Stressed? Science Says Smell THIS!

Mamas—raise your hand if you’ve found yourself stressed out in the last week? Day? Hour?

Ha! Ladies, I know my audience, and I’m thinking pretty much every hand is up right now. (If not, I’d love to know your secret. Let’s talk. Like, really.)

Well, for starters, know that if you’re feeling the stress, you’re not alone. And secondly, you’ll be happy to know that the antidote no longer requires a trip to the rose garden…though that probably wouldn’t hurt.

A recent study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports that a woman’s stress level can drop when she takes a whiff of her romantic partner’s t-shirt.

Researchers studied 96 opposite-sex couples and had the men wear the same t-shirt for 24 hours with no deodorant or scented body products to interfere with their natural scents. The t-shirts were then frozen to preserve the smells, and later presented to the women in a series of experiments. Some women were given the t-shirt of a stranger to smell, others their own romantic partner’s. The women were then given mock job interviews and difficult math problems to solve in order to raise stress levels.

After the “tests” were performed, the women were asked to rate their own stress levels and provide saliva samples in order to measure cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. Unsurprisingly, the women who were provided with the shirts of their partners had lower overall stress levels than those of their counterparts in the study, suggesting that the familiar scent of a loved one can create a sense of safety and calm, even during a stressful situation.

So, the next time you find yourself worrying over that mountain of unwashed laundry, just stop and…well, smell the dirty laundry.


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Science Says: Less Is More In Toyland

Picture this:

Your three small children are quietly playing side by side with a transformer, plastic pony, and a set of plush blocks, respectively. They’re focused and quiet, happy to enjoy their activities, occasionally sharing in an imaginative transformer+pony+block merger.

Now open your eyes and scan the kids’ actual toy room. The horror! Toy boxes overflowing with dozens of dolls, trucks, and buzzing whoozawhatsits long since forgotten, broken, or traded in for the latest favorites. A fresh fight breaks out as you attempt to clean up battle wounds from the last one. Another child cries out in boredom because there is NOTHING TO PLAY WITH IN HERE!

Okay, okay…maybe it’s not that bad at your house. But that first image we conjured? Looks like it’s a real possibility according to research done at the University of Toledo.

In the study conducted, researchers observed 36 children in a room where some were given 16 toys and others were given only four. They observed that the toddlers with fewer toys played longer and with more creative exploration with a single toy than the kids who were provided with 16 toys. The study further noted that extended focus on one toy allows for a variety of ways to play with that toy, which reflects cognition, perception, coordination, and ideation—all important developmental qualities.

The discussion of the study also stated that “an environment that presents fewer distractions may provide toddlers the opportunity to exercise their intrinsic attention capabilities.” And in a world where an increasing number of children are being labeled with attention deficit disorders, it may be worth noting that attention is a muscle-like quality with the ability to be strengthened based on a more, shall we say, boring play room.

It’s never too late to pare down and let the kiddos focus on more fun! Plus, you can always gather up some of those toys for donation and kill two birds with one perfect stone.


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Here’s How I Really Feel About Turning 40

I didn’t think it would be a big deal. You know, I’ve told myself I’m above having a midlife crisis about ages and dates. But it really is a weird psychological number. 

Let’s start with the fact that all growing up, I REALLY didn’t think I’d live to be 4o.  I thought the apocalypse would have come and gone and the world itself would have crumbled. But here it is, the eve of my 40th birthday . . . and guess what 18-year-old Rachael . . .I’M STILL HERE.

Here’s a little sampling of what’s on my mind:

Please Bless 

So. Yes. This aging thing is real, and not that cool. I’ve found myself lifting up my eyelids and pulling back the edges of my face in the mirror. Nothing has been nipped, tucked, or injected. Frankly, I’m terrified of it. I’ve seen far too many women in their late 30’s and 40’s roaming around who’ve been hitting the nip, tuck, inject scene, and it seems to turn everyone into the same 50-70 year old frozen in time(ish) looking women with the same robot face.  

But here’s the thing . . . I get it! I don’t want my face sagging off! I don’t want permanent elevens creasing between my eyelids. But I also don’t want to look like I’ve just been in a street fight and taken a direct hit to the mouth. 

Please bless that some measure of grace will let me age gracefully and humanly. But yeah, I just saw my friend the other day and she just dropped 200 cc’s of something in her forehead and it did look tempting.

I’m Scared To Death

This has gone so fast. It keeps going faster. When I do the math (it’s Mormon math), I realize that if I were my own parents, my oldest child would be getting married in 5 years and I’d be a grandparent in 7 years. THAT. IS. CRAZY.  My parents were grandparents by the ripe old age of 47. Tiny babies. That seems like yesterday.

And here I am with teenagers, and time just seems to keep speeding up, and I want to keep them in my house forever, but I feel like there is some sort of countdown clock ticking down somewhere in the ether. Sometimes I just want to freeze us all in place. 

Yet I Love It

Speaking of teenagers . . . I used to imagine having teenagers as the window of life with the potential to be the darkest more miserable time in the world. I mean, TEENAGERS. They are crazy right?

The best thing someone told me when my kids were tiny was “Oh just wait until you have teenagers . . .” (and then I waited for them to tell me things that would scare me. They continued: “Teenagers ARE MY FAVORITE”.

Well guess what? I love teenagers. And being a parent is still fun. It’s trickier. It’s morphed from mothering to parenting. Serious parenting. But I love it, and I love my not so little people and who they are becoming. 

I’ve Got None Left To Give

GNF. If you don’t know what it means, Google it, away from your children. Hint: it doesn’t mean “Greibach Normal Form” — click on the Urban Dictionary link.

There’s a lot of things I really don’t care about any more. That saying: “Life is too short for fake butter, cheese, or people”

Amen to that! 

I really like the people in my life. And I don’t care about impressing them, keeping up with them, or anyone else really. 

What Bothers Me The Most? 

So far it’s that I have to check a different demographic box. It doesn’t feel right. Yep. It’s stupid. But I don’t like it. Throwing me into this 40-60 zone? I don’t belong there. 

Just give me the box that says RACHAEL. I’m good. 

In the meantime, while I avoid checking boxes, here’s to 40 more trips around the sun! (Sunglasses and excellent lighting REQUIRED!)


7 Reasons Why Your Teen Smartphone Contract Will Not Work

Building strong “digital citizens” does not begin with a smartphone contract.

By Melanie Hempe, Founder/President, Families Managing Media

You (nervously) just gave your teen his first smartphone. Now you are on a strategic mission to build a responsible “digital citizen,” although you’re not exactly sure what that means or how to really accomplish this goal. You have done your homework and have decided to meet on neutral ground with a well-thought-out plan to ensure a safe, positive phone experience for all: a smartphone contract.

Like any rite of passage, the signing of this important document by you and your teen will prove their maturity and your responsibility as a good “digital parent.” The contract seems to be the perfect solution to increase the understanding and seriousness of smartphone ownership, plus it will build good habits, character and responsibility in your teen. Your nerves are starting to calm down, this is a brilliant idea!

Not so fast…

After trying this incredibly popular tool, many parents have discovered that the family smartphone contract is just not worth the paper it is printed on, nor is it worth the high hopes and emotional energy invested in it. Building good “digital citizens” does not begin with a smartphone contract. So, before you print off that contract and call your teen off the video game or away from Snapchat to sign it, you may want to read on.

Consider this red flag:

Before we dive in, let’s state the obvious: the fact that we are allowing our children to use a tech tool that is questionable enough to require them to sign a written contract should raise a huge “parent” red flag! 

Configured with built-in distractions, temptations, and traps to gather personal data and time, smartphones are not intended for kids. In addition, the smartphone contract establishes a dangerous mindset, giving parents a false sense of security and giving teens a false sense of “power.”


Here are 7 reasons why a smartphone contract may not be best for your family:


1) You are dealing with a teen brain. Contracts are not for kids. The frontal cortex (executive control judgment center in the human brain) is not fully developed until approximately age 25. Your teen may indeed be very smart, but we know that scientifically and practically, intelligence has nothing to do with maturity. Their lack of maturity shows as they plead with you and chip away at your leadership through utilizing the following “wear down” skills:

  • Overreacting: “Are you kidding? No phones during homework? I am going to die!”
  • Exaggerating: “I am the only kid in the world with a 15-page (really two-page) contract!”
  • Comparison: “Matt’s mom would never give him a contract because she trusts him.”
  • Guilt: “I guess you just don’t want me to have any friends!”

Some will even spend hours writing “legal briefs” to negotiate their position. You will be impressed, but don’t give in to that underdeveloped frontal cortex! Simply smile, and encourage them to pursue a law career instead. Your brain is mature, theirs is not.


2) You can’t trust them–and that’s okay. Most tweens will be eager to blindly sign the smartphone contract so they can get their hands on the prize, but they will not follow it. Teens not only think they are smarter than their parents, but, while the ink is still wet, they will be calculating the loopholes. Remember, it is their job right now to test the boundaries, bend the rules, take risks, seek novelty, enjoy low-effort/high-reward activities, and have fun at all costs. Would you really trust them with the keys to your shiny new sports car because they signed a contract not to go over the speed limit? Your car insurance company doesn’t and neither should you!


3) We don’t make deals with our kids. A contract is like “making a deal” to a teen: “You (the teen) do this (behave well on social media) and we (the parents) will do this (keep paying for your phone).” Deals seemed to work when they were little (“Eat your green beans and you can have your dessert”), but that stage has passed. You are the parent. You do not make deals with your tweens and teens now. Instead, you lead them with reason and logic. Don’t believe that deals are working for other parents either. According to the emails filling my inbox, parents who are making “phone deals” are waving a white flag over failed contracts. As one mom put it, “The contract experiment was a failure at our house. Our daughter is being seen by a psychologist for social media anxiety now. The only thing that works is me being more involved, receiving her texts on my phone, checking her apps and content every night, and physically taking her phone when she gets home from school. She has proven that she can’t manage it on her own.”


4) Teens are not your equal; you are the parent. A contract implies that both parties have an equal say over the terms and there will be compromise on both sides. Your teen will mistakenly think that they are your equal if you give her a contract and then begin the negotiation process; they may even think that because they know more than you about how to operate the phone, they can renegotiate the contract at any time.


5) A phone contract may damage your relationship with your teen. Your teens’ greatest need is to be unconditionally loved by their family, and the very nature of a contract may make them feel like they are an outsider (you against them). Family conflict increases when contracts are broken, and the rules are not clear, concise or enforced consistently. Focus on your child developing manners, and learning empathy and responsibility in real life first, before phone ownership.


6) Remember how well those chore charts worked? If you are still convinced that your smartphone contract will work, let’s talk about that chore chart from years ago. How did that work out? If you are like many families, that well-crafted chore chart is under a magnet on the fridge behind the pizza take-out menu (at least that’s where ours is). It got used for almost a week and then it lost all of its power. This will happen to your cell phone contract, too. You can’t expect your children to follow a phone contract when they can’t consistently follow simple directions to floss their teeth, unload the dishwasher or empty the litter box without your constant prompting.


7) Smartphone contracts are impossible to enforce. In a recent survey of teen drivers (1), more than 80 percent admitted to using their smartphones while driving. I’m pretty certain that a clause to not text and drive is in every teen smartphone contract, yet they do it anyway. Let’s face it, most parents have no idea what their kids are doing on their phone or social media for eight hours a day and would admit they are unable to track all cell phone activity. The burden generally falls on the parent to enforce and continually check if the agreed upon terms of the contract are being followed. Do you really have time for that? In reality, how will you enforce the contract? A lot can go wrong. And quickly.


But don’t just take my word for it. Eric Goldfield, a counselor based in Charlotte, NC, said: “I never recommend contracts for screen management. There is a level of parental naivety if they think contracts will keep their kids on track; they are hoping for accountability but are getting avoidance of consequence instead. Kids know that they don’t have to follow the contract because there is no way to enforce it. There is no investment on their end because they know that their parents can’t keep track of their phone activity. The parent is giving all the power back to the child with a contract.”


Is there a better option?

Yes! Your teens don’t need a contract to be good “digital citizens,” and parents must understand that everything changes once their child gets a smartphone. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Care enough to put the brakes on for them and delay the use of smartphones and social media, as they will have the rest of their life (with a more fully developed frontal cortex) to use them. Again, an active digital life is a surefire way to create more stress and anxiety in your child’s life, and consider what your child is giving up and compromising on by using the phone for hours a day. I often share this story from my own experience; after my oldest child became addicted to video games, the rule for our remaining three children became no smartphones or social media until age 18. My daughter did just fine going through high school with a basic phone and my youngest two sons don’t have any type of phone yet.
  • Spend more non-screen time with them. Plan fun family time together and enjoy the quiet, together times. 24/7 access to smartphones will further compromise the already limited time with your kids, while they are under your roof. Time on smartphones and social media is an isolating activity and does not encourage more time together as a family. Remember, you set the “tone” for phone use in your home. They are watching you and your smartphone use as well.
  • Give them a chance to grow up and fine tune real-life social skills that will prepare them better for the world ahead. Developing critical life skills doesn’t happen magically nor do they happen on a smartphone. Life skills come with a lot of hard work, grit, self-discipline and determination. They must be learned and practiced (and certainly don’t include four pages of instructions and terms on how to stay safe).
  • Start with a basic phone to see how they do with text and time limits. Many mental health professionals are suggesting, as we are at Families Managing Media, that basic cell phones are a better choice for teens. Michael Rubin, a San Francisco Bay area psychotherapist who has worked with teens for more than 19 years, recommends that teens have a basic cell phone, not a smartphone.(2) Also, consider the role of the camera on a phone. Photos are the cause of many social media blunders and problems; this may be an option your teen can live without.
  • Establish clear, enforceable RULES with consequences once your child gets a phone. Setting phone rules written by loving parents who care enough to set limits and healthy boundaries will be a much better choice than a contract that is negotiated by children and makes them feel that they are your equal and in charge. Simply write down the rules (view sample here), and smile when you hand them to your teen. Explain that this is a new day. Let them respectfully give their opinion, thank them for sharing bits of their budding wisdom, but don’t argue with them; just keep smiling! They don’t like the rules? Then they are not quite ready for a smartphone. Again, a basic phone is perfect for most teens.

The idea that a “magical” smartphone contract will protect your kids and teach them responsibility is a myth. These powerful devices, although they are a great adult tool, are designed to capture our kids’ attention, their time, their innocence and, unfortunately, their childhoods.

Parents, keep in mind that you are in charge!  You know the added responsibilities and stress that a phone brings to your family, so it’s time to rethink the phone decision completely. Stop worrying over raising good “digital citizens” and focus on raising good kids first; you won’t need a contract for that!

For more tips on how to manage cell phones, including setting rules instead of signing contracts, visit us at


About The Author

Melanie Hempe is the founder of Families Managing Media. She has coached hundreds of families on the effects of screen media use and has helped them achieve a healthier, more balanced media life. With a nursing degree from Emory University, Melanie draws upon her medical background to demystify the questions of why technology has such a strong grip on our kids and why it is replacing normal childhood activities. She offers busy parents easy-to-follow scientific information and practical solutions for children of all ages, as she stresses the importance of REAL life connections in a digital world.

Melanie and her husband, Chris are raising four children in a media balanced home – and have successfully replaced video games with sports, music, art and good manners and they have also done the impossible: they have kept social media and smartphones from controlling their kids.


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How An Episode Of Chopped Junior Changed The Way I Parent

How An Episode Of Chopped Junior Changed The Way I Parent

“Mom, can I bake something?” my eight-year old daughter pleaded as she entered the kitchen.

Of course she wanted to bake something.  Because I had just spent the past two hours prepping, cooking, serving and cleaning up from a dinner where I made six different dishes to please our family of five.  I sighed.

“Not right now, sweetie, I just finished cleaning up and it’ll be too much of a mess.”  As if it were the answer she was expecting, she wandered off, probably to watch another episode of some annoying laugh-track show on Disney Channel.

Looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit just how many variations of that conversation we had.  Don’t get me wrong, I often let my daughter help me in the kitchen.  I’m a pretty decent cook and an avid baker and I let her do things I deemed acceptable for an 8 year old.

Simple things like ingredient gathering, pouring, and mixing.  I didn’t let her crack the eggs because shells might get in the batter.  I didn’t let her wash the bowls because she didn’t do a thorough job.  I didn’t let her use the stove top or oven because she might get burned.

Or I would say, “I don’t need any help right now, but you can be the guinea pig taste tester when it’s done.”

And then one rainy night, all of that changed.  I walked into our den to find my daughter watching a show on the Food Network called Chopped Junior.  I sat down to join her and for the next 20 minutes I stared at the screen, stunned, as I watched kids the same age as my daughter work their way around a kitchen better than most adults I know.

These kids expertly chopped using razor sharp knives, they sauteed, they boiled, they pan-seared, one kid made a roux.  What the hell even is a roux??

I sat there wondering how in the world kids so young could be so skilled and knowledgeable in the kitchen.  And then I had an epiphany.  It was so simple.  They could do all of those things because somewhere along the line, somebody told them “YES.”

And I vowed right then and there that I would do an experiment.  The next time and every time, my daughter asked me to do something in the kitchen, I would say yes.

“Mom, can I bake cookies?”  Yes.
“Mom, can I make scrambled eggs?” Yes.
“Mom, can I make Mac n Cheese?” Yes.
“Mom, can I make a quesadilla?”  Yes.
“Mom, can I make homemade frosting?” Yes.
“Mom, can I use a bunch of your baking stuff and make up my own recipe?”  Ugh. Yes.

And so it went.  I’m not gonna lie…this was one insanely messy, time-consuming, experiment.  In the beginning, she needed a lot of help, learning how to work the oven, the gas range, the timers.  My countertops seemed to be permanently sticky for a while there…the sink never empty of the many bowls, pots and pans she used.

But I usually didn’t have to explain something more than once.  And the more I said yes, the more she asked to do.  Pretty soon she was looking up recipes online and following along on her own.  I became more and more hands-off and watched her capability, and her confidence, soar.

Fast forward to a year later and I will tell you that this is one of the best parenting decisions I have ever made.  And my children are 18, 15 and 9, so I’ve made an awful lot of them.

This kid could cook our family breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert if she had to.  She can crack an egg one-handed (I can’t even do that) and can saute’ broccoli with the best of ’em.  Her homemade chocolate cupcakes are the best I’ve ever had.

My daughter will have these skills, this confidence in herself, for the rest of her life.  And that to me, is worth all the wasted eggs, the spilled milk, the messy kitchen.

So fellow parents, I encourage you to really stop and think when your child asks to do something, not just in the kitchen, that might result in them learning a new life skill.

Because for all the time and energy you may have to put in up front, there is a huge payoff at the end.  I know this because tomorrow I have to bring in 24 cupcakes for a pot luck event.  And I’m sitting here writing this article.  Because guess what?

The cupcakes are being handled.  And if I’m really good, she might even let me be the guinea pig.


*If you enjoyed reading this post, I invite you to follow I Might Be Funny on Facebook

Janene Dutt resides on a small island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children. Her kids once asked her 159 questions in six hours. She suffers from Pediculophobia, the fear of lice. When she’s not blogging, you can find her combing through her family’s hair. Follow her on Facebook…



Apple Shareholders Call For Company To Tackle “Growing” Evidence Of Device Addiction In Kids

“It would defy common sense to argue that this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact,” the letter reads, “or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally.”

This is an excerpt from a letter sent by two major Apple shareholders, JANA Partners and CalSTRS who represent over $2 billion worth of shares in the company. 

These two shareholders are calling on Apple to do more to protect children. 


“There is no good reason why you should not address this issue proactively,”


The group recommended some initial steps in it’s letter:

  • Expert Committee: Convening a committee of experts including child development specialists (we would recommend Dr. Rich and Professor Twenge be included) to help study this issue and monitor ongoing developments in technology, including how such developments are integrated into the lives of children and teenagers.
  • Research: Partnering with these and other experts and offering your vast information resources to assist additional research efforts.
  • New Tools and Options: Based on the best available research, enhancing mobile device software so that parents (if they wish) can implement changes so that their child or teenager is not being handed the same phone as a 40-year old, just as most products are made safer for younger users. For example, the initial setup menu could be expanded so that, just as users choose a language and time zone, parents can enter the age of the user and be given age-appropriate setup options based on the best available research including limiting screen time, restricting use to certain hours, reducing the available number of social media sites, setting up parental monitoring, and many other options.
  • Education: Explaining to parents why Apple is offering additional choices and the research that went into them, to help parents make more informed decisions.
  • Reporting: Hiring or assigning a high-level executive to monitor this issue and issuing annual progress reports, just as Apple does for environmental and supply chain issues.


It’s a good start. But as parents and consumers, we should demand more from Apple AND OURSELVES.  It seems as if we’ve all been asleep at the wheel as we’ve let these devices, technologies and social platforms creep into every aspect of our lives. 

License to Drive? 

A friend of mine compared cell phones to the first automobiles. When cars just hit the scene there were no driver’s licenses or rules of the road.  There were just inexperienced people armed with a potentially dangerous machine. It took years for best practices, laws and regulations, and common sense to enter the scene. Even now we’re still trying to figure out how to get people to behave behind the wheel (road rage, drunk driving, distracted driving etc.).

The stakes are high. When my now 15-year-old son was in 5th grade, he told me out of the blue that he felt like they were an experiment. His generation. No one knows how all of this technology would impact them in the long term. And the thing is, they all know it. We know it. It’s like we’ve handed them all cocaine but asked them to be smart about it.

We know better. Apple knows better. 

One of the quotes that often comes to my mind comes from an interview on Co.Design with Tony Fadell, one of the creators of the iPod:


“I wake up in cold sweats every so often thinking, what did we bring to the world?”


Tony Fadell’s wife likes to remind him when their three children’s eyes are glued to their screens that it’s at least partly his fault.

It’s time for us all to peel our eyes away and begin to shift our attention back to real life. 

What’s our role as parents? What’s Apple’s role as the technology provider? 

What do YOU think? 

What else do you think should be done? What features and safeguards do you want from your devices? What rules and regulations do you think should be in place? 

Tell us in the comments. 



I’m working on a post with my laundry list of feature requests for families.  Apple I hope you are listening! 

Want to stay up to date with all of our latest posts? (like the one I’m working on above?)  Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll deliver updates right to your inbox each Tuesday morning! 


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How to Start (and Keep) Friendships as an Introvert

Very few people who meet me would ever consider me an introvert. I dance this weird line of being an extroverted introvert.  When I get in a group I am very chatty (too chatty?) and loud and comical and can’t really turn it off. It’s more of a coping mechanism because meeting new people skyrockets my anxiety. I become incredibly self-conscious. I second guess everything I say and then replay it in my head for weeks (sometimes months).  I don’t need to socialize outside of my 1-2 closest friends (and even they rarely see me).  If you call, count on me not answering (why? why would you not text?!). If I do socialize, I am going to need a day or two to recover, so no, I won’t be going out again with you this week… When people ask what I am doing for my birthday, I feel ashamed to admit that I just want everyone out of the house so I can lay in my flannel sheets and watch all the grown-up shows I can’t watch while my kids are awake. All day.

In high school I had a frustrating phone call with my very, very best friend at the time.  I really liked like naps. I grew up in the pacific northwest where it was cold and I hate being cold.  School was too early, and I am the furthest thing from a morning person. My preferred after-school routine was to walk in the door, cover the heater vent with a blanket to create a cocoon of heat and nap. I loved this routine. Apparently, this isn’t a good routine for a high school social life.  As my friend dragged me out of my nap with yet another phone call, she began to tell me how bad of a friend I was because I didn’t like to talk on the phone to her. What she didn’t understand is that I didn’t like to talk on the phone to anyone. And I just saw her at school! What really could have happened between 3pm and 6pm?? This was the moment our friendship started to see trouble. I never initiated communication with her outside of school. She was always the one dragging me around.  Which I loved, but that one-sided love can only last so long.



Here I am 20 years later and just now learning that no matter how much of an introvert I am, if I really like someone and want them as a friend, I need to start by doing these 3 things.


Why is this so hard?!  It seems simple to all you non-introverts, but this is a miserable task. When I get a phone call I am put on the spot and have to answer and discuss unknown questions and topics. I have no time to prepare myself or look at my calendar to find potential ways to already be busy for whatever they want to invite me to.  However, people call you because they WANT to talk to you! Answering phone calls will make them feel as though you are engaged and not avoiding them.


I love it when plans are canceled. Doesn’t matter who with — I just love the feeling that falls off my shoulders when I HAD to do something and now don’t have to.  However, you don’t get friends by canceling plans whenever possible. Sometimes you MUST be the person who initiates social outings. It could be as simple as a movie at your house, a quick lunch with the kids at a nearby park, or even a quick coffee. Any time together is an expression of love and caring; it’s saying “Hey, I like you and want to spend time with you.” (Imagine that!) 


Some people may not fully understand what you are saying when you tell them you are an introvert. So if you really like someone and really do want to be their friend, you have to communicate to them about who you are.  One of my dearest friends is the best kind of introvert friend ever. I often tell people we became friends after she tried to date me for a year.  She NEVER gave up on me. I remember plenty of texts where I bowed out of plans or invites and followed it up with “Please don’t give up on me. Still invite me.” And she did. Even though I said no most of the time, she never let me go too long without seeing her face or getting a text. Soon enough she was a safe, anxiety-free place for me to land…and now she gets video chats about my dirty clothes pile.

Introverts are tough to be friends with. Trust me when I say that just because we really like being home and doing “boring” things that don’t involve socializing, it doesn’t mean we want to be forgotten or left out of the invites (and all you introverts — you have to say this to people!! They don’t know!). We just need time and space to figure out when we are comfortable enough to get involved. 


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What Is Normal Eating?

At this time of the year when so many people are making goals around food and eating, it’s a good time to be reminded about what constitutes normal eating habits.

The best quote comes from fellow dietitian and author Ellyn Satter, who is known for her Eating Competence Model. She is more concerned about helping you develop eating confidence and competence versus developing uber-healthy eating habits.

In essence, you would do well to learn how to self-moderate and trust yourself to make wise decisions around food than to stick to certain outside rules or guidelines for eating. Her definition of “normal eating” will help explain this concept:

“Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it — not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.”

What this definition does is normalize a wide variety of eating behaviors. Eating should be flexible, variable, satisfying, nourishing and enjoyable. It shouldn’t be obsessive, preoccupying, rigid, overwhelming or worrisome.

If your eating habits currently feel chaotic and haphazard or restrictive and obsessive, this can feel very out of reach. So how do you get there?

Recommendations for normal eating

1. Don’t tell yourself there are certain foods you can’t have. That will only work to increase anxiety around food and will encourage all-or-nothing behaviors. When you know you can have a food anytime you really want it, its power over you decreases. On the other hand, if you know this is the last time you’ll be able to have it (or at least the last time this week or this month, etc.), you’re going to have all of it right now, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. It’s much easier to behave in a level-headed, sane and wise way around food when you aren’t being micromanaged by rules.

2. We tend to run scared of feeling satisfied because we equate it with overeating. However, satisfaction is our solution. Eat for the intent to feel satisfied. Eating to feel satisfied naturally decreases overeating or under eating because neither of those are satisfying (rather, uncomfortable or painful). Feeling full and satisfied from your meals and snacks is your solution. Not feeling full and satisfied is what leads to problematic behaviors.

3. Normal eating is about being intentional, mindful and aware. Instead of tracking calories or portion sizes, note hunger and fullness levels before and after eating, while paying attention to how the food makes you feel. After a meal or snack are you left feeling satisfied? Energized? Lethargic? Still hungry? Balanced? Get curious about how you feel and function instead of being judgmental about what you look like or weigh. This will help connect you to intuitive signals that will naturally guide eating instead of outside rules or measurements.

4. As mentioned, normal eating includes being mindful. While it’s not realistic that we always eat without distractions, aim to show up to your meals with awareness. You are more likely to know when you are full and satisfied if you are paying attention. Maybe set a goal to do this with one meal or one snack each day.

Becoming a normal eater is possible for everyone. In fact, you aren’t learning something new, you are remembering something you were innately born with. Keep that in mind as you practice — you can trust yourself with food.


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Holiday Survival Guide – How To Navigate Food

The holiday season is full of opportunities for celebrating gratitude, family, love, faith and service.  Food is often a big part of those celebrations, as it should be!  However, it’s during the holiday season that many are tempted to adopt an all-or-nothing attitude toward food, throwing all caution to the wind only to punish themselves come January.  Instead of falling prey to extremes in thinking and behavior that only leave you feeling exhausted physically and emotionally, these tips are aimed to help you enjoy the holiday season without feeling the need to pay penance.

1.  First and foremost, don’t plan to diet or follow some sort of meal plan after the new year. That’s a sure fire way to trigger the all-or-nothing mindset during the holidays.  If you know restriction, deprivation or a diet is around the corner, it can create “last meal syndrome” where you get all of it right now even if it means consistently feeling stuffed and uncomfortable.

2. Along with that, be sure you are eating consistently, regularly and adequately rather than skipping meals or saving up for holiday meals.  If you go into a meal starving, it’s hard to stay level headed about how much and what you eat.  Regular, balanced meals will stabilizes blood sugar levels, which helps to reduce cravings. It also influences mood regulation as well as overall hormonal balance.  That’s going to come in very handy in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and managing stressful situations and schedules.  Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to come last!

3.  I would recommend approaching holiday meals like any other meal.  While it may include traditional foods, seeing the holiday meal as different usually means you choose to eat differently, losing sight of listening to hunger or fullness levels.  Remember that you can have tasty, flavorful, satisfying meals any day of the year. This doesn’t have to be reserved only for holidays. Even make your favorite holiday dish at other times during the year or at least during the season.

4.  LOVE the food you are eating.  Get picky – eat what is truly satisfying and enjoyable for you.  If you find yourself eating a treat or a portion of your meal that doesn’t taste good, leave it behind and move on to something that does.  If you love your Grandma’s pumpkin pie and she only makes it once a year on Thanksgiving, you better have a piece but allow yourself to eat it without self-inflicted shame or guilt.

5.  Make memories and find meaning in what you’re celebrating. Food is a fun part of that – and perhaps symbolic – but it’s not THE celebration.  That can help put food in perspective, making it less overwhelming or preoccupying.

6.  You may overeat, that happens.  Trust that your body knows how to self-moderate; it can handle it without needing self-imposed restriction and rules.  Be intentional about listening and learning and respecting what it’s needing.  That could take practice!  Recommit to yourself rather than recommitting to a diet or set of food rules.

I wish you nothing but a healthy, happy and mindful holiday season!

holiday food


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Best Last Minute Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

Did you happen to see the Facebook Live video of Kristin and Jen from @IMomSoHard where they shared all of their favorite gifts from Walmart?

First of all, it was hilarious. There was a moment with a cake and the Speak Out mouth piece that darn near broke the internet.


So many great gift ideas (I think there was one about a very large bottle of beer and a beer pong set for someone’s husband…but I can’t be sure because I was probably still laughing about the cake. See above.)

But we’re getting down to the holiday shopping wire, people! It’s time to hit the stores to wrap it up!

So here are some of my favorite gift picks from Walmart this year.

Want to feel festive AND cozy? Then these Seasonal Onesies are just the ticket. (I’ve always had a soft spot for Rudolph.)

Need something more fancy? You’ll be the hit of the ugly sweater party with this Santa dress.

Don’t leave baby out of the festive fun! These Parent’s Choice Santa diapers are the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

Who doesn’t love party games? Try Hearing Things or Speak Out — which was the game that gave us this CLASSIC imomsohard moment. (I am still laughing about this.)

Best Last Minute Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

Looking to delight your kiddos?

Bring the real life obsession inside with this toy garbage truck.

Best Last Minute Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

For the Star Wars fan…Rey and BB-8 adventure figures.

Want to encourage those STEM skills? These Electronic Snap Circuits are a family favorite at our house.

So are these Magnetic Tiles. So much so that they sit in a lovely decorative bowl in the center of my dining room table. No joke. They get played with daily.

For the kids, there’s a Pop Solo Karaoke mic, Hatchimals Colleggtibles 4-pack or Hatchimals Glittering Garden, FurReal Tiger, Ken Fashionista doll, or the Frozen Fever Friends Gift Set.

Need a special clubhouse? Reading nook? A play tent is just the ticket. 

Want to get those kiddos OUTSIDE?

Tetherball is the old school answer. A few members of the TodaysMama team are DIE HARD tetherballers. Or maybe they’d like to jump away their after-school wiggles on a trampoline? Come on, sitting all day in a classroom is tough.

Need something that everyone in the family will enjoy? Bean bag toss is a crowd FAVORITE. 

Stuff I want in my kitchen! An Air Fryer because I simply cannot eat enough fries. And everyone I know that has an Instant Pot just RAVES about it.

Are you looking for a way to pamper the ladies in your life? (Or maybe you’d like to pad your stocking with a few things to TREAT YOURSELF?!) Bath bombs are a clear winner, along with this Burt’s Bees Mani Pedi gift set.

A new to me tradition is a nice hot bath with this Pink Himalayan mineral soak. IT’S HEAVEN. (Run do not walk!)

Best Last Minute Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

For the frequent traveler, this makeup brush set comes with the cutest little travel case so they can feel fancy on the road.


Happy Shopping Mama Elves! 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Walmart. The opinions and text are all mine.