Tales from Mother Runners + Ridiculous Pursuit of the Perfect Marriage + Calm the F*** Down

Sarah Bowen Shea, co-editor of Tales from another Mother Runner.
Triumphs, trials, tips and tricks from the road.
Issues: The many ways mother runners experience running: ownership, perspective, support, joy, strength, ambition, persistence.

Mark Hurst, author of Pairfection.
A look at the ridiculous pursuit of a “perfect” marriage.
Issues: HOw to stop chasing after perfection and focus on purusing each other’s happiness; trust your relationship instincts; have open discussions and work through differences; keep your marriage from becoming stale; look forward to your future together.

David Vienna, author of Calm the F*ck Down.
Could this be the only parenting technique you’ll ever need?
Issues: A variety of scenarious that make parents anxious–and down-to-earth reassurance and guidance on how to relax and enjoy the moment.

Family Fitness: Strike a Pose and Get Ready to Sweat

We all know how great exercise is for us—it’s been shown to have positive effects in almost every area of our life, whether that’s reducing disease risks, combatting depression, or just improving overall wellbeing. But exercising together as a family has some additional benefits. Of course, there’s the bonding part. But besides that, family exercise provides some built-in motivation, encouragement, and can add an element of (hopefully) friendly competition. If you and/or your family are relatively new to exercise, here are a few ways to help you take those first steps towards lifelong fitness. But please, before you start any kind of exercise routine—especially if you haven’t worked out in a while—check with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s appropriate for you and your unique circumstances.

lazy lizards yoga mat and dvdLazy Lizards Yoga mat and DVD (Lazy Lizards)
If one or more of your kids is wiggly and impatient, yoga is a great way to redirect some of that surplus energy. A tremendous amount of research has been done on kids and yoga and there are many documented benefits, including increased strength and flexibility, better ability to manage stress, lower obesity risk, improved balance and agility, fewer sports injuries, and better on-field performance. Some studies even suggest that yoga may encourage creativity, improve memory, and boost academic performance. Yoga, of course, can be done alone, but it’s also a wonderful family activity. The Lazy Lizards yoga mat is the perfect size for children, and has 12 kid-friendly poses printed right on it. There’s even an empty space where kids can draw their own pose. These mats are eco-friendly (meaning they’re made from phthalate-free materials and are recyclable) and come in four colors. Kids can do their own yoga practice by following the illustrations on the mat, or you can pick up the Lazy Lizards yoga DVD, which includes a more structured workout, which includes the little-known pizza pose. The mat is $32, the DVD is $17.95, or you can get a combo for $44.95, all at http://www.lazylizardsyoga.com/ and other retailers.

If you’ve got older kids, DoYogaWithMe is a great resource. The website has dozens of free yoga videos that range from 15 minutes to more than an hour. There are three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and 17 styles to choose from. The instructors are uniformly excellent and the workouts are just as good as you’d find at your local yoga studio. http://www.doyogawithme.com/

sears fitstudioSears FitStudio (Sears)
Sears’s newly re-launched FitStudio is a free, one-stop site that offers a variety of workouts (complete with short video demos of each exercise), a large library of articles on fitness and nutrition, and reviews of dozens of fitness-related products. Once you register (it’s quick and free) FitStudio helps keep you motivated by giving you rewards for incorporating movement into your daily life. If you have a fitness tracker or other similar device, you can connect it to your FitStudio account. You can earn points for walking two miles, burning 1,500 calories, or achieving some other fitness goal you’ve established. You can redeem those points for discounts on merchandise from Sears, sears.com, or kmart.com. Find out more at https://www.fitstudio.com/

sportline sync watchSportline Sync Heart Rate Watch
We’ll be reviewing advanced fitness trackers and fitness-enabled smart watches in future columns, but if you’re looking for a good quality, inexpensive tracker with a lot of features, you can’t go wrong with this one. Besides telling time (you’d be amazed at how many fitness trackers don’t), the Sportline Sync Heart Rate Watch measures steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and heart rate. About $50 at Sears and other retailers.

Homework — Is It Your Child’s or Yours?

parent doing child's homework

parent doing child's homeworkDear Mr. Dad: I’m an involved dad and I often help my kids with their homework. Sometimes, in the interests of speeding things along, I give them the answers. Over the past year, both kids (11 and 9) are coming to me more and more often, asking for help even when I know they don’t need it. I tell them to figure it out, they whine, and eventually I give in to the pressure. How can I get them to start doing their work by themselves?

A: It’s great that you’re an involved dad—and it’s great that you’re taking an active role in your kids’ education. But by doing their homework for them (let’s be honest—that’s exactly what happening), you’re undermining their ability to learn good study habits. What’s far worse is that you’re sending them the very clear message that you don’t think they’re smart enough to do their own work. From what you say, they’re starting to believe you, and that’s tragic.

So the question you asked: How can you get the kids to start doing their work by themselves—is the wrong one. The real issue is: How (and when) are you going to stop caving when they ask for help that you acknowledge they don’t really need?

The answer is pretty simple: You need to stop cold turkey and you need to do it now.
[Read more…]

Lexus ES300 Hybrid

Lexus ES300h - 2

I’ve never stolen a car—even though the “Fast and Furious” movies and “Gone in 60 Seconds” make grand theft auto seem so glamourous. But after spending a week with the Lexus ES300 hybrid, I was more than a little tempted (yes, Lexus loaned me the car, but that in no way influenced my opinions).

Really and truly, there’s not a whole to say about this car except that it is absolutely amazing. But of course, one wouldn’t expect any less from Lexus. So I’m going to skip over the typical review items and focus on a few lesser-known features.

lexus es300It’s a magnet. As a single guy, I’ve noticed over the years that the amount of attention women pay to me changes depending on the circumstances. When I’m out and about by myself, women often smile at me (despite my fantasies, I’m sure most are just being polite). Going out for a walk with my dog (who’s, admittedly, cuter than I am) doubles the number of smiles. And when my daughters were little, going out with them probably tripled the smiles. I always thought that the combination of me + dog + daughters was the best thing ever. But me + dog + one daughter (the older two are all grown up) + the ES300 was complete insanity. I am, however, still single.

It makes the roads safer for everyone. The ES300 has all the latest and greatest safety features: blind spot sensors, lane change alerts, more air bags than you can count, anti-lock brakes, and on and on. But after testing out the zero-to-70 factor (which was really impressive) a few times and working the suspension by taking a few turns faster than I should have, I found myself actually obeying the speed limit. The reason? Because it’s such a joy to drive that I wanted to make the ride last as long as possible.

lexus es300h clockIt has a clock. Yes, the ES300 is gorgeous to look at (even without my daughters, my dog, or me in the picture), and the interior styling is sleek and stylish. But one of the classiest features of all was the analog clock. For some reason that tiny touch of retro made the whole car seem even more luxurious.


lexus es300h interiorIt’s beyond comfortable. As an NPR addict, I often stay in the car after arriving at my destination so I can listen to the end of an interesting segment. With the ES300, I’d frequently take the long way to wherever I was going and, when I arrived, I’d sometimes just sit there, usually with the radio off, reveling in the luxurious interior. My passengers, whether they sat in the front seat or the rear, said very much the same thing. And somehow, driving around looking for parking became a pleasure instead of the trigger for a murderous rage.

Bottom line? At $50,000, it’s a bit out of my price range, so I’m saving my pennies. But it might be cheaper to just hire one of those “Gone in 60 Seconds” guys to do their thing.

Five Ways to Get Your Child Enthusiastic about Learning Music

music lessons

music lessonsIntroducing children to music early in childhood—regardless of their musical aptitude—has a lot of advantages. One of the most important is that it greatly enhances their coordination, concentration, and cognition. It also instills the love of storytelling and teaches them to appreciate art and its different forms.

Exposure to music also helps kids explore new cultures and appreciate cultural diversity. Still, getting your child excited about learning music isn’t always easy. Here are a few ideas that should make things a little easier:

Recognize Talent
Your first step is to recognize your child’s aptitude and support it. This might take a little bit of trial and error. It may not be immediately obvious, but every child has some kind of inclination, whether it is percussion, violin, guitar, singing, chimes, or something else. Don’t expect your child to follow in your footsteps—you may love digeridoo, but that doesn’t mean he or she will.

Get Professional Classes
Once you’ve figured out the instrument that strikes your child’s fancy—guitar, for example—the next step is to find a professional who offers guitar lessons for kids. Getting the right teacher from the start is important if you want to make music education fulfilling and engaging for your child. Getting a recommendation from someone you trust is ideal, but if you can’t, there are a number of websites where you can search for music teachers according to your zip code.

Whether you enroll your child in a group music class or hire a teacher for private, in-home lessons, the teacher should be inspiring, encouraging, and have a good command of technique. Getting good instruction now could pay off in the long run: some studies indicate that children with musical skills do better with college admissions.

Make it Interesting
Scales, chords, and etudes are an important part of learning any instrument. But you can make things a little more interesting by asking your child’s teacher to incorporate some of the child’s favorite songs. Being able to play something recognizable is a great confidence booster. And in the hands of a good teacher, there’s something to learn in just about every piece of music, pop, classical, jazz, or hip-hop.

Invest in Good Equipment
Having a quality instrument is important, even for children, in part because it’ll be easier to play and will sounds. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to rent whatever instrument your child is learning. You can always buy later. Whether you rent or buy, make sure your child learns to treat the instrument with love and respect.

Help Your Child Set a Goal
What’s your goal in having your child learn music? What’s your child’s goal? For you, it should be to get your child to appreciate music and, perhaps, learn a skill that could give him or her a lot of enjoyment. For your child, it may be to be a rock star, to entertain friends, or just to play along with favorite tunes. Get your child involved in this goal setting process, and help him or her establish both short-term (learn to play a particular song) and long-term goals. Most importantly, keep those goals reasonable. The more accessible and achievable they are, the more your child will enjoy making music and the more motivated he or she will be to practice and learn more.


Poop. Nothing to Us, But CARE Knows How to Use it to Save Lives

CARE knows how to save lives with goat dung

care knows how to use goat dungThanks to CARE for sponsoring this post. We flush our own down the toilet, but there’s something amazing about animal poop.

For decades, anyone who’s had a garden knows the value of horse manure and steer manure. More recently, conservationists have been raising money to save African elephants by creating and selling artwork from elephant poop. A few days ago, I read an article about a guy in India who’s trying to save endangered rhinos (who are being killed because ground-up rhino horn is supposedly an aphrodisiac) by giving poachers an alternative way to earn money from rhinos: make paper out of their dung and then sell it.

But perhaps the best use of animal feces I’ve come across is happening in the village of Haji Pur of Rajanpur, Punjab, Pakistan, where goat poop is literally saving lives.

CARE knows how to save lives with goat dungMalaria is one of the leading causes of death among children in rural Pakistan. But apparently, burning goat droppings in a special container made of mud drives away mosquitos, which are carriers of malaria and other deadly diseases, including dengue fever. This is especially important in places like Hiji Pur, where the nearest hospital or medical facility is so far away that most residents can’t afford to make the trip. As a result, many people who might otherwise have survived don’t have access to potentially lifesaving treatments.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing goat-poop mosquito repellent here anytime soon, but in Pakistan, where burning it at night allows people to go to bed confident that they won’t get bitten, it’s a low-cost, highly effective way to save lives.

CARE, a wonderful organization that has boots on the ground in impoverished countries around the world. They’ve discovered that innovation isn’t always a top-down kind of thing. In many cases, great ideas come from the bottom up (in this case, the great idea literally comes from the bottom…)

Here’s where you can help—and don’t worry, it’s not very expensive. For only $45, you can buy a goat for a family. The milk that goat produces will provide much needed nutrition—and a way to make some extra money. And CARE knows how to use that animal’s dung to save lives.

Read more about this story and many of the other remarkably inspiring ways CARE knows how to make the world a better place for people who need our help more than we can imagine.

A bit more about CARE. CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls. CARE is committed to its mission to serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. CARE seeks a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has bene overcome and people live in dignity and security. How could you not want to support this organization?