Powder Day! Winter Sports Tips for Kids

These cold months with inclement weather make it easy to recede into the house, hibernating until spring. There is a certain amount of inertia that happens during the winter, and it can lead to the blues, lack of concentration and of course, weight gain and lethargy. It’s really important that we double down on our efforts through the first couple months of the year so that we are productive, happy and healthy.

If winter sports are not traditionally your thing, you might want to think beyond skiing and snowboarding, especially if you have small children. There are plenty of fun activities to experiment with and everyone in your family big and small can get involved.

 

  1. Cross country skiing. Instead of braving the downhill, try something flat that acquaints the kids with the dynamics of the snow. It’s cheap to rent the equipment and if you have a baby, you can bundle him or her up and put them in a back carrier to go along for the ride!
  1. Sledding is another way to get familiar with the snow, using a tube, a sled, a disc or even a piece of waxed cardboard! Adults should go with younger kids on the first few runs so they learn the concept of leaning to steer.
  1. Curling is a strange but totally nifty sport originally invented in Scotland, where players slide a disc of stone across the ice and try to target specific areas marked out a bit like a bullseye. There are actually curling clubs all over the country, and kids love it because it’s kind of like bowling on ice.
  1. Hockey. Yes, kids love hockey, when it’s played safely and girls get to participate, its really fun! You can start with a half court and just have fun taking turns being the shooter and the goalie.
  1. Snow shoeing is exciting and it’s also great exercise. Make sure your kids have the right size snowshoes and pick a trail that you know they can manage. Also, don’t forget your camera because there will be some great nature photo ops!
  1. Ice fishing. If you have never fished in the winter, you are missing out! This is a great activity to do with an older relative or an experienced fisherman, but bringing home a catch on a chilly winter day and making a meal is a really special experience.
  1. Downhill Skiing and snowboarding. There is, of course the classic winter experience of downhill sports, just make sure that you utilize a coach for the beginners and exercise plenty of patience and supervision. Being young is a great time to learn because they can get their falls out of the way early.

 

So get out there and try something new! You never know – someone in your family could become the next winner of the Iditarod, or the next long distance cross-country skiing champion. Winter doesn’t have to be a bummer; it can be an opportunity to try new things and bond.

Traffic Tricks and Tips

800px-Bangkok_traffic_by_g-hatGridlock traffic during the 5pm rush hour commute is everyone’s worst nightmare – the road boiling over with angry and frustrated drivers who cut each other off, everyone trying to get ahead, hurling insults at one another.  We all just want to go home! That 40 minutes would take 15 any other time of the day, so it seems like forever when you are inching forward only a foot at a time.

All over the country, five days a week, we make a slog like this, a grim and wasteful commute to work that ruins our mornings and sucks away our evenings.  It’s a stressful ritual we cannot seem to get around. 

Here are some quick facts about our nation’s ridiculous commute:

  • According to the US Census Bureau, the average American commutes 26 minutes each way to work everyday 
  • That time has gone up 20% since the 1980s
  • Collectively, that amounts to 1.8 trillion minutes in the car each year1

Which cities have the worst commutes? Here is a list of the worst 10 for annual hours of delay (not total drive time) per commuter for U.S. metropolitan areas:

Washington D.C.:  82 hours

Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana: 80 hours

San Francisco, Oakland: 78 hours

New York, Newark:  74 hours

San Jose: 67 hours

Boston:  64 hours

Seattle:  63 hours

Chicago: 61 hours

Houston:  61 hours

Riverside: 59 hours

What are doing about the increasingly long commutes?

Digital message boards notifying motorists about accidents, drive times, upcoming road construction, obstructions, bad weather, and detours, allows drivers to take alternate routes or to slow down before they get to an obstruction.

Ramp metering it seems ineffectual, but spacing out the cars actually speeds up total flow and reduces accidents. However, it’s expensive and time consuming for cities to add traffic lights at every on-ramp. Cost benefit analysis, anyone?

Carpool Lanes

The obvious solution is to get more people in fewer cars.

Here are some tricks to try when it comes to getting where you are going:

  • Try an app called Waze. It’s mind-bending how good it is, though it will take you down some alleys, it will shrink your time for sure.
  • Maintain your car – tire pressure, functional lights, and brakes. Avoid stalls!
  • Grab a friend and carpool!
  • Change into comfortable clothes before you leave from work- the drive will be so much more relaxing if you’re in sweat pants and a t-shirt.
  • Make calls. Or turn the music up and dance sitting down.
  • Shift your working hours back and hour.
  • Listen to audio books, the news, and podcasts while you drive.
  • Organize you day while you drive by using voice memo software (or a simple digital recorder) to go over your To Do list.
  • Join a gym near your work, and hit it hard when you clock out. 
  • Biking solves both the travel and the exercise in one go.

If you can’t find another method to get to work, make the best of it and come up with as many creative alternatives as you can.  That way, you are actually making good use of the time instead of wasting it. 

References:

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/25/how-much-of-your-life-youre-wasting-on-your-commute/?utm_term=.aaadac788dc9
  2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2015/08/26/u-s-cities-with-the-worst-rush-hour-traffic/#26f2716e6668

Nighttime Treats: Must-See Serials to Watch When the Kids are Asleep

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Winter is a great time to curl up into the couch and sink into a series, and with the recent boom in shows, there are so many great ones to choose from.

In the last 15 years, a seismic shift occurred between movies and TV; shows like Northern Exposure and The Sopranos started to take risks, developing storylines with more complex characters, subplots, twists, and deeper social reflection.

Now it’s as though movies don’t have enough time to develop a rich narrative compared with a show that has dozens of episodes at its disposal. New stories are popping up on the networks, cable, and online platforms everyday, and the sheer volume can make it difficult to choose in which world to immerse yourself.

Here are a few excellent shows that allow you to escape from work, house, schedules, kids, cooking, the whole bag. If you need some grownup downtime, check out these quick descriptions of some truly fantastic serials.

Marco Polo– Netflix. Disappear into the exotic and ancient world of the Mongolian Khan dynasty, where the young Venetian adventurer traveled the Silk Road and saved himself from death by describing the region to the Fearsome Kublai Khan. Shot on location in Mongolia, the actors, costumes, music, and elaborate story are all beautifully realized.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt -Netflix. Tina Fey of the hilarious hit 30 Rock wrote and produced this whacky comedy about a group of women in a Midwestern cult that finally escape the clutches of their captor to experience a much changed modern world. The snappy dialog and social commentary work as great comic relief.

Mr. Robot -USA Network. If you like espionage, hackers, corporate thievery, and dark romance, this show is edgy and riveting. It’s modern noir and grandiose fantasy with a satirical nod to the underground group Anonymous.

Alpha Dogs -Amazon. Written by the masterful Gary Trudeau, this comedy stars John Goodman as a moderate, old school Republican Senator who with his buddies, is trying to reconcile his values in the brave new world of extreme politics.

Orphan Black -BBC. Sci-fi at its best: meet Sarah as she meets all her sisters for the first time, clones created in secret by a devious government experiment that went completely awry. Tatiana Maslany plays 10 different characters and within the first episode, she is so convincing you forget you aren’t watching different people.

The Night Of –HBO. This is a mini series, only eight episodes, but it’s like a slow-motion car crash: you can’t take your eyes off of it. John Turturro plays the role intended for the late great James Gandolfini, but he is magnificent as a struggling public defender who tries to come to the aid of a young Muslim kid wrongly accused of murder.

Chef’s Table- Netflix. If you love food, and traveling is out of the question at the moment, sate both the urge to eat and the urge to visit distant places at once. This show features gorgeous, authentic portraits of the world’s finest culinary artists in their native habitats and shows how they are taking flavor to new heights.

We can all use a little vicarious treat after a long day, and the beautiful thing about serials is that you can watch a bunch or parse them out an episode at a time. With all the variety and effort going into these productions, there is something binge-worthy out there for everyone.

Saving Some Green: DIY Household Products That Cost Less

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Getting things truly clean means using simple natural ingredients that are gentle on the earth and gentler on your pocketbook.

Harsh chemicals can be harmful to pets, small animals and, well, just about everybody.  The way that we have become obsessed with sterilizing everything has done more harm than good, doing damage to our bodies and impacting our water supply and food chain. 

The household product industry is an aggressive one that has convinced us all we need a proprietary cleanser for every aspect of our home – not only is it impractical, it’s also not true. 

The truth is, keeping the house clean doesn’t require toxic chemicals, and you can get excellent results by making some of these things yourself with really inexpensive ingredients. Yes, it does require a stint of time maybe a few times a  year, but if you make these cleaners in bulk and keep them in your garage, it saves you money and guilt: win-win! Bonus: making these products is a skill you can impart on your whole family. 

To start you off on the path to eliminating toxic chemicals from your house, here are some basic ideas that help to make your home feel wonderfully clean while you’re your household expenses.

Bleach-free laundry booster.  You do not need chlorine to get your whites really white and clean. This mixture eliminates stains by blending 2 cups washing soda and 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide in a container until it is granular.  For dingy whites and tough stains, let the whole load soak overnight with a quarter cup of your mix added.

Garbage disposal refreshers.  You know that drain funk?  Here’s the remedy for that. 

You’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • Sheet pan
  • Parchment paper
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap
  • 1 lemon
  • Small spoon or scoop
  • Sealable glass jar

Combine salt and baking soda in a bowl completely and grate in the peel from the lemon, then add the soap. Squeeze in juice from half a lemon.  Blend it all together thoroughly, and then make little spoon-sized scoops on parchment paper to dry over night.  The next day when these little guys are dry, pop them in the container and drop one in the sink every week.

Green carpet cleaner.  If you have wall-to-wall, you know how gross it can get.  Rather than renting a carpet cleaner, you can sprinkle this stuff on the carpet overnight and it will actually do the job for you.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • Blender
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Borax (optional)
  • Sprinkle-top container

We recommend blending these ingredients in a blender before adding them to a sugar container or something similar so you can disperse the cleaner easily.  Shake it all over the rug and let it sit overnight.  The next day, vacuum it up! You’ll have clean, sweet smelling, anti-bacterial carpets with little fuss.

Homemade furniture polish.  Get your wood looking beautiful again with this easy-to-make polish.

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Measuring cup and funnel
  • Small plastic container

Shake all these ingredients together and funnel them into a sealable container. Use a soft cloth to smooth onto wood.  Let it dry and then buff it out.  You can store the polish in your fridge for future use. 

Dusting wipes.  When you realize how simple and inexpensive dust wipes are to make, you’ll never go back . Cut up some old towels and stuff them into a container with some lemon peels and a stick of rosemary.  They smell wonderful and all you have to do is wash the dirty ones and pop them back into the container. 

Toilet bowl cleaner.  Shake some baking soda and about ten drops of tea tree oil into the bowl, letting it fizz.  Add a ¼ cup of white vinegar and scrub it out.

Anti-mildew tile scrub.  Speaking of vinegar, it acts as an alkalinizing agent so that funky fungus and other microbes won’t take over your shower.  Spray it on, let it sit for 30 minutes and rinse with warm or hot water. 

You will likely notice that many of these household cleaners have similar ingredients so you can save yourself some pennies that accumulate into dollars by buying things like baking soda and white vinegar in bulk. 

Another big advantage to making these cleaners is that once you make up a large batch, you save yourself time, trips to the store and reduce the plastic bottles and containers you would regularly throw in the recycle.  The idea is to cut down on the consumption altogether and over time, put far less of a ding on your wallet. Making these products at home is a fun project for the kids too, teaching them what the basic ingredients are for healthy, effective cleansers. 

Kids Can Travel the World, with Geography Games Right on Your Smart Phone!

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Geography and Mapping technology have given birth to some amazing kid-appropriate apps.

In encouraging families to invite a little cultural diversity into their lives (see our blogs on Eating Your Way Round the World) we invite your little world travelers to learn a little more about the big wonderful world they live in – without even leaving the house. Map and Geography games are an effective opportunity to enrich your kids’ knowledge of their neighbors. Here are 4 great apps available on iPhone, for doing just that.

Barefoot World Atlas. This nifty app offers users a 3D interactive globe where kids can tap on a region and learn about the climate, animals, the country’s flag, landmarks and other information. Note about this app, because its features are very broad, this app takes up some space. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/barefoot-world-atlas/id489221652?mt=8

Tiny Countries. Cartoon-style graphics and engaging gameplay are the highlights of this darling app. It has a great hero narrative and encourages kids to use their knowledge of geography to defeat their foes.https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tiny-countries/id570163207?mt=8

Google Earth. If you aren’t already totally addicted to zooming around the planet and viewing actual images of remote parts of the planet, welcome to Google Earth! This is such a fun app for kids over the age of 6, because they can control the tracking and other settings like street view, map view, even see calculations of elevation and landmarks.   https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-earth/id293622097?mt=8

National Geographic App for Kids. In keeping with its ongoing commitment to illuminating the beauty of the natural world and humankind’s role in it, the National Geographic app for kids is loaded with fascinating maps, photos, history, articles, games and jokes from all over the world.https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/national-geographic-kids/id436482773?mt=8

If you want to inspire adventure and help your children to grow into open-minded and culturally aware adults, seeking out some educational and creative tools can really enhance the experience. It is likely they can learn about a panda refuge in China at the age of 7, but actually see those pandas in real life at 24. So setting the stage for curiosity is a must. Thankfully, it’s also really fun for grownups too.

Imaginary Friends: A Real Aspect of Development

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It is quite common for children who are three or four years old to have an imaginary friend. This may be another child, or a magical person or animal, and sometimes the imaginary friends change as the child grows older.

Psychology Today reports that 37% of all children develop an imaginary friend.  Interestingly enough, while girls create imaginary friends who are both male and female, boys primarily develop only male imaginary friends.  Many boys interact with their imaginary friends by incorporating game theory, or envisioning them as superheroes.[1]

When a parent first notices that a child has an imaginary friend, you can initially feel taken aback. But the truth of the matter is, it’s nothing to be concerned about, and is regarded as a normal part of development. Often children who have imaginary friends are only children or the oldest sibling in the family. However, having an imaginary friend does not generally indicate loneliness. Instead, it demonstrates the child is creative, and imaginative, and as he or she grows older and school begins, the imaginary friend tends to just quietly disappear. Also, sometimes changes in circumstances can cause children to create pretend friends so that they can self-comfort. For instance, a move to a new environment, a change in schools, or a divorce can precipitate the invention of an imaginary friend.

Imaginary friends can actually help your child in several important ways:

  • They can support children in dealing with strong feelings such as fear or anger.
  • They can allow a child to develop a private life that adults aren’t a part of, promoting autonomy.
  • They can help children deal with real-life stressful situations.
  • They promote getting along with others, and are a safe way for kids to test out actions and feelings.

Imaginary friends can also help parents in identifying problems with their children. For example, if the pretend friend is afraid of the dark, it may be an indication that your child is learning to manage that same fear.

How should you be a part of your child’s relationship with his or her imaginary friend? As always, communication is key, and you should let your child take the lead in how you respond. Imaginary friends can represent a very positive experience for a child, providing an opportunity for he or she to practice communication, appreciate companionship, and even understand behavioral limits. But, parents should always monitor such friendships:

  • Make sure the child also has “real” friends, not just imaginary ones.
  • Refuse to allow negative behavior to be foisted onto the imaginary friend.
  • Treat the imaginary friend’s existence with respect.
  • Don’t use the imaginary friend to manipulate your child’s behavior.

In summary, ultimately imaginary friends will vanish just as suddenly as they first appeared. However, during the time your child has one, just remember that while the pretend friend isn’t necessarily real, the reasoning behind it and the benefits it may provide are. Always support and supervise your child in the situation, and know that the existence of an imaginary friend is really just a part of growing up.

 Sources:

[1] http://nobullying.com/imaginary-friends/

Top 10 Classic Must See Family Movies You and Your Kids Should See

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Heading into the year ahead, there are still plenty of dark cold days that are perfect for movie night.

With the holidays behind us, indoor activities are going to have to hold us until that groundhog pokes his head up again. With the avalanche of new family movies coming out all the time, it’s easy to forget some of the classics that kids also learn from and enjoy. And for parents, these movies are either a fresh discovery or a walk down memory lane.

  1. Wizard of Oz (1939)

Filmmaking would never be that same after Wizard of Oz was released in the theatres in 1939. Based on the series by Frank L. Baum, this story is a magnum opus of otherworldly mystery. The use of color mixed with black & white (one of the first of its kind), the acting, the never-before attempted stunts, and special effects come together in a really magical adventure. Judy Garland plays Dorothy, a young girl at her height of innocence and determination, who is whisked off to another world where she must make friends and find the Wizard to get back home. Garland’s voice alone is enough reason to watch this masterpiece of fantasy, rich with humor and suspense, and teaming with things your eyes have never seen before.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

As our children mature, they start to absorb the complexities of adult interactions, the unfairness and the suffering that humans are capable of inflicting on one another. We often do not give our children credit for having a strong moral compass, but in fact, they are often the ones who cut through the social fabric to the truth. What is truly remarkable about Mockingbird is the sophisticated performances by child actors Mary Badham and Philip Alford. Juxtaposed with the subtle but strong hero Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), these children in the Deep South are beginning to understand the injustice of racism. This powerful and moving story touches on so many different truths about the way we do treat each other and how we should treat each other.

  1. Old Yeller (1957)

A painfully sweet golden retriever puppy practically melts the celluloid with his cuteness, and as he grows and his family grows with him, the antics and danger keep you glued to the action. All the trouble a boy and his dog can get into out in the wilderness happens: snakes, raccoons, and runaway plow mules. This one is a tearjerker, be warned, but it’s still so worth watching. The setting, the scenery, and even the color process used to shoot this film really draw you into another time and place.

  1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Roald Dahl must have known he had a hit with this book because he agreed to write the screenplay for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Very different but equally beautiful stories, the movie taps into a childhood archetype with his enchanted, infinitely productive candy factory. Gene Wilder is pitch perfect as its eccentric and elusive creator. They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore, with achingly beautiful hand drawn sets and dreamy, cheesy cinematography. Strange, funny, scary, wild, fanciful, Willy Wonka realizes every kid’s dream, to own a candy-making mansion where anything can happen.

  1. The Kid (1921)

Charlie Chaplin teamed up with Jackie Coogan in this silent black & white masterpiece about a street urchin and his small sidekick who find each other out of mutual need. Unlike many of the movies of its time, The Kidis about the down-and-out of society, rather than the crème de la crème. This flick is filled with moments of hilarious physical comedy and touching sentiment that modern movies cannot match.

  1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Though it is younger than many of the films on this list, this wackadoo mix of live action and animation is a feat of storytelling. During post-Great Depression Los Angeles, Roger is a cartoon who is owned by a big movie studio. He is falsely accused of murder and Eddie Valiant, played by the late, great Bob Hoskins, is brought in to investigate the crime. A wild goose chase ensues to figure out the evil plot to take out Toon Town. The story is a little complicated for younger viewers, but for those ages nine and up, they will recognize many of the cartoon cameos that pop up throughout the movie.

  1. The Parent Trap (1961)

Two girls go away to summer camp and meet– except when they come face-to-face, it’s like they are looking in the mirror! They figure out, over the course of the summer, that they are actually twins separated at birth, one living with each divorced parent. They hatch a plan to swap places and try to bring their divorced parents back together. Hayley Mills was just a teen when she picked up this great double role, and Maureen O’Hara who plays the mother, lights up the screen.

  1. The Muppet Movie (1979)

Jim Henson was a master at making parents and their kids laugh together, but for completely different reasons. This feature takes Kermit and his whole cast of loveable characters on the road to Broadway, where every theatre in town slams a door in their faces. Loaded with tongue-in-cheek jokes and celebrity appearances, this movie was the first in a long line of successful Muppet movies.

  1. Babe (1995)

This one is a little young to be considered a classic, but the story is so timeless, it is sure to become one. A runt in the factory farm is selected for a game at the county fair and Farmer Hoggit guesses his weight. So Babe is raised among the other farm animals for Christmas dinner, until Hoggit realizes his special talent. Definitely a modern nod to the likes of Charlotte’s Web, this movie is silly, scary, and utterly adorable in its portrayal of rural life.

  1. The Yellow Submarine (1968)

If you have yet to introduce your children to the Beatles, start young and show them this baffling and brilliant cartoon by artist Peter Max. Paul, John, George, and Ringo-like fellows go on a discombobulated journey that is essentially there to support songs from the album like “All You Need is Love.” It’s a bizarre ride to the far side that is entirely it’s own trippy experience.

Movies are a great way to broaden our horizons, to examine the darker side of our nature and to inspire the triumph of our lighter side. This is something we can so easily share with our kids, and because they are classics and will always ring true, your kids will watch these films with their own children one day.

Labor of Love: 9 Tips for Pregnant Executive Moms

Congratulations, you just got the most difficult and rewarding job you will ever have. There will be days you are so tired you can barely stand, and days when total strangers walk up to you on the street to tell you how radiant you look.  As a professional, you know how to roll with whatever comes your way, but if this is your first baby rodeo, there are some strategies that can help you stay in the saddle.Motherhood is at once a lot like running a company and nothing like it.  It will require knowing when to organize and when to let chaos pass over you.  You will learn (in a whole new way) that taking care of yourself so you can make good decisions sits at the very top of your priority list.  These suggestions are worthy of experiment, not to be taken as gospel, but simply to try.  And if all this seems dubious, well, welcome to parenthood.  

1. Nap. 
You are likely laughing at your computer screen right now, but those first 12 weeks when your body is growing another major organ (your placenta) to feed the tiny thing, your body is working double time.  If you have a couch at work, shut the door, take off your shoes, and lie down with closed eyes for 15 minutes.  Even a quiet catnap can help you recharge and make it though the rest of your day.
2. Keep whole foods on hand at all times.  
Again, for the above reasons, you need to keep something in your stomach at all times, especially if you are experiencing morning sickness.  Hard-boiled eggs and whole avocados are your friends.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
3. Walk.  
Even if you are very athletic, walking is the easiest and safest way to get your blood moving and avoid injury.  From the halfway point of pregnancy on, the body produces a hormone called Relaxin that loosens the muscles and joints in preparation for birth[1].  For some women, this can make them more susceptible to pulled muscles, soreness, and acute back pain.Support your body by taking a stroll around the office, a walk around the block, or a cruise through the park throughout the day.  You’ll sleep better
too.  
4. Stand, stretch, and use the ball.  
As you take calls or attend meetings,alternate between these three options.  Moderate lunges, hip rolls, and heart opening stretches are something you can do throughout the work day when you are on speakerphone, and if you need to sit, use the ball to encourage a straight spine.  Gone are the days when you can sit at the computer for hours at a time.  And let’s face it, that wasn’t good for you before you got pregnant either.  
5. Notify the key players.  
Even if you aren’t comfortable making the big announcement until you are farther along, confide in a few close, trust worthy co-workers.  This way, if you have mood swings or a sudden bout of morning sickness in the middle of a meeting, someone can cover for you.  And the sooner you notify your team, the more fully they can accommodate your needs.
6. Turn the volume down.  
When you are building a whole new person, your system is on alert.  Smells and sounds will be more distinct and you will find yourself more sensitive than usual to certain kinds of input1.  If you watch a movie, make it a comedy, and give the news a break.  Limiting the stimulus will help with sleeping, eating, and concentration.  
7. Yoga.  
Even if you have never done yoga, it has a host of benefits for expecting moms.  In a study that compared a daily 30 minute yoga practice to just walking alone, women who practiced had lower rates of pre-term labor,higher birth weight, and the reduced their time laboring[2].  Pregnant women who practiced also report feeling more mentally prepared for labor because of yoga.  Most cities have a certified instructor and it’s better to go to a teacher because there are some poses that pregnant women want to avoid.  
8. Plan a gradual exit.  
Many high-power career women work full-time up to the last minute, trying to squeeze in as much productivity as they can before the baby arrives.  Often too, these same women don’t realize just how much effort it takes toward the end of the third trimester.  Your blood volume increases by 50%, your heart is working 40% harder at rest, and to get an idea, a flight of stairs for a woman in her third trimester is like climbing basecamp at Everest.  Talk to your staff, be reasonable about your expectations,and taper off your involvement toward your due date.  
9. Take the time to get to know your baby, even in the womb.  
Remember that you begin forming a relationship with your child right away, that he or she is hearing your voice, accustomed to your movements, and getting to know you.  With the hard work of labor at hand, those preceding weeks are a chance to go inward, to nest and prepare as much as you can to bring this new life into the world.
For executive and professional women, stepping back, even if only temporarily, can feel very precarious.  Check in with yourself about your accomplishments, your goals, and let out a sigh knowing that work will be there when it’s time for you to re-emerge.  The new skill set you acquire in those first few weeks of motherhood will blow your mind and they are skills that you can take with you back to the workplace.  But right now, you have an even bigger job to do.   

References:
1. http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-hormones/hpl.aspx
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15865489 

The Pants of Least Resistance: 5 Exec-Friendly Wardrobe Tips for Busy Working Moms

Like it or not, our appearance absolutely says something about who we are.  From first impressions to self-expression, the clothes we wear are representative of the image we are portraying to others.  According to Forbes, you can actually use your wardrobe to change how others perceive you, and even how you think about yourself.

No matter what your personal style may be – classic, a bit retro, or always up with the modern trends, many women find shopping to be a fun activity, but most busy, working moms know that realistically there is little to no free time for this.  However, that certainly doesn’t mean they’ve stopped caring about their wardrobe, or what it says about them, especially while on the job.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t feel like a daily struggle to put an outfit together that is comfortable and conveys professionalism.

So exactly how can you balance this?  How can you present an “I am confident in my fashion choices!” image, while internally feeling like, “I have zero time for this!!!” – ??  Because a personal shopper may not be a viable option, we’re going to present to you some other great ideas to ensure you’re looking and feeling your best even as you work with minimal time.

1. Consider a work uniform – or just get back to basics.

One workday, Matilda Kahl, a successful art director, had an epiphany that her outfit choice was causing her too much unnecessary stress.  She also felt like her male colleagues were taken seriously no matter what they wore, but she certainly didn’t feel that same respect.  She came up with a solution to simplify her daily morning struggle.  

Kahl states, “I have no clue how the idea of a work uniform came to me, but soon, the solution to my woes was in the form of 15 silk white shirts and a few black trousers.  For a little personal detail, I chose to add a custom-made black leather rosette around my neck.  During the colder months, I also top my look off with a black blazer.  I shopped all the pieces in one day.  It burned a hole in my wallet to say the least, but in the long run, it has saved me—and will continue to save me—more money than I could imagine.”  So while you may not want to wear the exact same thing everyday, Kahl is definitely onto something.  A few properly tailored work basics with a few great accessories can be simple, professional, cost-effective, and classy.

2. Buy clothes that don’t require ironing.

Before having children, it’s very possible that you just didn’t like to iron, but now these days, you really do not have time for it.  Brands including Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne, Chico’s, and Land’s End offer items such as dress shirts that are made of a wrinkle-resistant material.  Not only is this helpful to save time each morning, these types of clothing articles are also ideal as you pack for business trips.

3. Travel in style – and comfort.

And speaking of traveling, if you are a mom who is often on the go for work, you know there’s a lot of preparation that goes into your time away from home.  You don’t need to add stress about packing, though you also still want to look professional, while recognizing that comfort means everything.  Whether you’re catching a nap or catching up on work during a long flight, a cozy ensemble helps your cause.  A site like Betabrand.com offers fashion-forward clothing including its highly-sought-after dress yoga pants, which ensure you both look and feel at ease even when traveling for business.  

4. Avoid the “Dry Clean Only” label if possible.

A trip to the dry cleaners doesn’t necessarily fit into your schedule.  And while there are services that offer pick-up and drop-off, the money may be better spent on expanding your business (or non-business) wardrobe further.  The no-dry-cleaning rule can be eased a bit if you own a good steamer.  If you’re careful and somewhat ignoring tip #2 from above, dry clean only items greatly benefit from a good press in between wearings, but this isn’t helpful on a day you spill your lunch.  So attempting to generally only purchase washable items may really be the best bet for your workdays.

5. Carry what you need in sensible style.

Trendy little clutch bags may look great in topping off an outfit, but for the working parent, they are not usually practical.  Your purse should be big enough to carry the necessities – wallet, make-up, cell phone, etc.  Luckily, satchel bags never really go out of style, and the cross-body look is both trendy and functional.  Backpacks are also popular right now and being offered by top manufacturers and also in local retail shops.  The right style can be fashionable, work appropriate, and functional for all your needs as a busy mom.  It also saves time to use just one handbag as opposed to switching between many.  In addition, this reduces the chance that one of your necessities doesn’t make the transfer.

Style is a very personal thing for each of us.  While all of these tips may not fit into your exact fashion vision, implementing just one of them can save you time, money, or aggravation.  Whatever your preference, looking good and feeling good, even when based on limited time, go hand-in-hand, and feeling confident in your appearance will exude that sentiment in the workplace as well.

Sources:

 http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2012/04/03/what-your-clothes-say-about-you/

 http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a10441/why-i-wear-the-same-thing-to-work-everday/

Ring in 2016 Right: 7 Marketing Dos and Don’ts for the New Year

 

New Year 2_L

You hopefully made the most of your marketing endeavors amidst the holiday shopping rush.  However, it’s important to remember those efforts shouldn’t stop when the 12 Days of Christmas are behind us.  In fact, using the time following the holidays wisely can actually propel you into a successful New Year.

So, what’s important to consider as you plan marketing activities and goals for 2016?  Before you don your party hat and get out your noisemakers for the upcoming celebration, consider these important tactics and ideas to properly prepare:

1. DO stay consistent.

Your messaging, positioning, and look should line up across all platforms.  Any new fans or clients you won over during the holidays will know what they can expect from your business in the New Year.  Also remain consistent in your timing; you don’t want to use social media to post eight things in one hour then disappear for two weeks.  Planning will ensure that you are reaching your target on a consistent, steady schedule.

2. DO develop an editorial calendar.

In order to maintain your consistency in both messaging and frequency, it’s essential to have a plan in writing.  Working a month or two out, you can decide what your themes and goals will be.  This will allow you to see the bigger picture, and when it’s best to leverage certain themes (perhaps like the upcoming Valentine’s Day?) to drive promotions, social media posts, or e-newsletters.

3. DO welcome a New Year with juicy new offerings.

New Year’s is prime time to add new products and services, particularly with the heavy ad campaigns leading up through the month of December.  Creative marketing ideas abound here, such as holding an after-midnight special New Year’s Day sale, in which you unveil your new product and offer big discounts on old stock. 

4. DON’T forget about customers’ resolutions.

It seems everyone has at least one New Year’s resolution.  Give your customers an extra resolution to follow with your direct-marketing campaign by pointing out key areas where your company excels versus the competition.  Do you offer a superb customer experience?  Try a headline like: “This year I resolve to not waste time on hold with customer service.”  Whatever you can promote about your company or exploit about your competition’s flaws can become a great resolution for your customers to have in the New Year.

5. DON’T neglect mobile.

Smartphones and tablets are increasing in popularity by the day — and not just in terms of sales.  As we press forward into 2016, consumers are using mobile devices more and more to conduct transactions, research brands, visit their favorite sites, and read and reply to emails.  So, if you’re still under the impression that it’s absolutely fine not to worry about optimizing email campaigns and websites for mobile, it’s time to modernize and make some headway in improving your mobile presence.  

6. DO revitalize your content strategy.

Now is a good time to evaluate a variety of content types that could work best for your inbound campaigns.  You can review analytics from the previous year and also engage in continual A/B testing so that your path is going in the right direction for the New Year.

7. DO revisit your customer personas.

What good are these revamped game plans for 2016 if you don’t know for whom you should be creating campaigns in the first place?  Now is the time to reexamine your customer personas.  Truly understand your audience by conducting thorough research on them.  Create online surveys or quizzes to get a better, updated grasp on who they are and what they want.  The bottom line is, you’ll need to comprehend as much about your target demographic(s) as possible to know how to effectively develop your content production, offers, and email and social strategies, among many other efforts.

A new year gives everyone the sense of starting fresh, and clearly this is true in terms of marketing as well.  Don’t let the opportunity pass you by!  By preparing and getting organized now, you can put strong New Year marketing ideas into place, and it can be your business’s best year ever!