Thursday, December 19, 2013

Guest Blogger - A way to fertility young or old

I am very happy to share a guest blog with my followers. Lauren Haring does such inspirational work with young cancer patients who want to ensure they can have children in the future.



Delaying Pregnancy

By Lauren Haring, RN, BS, ASN

An increasing number of women are delaying childbearing until later in life, whether by personal choice or due to medical reasons. However, fertility declines with age, especially after age 35, as part of the natural aging process. Unfortunately this cannot be reversed, but technology now exists that allows women to make a conscious decision and preserve their fertility until they are ready to have children. In essence, this offers a woman the ability to ignore her biological clock and focus on her career, finding Mr. Right or fighting a life-threatening illness.

Benefits include more time and flexibility to decide when to have a family, improved chances of conception with a woman’s own eggs in the future and even a small modicum of power when facing a disease that could possibly render a woman sterile through treatments such as chemotherapy and/or radiation. This predicts that a woman in her 40s would significantly improve her chances of a successful pregnancy if she were to use eggs that were frozen when she was in her 20s or 30s.

Not every woman is a good candidate for egg freezing. Diagnostic testing should be performed in the early part of the menstrual cycle including blood tests and a transvaginal ultrasound to assess ovarian reserve. A reproductive endocrinologist reviews the results, and the physician creates an individualized treatment plan. Once a cycle is coordinated, a woman will take fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs in a single cycle. Frequent office visits are required over an 8- to 12-day period to monitor the progress and determine adjustments to the medication prior to scheduling the egg retrieval. It is an outpatient procedure done in the office under anesthesia, and most women return to work or their normal activities the following day.

This advancement in medicine has brought new hope to those diagnosed with many different forms of cancer, with the largest group being breast cancer patients. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Some may not have families yet or even be married, but they’re facing treatments that might not allow them to take that journey. This is where egg freezing can help take the pressure off and allow a woman to focus on the emotional and physical goal of getting well without having to worry about their future fertility. They can concentrate on getting through their cancer treatments knowing their eggs are safe and sound until they’re through the battle and ready to use them.

Many women think of egg freezing as an insurance policy that allows them to breathe a little easier and not regret the reasons they have to delay creating or adding to their family. While there are no guarantees that a frozen egg will lead to a future pregnancy and live birth, taking control and being proactive can increase a woman’s overall chances for a child later in life.

Lauren Haring, RN, BS, ASN, graduated from the University of Florida and began her career at GIVF in 2004 after graduating from nursing school. She is currently working to provide fertility preservation services for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Guest Blogger - Love to Share the Knowledge!

I am very happy to share a guest blog with my followers. Here are some tips on how to choose a preschool from Diane Stata-Heintz with the Children in the Shoe. (



Eenie, Meenie … A Better Way to Choose a Preschool

By Diane Stata-Heintz

Selecting a preschool is an important decision. You are entrusting this school to help your child develop a love of learning and prepare your child for the demands of primary school. With so many preschools to choose from, it can be difficult to wade through all the options.

Start by touring as many preschools as possible to get a feel for the different philosophies. It’s important to see a center in action. You may go in thinking a Montessori program is what you want and come out thinking you are more in line with a play-based program. Your “parental gut” should be the ultimate barometer on which preschool will be right for your child and your family.

Keep these questions and tips in mind when vetting a preschool:

• Is there an emphasis on social and emotional development? Social and emotional skills are what most affect school adjustment. A child who is confident can work independently, regulate emotions, interact positively with peers, problem solve, follow directions and communicate wants and needs; it is this child who will have a more successful entrance into primary school than children who do not build their social and emotional skills at the preschool level. Eenie, Meenie … A Better Way to Choose a Preschool

• What does the classroom look like? Are there many different “interest areas?” Are they distinct from one another? A well-intentioned preschool will have many ways to play, such as a dramatic play area, block area, library, writing center, science corner and more. Children need choices to address their individual learning styles and temperaments.

• Does the classroom showcase the children’s artwork? Doing this lets the kids know their work is important and meaningful. Also, look for diversity in the artwork. For example, if a child draws a picture of a face and puts an eye where the mouth would go, that’s okay! If a child chooses to put only a nose on a face, that’s okay too. He is a minimalist! This reflects a child’s individual creativity and learning style. Remember that it is about the process, not the finished product!

• Is the preschool’s curriculum creative and emergent? A creative and emergent approach to curriculum allows teachers to design lessons around the children’s interests. When children are engaged, they are excited, curious and intensely involved in learning experiences that are meaningful to them.

• Get the preschool directory and call a few of the parents. A beautiful website and marketing materials do not make an excellent preschool. A few referrals from existing parents are priceless!

Ask yourself what overall skills are important for your child to have to be successful in school? Here are some skills and traits that are important to me as a parent:

• Be a good friend
• Confidence
• Perseverance
• Regulate emotions
• Creative and humorous
• Love learning
• Think critically

Whichever preschool you choose, make sure you are comfortable communicating with the directors of the center and the teachers in the classroom. Communication in the parent-teacher partnership is key to your child’s early development!

Diane Stata-Heintz is executive director at The Children in the Shoe Child Care Centers and Preschools. She lives in Chevy Chase with her husband, Jon Heintz, and their three young children.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Find the Meaning for your Season

How much is enough?

Every holiday season we are given the “opportunity” to buy gifts, or cards, or both for all those important people in our lives. I know, “opportunity” may seem like a stretch, but when I think about it, I really am grateful to be able to gift my love and thanks to all the important people in my life.

The problem is our “opportunity” to give becomes “pressure” to perform with all those BUY, BUY, BUY messages that inundate us at this time of year. I’m not naïve, I know what makes the economy turn and grow. I’m a small business owner after all. Our shopping and spending really does make a difference.

So maybe it’s a balance issue? I’m pretty sure something has to give for me. I get so stressed out this time of year - along with what has to be the vast majority of Americans. And I have to say, parents have the distinction of topping the max-stress list! The solution we often hear is to downsize gift giving. But I wonder if fewer gifts is really the answer to our holiday pressure problem.

It hit me recently when my husband forwarded me an email he normally would consider “spam.” Since Doug, in over thirty years of marriage, has effectively never sent me such an email, I clicked on it at once. I’m glad I did. His email made me realize that all my holiday to-do’s were not necessarily the issue, it was my attitude toward them.

The email included the slide show (YouTube link below) - I summarized it in this blog so you can skip the video....  It's a mix of breathtaking photos, appealing music, and a message so appropriately simple, I wondered how I didn’t just “know” the truth of it already.

“If you could fit the entire population of the world into a village consisting of 100 people, that village would consist of:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 Americans (North, Central and South)
8 Africans

6 would possess 59% of the wealth, and they would all come from the USA.
80 would live in poverty.
50 would suffer from hunger and malnutrition
1 would own a computer
1 (yes, only one) would have a university degree

If you currently have money in the bank, in your wallet and a few coins in your purse, you are one of 8 of the privileged few amongst the 100 people in the world.

If you have a full fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are wealthier than 75% of the world’s population.”

The message closes with “If someone sent you this message, you’re extremely lucky, because someone is thinking of you, and because you don’t comprise one of those 2 billion people who can’t read.”

It’s the rare “spam” email where its only agenda is to make you think. The presentation lays it out for us: we are lucky. So very lucky. Just reading this magazine means your day is a success (we work hard to make it a great read, but that’s not so much the point here!).

I want to hold on to my awareness of ALL I have as I start to shop and stress along with everyone else this season. I plan to buy gifts and will inevitably buy too many - like always. I’ll just be bringing a new perspective to the party. I have nothing to prove, the stuff doesn’t matter – my gifts will be my way to share the bounty, the luck, we enjoy in this country.

So join me in counting your blessings this holiday season? I’ll go first…I have a great family. Four wonderful, healthy children (and their children!). A husband I adore – who loves me right back (and takes me dancing quite often!). A successful business staffed with great folks. My list could go on and on.

As I was preparing to write my blog this month, I looked back over the December issues of years past to see what I had to say in my previous holiday blogs. And what do you know, two years ago I wrote about a wonderful trip my husband and I took with our youngest daughter and her then “boyfriend.” I’m smug in the knowledge that even then I thought this boyfriend might be “the one.” And he was/is! So to my list of things to be thankful for this holiday season, I add my future son-in-law who is a very outstanding young man.

It’s such a great feeling to be exhausted by the sheer number of reasons to be thankful! I wish you the same exhausting holiday experience!

‘Til 2014 - also known as the year of Brittany’s wedding in my circles….


Thursday, November 7, 2013

New Traditions Won't Replace the Old

November is the beginning of the season when we celebrate important family traditions. We all have family traditions - good or bad, on purpose or on accident. They don't have to be handed down for generations to have meaning. Some traditions happen because Mama said so and others just evolve over the years.

Many of the traditions in my family came about because we discovered something we all enjoyed. If we enjoyed it the first time, it only made sense to adopt it as a tradition. Our family traditions have always enriched our lives, strengthened the relationships with our children, and created great memories.

Traditions also seem to bond us together as communities. This year, our American tradition of Thanksgiving comes at an opportune time. With the “non-traditional” way the government has been behaving lately, sitting down to share our turkey dinner with literally millions of our fellow Americans may be just what we need. We kind of wrap those special meal times around us – they feed so much more than our stomachs.
Traditions are just comfortable. Kids, even more than adults, count on traditions to carry them through the seasons. Even as the oldest of our kids (especially those teenagers) can’t seem to keep track of time, every toddler understands exactly what it means to have a birthday coming up in XX number of days!

I’m not naïve – I know traditions shift and change as kids get older. At a certain age, the birthday party may be negotiated for a bigger/better present (usually one that plugs in…). Even as a tradition is left behind, it doesn’t lose its meaning. Reading to your kids every night is just as important to the four year old who looks forward to it as to the teenager who looks back on it fondly.

This Holiday season will be the first we will celebrate without my beloved mother-in-law who passed away this year. I know our whole family is going to be embracing those long held traditions that she passed down with extra vigor. She will be there with us in spirit as we make her famous sugar cookies and share stories of all the previous years when she was covered in flour along with the rest of us!

I’m okay with traditions that don’t seem to be, well, very traditional. While we love pulling out our Christmas ornaments made with love by kids long grown up, we also have an annual tradition of scuba diving. Odd as it may seem, it’s something that makes us who we are as a family.

My husband and I grew up in the landlocked Midwest so scuba diving is a tradition we picked up as adults. We were both avid swimmers growing up and spent a lot of time at the lake where both families had vacation homes. We learned how to water-ski at a young age. Doug was a competitive swimmer, and I was a lifeguard. So scuba might not seem so far fetched….

It was when our family moved to Virginia that we started scuba diving. Now we have several serious divers in our family, our oldest daughter is an instructor, our youngest daughter is a master diver. And now we’re into the third generation - my grandson got his certification not too long ago.

For the past several years, we have had the tradition of a family dive trip in late summer or early fall. Our trips have been all over the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. We even swam with the sharks this past year. What some people do for fun, right? This year however, we broke our tradition and did not take a family dive trip. We are saving all our travel up for the big wedding on March 1, 2014 when our youngest daughter Brittany will be taking the first steps in building traditions for her new family.

And, in the long-standing tradition of daughter’s weddings, I FINALLY found my perfect “mother of the bride” dress. Truly something to be thankful for! I’ll admit it was a six-month ordeal, and I’m so happy it is finally over. The problem is that as soon as my husband and daughter gave the dress their blessings, I realized I now have to start shopping for shoes.

I guess traditions have their burdens – but working for it means a tradition is all the more meaningful when you share it with your loved ones!

‘Til December, Happy Parenting!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The “Perfect” Storm

I just went through one of those perfect storms in the course of two short weeks.
  • We moved our FAMILY office. Exciting, but SO MUCH work!
  • In between offices, we met all the deadlines for this issue of FAMILY Magazine.
  • My beloved mother-in-law lost her battle with cancer.
I fully realize how complicated the relationship with a mother-in-law can be. I have heard story after story of the mother-in-law from “down under.” As mothers, we can relate to wanting to hang on to our little boys. That whole letting go thing is never easy.

I count myself among the luckiest daughters-in-law. Ever. I strive to be the mother-in-law that Doug’s mom Tudy was to me. She was such a great lady and much loved by everyone on all sides of our family.

Tudy was her nickname. Mildred was her given name. When she was born, her older brother could not say Mildred, and he called her Tudy. The name stuck – it certainly fit her better than Mildred. She was just as happy, loving and fun as the name Tudy sounds.

Tudy and I hit it off right from the beginning and developed a strong friendship over the years. After all we both loved my husband and wanted his life to be filled with joy and happiness. Our friendship is what I will miss the most.

One of my fondest memories came not long after we met. During a visit, Tudy and I were having a great conversation one evening when my husband announced he was going to bed. Tudy and I chatted well into the night. Doug wasn’t sure what to do with us the next morning. He may have been a bit jealous that his two “women” were leaving him out or maybe he was worried he was the primary topic of our girl talk.

Tudy’s fun loving approach to life doesn’t mean she had it easy. Doug’s father died suddenly and left her a widow at fifty. It was the year before Doug and I married – so I’ve been lucky to be part of Tudy’s clan for over 30 years! We even tried (unsuccessfully) to get Tudy to come live closer to us many times over the years.

Tudy didn’t need us to keep her company – she was born and raised in Newton, Kansas and had no desire to leave. She had so many great friends there. She was an award winning bowler. She made quilts and was such a great seamstress; she even made her share of wedding dresses over the years. She also loved to play bridge. In typical Tudy style, her bridge group was famous not for cards, but for its annual steak cookout. Never a tired moment. In addition to friends and activities, Tudy lived surrounded by family – nieces, nephews, grand and great-grandkids.

After Tudy had spent ten years on her own, she married Don. The perfect match for the second act of her life. Our youngest, Brittany, was her attendant in their wedding. Tudy and Brittany adored each other. Sadly, Tudy’s goal was to make it to Brittany’s wedding in March 2014. She will be there in spirit and fondly remembered by all.

Don treated Tudy like a queen. Retired from the Marines and Army, he’s a hard worker and lives life to the fullest. We loved to travel with Don and Tudy. We have so many great memories of our trips and adventures. We had hoped for one more trip. A safari to Africa. Given that none of us is afraid of the outdoors or wild things, it would have been a wonderful experience.

Tudy fought cancer for three long, difficult years. She never gave up and had Don at her side, supporting her in so many ways. It saddens me to know how disappointed she was to realize she would miss Brittany’s wedding.

Brittany was en route from Florida to say goodbye to Tudy and was able to talk to her one last time by phone. Even in her struggle, Tudy almost burst out laughing when she realized Brittany was on the line.

Being a part of Tudy’s family has given me so much joy and pleasure. Tudy taught me to enjoy the moment, find the positive in all people and to decide what I want in life and go after it. She also passed down our famous tradition of baking cookies for the kids on their first day of school each year.

Sadly this year, the back to school cookies didn’t happen in the midst of my “perfect storm.” I’m thinking of heading to the kitchen to make a special batch just for Tudy. We use her recipes for our holiday cookies as well so she’ll still take center stage at that party.

We’ll mourn and appreciate Tudy in equal parts these next few months. We’ll support Don who’s life has a physical as well as an emotional void created by Tudy’s absence. We’ll also never forget the lessons she’s taught us. Starting with embracing the inevitable storms – even if we can appreciate them only after they’ve passed…

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Mom Blog - September 2013

Fresh Cookies

The first day of school is so much fun. The moms’ excitement, the kids’ trepidation, the heavy sigh we breathe once we close the door on the relative quiet in our homes. The first day of school really is an experience not repeated later in life. Except for the sainted teachers who greet our kids at their classroom door, most of our jobs are year round and not exactly ripe with brand new starts. 

I have to admit, I cried every fall when I sent my kids off. It was important to me – my kids were growing up, facing new challenges, learning, growing. Yes, they did all those things every day, but milestones like the first day of school deserve special attention. This year, my youngest is celebrating a significant milestone of her own – getting married! I can only imagine the crying jag I’ll take on that occasion!

Kids grow up so fast it’s nice to mark milestones with traditions that make those passing memories extra special. After all, what we carry with us are the memories - so let’s make sure it’s happy baggage.

Our family’s back to school tradition was fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Our regular readers may well remember hearing me talk about the cookies - I think I have written about those chocolate chip cookies in the magazine every year for the past 22 years. I only hope my kids remember that tradition as fondly as I obviously do!

Every year, I strategized to be sure the cookie dough was ready and waiting when I picked the kids up at school. By the time they unpacked and washed up, I could have the cookies out of the oven and on to their waiting plates.

By the time my son hit middle school, I found myself making three batches. Between him and dad every single morsel was consumed. My husband Doug looked forward to that first day of school just like the kids – chocolate chip is his favorite!

It was great fun to slide the hot cookies off the baking sheets. I’m thinking it’s not a coincidence the kids often gave me new cookie sheets for Christmas. I choose to believe they bought me cookware because they knew I loved a good cooking tool and not because they wanted to ensure a regular supply of cookies.

They were right about me loving to cook, but it wasn’t the cooking I found rewarding. Watching the kids snatch up the hot cookies and pop them in their mouths was worth all the effort. I made sure they had plenty of cold milk in front of them – patiently waiting for a cookie to cool is not part of typical childhood.

As much as the kids looked forward to the cookies, I looked forward to our time together. I loved hearing the new school stories. They freely shared updates on all their friends and talked about what they loved the most about the new year. I remember how wonderful the house smelled all afternoon and well into dinner. A lingering celebration.

To be sure Doug got his share of the treat, I always set aside a half dozen or so cookies on a plate
hidden above the refrigerator. Then after the kids were finished with dinner and working on homework in the other room, I would pull the plate down so my husband could enjoy his fresh cookies with some vanilla ice cream before bed.

As much as we all loved those homemade chocolate chip cookies, I often wonder why I seldom made them at other times during the year. I guess I was preserving the cookies’ special back-to-school status. We had other treats to be sure. There was homemade angel food cake every so often and many spice cakes (Doug’s absolute favorite). I loved making spaghetti and lasagna, and the kids loved eating them, but chocolate chip cookies retained their day of honor. That one special day when together we launched a new school year full of promise, anticipation and the joy of learning new things.

As you consider your own special back-to-school traditions, I’d recommend the simply elegant chocolate chip cookie. As we reach that first day of school 2013, I toast all of you (and especially my grown children) with a glass of cold milk as I wait for the hot cookies fresh from the oven.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Time Flies Whether You’re Having Fun or Not

The “lazy days of summer” can be the busiest time of the year for those of us with children. It always amazed me how busy we became as soon as school got out - and how fast those summer days flew by.

It seems that within minutes of celebrating the last day of school, it’s time to start planning for the first day of the next year. Do I need to tell you we’re about two-thirds through 2013? Ditto for the summer of 2013 – we have just that last third to sweat through. August is when summer camps end, vacations happen, and back to school supplies are in every aisle of every store you visit. 

So if you’re wondering where the time goes, just remember for this last part of summer: “Time flies whether you are having fun or not.”

Despite the hectic pace, I love summer. I really enjoyed all the activities my children were involved in over the years. Summer swim team was always a big activity in our house. Practices five days a week and Saturday swim meets kept us going for that first two-thirds of the summer. Our swim team was our extended summer family with special swim team cookouts and trips.

A summer tradition for our family – one that goes back generations – is homemade ice cream.
When we were kids, both my husband’s family and my family made homemade ice cream in those great “old fashioned” (they were state of the art at the time, mind you) ice cream freezers. Listening to that freezer groaning and grinding against the ice was the epitome of anticipation. There was nothing better than when that freezer would come to a stop – and you’d get to dig in. Hopefully having a shot at licking the paddle….

The flavor of homemade ice cream still takes us back to those happy days. We’re sure those new-fangled electric freezers, quiet as they are, still get the job done. In any case, if you don’t have time to crank out your own, you can visit one of the great local shops in Kristine Denholm’s article, Cool Treats on page 10.

Our biggest and best summer “fun” tradition was our family vacation every August. One of my fondest memories was the year we drove to Niagara Falls, on to Toronto, then back through Connecticut and New York and home to Washington, DC. Even with all the sights we saw, my kids’ favorite part was the two hours we spent body surfing in Atlantic City. I have to admit, that I kind of agreed with them - both mom and dad had been in the water with them, and we had a great time!

You don’t have to trek to Atlantic City for water fun, there are some great water adventures closer to home.
You can read Sarah Grosjean’s article about parks, spray-grounds, beaches and other aquatic facilities in the DC area on page 14. You can also visit our website for a much longer list of water fun!

Creating meaningful summer memories doesn’t always have to mean a grand vacation or planned activities. Spending one-on-one engaged time with your children will be what your kids remember. Those are the important memories no matter how much they talk about the beach adventure. Time is more important than anything you can buy or give them. The value of your time is priceless.

My one-on-one kid time has now made it into the next generation - I have a week planned the beginning of this month with my granddaughter and her best friend. We are visiting the new penguin exhibit at Sea World and going jet skiing. I am sure a lot of eating and swimming will be involved, but I love just being with this great kid and getting to know her even better. It will be a lot of fun for all of us. And, when she leaves to go back home for her own back-to-school, I’ll be sure to bake her some cookies to take along.

Those of us who have done the first kindergarten drop off know how fast time flies – so this last third of summer, this hot month of August is precious. Just be sure you’re really “there” with your kids so you actually see them grow up so fast.

As they say, “Time flies whether you are having fun or not.” May your summer and your years with your kids be filled with great times that make wonderful memories!

‘Til September and our annual EDUCATION Guide.

Happy Parenting,


Friday, June 28, 2013

Best for Families:
Yours, Mine, Theirs….

We’re always focused on the family. No surprise there - FAMILY is our name after all. But this month, we are truly all about family - “Yours, Mine, and Theirs.”

For “Your” Families…This month we offer you the eagerly awaited “Best for Families” issue where we get to announce the winners of our Best for Families survey! 

During this past month, we’ve been busy tallying votes and offering sneak previews of the nominees in our weekly e-newsletters. We received over 12,000 nominations in more than 90 categories ranging from your Kids’ Favorite Foods to Best Winery. We love hearing our readers’ opinions, and we know you are all curious to see if your favorites made the list.

Our Best for Families survey is our version of that “over the back fence” neighborly conversation – extending it to thousands of moms and dads looking for that next new thing. When you check out our Best for Families’ results, you may find a new favorite restaurant or discover a party destination you didn’t even know existed.

In our “neighborhood,” the large and diverse DC metropolitan area, it takes some serious coordination to help families find the best businesses have to offer. That’s why our Best for Families July issue is both the MOST popular of our monthly issues and is stashed away for future reference. If you just can’t wait to see the winners, flip to page10. We promise not to be offended if the "Best of" pages get torn out and filed. It’s what they’re for!

For “Their” Families - we were so moved by those families in Oklahoma affected by the recent tornadoes. I’m originally from Oklahoma and still have family there. Luckily, they live just outside the area that suffered so much damage. As soon as the tornadoes had passed, my granddaughter in Oklahoma City started to talk about doing something to help the kids – so we did!

We collaborated with Fresh 94.7 FM and set to work over social media to promote the “DC Teddy Bear Drive.” In less than one week, we gathered over 7,000 stuffed critters, and with free shipping from the UPS Stores in Northern Virginia, they have all made their way to Moore. Check out our article on page 73 for the details and adorable pictures!

The DC Teddy Bear Drive made us realize how powerful we are when we pull together as a FAMILY. We had dozens of businesses and hundreds of readers/followers donate their time, locations, and BEARS! It meant so much to me as an Oklahoman to be able to send a bunch of fuzzy hugs back “home.” Those kids displaced by the tornado need a buddy to hold onto – and now they know folks as far away as DC care enough to help them in their time of need.

And finally, for “Mine” Family – the wedding planning continues. Thinking about the Best theme for this month, it really hit home that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to make my daughter Brittany’s wedding the Best experience for her that we can. As the mother of the bride, I’m increasingly aware that the wonderful wedding moments we envision will be a direct result of what I’m doing to make them happen. Between literally making the investment in the wedding and working so closely with Brittany to bring her childhood dreams to life, I know I have to “bring it” as they say. And I’m on it – gladly.

I’m realizing at each step of the way that I can’t do it all. It’s like all things best for family – there’s a village involved. Either it’s a village of readers voting for their Best of’s, or a village of social media followers taking time to grab a teddy bear by the tail for families in need, or a village of family, friends, and vendors making a wedding day magical for my special bride.

Best is a laudable goal. Our FAMILY winners are the best kind of winners – the kind that don’t require a loser to be special. I’m so proud to be part of “Our” Families’ Bests. I’ll keep pushing to find the best in all things I do no matter how big or small my reach may be.

I’m guessing our great readers share that goal as they strive to be the Best parents they can be. We’re here for you – every month in print, every day online – sharing the information and resources you need to accomplish those best parenting moments.

Enjoy your summer - the next time we’ll meet, it’s the back to school issue!

Happy parenting!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Father of the Bride...My Father's Day Tribute

Daddy’s Girl Becomes “Mrs.”

So as I share the plans for my daughter Brittany’s wedding, I hear from lots of folks who are enjoying the process – from family and friends to all our readers taking a vicarious stroll with us through weddingland. We moms tend to have such a romantic vision of weddings and remember our wedding day as (hopefully) one of those happiest days on record.

As future mother of the bride, I can tell you planning a daughter’s wedding ranks right up there with my wedding day. It may be even better. After all, I’m not facing the life changing decisions. I’m planning a party!

I should say “we” are planning a party – my husband Doug and I. Therein lies the problem with my “party” philosophy. While both Doug and I adore Brittany’s fiancé, Daddy isn’t quite ready to hand over his baby quite yet. I feel it too, but it’s becoming clear to me that “daddy’s little girl” is a cliché for a reason.

We recently reviewed a proof for the Save the Date cards. I was going on about how cute they were, and all Doug could focus on were the words: The future Mr. & Mrs…. I thought he was going to come to tears. He wondered why we were changing her name before we had to.

That brought me to tears. So much for a quick review of some cute stationary.

Ditto for a casual movie night. A few months ago, the three of us watched “Father of the Bride” together. Doug could hardly sit through the last scenes (spoiler alert: daughter happily marries and leaves home). I cried. Brittany laughed.

That special dad - daughter bond has been such a treasure for me as I’ve watched Doug and Brittany’s relationship grow and deepen over the years. Dads have that protective thing going on, and girls want so much to please their fathers.

Doug and Brittany are so much alike. They’re both very analytical and think in black and white terms. Doug’s an Engineer – enough said there. They literally finish each other’s sentences. Doug may be willing to share her, but give her away…?

To further complicate things for my poor husband, he is the last male “Hyde” in his family. Once Brittany marries and changes her name, he’s it.

We had a strange preview of the end of the Hyde line years ago. In 1980, Doug and I took a road trip from Oklahoma City to San Francisco. We made it to the Wharf where it so happens a street named Hyde ends. To make it clear, there’s a sign that says “End Hyde.” Of course we took a picture of Doug under the sign.

Given it was the 80s, we were cell phone free and out of touch. While we were enjoying the Wharf that day, we had no idea Doug’s father had had a sudden heart attack and passed away. That End Hyde sign began putting on layers of meaning. Doug Hyde really was nearing the end of Hyde – one day.

So “one” day is imminent. Brittany will change her name, and Daddy’s not ready. Her kids won’t be Hydes. So Dad’s gonna have to deal. Thus far dealing has meant frustration, tears, and even a resistance to making progress on those wedding plans.

It’s no surprise those Save the Date cards got a big edit. We kept the cuteness and took out the reference to the new “Mr. and Mrs.” What I’ve realized however is that the Save the Date cards issue may just be the beginning.

We had to give the photographer a deposit – Doug wasn’t available. We had to commit to the venue – Doug was too busy. I took care of these tasks on my own. Grouchily. But now I realize he’s not slacking off, it’s his way of avoiding the sting of Brittany leaving.

We still have almost a year until the wedding. I may need every second of that time to bring Dad around. It’s such a profound adjustment for all of us. Doug’s at least brave enough to start dreading the hand-off months before The Day. He may be on the right path – deal with the angst before-the-fact so he can walk down the aisle with a sincere smile.

It might do me some good to ponder the mom – daughter relationship sooner rather than later for fear of being a complete mess the week of the wedding. Adding a to-do: buy a supply of waterproof mascara.

Parenthood – the joys, the tears. They start at birth and end…?

Until July – and our favorite BEST OF issue! – happy parenting.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

DC Teddy Bear Drive!

Helping bring a hug to the kids of the Oklahoma City area!

When I heard the news about the tornado in Oklahoma, it really hit home for me. Even though I’m in DC, a good 1300 miles from the devastation, it brought back so many memories. I grew up in the Oklahoma City area – not far at all from Moore. My parents, daughter, and two grandchildren are still there.

Thankfully they were spared the worst of the damage – this time. Just a few years ago during a 2007 tornado, my parents’ lost their garage and a dog (temporarily thank goodness –she came back muddy and scratched up but glad to be home). It was on my birthday, but I’m sure they don’t blame me….

My 17 year old granddaughter started talking about what she could do to help even before the first rescuers got to the scene. There’s such a family spirit that blooms in times like this. Living in tornado alley, everyone pulls together after a storm. They understand that nothing but the random path of a tornado is determines whose home is standing and who has to start over. As someone who grew up with tornadoes as a fact of life, I really wanted to pull together with my fellow Oklahomans.

As publisher of Washington FAMILY Magazine, my job is to support local families so it was a natural extension for us to sponsor an outreach program that benefits the kids affected by the Oklahoma tornado victims. We have coordinated an effort to gather stuffed animals for the kids displaced by the storm. We are calling it DC Teddy Bear Drive.

Losing everything is unimaginable for an adult. We can’t conceive of how lost and confused the kids are. To have a Teddy to hold and to know folks as far as DC are thinking about them will make a real difference.

Washington FAMILY Magazine is working with many great partners (94.7 Fresh FM, 99.1 WNEW, Navy Federal) to get the word out about the Drive and many are serving as drop off locations. UPS has offered to collect teddy bears at their local stores – and ship them for FREE. We love the synergy that’s building to help the kids.

We know you want to help. Donating a Teddy Bear is a great way to talk to kids about the tragedy and help all of us feel less helpless. It’s a long distance warm hug….

We will be collecting the Teddy Bears at various locations in the area through Memorial Day. Click the link below for convenient drop off locations near you. Share the link with as many folks as you can. The more bears the better!

Washington FAMILY Magazine DC Teddy Bear Drive Drop off Locations

Be sure to check back often – we’ll be adding more locations for drop off. Donation collection ends at 6 p.m. on Memorial Day Monday, May 27.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


A good friend and business partner of mine, Judy Freeman writes a regular weekly blog, and this week I thought I would share. Judy is very motivating - the kind of business coach who really helps her clients focus on the things that can grow their business. If you want to reach Judy, her email is

Guest Blog from Judy Freeman:

Do you ever feel like you are moving forward but not getting results quickly enough?

I hear my clients saying the exact same thing. Yet, we all need to ask ourselves:

• "Are we doing the right things?"
• "Are we using our time effectively to reach our goals?"
• "Are we constantly readjusting our course with new information to get the results we want?"
• "Do we focus on the most important tasks every day?"
• "Do we keep a positive mindset and believe in ourselves?"

Patience is a virtue! If we learn to be patient and positive in our endeavors, it will make the journey much more fun. We will create a nurturing and energetic culture where the team believes in the future. The team will be calm yet happy and optimistic. If you continue to set goals and metrics and ensure that you are moving forward, success will be yours.

Persistence is another key component to success! When you hear no, it simply means not now. We must all learn to be resilient and realize that we must "get back on the horse." Think about famous people who had success later in life: Susan Boyle became a singing sensation @ 48, Ray Kroc started McDonalds @ 52, and Maya Angelou was in her 60's when her books became popular! It was their persistence, confidence and commitment that helped them realize their dreams.

Patience and persistence are a powerful, winning combination!

Wishing you a powerful week!

Judy Freeman

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mom Guilt...

“Bad” Mothers

We’ve all been there – that “bad” mom moment. Your voice rises, you speak THEN think. It’s a universal parenting experience. For all the times we stay calm and collected while literally walking on broken glass, once in a while we just lose it.

It happens in an instant, but we live with the guilt and regret of it for much longer – forever if we’re the type to judge ourselves harshly. I am.

I have to admit, as the mom of four fabulous grown ups, I hoped my “bad” mom moments were behind me. It’s not like I’m dealing with pre-verbal toddlers or pre-reasoning teenagers. My kid and I discuss things, we agree to disagree, we’re reasonable people. At least that’s how it is most of the time….

When my first child was born, I swore I would never, ever, under any circumstances say: “Because I told you to….” I hated it when my mom said that to me, and I still cringe when I hear parents say it to their kids. Kids are asking for the how and why of a situation so we should help them understand. Right? Theoretically….

Here’s how the theoretical conversation goes down:

Please eat all your peas.
- Why?
Because they will help keep you healthy.
- Okay.

However when my second daughter was two years old, she started asking “Why.” Not just once. Incessantly. It drove me to distraction.

Here’s how the reality-based conversation went down:

Please eat all your peas.
- Why? Because they will help keep you healthy.
- Why? They have good stuff in them to make you grow big.
- Why? Peas use the sun to create the stuff your body needs.
- Why? That is how plants work.
- Why? So they can grow and get big. Eat them, you will too!
- Why? Because I told you to.

And there it was. Just rolled off my tongue. “Because I told you to” ended the conversation - which honestly was what needed to happen. But isn’t a “good” mom supposed to encourage their kids’ curiosity and learning? I definitely felt the “bad” mom guilt weighing down on me in the quiet left after the last “Why?” faded away.

So fast forward a few decades, and here I am again. Feeling “bad” mom guilt in the quiet that’s left over after one of those not so pretty reality-based conversations.

My youngest daughter Brittany is engaged, and we’ve been joyfully working together on the wedding plans. From the beginning, I swore I would NOT be a Mother-Of-the-Bride “MOBzilla.”

Brittany’s wedding is something she’s dreamed about since she was a little girl. So I want to help her make it the wedding of her dreams, a true memory of a lifetime. Now I fear I added a moment to the memory that isn’t pretty.

My moment was in response to a guest list mix-up that ended up creating hours of additional work. I’d happily spend hours with Brittany choosing bridesmaid gifts or poring over flower arrangements, but I didn’t want to commit hours to cross-checking names and addresses that were added to the list by mistake. It’s a big guest list – happily so – but it’s going to take a ton of work to make it right.

Much to everyone’s dismay, mine especially, I had a MOBzilla moment. I should not have lost my cool, but life’s demands were piling up on me, and I snapped. Not that it makes me feel better, but I’m confident I have company in my “bad” mom guilt.

The best of us moms have had our moments. We yell when we know better. And then we apologize. But we still feel bad about it long after the kids have forgiven and forgotten. Kids tend to be resilient – hopefully the adult children of regretful mothers retain some of that resilience….

This month, we learn from Renee Kendley how to handle those times when you lose your cool. On page 66 of this month's FAMILY Magazine, Renee tells us to “Talk to your child about how people, even parents, have meltdowns sometimes where they don’t act rationally.”

It’s after the meltdown when we parents need to act rationally. We set the example of how to be the calm after the storm. I’m still working toward that with Brittany.

I am hoping when Brittany reads this blog, she’ll know I want to help however I can with her wedding. I want to be the ideal Mother-Of-the-Bride (I always aim high). But when life charges in and stresses up the works, MOBzilla moments have a way of crashing the party.

In the proper spirit of my rational moment, I’m going to do the “good” mom thing. Apologize from the heart. Beg for forgiveness. And most importantly ask her to give me a second chance, because in spite of all my best intentions, there’s always the possibility it might happen again….

Happy parenting!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FAMILY Magazine's Got a New Sheen!

My recent "Mom Blog" Letter from the Publisher in our April edition celebrates our magazine's birthday makeover (glossy stock) and lets readers into my exciting trek through wedding land with my youngest daughter.  Updates since publication? Sure!  The first update being that the engagement party was a roaring success with a lovely cake from Sweet City Desserts to cap it off.


I love a good surprise, and we certainly have a great one for our readers and advertisers this month. Did you notice? FAMILY Magazine is glossy! We’re putting on our new spring wardrobe. Now we’re all dressed up and lucky enough to have places to go – all over the DC metro area!

April is our birthday month, so it’s a natural desire to do a bit of a makeover. We just keep growing up and getting better. Nary a wrinkle or age spot in sight – magazines are lucky that way.

Moms know from surprises – so we’re happy to have you celebrate our new look with us. Surprises abound in the life of a mom (good and bad - we know!). But there are also things about being a mom that stay the same. So while FAMILY Magazine is slicking up its outsides, we still have all the same great resources you have come to know and trust. All our great information is just wrapped up in a shiny new package.

Let us know what you think of our changes, the good and the bad. Tell us if we're missing something you want to see every month. We are all ears – this is your magazine. We work hard to give you what you want to see each month. Share your thoughts with me directly at I reply to all reader emails. Promise!

As if these changes to FAMILY Magazine weren’t enough to keep me busy this spring, I have some exciting personal changes happening. My youngest daughter is getting married! So as you read this issue of FAMILY Magazine, I am busy working on my daughter’s wedding that will take place in March 2014. Trust me, when you’re planning a wedding, a year isn’t as long as it seems!

There is so much to be done. Thank goodness we have a fantastic wedding planner guiding us through the details. I will be sharing the excitement over the next eleven months. I’m counting on the fact that our reader moms love to vicariously enjoy a wedding – all the fancy romantic details with none of the work! I’ll be on task for you….

So our “right now” plan is to party. Good start right? Brittany’s wedding will be in Florida where she and her fiance live so a lot of our friends and co-workers won’t be able to attend the grand event. To bridge that gap, we are hosting an engagement party early this month at my house. In true Brenda and Brittany social butterfly form, we are expecting 100 people!

In addition to our local folks, I thought the party would be a great opportunity to invite Brittany’s soon to be in-laws up for a long weekend. They accepted and are coming. So looking forward to getting to know them. Then I thought it would be great to invite her fiance’s two brothers, their wives and children for the long weekend. They accepted and are coming. Yea for family to be!

So that’s fifteen people staying at our house for the weekend. One hundred coming for the party. Starting to sweat a bit now that I see it on paper…good thing Brittany and I are master planners.

Speaking of plans, I completely forgot about meals! I don’t cook. This is a problem. Will be finding someone to help me cook - I’ve got a lot of mouths to feed.

So April for me = magazine update, wedding, party, house guests - what was I thinking? My husband, while on board for all of it, just smiles and shakes his head at me.

Oh well, the more the merrier. It is going to be a great (big!) celebration. I really can’t wait.

Til May, Happy Parenting

Friday, March 29, 2013

Are you disciplined? - a Guest Blog

Every so often one of my friends and business associates writes something that I find extremely helpful or enjoyable.  Today I asked Judy Freeman, a business coach with Action Coach to share her recent eBlast.  If you would like to sign up for Judy’s weekly tips, there is a link at the end of this article or just click here.

Guest Blog by Judy Freeman
Are you disciplined?

This winter, I have been very involved in my daughter's High School swimming career. We have attended meets up and down the East Coast. I meet athletes and parents from many schools and towns. There is a common trait of all the key performers: discipline!

The athletes who continue to improve, train and excel aren't necessarily the most talented athletes. Rather, they are the ones who want it the most. They are disciplined in their training schedule, they commit to their rituals, do what the coaches ask and eat healthy. In all cases, the athletes have a supportive family, coach and school to keep them on track.

Well, how does this discipline relate to business?

The most successful business people are also well disciplined. They keep their commitments, stay focused and have a road map for their career. They are willing to go the extra mile to get the results that they want to achieve. They work hard and stay disciplined even when they could take the easy way out.

Here are some specific traits that I see amongst disciplined professionals:

--   Do what they say and meet their commitments. They don't miss deadlines or make excuses of why things don't get done. Rather, they can be counted on to get the job done!

--    Passionate about their work and life. They are energetic and optimistic about enjoying their journey. They stay on track so that they feel good about their accomplishments.

--    Masters of time management so that they focus on what's most important to them. They are willing to say no or walk away from things that are bad for them.

--    Work and life balance so that they stay healthy. They look at their total being and make sure that they are balanced in all areas of their life.

--    Look at the long-term picture by realizing that they may need to invest time and money now to get their best result later. For example, they may go to the gym, eat right, study late or help a friend. They may prefer to be doing something different at that moment. Yet, they will be disciplined to make good decisions for their life, health and relationships.

What do you see as solid disciplines? Do you see discipline as being important to business success?

If you need more discipline in your business, coaching may be the right tool for you. Contact me at or 703-627-2745 for a free coaching session. Look forward to chatting with you!

Judy Freeman

To sign up for Judy's eNewsletter, click here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March FAMILY Magazine Mom Blog

Each month, I write a Mom Blog for our Magazine.  It's my letter from the Publisher FAMILY style!

How Important is Mom?

This month I have been in the thick of planning my youngest daughter’s wedding. Fortunately (or unfortunately – depending upon my husband’s perspective) my daughter is a lot like her mom and loves planning a long way out. For reference, her wedding is March 1, 2014. We’re almost at the year mark! Time to get busy – or busier in our case.

Recently, we have gone through some major decisions that showed a side of her that so resembles her dad and me. Her choices warmed my heart. We are having a great time – who wouldn’t want to just wrap themselves up in such a once in a lifetime process?

So as I sat down to share all my wonderful wedding news with our readers, I received a cryptic text. “Taking mom to the heart hospital. Just as a precaution going to the South Side Hospital.”

The text was from my husband. While it’s obvious the text is not great news, it was not obvious what was going on. My husband Doug wasn’t with his mom. I knew this as we had just finished a great beach getaway with her, and she was safe and sound back home in Kansas. Furthermore, Doug was in Denver on business so it would be hard for him to be heading to a “South Side Hospital” in Kansas….

Needless to say, I was dialing his cell before I even finished the above thought process. He answered my question - “Your mom?” - with - “No, YOUR mom.” He had forwarded a text from my dad.

Should I have been prepared for this moment? As a consummate planner, I’m feeing a bit lost on this one. I’ve had reminders to get to work on a “parents” plan - a good friend lost her father after a lengthy illness. While I did what I could to help her as she commuted back and forth to Houston for almost two years, she told me often my time would come.

So, as she said, my time had come. All I can think is I’m going to plan the best I can. It’s much easier to plan for a wedding – all the fun and smiles, than for a parent’s decline and, gulp, beyond. It’s a challenge to plan for where life takes you. It’s a bit outside our control. I do feel lucky I am not quite in the sandwich generation. My own children are all out of the house and grown so my focus can be on my parents.

Turning my focus toward what I can do for my parents as they age (they’re thriving in their eighties), I looked online and found some statistics that made me realize I was sharing an all too common experience with my generational cohorts.
  • Right now is the first time in history that American couples are responsible for statistically more parents than children. 
  • Almost 40% of all U.S. workers are more involved with caring for a parent than with caring for a child. 
  • The average woman can expect to spend eighteen years caring for an elderly family member, compared to seventeen years to care for her children. 
Realizing my own family situation is shaping itself to statistical expectation, my time to take action is now. Before my parents' needs become even more dramatic. As it turns out, mom’s trip to the hospital was caused by a reaction to a medication her doctor prescribed. It was not life threatening. It was a wake up call.

So, what is a girl to do when she confronts the reality of her parents aging and progressively needing greater attention? We’re going to start with good old-fashioned conversation. It’s not all about making plans for an impossible to control situation. It’s about trusting that we’ll do all we can for and with our parents in the years to come. It’s about trusting ourselves to be able to handle whatever “text” may next come.

Given my parents are in great shape, we’re thinking fun thoughts in the near future. A cruise to Alaska is something we’ve talked about. Maybe when we put my daughter Brittany on the plane for her (well planned) honeymoon, my husband and I can take mom and dad on a trip to celebrate.

Granny-moon? I’m thinking that’s a good plan.

Until April!


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Night Club Networking?

Professional Meat Market Events?

I'm not that kind of gal...really! 

In a recent issue of the Washington Business Journal, guest blogger DerekCoburn refers to big networking events as “professional meat market events.” He compares the large, formal networking groups to the nightclub scene where one night stands are the "goal."

This was one of those articles I just couldn't relate to. Usually Derek writes really good stuff, but in this case he missed making me feel satisfied.

In short, he told me what is wrong but then gave me no answers. Frustrating for me - always on the look out for smart advice...

The article was right on target, and I agreed with Derek completely that large networking events can be like dating via nightclub. But his conclusion that we should “skip the big networking event and get creative” left me unsatisfied. I would have loved to have seen more specifics or maybe suggestions for some of these creative networking opportunities.

Effective networking is difficult and time consuming. I recently joined a networking group that meets formally every Wednesday at 7 a.m. I believe my fellow networking members are interested in long term relationships - even if it that relationship is based on who you know and who they know and so on. Business networking isn't about "a" sale. It's about being in a community of business people sharing ideas, trends, and, yes, contacts.

I learned a networking lesson when a visitor came to our group last week. The visitor was a woman who helps executives by coming to them and providing custom made clothing. My husband actually had a need for this kind of service. I announced to the group how glad I was to connect, and that I would be using her services. This was networking, right?

I missed the mark. One of the members of my group (my opposite of a one-night-stand business partner) told me that he has a network of thousands of contacts in almost any field. He assured me if I had a need for just about anything, he could refer me to someone that he knows AND KNOWS WELL. I could have asked him, and he would have had five referrals for me.

It was a good reminder to me the value of networking outside of selling. My network is a trove of information. I need to remember to work my group. Give me reason to hit that 7 a.m. meeting each week! No need to look outside yourself for networking, ask those you already have in your close network. That really is how networking pays off.

And, REMEMBER, if you need anything – and I MEAN ANYTHING – I know a guy who has a network of thousands of reliable resources. Really!