Blog Posts by Jessica Ashley, Senior Editor

  • The drink that could make women superior

    Dear men:
    Probably wise for you to skip that second giant cup of coffee.

    Dear women:
    Drink up.

    A new study from England says that consuming coffee boosts women's brainpower when they're under stress. Unfortunately for menfolk, researchers from Bristol University say coffee has the opposite effect on male drinkers.

    Participants in the study were given coffee and then put through stressful situations that included challenging puzzles and memory quizzes, making negotiations, and being told they'd have to give a public presentation of their tasks upon completion. A control group was given decaffeinated coffee before tests.

    Men were found to be greatly impaired by drinking the "large shot of caffeine", slowing their pace at completing puzzles and making decisions,and having a big impact on memory.

    Women who were given caffeine, however, completed puzzles a whopping 100 seconds faster, leading researchers to project that this new understanding could have widespread implications on how

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  • More small children can use an app than can tie their shoes. And this is a problem because...?

    It was a rare but dramatic tantrum-y moment in my home last week. My kindergartner son was having a meltdown because we were going out to a fancy dinner and I was making him wear a (gasp!) button-down shirt (that's right), corduroy pants (mean! mommy!), and nice-ish shoes (I know, I know). He stood at the door of the bathroom, where I was putting on makeup, flung a boot toward me and sob-yelled, "YOU HATE ME! PLUS, YOU KNOW I CAN'T TIE SHOES ALONE!"

    Hate is a strong word. What I do dislike very much is a child in a Karate Kid t-shirt and track pants at an upscale Italian restaurant. What I enjoy is that my boy can, with a flick of the Velcro strap, get his own shoes on every morning (or at least every time that I don't force him to wear stifling dress boots) in seven to thirteen minutes flat (hey, six is a meandering age).

    I also enjoy that he can read, count money, decipher sarcasm, and recite pretty much every line of dialogue from any Star Wars movie. Oh yeah, and kick

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  • 5 ways to make this a better year for your family

    We're only a few weeks in to 2011 and already, most people have ditched their resolutions. Why? Because as well-intended as we are to make big things happen for our families or change our lives for the better, executing those grand plans is not always easy, realistic, or even possible.

    So how can we take a wonderful ideal like "I want our family to be happier" or "I want our schedule to be more sane" or "We'd like to stress less about money" and turn it into something you can all really see through? We took some great family intentions and shrunk them down into five goals we're sure you and the kids can commit to during the months left on this year's calendar.

    The intent: To have a calmer home.
    The plan: Yell less.

    What if each person in the family took an oath to lower your voices, especially when tensions and emotions are running high? Make signs to put up in the rooms where arguments tend to happen or on the doors that are slammed the most. Have kids create positive reminders

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  • What could the redefinition of rape mean for women?

    Rep. Chris Smith (D-NJ) at a news conference with fellow anti-abortion Republicans.Rep. Chris Smith (D-NJ) at a news conference with fellow anti-abortion Republicans.Both reproductive rights and the definition of rape could change with the introduction of a U.S. House bill by New Jersey Republican Chris Smith.

    H.R. 3, also dubbed the politically saturated "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," would take the current restrictions on federal abortion funding a step further. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has excluded abortion from public health-care programs like Medicaid. The exemptions to this amendment are mandated funding in cases of incest, rape, or when the woman's life is endangered. The Hyde Amendment must be renewed annually.

    In part, H.R. 3 proposes that the exemption would only cover women who are "forcibly" raped and become pregnant. House Speaker John Boehner has said the bill is a top priority. It presently has the support of 173 representatives, ten of whom are Democrats.

    Critics say that this would not only redefine rape, it would disallow government assistance for non-forcible sexual assaults, including many statutory rapes. A

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  • 9 ways to burn kids' energy indoors (without breaking the house in half)

    Growing up in Chicago in the era of "go play outside and don't come back in until your extremities are numb", I'm not sure my mother ever worried about what to do with kids trapped indoors. But a lot has changed in just one generation. Many of us have tiny yards or aren't comfortable letting our kids roam all over the city (or even neighborhood). We deal with squirmy children in the summer months by taking them to park district pools, leading them on leisurely bike rides, or organizing block-long hopscotch tournaments.

    But how in the world can we help our kids burn energy when we're all stuck inside during the bitter cold, snowy, slushy, gray and dreary winter months?

    Oh yeah, and how do we do it without going insane, begging iCarly to babysit, or breaking the house in half? It might actually be simpler (and cheaper) than you think. With a little creativity (from the part of the brain not still frostbitten from the early '80s) and maybe even a purchase or two, you can turn your

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  • When we lie to other mothers

    Your kids are on a strict 30-minute-a-day television schedule? Riiiiight.

    You spent three hours just building and knocking down blocks with them on the living room floor last night and followed it up with a date night that didn't include take-out? Sure, you did.

    That $400 Baby Monet class, those $75 Disney princess boots, and the $1400 Swedish stroller are all well within your family budget? Uh-hmmm.

    Moms are fibbing all over the place, according to a survey conducted by British-based website Netmums. Of the 5,000 women surveyed, two-thirds admitted they'd lied to other mothers.

    Participants also reported that:
    * 50% of them lied about their financial situation.
    * 25% weren't honest about how much television they allowed their children to watch.
    * 20% exaggerated how long they played with their children.

    Frank Furedi, a parenting expert and sociologist, told BBC News that he believes the reason mothers and fathers lie is to cope with the "profound pressures" of parenting,

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  • Possibly the freakiest IVF treatment ever

    Put down the acupuncture needles, set aside the supplements. Forget your Reiki and fish oil and all other rituals to bring on the baby dust, pregnancy goddesses, and fertility fairies.

    A new study says that watching a clown perform after embryos are implanted to women undergoing in-vitro fertilization could significantly impact her chances of getting pregnant.

    Dr. Shevach Friedler led the research at a fertility center in Israel, tracking 219 women over the course of a year. Half of the participants viewed a clown show, complete with magic tricks and jokes, that was created especially for the study by the doctor. After implantation, those women watched the antics for 15 minutes, which Dr. Friedler believes helped lower their stress levels.

    Whether this is the reason or not, the 36.4% of the women who saw the circus act became pregnant. Only 20.2% of the control group became pregnant. The results were recently published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility.

    Dr. Friedler

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  • Would you name your baby after someone famous?

    Once upon a time, I thought I'd get gold stars stamped on to my feminist card by naming my child after one of my women's rights heroes - Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I tried and tried to configure Cady with a hyphenated last name, to possibly throw in a nod to the goddess of wisdom, or maybe incorporate my grandmother's middle name. All my good intentions of imbuing my daughter with the spirit of strong women I admired just ended up being a big old convoluted mess that would have sounded awful and furthermore, never fit in the bubbles of a Scantron test.

    It didn't matter anyway. I had a boy and his name was clear and very much his own from early on in the pregnancy. Still, I wonder if I one day do give birth to a girl if I will feel just as compelled to Cady-up her name.

    Although I would have mucked it all up, a couple in Wisconsin seems to have made their own nom homage work beautifully. Twice.

    Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, and wife Rebecca, worked in the full names of two historic

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  • What are your dreams for your children?

    Are you as resolutioned out as I am?

    Just a few weeks in to the New Year, I am already at the eye-rolling stage every time I see one more article, commercial, or post on LIVING RIGHT! Perhaps it's that I am fully immersed in my own resolutions, which are actually twelve small but significant things I want to finally address in 2011.

    The smallish goals include de-cluttering my desk and finally donating the six person-high stacks of clothing in the middle of my basement floor. The loftier ambitions include getting one to two more hours of sleep a night regularly and wrangling my budget into better working order. All of the monthly resolutions are significant, however simple or sizable, because they were designed to help me be a better person, to be the woman/mother/writer I want to be.

    And despite being masked in pounds lost or calories trimmed or books read or meditations mastered, isn't that the true spirit of resolutions -- to become the person you dream of being, or at least to be

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  • Why aren't moms having sex?

    I love it when people ask this question. I laugh every time Oprah stares at millions of mothers, most of whom are covered in indistinguishable white lumpy and green runny substances, through the television and asks what in hell happened to childbearing women's libido.

    I roll my eyes every time a well-meaning but...well, you know now....friend without kids of her own knits her eyebrows with dire concern that a woman with a baby on the boob or hip or finally, finally asleep in the car seat can't remember the last time she had relations with her partner.

    I've giggled with girlfriends about the ridiculousness of scheduling sex on Outlook, in some grand scheme to get hot and bothered in between carpools to soccer and gymnastics and a science fair project.

    I may have even snorted once or twice while reading self-helpy types of books and posts and articles about scheduling date nights and "quality alone time" and wearing fancy panties even if you're still sporting maternity jeans years

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