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If You Love Your Kids, Kill That Elf on the Shelf

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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I’m not opposed to lying to very young children. In fact, my family considers it one of the finer points of good parenting. The art of storytelling, when done appropriately, can soften a harsh reality and bring it into an easy-to-swallow, child-sized bite. In “6 Lies You Should Tell Your Kids“ I shared a few of our family secrets for doing just that. The Elf on the Shelf, however, is a Christmas tale with a dark side that could produce some unintended character flaws that could show up later as adults. Adults, no doubt, that will be living in a very different world.

Before you dismiss the whole idea as harmless fun, it’s important to understand two basic truths that Christmas traditions, as with all family traditions, are vitally important to children. You are always teaching your child–intentionally, or unintentionally.

The Elf on the Shelf is a cheap looking stuffed doll that looks like it came from a dollar store in China. The elf itself is not what has made it a multi-million dollar success. It’s the story behind it.

That’s where we get into some real life issues.

This elf is placed somewhere in the house to observe the children’s behavior. Apparently, this generation’s Santa can’t really see who’s naughty and nice. He needs surveillance elves. The elf is adopted into a family or classroom, given a name and perched somewhere to observe the children’s behavior. Then he receives his magic. Each night the little snitch flies back to the North Pole to let Santa know if the kid being watching is good or bad.

There are two rules, one for the elf and one for the kid: The elf cannot be touched. If he is, he loses his magic and can’t fly back to the North Pole (hence, no Christmas for the kid, and they’re stuck with just the elf). The elf’s rule is that it can’t say anything– only watch and listen carefully. Not a problem for a stuffed doll, even a cheesy one.

This type of tradition fits this generation of parents well. We all know the NSA is listening in, and it produces some great Instagram shots. By the looks of what a simple #elfonshelf search will uncover, naughty and nice parents are having as much fun with it, if not more than their kids.

So what could go wrong with an Elf on the Shelf?

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Are You Too Selfish to Raise Children?

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

From the Daily Mail, and don’t you just love those headlines?:

‘I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women, that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated,’ she said.

Denial: The actress was forced to deny she was pregnant after being pictured on the red carpet in August, appearing to show a bump

‘I don’t think it’s fair. You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t mothering – dogs, friends, friends, children.’

Since her split with husband Brad Pitt in 2005 Anniston has been the focus of intense media scrutiny in the U.S.

Almost every month a celebrity magazine in the US speculates that she is pregnant, getting married or engaged in a row with Angelina Jolie who recently married her ex-husband and has six children.

In August she was forced to issue a denial that she was pregnant after photos of her on the red carpet appeared to show a slight bulge in her dress.

What do you think? Does a career as a celebrated actress equal the life of a parent? Can’t one do both?

Bonus question: what is your favorite Jennifer Aniston movie?

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Handcuffed or Spanked?

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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The obvious answer is “neither.” Who wants their child, at any age, handcuffed by police – let alone at age 6? Sorry if I misled you with the title; you don’t have the option between spanking and handcuffs. Children are not being spanked in school and obviously not at home. That would be just wrong, right?

Handcuffed for bad behavior? Yeah, that’s happening today.

As the wife of a retired police officer, I have some very strong opinions about the role of the police. This, however, is an entirely different matter. A police officer in an elementary school is not the same as an officer on the street. This isn’t about police. It’s about developmental behavior, abdicating responsibility, and the natural consequences of cultural Marxism.

It’s a given that one or two instances doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s commonplace, although it is an issue that is occurring more often than most of us realize. I defy you to find one story of this happening even in the turbulent years of the ’60s and ’70s.

Believe me, it would have made the news. But back then we had segregated classrooms–average children were in one room, obnoxious kids in the hallway, and autism was one in 2000 students. Most schools never saw one autistic child.

There’s a lot of blame to go around here, so I’m going to narrow it down to a cultural issue that parents need to recognize embedded in how we view the family.

Before I explain that statement, let’s take a look at a couple cases at hand.

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5 Ways to Avoid Christma-fying Your Hanukkah

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.

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9 Ways Pop Culture Gets Childbirth Wrong

Friday, December 12th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

There’s no shortage of media representations of childbirth, between television and movies. The scene, which has played out for as long as babies have been “born” on television, is fairly cookie cutter: the woman’s water breaks and there’s a mad dash to the hospital — otherwise the baby will be born in a stalled elevator. The woman screams in pain, begging for drugs, and then out comes a beautiful, usually clean baby who cries immediately before being wrapped and placed in mom’s arms.

As with all mainstream media representations of real-life events, writers and producers take a lot of liberties with the scene and how it plays out in real life. Since having a child myself, I often wonder if anyone on the writing or producing staff has ever been present for the birth of a child, given how diametrically different these moments are in real life.

The way childbirth is portrayed isn’t just inaccurate, but also fuels a false perception in our society of childbirth as scary, dangerous, and often negative. Several aspects of how childbirth plays out on screen also affect how real life couples may process their own experience in the moment. So what can a couple expect out of the birth of their child? What does the media get wrong? This list is just a start:

1. Babies come out pink 

One of the scariest moments for any parent who has seen enough babies being born on television is the color their child comes out. While some people may be ready for the goop and slime that coat a baby’s skin, the color of their skin usually comes as a total shock, even if intellectually one has been made aware that often babies don’t come out flesh-colored or pink right out of the womb.

On the series Parenthood, which, unsurprisingly, has seen quite a few births over the course of the last six seasons, the youngest son of the clan, Crosby Braverman, had a daughter with his wife Jasmine. She came out looking like this:

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The very first moments a baby comes into the world, before they’ve had an opportunity to get oxygen into their bodies, a baby’s skin tone, regardless of race, is often a deep shade of purple, which can be petrifying if unprepared, which most parents are. Those first fleeting moments are usually forgotten in the haze of new parenthood, but it’s a shame that most first-time parents find themselves scared for their child’s safety and well-being before the cord has even been cut. Better images would go a long way in changing our image of brand new human beings, highlighting what can be normal in healthy childbirth.

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Medical Child Abuse or Medical Kidnapping?

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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“The due process clause of the fourteenth amendment guarantees, protects the rights of parents but the fact is that we have to put it in law. You wouldn’t think we have to go here. What we’re seeing in our country today leads us to believe that if we don’t put this stuff into law then we are behind the eight ball and we find ourselves with these kinds of situations. I’m just afraid, down the road, we’re going to see more and more cases like [the Isaiah Rider case].” — Ken Wilson (R-MO)

We’re farther “down the road” than most dare to imagine.

The bill Rep. Wilson introduced states that a parent cannot be charged with medical child abuse for disagreeing with medical advice and choosing treatment of another doctor. Yeah. We’re there.

You might remember the well-publicized ordeal of Justina Pelletier. It seemed like a fluke of injustice, an isolated case. So beyond right, it was easy to assume there’s more to the story. In the Pelletier case, rather than receiving discharge papers, parents were charged with “medical child abuse,” the new term that has replaced Munchausen by proxy (MSbP). Mr. Pelletier was surrounded by agents of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and hospital security and ushered off the premises. Justina became a ward of the state for 16 months and her health deteriorated.

In a press conference, Reverend Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C., and spokesperson for the Pelletier family, made a remarkable statement that became a mirror reflecting an unsettling image of a dangerous mindset:

“t’s easier for us to want to believe, or wrap our brains around the fact that a family is mistreating their child, than the alternative to that, and the alternative to that, is what happened in this case and that is, with impunity government agencies and courts have removed a child from the loving care of their parents—and so that’s that obstacle that no one wants to believe that reality.

That reality” is the last thing parents think of when they have a chronically ill child or have taken a holistic path to health.

Michelle Rider, the 34-year-old registered nurse and single mother of Isaiah Rider, the boy in the above video, told PJ Lifestyle just why we have a hard time accepting this is happening:

We are taught that hospitals are safe, that doctors are safe, and DCFS intervenes when intervention is needed. So when we accept the fact that this is really happening– we are accepting that we are not safe, and our children are not safe.

While President Barack Obama asks the nation if we will accept the “cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms,” it’s blatantly apparent to parents like Michelle that he isn’t talking about sick children like Isaiah. Agents of the state — with calculated impunity — take their children.

On the very day a law was introduced in his name, his worst fears came true.

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The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first two parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The husband/wife relationship is central to feminism. Historical, first-wave feminism studied matrimony in terms of legal rights. Contemporary, second-wave feminism approaches marriage in terms of sexual and economic power. Biblical feminism seeks to understand the spiritual relationship between a husband and wife, and how that spiritual relationship manifests into physical action. To do so, we must begin at the beginning, with Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

“Rule over you” is a phrase that sends chills down any feminist’s spine. But, what does it truly mean? A study of the original Hebrew text provides radical insight into one of the most abused verses of Torah:

This brings us to perhaps the most difficult verse in the Hebrew Bible for people concerned with human equality. Gen 3:16 seems to give men the right to dominate women. Feminists have grappled with this text in a variety of ways. One possibility is to recognize that the traditional translations have distorted its meaning and that it is best read against its social background of agrarian life. Instead of the familiar “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,” the verse should begin “I will greatly increase your work and your pregnancies.” The word for “work,” izavon, is the same word used in God’s statement to the man; the usual translation (“pangs” or “pain”) is far less accurate. In addition, the woman will experience more pregnancies; the Hebrew word is pregnancy, not childbearing, as the NRSV and other versions have it. Women, in other words, must have large families and also work hard, which is what the next clause also proclaims. The verse is a mandate for intense productive and reproductive roles for women; it sanctions what life meant for Israelite women.

In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male “rule” is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion (“desire,” 3:16) they accede to their husbands’ sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.

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Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See Part 1 of Susan’s ongoing series analyzing the connections between ABC’s Scandal, current events, and Western values: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Women are fixers. It should come as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the sexes that the leading female figure on primetime television is none other than a fixer named Olivia Pope. Fifty years ago women primarily played the role of mother on screen and, in doing so, they fixed things and life was pretty darn perfect. But perfect doesn’t fly on network television any longer. Today it’s all about drama, and drama is conflict. So, we get Olivia Pope: beautiful, intelligent, who fantasizes about marrying an already married man, having his children and fixing a nice little life in the Vermont countryside for them, but is too embroiled in fixing her own life and the lives of those she loves to ever quite reach her American nirvana.

Like Israel’s matriarchs, Olivia Pope has a vision of justice, of order, of the way things should be. The wearer of the “white hat,” she wrestles between good and evil in her many attempts to manifest this divine sense that has been humanized as her “gut” instinct. Watch her and you’ll see the woman in white when she pursues truth, the woman in black when she has given over to evil, and the woman in gray when she questions everything she knows. Being a fixer is a woman’s inherent power and inevitable struggle. It isn’t that we want to “do it all” because doing it isn’t as hard as taking responsibility for it, for the lives under our care. Olivia Pope cares for everyone, wants to save everyone, wants to repair everyone and make everything all better. Her struggle, like that of the matriarchs, is in placing the sole burden of responsibility on her own shoulders. But, the greatest lesson of God-given responsibility is that you are not expected to carry it all alone.

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Why Kelly Ripa Doesn’t Care That Her Daughter Doesn’t Like Her

Friday, November 7th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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According to “Live with Kelly and Michael” co-host Kelly Ripa, her 13-year-old daughter Lola isn’t her biggest fan. Yahoo News reports:

“I don’t think she likes me, but I don’t care. I’m like, ‘I’m not your friend, I’m your mom,’” Ripa told Wendy Williams. “I just feel an obligation as her mom to keep her living in the real world. I don’t care who you are or what you do, if you’re a mom, you’re a mom.”

Ripa, 44, explained that not only is she a source of embarrassment for her teen, but recently, she and her husband, Mark Consuelos, were forced to punish their daughter. Ripa said she revoked their daughter’s phone and Internet privileges because she was using her phone when she was supposed to be studying Spanish.

It’s an interesting insight into the private life of a very public figure. As if parenting isn’t fraught with enough perils and pressures, Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, are raising kids in the spotlight — where they’re expected to smile for the cameras and perform anytime they’re in public. Their children are privileged — one percenters by almost any standards — so raising children who are not spoiled brats (see: the debacle they call the Kardashian family) increases the degree of parenting difficulty exponentially.

Kids need to learn early on that the world doesn’t revolve around them and they’re not the center of the universe — they shouldn’t be permitted demand to worship and adoration (things that should be reserved for God). All things considered, Ripa seems to be trying to keep her kids grounded and as she said, “living in the real world,” which is rather refreshing in a culture where discipline and accountability are increasingly out of fashion and parents want their kids to be their BFFs.

But about Ripa’s comment that she doesn’t care if her daughter likes her. Should she care? Should you care if your kids (in particular, kids of the teenage variety) don’t like you? Should your popularity with your kids guide how you respond to them and make decisions about parenting? Or is it better to plow ahead with your decisions, ignoring how your kids feel about you?

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8 Reasons Why Jews & Christians Should Re-Think Celebrating Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.

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The Feminist Lesson in Mom’s Night Out

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Twenty-four percent of married couple families with children under 15 have a stay-at-home mom. Ninety-nine percent of stay-at-home moms in the movies get a really bad rap. Search “Best Movie Moms” and you’ll get lists that include Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Shelly Duvall in The Shining, and more than a few mentions of Psycho. The majority of movie mothers are either widowed or divorced, careerists or working class, alcoholics or impregnated by UFOs. The closest you’ll get to a stay-at-home mom in post-1940s cinema is Kathleen Turner playing the psychotic Serial Mom or Michael Keaton taking on the role so his wife can pursue her career in Mr. Mom.

In fact, outside of Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side there hasn’t been a truly admirable middle-class, white, stay-at-home mother on the silver screen in over 50 years. Which is probably why Mom’s Night Out received such a negative critical reception when it premiered last spring. We have been acculturated out of believing in the power and purpose of stay-at-home moms. Yet, the criticisms leveled at Mom’s Night Out for its “depressingly regressive” spirit and “archaic notions of gender roles” were not applied to a similar film about a stay-at-home mom released only two years prior. This Is 40 received mixed reviews, but praise for yielding “…some of [Judd] Apatow’s most personal observations yet on the feelings for husbands, wives, parents, and children that we categorize as love.”

So, what made This Is 40 palatable in a way that Mom’s Night Out wasn’t? Is there, perhaps, a culturally acceptable way to be a stay-at-home mom?

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What 2 Retired Whores Can Teach Slut-Walk Feminists

Monday, October 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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A story about two old Jewish ladies is making the rounds in the Jewish press, but not for the reasons you may think. Sure, they’re bubbes. They’re children of a Holocaust survivor to boot. But the real reason they’re attracting so much attention is that they happen to be retired professional whores.

Dutch twins Louise and Martine Fokkens (probably not their real last name, since “Fokken” is a Dutch term for “old whore”) have become international celebrities since the 2011 release of their biographical documentary Meet the Fokkens. Women’s magazines like Cosmo picked up on their story shortly after the film’s release, publishing quick little details like:

Louise and Martine (mothers of four and three respectively) became prostitutes before the age of 20 in order to escape violent relationships.

It’s an interpretation that, at best, qualifies as a half-truth. Louise was forced into the sex trade by an abusive husband. Martine, however, became a prostitute out of spite:

Martine followed her sister into the trade, working first as a cleaning lady at brothels before she began turning tricks herself. “I was angry at how everybody around us shunned Louise,” Martine said. “I did it out of spite, really.”

Both women eventually divorced their husbands, whom they now describe as “a couple of pimps.” But they continued working in the district “because that had become our lives,” Louise said.

“Our life in the business became a source of pride, a sport of sorts,” Louise added.

In retrospect, both women say they regret becoming prostitutes.

Reading their story, one can’t help but wonder if mainstream feminist advocates for slut walks and “Yes Means Yes” legislation would condemn the pair for regretting the life they chose. After all, their body, their choice, right? They took control of their bad marriages, divorced the husbands they referred to as “pimps” and chose, fully of their own volition, to remain in the sex trade after their exes were fully out of the picture. Martine and Louise, it would seem, are the originators of the Slut Walk.

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Would Free Contraceptives Reduce Teen Pregnancies and Abortions?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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One of the more extraordinary experiences of my medical career was injecting rural African women with a long-term contraceptive in a Catholic mission hospital under a portrait of Pope Paul VI. The contraceptive was handed to me by an aged Swiss nun who was otherwise deeply orthodox, but who recognized that worn-out women who had already had ten children were in danger of their lives if they had any more. I refrained from remarking on the paradox: I had already learned that there is more to life than intellectual consistency.

In the west, of course, the problem of unwanted pregnancy is different: it arises mainly among teenagers of what used to be called the lower classes. Pregnancy rates among the latter in the United States are among the highest in the western world. According to a paper in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, such pregnancies cost the United States $10 billion a year: to me a suspiciously round figure, especially as it includes the cost of education foregone by the pregnant girls. Perhaps I am a cynic, but I am not altogether so sanguine about the economic value of modern education. Be that as it may, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set a goal of reducing teenage pregnancy by 20 percent between 2009 and 2015.

An experiment conducted in St Louis provided 1404 girls aged between 14 and 19 with free contraceptive advice and free long-acting contraceptive devices to see whether such provision would reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancy among them. The comparison group was that of similar girls in the rest of the United States who were not included in the experiment.

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10 Things I Forgot About Having a Newborn

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 - by Megan Fox
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10. How hard it is to change a diaper on a tiny human

Newborns are tiny (at least mine are), and you forget how tiny until you try to change a diaper. There’s that umbilical cord to avoid which is awkward and nerve-wracking (even for an old pro like me). First, you have to take off the soiled diaper, then you have to pry those curled up legs away from the area to be cleaned (which is not easy… they are strong suckers!). Finally, you must attach the new diaper to this tiny, struggling being. This can take several tries.

During that time, you most assuredly will be peed on, causing you to have to reach for a new diaper. This scenario can repeat several times before you get it right. Also, newborns hate diaper changing. HATE. They scream the whole time. Dressing them is next to impossible, too. For some reason they anchor their little elbows to their sides like their life depends on NOT putting sleeves on. Sleeves are damned near impossible. When will someone invent an infant straitjacket-like garment where one can just put their arms inside their clothes?

OMG. Someone has.

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10 Ways to Have a Child on the Cheap

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

Raising kids these days isn’t cheap. New calculations from the USDA estimate that for the average family in America, it costs $245,340 to raise a baby. Parents will tell you many things about raising kids — that it’s exhausting, life-affirming, fun and often overwhelming — but they will never tell you it’s cheap. Even the most careful savers won’t make it off easy, but with some flexibility and an eye on your bottom line, it’s possible to minimize the cost of having a baby in your house tremendously. Here’s where to begin:

Celebrating #worldbreastfeedingweek with this picture of nursing my babe a few weeks ago at a rest stop in Upstate NY.

(Photo: Author breastfeeding at a reststop on a road trip with my daughter)

1. Breastfeed and minimize formula purchasing

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy or fun, but few can deny that it can save big bucks in formula costs. Babies need either breastmilk or formula for the first year of life, and formula costs can really add up over time. If your baby has a sensitive stomach, specialized formulas can cost even more. I’m a big breastfeeding advocate, as I’ve written previously here at PJ Media, and cost is a big reason why. Because I breastfeed, I have fewer costs associated with feeding my baby, no formula and fewer bottles, and no bottled water.

If you’ve found a brand of formula you like, ask for free samples and coupons from friends, your pediatrician and from the companies themselves. While I exclusively breastfeed, I like to keep a canister around our apartment in case I get hit by a bus. I asked my pediatrician, who gave me several, and I also wrote messages on social media to several formula companies, who also gave me free samples. Keeping formula in the house is a known “booby-trap,” which is what breastfeeding activists have indicated can get in the way of a healthy and long-lasting breastfeeding relationship. Despite this, my morbid need to always be prepared led me to keep it in the house regardless. I knew I was determined not to use it, and over ten months into my daughter’s life, I haven’t ever opened a canister.

Pumping can be a chore, and while breastfeeding can save money, that often comes at the cost of a mother’s time, especially if she’s working. Even if full-time pumping isn’t possible, keeping up a woman’s breast-milk supply can minimize formula costs, if it’s impossible to totally eliminate the need to buy formula. Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing, and any feeding that can be made with breast milk instead of formula can help save a family money.

Insurance companies and FSAs (I get into that more later in the post…) can also help ease the cost of breastfeeding and pumping. Most insurance companies, as part of their increasingly expensive plans, offer breast pumps to anyone interested in ordering one. Contact your insurance company to see how to go about ordering one through them at no additional cost. Breast pumps aren’t “free”; they have been mandated to be covered by ObamaCare, which has increased insurance premiums across the board. While a breast pump through your insurance company isn’t “free” in the traditional sense, it does come at no cost to the mother. If your insurance company for some reason doesn’t offer a breast pump, or the pumps they do cover aren’t what you’re looking for, look into if your or your husband’s office has an FSA plan available. An FSA can pay for many costs related to childrearing, including a breast pump and some basic supplies (extra valves, tubing, etc).

If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, there are plenty of resources available to help ease any trouble you may be having. La Leche League is a wonderful resource, and most of the leaders are certified lactation consultants. They can help for free during meetings, and many will come to your house (sometimes at a cost) to help one-on-one. Even if they do charge for their services, getting off on the right foot with breastfeeding from the start, even if it costs several hundred dollars, can save many more hundreds of dollars down the line. The hospital you delivered at should also have nurses and perhaps even a hotline to help you address breastfeeding issues as well. If you do have to pay for a lactation consultant, inquire with your insurance company if they cover it. If not, this is another example of where an FSA can come in handy.

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12 Questions with Monti Carlo, MasterChef Season 3 Star and Host of Make My Food Famous

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I recently had the incredible privilege of interviewing my all-time favorite MasterChef contestant, Season 3′s Top 5 finalist Monti Carlo. (Yes, Monti’s my favorite even though Season 4′s Jessie hails from my hometown.) She’s a really cool lady and a true inspiration. She dished on her days on MasterChef, the joys of motherhood, and her new show Make My Food Famous, which debuts this weekend on FYI.

1. What can you tell us about the new show?

I’m so stoked to be hosting Make My Food Famous! It’s a competitive cooking show filmed in some of the best restaurants in the country. Three home cooks get to battle it out in a professional kitchen to get their original recipe on a renowned chef’s menu. The pilot airs this Sunday August 31st on A&E’s FYI Network at 10PM ET/PT, though you should check your local listings since air times are subject to change. It was shot in Manhattan Beach, California, at Michelin-starred chef David LeFevre’s incredible MB Post.

Chef LeFevre has worked with some of modern cuisine’s culinary giants like Ferran Adria and Charlie Trotter. To impress this man enough to showcase your creation on his menu is an almost impossible feat. To do it as a home cook is a near miracle. The show isn’t just for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It’s also for people that get a kick out of watching someone hustle to make their dreams come true. It is truly inspirational!

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The Top 10 Reasons to Join a Homeschool Co-op

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Now that we’re quickly approaching the end of summer, many homeschooling families are making decisions about how they plan to educate their children over the coming months. In the early years of the homeschooling movement there were few options for parents. While many families belonged to support groups and there were plenty of books and magazines that offered information and support, most families handled the actual homeschooling duties completely on their own.

These days, there are countless options for families that desire to reach outside of their individual homes for educational options. There are online classes, community classes and activities, early college options, and a wide range of athletic and extracurricular activities. Perhaps the most significant change in the homeschooling movement has been the development of homeschool co-ops. Ranging from informal playgroups to formal classes that resemble private schools, co-ops offer a variety of opportunities for families wishing to expand learning opportunities for their children.

Here are the Top 10 Reasons to Join a Homeschool Co-op:

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Katy Perry Doesn’t Need a Man to Have a Baby

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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In “Yes, Katy Perry, Babies Need Daddies,” D.C. McAllister wrote about Katy Perry’s declaration to Rolling Stone that this is 2014 and she doesn’t need a man to have a baby. But McAllister just touches the tip of the iceberg on both Perry and children’s need for fathers.

Perry is being more callous to her future child than the typical woman who realizes that she wants a baby, doesn’t happen to have a partner, and, therefore, for her convenience decides that she doesn’t need a man to have a baby. Perry left her marriage to Russell Brand a few short years ago because he was ready to have a baby and she wasn’t. From a piece I did in 2012 on pop rock and the hookup culture:

In her movie Part of Me, Katy Perry addresses her divorce, essentially stating the Love Myth. “I thought to myself, ‘When I find that person that’s going to be my life partner, I won’t ever have to choose [between my partner and my career].”

Before anyone thinks that this is just the silly and self-centered musings of a Hollywood starlet, this notion of easy love that never requires compromise passes for thoughtful feminist discourse these days.

Perry saw her husband’s desire to start a family as trying to force her to slow down her career when she didn’t want to. To be perfectly blunt, she chose her career over her marriage and her future child’s ability to have a father. She doesn’t have the typical excuse that she was unlucky in love and is now hearing the ticks of her biological clock pound in her ears.

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11 Disturbing Things I’ve Learned About the ‘Freebirth’ Movement

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

Being an enthusiastic natural birth proponent, I’m a member of a good number of Facebook groups for moms interested in natural birth. In one of the home birth groups I’m a member of, women began to discuss having an “unassisted birth” also known as a “freebirth.” My interest piqued by craziness on the Internet, I did a quick Google search (don’t look at the Wikipedia page if you’re at work or around wandering eyes). An unassisted birth is just what it sounds like: a birth, usually at home, alone or with one’s partner, not attended by a professional midwife or doctor. If you’re thinking “Boy, that sounds dangerous!” you’re right. A leading blogger of the “Freebirth” movement in Australia, Janet Fraser, buried her stillborn baby girl in 2009. The baby in all likelihood would have been born totally healthy had she had a home birth attended by a licensed midwife or in a hospital with a doctor and nurses present. The death spurred an inquest in which the coroner concluded “the child had died because the only people she had elected to be present at the birth – her partner and her best friend – could not deal with the complications of a cord entanglement.” That birth story, which happened in March 2009, has never appeared on the Joyous Birth website, still run by Fraser.

This case is an extreme example of members of this movement of women who, for any number of reasons, plan to have their children without the assistance of medical professionals. Being an super professional journalist absolute voyeur, I joined every Facebook group I could find on Unassisted Birth to give you insight into these women and their motivations. Here are some things I learned, in list form, of course:

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1. Money is a factor.

Not surprisingly, many women in the group explain that they are having an unassisted birth because they cannot afford to have a midwife attendant at their home birth. Most home birth midwives’ services aren’t covered by insurance and none are covered by Medicaid, leaving women with the choice of a hospital birth or an unattended one. Others state that they have no medical insurance, which would make an out -of-pocket hospital birth astronomically expensive for even a middle class family. The United States is the most costly place to give place in the world, with the average vaginal birth clocking in at $30,000 and the average c-section costing $50,000.

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The 10 Most Important Life Lessons I Learned from Mork from Ork

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

As a Gen-X/millennial crossover, I was fortunate enough to first meet Robin Williams as Mork from Ork on the sitcom Mork and Mindy. A comedic powerhouse, Mork’s colorful wardrobe and loud laugh were the first things I imitated as a child. As I grew up, I would look back and realize the many character lessons I learned at home were reinforced by a supremely acted alien outsider with a predilection for sitting on his head. In virtually every role he played, Robin Williams taught his audience a life lesson. As a young kid there was no one more fun to hang around with and learn from on TV than Mork from Ork.

10. Old people rule.

Mork marvels at the way the elderly are ignored and maligned on earth. On Ork, old folks are revered as the wise, experienced ones to learn from. “The Elder” is called on to remind Mork of his Orkishness. His was an early lesson in the importance of respect and reverence for the elders in your life and how very important all people are, no matter and, perhaps, especially because of their age.

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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5 Reasons Megan Fox’s Heart Isn’t in Acting Anymore

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by Megan Fox
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I knew this day would come. I’ve been wondering when I would feel compelled to write about the “other” Megan Fox who is a part of my daily life whether I want her to be or not. Grocery store checkout girls gasp and giggle at the sight of my credit card, AT&T phone operators in India ask trepidatiously if I’m really HER. Several times a day, I hear, “Megan Fox? Like the movie star!” Why yes. Yes I am. I’m becoming like that poor guy named Donald Trump who is not Donald Trump but gets reservations anywhere he wants while disappointing countless hostesses. It’s mostly tiresome but sometimes funny. Recently, Fox (the other one) made the news for speaking truthfully about the state of her heart when it comes to making movies when she has small children at home:

“I’ve never been an extraordinarily ambitious girl or career-oriented, but especially once I got pregnant with my first son and now [having] my second, it’s so hard to be a working mom especially when your heart is not in your work, when your heart is with your family.”

Megan Fox is experiencing what most mothers feel the moment they set eyes on their tiny new child. Suddenly, everything else becomes less important, even when you’re a big time movie star. Regardless of what faux feminists tell women that they can “have it all” or they should never give up the rat race and press ahead by hiring nannies and using daycare, Fox isn’t falling for it, and neither do most of us. This is not to say there aren’t countless women who have to work who would rather not. They are in the same category as Fox. Necessity demands they work but deep down, here are the reasons they’d prefer not to.

5. Your giggling baby.

You never know what’s going to set them off. You don’t want to miss it when it happens.

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10 Ways ’90s Pop Culture Destroyed the American Male

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…

Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.

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VIDEO: Are We Not Men?

Sunday, June 29th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

A character in my novel Man And Wife points out that it’s difficult to talk about manhood because an essential part of manhood is not talking about it. But that didn’t stop me from joining a panel with my friends at BOND during their annual Father’s Day Conference on Fatherhood and Men. With the fearless and humorous preacher Jesse Lee Peterson leading the discussion, the 45-minutes or so absolutely zipped by. Here it is for your delectation and delight:

By the way, if you click on the Jesse Lee Peterson link, you’ll find my City Journal profile of him, the anti-Jesse Jackson. If you click on Man And Wife, you’ll have something absolutely great to read for the weekend! Is this blog a resource or what?

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