5 Rules for Hosting a Crappy Dinner Party


If having friends over for dinner causes you great anxiety, have we got an idea for you!

In an article for The Kitchn, writer Kelley Powell is giving us permission to throw away our dinner party stress by hosting a Crappy Dinner Party.

Yes, that’s right, a Crappy Dinner Party.

When Kelley’s friend Laura moved away to a smaller community she discovered that people just showed up to each other’s houses, unannounced. “People feed each other whatever happens to be in their fridge that day.  There’s no preparation, no stress–just pure enjoyment.”

Pure enjoyment!  “Crappy dinner is all about placing the priority on what truly matters, and accepting life–and motherhood–for all of the beautiful, crappy things it throws your way,” says Kelley.  “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

Ready to throw your own Crappy Dinner Party?  Here’s how:

  1. No housework is to be done prior to a guest’s arrival.
  2. The menu must be simple and not involve a special grocery shop.
  3. You must wear whatever you happen to have on.
  4. No hostess gifts allowed.
  5. You must act like you’re surprised when your friend and her family just happen to show up at your door (optional).

Click here to read Kelley’s entire piece–and let us know how your first Crappy Dinner Party goes!




Toni Morrison’s Parenting Advice


Last week, we were saddened to hear of the passing of author Toni Morrison.  There has been an outpouring of tributes, but the one that has stuck with us is this gem from one of our other favorite authors Brené Brown.

Brené writes:

“Morrison was on Oprah talking about her book The Bluest Eye. Oprah said, “Toni says a beautiful thing about the messages that we get about who we are when a child first walks into a room,” and she asked her to talk about it.

Toni Morrison explained that it’s interesting to watch what happens when a child walks into a room. She asked, “Does your face light up?”

She explained, “When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?”

Her advice was simple, but paradigm-shifting for me. She said:

“Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”

As most of us head back into the busyness of a school year this week or next, let us remember to stay present in each parenting moment—conveying how happy we are to just be with our kids even when book bags are thrown on the floor or homework is left on the dining room table.

To read the entire article from Brené, click here.

How to Raise a Resilient Child


We were so happy to see our friend Adam Russo, on the cover of this month’s Naperville Magazine.  The magazine published an excerpt from his book, Unwritten Rules, including these 4 strategies parents can use to help their kids become successful adults.

Delay Gratification
While our culture becomes more “instant,” the things that lead to success haven’t changed. It still takes hard work, determination, motivation, failure, and perseverance to be successful. No matter how convenient our culture becomes, or how many barriers get removed in order to streamline processes to make our lives easier, or how many devices are created to help us be productive, being able to delay gratification will be essential to success in any field.

Teach Resiliency
We must be real. Life is hard and filled with many struggles. Our ability to respond in effective ways to these struggles is what makes people great. Kids will all have different fights to fight. But if they’re not prepared to manage the negative emotions when these battles come, they’re being set up to lose. As parents, we can’t guarantee their success, but we can ensure that they are best prepared for the fight.

Manage Emotion
Most kids can’t learn how to manage emotions independently and adaptively—that must be taught. Anxiety is just a feeling that we all have. The ones who are able to keep anxiety in its place are the ones who can learn what this feeling is, how they experience it, and how to best cope with it.

Require Accountability
Parents can make many excuses for themselves in order to let the little things go. But if that’s all they do, then there is no way the child will learn how to be responsible for themselves and cope with the anxiety and frustration they will inevitably face when they enter the adult world.

To read the entire article—including Adam’s tactics for making the above strategies stick—click here.





and we couldn’t wait to share some of it with our Branch community.


How to Talk to Kids about Scary Events


With today’s constant stream of information, it isn’t always easy to shield our children from the scary events and situations that happen around the world.  Although we can’t control what happens, we can control how we–and our children–respond to such tragedies.

We found these tips from Loyola University Medical Center to be very helpful when it comes to talking to your children about scary world events:

Ask Them What They’ve Heard
…And correct any errors or misconceptions. “I would inform them that the information they may have received from school or classmates may not be entirely correct or may have missed important details,” says Loyola pediatrician Dr. Hannah Chow.

Use News Coverage as a Teaching Moment
If you can, watch the news first and use your best judgments at to letting your children watch it as well.  “Have a discussion while watching the news and help them digest the information afterward,” suggests Dr. Chow. “The older they are, the more they will be able to comprehend and process.”

Assure Them They Are Safe
“Let them know you are here for them and that you will do your best to protect them,” says Dr. Chow. “Also, remind them of how protected they have been in the past.” For children old enough to understand, create a safety plan. “Talk to your kids about safety, how to find safe places and how to locate the nearest exit wherever they are,” Dr. Chow said. “Have a plan for how they can communicate with you in case a tragedy occurs.”

Remind Them Not All People Are Bad
Talk about character and how to identify adults who can be trusted. “Point out that the majority of people can be trusted,” Dr. Chow says. “Teachers, firefighters, police officers, medical professionals — they are there to help you in the event you need them.” She adds, “I would let them know that only a small number of people want to hurt people and that people are usually kind to one another.”

And if your young child seems to still be feeling anxious and unable to to express his or her feelings?  Carolyn Klinkert, LCPC at Edgewood Clinical Services shares these tips:

Identify the Emotion– It’s important to understand what your child is feeling. If they can’t express it in words, try using pictures of emojis to get the conversation going.

Nurture the Emotion– Provide comfort and reassurance that the emotion is okay. During anxious times, take extra care to soothe your child and provide the extra attention they may need.

Give your Child a Sense of Control– Creativity and service can give children a sense of control for an event that was out of control. Examples include painting, writing a letter, donating to a charity, volunteer work, or any other activity that creates an outlet for your child to acknowledge their feelings.

It may be hard to know if your child’s reaction to unusual events is typical. If you have any concerns at all, consult your pediatrician, mental health professional or counselor.

8 Tips to Prepare Your Child for School!


Whether it is your child’s 1st day of school or their 5th year, going back to school can be stressful!

Here are Catherine’s top strategies to help you prepare for the beginning of the school year:

1. Get the details
Find out what the school will and will not provide so you can create your shopping list accordingly. I remember we made a big deal about buying the matching (and monogrammed) Cars backpack, lunchbox and water bottle only to find out that my son’s school issues clear backpacks and provides all drinks and snacks. Make sure to also get the 411 on the dress code before you click “Add to Cart”.

2. Refresh your child’s closet and dresser
A cluttered closet and dresser are huge sources of frustration (not to mention total time thieves!) for parents and children. Schedule time to declutter and tidy your child’s closet and dresser before the first day. Adding simple picture labels to drawers makes it easy for your child to find his/her undergarments, shirts, pants, etc. This will not only encourage independence and the
development of good organizational skills – it will save you time in the morning and evening.

3. Create a “daily drawer”
Organize daily essentials, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb/brush, gel, and hair ties in a shallow bathroom drawer that is easy for your child to access. Having all of these items in one place will save you time and hassle.

4. Use a checklist
Similar to the picture labels, a visual checklist outlining what your child has to do before heading out the door (i.e., make bed, put dirty clothes away, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, and comb hair) is a great tool to set expectations and establish routine.

5. Create a drop zone
Just like at school, add a hook and a basket by the front door or in a coat closet so that when your child comes home, they have a place to neatly stash their gear. This doesn’t need to be Pinterest perfect to function well – Command hooks and a simple Target bin do the job well.

6. Adjust your nighttime routine
Make lunch, pick an outfit, and pack the backpack and put it by the door each night before school. The more you prepare and plan the night before, the less you have to worry about in the morning, especially if there’s a “But I wanted almond butter, not peanut butter!” meltdown.

7. Plan for paper
There will be forms and LOTS of artwork. Without a plan, it will quickly accumulate on all your flats surfaces. Read 4 Simple Steps for Eliminating Paper Clutter and The Foolproof Way to Organize Your Kids’ Artwork for easy and helpful tips on how to manage both.

8. Build 5 minutes of “talk time” into your morning routine
Even if your child is an up-for-anything adventurer, the transition to school can be tough. Many children require extra attention and support during this time. I found that when I took five minutes with my son to snuggle, talk, and reconnect first thing in the morning that his anxiety started to go down. Three years into school and we still do this. It helps us both ease into the morning instead of starting the day on a rushed note. I also love that even if the rest of the morning (or day for that matter!) doesn’t go as planned, at least we had those few minutes.


Article Written By Catherine Gibel, MSW, Professional Organizer
Less is More Organizing Services Naperville

Accepting Help & Finding Gratitude


So, last week I thought it would be a great idea to slip down the stairs and sprain my ankle and fracture my fibula. Six weeks non-weight bearing, six weeks of no driving, six weeks of trying to get around in a two-story house with one foot, two scooters and two pairs of crutches. That cute step down into my family room now my nemesis!

On Tuesday, my son drove me to my doctor (Thank you, Dr. Heidee Kalmar, you have been nothing short of amazing) and I told him I would just get an Uber home because I am an independent chick and no ankle fracture is going to stop that! As a pediatric chiropractor, I decided that I should have a rainbow cast and let all the kids sign it with gold & silver sharpies–won’t that be fun when I am back in the office in two or three days? So, I crutch on out to the sidewalk in my colorful cast, trying to stay positive. The crutches hurt my bad shoulder, and the one step down to the road is way more difficult than I thought it would be. I awkwardly crawl into the Uber with a moment of “oh crap, this SUCKS.” But, before I can let that negativity fully set in, I come to learn that my driver was in a terrible car accident when he was 12-years-old, fracturing his tibia and his fibula in BOTH of his legs. He was bedridden for eighteen weeks with casts from his toes to his hips. He is still in pain every day. Wow. Perspective. I hand him my card and let him know if he ever needs anything, my office will take care of him for free.

Now to this taking care of yourself on one-foot thing. I can do this.

My friend Monica loaned me a plethora of ankle-breaking items – shower stool, leg condom (yes, that is a thing), body wipes for when I don’t want to put the leg condom on, two sets of crutches, a scooter from her cousin, and a ton of moral support. I tried to figure out the best systems for getting from one floor to the next and down that damn step to my family room. I got my trusty backpack and figure I can wear it to transport things as I get around the house. I was pretty tired, but felt positive, even though this really DOES suck. I scooted on over to the fridge and filled up my Yeti with a master plan to put it in the backpack, scoot over to the family room, transfer down the one step with the crutches and happily land my butt on the couch for the evening and find a new Netflix show to binge.

Great plan, but it wasn’t my reality.

I put the full Yeti on the counter, turned around to get my backpack off to put it in, and I proceed to knock the full Yeti on the floor. There is ice and water everywhere, surrounding me and my scooter….and I just start to cry. I collect myself, scoot through the water, get the roll of paper towels and do my best to individually pick up and throw the sixteen scattered ice cubes into the sink and mop up the floor. If that water wasn’t going to hurt my hardwood, I swear I just would have left it there and called it a night, dehydrated and all.

Why on earth wasn’t anyone there to help me? There is one answer to that – ME. I said “no” to countless offers of help–my boyfriend, friends, my kids, my staff and even a few people I have never met in person from The Branch (what a community this is!). I have worked so hard to be able to take care of myself all these years, that I don’t exactly know how to ask for or accept help when I truly need it. I put this into the folder marked, “Lessons I Need to Learn Right Freakin’ Now.”

The next day, I have the taping for four segments of The Moms Network at NCTV17. This date has been planned for months, we have five of my mom co-hosts and four guests joining us, the set is up, and the staff is ready. It is something I just can’t cancel. I ended up sleeping only one hour that night because the cast was so hot, and I am pretty claustrophobic. At 3:00 AM, I determined that I was probably willing to pay Dr. Heidee $15,000 to come and cut this thing off. At 3:45 AM, I actually called Edward Hospital to see if I took an Uber there, would they cut it off because I was close to having a panic attack (for future reference, they will only cut off a cast another doctor has put on if it is an emergency. Good to know.) I sleep from 4:00 AM to 5:09 AM and then I am up again overwhelmed with the thought of having to figure out how to shower, do my hair/makeup standing on one foot, get dressed, carry my second month’s show outfit (we change in between shows) down the stairs, get myself down the stairs, get coffee, get breakfast and be ready for Saritha (one of my co-hosts) to pick me up.

6:09 AM, I get a text from Monica asking if I need help getting ready, and if so, she would bring me coffee and breakfast as well. I cry again. This time, I say “yes”, and “thank you!”

Struggling to ask for and accept help is just so dumb. If any of my friends were going through what I was going through, I would happily help with a ride, a meal, a grocery store run, some company. In fact, I immediately apologized to Monica for not helping her as much as I should have when she went through her ankle surgery a few years ago. I certainly helped her, but not enough, especially now that I know how difficult it is to be on one foot.

I am one week in as I write this, and I am opening up to the fact that I can’t actually do this alone. Miss independent woman, mom, and business owner needs her tribe. I have said “yes” to all other offers of help and already have meals on their way, company to keep me entertained and a better plan to get through these six weeks. My two-three days out of the practice thought was cute but completely unrealistic. I hate not being able to be there, but I need to take care of this ankle and myself more right now.

I am also focusing on gratitude. Gratitude that other than this, I am healthy. Gratitude that I have two amazing doctors, Dr. Pat and Dr. Claire, at my practice that are doing an incredible job taking care of our patients. Gratitude that I have an Allison (my practice manager) –#EveryoneNeedsAnAllison has never been more accurate. Gratitude to my patients that they understand why I am not there. Gratitude that I have the very best friends and community around me. Gratitude that some of my work can be done from my jammies, in my dining room on my computer. Gratitude that this is a temporary thing, not a life-long struggle.

Choosing to keep your mind in a positive state can be challenging at times, but we always have that choice. I believe everything happens for a reason, even the bad stuff, so for the next six weeks, I am going to sit back (literally) and pay attention to all the lessons I need to learn, and the silver linings I can find.

August Episode of The Moms Network–August 1 at 9 PM


We can’t wait for the August episode of The Moms Network which premieres on NCTV17 Thursday, August 1st at 9 PM.  Our co-hosts Dr. Cathy Subber, Erica Lopez, Grace Boland and Lindsay Chan tackle the topic of childcare and talk all things preschool with guest Selvei Rajkumar. “Children are like learning machines, babies especially. So it’s important for them to be in a group setting so they can interact with their age group. They learn so much from each other,” said Selvei.

Get a sneak peek of the show with the clips below and be sure to watch the full episode this Thursday at 9 PM on Channel 17 and NCTV17.com via simulcast and also on-demand video.

Thank you to KLA Schools for being the presenting sponsor of this month’s episode.



Nominate a Kind Kid


The Branch would like to recognize those kids in our community who are doing kind things–showing compassion for others, helping make this world a better place, being thoughtful and generous.

In short, these are the kids who are great role models for us all.

Does this sound like anyone you know? Click here to nominate a child you know. We will be featuring some of these Kind Kids on our website and newsletter. If you have any questions or issues with your nomination, click here to contact Patti Minglin.

Please note, we will never use last names of kids we feature and we will not share any emails from this form.

Thank you for letting us know about the Kind Kids in our community!


Tips for Keeping Kids Safe in the Heat


Although you may already be thinking about back-to-school shopping and school schedules, summer is still going strong–especially this weekend when we will once again see temperatures near 90.  NBC5 shared some tips from Chicago pediatrician Dr. Marcelo Malakooti on how to keep kids safe during hot days:

“Ensure your children drink plenty of water, and sports drinks that put electrolytes back in the system,” says Dr. Malakooti. “Make sure this is done before, during and after activities.”

Dress in Light and Loose Outfits
“Light clothing reflects heat and loose clothing allows skin to breathe.”

Timing is Everything
“Avoid strenuous activities with kids between noon and 6 p.m. Get out in the morning and do indoor activities in the heat of the day.”

Know the Serious Signs
“Watch for muscle cramping, headache, dizziness and a lack of perspiration, all of which could be signs of heat stroke.”  Should you suspect your child is suffering from heat stroke, call 911.

Here’s to having a cool rest of the summer!

Click here to read the entire story.


Popsicle Recipes Your Kids Will Love


Just in time for our suburban heat wave, Chicago Parent magazine is sharing great recipes for popsicles that your kids (and YOU) will love.  The one we can’t wait to try: Invisible Cookie Dough Ice Pops. Here’s the recipe from Got Chocolate:


1-1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons mini semisweet chocolate chips


  • In a microwave-safe container microwave milk for 30 seconds or until warm to the touch. Add brown sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Add vanilla.
  • Place 1/2 tablespoon chocolate chips in the bottom of each ice-pop mold or in small paper cups. Top with milk mixture. Insert sticks and place molds in freezer. Freeze until solid, at least 3 hours.

You’ll find 7 more delicious popsicle recipes to try this weekend by “popping’ (see what we did there?) over to the Chicago Parent website.


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