Saturday, September 21, 2013

Repost: Six Ways to Discipline Children -- That Work!

What's the best way to discipline children? Get tips from the pros by reading this WebMD feature by Joanne Baker.


It’s hard to deny the importance of discipline. "Discipline has to do with civilizing your child so they can live in society," says psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD. Yet many kids repeatedly test their parents’ limits. When it comes to disciplining children, there is no quick fix and no magic bullet.
If you, like many parents, have tried to discipline kids who don’t want to listen, this article is for you. WebMD asked parenting experts for tips on how to discipline kids without being a drill sergeant, or a pushover.
Discipline Tip # 1: Reward Good Behavior
When punishment is the centerpiece of discipline, parents tend to overlook their children’s best behaviors. "You’ll get a lot further with positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement," says Mason Turner, MD, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center. Rewarding good deeds targets behaviors you want to develop in your child, not things he shouldn’t be doing.
This doesn’t mean you should give your child a pound of chocolate every time he picks up a paperclip. "There are grades of positive reinforcement," says Turner. "There’s saying ‘good job. I’m really glad you did that,’ when your child cleans his room." And there are times when your child does something extraordinary that may warrant a larger reward.
Discipline Tip # 2: Be Clear About Rules
If your rules are vague, or discussed only when one has been broken, your child will have a hard time following them. "It’s up to the parent to make clear what’s expected of the child and what isn’t," says Brody, who chairs the Media Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Be sure to explain the rules of the house when you can speak clearly and your child is not too upset to listen.
James Sears, MD, a pediatrician in Southern California, suggests practicing discipline when it works for you. For instance, when you have 30 minutes to spare, interrupt your child’s game and tell her you need help with something. If she helps, great, do a quick and easy chore together and let her go back to her game. If she throws a tantrum, you have time to deal with it. "If you do that every once in a while, your child will understand that when Mommy says I need to put my toys away, I need to do it," says Sears.
Discipline Tip # 3: Neutralize Arguments
How do you deal with a child who wants to argue into submission? Steer clear of no-win arguments.
Instead, "go brain dead," advises Jim Fay, co-author of Parenting with Love and Logic.For instance, if your child says, "This isn’t fair," say, "I know." If your child says, "All of my friends get to have this," say, "I know." Or you can use the phrase, "And what did I say?" to enforce rules you have already discussed with your child. Sometimes the less you say, the more clear your point becomes.

Discipline Tip # 4: Buy Yourself Time
You may have read that children need to experience the consequences of their actions as soon as possible. And maybe you’ve heard that parents should be calm as they discipline children. In reality, you may not be able keep your cool and react right away.
"Buy yourself time to calm down before you deal with the situation," suggests Fay. You can tell your child, "Wow, bad decision. I need some time to figure out what I’m going to do about that." When your emotions are in check, express empathy for your child first, then deliver the consequences. Empathy gives your child room to connect his behavior to the outcome. "You don’t have to get angry at kids, you don’t have to yell. Just allow it to become their problem," says Fay.
Discipline Tip # 5: Be Consistent About Rules
Sometimes sticking to the rules is as challenging for parents as it is for kids. Sears sees too many parents turn the other cheek when their kids talk back or otherwise act out. "Parents just are not consistent in enforcing rules," he tells WebMD. Not enforcing your own rules puts everything you say into question. "If kids don’t know what to expect from their parents, they never really know what the rules are."
You may want to back down for fear of ruining your child’s fun. Keep in mind that kids benefit from limits. Rules and structure give children the security of knowing their parents are watching out for them. As kids get older, you can take a more flexible approach. Around the ages of 9 and 12, kids should get "a little leeway to test out the rules," says Brody. "But always be very careful about safety."
Discipline Tip # 6: Model Good Behavior
Like it or not, your children are watching you. You can dole out as much advice as you want, but your personal conduct makes a more lasting impression than your words. "The number one way human beings learn is through imitation and copy," says Fay. If you want your child to be honest, make sure you practice honesty. If you want your child to be polite, let her see your best manners, at home and in public.
The fact is, raising disciplined children is not easy. Despite your best efforts, there will always be good days and bad days. For evidence, look to the experts we interviewed for this article. Even after years of working with families, all four shared stories of their own children’s meltdowns or misbehavior. "As a parent, you’re constantly pushing your own limits. It’s the toughest but the greatest job I’ve ever had," says Turner.


Ingrid Callot gives sound advice on motherhood through her Twitter account.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Repost: Tips for Cleaning House with Young Children in Tow

Involving kids in doing household chores is a challenge that every parent faces. Learn some tips on how to make your kids interested in helping you with chores by reading this article by Christie Burnett.


I am a big believer in involving young children in household chores (that are suitable to their level of development) as I believe that these early experience can help to instill positive habits for healthy living for many years to come. And toddlers and preschoolers make fabulously willing cleaning helpers when you make the cleaning experience fun!

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Here are four ways to make cleaning time fun…

  1. Make it a game: Adding a playful element like seeing who can match the greatest number of sock pairs or having a race to see who finishes their respective packing away chore quickest, helps to make cleaning and packing away interesting and engaging for young children.
  2. Give your child fun tools to use: We have a cabinet with long glass shelves which Immy loves to dust. She carefully removes all of the photos and other trinkets displayed and then comes her favourite part of the task – spraying water on the shelves with a small spray bottle! She then wipes the shelves clean with a cleaning cloth. The simple act of giving her a spray bottle of water makes the task great fun. I know other children who love the novelty of using the vacuum like a grown up, or sweeping the floor with a short handled broom.
  3. Add music or singing to your cleaning tasks: Turn up the volume on some catchy music or sing a simple song like, “This is the way we mop the floor, mop the floor, mop the floor,” which can be adapted to almost any cleaning task.
  4. Use a timer: Set an old fashioned kitchen timer for three minutes and set a simple cleaning challenge for your preschooler.

What sorts of tasks can young children do?
I think children from the age of two can be involved in any of the following tasks, with varying levels of assistance and supervision depending upon their age;

  • Dusting
  • Putting dirty laundry into a hamper
  • Folding laundry: Folding small items like tea towels, matching socks or even finding separating all of their own underwear from a big pile helps to reduce the time you need to spend with the laundry.
  • Putting away laundry: Make it easy for your child to put away their own clothes by making it clear which drawer is for which type of item of clothing and not having too many clothes in each drawer.
  • Unpacking the dishwasher
  • Tidying up toys: Separating toys into their own containers and labeling the containers can make packing away toys easier for young children.
  • Sweeping up mess: Spending a little time teaching your child how to use a dustpan and brush now can save lots of time in the days to come.
  • Cleaning up spills: Keep a basket or drawer in the kitchen (which is easy for your child to access independently) for cleaning cloths that can be used for wiping up drink spills. A small spray bottle of water kept nearby might be useful as well.
  • Setting and clearing the table: At three years of age, Immy has been setting our table for some months now. And older toddlers and preschoolers can help to clear the table of dishes and condiments as well.
  • Cleaning in the bathroom: Wiping down sinks and counters, scrubbing the ring around the bath and cleaning the shower screen are all tasks which young children can help with.
Some final advice for keeping your child engaged and involved in household cleaning tasks are;
  • Be consistent about your expectation that they will help.
  • Work alongside them. Children are more likely to be involved if you are too.
  • Keep tasks as independent as possible for your child and resist the urge to do over what they have done (yes, you may have to let go of standards just a little!)
  • Rotate chores to keep it interesting.


    Get more tips on parenting and home-making from this Ingrid Callot Facebook page.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September: A glorious time to do gardening

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Every year when September comes along, I sometimes feel my interest for gardening declining a bit since I am inclined to think that the growing season is just close by. However, right after summer is a very crucial time to do backyard gardening to ensure a bountiful garden in the year ahead. September is a great time to plan, purchase seeds and materials, and plant for next spring's garden. Plus, the sunny weather can inspire homeowners to do all sorts of gardening. In my own home garden, for instance, I expand it with a different kind of plant every now and then. Here are some plants that I found to be perfect for home gardening this time of the year:


I agree with this BBC article that planting native hedges makes a unique garden feature. Hedges not only produce a varied range of berries and flowers, but they also attract birds and insects into the garden.

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Spring bulbs

Spring bulbs, like daffordils, tulips, and crocuses, are best planted in autumn. This article from The Telegraph provides some tips for planting bulbs.


Yahoo! Voices suggests planting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, English peas, and potatoes in September or October, and you can expect a harvest in about two weeks.

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By spending quality time in the garden and planting at this time of year, you can reap the wonders of nature and learn to appreciate home gardening.

I’m Ingrid Callot, and I love planting in my very own little garden at home. You can read up on related topics by following me on Twitter.

Operation crafty: DIY creations out of used materials

Hello! Those of you who have been following me online know that reducing, recycling, and reusing old items is how I celebrate the environment. These three Rs benefit not only Mother Nature but also my family’s savings. As a bonus, I get to be crafty and creative. The following ingenious ideas have inspired me in making something old into something worthwhile again:

Ice cream containers (like those from Breyers® )

Summer might have made you consume more ice cream than you’ve ever imagined – I know I have. And because the hot season is over, you can make good use of those old ice cream containers. They are great for organizing small things, including hardware items, handicraft items, and children’s toys. They can also be used as ribbon or thread organizers. Ice cream containers can also do well in the garden as seed containers or alternative flower pots.

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Milk cartons

You can plant seeds in them after cutting off the top, poking a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and filling with potting soil and vermiculite. A milk carton can also serve as a cooler by placing a glass or bottle of drink inside and filling the carton with water and placing it in the freezer. This is a more creative way of serving cold beverages than just placing them on an ice bucket.

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Wallpaper samples

You can use them as a cabinet or drawer liner to make things slide out more easily while giving your cabinet a richer look. Wallpapers can also be used to design bookmarks, gift boxes, greeting cards, and even recycled jar lids.

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With a little imagination and source of inspiration, getting crafty can turn old things into a piece of art. All these you can do while making Mother Earth smile with gladness.

I’m Ingrid Callot, domesticity queen and lover of everything DIY. You can get more of my ideas on related topics by following this Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

REPOST: Readers' Top 10 Gardening Mistakes

We all make mistakes in our home gardens, but take note of these common blunders and learn some tips on how to prevent them to save your plants from imperfection. This RealSimple article has the details.

Digging up flowers instead of weeds. Drowning the tulips. Real Simple readers reveal their growing woes and garden design pros plot out the solutions.

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Mistake 1: Planting a Garden in the Wrong Spot

"Last year we built raised garden beds. They looked beautiful—with fresh mulch all around them and even a new spot watering system. But the mulch around the beds is always soggy—even in hot, dry Colorado." Stacie Perrault Staub Arvada, Colorado

Garden Fix

Good news: You don’t have to tear out the beds entirely, says Ivette Soler, a Los Angeles-based garden designer and writer of The Germinatrix blog. Empty the raised beds (dig out the plants and lay them on a tarp while you work) and spread a four-inch layer of gravel evenly over the underside of the planters to improve the drainage. Then refill the planters with fresh fluffy organic compost.

Mistake 2: Accidentally Pulling Up Flowers Instead of Weeds

"I planted some lovely perennials one summer. The following spring all the flowers sprouted along with some weeds. I pulled the weeds and lovingly tended to the flowers. I even staked a tall lanky plant that I was certain was going to produce a beautiful bloom. Then, one day my neighbor asked me why I had staked a weed. Turns out, I had pulled out the flowers and left the weeds. Oops." Lisa Benter Rich Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada

Garden Fix

Tracking plants can be tough for any gardener, says Andrew Keys, a Boston area landscape designer and writer of the Garden Smackdown blog who cops to mistaking crabgrass for ornamental grass in his own garden. "The most efficient way to mark your plants is to use the nursery tags your plants come with." Another option: Label popsicle sticks and insert them into the ground near your varieties.

Mistake 3: Not Preparing the Soil

"We neglected to prepare our soil last year and, as a result, we ended up with a whole vegetable patch of plants that either never gave fruit or died." Lydia Harris San Angelo, Texas

Garden Fix

Since soil varies dramatically by region, Keys recommends testing your soil annually to find out what type of soil you have and what it needs based on what you want to grow. (You can pick up an inexpensive at-home soil testing kit at the hardware store; watch this video to see how it works.) Then amend the soil as suggested. No matter what, says Soler, it’s a good idea to mix your soil with an equal amount of organic compost. "It’s the best foundation for your garden—it gives your plants the nutrients they need without overloading them with chemical fertilizers which can deplete the microbial activity needed for healthy plant growth."

Mistake 4: Overwatering

"I kill everything. I never know when to water and when not to water. Help!" Kelli Baker New Philadelphia, Ohio

Garden Fix

Overwatering drowns plants roots, causing them to rot; underwatering, on the other hand, can dehydrate it. The no-more-guessing approach is to invest in an irrigation system with a "smart" controller, meaning that it automatically adjusts watering levels based on historical data and moisture sensors, says Rebecca Sweet, who designs gardens in the California bay area and writes the Gossip in the Garden blog. If you can’t afford a system, pay close attention to your soil. When the soil is rock hard, it needs watering. When you can grab a handful, squeeze it together, and form a loose ball, it’s just right. One trick: Plant a so-called indicator plant—one that wilts much more quickly than the others—such as a hydrangea or lettuce. "One look at them on a hot day will tell you whether or not you need to water your plants," says Sweet.

Hanging flowers - mistake 5
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Mistake 5: Planting an Invasive Variety

"We planted a horseradish plant in a corner of our garden and were pleased with the crop we harvested the following season. We pulled it all up, tilled the garden in spring, planted for the season, and there it was—popping up all over the place! I never knew how invasive a plant could be." Cynthia Sadowski Lawless Southington, Connecticut

Garden Fix

Plants like horseradish, English ivy, Mexican feathergrass, and spiderwort are notoriously invasive in gardens and are best grown in containers, says Pam Penick, an Austin, Texas-based garden designer and writer of the blog Digging. If you order seeds from a catalog, look for words like prolific reseeder and vigorous growth, which often indicate invasive tendencies. If you do choose to plant an invasive variety, weed diligently. And consider solarizing: Dampen the soil, spread a black plastic tarp over the weeds you want to kill, and secure the tarp’s edges with rocks. Leave the plastic in place for a few months while the weather is hot. The plastic will heat up the soil and kill off the weeds.

Mistake 6: Not Taking Wildlife Into Account

"My daughter and I planted 200 bulbs in our yard as a secret garden that would bloom in spring. To our horror, the squirrels came at night and feasted on our bulbs. That spring only four lonely daffodils grew and we had some very fat squirrels." Jennifer Goldberg Bellevue, Washington

Garden Fix

There’s a good reason the squirrels left the daffodils alone; daffodils contain poisonous crystals, says Keys. Other rodent-repellant (read: poisonous) bulbs include snowdrops, winter aconite, and fritillaries. Critters from raccoons to deer to the family dog will inevitably try to eat your produce, and the only failsafe way to protect your precious plants is to install a fence around the garden. As for your dog, Penick suggests tossing a few chew toys into the garden to tempt him away from your plants.

Mistake 7: Not Giving Plants Enough Sun

"I planted tomatoes on the east side of my backyard. They bloomed, and then the flowers would fall off. According to friends, tomatoes need the morning sun, which was blocked by my fence. Who knew?" Laura Stites Plano, Texas

Garden Fix

Tomatoes are sun worshipers that thrive in direct sunlight. The plants need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight, says Soler. Similarly, vegetable plants such as chiles and eggplants and most herbs should be planted in the sunniest part of your yard. Others, like lettuces and peas, can stand to be in shady areas.

Mistake 8: Spreading Too Many Seeds

"I wanted a little pumpkin patch so I planted some seeds. The patch spread all over the yard and my husband had to lift up the vines to mow!" Heidi McCarthy Somers, Connecticut

Garden Fix

Vining plants like pumpkins, cantaloupes, and watermelons can quickly grow to mammoth proportions, says Soler. If you’re set on planting a patch, Keys suggests surfing the Web. “A plant’s Latin name is the key to everything you could ever want to know about it,” he says. “Just Google the Latin name in quotes and the word invasive or aggressive and see what gardeners are saying.” Another resource: PlantFiles from Dave’s Garden, a Wikipedia-like database of user-contributed data.

Mistake 9: Using Too Much Pesticide

"My first year gardening I found a spot that I wanted to use for flowers. Problem? Grass. Solution? Grass killer, which unfortunately made the area free of grass and useless for growing anything else. Whoops." Tashmica Torok Lansing, Michigan

Garden Fix

Chemical herbicides poison the soil and can remain in the dirt for years, says Soler. Instead, get rid of grass and weeds by pouring an earth-friendly mix of equal parts hot water and vinegar over the selected area once a day for a few days until the offending plants turn brown. The vinegar will kill the leaves and most of the plants’ roots, making it easy to pull up the grass.

Pots of plants - mistake 10
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Mistake 10: Planting Too Close Together

"I planted too many plants in a pot and they grew in odd shapes and weren’t edible. Next year, I’m only planting one plant per pot." Jessica Saunders Dayton, Ohio

Garden Fix

It’s important to follow the planting directions on seed packets and seedlings. But if you choose to plant more aggressively, experiment with layering plants, suggests Soler. Growing shrubby plants such as basil under tall vining plants like tomatoes yields two plants in one space.

Check out this Ingrid Callot Facebook page for more gardening tips.

REPOST: Teach your kids how to save money

Teach your children on how to save money as early as now. This GoodHouskeeping article has the details.

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Money-savvy teens are more likely to turn into financially smart adults. We ask the experts for their lessons on how and what to teach them

Save first, then spend the rest

Paul Roelofse, a certified financial adviser, consumer advocate for the Financial Planning Institute and presenter on Radio 702’s A Word On Personal Finance, offers his advice:

‘I’ve raised two daughters, so I’m no stranger to teen financial issues.’

‘Expose them to the benefits of saving early on so they get to see how rewarding it can be. I gave my daughters an allowance that we all agreed on and out of that they were obliged to save 20%. A negotiated and involved approach to helping them learn how to budget was vital – teens don’t take kindly to dictatorships. We took a hard line when they mismanaged their budgets, so if they blew their money in the first week, they had to tough it out for the rest of the month.’

‘Having a dad as an investment adviser stood them in good stead – their money grew. I invested it in long-term products to ensure the best returns. As they witnessed their money growing they tried to save even more and avoided the instant gratification of spending for the sake of it.’

‘The other important thing is to ensure that teens understand the negative consequences of debt. It’s heartbreaking to see young adults drowning in debt. Another important lesson for teens is to live within their means. If they can’t afford it, credit is not the answer. Saving up is.’

This Ingrid Callot Twitter page shares wisdom on marriage, home life, and more.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

REPOST: 6 Things You're Cleaning Wrong

Find out the six common mistakes that people constantly do when cleaning their homes from this Good House Keeping article

The cleaning habits you've been using for years may not be as efficient as you'd think. Correct these common mistakes and get a better clean with our tips, plus advice from Carolyn Forté, Director of the GHRI Home Appliances and Cleaning Products Department.

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they touch. Never stack items, either, because the water spray won't be able to reach the dishes on top. Place extra-dirty items on the bottom rack facing the center so they're near the spray arm. And if you're using a detergent pod, place it in the dispenser—if tossed in, it'll dissolve too quickly.

2. Shower curtain liner

There’s no need to throw away your shower curtain liner once it's dirty, says Forté. Simply toss it in your washing machine, set to hot water on a gentle cycle, along with some old towels and a dose of bleach to remove any mildew. Hang it up to dry, or put it in the dryer for a minute or two to speed up the process.

3. Carpet and upholstery stains

Your instinct may be to spray cleaner right on the stain, but that can over-wet and damage the carpet or fabric and make it hard to rinse out. Instead, spray a cloth with the cleaner and gently dab the area until the stain is gone. Rinse the same way with a clean cloth dipped in cool water.

4. Windows

Don't make the mistake of cleaning windows on a sunny day—they'll dry too quickly and leave behind streaks. On a cloudy day, start by sweeping the window, frame, and screen with a brush; or, vacuum with the dusting attachment to eliminate dirt and avoid a mud pile-up. While some may suggest using newspaper as a cleaning tool, the GHRI doesn't recommend that since it can be messy. Stick to microfiber cloths for the cleanest clean!

5. Clothes

A common mistake is generously pouring laundry detergent or fabric softener into the machine—excess liquids won’t helping your clothes, appliance, or skin. Always measure carefully and follow the recommendations for the size and/or soil level on the load you are doing (most loads are medium to large), says Forté. If the load is extra-large or dirty, add a little more detergent and/or softener.

6. Electronics

Cell phones, iPods, and other handheld tech devices are bound to get sticky, but it's never a good idea to spray them with a cleaner. A microfiber cloth is best for cleaning LCD screens. Forté suggests using a dry Swiffer cloth to dust them and remove smudges.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit this Ingrid Callot blog site for more related articles on home keeping.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

REPOST: How to Stop Being Helicopter Parents

What is heliparenting and how does it affect the relationship between parents and their children? This article may serve as an eye-opener to all parents.

Ground control to Major Mom: Helicopter parenting isn’t great for you or your kids. Get the facts.

Why Heliparenting is Harmful (and Not Just to Your Kids)

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Moms and dads who try to anticipate every single threat to a child’s safety and happiness— sharp edges, viral superstrains, evil math teachers—are like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia: They beat back one enemy, and along comes an army of others. The price of this eternal vigilance? For one, helicopter parents are more likely to feel unhappy. According to one study conducted by the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 23 percent of preschool moms who practiced “intensive parenting” had symptoms of depression. No wonder, says Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children Without Going Nuts With Worry, ($12, “Our society tells us that a good parent is constantly ‘on’—going to every game, whipping out flash cards. Also, we make anxiety contagious. When something bad happens to any kid anywhere, we assume that every single child is in danger.”

What’s more, the extreme measures that parents take to protect kids may actually leave them more vulnerable, according to child psychologist Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., the author of the upcoming book The Opposite of Worry ($13, “A child needs to learn gradually, with your help, what’s safe and unsafe,” he says. “If he doesn’t get that chance, he can take on a challenge that’s too big and get seriously hurt.”

American parents may be particularly inclined to get out the Bubble Wrap. “In many other countries, reasonable risk is considered crucial for a healthy, self-confident child,” says Christine Gross-Loh, the author of Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us ($19, She cites the research of Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter, an associate professor in the physical-education department of Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education, in Trondheim, Norway. Sandseter conducted research in Norwegian, Australian, and English playgrounds and found that kids are naturally drawn to risky play because it helps them learn to manage their fears a little at a time. Other research, adds Gross-Loh, indicates that when kids are confined to an overly safe playground, they become bored, create their own risks (like standing on the swings), and end up hurt.

Physical freedom isn’t the only kind a kid requires on the road to adulthood, says Cohen: “Children need to learn to negotiate conflicts on their own. I was of the generation where the mean kids clobbered everybody, and I wish there had been some supervision. But now if two kids are fighting over a toy, an adult jumps in and says, ‘Let’s set a timer.’ ” That might calm the ruckus, but it deprives kids of opportunities to learn social skills.

Follow this Ingrid Callot Twitter page for more tips on parenting.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

REPOST: How to Go Nontoxic at the Salon

Switching to green living also includes taking a closer look at your beauty maintenance. Here is an article from Green America that gives some resources in finding non-toxic salon products.

When hair stylist Luis Alfonso and his partner Caroline Holley decided to start their own beauty salon, they knew they wanted to go green to lessen their impact on the environment. That’s why Swing Salon, located in New York City’s Soho neighborhood, uses truly natural and organic products.

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Many of Swing Salon’s clients started going there because of the salon’s location, but Holley notes that clients can’t help but notice that they are in a different, healthier, type of hair salon.

“People are surprised to walk into a hair salon and not be hit in the face with the smell of ammonia,” she says. “They are so used to hair color treatments that burn their scalps that they are surprised to experience a healthier alternative.”

That surprise isn’t uncommon. Many people assume that if a hair or body treatment is used at a local salon, it must be regulated and safe for use. But they’re wrong—in fact, due to loopholes in the Toxic Control Substance Act (TSCA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no authority to require companies to test products for safety.

As a result, consumers and workers are being exposed to dangerous toxins through salon products like nail polish, hair straighteners, and more. Fortunately, you can find healthy alternatives, either by finding a green salon or going green with beauty treatments at home.

Incomplete Ingredient Lists

Over-the-counter body care products are required by law to include a list of ingredients on their labels—the only exception being the chemical soup that goes into a given product’s scent, which can be hidden under the term “fragrance” as it’s considered proprietary information.

However, the loophole is bigger for salon products, says Jamie Silberberger, who works at Women’s Voices For the Earth’s National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, a coalition of public health advocates pushing for better safety in nail and hair salons. “Products sold for professional use in spas and salons are not required to be labeled with ingredients,” she says.

Silberberger notes that while salon products often come with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that list “hazardous” ingredients, they don’t list all chemicals of concern, and they are typically only available in English. English fluency is not required to become a certified hair or nail technician. Keep yourself and your family safe by avoiding the worst treatments and products.

Hair Straighteners

One salon treatment—the Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatment—can be so toxic that it continues to expose customers and salon workers to toxic fumes for months after it is done. Brazilian Blowout and other straightening products contain formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

For salon worker Jennifer Arce, performing just one Brazilian Blowout treatment exposed her to what her doctor suspected was “possible chemical poisoning.” After suffering breathing problems and migraines, bloody noses, blistery rashes, and bronchitis, Arce moved to a salon that banned hair straighteners, but her trouble didn’t end there.

“Exposure to formaldehyde doesn’t end with the treatment—the fumes are reactivated every time heat is applied to the hair,” says Arce. “So when a client who’s had a Brazilian Blowout done elsewhere comes into the salon to get a haircut or color and has her hair blowdried, flatironed, curled, or processed under the hood dryer, the fumes that come out of her hair make me and several of my coworkers sick all over again.”

After hearing similar stories from other salon workers, Jennifer gathered letters to send to the FDA, and last summer she went to Washington, DC, as part of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance Week of Action.

Actions like these resulted in a victory in November, when the California Superior Court ordered GIB, the makers of the Brazilian Blowout, to stop selling its product in California after finding that it emits smog-forming pollutants at levels higher than allowed by the California Air Resources Board. GIB was asked to present a new, reformulated product to meet California Air Quality Standards.

“This is a great victory, but certainly not the end of our work,” says Silberberger, “Brazilian Blowout is just the tip of an iceberg.”

What to do: Avoid chemical hair straightening treatments. Sign on to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ petition requesting that the FDA take greater action to get the Brazilian Blowout off US shelves by visiting

Hair Dyes and Extensions

About two-thirds of conventional hair dyes in the US contain para-phenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical banned for use in such products in Germany, France, and Sweden. Exposure to PPD can cause allergic reactions ranging from skin irritation to, in the case of a teenager in 2010, death from anaphylactic shock.

And an ingredient analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that many conventional hair dyes include known carcinogens in ingredients derived from coal tar. A 2009 report from the University of Santiago de Compostela reviewed studies examining the risk of cancer among hairdressers and related workers. They report that the 247 studies showed these workers having a higher risk of cancer than the general population.

Hair extensions can also be a point of concern. Many adhesives used on extensions may contain 1-4 dioxane, which is listed as a probable carcinogen by the US EPA, and styrene, a neurotoxin and suspected endocrine disruptor.

What to do: Look for a green salon that uses natural hair color treatments free from synthetic chemicals, ammonia, or PPD (see resources below). You can also order your own from EcoColors.

Nail Polish

When getting a mani-pedi, beware of the “toxic trio”: dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and toluene. These chemicals, which are used to help nail products hold color, are linked to reproductive and development problems, as well as dizziness, eye and lung irritation, and more. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

Facing pressure from consumer groups and salon workers, some polish companies are now producing “nontoxic” nail polish without the “toxic trio”—or so they claim. However, “nontoxic” labels are not verifiable. A 2011 study by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control tested 25 nail polishes sold for salon use, 12 of which made claims to be free of toxic-trio ingredients; the study found that 10 of 12 products claiming to be toluene-free still contained toluene, and five of seven products claiming to be completely free of the “toxic trio” contained one or more of those chemicals.

“This is a perfect example of the failure of our regulatory system,” says Silberberger. In addition, nail polish and acrylic nails can contain other chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and more, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

What to do: Bring your own less-toxic nail polish (see resources below) and make sure the salon is well ventilated.

Find a Green Salon

Many conventional body products, like shampoos and massage oils, can contain a litany of ingredients that add to your chemical exposure. Visit a green salon, like Swing Salon, which makes sure all of their products are as low-toxicity as possible.

A large network of independently owned “concept salons” across the US are connected with Aveda, a national leader in developing hair and body products free from the most dangerous ingredients. More than 90 percent of Aveda’s essential oils and 89 percent of its raw herbal ingredients are certified organic.

“We review all ingredients from a personal health and environmental standpoint and are always working to increase the amount of our products that are certifi ed organic,” says Marc Zollicoffer, Aveda’s director of spa education and sales.

If you’re going to the spa, look for a member of the Green Spa Network, a coalition of green-minded spas across the US that pledge to be energy efficient and sustainable in all their practices.

If there isn’t a green salon near you, bring your own nontoxic products to your salon if allowed. Buy from screened green businesses listed at, and visit the Skin Deep Database at to find least-toxic products for at-home use.

Find more updates about living green on Ingrid Callot’s Twitter page.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

REPOST: Your Wired Kid

Are you worried that your child spends too much time in front of the TV or online? This Good House Keeping article points out the effects of too much screen time on your child and offers some tips on setting boundaries and limitations on young children’s exposure to technology. 

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If you're like many mothers of tweens or teens, you probably often find yourself gazing at the faces of your beloved children — as those faces are bathed in the flickering light of the television or the cool glow of the computer. Observing their glassy-eyed stares, it's hard not to wonder (and worry), What is this screen time doing to their development?

We've all heard the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics: just one to two hours a day of "quality" electronic entertainment for children over 2. Yeah, right. In 2010, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that most adolescents spend an average of 25 to 30 hours per week watching TV and using computers. And while half of parents surveyed in a 2010 study said they always or often set limits on screen time, 18 percent of their kids really disagreed. "It's getting more complicated to measure how much screen time kids are getting," notes Lisa Guernsey, author of Into the Minds of Babes, a book about children's use of electronic media. "We're no longer talking about the TV in the den that parents can turn off. These days, many teens and tweens have smartphones, laptops, tablets, and iPods that they carry with them." When you add up the total time kids spend on their electronic devices, you arrive at a truly staggering number: The average American between the ages of 8 and 18 spends more than seven hours a day looking at a screen of some kind, reports a Kaiser Family Foundation study. "When we conducted a similar survey five years before, we thought children's screen time couldn't rise any higher," says Donald F. Roberts, Ph.D., a Stanford University communications professor who coauthored the study. "But it just keeps going up and up." Scientists are now beginning to tease out the effects of all this electronic engagement. Too much screen time may be linked to an increased incidence of risky behaviors, and more social network activity seems to correspond to mood problems among teens. But there's good news, too. Moderate computer use may be associated with the development of some cognitive and social skills. Here, a closer look at the cons and then the pros of screen time:


The more hours teenagers spend using a computer or watching TV, the weaker their emotional bonds with their parents, reports a study of more than 3,000 adolescents published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. On the other hand, teens who spent more time reading and doing homework reported feeling closer to their moms and dads. "Strong attachment to parents" — a bond of understanding, trust, and affection — "is protective against poor psychological health and participation in risky health behaviors," the study's authors note, so "concern about high levels of screen time is warranted."

• No surprise here: Screen time can make a kid fat. Kelly Laurson, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology and recreation at Illinois State University, asked more than 700 children to wear pedometers and report how much time they spent watching TV and playing video games. He found that a lack of exercise and a surfeit of screen time each contributed to kids' growing girth. "Kids are more likely to eat when in front of the TV, and TV shows lots of ads for unhealthy foods," says Laurson. "Too much screen use also interferes with sleep. These influences can make kids fatter and less fit, even if they are physically active."

• Researchers at Queen's University in Canada found that youths with the highest level of computer use (more than three to four hours a day) were 50% more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, drug use, and unprotected sex than kids with minimal amounts. "More and more advertising has moved to the Web, and these ads are far less regulated than those on TV," says researcher Valerie Carson. "Kids who use computers can be exposed to many examples of dangerous behaviors, which they may then emulate."

If you feel tempted right about now to declare a complete ban on screen time, consider this: Research also suggests that playing video games or visiting social-networking sites like Facebook may produce improvements in certain skills.


• When your kid is immersed in a game, he or she is actually practicing some very complex — and necessary — skills. In a handful of experiments comparing gamers to non-gamers, scientists have found that frequent players have sharper vision and faster reaction times and that they're better at multitasking and less easily distracted.

• Though the precise skills honed by a video game may not always transfer to real-world tasks, and video game playing should be done in moderation and not take the place of physical exercise, the psychological habits fostered — determination, resourcefulness — may well carry over into players' everyday lives. And a study by Michigan State University researchers of nearly five hundred 12-year-olds reported that playing video games was associated with creativity in tasks such as generating stories.

• Screen time can foster connection and closeness with peers. Larry Rosen, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us, found that teenagers who are more active on Facebook and other social-networking sites display more "virtual empathy" — they are more likely to express support and encouragement. "Behind the safety of the screen, teenagers — especially boys — are more willing to share their feelings, to take social risks," Rosen notes. "They are practicing emotional life on the screen, and getting better at it." So screen time can have its bright spots as well as its dark sides. How can you, as a parent, make sure the former prevail? Turn to 3 Smart Ways to Handle Screen Time, and follow the expert strategies.

3 Smart Ways to Handle Screen Time

1. Don't get caught up in the idea of limiting screen time to a certain number of hours

You read that right: Many researchers now believe it's almost impossible even to keep track of tweens' and teens' total screen time, especially when they're out of the house for many hours a day. "How do you count the 30 seconds a kid spends checking his e-mail between classes," asks psychologist Larry Rosen, Ph.D., "or the zillions of three-word texts a kid sends throughout the day?" Instead, some experts suggest, consider establishing tech-free zones at the times and in the places you do control: No cell phones or handheld gaming devices in the car. No computers or TVs on at the dinner table. (Note: These rules should apply to parents, too.) No iPhones, iPads, or iPods during homework. And nothing that blinks or beeps in kids' bedrooms at night — collect electronic devices an hour before bed; return them in the A.M.

2. Consider your child's behaviors, both online and offline

Is your child meeting her obligations at school and at home? Does she have close, supportive friendships both online and face-to-face? These are the benchmarks that matter more than the sheer quantity of time your child spends in the company of electronic media. Indeed, young people who act out online in aggressive ways, such as engaging in cyberbullying, often have trouble keeping friends in real life, notes University of British Columbia psychologist Amori Mikami, Ph.D. Her research also found that teenagers who have healthy friendships in real life tend to use social-networking sites to further enhance those relationships.

3. Give your kids guidance on digital life just as you would on any other fraught activity

"Start early, with some simple lessons," says Mikami. "Then the discussions get more complex, candid, and interactive as they grow older. As soon as they're old enough to sit down in front of a screen, you need to talk about moderation, about the fact that with e-mail and social media, there are real people on the other side of the screen." Ask your kids how they feel when friends are kind or cruel online, and how their words might affect others, too ("It looks like the argument with your friend started with a mis- communication. How could you keep that from happening next time?").

Ingrid Callot’s Facebook page has more tips on how you can limit your child’s exposure to technology.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Healthy shape-up: How to avoid common diet blunders

My friend once asked me: “Ingrid Callot, what’s your secret to staying fit?”

I honestly told her that while I am an advocate of healthy living and proper diet, I am no expert in this area. Even the most passionate dieters and serious healthy eaters jeopardize their efforts by doing things the wrong way. And for me, if I may add, there is no single concrete secret recipe to staying fit. What I am definite about is that in terms of dieting, perception is not always the truth.

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As Cynthia Sass, a Florida-based registered dietitian and food coach reveals, “Many people believe they’re on track, but when I sit down with clients and take a closer look, we usually find areas for significant change.”

So I have taken the liberty to research on some of the most common dieting mistakes and how we can swerve to steer clear of them. The Today Show presents these diet busters:

Skipping meals or eating too often. Neither eating too often nor skipping meals is better for healthy individuals. The best thing for us to do is to eat three times a day with healthy-rich food.

Believing that low-calorie food is healthy food. Fact: Calories add up quickly. It is not enough knowing that we’re eating low-calorie food. We have to control our intake.

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Skipping protein-rich food. For sure, colorful veggies are healthy and can help in the weight-loss process. However, skimping on protein from meats denies us of the sense of fullness and muscle build-up.

Misunderstanding calorie-exercise output. Let us remember that diet or exercise alone can do what it takes to have our desired body or health. Making the right calculations can do the trick for us.

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I love everything healthy, clean, and green. You can read my ideas on these matters by following me on Twitter.

AMA's lesson in skin cancer protection: Slather kids with sunscreen

Hello! Ingrid Callot here, your friendly domesticity queen.

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My son Jacob used to hate it, but putting on sunscreen has become a part of his routine before going to school or anywhere outdoors for a long period of time. I’m glad he’s as vigilant about it as I am because I know for a fact that one bad sunburn during childhood can double the chances of having skin cancer later on in life.

A study for cancer research asserts that one in four people who’ve had melanoma, a cancer of the skin, doesn’t use sun protection when outside for more than an hour. What’s even more bothersome is that schools banned children from bringing sunblock products. Luckily, the American Medical Association (AMA) are behind mothers like me on this issue. The group of doctors from AMA addresses the ban with a resolution lifting sunscreens from the list of over-the-counter items banned in schools. AMA further notes that schools should allow students to bring sunscreens without restriction and without a doctor’s note.

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With reports that a number of school-age children in the country have suffered from sunburns only because they were not allowed to bring sunscreen, AMA believes that sunscreen is the most practical form of sun protection.

With the summer around, application of sunscreen is non-negotiable for me. And even if the hot season is over, applying sunscreen should be a no-brainer, especially for kids.

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My friends do not call me the domesticity queen for nothing. Read my blog and see for yourself.

Monday, June 17, 2013

REPOST: How To Host a Clothing Swap

Inherit a new wardrobe and clean out your closet by hosting your own clothing swap. Start by following these tips from Good Housekeeping.

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Clothing Swap

A clothing swap is great motivation to do a closet purge (a seasonal necessity) and a fun way to connect with friends and update your outfits--at zero cost. Plus, it's eco-friendly.

Don't worry about guests' being different sizes: A roomy dress can be cinched in with a great belt, and accessories work for every size and shape. Consider opening the event to friends of friends as well, and you'll add to the mix of swappables you get and make things more social.

After all, what could be more of an icebreaker than sipping wine and trying on cute clothes with a bunch of your girlfriends? To be sure your party doesn't turn into a free-for-all, let guests know they can take home only the same number of items they've brought. Then, swap away!

1. Get Ready 

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Create buzz by sending invites (paper or virtual) at least three weeks ahead to give guests time to sort through their closets.

To ensure a successful swap, invite at least 10 women whose style you admire; have each person bring three to 12 things in good condition (including jewelry and unopened cosmetics) to trade, suggests Melissa Massello, cofounder of the Swapaholics, who stage clothing exchanges in the Boston area.

2. Cute Cocktails 

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Fashion and fun are the focus here. Keep the vibe casual with simple invitations and light bites.

Serve non-staining sips such as white wine, fruit-garnished Prosecco, or spritzers, suggests the Swapaholics' Massello.

Provide easy finger foods that wont makes a mess, like fresh fruit and veggies, crackers and cheese, and macarons.

3. Pretty It Up 

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While guests are snacking, turn your space into a chic boutique by laying everything out artfully.

Arrange accessories on a coffee table and end tables; use a tray, plates, or even a bulletin board to display jewelry.

5. Show Your Shoes 

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Display shoes on a shelf. Two guests want the same thing? Do a walk-off, in which each models the item and the group votes.

6. Grab and Go! 

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A swap is the perfect chance to take fashion risks, since there's no buyer's remorse. Mix, match, and experiment.

Place hanging items on a clothing rack (you can rent one from a party store), or use an emptied hall closet.

7. Try It On! 

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Create a try-on area; put mirrors around the room. Guests should be ready to disrobe (a cami and leggings are recommended).

Spread the wealth by bringing leftover clothing to a donation center. Bonus: You can get a tax write-off next April.

Get access to more eco-friendly tips from Ingrid Callot by visiting this Facebook page.

Monday, June 10, 2013

REPOST: 5 Nature-Inspired Crafts for Spring

These simple projects from this Good Housekeeping article will put you in the mood for cheery spring.

Gorgeous Greens 

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Next time you’re browsing the dollar store, keep an eye out for ceramic dishes, river rocks, and artificial plants. Those are the materials the blogger from Craftberry Bush used to make this lush succulent display for only $8.

Stand Tall 

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We’d never guess that a bunch of burlap strips could transform a Styrofoam ball into a thing of beauty. But that’s exactly how the creator of Design Dining & Diapers fashioned this topiary.

Resilient Bouquet 

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For cheerful blooms that will never wilt, make your own daffodils like the ones seen on Live Laugh Rowe. Just grab some colored felt, a vase, and basic floral-arrangement supplies like stem wire and tape before you set up shop.

Pitch Perfect 

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Revive an old kitchen staple with the help of a rubber stamp set and a few paintable clings (optional: a little patience). The woman behind Crafty Scrappy Happy decided to upcycle her pitcher and turn it into a vase.

Bags Aflutter 

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We can’t help but get carried away with this bag from Craftberry Bush. The butterflies were painted on muslin and sewn onto a plain tote, which was painted with a color-block design for extra pizzazz.

Ingrid Callot is a recycling goddess and a nature love. Follow this Twitter page for more updates. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Some of my working friends often ask me: “Ingrid Callot, you work at home and still maintain a ‘cyber-army’ of recyclists. How do you do it?”

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I answer them the same thing: “I guess I’m few of the lucky ones who are both happy and fulfilled by working at the comforts of home.” But not all moms choose to work at home. There are about 5 million stay-at-home moms in the US, and more and more mothers are caught between deciding to have a regular job or stay at home to become full-time housewives and mothers.

It is a generally accepted belief that stay-at-home moms stay at home because they have the means to support this decision. However, in recent years, moms seem to be staying at home because they don’t have the financial capacity to work outside.

Just take the case of Allicyn Willix, for example, who has two little kids, Conner, 4, and Parker, 1. Since Parker was born, Allicyn has been staying at home. She decided to quit her minimal earning job because she can’t afford to pay for day care. "It was the best decision I've ever made," she says.

Allicyn Willix plays with children, 4-year-old Conner, and 15-month-old Parker. Willix has been a stay at home mom since her second child was born. Sh...
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Experts say that some families find it less expensive for one parent to stay home than it would be to spend for day care. Staying at home lets you save money on transportation and clothing expenses.

“Women who can’t get good jobs anyhow – maybe not enough to cover their child care costs or maybe not worth it in meaning – are the ones who are more likely to, if they have a husband, make the calculation (to stay home).” — Paula England, sociology professor at New York University.

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Are you a stay-at-home mom? Learn more about how you can have fun at home while fulfilling your mommy duties by following me on Twitter.