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“It itches!” he screeches.

You nod in empathetic agreement and dig out the calamine lotion from the back of old-but-probably-still-usable bin in the linen closet. The whole family has been outdoors for an alfresco barbecue dinner under the stars. Some of you return looking like war-weary soldiers while others are none the worse for wear.


Mean-looking, neon red welts pepper your toddler’s tiny legs. You give up counting at 10. You’re sporting your own collection on the back of your neck, and you’re pretty sure you heard one of those biting beasts in the dining room earlier.

Meanwhile, your tween in shortie-shorts and a halter is sporting entirely bite-free skin (we won’t even discuss how jealous this makes you feel). Your spouse shrugs you off when you insist that something must be done. They’re the lucky ones, somehow invisible to your #1 summer enemy.

In summer’s never-ending battle, the mosquitoes always seem to come out on top. Nobody wants to give up gorgeous summer evenings in the great outdoors. But when the great outdoors makes you miserable, giving it up begins to sound pretty darn good.

 

 

Don’t throw in the towel just yet, Mom and Dad. There is hope for mosquito magnets young and old. It’s a matter of sorting out old-wives’ tales from scientifically-proven solutions. So if you want to win the mosquito battle this year, read on.

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What you can’t change

First, the bad news: it’s not your imagination. Only a paltry 15 percent of vulnerability to mosquito bites is explained by factors other than genetics.

The buzzing bastards find about one in five people extra tasty. Mosquitoes will happily fly the extra mile to sidle up to the all-you-can-eat blood buffets these poor suckers (or suck-ees, as the case may be) unwittingly serve up.

For some of that miserable 20 percent, their blood type is to blame. The unfortunates with type O – you can remember the vulnerable type by thinking “OMG that mosquito just bit me” – get about double the bites of those with type A blood. Those with type B blood fall between the type O and type A extremes.

As an added genetic punch-in-the-gut, mosquitoes are wired up to detect chemical secretions that, for some, broadcast our blood types like a huge, neon sign that reads, “bite me.” So if you and your bite-prone kids fall in to the unfortunate 85 percent with this involuntary chemical broadcasting system, you’re at even higher risk.

What you can change

Now for the good news. There are some steps you can take to sidestep your genetic vulnerabilities. None are perfect solutions on their own, but taken together, they can make a difference.

Chill – literally and figuratively

Summer is supposed to be a time for relaxing. And as luck would have it, science says that to fly beneath mosquitoes’ radar, relaxing can be an effective part of your bite avoidance plan.

Mosquitoes can sniff us out via sweat and carbon dioxide exhalation (e.g., breathing hard from exercise). So to make yourself and your children less detectable, put away those running shoes, kick back with a tall glass of water, and enjoy the good life. Staying as cool, sweat-free, and lazy as possible is a recipe for a bite-free body that anyone can embrace!

Choose clothing colors carefully

Mosquitoes see dark colors better than lighter ones. Not only that, but those dark colors also retain more carbon dioxide, which serves as an additional attractant. Choose whites and light (not bright) colored clothes to make you and your kids stand out a bit less to the buzzing menace.

In addition to color, consider wearing fabrics infused with permethrin. Here’s a DIY guide to treating your clothing and gear with it.

Chow down on chili

When you’re working up a menu for that backyard barbecue, remember that what you eat can make you more or less mouth-watering to mosquitoes. Garlic and onions, chili peppers, beans, and tomatoes are on mosquitoes’ “no-bueno” list. Sadly, beer and salty foods appear to be as appealing to this menace of the insect world as they to us as they are. So load up on chili, but skip the beer and Fritos as sides.

Interestingly, the oft-reported banana connection seems to be an artifact driven by self-fulfilling prophecy. Some say they attract the beasts, and others say they repel them. Though the jury is still out, mounting scientific evidence suggests that bananas are mosquito-neutral. If you like them, go for it. Mosquitoes don’t seem to care one way or the other.

Repellents that work

DEET

According to the scientists at Entomology Today and the Journal of Insect Science, the verdict is in. Spoiler alert: Parents favoring the all-natural approaches may not be very happy about it. There are natural options that can be effective, too, but none are better than DEET.

Though concerns surfaced many years ago that DEET might not be safe for people, science says it is. Like any substance from peanuts to plastic, a small number of people may have unusual reactions to it, and that is a matter of no small concern. For the most part, however, DEET is the way to go if you want a cheap, effective means of keeping the biters away from your kids. The CDC concurs and recommends EPA-registered repellents contain at least 20 percent DEET by volume for maximum effectiveness. They name Deep Woods Off as a go-to brand.

When you’re comparing the risk of Zika or dengue contracted from a disease-carrying mosquito versus the minuscule risk for weird reaction to DEET, for many parents the decision is pretty straight-forward. And as an extra bonus, DEET repels ticks, too.

Non-DEET and organics

Other DEET-free repellents endorsed by the CDC include Picaridin, IRIR35, and 2-undecanone (methyl nonyl ketone). Picaridin is also known as Icaridin. Brand names for Picaridin include Bayrepel and Saltidin. 2-undercanoe is derived from palm kernel and soy bean oils, and is found in a number of insect repellents that are also suitable for pets.

If you shy away from DEET or chemical-containing repellants, go with PMD. PMD is para-Menthane-3,8-diol. Don’t let its chemical-sounding moniker and acronym put you off: It’s actually quite natural. PMD is a botanical derived from Australian lemon-scented gum trees. It is also known as “OLE” or “oil of lemon eucalyptus.” Some research suggests that PMD is nearly as effective as DEET for repelling the vicious vermin.

In addition, the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association has reported promising results for two essential oils. Their testing suggests that essential oils L. origanoides and E. citriodora have both insecticidal and repellent properties against mosquitoes. Specifically, they’re effective against the type of mosquitoes which are vectors for dengue and Chikungunya.

Repellents that don’t work

Don’t be fooled by commercials for the wearable insect repelling bracelets and belt dangles. As promising as they appear, they just don’t work. Science says most of them are an abysmal failure, and just can’t compete against sprays and lotions. Wearables that release Metofluthrin were a singular exception. For the most part, however, wearables are a bust. They are particularly poor at repelling the nastiest of the nasty: the sort of mosquitoes that carry deadly illnesses like Zika and yellow fever.

Other busts in the repellent department include citronella candles and vitamin B1 patches. Though scores of people swear by it, Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil also falls into this doesn’t-really-work-but-at-least-you’ll-smell-good category. Avon’s Skin So Soft product infused with Picaridin, on the other hand, shows more promise.

From DEET to PMD, and from clothing to food choices, there are a number of options parents can employ to beat the mosquitoes this year. Choose those that seem the best for your family and go out and enjoy your summer, hopefully with much fewer pesky mosquito bites to spoil your fun.

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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