Gabrielle Union and Chrissy Teigen recalled being asked this question constantly because they were with their spouses for several years without producing children and people just couldn’t stop asking a very personal, imposing and insensitive question not know that they were indeed trying but failing at it.

Please stop asking women (AND MEN!) when they are having kids or, even worse, why they don’t have children. ⁣

I remember the words of Assistant Professor Rondrea Danielle from Bethune-Cookman College on Facebook last year:

“Getting pregnant is hard.

Sustaining pregnancy is hard.

Giving birth is hard.

Raising a baby is hard.

So asking folks why they don’t have kids is both inconsiderate and insensitive (it also isn’t your business), and it needs to stop now.

We have no idea how much women go through to get pregnant and then bring a baby into the world.”

Conduct a Google Search and you’ll encounter dozens of articles from women and lifestyle and advice sites about this very topic and also demanding that they not be asked the question when they gain weight. Phew!

Here is a summary of a few:

Yes, My Sister Is Pregnant, Now Stop Asking Me When Will I Get Knocked Up

Sorry, nephew, you won’t be getting any cousins from me anytime soon (or at all). -The Odyssey Online

Can we finally stop asking women about when they’re going to have Kids?-Babble

Stop asking women when they’re going to have kids -Salon

Stop asking women when they’re having kids – Asian One

Stop Asking Couples When They’re Going to Have a Kid (or Another Kid) – Lifehacker

It’s Time to Stop Asking Women If They’re Pregnant – Medium

When will we stop asking ‘What are you, pregnant? – Austrian Adoption

New Moms: What to Pack in Your Hospital Overnight Bag

duffel bag
duffel bag

Becoming a mom is one of the toughest things that you will ever have to do. It’s rough on your body physically and mentally. Yet, it’s also one of the most rewarding things that you can do. When you’re about to become a parent, you have a million things racing through your mind. You can’t prepare for everything that’s going to happen. There are a million little things about parenthood that you can’t know until you have the experience yourself. However, there are a lot of little things that you can do to get ready. 

For example, as your due date approaches, you can pack an overnight hospital bag. Fill it up with all of the things that you’re going to need to make your stay more comfortable. 

Here are a few ideas you can work with.


You may want to write down your thoughts while you’re at the hospital. Everything is digital now, but some people still feel connected to pen and paper. If everything goes smoothly, your written words can be used to recall a wonderful moment in your life. If there’s a problem, suddenly you have an extra record of what happened. 

According to Canadian personal injury lawyers Mazin and Associates: “The nature of a birth injury claim means that there are many details that must be investigated. Proving a birth injury case is complex and takes a significant amount of preparation.” Click here to learn more about what you can do if this occurs. 


Okay. We get it. The day you give birth, the last thing that should be on your mind is your looks. However, people are probably going to be taking pictures of you. There’s nothing wrong with deciding to go makeup-free. But there’s also nothing wrong with applying a fresh coat before the cameras start clicking. If you do want to put on a little bit of makeup, pack everything that you may want into your overnight bag. That way, you won’t have to think about it again. 


Hospital food is notoriously bland. It’s only a few steps above regular cafeteria food. Yet, after you give you birth, you might be ravenously hungry. Instead of forcing your partner to make a fast-food run, you can come prepared with snacks. It may be the first thing that you put in your mouth after you give birth. Try to bring your favorite snacks. You may not have eaten them for the past nine months. 


You may have spent the last nine months abstaining from alcohol. Now that you’re body is your own again, you may want to celebrate with a drink. A post-birth glass of champagne is popular for many women. If you decide to go this route, however, you have to be prepared in advance. Champagne, wine, etc., are all popular choices. You won’t be able to buy it at the hospital. 


If you’re going to have multiple cell phones, as well as tablets or perhaps laptops, you need to bring the right chargers. It would be very annoying if your phone died right when you wanted to take pictures. If you forget to do this, you may be able to get a charger at the hospital. But it would be one more thing to worry about. 


Hospital gowns are comfortable yet you may be glad to throw it off as soon as possible. You have to have a spare change of clothes ready for that moment. Try to go for comfort rather than sex appeal. You will likely feel very under the weather. It takes a long time to fully recover from giving birth. 

Books and Magazines

Giving birth can take a long time. There’s not a lot for you to do for most of it. To keep yourself from going crazy with boredom, pack books and magazines into your overnight bag. They will help keep your mind entertained while you’re waiting. It’s not unusual for women to be in labor for more than 10 hours. Anything that you can do to make the process easier on yourself should be investigated. 

Your overnight bag is a source of joy. It’s a sign of what’s to come, the next adventure in your life. You can keep packing it and repacking it until it’s perfect. Ideally, it would be ready at least a week or two before your due date. You don’t want to go into labor early and be unprepared.