Play Dates for Adults

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

1509319_10203647724500798_8824631631744993255_nIt’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the social life of your child. Even when you do spend time interacting with adults, it’s often still child-related as if your life was nothing more than birthday parties, teacher conferences, and extracurriculars. You had a social circle before children, and the same circle can easily exist when you have kids.

The benefit of having adults-only time is that you can discuss things other than your child. It may seem obvious and even a little callous, but it’s reality. Sometimes you want to talk about yourself as a person and not as a mother, which is easier to do when your kids aren’t there. It can be a time to stimulate yourself intellectually with those you met in college or just catch up and have a good time with a lifelong friend.

If you have to schedule your own play date then by all means, make it happen. Life gets busy and it’s so easy to say to someone that you’ll catch up later. Make definite plans and schedule something fun to do with other adults in your circle. You might even be able to have beverages that you don’t find at children’s parties.

Yuck it Up: Change the World One Giggle at a Time

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Get up. Go to work. Sit in traffic. Drive home. Sit in traffic. Go to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. For most, this is a daily routine. While we always manage to find the time to work more, sleep less, and ignore our health, we never seem to make the effort to schedule time for pure, unadulterated silliness. Think about it: When was the last time you did something truly goofy, something that caused you to belly-laugh until it hurt? If you can’t remember, then you are overdue for some much-needed, healthy laughter.

The human need for laughter is a serious one, indeed. In fact, we can’t live without it. A multitude of studies proves that laughter is essential for both psychological and physical well-being. Some very serious scientists with gray beards and long white coats from the Mayo Clinic even said so. Laughter makes us feel good, it helps our relationships, and it burns calories, 40 calories per 15 minutes, to be exact. So, what can you do to bring more laughter in to your life?

Watch a Funny Movie With a Friend or Partner

Happy couple outdoorsHave you ever noticed that you laugh out loud more when you’re with someone else, than when you’re alone? Fire up the Netflix and put on your favorite comedy — the one that makes you laugh no matter how many times you watch it. Don’t forget to have someone enjoy it with you, so you can double your laugh quotient (chances are, they need a laugh, too).

Bring Someone Joy

You don’t need comedy to laugh. Sometimes, happiness bubbles up inside you until you find yourself with a serious case of the giggles. And if everything goes just right, your giggles will be contagious and make someone else laugh, too. Make someone’s day until they are so happy, they giggle. Surprise picnic lunches, fruit baskets from FTD (available in Kosher and organic options), bouquets of flowers, and unexpected good deeds are all potential giggle-fits-from-happiness inducers.

Get Into a Tickle Fight With Your Kid

If anyone holds the keys to better living through laughter, it’s your child. Kids don’t hold back their joy, and they are all about fun. Sneak up and attack your child with tickles. Even if they can’t best your tickle superior prowess, their uncontrolled laughter will get your funnybone, too.

Make Time for Silliness

Making time for silliness means making time for the simple joys in life. Put on some music and dance with abandon in the kitchen. Crack more jokes. Have a contest with your partner to see who can make the craziest face, and then take pictures to commemorate the occasion. Dust off your hula-hoop and give it a whirl (it’s okay if you’re not good at it; the worse you are, the funnier it is). Never stop finding the fun in life. Laughing hard and often not only soothes the psyche, but spreads like wildfire and makes the world a better place to live. No kidding.



Getting Real With Mary Swan-Bell

This was a year of transitions. I like transitions one at a time…every few years…at least, if that ever happened, I think I would like it. This year, my oldest daughter went to college, my youngest daughter went to kindergarten, my tween son stopped kissing me back, and a year after my father’s death, my mother moved in with us. Oh, and I quit smoking because that seemed like a good idea while everything else in my life was in complete upheaval.

And the frosting on the cake will by my 40th birthday in two weeks. Although age really does feel like just a number to me, sometimes I look at that number and think, “Really? 40?” Sure I’d like to have more accomplishments and less cellulite, but life really is good.

If you think I’m going to give great advice about how to deal with all these changes, sorry, I’m not.

Get a prescription for nerve pills, or get black market nerve pills from a friend who has a better doctor. My doctor actually said, “Why don’t you have a glass of wine once in awhile?”

They kind of frown on that at kids’ sporting events, but thanks, Doc.

Don’t smoke.

transitionsLet’s just dive in: My daughter went to college. The thought that she will probably never live with me again full-time (until I’m old and move in with her, but then I guess technically I will live with her, see above) makes me sad. But what’s the alternative? Keep her at home? She has always had dreams bigger than our little community, so I had to release her to spread her wings and fly to reach them. We don’t skype as much as I’d envisioned. We text, tweet, fb, and instagram incessantly. She’s happy, and I’m happy she’s happy. My goal is to mold these young ones into kind, compassionate, considerate adults, and she is making a good start on her own.

I think after you move your firstborn out of the house and cry yourself into dehydration, other milestons are kind of anti-climactic for awhile. Baby girl going to Kindergarten wasn’t bad. I had kept her home for the “Should I send her or not?” year, so I felt as if I had 365 days of bonus time with her. She was ready to go, and honestly I was ready for her to go. I did feel a little stab of pain watching her little blonde curls bounce onto the bus for the first time, but then I wrote all day. And no one asked me to make them food. Or turn on a show. Or get them another piece of paper to draw on.

And that was kind of awesome.

My boy might be the hardest transition to take, probably because I look at my husband’s relationship (or lack thereof) with his mother and really don’t want to end up there. He’s 12, and he’s still loving, just on his own terms. He thinks it’s cool that he can pick me up and sometimes hugs me and picks me up. Sometimes he still crawls into a chair with me, and usually he doesn’t move when I crawl into a chair with him. He ignores the fact that I sneak into his bed a full five minutes before he has to get up, just to snuggle him. He’s not my little boy anymore, but he’s growing into a really fine young man.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, kids grow up. The other thing that happens though, is we grow up, and our parents get old. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they have to go into a nursing home. Sometimes they move in with us. My dad died, and my mom moved in with us. She is in her early 80’s and still in pretty good health. She drives, cooks, visits friends, shops and so forth. I had all sorts of ideas of what things would be like when she moved in—I moved out at 20 because she drove me crazy—but mostly it has been good. There have been a few growing pains. We’re working on boundaries, my kids are making memories with their grandma, and I am making sure that when it’s time for her to go, there’s nothing left unsaid.

So that’s where I’ve been; what have you ladies been up to??


Making the Right Food Choices in Restaurants

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

When I was growing up, we went to Miguel’s restaurant in Reno maybe once every few months as a special treat. Every once in a while, we’d go to the new-to-town Burger King and rarely – I can only remember once – did we eat at McDonalds. When we traveled to Barstow, California to see my grandparents, we would stop in Bishop at the Jack in the Box to eat, and while in Barstow, we would go to Del Taco as often as I could talk my grandparents into going.

Eating out was a treat, so it didn’t matter that each delicious red burrito from Del Taco, each sopapilla from Miguel’s, each cheeseburger from our favorite fast food was dripping in calories from fat. It was a rare, rare treat.

These days, restaurant food is a staple. The average family eats out FOUR TIMES per WEEK!! More meals per week are prepared outside the home than in. Between grabbing donuts and a latte for breakfast, going out with colleagues at lunch, and ordering pizza for dinner, there are days when some families do not eat a single item that was not prepared in a commercial kitchen.

It’s no wonder America’s waist line is expanding at such a rapid rate!

While I believe our first line of defense is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and eat healthy meals prepared at home, changing such ingrained habits is going to take time…and in the mean time, we all need to start making better choices when eating in restaurants.

I highly recommend the book Eat This, Not That to help guide you through, but the biggest change you can make is to realize that every restaurant provides portions that are enough for two or three people, not just one, so if you do order a meal, have half of it put in a to go container and save it for tomorrow’s lunch. Better yet, save money and calories by splitting a plate with your lunch or dinner date.

Make healthy choices: grilled over fried, veggies over starch. Skip gravies and sauces, skip alcohol and soda. Enjoy the social atmosphere without blindly grazing on appetizers. And skip dessert!

There’s more to this than just making the right food choices in restaurants; it’s about seeing food as something separate from entertainment. We can be social and enjoy each other’s company without turning everything into a food fest.

Maybe it’s time to put restaurants back into the realm of special treats instead of daily solutions to our busy lives.


5 Tips for Designing Your Child’s Bedroom

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

Whether you have a son who loves trains or a daughter who adores butterflies, your child’s bedroom can be stylish, youthful and educational while adhering to your child’s unique tastes. Design a hip and functional bedroom for your toddler by following these five tips:

  1. Paint walls with colors that are calming and peaceful to encourage restful sleep. Real Simple recommends soft hues such as lavender for a serene environment. Colors can affect a child’s positive or negative mood. Light shades and pastels are not only soothing and relaxing but cheerful as well. Boys will feel at home in a pale blue or sage green room and girls can get cozy in a blush-colored or warm yellow room. Accent walls with jungle animals or flowers to add character.
  2. Hang stylish window blinds that work with your design. Window shades are essential for your child’s afternoon naps as they darken the room, block sunlight and provide a nighttime effect. Window shades come in a variety of colors and styles, including drapery, wood blinds and woven shades. Extensive options ensure that you can find a set that perfectly matches the interior-design of your child’s bedroom. Match the theme of your child’s bedroom with bright colors and earth tones. By installing trendy and colorful shades, you can bypass curtains altogether.
  3. Ask your child about their design opinions and what interests them. Pixar movies, superheroes and sports are typically exciting themes for boys and Disney princesses and Barbie are usually popular girl themes. Approach your bedroom remodeling project so that it’s an educational process that encourages your child to express creativity, learn decision-making and understand step-taking. With simple decision-making, your little one will have a vested interest in their bedroom’s design and learn valuable skills for their adolescent growth. Is your son drawn to comic bedding or a race car pattern? Does your daughter dream of sleeping underneath a bed canopy? Discover what interests your child.
  4. Add creative images and educational murals to the wall. Make homemade crafts with your child and display them as decor on bedroom walls. From holiday cards and sponge printing to paper towel drawings and food coloring finger painting, homemade arts and crafts fill unused wall space and display your child’s creative accomplishments. You can also paint walls with characters from favorite television shows or stencil an inspirational quote on the wall. Customize wall graphics to match a specific color scheme or personalize them with your child’s name.
  5. Include functional furniture that creates a specific type of space in the bedroom. For example, make a personal and cozy reading nook with monogrammed bean bag chairs and book shelves. Create a learning space with a round table, chairs and double-sided easel for drawing and other educational activities. Design your child’s bedroom so that it’s a personal place to sleep, learn and play.

The design should be fun and functional for the entire family. Remodeling your daughter or son’s bedroom is a great opportunity to bond with your child and inspire their creativity. As you choose a theme, select paint and shop for bedroom accessories, you will create memories and a valuable educational experience.

Parent Tips: Balancing Sports, Homework and Family?

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

We learned the hard way that the worst thing to do is allow our kids to be over-involved in extra-curricular activities.  We place a strong emphasis on academics and stand firm even when needled, bribed, or begged.

Homework comes first.

Our oldest son was on the basketball team. It was easy to manage after-school practices and weekly games. Our oldest daughter was a cheerleader.  Even though that was her only extra-curricular activity, it took more of her time than we ever thought possible.  There were often two or three games a week, countless late nights, a class hour of dedication, and daily after-school practice.  I can’t even imagine what life would have been like if there had been more than the one activity.

We communicated clearly to Kira that she has chosen to take this on, and that we would support her, but her studies were equally important.  We made sure she understood that we would not defend her to a teacher if she forgot an assignment or got behind on homework.  We expected her to keep up with her studies.  We made her responsible for her time—we kept a big calendar where she could to write in the times, dates, and locations of events.

At the time, we also had three other kids at home, so managing (juggling) everyone’s demands was difficult.

But limiting our kids to one activity was the right decision (the kids are also allowed to be in choir).

We’ve continued the practice with the younger kids. Parker has guitar lessons (once a week, easy to manage). Anika has dance lessons (three times a week plus an entire weekend consumed in June for performances – what is it with our girls?!)

Regardless of the demands your kids place on you, here are some tips to stay organized during the school-year chaos:

  • Make homework the first priority when kids get home from school.
  • Set out clothes and backpacks the night before.
  • Pack lunches at night while cleaning up from dinner.
  • If you have a shortage of bathroom space, get the kids up at staggered times—no sense in having all of them try to get to the bathroom at once
  • Refuse to rush out the door without a taking moment of time for yourself – coffee, meditation, or exercise – whatever starts your day right.
  • Share as many dinners as possible catching up on each other’s accomplishments and activities.

We have 251 more days of school before the chaos ends. Between now and then, there will be frazzled nerves, juggled schedules, and priority shuffling…but I’ve learned that it goes awfully fast, so I try to enjoy every moment.

When Is It Your Season?

Getting Real With Amy Larson

It seems that in the Spring, my wanderlust is at an all-time high. One year in particular stands out.

I was knee deep in diapers, bottles and Big Bird re-runs. I had three kids under the age of six, my marriage was complicated, and I lived right next door to my mother-in-law, who had just retired for the rest of her life.  Feeling like I lived in a bubble where everyone else could observe my mothering and housekeeping skills, or the lack thereof, nothing I did seemed to make any difference. I sensed the opinion of inadequacy from all sides. I was so numb, tired, and frustrated that I couldn’t have even cried if I’d wanted to.

My husband and I had always split our tax returns in half, half for him, half for me. That year, it turned out to be far more than just a few hundred dollars. My half was in the bank; he’d already spent his half. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my money; I had no time for hobbies or, it seemed, for myself for that matter. It was just nice to know it was there, waiting for me.

A good friend had been pestering me to come and visit her and her husband in Hawaii, where they were living. ‘All you’d need is the plane fare,’ she told me, ‘We’ll take care of the rest.’

I was mildly tempted, although knowing that this was a silly dream, not even a possibility.

My friend’s younger sister returned from a visit to Hawaii one day, and brought me a fresh pineapple.

“…Since you’ll probably never be able to go yourself,” she told me. Reverse psychology or not, telling me what I wouldn’t or couldn’t do was always defined by me as a personal challenge. I decided right then and there that I was Hawaii-bound.

The next day while the kids were down for their naps, I called a travel agent and booked a flight to Honolulu with my awaiting tax return money. Risky, yes. I had nothing else in place for my children, and my husband didn’t yet know of my plans. I could only imagine what his reaction would be; I’d never done anything this gutsy within our relationship.

Next, I called my mother-in-law. This woman had been supervising my mothering skills for years, and it was apparent to me that I wasn’t passing the test in her eyes. I figured if she wanted the job so badly, she could have it all to herself for seven days. One ace in the hole: She rarely said no.

She said yes. With a long sigh. Then she added these words:

“It’s not really your season for this sort of thing.”

The next hurdle was my husband.

He went out with his friends constantly, took extended trips out of state, went hunting and fishing regularly, all while I had dutifully stayed home with our little ones. It was my turn for a break. Since I’d already booked a flight that departed in two weeks, there was no backing out. How glad I was that I’d arranged things when I did.

“Honey,” he told me on the night I planned to drop the bomb, “Sorry to inform you that my truck needs new tires. I guess you’re going to have to give me your half of the tax refund too. Sorry.”

But my half of the tax refund was spent. I let him know, adding a sweet ‘sorry’ at the end of the sentence.

He stood in the middle of our living room, scratching his head and looking dazed. It was the first time I’d ever told him ‘no’.

“Ha…waii?” he said, then repeated the word. It didn’t seem to be soaking in completely. An argument ensued, but there was nothing I could do; my tickets were non-refundable…I made sure.

Two weeks later found me kissing my young children goodbye at Grandma’s (among multiple, audible sighs) and lugging my suitcases to the checkout counter, accompanied by my husband.

The lady at the airline counter asked to see my I.D. I fumbled through my purse for the necessary documentation.

“No, not that one,” my husband said impatiently over my shoulder, “She asked for the other thing, don’t you even know where the other one is?”

I was so used to that sort of talk, I hardly noticed it was happening until I happened to look up and lock eyes with the woman at the desk. She briefly looked at my identification, then said gently and with great, completely understanding warmth in her eyes:

“You have a very nice trip, ma’am.”

She knew.

My husband briefly and stiffly hugged me goodbye, not waiting until it was time to board my plane. I saw him dramatically roll his eyes and shake his head as if in disgust as he was turning away from me.

I was greeted upon arrival in Honolulu with a generous Hawaiian lei from my friends, warm hugs, and lunch. Each and every day there, I was treated like a Hawaiian island princess. I wore sarongs and swam in the eighty-degree ocean. I napped on sandy beaches. I dined luau-style, purchased cheap puka shell necklaces and snorkeled amongst tropical fish and sea turtles.

For the first few nights I called my mother-in-law’s home to check in with my children. She answered the phone each time, sighing and making sure I knew that one child was developing a cold, the other’s stomach was upset, etc. I was spoken to in a clipped tone. No one asked how I was doing, and my husband was often ‘unavailable’ or ‘out for the evening with friends.’ After the third day, I stopped calling. The kids were in the supposed care of their other parent, and a grandparent. I didn’t need a constant reminder of how ‘bad’ I was for leaving for a few days and giving myself a much needed, well-deserved break, my first in the decade since I’d been married. No more phone calls, I decided. I was suddenly able to relax much more.

Late night talks, my first taste of sushi, and learning to hula dance were just some of the experiences I had. Little by little, I was beginning to feel like me again, the me I’d forgotten all about.

I truly believe that my island getaway got me through the next ten difficult years of my marriage. Whenever I felt upset, I would take myself back to the day I napped on the white beach in perfect peace and safety. When I felt like I wasn’t important to those around me, I remembered the late night chats with my friends in their island apartment when I felt noticed, cared for, and vital to them. I remembered feeling youthful as I hula danced and laughed like a young girl. Those memories carried me.

“It isn’t your season for this,” I was told.

It’s been sixteen years since my visit to the tropical paradise. Going, I was told (and leaving three young children with Grandma) had made my name mud among the in-laws for years, not to mention really ticked off my then-husband. No matter. They all voluntarily exited my life down the road anyway, quite predictably, when our marriage finally drew its last quivering breath, ending in a divorce. I can say with great confidence that had I not taken the opportunity when I had it and ran with it, I would not have seen that part of the world while I was still relatively young enough to enjoy it fully.

So I ask the question to myself, and to anyone else: If this isn’t my season, then when exactly will it be?

Every season is our season.

Enjoy it while you can, when you can, and if you can. Every season, every time.

I have zero regrets.


Paula Deen Ate A Cheeseburger

Getting Real With Kathy Winn

Stop The Presses!! Paul Deen ate a cheeseburger. On a cruise.

A woman with diabetes is eating poorly on a cruise ship. It’s unbelievable!

My response? Who cares. Having grown up with a loved one who was diagnosed with Diabetes at an early age I am going to make a shocking statement: Diabetics Eat Cheeseburgers. They eat french fries. Sometimes they… gasp… eat birthday cake!

Diabetics need to pay close attention to their diets. They need to monitor the foods they eat much more closely than the rest of us do (although shouldn’t we ALL pay more attention to the foods we put into our bodies?) But they do occasionally eat food that is not considered Diabetic Diet friendly.

They are human and they will eat a cheeseburger. With french fries.

Is Paula Deen a great example of how Diabetics – or anyone – should eat?


Has she ever been a good example in that category?


So let’s let Ms. Deen make her own decisions on what she eats and we’ll make decisions on what we (and our families) eat. She’ll live with her consequences and we’ll live with ours. And where are the photos from every other meal from that cruise? Did she eat only lean protein and vegetables for all other meals? Probably not, but we’ll never know so we shouldn’t judge. Do you want someone taking a photo of what you ate on vacation? Me neither.

And if you are looking for an AMAZING recipe, I highly recommend Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake recipe.

Just don’t eat it with a cheeseburger.

Hiring a Babysitter – 10 Tips from the Pros at

Hiring a babysitter can be a confusing task.  There are so many things to consider as you face the task of selecting someone to care for your children in your absence, and you want to find the perfect fit between the babysitter and your family.  Here are some of the most important things for you to consider when selecting a new babysitter for your children from Candi Wingate, founder of

1. The babysitter should be able to relate easily and bond well with your children while maintaining a clear distinction from them. Babysitters must be able to play with and enjoy your children (which can often be construed by the child as peer-level interaction) while also maintaining discipline. It is easy for a babysitter (and a parent) to feel more comfortable in one role or the other: to be most comfortable being friends with the children, or to be most comfortable supervising the children and redirecting their errant behaviors.

2. The babysitter must be able to relate with your family and administer discipline to your children in a manner that is appropriate and consistent with your family’s boundaries. If you have a prospective babysitter that uses social isolation (sending a child to his/her room, for example) as a method of behavior modification, and you are not comfortable with that method of behavior modification, then the prospective babysitter may not be a good fit for your family.

3. The babysitter should ideally have years of experience, solid references from prior employer-families, a clean background (pursuant to background checks), and completed training on babysitter basics (CPR, first aid, the Heimlich maneuver, basic nutrition and food preparation, and general personal and home hygiene). You can obtain background checks through  The babysitter should not represent a risk to your children in any way; thus, in addition to the foregoing, the babysitter should be current on his/her vaccinations.

4. If you need your babysitter to drive, then your babysitter should have a valid driver’s license, a clean (or as close to clean as possible) driving record and a reliable car.

5. The babysitter should be able to develop and carry out fun, creative, and educational experiences for your child.

6. The babysitter should be willing and able to comply with your rules about what constitutes appropriate television viewing, when s/he may use his/her cellular telephone while babysitting, when s/he may use your telephone for his/her own purposes while babysitting, when s/he may have friends over while babysitting, etc.

7. The babysitter should be capable of handling small “crises” on his/her own. You and your babysitter should come to an agreement about what issues may warrant a call to you and what issues the babysitter is authorized to handle on his/her own. Your babysitter should be able to act comfortably within the boundaries you have provided.

8. The babysitter’s expectations regarding terms and conditions of employment should be close to the terms and conditions of employment that you are offering. If you wish to hire a babysitter in a smoking home, a non-smoking prospective babysitter may not be a good fit for your family. Pay rates for babysitters should be discussed up front to ensure that the prospective babysitters are willing to work for the income you offer.

9. The babysitter should not have fears or concerns about the non-negotiable aspects of the job with your family. If you have a cat, and your prospective babysitter is severely allergic to cats, the prospective babysitter may not be a good fit for your family. (Side note: some allergic reactions can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications or other accommodations that may be used by the allergic babysitter.) If the prospective babysitter is unable to work specific hours or days and you need your babysitter to attend to your children on those days or in those hours, then the prospective babysitter may not be a good fit for your family.

10. The babysitter should be a positive, loving influence in your household.

Candi Wingate is an expert in the child care industry with over 20 years experience. She is the founder of and, and author of 100 Tips for Nannies & Families and “The Nanny Factor: A Parent’s Guide to Finding the Right Nanny for Your Family” and a mother of two.