Strength for life tips from a fitness expert

Posted by besttech

The new year brings resolutions, crowded fitness clubs, and a short burst of enthusiasm for setting and achieving goals. In reality, much of this enthusiasm is short-lived, and after the initial excitement, many of us fall prey to old habits. So, here we are, a month or so into the new year, and I thought that some fitness and nutrition reinforcements were in order.

An avid believer in charts and visual reinforcements, I recently published “Chart Your Way to Health and Fitness” on Discovery Health’s web site. Parents live a very physical life — running after kids, running up and downstairs with laundry baskets, and trying to squeeze 26 hours of work into a 24-hour day. However, there’s no substitute for dedicated time for exercise. When you keep track — in writing — of diet and fitness, you’re absolutely more likely to stay on track. Here’s the link for the full list of tips: http://tinyurl.com/c796mc. I also recommend a workout-food Diary (link http://tinyurl.com/c5nu3r), because keeping track of workouts is a visual reward, and keeping track of food throughout the day may lessen the likelihood of cheating on a diet.

There are lots of great books on health and fitness. One I saw recently, “Strength for Life,” caught my eye partly because its promise sounded longer-term than the usual quick fix, which is what making and keeping resolutions is all about. The author, Shawn Phillips, a strength and fitness expert (and dad), offered my blog readers a free personal training session online at The MomTini Lounge (www.MomTiniLounge.com), and it seemed particularly timely to republish here.

Phillips, CEO of Phillips Performance Nutrition, is a Colorado-based strength and fitness expert who has helped athletes, celebrities, and tens of thousands of people for the past 20 years.

Here are his tips:

1. Realize that health is not enough!

Most of us define health as simply “not sick,” but in today’s demanding world this precarious balance is not enough. It is possible to gain the physical and mental strength that will help you have more, be more and give more.

2. Don’t start today

Today’s world can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted; high levels of stress combined with bad nutrition and a lack of sleep lead to zero energy. Even if you start with the best of intentions, deciding to “get fit” or start a training regiment in this compromised state is a recipe for failure. If you’re one of those people who tend to crash and burn three weeks into a fitness program, consider that it’s not a lack of motivation — rather that your body can’t handle the pressure of adding another obligation to your already overstretched, depleted energy reserve.

3. Focus

In our eagerness for rapid results and increasing desire to get fit fast, Americans have learned to train out of our minds, literally. We focus everywhere but on the activity itself, aiming for quantity when it’s quality that makes all the difference. Because of this failure to engage and focus our minds, we receive a fraction of the benefits from their workouts we could enjoy.

4. Throw away the scales

Many women fear strength training as they are concerned that adding muscle will lead to adding mass or “bulking up.” This is a myth, not only is muscle a fat-burning furnace, it is much denser than the fat-mass that most people are seeking to unload. A pound of lean muscle is about the size of a baseball (or less), but a pound of fat is about the size of a cantaloupe.

5. Aim for “nutritional freedom”

For most people eating habits are just that — habits, they rarely take the time to examine why they eat the way they do. When you eat with the aim to feel energized and nourished as opposed to simply “filling-up” you make better choices. Nutritional freedom is the process of strengthening your awareness. Being aware involves taking the time to learn how food leaves you. It’s not about deprivation or dieting — it’s about understanding that what you eat impacts your energy levels, mood and strength.


Amy Kossoff Smith, founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com. Available 24/7, just like moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.

–By Amy Kossoff Smith, The Business of Motherhood


(c) 2009, The Business of Motherhood.

Online at www.BusinessofMotherhood.com and www.MomTiniLounge.com.


Start the year clean: Engage the kids, repurpose old items

Posted by besttech

There’s something about the new year that brings on a cleaning frenzy in my life. I’m a big fan of fresh starts, and what better time than now to start with a clean desk, clean house, clean closets … OK, now I’m getting carried away! Most kid-inhabited houses are anything but sparkling clean; in fact, an impeccable house makes me a little suspicious, or jealous at least. But order, like everything, comes in all shapes and sizes, and there are some simple ways you can ring in the new year with a clean sparkle.

The best way to clean is through teamwork, and as parents, we usually expect too little help from our kids in this department. We either think they’re too young or that it’s simply easier to do it ourselves. However, an investment in some domestic engineering training with our kids will pay many dividends in getting the cleaning job done … together.

Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be You and Me” album is such a timeless classic, and even though it’s been years, I remember the “Housework” song that assured kids that nobody likes to do housework, and that doing it together is the best way. How true, but as busy parents with busy kids, how do we accomplish this?

I spoke with Amy Olson, spokesperson for THE MAIDS Home Services, to find some industry tips on getting kids on board. THE MAIDS Home Services, founded in 1979, has been rated as the fastest-growing residential cleaning franchise in Entrepreneur magazine for the past four years (www.maids.com). Olson suggested, “Make cleaning a game so the mundane tasks are more fun.”

— Have a contest to see who can clean their room fastest or give awards for “best attention to detail,” “best decorating sense,” “neatest closet” or “best made bed,” etc.

— Put cleaning duties on paper, cut them up and then place them in a hat. Have the kids draw to see what duty they get. For a twist, do a trading system similar to a white elephant holiday gift exchange where kids can steal and trade cleaning jobs. This can make weekend cleaning unpredictable, relieving some of the dread associated with it.

— For older kids, let them know they can keep all the change and dollar bills they find while vacuuming the furniture or doing the laundry. Small amounts of money could always be strategically placed!

— Let siblings trade places. Have siblings clean and re-decorate each other’s rooms. Have an exciting reveal after a time limit.

I think these are great ideas — kids are naturally competitive, so why not put the spirit of competition into something useful for the whole family? Plus, if you make it creative and fun, you’ll increase compliance … and clean!

Here are more tips from Olson that offer creative ways to get even the youngest kids on board:

— Don’t expect kids to use adult tools to clean. Instead create supplies that are kid-friendly. Use an ice-cream pail for mopping chores or shorten an old mop handle or broom to make it kid-sized. (Editor’s note: If you shorten a wood stick, consider smoothing the new edge with sand paper and covering it with duct tape to prevent splinters.)

— Fill a squirt gun from a solution of a gallon of water and a drop of dish soap. Let kids squirt windows and mirrors and wipe dry with paper towels. Leaves glass clean and streak free!

— Cover kids’ hands and arms with dad’s old athletic socks then squirt the socks until lightly damp with a safe solution of vinegar and water. Send them off to dust around the house.

— Got a pile of blocks or action figures strewn on the floor? Scoop up toys in a few swoops using a kid-sized leaf rake to form a pile for easy pick-up.

— Make cleaning a game; give young kids grill tongs and challenge them to pick up toys and put them in a toy box or bin only using the utensils. Keep score and see who wins!

— Don’t forget the fun music to help your kids get a groove on as they boogie around the house cleaning.

Some additional cleaning tips from THE MAIDS, edited with a MomTini (www.MomtiniLounge.com) twist, offer some easy ways to repurpose ordinary items:

— Slip an old sock over your hand, dampen with polish or window cleaner and wipe away fingerprints and dust. Hair dryers work wonders on low speed to quickly eliminate dust from silk flower and plant arrangements. Used fabric softener sheets are excellent for dusting furniture and non-plasma television and computer screens. Coffee filters leave a lint-free shine when used instead of a cloth to wipe down mirrors and windows.

— Take paintbrushes from the garage and bring them in the house, as they will remove dust from the smallest crevices. From ornate designs in furniture to the smallest details in ceramics, a paintbrush can reach places a cleaning cloth cannot. You can also use them on electronics such as radios, computers and televisions to clean around knobs and buttons and inside speaker vents.

— Save your old toothbrush from the trash; professionals use them to tackle soap scum around faucets and drains.

— Pumice stones work great at removing calluses and rough skin on your feet, but did you know they’re also perfect for removing rust and hard-water buildup from the inside of white toilet bowls? Be sure the stone stays wet, and do not apply heavy pressure or you may scratch the surface.

And remember …

— Keep cleaning products in childproofed cabinets or high shelves, especially with young kids in the house.

— Organize your cleaning products in a bucket in the garage so they’re all in one place.

— If you keep multiple items of a favorite cleaner, put a yellow post-it note on the last one that says “replace me now!”

Happy cleaning!

–Amy Kossoff Smith, The Business of Motherhood


Amy Kossoff Smith, founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com. Available 24/7, just like moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.


(c) 2009, The Business of Motherhood.

Online at www.BusinessofMotherhood.com and www.MomTiniLounge.com.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


What’s in your restaurant bag?

Posted by besttech

By Amy Kossoff Smith

www.BusinessofMotherhood.com and www.MomTiniLounge.com.


Dining out with kids can be challenging. It requires manners, patience and self-control, all character traits that are under development for many kids. Young kids, in particular, may find it difficult to sit for long periods of time. Add to that the ambient noise of a restaurant, which can be distracting to little ears, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. We’ve all witnessed the scene. Kids standing in booths, throwing things around, talking in outside voices. It detracts from everyone’s experience, and can’t be fun for the kids, the parents or the neighboring tables.

There’s hope, and while it may not create a picture-perfect scene every time, it’s a great tool to have in your Mom Bag of Tricks. This is one of my all-time favorite tips for moms, and I have to credit my mother-in-law, aka “Heloise”/Marcia, Mom Since 1963 (MS’63), for the idea. When our tweenage son was 2, I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t sit still in restaurants. My husband and I, new to the “we’re a party of three” routine, assumed we could continue our dining-out lifestyle in stride. After many failed attempts at peaceful dinner outings, I was sure something was awry. I even asked an expert about this, and she assured me it was out of many kids’ abilities to sit still for 90 minutes in an adult environment, and that the only problem was our unrealistic expectations.

Still, and I know you can picture this, sprinting through a restaurant after your feisty toddler is hardly a sport any parent would enjoy. I was convinced we’d never make it to any restaurant more than once — or, that we’d need to go in disguise so they wouldn’t remember the kid who ran around the restaurant, shrieked from time to time and emptied sugar packets like it was a carnival game. Marcia suggested a “restaurant bag” complete with small noiseless but interesting toys, arts and crafts and anything fun to keep little hands busy.

It worked (and continues to work with kids of all ages) like a charm and gives us much needed dining time outside of our kitchen. I try to reserve these toys for restaurants only, and to change the items from time to time to keep them special and unique. Craft stores are great for stocking “magic ink” or small water paint kits. Other ideas include creating and copying sheets of tic-tac-toe, hangman or dots.

You’d also be shocked at the value you can find at your local Dollar Store for little trinkets & restaurant diversions — it’s like a kids’ wonderland as they race up and down the aisles with a whole DOLLAR! And this works for kids of all ages — the toys just get a little more electronic as the kids get older.

Once your kids expect the restaurant bag and you’ve forgotten it for some reason, it’s like forgetting your passport on an international trip. I suggest keeping it in the trunk of your car so it’s always there, and do rotate or refresh the contents from time to time. I also include some small electronic toys, but our kids know the rule — volume off!

The restaurant bag buys our kids some fun and distraction, and is an on-call babysitter that allows our family to dine out without the worry of sprinting between tables. And on occasion, it even buys us some adult conversation, all for a dollar or so!


Amy Kossoff Smith, founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com. Available 24/7, just like moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.


Make fitness a team sport for your family

Posted by besttech

By Amy Kossoff Smith The Business of Motherhood

As cooler temperatures set in, kids may spend more time indoors. With the fascination surrounding the computer, video games, and TV, today’s kids are more prone to a sedentary lifestyle. And, as America’s childhood obesity epidemic increases, many parents are concerned about their kids’ fitness and health.

Fitness expert and author Tom Gilliam urges parents to take a more proactive role in facilitating good habits for their kids. “Don’t preach to your kids from the ‘parent pulpit’ and impose a bunch of arbitrary diet and exercise rules. Instead, live a healthy body weight message, every day, and your kids will naturally come along for the ride,” he explains.

Gilliam, creator of the “Move It. Lose It. Live Healthy.” workplace program that helps employees achieve and maintain healthy body weights, adds, “Research shows over and over that the only way to combat childhood obesity is to make nutrition and exercise family priorities.”

Gilliam shares fun and simple suggestions for making fitness a family affair:

*Use hard numbers to measure body weight. Teach older kids what their “BMI” means. Kids don’t respond well to vague terminology like “healthy” or “fit” (or worse, “skinny”). They like concepts that are straightforward and easy to grasp. For kids 10 and older, you might use Body Mass Index (BMI) to measure fitness.

*Explain to your older child that his Body Mass Index (BMI) multiplies his body weight (in pounds) by 705; then divide by the square of his height (in inches) reveals whether he’s overweight or in the normal range. A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is optimal. If your child is overweight, help him work toward his “magic number” of 25. If he’s already within the normal range, explain that it’s important to maintain that level.

*Educate older kids on how to read food labels. You may need a crash course yourself, first, and that’s OK. “When kids learn to read food labels, they’ll be able to see that sodas, for instance, are prohibitively high in sugar,” he says. “And they’ll learn that the bottle that looks like one serving is actually 2.5 servings — so they’re getting more than twice the sugar than they may think at first glance!”

Editor’s Note: I remember our pediatrician telling me that a glass of orange juice has the same amount of sugar as a candy bar. Even carrots are very high in sugar, so it’s important to make smart choices.

*Connect exercise with activities kids already like to do. For example, if your kids love video games, the Wii can be a great form of exercise. If they’re interested in science, take them on weekly nature walks where they can identify trees, plants, and bugs to their heart’s content. But what if all they want to do is watch TV? Fine, says Gilliam, just tell them they can watch their favorite show only if they exercise while it’s on. They might walk on the treadmill, walk or run in place, stretch, or lift hand weights.

*Use books, videos, and other stories to help drive the point home. If you have a teenage daughter who loves to read, give her a subscription to a fitness magazine. Give your 10-year-old son a martial arts video aimed at kids. (There are tons of kid-friendly fitness videos on the market!).

*Let your child wear a pedometer every day. Kids who love gadgets will enjoy measuring their steps. Remind them that 10,000 is the number of steps to aim for each day. Rather than seeming like a dreaded chore, that daily walk will become a fun challenge!

*Consider exercising in the morning. “If you try to squeeze fitness activities in during the evenings, they’ll rarely happen,” says Gilliam. “Between homework, afterschool events, dinner, and chores, you’ll just run out of time. Try getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual and going for a walk as a family. It’s amazing how much better a.m. exercise makes everyone feel!”

*Show them what good long-term health looks like. Admittedly, it is tough for kids to see beyond the next day, much less 50 years down the road. But you can use people you know as “object lessons” to drive your point home.

*Make a game out of shopping for and serving healthful foods. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with the same old expected “good-for-you foods” like corn, green beans, or apples. Gilliam suggests having some fun with the shopping/cooking process as a way to alleviate boredom for you and your kids. “Maybe you can introduce an unusual fruit or vegetable every week — star fruit or guava or artichokes,” he says. “Both you and your kids will enjoy trying out new flavors. Or designate a week as ‘Red Foods Week’ and let your kids select every healthful red food they can think of: tomatoes, strawberries, beets, apples, watermelon, and so on. Then, work a red food into every meal.”

“It’s all about the decisions we make every day,” adds Gilliam. “Every time you serve broccoli instead of fries, every time you hand out water bottles instead of soda cans, every time you turn off the TV and go for a family bike ride, you’re helping your kids learn that lesson in the most powerful possible way — by living it. There’s no better gift you can give them.”


Editor’s Note: Great tips and ideas. A Business of Motherhood (www.BusinessofMotherhood.com) approach to this also would include charting food & workouts — for kids or adults. Check out our free Workout-Food Diary (link: http://www.businessofmotherhood.com/momlife.html#M6) . Also, many of the charting ideas on the Chores & Discipline section(link: http://www.businessofmotherhood.com/momlife.html#M5) could be adapted to get a kid to try new foods or maintain an exercise regime. I like Gillam’s approach that fitness is a family affair, that it should be fun and engaging, and that modeling is powerful. Definitely make sure you’re selecting age-appropriate exercises, and consult your doctor before starting anything new.

Amy Kossoff Smith, founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com. Available 24/7, just like moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.


Moms dish in a new book

Posted by besttech

By Amy Kossoff Smith The Business of Motherhood

Moms are the most fascinating group of multitasking mavens around. So when I met fellow mom/editor, Molly Rosen (a friend of a friend of a friend, and fellow mom), who was compiling a book about women in their 40s, my only question was, “How soon do you need my essay?”

From tattoos to affairs, from motherhood to mayhem, from battling alcoholism and eating disorders and everything in between, “Knowing Pains: Women on Love, Sex and Work in Our 40s” includes 32 essays from women in 11 states.

The book’s subtitle, “Old Enough to Know Better, Young Enough to Do Something About It,” says it all, but I would like to focus specifically on the “mom” angle, the most delicious part of this “40s pie.”

For me, a mom of three boys and an avid Mommy Blogger, it wasn’t difficult to find something to write about. I quickly decided chronicle my foray into the world of social marketing in my essay, “Stumbling into Cyberspace”:

“My fingers raced across the keyboard, and my heart pounded as I heard the school bus wheels screech to a halt outside our house. Only a few more precious minutes to get that last e-mail out before the kids would bound through the door, kick off their shoes, throw their backpacks in the hall and demand a snack. It was time to shift gears from work to kids, knowing full well that while my second shift was just starting, the third one (post-bedtime work catch-up) still lay ahead. After years of balancing three kids with my home-based PR business, I had added a scrumptious new project to my already-full plate. I started a Web site and blog that combined my organizational skills, my writing and PR background, and my passion for motherhood.

“As a working mom, I had constantly found my business world and personal world colliding. Over the years, I had naturally begun to use my work tools to organize our home life. Complicated carpools? No problem, a color-coded spreadsheet will do the trick. Painting estimates? Make sure you ask each person the same five questions — display the answers on a chart. Chores for the kids? Lay it out so all can see. Chart after chart, spreadsheet after spreadsheet, my business skills were guiding me through motherhood, providing me with much valued order in my home.”

There were some bittersweet stories about motherhood, as well, including my dear friend and a role model of a mom, Lauren Bogart, who writes about being a mother to three — and a widow — at 40. Here’s an excerpt from her essay, “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been”:

“My kids kept me going. Even in the hardest times, I never pulled the covers over my head and refused to get out of bed. I couldn’t. I had three vulnerable children depending on me. I remember when a hospice worker came for a visit during Paul’s illness, I asked her how my children would fare when their father passed away. I’ll never forget her answer. “Children do as well as the surviving parent.” When I met with the rabbi of my temple to discuss Paul’s funeral, he reminded me, “Only one person’s life ended today. Not yours.” Those words stuck with me.”

Some moms had wakeup calls at 40, like Cari Shane Parven, a former television reporter and now writer/blogger. In “Finding Friendship at Forty,” she acknowledges, “I was in the throes of motherhood with a 1-year-old and a newborn. Other than an elaborate dinner with my husband, celebration was out of the question. I was busy and not yet aware that besides lacking sleep, I was lacking friendship. After all, I had my husband.”

In “Cell Blocked,” Thea Singer writes about how motherhood through adoption revolutionized her life and gave her newfound perspective: “I have an 8-year-old daughter, whom we adopted at birth. True, throughout my ordeal, I remained adamantly pro-choice (for other people) and a staunch advocate of stem cell research (with other people’s embryos). But it took my flesh-and-blood girl — the person who plays air flute to my air violin at Starbucks — to provide the perspective to settle my soul. I look at those Polaroids now and marvel at the transformation of sperm and egg to embryo, but I barely claim the balls of cells as mine. They are the place where, for a matter of days, my husband’s and my genes met — no more, no less. Meanwhile, my baby is upstairs, waiting for me to cuddle with her in bed. And yet … while my when-life-begins conflict has ‘righted’ itself, my cognitive dissonance regarding abortion has taken on a new, horrid twist: What if the 20-year-old who gave birth to my girl had made a different choice?”

With women starting families later than the generation before them, infertility is an issue facing 40-something moms. Lori Stott’s “Geriatric Mama” adds some humor to the situation: “While my infertility issues were not necessarily caused by my ‘advanced’ age, it did not help matters much that I was fast approaching my fourth decade on the planet. So my pregnancy was oh-so-scrupulously monitored. And I was given two labels: ‘geriatric’ and ‘high-risk.”‘

And the book ends on a peaceful note. A Philadelphia-based mom, Jennifer Lear, finds peace in “good enough”:

“I try not to pressure myself to squeeze as much as I can out of each moment of my day. I choose contentment over fear. I choose ‘good enough’ over ‘never enough.’ That’s my plan, at least. And that, too, will have to be good enough.

“One of the unexpected pleasures of my new mantra is the wealth of opportunities I have to practice it with my daughters. With my germ-phobic 13-year-old, things are clean enough: ‘That brownie was on the floor for 4 seconds . . . tops.’ With my 11-year-old who began rejecting all meat products several years ago, I bury the chicken broth can in the recycling bin, saying: ‘Just eat it, it’s vegetarian enough.”‘

In honor of those affected by breast cancer, 100 percent of all net proceeds from the book will be donated to Breast Cancer Action (www.bcaction.org) to support breast cancer education and advocacy. Among the essayists featured in the book:

— 89 percent have been personally impacted by breast cancer.

— 37 percent have had breast cancer, or a breast cancer scare.

— 56 percent have had a family member with the disease.

— More than 70 percent have had a friend or colleague afflicted with breast cancer.


For more information, visit www.KnowingPains.com. Books available through Amazon.com and Ingram (www.IngramBook.com).


Editor’s note: The copyrighted excerpts printed in this column are reprinted with permission of each author.


Amy Kossoff Smith, founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com. Available 24/7, just like moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.


The business of school lunches

Posted by besttech

Amy Kossoff Smith The Business of Motherhood

Back-to-school — and back-to-the-school-cafeteria — adds yet another item to a Mom’s “to do list.” Whether your kids buy or bring, you’re undoubtedly thinking about providing a nutritious, high-energy lunch for your child. Add to the equation refrigeration issues (or lack thereof!), school allergy guidelines and picky eaters, and you’re bound to find yourself in a frustrating situation. Plus, many kids eat lunch early, so providing a good energy boost is important to help them get through the day.

Here are some links and tips to add method to the meal. As a Featured Discussion Leader for DC Moms Like Me, I recently blogged about “creative camp lunches” (http://dc.momslikeme.com/members/JournalActions.aspx?g190047&m111222 &grpcatFood).

Some of the survival tactics apply to school lunches as well, and I’ve added some additional tips here:

— Plan ahead: Definitely make lunches the night before — the morning routine is already rushed. Plus, you get the added benefit of refrigerating overnight in the lunch sack to keep it cooler during the morning. I like to include a plastic spoon and napkin so they aren’t running around the lunchroom for supplies.

— Teamwork wins: Include the kids in the process to get some help AND to get buy-in so they’re more likely to eat it.

— Get creative: I’ve cut sandwiches into shapes (with cookie cutters), embarrassed as I am to admit it. You can also send veggies to dip in yogurt or other fun interactive lunch items to keep little hands busy during the lunch hour.

— Avoid high-sugar ingredients: Kids need a lot of energy to get through the school day — try to provide high fuel without high sugar so they don’t crash during math class.

— Make it simple: The lunch period is short, and by the time the kids make it to their seats, it seems like they’re cleaning up before they dig the fork in for the first bite. Don’t send anything too complicated or difficult to open. As a lunch aide, I saw many frustrated kids struggling to open things, spilling liquids, etc.

In terms of what to include in school lunches, I also find this challenging. I look for balance — a main dish, a fruit, some healthy chips, and yes, a dessert. Anything in moderation is OK. Try to include some protein for energy if possible in the main dish:

— Tuna or egg salad

— Mini bagels with butter or cream cheese

— Soup or Ramen noodles (can be kept hot in a small thermos)

— Hard-boiled eggs

— Yogurt

To streamline the process, consider a questionnaire the kids can fill out. Early on, a Dad guest authored an adorable piece on my blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com, about the “School Lunch Conundrum.” I love to see business skills come home to increase productivity, and loved this example where a dad brought his corporate tax experience into the kitchen. This father gave his kids a grid to fill out each week, and said it helped with advance grocery shopping and eliminated the headache in lunch prep. Check out Mike’s guest post (http://momtinilounge.com/?p

13). And you can download his lunch chart at our Web site, along with other mealtime tips (http://www.businessofmotherhood.com/momlife.htmlM3).

If your child is buying lunch, I recommend printing the school lunch menu, and having your child highlight the days he or she wants to buy so you can plan in advance as well.

Good luck, and happy lunch-ing!


Amy Kossoff Smith, founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com. Available 24/7, just like moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.


Vacation strategy: Give kids a budget

Posted by besttech

By Amy Kossoff Smith

The Business of Motherhood


With long holiday weekends and summer around the corner, here’s a vacation strategy to consider: Give your kids a budget!

When you’re traveling with kids, you’ll undoubtedly get lots of “I want this” and “I want that” at every tourist stop, stand and kiosk. Even though, as an adult, you have the experience to understand that many trinkets are a waste of money, your kids may not understand that. Plus, with suggestive marketing everywhere you look (TV, advertising, instant downloads, powerful packaging, etc.), there are invitations at every turn to buy, buy, buy!

Unlimited spending is probably a dangerous route, regardless of your financial means. Setting some guidelines and parameters up front with keep everyone in check as you enjoy your trip. Assuming you want to buy your kids some souvenirs to help them remember the family time, go ahead and give them a pre-set spending amount. The amount matters less than the principle, and by giving them a budget, you’re saving yourself from endless negotiation later. Plus, you’re giving your kids some great financial management skills, which are critical to their development.

Too often, we send kids off to college, hoping that they understand how to manage checkbooks and spending limits, without having taught them these skills. By giving them a vacation budget, and by using it as a guiding principle to help them make smart decisions along the way, you teach them how to set priorities and how to think both short- and long-term. It’s important not to exert too much control beyond the amount let your kids make mistakes now while the cost isn’t too high. It teaches them about disappointment in a safe environment where you can ease them through the process and teach them valuable coping skills when things don’t work out their way.

We recently took our three young boys on our first ever 10-day vacation. First, let me say, I prescribe this to any and every family. In the computer age, we’re never far from work, and especially in the self-employed world, I’m constantly connected. Armed with spreadsheets, kid-friendly tourist guides, and my husband’s invaluable GPS, we had an incredible time.

The “vacation budget,” presented as gift in advance to each child, worked beautifully. We announced each kid’s budget before we left. The amount is discretionary, of course, but we presented it with a fun poem about the wonderful adventures they were about to experience, and told them we’d keep track of their $40 budget on a sheet of paper, but that they were in complete control. Our trip was to California, so we wove in some of the sightseeing highlights, and kept it on a kid-friendly level. You can customize based on your destination and plans, but here’s ours to see one example:

From the Bay Bridge to Rodeo Drive,

There’s Lots of Fun in Store for You.

Sightseeing, great meals, family fun,

Huge trees, dolphin shows, cousins too!

On your Family Adventure on the West Coast,

You’ll see, smell, and taste lots of treats.

We can guarantee a most fabulous time for all.

Shamu the Killer Whale, we’ll all get to meet.

So…here’s a credit for Forty Dollars,

That You Can Spend How you Wish.

We’ll keep track of your account for you.

So your money doesn’t get eaten by fish!

It is a great way to teach and reinforce money management skills in real life situations, and to avoid being the heavy at every request. You could see them weighing options, wondering about what the next souvenir shop might hold, and wondering if something was worth it or not. Definitely a good example of a parent-child win-win.


Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com. Available 24/7, just like Moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.


(c) 2008, The Business of Motherhood.

Online at www.BusinessofMotherhood.com and www.MomTiniLounge.com.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


The business of motherhood

Posted by besttech

By Amy Kossoff Smith

The Business of Motherhood

Domestic Engineering Job Available: Mom

Requires a variety of specialized skills, 24/7

It’s amazing that you need a license to drive a car or to operate heavy machinery. You need a degree to teach in public schools. You need advanced training to be a doctor or lawyer. But to raise a child, to be responsible for another human being, anyone in puberty and beyond can get the job without even applying! You get pregnant; give birth; and get sent home from the hospital with a few diaper and formula samples, but no formal training or instruction manual.

So what is required of a Mom? There are lots of Mom “job descriptions” circulating the Web — I’ve edited & compiled to create one that I think says it all:

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