Illness and Family Dynamics: What Happens When We Get Sick?

It’s what we do as a society when we or our children get sick that highlights a lack of flexibility in our lives.

It’s inevitable that, at some point while raising children, you will be used as a tissue substitute, thrown up on, or pooped on. But it’s what we do as a society when we or our children get sick that highlights a lack of flexibility in our lives.

Lack of sleep never stopped anyone

Everyone has a sick kid tale to tell. My mother tells me about staying up all night with my ill brother when he was a baby. She talks about standing in the shower with him as he coughed, the endless checking of his temperature and the worry for my sister sleeping in the next bedroom.
My mother didn’t sleep that night. By the time the sun had risen, her temperature was rising, too, and she felt that familiar thumping in her head that precedes influenza. That same morning, she drove to the next camp where my father was working, not so he could take over – he was busy building a road and couldn’t take time off – but because it was the agreed upon plan, and illness doesn’t stop motherhood.

What are the options?

Whilst I never drove cross-country with a fever, a sick baby, and an excitable child, I certainly know what it feels like to wake up ill and have that sinking feeling that it can’t make any difference to my day. I’ve begged my husband to stay home, citing a thumping head and a stomach-ache that turned out that night to be appendicitis.
He went to work. He had to, and I understand that. People rely on him, and his work requires a significant amount of notice to enable him to take a day off. This is not about who should or shouldn’t take a day off, or who deserves to be cared for when they’re ill, or exactly how ill you need to be to justify staying or leaving. This is an examination of what we all do, what I’ve done myself, and how I wish we could do better.
Because it feels awful to watch your loved one leave and know that you have to get through at least nine hours without throwing up on your child. It feels awful when you’re the solo parent and you can’t even count down nine hours until you see another adult and have some help.
It feels awful to leave your loved one behind, knowing they’re going to have a terrible day, but that money or your boss’s goodwill just can’t stretch for a day off. It feels awful when your kid says they’ve got a sore throat on the day you’ve got back to back meetings. Dosing them with medicine and sending them anyway becomes a viable choice.
These are all options people routinely choose. Yet, none of them are ideal.

There is no illness!

Many parents have made the choice to ignore their symptoms and just get on with it. In two parent families where one parent is at home, most of the time the other parent will still go to work. Currently, there are no legal requirements for paid sick leave in the U.S. Families are entitled to unpaid sick leave instead. This forces people to choose between leaving their child with an ill care-giver, relying on a support network (which may or may not be available), or losing a day’s wage.
We would never let our children stay with a caregiver who could barely walk, so why do we consider it acceptable to care for our children ourselves when we’re so sick? We do it for two reasons: lack of flexibility in the workplace, and cultural expectations. Our culture is entrenched in the idea that sickness is weakness. We power through. Advertising for medication isn’t about getting better; it’s about masking symptoms and getting on with your day. Stay-at-home parents put a movie on and hope for the best, because really, what other options are there?

I’m not sick, it’s just pneumonia

This ‘powering through’ isn’t limited to stay-at-home-parents. When working parents get sick, they go to work. Time off for illness is rarely available. Given the nature of sickness, it’s not as if you can book a sick day a fortnight in advance for a head-cold. Illness takes us by surprise and often leaves us with the choice of going to work or missing a day’s pay.
Unsurprisingly, research shows that people in low-paying jobs are the most likely to go to work even when they’re sick. This is likely because the consequences of missing that day of work are monetarily more severe than for workers in high-paying jobs. However, 45 percent of people in high-paying jobs still go to work when they’re ill, but they more frequently cite reasons such as letting down co-workers.
The culture of the workplace has a big impact on whether workers come in if they’re sick or not. Companies who have procedures and policies in place involving back-up staff and the flexibility to work from home are less likely to have sick staff in the workplace. Interestingly, companies who have better policies also have workers who take less time off overall.
Families who have found workplaces with flexibility surrounding illness want to keep their jobs, so they work harder even when they’re working from home with sick kids watching a movie. Flexibility is they key to providing families with viable options.

They’re not sick, it’s just…pneumonia

When kids get sick, guess what happens? They still go to school or childcare or wherever they usually go. Four out of 10 working parents say they might send their sick child to school. Six out of 10 do this because they fear they’ll lose their jobs if they take time off to care for their child. Clearly, workplaces hold some of the power here.
Families with children will get sick more frequently throughout the year. A study found that, in childless households, viruses were present four to five weeks in a year, whereas households with children had viruses present up to 45 weeks in a year – that’s 87 percent of the time. We all know that once one person in a family goes down, it’s inevitable that everyone will.
Perhaps the best thing to do is to have a solid plan.

Make a plan, and make it good

Talk to your spouse about what you’ll do when you or the kids get sick. Find out how you both feel about illness and responsibility. Figure out who will do what so you’re not left simmering with both fever and resentment as your partner drives away to work.
Also, find a really good takeaway place, stock up the freezer, or sweet talk Grandma into watching “Moana” on repeat with a sneezing toddler. Try and strengthen your immune system in preparation for flu season. Build up your support network. Even if your friends or family can’t watch your sick children, maybe they could leave a lasagne by the door?
Perhaps most importantly, talk to your workplace about flexibility. We all deserve to know that we’re worth receiving care when we’re sick, whether that’s from a partner, a parent, or an employer.
Planning for sickness will pay off. The way we do things now? It’s a bit sickening.

Determination

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
What a mundane word: determination. Used so casually to describe the driving force behind menial tasks. “Sure took a lot of determination to carry all those groceries in by yourself.” To me, determination means so much more. Sometimes determination is all you have.
Daylight breaks, warm rays of sun fall on your bed and face. Your eyes open and, for a moment, just a moment, you feel at peace.
Pain. Pain hits you like a truck. It doesn’t trickle in from a tap, it pours in from a waterfall. You can feel it everywhere. As it sinks in, saturating your hopes for the day, your ambitions, your solitude, it meets a wall. This wall is my determination not to let chronic pain steal my day.
Lists and lists of things that must be done…. Doctor appointments to book, parent and teacher interviews to arrange, bills to pay, a house to clean, dogs to walk, cats to feed, an Individual Program Plan to review, exams to study for, Low Vision and Autism information sites to read, and I will probably have to pee a few times.
Did I take my meds? Give my son his meds? I must have. I do it twice a day, every day.
There is the pain, still there, eating at me.
Eight things off the list. Have I sat down yet?
What can I postpone? I will get through this day. My pain won’t destroy me. I have unending determination.
Made it. Sort of. I am behind on my chores, phone calls, studies, writing, marketing, health, and organization of a future for my little family. Me and my boys. We have a happy place in this world. We are finding our way.
There are extracurricular and volunteering activities to attend to. That’s fun. Busy, but fun. We have colleges to look at, plans to make, and upcoming holidays. Terrifying, but fun. I can fit in my medical appointments, surgeries, and exams. Somewhere. As long as my son’s shunt doesn’t malfunction, as long as he doesn’t have a seizure, or my truck doesn’t break down, or….
I am determined to not let those things happen and have even more determination to handle them when they do.
The day is moving quickly. A few new symptoms. What’s that about? My son had a headache at school and his aide was being “mean.” But hey, we are down to four headaches a week. That’s great news. No homework? Even better. Let’s cook together. Life skills for the future, boys! Plus, it’s fun.
A bit hard to peel sweet potato when your back feels burned by stabbing hot pokers and your foot is half dead. Even more difficult to cook, make lunches, feed and walk dogs, deal with paperwork, and organize showers when you have more knots in your muscles than a lobster trap and the pain-induced nausea drowns your thoughts.
Let’s do this. My determination will see me through.
Finally, time to sleep. I hope I can sleep. The hours before I drift off are for reflecting, clenching the pain aside, taking mental inventory of coping resources: I kept my temper, didn’t lose my patience, listened to stories of grand dreams, computer games, Sci-fy books, girls, and heard a bit of bickering, of course.
Smiles, laughter, stories, that’s what its all about. Goals, dreams, ambitions, that’s what it’s all for. Maybe I will get my degree, go back to work full time, become an accomplished author. Maybe my son will become the biologist and fabulous family man that he hopes to be, and possibly my other son will receive all the external supports he will require to be an independent adult and marry a movie star….
We will have bumps along the way. Chronic illness does that to you. But we have made it this far. We know a little determination goes a long way.
And it carries all the groceries in, too.

Kid Made Recipe: Nutty Pumpkin Brownies

In the midst of Halloween candy madness, these pumpkin brownies are a sweet treat you could actually call healthy-ish! (Okay, maybe thats a stretch).

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In the midst of Halloween candy madness, these pumpkin brownies are a sweet treat you could actually call healthy-ish!  Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but the nut butter and pumpkin do add protein and fiber, even to the frosting! Heading to a Halloween gathering? Big kids can whip these up on their own and bring ‘em along. Spookily delicious!

Nutty Pumpkin Brownies

Makes: 1 8×8 inch pan (12-18 brownies depending on your cut size)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes total
Cool Time:  30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
 

Ingredients:

Brownies:

  • 1 cup nut butter of your choice (we used almond)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup flour
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt

Frosting:

  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ⅔ cup nut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix nut butter, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl by hand or with a hand mixer until well blended.
  3. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and mix until mixture is smooth and no dry ingredient streaks remain.
  4. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper so the edges overhang on all sides.
  5. Pour mixture into lined pan, smoothing the top.
  6. Bake at 350 for 25-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just clean.
  7. Cool completely.
  8. Make frosting! Mix remaining ½ cup pumpkin, ⅔ cup peanut butter, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl and beat by hand or with hand held mixer until fluffy. If it’s too stiff, add a Tbsp or two of almond milk at a time and keep beating, until you get to your desired consistency.
  9. When brownies are cool, frost to the edges.
  10. Cut and serve!

Recipe Notes:

Feel free to use any nut butter your like! You can also use any milk you like to loosen the frosting, if you stick with almond or soy these are a dairy free treat!

Car Seat Safety: We’re All Doing It Wrong

A car seat study has been making the rounds, giving new parents one more thing to panic about. But it’s possible the panic is misdirected.

You’ll probably never in your life drive as carefully as you do when taking an infant home from the hospital. Suddenly, the car seat you meticulously researched and spent an hour installing seems less safe than it did before.
In this case, you’re probably right, because according to an observational study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2016, 95 percent of infants taken home in car seats are “Unsafe from the Start.”
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University investigated 291 mother-infant pairs as they were nearing discharge from newborn units. Child Passenger Safety technicians observed the caregivers as they installed the car seats and placed their newborns into them.
The technicians identified errors in almost 95 percent of the study population: 77 percent of caregivers made at least one installation error, such as improperly securing the car seat within the vehicle; 86 percent had at least one positioning error, such as not tightening the harness; 89 percent of the caregivers made at least one “critical error.”
This category of error, which the researchers based off the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration definitions, included positioning issues, like leaving the harness too loose (69 percent), using an incorrect harness slot (31 percent), or using a non-regulated product, like extra cushioning (21 percent). Critical misuses related to installation included car seats that could be moved more than one inch after installation (44 percent) or had an incorrect recline angle (41 percent).
The factor most associated with correct car seat use was working with a Child Passenger Safety technician before delivery. But even those caregivers had a serious error rate of 77 percent.
This study has been making the rounds on parenting websites, giving new parents one more thing to panic about. Although the results of the study suggest that better parent education is needed, here are three important questions to ask about car seat safety:

1 | If 95 percent of parents make car seat errors, are all our children unsafe?

The itemized list of issues caregivers commonly got wrong should alleviate some concern. For example, two of the errors – twisted harness belts and improperly positioned carseat carrier handles – are not likely to result in crash-related injury.
Even some of the misuses categorized as “serious” are not necessarily dangerous. For example, 35 percent of the participants left the harness retainer clip “too low.” Those harness clips, while frequently a source of social media shaming, are not meant to hold children. The clips are pre-crash positioning devices, designed to keep children’s shoulders in the right position before an accident occurs. It’s the harness buckles that keep kids in their seats.

2 | Given that these families were using car seats to take home their newborns, is it reasonable to assume that parents using car seats for the first time are more likely to make errors? Are experienced parents more likely to get it right?

According to this study, no. The researchers controlled for “parity” – that is, the number of pregnancies carried to term – and found that first-timers were slightly more likely to get it right than their more experienced counterparts. Women who had no previous births had a serious error rate of 89.6 percent. Women with two or more births had a serious error rate of 96.6 percent.
The sample size may be too small to draw any concrete conclusions about experience level and car seat misuse, but one explanation might be that the users with visible damage to their car seats or expired seats were among the experienced parents.
Parents preparing for a second (or third, or fourth…) child should pay close attention to car seat expiration dates and replace any car seat with any visible damage.

3 | Given that 77 percent of parents who seek help from trained professionals are still doing it wrong, are car seats too complicated to be used safely?

This study indicates that nearly all caregivers need better car seat instruction. But the results of the study should not in themselves be a cause for panic.
As it has been reported, the study seems to say that even most of parents with CPS training are doomed to misuse their car seats. But the study noticed a pattern in the CPS-trained parents. They were much more likely to make positioning errors than installation errors, suggesting that they had trouble applying the lessons they’d learned to their babies.
The study authors recommend better “postnatal collaboration,” so that parents – now with a live baby instead of a pretend one – get better practice with positioning. The reduction in error rate for caregivers with previous training suggests that Child Passenger Safety technicians embedded in hospitals could help increase safety.

What Does Single Motherhood Mean for Kids?

Surprise! A growing body of research finds kids in single parent households aren’t sentenced to lives of poverty, crime, or addiction.

The most common message to parents of all family types is that divorce is horrible for children, and all social ills are rooted in the recent surge in single motherhood, most especially unwed mothers (eek! Unmarried women having sex and babies!). If you’re inclined to unconsciously buy into this thinking (and therefore hold yourself back unnecessarily), do not under any circumstances google “Ann Coulter + single mothers.” Also, remove from your mind President Reagan’s admonishment of the “welfare queen” (whom no one was ever able to find, and who in fact was a propaganda construct), or George W. Bush’s $1.5 billion failed Healthy Marriage Initiative, aimed at curbing all the supposed misfortune rooted in the upward trend of unmarried moms.

Instead, a growing body of research finds that children who grow up in single parent households are not sentenced to lives of poverty, crime, or addiction simply by way of their parents’ marital status. In fact, by many metrics, the majority of kids who grow up with single mothers fare just as well as their peers raised in traditional, nuclear, two-parent households. For example, in one study of 1,700 children by Cornell University researchers, found that single mothers’ education levels and abilities as parents had far more influence on their children’s academic abilities than their relationship statuses or even incomes – and this was true for all races.

In fact, lots of research comes to the same surprising conclusion: It matters little the family structure that a child grows up in, though it matters a lot the dynamics of that family. For example, children whose parents have a high-conflict marriage fare better after their parents break up, and the vast majority of children of divorce do just fine within a few years of the split. One nationally representative study of all kinds of family types found that it didn’t matter if the children were adopted or if the parents were married, single, or remarried. What does matter, found the study, published in the National Journal of Marriage and Family, was whether the home was ruled mostly by harmony or by acrimony, and whether the children experienced a warm, secure environment or a cold and neglectful one. Research also found that children raised by single mothers tended to have closer relationships with extended family like cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and other adults in their lives. This, I will argue, is something most Americans could use more of.

In other words, family is indeed what you make it, and you can create that warm, secure, and loving home life that is the springboard for a healthy child, regardless of what your family looks like. Just as you have countless opportunities to build a career and earn, you also have the freedom to build a family that you are proud of, to raise wise, thoughtful, hardworking, loving, and kind children. You can and will build not only a home life in which you and your children thrive, but a larger web of loved ones and community members who rise up and support you – and whom you support in return.

That said, I won’t sugarcoat this: There is plenty of very legitimate research that finds that children raised by single mothers are more prone to not-great outcomes, including teen pregnancy, dropping out of school, and incarceration. However, studies also point out that correlation does not automatically equal causation. In the most stark contrasts between kids raised by single mothers and those raised in two-parent households, when controlled for poverty, maternal depression, and lack of support, outcomes are more or less the same.

Another factor in the outcome for kids: All children fare better when both parents are actively involved and co-parent amicably. Many studies found that poverty associated with single motherhood is the common thread in families that fare worse than two-parent households – not the solo parenting in and of itself. It’s not rocket science why. With just one income and no second parent to help with childcare, single parents have to work more to pay for the basics, and have higher child care costs and fewer dollars for music and sports lessons, SAT prep tests, healthy food, or real estate in safe neighborhoods. Plus, poverty, or any financial hardship, is tied to depression, anxiety, and generally being a stressed-out mom with less patience for her kids and more arguments with the adults in her life.

One of the most cited studies about single mothers is the harm caused to children by the instability of boyfriends moving in and out of their home and lives. Leading researcher on single mother families Sarah S. McLanahan, of Princeton University, found that children raised by single mothers (who tend to be younger and poorer than married moms) are more likely to struggle academically because these single moms have less stable relationships with their children’s fathers, and men overall, with new boyfriends and their children moving in and out of the family home.

This research is important, and I urge you to heed it. However, do not let it scare you into celibacy, or shame you into sneaking or lying about your romantic life, or keep you up late worrying that decisions that led to this point have sentenced your children to a crappy life. Far from it.

Instead, this research highlights a mother’s relationship instability, which is within your control. The research is not about financially independent, unmarried moms who date a bunch of people without committing to them. The risks associated with partner instability have little to do with men who do not live in your house, who are not automatically designated boyfriends, and do not move in with their children or spur other major life changes that come with serious, committed relationships. The risk of negative outcomes for your kids, we can assume, plummets if you have a healthy attitude about romance, and if you are financially stable enough that you’re not compulsively tempted to cohabit out of financial destitution rather than healthy commitment to a shared future with a person you love.

Excerpted from THE KICKASS SINGLE MOM by Emma Johnson with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2017 by Emma Johnson.

The Silly Sex Dream That Woke Me Up

After I stopped laughing at him, I started to reflect. Why would he be dreaming about bad sex with 80s icons? It had to be our lame sex life, right?

14 years of marriage is like two seven-year itches combined into one giant wool sweater. Even extra-strength balms like wine and frosting don’t offer much relief anymore. At this stage of life, the stressors are real and the responsibilities are not sexy. We used to be so into each other. Now, any person-in-person action is strictly for prostate health.
Recently, my barely sexually-maintained husband told me about a sex dream he had. Apparently he’d been hoping to get some when he came to bed that night and as usual, I had not. I guess I had homelessness or the plight of sea turtles or something equally depressing on my mind, so we talked tragedy until we fell asleep. Still, somehow, he managed to have a sex dream.
It wasn’t just any sex dream. It featured Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime. He kept saying “in her prime” as if it were crucial for me to know he was referring to the version of her from the “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” poster, in which she rocked a gold bodysuit while clinging to the meaty calf of Chevy Chase. I mean, anyone who grew up in the 80s and who has seen the deleted scenes from “High Fidelity” has a healthy appreciation for Ms. D’Angelo in all her eras, but it’s not like we have the poster above our marital bed or anything.
Yet.
The worst/best part of his dream was that he could tell Beverly D’Angelo wasn’t really into it. She wasn’t comfortable in the position they were in and kept trying to change it up and it just didn’t go well.
So he woke up, unsatisfied, having not satisfied Beverly D’Angelo in her prime.
After I stopped pointing and laughing at him, I started to reflect. Why would he be dreaming about bad sex with 80s icons? It had to be our lame sex life, right?
There’s not a lot of intercourse happening at this stage of marriage. When there is a miraculous hour that the children are asleep in their assigned beds and the adults are awake in ours, the pressure is just too great for me. I find myself reaching for my phone to read the news or wander Facebook and before I know it, I’m mired in the world’s pain and disgusted by whatever it is they put into chicken nuggets. My poor husband just wants some good, good loving and I’m crying, yelling, and wiring money to chickens.
I remember when we were more hot than tired. Now there are big bills, kids to maintain, endless meals to prepare, and Louis CK shows to watch. These all trump intercourse.
Having kids took over everything, especially for me. I was their comfort, their food, their Elvis. It was intoxicating but also exhausting. That level of need, plus a full-time job outside the house, left no energy for intimacy. We used to want each other. These days, a million other priorities pull us in every direction, and I just want to be left alone.
It’s taken me several years to realize that I need to put some of me back together again. I am still gaga for my kids, but I think I have finally learned that I truly cannot give them more than I have. I need to hold some back for me, and maybe for my husband, too. Besides, even if I do try to give my kids everything I have, they will just take it and spill nachos all over it. They will take it and still complain. They will take it and call it a “diaper head.” Sigh. I’m learning this lesson slowly.
Somehow, despite all this, he still wants to have sex with me. And Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime. But mostly me.
While the details of his dream were endlessly amusing to me, I was not surprised that he is having dreams about being sexually unfulfilled. My lack of interest in sex seems to be hurting his feelings, and that’s not good. I want him to be confident and feel wanted.
In an effort to reward him for sharing that wonderful, terrible dream, and to rekindle at least some of our early enthusiasm for each other, I began making an effort to be kinder and more affectionate. I tried so hard not to interrupt foreplay with stories about what I found on the bottom of one of the children’s feet. (Feces. It’s always feces). I found opportunities to do fun things we used to enjoy, just the two of us, to try to feel light and free again – like playing Cribbage, which is a real panty-dropper math card game. We began getting away on dates more, even if they were just to Ikea.
“Just to Ikea.” Ha! Who am I kidding? There’s chocolate and coffee and mattresses and organization units at Ikea. It’s like a self-help aphrodisiac. Say “Hemnes desk with add-on unit in the white stain” again. Yessssss.
At night, I’ve committed to putting away my phone so that the miseries of the world won’t join us in bed. And most importantly, I’m working on the hard task of finding myself in the midst of motherhood. If I’m confidently me, maybe I’ll confidently want to shag. That’s the plan, anyway.
Overall, he’s glad he shared the dream with me, because it opened up a lot of dialogue and opportunity for growth in our relationship.
Though I do think he wishes I wouldn’t insist on calling him “Sparky” now.
We don’t always get what we want.
This article was originally published at Together Magazine.

Kid Made Recipe: Puff Pastry Veggie Pizza

Pick up some puff pastry and get going on this easy, tasty, pizza style dinner! If you like it spicy try cooked chicken, shredded mozzarella and jalapeños!

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Pick up some puff pastry and get going on this easy, tasty, pizza style dinner! We like all the colorful fall veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes and peppers, but you should probably make a few with different toppings and invite some friends over to share!

Puff Pastry Veggie Pizza

Makes: 1 12-inch square pizza
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 40  minutes total
Total time: 1 hour  25 minutes
 

Ingredients:  

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry  – typical package contains 2 sheets.
  • 1 ¼ cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Black pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups thinly sliced veggies – we used purple, white, and orange carrots, sweet potato, and rainbow peppers
  • About a ½ cup of shaved parmesan cheese

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry on a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper until you have a 12×12 square. Transfer on the paper to a baking sheet.
  3. Using a knife tip, score a square about an inch from the edges of the pastry on all sides. It should look like a picture frame.
  4. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, until the pastry puffs up and turns light golden brown. Set aside.
  5. Mix the ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and oregano in a small bowl.
  6. Using a large spoon or spatula, spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the pastry, staying inside the 1 inch border. You may have to gently push down on the center to deflate the pastry a bit before spreading.
  7. Top the ricotta with sliced veggies in more or less a single layer – a little overlap is ok. You want everything to cook evenly!
  8. Bake at 425 for about 25-10 minutes until the crust is deep golden brown, and the veggies are tender.
  9. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, cut and serve!

Recipe Notes:

Lots of variations you can try here! Use pizza sauce and mozzarella, or try a ricotta mixture, spinach, and cheddar. If you like it spicy, try cooked chopped chicken, shredded mozzarella and jalapeños!

13 Key Elements That Keep Your Sex Life Hopping

Great sex is not rocket science. In fact, many happy couples have these 13 things in common.

In an amazing book titled “The Normal Bar,” authors Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz, and James Witte conducted an online study with 70,000 people in 24 countries. They were curious about what might be different about couples who said that they had a great sex life, compared to couples who said that they had a bad sex life. Even with the limitations of self-report data, there are some fascinating implications of their results.
One thing that’s very interesting to me is how their findings compare to the advice Esther Perel gives in her book “Mating in Captivity,” and in her clinical work in general, in which she assists couples in improving their sex life. Perel tells couples not to cuddle. She also believes that emotional connection will stand in the way of good erotic connection. This brings me to a key finding from the Normal Bar study.

Fact: Couples who have a great sex life everywhere on the planet are doing the same set of things.

Additionally, couples who do not have a great sex life everywhere on the planet are not doing these things.
Inspired by the Normal Bar study, as well as by my own research studies on more than 3,000 couples over four decades, I’ve identified 13 things all couples do who have an amazing sex life.

  • They say “I love you” every day and mean it
  • They kiss one another passionately for no reason
  • They give surprise romantic gifts
  • They know what turns their partners on and off erotically
  • They are physically affectionate, even in public
  • They keep playing and having fun together
  • They cuddle
  • They make sex a priority, not the last item of a long to-do list
  • They stay good friends
  • They can talk comfortably about their sex life
  • They have weekly dates
  • They take romantic vacations
  • They are mindful about turning toward

In short, they turn toward one another with love and affection to connect emotionally and physically. In the Normal Bar study, only six percent of non-cuddlers had a good sex life. So Perel’s intuition runs counter to international data. What is very clear from the Normal Bar study is that having a great sex life is not rocket science. It is not difficult.

Fact: Couples have a bad sex life everywhere on the planet.

The Sloan Center at UCLA studied 30 dual-career heterosexual couples in Los Angeles. These couples had young children. The researchers were like anthropologists – observing, tape-recording, and interviewing these couples. They discovered that most of these young couples:

  • Spend very little time together during a typical week
  • Become job-centered (him) and child-centered (her)
  • Talk mostly about their huge to-do lists
  • Seem to make everything else a priority other than their relationship
  • Drift apart and lead parallel lives
  • Are unintentional about turning toward one another

One researcher on this project told me it was his impression that these couples spent only about 35 minutes together every week in conversation, and most of their talk was about errands and tasks that they had to get done.
So, if we put these two studies together, what does it tell us? It says that couples should not avoid one another emotionally like Perel recommends, but instead follow the 13 very simple things that everyone on the planet does to make their sex lives great.
Emily Nagoski’s wonderful book “Come as You Are” talks about the dual process model of sex. In the model, each person has a sexual brake and a sexual accelerator. In some people the brake is more developed, and in some people the accelerator is more developed. It’s important to learn what for you and for your partner steps on that sex brake that says, “No, I’m not in the mood for lovemaking.”
It’s also important to learn what for you and for your partner steps on that accelerator, that says, “Oh yes, I’m in the mood for lovemaking.” We have a mobile app designed for this purpose. It consists of over 100 questions to ask a woman about her brake and accelerator, and over 100 questions to ask a man about his brake and accelerator. Those questions are also available as one of seven exercises in The Art and Science of Lovemaking video program.
Great sex is not rocket science. By being good friends, by being affectionate (yes, even cuddling), and by talking openly about sex, couples can build a thriving relationship inside and outside of the bedroom.
This article was originally published on the Gottman Relationship Blog. Over 40 years of research on thousands of couples has proven as simple fact: small things often can create big changes over time. Got a minute? Sign up for their Marriage Minute here

If Moving Feels Like the End of the World, Help Your Kid Adjust With These Books

Moving to a new home can be a difficult experience for a child, especially if it means uprooting them from a familiar town or school.

Moving to a new home can be a difficult experience for a child, especially if it means uprooting them from a familiar town or school. Your decision may or may not be optional. Either way, processing the changes that are happening can be overwhelming for kids. Prepare your children by informing them early about a move and get them involved in the process, if possible. Give them plenty of information and encourage any questions. Books are also ideal before, during, and after the transition.

Moving can feel like the end of the world, but these books can help your child adjust to a new beginning:

BigErniesNewHOme

Big Ernie’s New Home: A Story for Young Children Who Are Moving

by Teresa Martin and Whitney Martin

Big Ernie is moving, and boy does he feel sad. And angry. And anxious. All his emotions related to the move are vividly detailed in this book for young children. By understanding how Ernie feels, they can relate and connect as they navigate their own feelings during this time of change. The back section includes notes and tips for parents.


MovingDay

The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day

by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Those country bears are on the move again, but, this time, Mama, Papa, Sister, and Brother are moving away from the mountains and into a new tree house down a sunny dirt road. Read along with your child as this classic literary family say their heartfelt goodbyes to old friends and open their tree trunk door to new ones.


AlexanderWhosNot

Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move

by Judith Viorst (Author) and Robin Preiss Glasser (Illustrator)

Alexander is back, and this day is much worse than terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad. This day is the worst ever! His family is moving a thousand miles away from the only home he’s never known. But he’s not going. And he means it.

“Roaming the neighborhood, he takes a look at his ‘special places’ and bids good-bye to all his ‘special people,’ announcing that ‘I’m saying good-bye-but it won’t be my last.’ By story’s end, after he lets some reassuring promises from his parents sink in, Alexander softens his tone, conceding that he, too, is packing up his things, but for the final time,” says Publisher’s Weekly.


TheKidIntheRedJacket

The Kid in the Red Jacket

by Barbara Park

If your child loved “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” than this middle-grade novel from bestselling author Barbara Park will hit the spot. “The Kid in the Red Jacket” chronicles Howard’s journey as his family moves away from his beloved home. How will he leave all his friends behind? And how will he ever make new ones? All the new kids act like he’s invisible, except his six-year-old neighbor, Molly Vera Thompson, who never stops talking. She’s the only one who wants to be his friend. When you have none, will you take anyone? Or will Howard stay alone?


AnastasiaAgain

Anastasia Again

by Lois Lowry

Twelve-year-old Anastasia is about to move from the city to the outskirts of town. The suburbs, as her family calls it. The thought of moving somewhere where all the houses look alike and people thrive on the latest and greatest has Anastasia questioning everything. How will she ever fit in? To make matters worse, a new and very annoying boy “like” likes her and she doesn’t like him at all. It’s not until she discovers a possible witch next door that things start looking up. Solving the mystery will take her mind off adjusting to a new home and a life with no friends.


Ghosts

Ghosts

by Raina Telgemeier

Catrina’s little sister, Maya, is sick, so her family moves to the coast of northern California. Although Catrina is not happy about leaving her friends and home, the cool, salty coastal air will help her sister’s cystic fibrosis.

When the family finally settles in, a neighbor tells the girls a secret: Bahía de la Luna is haunted by ghosts. Maya is determined to find one, but Catrina wants nothing to do with the quest. Then Maya gets sicker. Even though Catrina now finds herself at a new school with no friends and is petrified of the possibility of meeting an evil spirit, she must put aside her fears and sorrow to help her sister fulfill her dream of meeting a ghost!

“Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale,” says Kirkus Reviews.


TheEssentialMovingJournalTeens

The Essential Moving Guided Journal for Teens

by Sara Elizabeth Boehm

Moving is stressful for children, especially teens. For some, they’ve lived their entire lives in one home and attended the same school. Their friends are like family and a move can be particularly upsetting. Help them adjust by having them share and document their feelings in this one-of-a-kind journal for teens.

Which books about moving have helped your kids with the transition? Share in the comments!

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How to Transform Conflict Into a Learning Lesson for Your Kid

Relationships entirely free from conflict and disagreement do not exist. So how do you fight the good fight?

It’s no surprise that persistent conflict between parents can be emotionally damaging for kids. Kids are not oblivious to parental conflict. What’s more, they are vulnerable to the impact of that conflict, irrespective of whether conflicts are verbal, physical, or silent, and whether or not the conflicts are about them. Fighting in front of the kids can be damaging even for the youngest kids, and there’s evidence to support these claims.

According to a recently completed study, it’s not the divorce that damages kids, it’s the inter-parental conflict before divorce that does. The study used data from 19,000 kids born in the UK in 2000 and analyzed behavior, emotional development, and interactions with peers. The findings showed that kids who witnessed consistent fights at home were 30 percent more likely to develop behavior-related issues.

In a different study conducted by the Early Intervention Foundation and the University of Sussex, researchers found that parents embroiled in ongoing conflict were more likely to be aggressive towards their kids and less responsive to their needs.

Kids exposed to persistent conflict are at risk of multiple negative outcomes. They can either externalize their distress in the form of aggression, hostility, clinginess, antisocial behavior, delinquency, and violence, or internalize it in the form of poor emotion regulation skills, low self-esteem, anxiety, withdrawal, depression, and in extreme cases, suicidal tendencies. Kids in families with ongoing conflict also had trouble making and keeping friends.

Attempts to improve parenting skills in families where there was frequent, severe, and unresolved inter-parental conflict were unlikely to be successful in improving child outcomes if this conflict was not dealt with first.

A few studies suggest that as early as six months, kids are capable of displaying distress when their parents fight. Their distress is often displayed in the form of emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety, or sadness, and can lead to associated problems such as poor sleeping habits.

As they age, kids living in high-conflict families are likely to have trouble adapting to a formal school environment. Similar results were observed following a study conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon. This study found that infants have highly malleable brains and the environment in which they are raised has a great impact on their development.

The researchers analyzed the brain activity of 20 six to 12 month old infants while they were asleep. While the infants slept, a male spoke in tones ranging from very angry to neutral. The researchers found that even while asleep, emotional tones had an impact on the infants’ brain activities. They also found that brains of infants from high-conflict environments showed greater reactivity to the areas linked to stress and emotion regulation. Although additional research is required, the study suggests that early life stress may have an impact on kids’ abilities to regulate their emotions in later life.

That said, all researchers agree that relationships entirely free from conflict and disagreement do not exist. They also argue that the problem lies in how parents fight, rather than in whether or not they fight. So how do you fight the good fight?

1 | Fight with class

When we avoid name calling and other forms of disrespect and relate to each other calmly and positively during a fight, we teach kids that conflict is normal but can be resolved in a calm manner.

According to one study, kids exposed to social conflict are more emotionally intelligent than those kept away from conflict situations. In other words, conflict can provide an opportunity to teach kids about emotions and also helps teach them to manage conflict appropriately.

2 | Calm down, then fight

It’s hard to be calm and objective when you get into an argument and you’re seeing red. You’ll react badly if you’re totally pissed off, so calm down first and then fight. Leave the room for a few minutes. Shift your attention to something completely unrelated. Take a few deep breaths. Do whatever works for you to calm down before you get into an argument.

3 | Connect with your kid after the conflict

Kids are the world’s greatest selective listeners. They won’t hear when you ask them to tidy up, but they’ll somehow be aware of even your most silent arguments. That’s when they start imagining all sorts of things, like how it’s their fault and how you’ll soon be splitting up.

Explaining the conflict to kids will help them learn that it’s not about them, and that conflict is a normal part of life. You don’t have to go into details but saying something like, “Your dad and I were mad at each other but we’ve talked and sorted it out,” can help them deal with the conflict better.

Talking about how you resolved the conflict also provides kids with an emotion regulation framework to help them deal with their emotions and with similar situations in future.

4 | Let the kids see you make up

If you let your kids see you fight, they should also see how you make up. Let them see your hugs and smiles, and make sure they know everything is okay. Make up, but keep it real. Everyone will know when you’re faking it.

Persistent conflict between parents can have long lasting negative consequences on kids’ emotional, social, and academic outcomes. If you’re in a high-conflict relationship and have noticed behavioral problems with your kids, getting help through interventions that also take into account parental conflict can prove more effective than those that only focus on improving your parenting skills.