Life Lately

Pirate girls change the world.

Was talking with a friend yesterday about how you shouldn’t type your kids but I’m super sure Kembe is a 7 and she said “oh, you mean the way he walks through the school and every single kid knows him?” Yep. It’s true. He has the brightest and kindest spirit, has never met a stranger, and walks through the school high-fiving the younger kids. “He’s always so happy” is the most common comment I get about him. (Okay, maybe about his height, too.) He’s the kid who is always smiling and his heart for others warms my own.


Checkered vans, flannel, cross-body purse and a big velvet scrunchie.

She’s basically wearing my daily uniform from the late 80s.

Super proud of my non-sporty spice for pushing out of her comfort zone and playing another season of soccer with Pilot Cup. It’s her last year. I’ll miss this tradition and this team of friends. # 📷: @cleezy




Related to above: I got notice that I was due for a mammogram Monday. I made an online appointment that very night and today I went in and got my boobs squashed like a mothereffing grownup. Now let’s not speak of my ENT CATscan follow-up that is now a year overdue because their office does not have online scheduling . . .



Wednesday’s Child: Ashton

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday’s Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.

The young poet’s society || On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from February 2009.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from February 2009. 

I bought The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories years ago, back when I was a grad student and children were just a faint idea in a distant future. I loved this collection of classic stories, and recently as I was going through my books, I rediscovered it and thought it would be great to introduce it to my kids. We have started reading portions of it to the kids at night, and at mealtimes. I could go on and on about this book, and a part of me is tempted to just stop writing altogether, and just post one of the selections here every day. It’s that good. Read excerpts here.

What I love about it:

1) it introduces kids to some of the great authors, philosophers, and poets of past and present

2) the stories are all very brief, in kid-sized nuggets

3) the language is difficult, but this kind of reading is so beneficial to developing a child’s vocabulary (and one of the reasons Jafta now uses words and phrases like, “perhaps”, “therefore”, “this is wondrous”, and “I’ve soiled my hands”.

4) the chapters are organized by different virtues, so if there is a particular character issue that needs a little tweaking in your home, it’s easy to find a story that fits, fromself-discipline, and compassion to friendship and honesty

5) this book is a literature geek’s goldmine

6) even pirates extoll the virtues of poetry reading:

This past month, we’ve started reading the following poem before every meal. Now, at first glance, I admit this poem seems a bit, how shall we say . . . stodgy and strict. (Yes, that age-old goodie “children should be seen and heard” is from this very poem). But I like the values that it teaches about how kids should compose themselves at meals. Now – since reading this, do my meals look like the one described here? Mwaahahahahahahah. No. But we are moving in the right direction, and the kids can now recite most of the poem, explain what it means, and THE BEST PART: catch themselves (or more likely, each other) when they are not being appropriate.

Table Rules for Little Folks

In which we learn how to take our daily bread.

In silence I must take my seat,

And give God thanks before I eat;

Must for my food in patience wait,

Till I am asked to hand my plate;

I must not scold, nor whine, nor pout,

Nor move my chair nor plate about;

With knife, or fork, or napkin ring,

I must not play, nor must I sing.

I must not speak a useless word,

For children should be seen, not heard;

I must not talk about my food,

Nor fret if I don’t think it good;

I must not say, “The bread is old,”

“The tea is hot,” “The coffee’s cold”;

My mouth with food I must not crowd,

Nor while I’m eating speak aloud;

Must turn my head to cough or sneeze,

And when I ask, say “If you please”;

The tablecloth I must not spoil,

Nor with my food my fingers soil;

Must keep my seat when I have done,

Nor round the table sport or run;

When told to rise, then I must put

My chair away with noiseless foot;

And lift my heart to God above,

In praise for all his wondrous love.


Eating Well and Staying Active with Kids | Selfie Episode 84

We are all trying to eat better, but doing that with kids can be a challenge. We are chatting with Dr.  Julia Nordgren,author of The New Family Table, about how to feed our kids well, and with Stephen Bean, director of Camp New Heights, about how to keep our kids healthy and active.

In this episode we also talked about:




Photo by Shivaram Vinjamuri on Unsplash

Anticipatory Behaviors & Haiti: Where The Good Toys Go | On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from March 2009.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from March 2009.

They boys are en route to Haiti. I just talked to Mark and Jafta. They are all settled in to their hotel in the Miami Airport. Yes – in the airport, as in right next door to the gate where they landed. Pretty cool, huh? I’m not sure why we’ve never done that before. It’s so much smarter to show up to Haiti showered and rested, instead of on the tail-end of a long red eye flight.

Today was a hard day for me. I’ve been so consumed with getting them ready for this trip and collecting donations that I think I was in totally denial that I wasn’t actually going. As I dropped them off at the airport, I was so, so sad. I think it didn’t hit Jafta that I wasn’t going until just then, either. He was giddy with excitement all morning at then after I said goodbye to him, Mark said he was really quiet and sad for about a half hour. Which is a pretty sharp contrast to how he has acted for the past 24 hours.

Jafta has what I like to call an “anticipatory behavior” issue. (Actually, I completely stole this descriptor from Christine – one very smart mama). When he is excited about something, he acts like a total and complete spaz until it happens. He basically becomes the Tasmanian devil. Only louder. It is really, really annoying because he ends up driving us nuts AND getting in trouble over and over again. So much so, that I typically don’t even tell him things in advance anymore. If he has a playdate, I tell him 5 minutes prior. If we have a birthday party to go to, I announce it on the way there. I didn’t even tell him when it was Christmas Eve – he just woke up one morning, and BAM, it was Christmas. This may sound mean, but trust me. It is better for everyone involved, including him.

Anyways, we couldn’t really hide the Haiti trip. So last night, he was a whirling dervish of energy. We put him to bed at 8pm and he was up until 11!! This is despite numerous stern lectures from us about his need to sleep. Luckily he got a decent nap on the plane today, but I feel sorry for the people sitting in front of him. I have a feeling they got some decent kicks in their seat backs from my over-excited four-year-old.

Meanwhile, on the homefront, India is completely and totally bitter that she is not going to Haiti. She was angry with me all night. She has been watching the donations come in all week, too. All she knows is that there has been a pile of bubbles, balloons, tricycles, and toys that she has not been allowed to play with because they are going to Haiti. In her mind Haiti is just an island where all the “good toys” are going, and she can’t go with them. All night tonight, she has been showing me a toy and saying, “this toy is from Haiti”. She’s also been asking about the bubbles in Haiti, and if Kembert (Keanan) is playing with the balloons. Such a humanitarian, that one.

By the way, here’s a picture of their luggage. Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who dropped donations off this weekend. We fit an unbelievable amount of stuff to take for the orphanage, women’s program, and sewing program. Mark and Jafta have all their personal stuff in backpacks. We bought these big duffle bags last year just for this purpose, because they carry so much and then we can fold them up and bring them home until the next trip. Each bag was exactly 50 pounds – lots of weighing and redistributing last night to fit it all in without having to pay the heavy bag penalty. It’s fun to play “mules” for the missionaries who work so hard in Haiti.


Wednesday’s Child: Lilly & Amelia

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday’s Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.


An Interview with Camp New Heights director Stephen Bean

Two of my kids are headed to Camp New Heights this summer to participate in their advanced athlete track. Camp New Heights is a great wellness camp for athletes as well as for kids who are just started a journey with physical fitness. They have two, four or six week summer programs for campers aged 9 through 17, located in Santa Barbara, California. Programs are personalized to fit individual needs with the focus of helping each camper build a better version of themselves and reach new heights. While at camp, they get to live in dorms at the beautiful University of California, Santa Barbara campus and are exposed to healthy habits, mentally, emotionally and physically. Today I’m chatting with founder and director Stephen Bean.

What inspired you to start a wellness camp for kids?

I previously worked at a weight loss camp for kids, and I was shocked at what I had discovered: The camp I worked for was not providing any information to the campers–it was simply a calorie restrictive program that caused kids to lose weight rapidly (not in a healthy way), form a negative association with food, and not learn anything to help them succeed once leaving camp. Following that experience, a camper’s father reached out to me to see if we could come up with a camp that could really help kids. We set out to build a camp where kids could feel empowered to make healthy decisions based on information and feedback. Camp New Heights is designed to give campers access to vast amounts of information and knowledge that they can take home with them and share with their families, friends, and communities.

What are some of the challenges that you see kids today facing when it comes to wellness and self-care? What is unique to this generation?

Bob Dylan talked about “the times they are a-changing”, but we’re at the point where the times have definitively changed. Today’s generation faces all of the same growing pains that were faced 20-30 years ago, but now there is the added pressure from social platforms that is hard to encapsulate. Today’s kids face pressures from their peers and a whole social environment that we never knew as kids. It’s hard to not value yourself against your peers when there is a quantitative measure of likes and comments on various social channels. The advent of computers, phones, and social networks has allowed both kids and adults to somewhat isolate ourselves from our friends and family. This ability to isolate can be dangerous because it can lead to a downward spiral and removal from friends and activities that were once loved. The ease of use of technology has been detrimental in this regard since it’s important to stay connected with friends and family members with tangible social contact. The ability to decipher and interpret facial expressions, emotions, and other context clues are so important to having healthy relationships. The distance that technology adds to our relationships can make the ability to interpret these complex idiosyncratic behaviors a lot harder.



How can parents inspire their kids to care more about personal wellness?

Parents should approach personal wellness by not only modeling it, but also using empowerment to encourage their kids to take ownership of their personal wellness. Gone are the days of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Parents have a ton on their plates as it is, but it’s critically important that they take time to address their wellness needs.

I believe that each journey towards health and wellness looks different. Due to the variability in the journey, it’s important for parents to expose their kids to a wide array of activities. A kid may not like the idea of running a mile, but perhaps they love sprinting for 100 meters. By providing opportunities to try and experiment with new activities, kids will be more likely to find something that they really enjoy. It’s important to provide positive feedback to kids attempting something for their first time. After all, there was a time when Michael Jordan had never held a basketball.

In regards to food, it’s super important to expand the palates of kids as early as possible. If kids only eat processed food that is enhanced with sugar to provide a palatable taste, the child’s taste preferences will develop around that flavor profile. There are so many resources available for healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and plenty of in-between snacks. It’s important to try new meals and foods as a family, and just because a parent doesn’t like it doesn’t mean the child will think the same thing. I didn’t have an avocado until I was 23 years old simply because my parents didn’t eat them. Be just as adventurous with your food as you would be with trying new activities.

You have two tracks, one for kids just starting on a fitness journey, and one for more seasoned athletes. What are some of the benefits of working with these two groups concurrently?

We believe in the philosophy that no matter where you start, we can all grow. We cherish the ability to bring together groups of kids who might not cross paths while at school. Working with these two groups concurrently allows us to highlight similar struggles and achievements. Bridging the gap between beginner and advanced is really shown in our group sports activities when we see such a wide array of skill levels that learn to work together as a team. The beginner and advanced groups have tons of opportunities to work together and we see some of the most positive peer reinforcement in these moments.

What are some of your favorite success stories from campers?

There are so many that I wish I could write you a dissertation explaining each one. I’ll cherry pick a few that have really moved me and reinforced the reason we started this camp:

We had a camper last year who was entering his senior year of high school. This camper was a wonderful person and a natural born leader. This camper exuded confidence, but confided in the staff that he wanted to lose weight so that he could try out for his high school’s soccer team. We set out to give this camper the best route to go about his goals. This camper became a leader among his peers in advocating for his food choices and never gave less than his best in any workout. This camper never starved himself, but simply made great food choices. This camper stayed with us for the entire six week summer session and left down 40+ pounds. We weren’t so concerned about the number on the scale, but we were delighted to hear him comment on how comfortable he felt running, on his ability to breath easier, sleep better, and how he generally felt better doing everyday things. This tangible feeling for him reinforced the choices he made. I nearly cried when he sent me a message in the middle of the school year that he not only had tried out for the team, but was selected to be on the highly competitive Division I school team.

My other camper story comes from our first year in which we had a camper join us who had no real exercise experience. This camper was not overweight and was actually underweight by traditional standards. This camper came in with an incredibly open mind and was just a sponge for information. The camper enthusiastically tried every camp activity she could over her four-week stay. The camper took the nutritional advice to heart and–much like the camper in story one–remarked on how great she felt after each meal. The camper started to put on some muscle which she was very proud to show her parents on move-out day. However, I haven’t even hit my favorite part of this story which comes from her decision to take the swimming class. This camper had never swam before and was actually very worried about her lack of swim experience. The transformation was like a fish to water. In a matter of days, this camper was doing 1:15 per 100 yards front crawl in the pool (which is quite impressive). This camper went from never entering a body of water to a legitimate freestyle swimmer. The camper reached out to our swim instructor a few months later to let her know that she had won her apartment complex’s swimming race.

I’ve got a million more, but those two stories solidify why we do this camp.


What is unique about Camp New Heights?
I think what makes us unique is our holistic approach to health and wellness. Our approach encompasses the understanding that each camper is different from the person standing next to them. I think the diversity of campers we have is something that makes us incredibly unique. We have campers who are attempting to make their schools’ varsity teams and we have campers who have never exercised or played a sport. We aren’t obsessed with a number on a scale or how many reps somebody can rip. We’re here to celebrate the cognitive recognition by campers that they feel better. We strive to empower campers to be able to be intrinsically motivated about their health and wellness. Allowing campers to make connections, make decisions, and reflect on their choices are what ultimately lead to intrinsic ownership.

I think our staff is next level, as well. We go to great lengths in our hiring process to find the best people who are capable of creating a great experience for our campers. We actually have an acceptance rate for staff that sits below 1%, so technically it’s easier to get into Harvard (5.4%) than it is to work for Camp New Heights.For kids to have access to JT, our Sports and Human Performance Director, is awesome. JT has worked with everybody from middle school athletes all the way up to NFL players. I also think it’s important that all our staff members are live-in, and there are no corporate office staff members that the kids will never meet in person. All of our staff are here enjoying the experience right alongside the campers.

What do you hope that campers take home with them?  

I hope that campers leave camp feeling empowered and equipped to continue their lifestyle journey outside of camp. I want campers to feel that they have gained knowledge about nutrition, exercise, and physiology. In addition, I also want them to cherish the social and emotional skills they have cultivated at camp. The ability to live among their peers in a dorm prior to college exposes a whole new set of social and emotional learning moments. We have a limited cell phone policy, so this provides tons of opportunities for them to interact and learn from their peers. I want each camper to leave with renewed self-confidence in every aspect of life. Above all else, I want campers to leave having had the most fun they have ever had over summer break.

Are Screens Sapping Your Joy? Surviving Digital Distraction with Brian Solis | Selfie Episode 83

How do we deal with our addiction to screens? Author Brian Solis offer insight into how digital distractions can affect our mental health, and what to do about it. Kristen talks about her latest breast ultrasound, and Sarah espouses the benefits of a girl’s weekend for the soul.

In this episode we also talked about:

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash