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  • 16 Years Later: How I’m Changing My Parenting Strategy as the Mom of a Teen

    16 Years Later: How I'm Changing My Parenting Strategy as the Mom of a Teen16 Years Later: How I'm Changing My Parenting Strategy as the Mom of a TeenI was never one to follow any one particular parenting strategy or style, especially one with a fancy name or rules to follow. When my girls were babies, I felt like the only parenting strategy I needed to master was what I refer to as "recalibration". With each passing stage or phase, I found myself having to assess and reassess how I did things. Just when I thought I hit my stride, the current would change, and I would have to shift my parenting rudder accordingly. With each of my slight modifications, I questioned my ability to be a good parent, wondered if I was doing right by my children, and hoped that how I was parenting was going to help my children grow up to be secure, happy, and healthy people. As I've heard it said, "Parenting is not for the faint of heart."

    Some phases of childhood were easier than others for me to manage. For example, I remember four being easy. Good thing, because three was brutal. I could go on and on in detail about the ups and the downs, with the

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  • A Disability Does Not Define a Person

    A Disability Does Not Define a PersonA Disability Does Not Define a PersonI can't deny that when my kids were born, I succumbed to the typical behavior of a new parent whose child has Down syndrome. For a long time, I thought they were angels - that they would be kids forever and that they would never be capable of acting with malice.

    My attitude about their lives wasn't any different from that of most new parents. We love our angels and can't imagine them ever being anything but the perfect beings they are at birth. On top of that, when a child is born or diagnosed with a disability, the immediate response from those around us is to try to make us believe how blessed we are for receiving such a special being, someone out of this world.

    When a child is diagnosed with autism, society leads us to believe that they are savants or have special powers. When a child is born with Down syndrome, people believe they are sweet, innocent, and wonderful beings. Perhaps this is supposed to be the consolation prize that comes with having a child with special

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  • 5 Ways My Parenting Has Changed Over the Years

    5 Ways My Parenting Has Changed Over the Years5 Ways My Parenting Has Changed Over the YearsAt first I was going to title this post "5 Ways My Parenting Has Changed the Second Time Around" - because I actually thought for a minute that it was as simple as that. You know, the usual naive parent stuff, going from using binky wipes with your first baby to popping it in the ol' mouth to 'give it a clean' by the time we're into our second baby.

    Nothing in parenting is ever black and white, and my particular style definitely doesn't fall into one category. When I got pregnant with Wyndham, I was that mom who wanted to do things as holistically as possible - everything from the birth to the wooden Waldorf and Montessori toys we'd only allow in the home and organic garments I'd dress, wrap, and swaddle him in.

    How annoying was I?

    Perhaps a lot, or perhaps not much to you, depending on where you fall, dear reader. And I don't even care about any of that, because I'm still that mom. I still have a great respect and admiration for natural childbirth, and I LIKE wooden toys

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  • How to Ensure You Don’t Run Out of Money Before You Run Out of Month

    How to Ensure You Don't Run Out of Money Before You Run Out of MonthHow to Ensure You Don't Run Out of Money Before You Run Out of MonthHas the following ever happened to you?

    You get paid early in the month, you pay your bills, you start paying down your debt, you buy your groceries, and you're doing great. But then somehow, inevitably, you get to the end of the month, and money is tight.

    It happened to me all the time. I'd run out of money before I ran out of month.

    It was so frustrating.

    I had goals, and big plans for my money. And yet … the month was just five or six days longer than I planned for.

    It caused so much stress in my life, and it was something I was doing to myself. Something had to change. Here's what I did:

    Step 1: Plan better.

    You know how much money you're bringing in, and you know you're already spending more than that. How much more do you need at the end of the month? Write it down, because next month, you're going to plan better.

    Step 2: Write next month's rent/mortgage check first.

    I always paid rent on the 1st of the month (hey, I lived in an English basement

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  • Why “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” Doesn’t Work in Parenting

    I wonder how many times a day/week/month/year we find ourselves as parents saying or thinking, "Do as I say, not as I do."

    Like when we pull out the carrot sticks at snack time, then sneak into the pantry and grab a handful of potato chips?

    Or when we insist that they go to bed on time, and then we stay up until midnight and wake up cranky, tired and irritable -- precisely the behaviors we were trying to curb in them by getting them to bed right on time.

    Or even when we shoo them out the back door to go play in the yard and, you know, get some exercise while we watch them from the safety of the kitchen window? (Maybe so we can nibble on a cookie without having to share for once?)

    We know better. Obviously. We know what the healthy choice is: to eat our (not deep-fried) veggies. To get a good night's sleep. To make time to play and move our bodies. And yet, again and again, we don't do it.

    Oh the hypocrisy of parenthood! It's a shame that kids are so darn good at scouting

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  • The Value of a Second-Tier College Degree

    When I was 19, I took a job as a nanny in New York City in exchange for tuition to a city school. It wasn't my first choice college, but it was what my employers were willing to pay for; there was no way I could afford a more prestigious, expensive university on my own and I knew it was a bad idea to take on a mountain of college debt.

    The city school was a commuter school, meaning everyone who went there worked. It wasn't the kind of place where students hung around after class, attending football games and fraternity parties. I, like most of the students, went to class then went to work and wrote papers late at night. That was fine by me -- it's pretty much the way I'm wired. Besides, I knew my real education -- the one that would take me further than any piece of paper -- was getting to live and work in New York City.

    Four years later, I graduated debt-free and got a job. I'm now doing what I was born to do -- write and publish books (albeit with shifting success!) In the years

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  • 12 Questions that Teach Kindness in Your Children

    12 Questions That Teach Kindness in Your Children12 Questions That Teach Kindness in Your ChildrenWe encourage kindness in our children, above all else. In our home, we value and teach kindness above intelligence, talent, and responsibility.

    As parents, we are raising children whose character is built on thoughtful kindness. And it's working: In a day of endless stories of bullying, we are raising children who stand up for the bullied by stepping in. In a day of debates over whether children should be allowed in restaurants, we are raising children whose considerate behavior draws strangers to our table to comment on what a pleasure it was to have us as table-mates.

    In a house of three kids under 10 years old, we are working every day to raise siblings who know how to fight fair, know how to love and be loved, and who will be friends as adults. It starts at home, and we work at it every day.

    Our approach isn't foolproof. My 7-year-old is far more empathetic than his older brother. It's like empathy is his superpower. He can read emotions near flawlessly when he slows down enough

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  • 8 Birth Stories Crazier Than Yours

    8 Birth Stories Crazier Than Yours8 Birth Stories Crazier Than YoursThe group of us sat around the dining room table, gaping at a cellphone. I was hanging out with a bunch of other moms from the neighborhood, and one had just told us that years ago she'd given birth on a local highway. Even more incredible: they'd gotten a copy of the recording of her husband's call to 911, and she had it on her iPhone. It lasted nine minutes, and we all listened in fascination as the husband grew more and more nervous ("When are you getting here?!") and the officer on the other end of the line advised her not to push (!!!). She had the baby before the ambulance arrived.

    Like meeting cute stories, you never get tired of hearing about birth stories. These are some of the most memorable ones out there.

    1. Woman gives birth to twins on separate highways

    "The babies are coming!" yelled Siobhan Anderson. She and her husband, Bryan, were on a highway in Long Island, New York, en route to the hospital. He pulled over and called 911. As the EMTs got her onto the

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  • Tea Time! 4 Gorgeous Downton Abbey Inspired Outfits

    It's that time of year again: The new season of Downton Abbey is in full swing, and our Sunday nights are spent drinking tea while watching the Crawley family drama unfold. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you may be the only person on the planet that hasn't seen the show! This season takes place in the early '20s, so each episode is chock full of drool worthy dresses and the best of the best accessories to accompany the outfits.

    I'm a little obsessed with this time period, so I went shopping for some '20s inspired outfits with a modern twist! Whether you're looking to host a season finale costume party, or you just want to add a little glamour to your date nights, check out these four Downton Abbey inspired ensembles!

    Related: 15 stylish Harry Potter-themed pieces to add to your wardrobe

    Downton AbbeyDownton Abbey

    This ensemble is inspired by Lady Mary's ensemble at the beginning of the fourth season. The dark colors, drop-waist style dress, lace and fancy accessories all fit perfectly in

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  • Life Would Be Easier Without My Youngest Child

    Life Would Be Easier Without My Youngest Child"What's your favorite animal?" My 3-year-old asks, green eyes wide, blonde hair haloing her face.

    "Giraffe?" I mumble. It's barely 6 AM.

    "Me, too!" my daughter cries gaily. Then she grows serious. "I also love bunnies and hippos and those other ones with the big horns on their noses. What'rethosecalledMommy?"

    I stumble into the kitchen to get breakfast ready. She stands beside me on a chair and makes "little eggs" in the flour with a teaspoon, bellows to her big brother and two big sisters, "PANCAKES ARE READY!" and then helps me do laundry by folding dishtowels into messy squares and squishing them into the drawer.

    Before this little girl was born, I worried we were being greedy. My husband and I were already blessed with three healthy children, could we really be lucky enough to have a fourth?

    I adore this child. She is good-humored, philosophical and bright. She has a question -- and an answer -- for everything. But sometimes, more often than it is safe to admit (and

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