Monday, October 29, 2012

Trick-or-Treat for a cause

Get your coins ready...

Every year my kids get excited about 3 things when it comes to Halloween.
1. Candy
2. Costumes

When they come home with their orange boxes, (this year there's a whole new group of character boxes) a huge smile accompanies the joy in their voiceS when they tell me all about helping kids around the world.

I love that this spooky, fun holiday means something more to my children than how full their candy bag is at the end of the night. It's a great way to reinforce that giving back can be fun and rewarding, building a habit of philanthropy for a lifetime.

But parents, you have to be prepared too! Last year, many houses did not know about Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF or what the UNICEF orange boxes were all about, and we often left houses with only candy.  And like most little ones, my kiddos were a little too shy to explain or ask for change to fill their box. So parents...grab your loose change or a few dollar bills, and have it ready next to your candy, so when you see those UNICEF boxes accompanying the Halloween bags, you can drop a few coins in it as well. You can also create your own coin canister for your kids or to leave outside your house while you trick-or-treat, to give or take donates at your door.

Because while candy makes any kid happy on Halloween, what really makes my kids and lots of others smile is when they hear their boxes go ching-ching because they know they get to go back to school helping others. 

Happy Halloween

If you Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF and want to share you photos, tag them #ToT4UNICEF or upload them to the Unicef Facebook Page.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Flying with Kids

After spending a very travel-filled summer and fall that included planes, trains and automobiles, international travel that involved living out of suitcases for six weeks, and more than one coast to coast trip with a 4-year-old and 6-year old, I've learned quite a lot about traveling with children. Probably enough to write a small novella about it actually, but I'll start with a few simple tips that just might come in handy before the holiday travel season begins.
My frequent fliers

On paper, most trips look like amazing opportunities or exciting family time, but as a parent there is usually a lot of worry that it could be way too much work or chaos for one set of parents to handle. So, I tried to be prepared.

My Tips:

- Take home with you. Carefully choose bits from home that your kids have come to expect to keep them comfortable and entertained -- Books, workbooks, cards, small games, crayons, colored pencils, stuffed animal, pillow, etc.

- Let your kids pick out their clothes. If they have input and are in control of their wardrobe, you can always go back to it when they have trouble putting their outfits together.

- Gadgets are king. When it comes to filling time, covering delays, or soothing sleepy kids, DVDs, iPads and smartphones or handheld gaming devices can be lifesavers. I often download a few movies and play them on my computer with a dual headphone plug.(Just don't forget the chargers)

- Give them responsibility. Let your kids carry their own backpack or roller bag, and give them each a game and snack to include. Tell them you need their help. They'll love being able to be big kids and participate, and it'll make things easier for you.

- Mentally prepared your kids. Let them know exactly how long it is going to be and let them know how great they are doing during the flight. It is SO tough for them to have to sit still, so rewards during the flight are also a great idea.

- Bring snacks and treats. Use small containers and/or ziplock bags, and pack your favorite finger foods for travel. Cut up fruits and vegetables so they're finger sized. Have salty and sweet options. Bars are also good. Because trust me, hungry kiddos are grumpy kiddos. Also pack their favorite treats as rewards for being good, they can be great motivation.

- Get psyched. Build up the positive during the weeks leading up to the big trip. Make the flight one of the BEST parts of the trip by reminding them they get to watch movies and carry their own backpack, but be honest, don't give them false hopes…they will remember.

- Fallout guy. If all h-e-double-hockey sticks breaks loose with the kids, use the he pilot as the authority...let him be the bad cop. Tell them the pilot will be upset and talk to them over the loud speaker if they don't get it together. (Not sure how much longer this will work but for now, they believe me.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's good to be 40...reflection

I will never ever forget the sign out in front of my friends' neighbors yard 15 years ago. It read "Lordy Lordy Look Who's Forty, Happy Birthday Russ!" It made us giggle. Back then it seemed like forever until we would be 40 ourselves. Well, forever is here.

I remember my dad's 40th birthday party. I was only there for a second, as it wasn't suitable for us kids with its "Come dressed as your suppressed desire" theme (keep in mind this was 32 years ago), and at that time 40 seemed SO old. But now that I am here, it doesn't feel that way at all. Did my parents feel this young? Do my kids think I am SO old? Reality is, the answer is probably yes to both.

I cherish every decade of my life for different reasons. In my youth, I was focused riding a bike and my 10th birthday. In my teens, it was my first kiss, high school dances, swim meets, and my Olympic dream. Through both stages, I was fairly awkward and a bit shy, and suffered plenty of highs and lows.

My twenties, however, were super fun and centered around self discovery and career exploration. Oh how I loved living in NYC. My girls nights out were paramount, and I felt very free and confident.

But my thirties were really the time when I became me. I thought I knew who I was in my 20's, but I didn't. Nor did I have the guts to really be who I am, to stand tall in my beliefs, and truly know what love and friendship were all about. my thirties brought me motherhood. I always thought I would be a young mom, but I am glad I waited until I was a bit older. I've loved every birthday from 30 up.

Now my forties are here! And this might be kind of weird, but I am so proud to be 40. I love the sound of it and the image that goes along with it. I feel like today's 40-year-old is different than the 40-year-olds of my parents generation. More of us are living truly active lives...just like Sunday when women in their 40s were lining up at the start of the marathon with me. I feel like we have a pretty good handle on health and happiness. On the other hand, it does make me contemplate the fact that I have lived almost half my life. But when I sit down and let that soak in, I can honestly say I am truly content. I am happy and blessed and thankful. Maybe 40 is really the reflection number. It's when you take a step back and look at your world for a second as a painting of your experiences, you soak up everything and everyone that is in it. What a picture it is!
Sweaty Happiness 40th

My 40th birthday celebration theme was "Sweaty Happiness" because my friends and I are started out with a fun run and followed it up with pizza, beer, birthday cake and Thursday Night Football. Ahhhhhh, it's good to be 40.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

PaceClub: Swim Lessons

Each month I contribute an Athlete Blog to SpeedoUSA's Pace Club website. Full discloser, Speedo and I are partners, and my contributions are part of that partnership; however, the content shared is my own and I want to make sure that anyone interested in the topic or my take has the opportunity to see it and share it. So I will be posting an excerpt from each post on my personal blog as well. 

Here's an excerpt from my latest blog:


One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is the gift of swim lessons. When you teach a child to swim, it is literally the gift that keeps on giving. It’s a lifetime present.

I started my kids early in "mommy and me" classes when they were each about 6-months-olds. My daughter hated every second of it, but my son, he couldn't get enough. With my daughter, I took my own advice and pushed through tears and tantrums, and now I have a 6- and a 4-year-old who are both fish! Starting your kids early is so important. And even if they cry, (I cried until I was 3) make sure you follow through. The great thing about swimming is at its core, it is all about having fun, but it is also about learning a life skill. By 2 years of age, kids should be able to float on their back when they are in the pool, which is a skill that can save their life. So look for an instructor that understands both.

. . . Read More

Monday, October 1, 2012

Let's Move: Dream Big, Achieve Success

Recently, the 2012 U.S.. Olympic Team visited the White House. While I wasn’t able to attend the reunion, the event reminded me of just how special Olympic moments are. I remember my own experience as a visiting athlete to the White House in 1992. The day of our visit it rained, and the BBQ on the lawn simply migrated into the White House, where Olympians wearing our medals wandered around (probably driving the Secret Service crazy) celebrating being able to visit the symbol of the great country we just represented. I had that same feeling, that sense of honor and pride as part of the First Lady’s delegation this year. Being able to share the Olympic experience with the First Lady of the United States and support her Let’s Move! initiative was amazing...

My kiddos greeting the First Lady :)