Busch Gardens Williamsburg -the new-school Old Country

LA Parenting

There’s a lot of ballyhoo about Southern California theme parks being the best in the nation, but as an Los Angeles replant and frequent visitor to all the usual suspects (Disneyland, California Adventures, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Six Flags, etc.,) I believe Busch Gardens  in Williamsburg, Virginia, can hold its own against the park super powers.

Ride of My Life

On a recent trip back to my home state of Virginia our family of two adults and two six-year-olds planned a two-day visit to Busch Gardens in historic Williamsburg.  My childhood memories of the place are still fresh.  I recall riding the famed Loch Ness Monster when it opened in 1978, and the fear in my heart as a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace played softly over the stereo system as my brother and I waited in line.  My parents refused to go on this crazy upside-down looping roller coaster over a…

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Temecula:  The Little Wine Country That Could

Westside Mommy


The first thing you pick up on meeting the folk of Temecula Valley wine country is that they love where they live and what they do.  Take one part wine, two parts passion, add family, and you get a blend of people dedicated to their craft of wine making and their lifestyle in this best-kept-secret valley of Southern California.

Home to about three dozen wineries, a number that increases almost annually, Temecula is growing in popularity as a wine country destination in California, partly because of its warm and inviting hospitality and optimal climate for growing grapes but mostly because of its outstanding wines that continue to win national awards, often to the chagrin of their brethren wine makers to the north.

Temecula’s wine roots

Owner of Baily Vineyard and Winery, Phil Baily, a pioneer of the Temecula Valley winemaking business, recalled how he took a risk in 1986…

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Sometimes equal custody is not in a child’s best interest

Constructive Family Law Puts Parents Rights and Needs Behind Child’s Interest

After divorce, sharing custody of children can often be a contentious proposition, but according to family law attorney Mark Baer, it does not have to be, and it should not be, for the sake of the children involved.

Baer, a family law attorney in Los Angeles, rejects the title of “divorce lawyer” in favor of “family law mediator,” as he subscribes to a progressive movement in his field which focuses on resolving the conflicts between parents without the specter of litigation.

“The litigation model that attorneys are taught is adversarial by nature.  It often exacerbates the situation and makes trust issues worse.  I deal in constructive ways to deal with conflict,” said Baer.  “First you need to build trust between the parties by tackling the easiest stuff first, then you move on once you have the ability to make agreements.”

Together, for the Kids

Honing his skills as at conflict resolution as court-assigned mediator in Van Nuys, Baer learned that often attorneys were content to collect their hourly rate as they drove clients further apart from resolution, even separating them during mediation sessions.  Baer by contrast insists on parents sitting down together in mediation so they can talk out issues and see the bigger picture of what is best for the innocent victims of the conflict, the children.

Termed constructive family law, or integrative family law, Baer’s method always focuses on the well being of the children as the priority.  Baer’s resolutions, while certainly not illegal, may not always be supported by law.  In his view, the resolution reached in a court according to law might not be appropriate for a particular family dynamic.  For example, an equal-time ruling may be what the law ordered, but it might not be in the best interest of the child.

“A fifty-fifty custody arrangement may not always be the best arrangement.  A child may have not bonded with a parent, and after divorce they are forced to spend 50 percent of their time with that parent,” said Baer.

Likewise, just because the law says that a parent has the freedom of speech to bash a child’s other parent, as a recent case held out, the respectful, responsible way to act as a parent is to not make derogatory remarks about a former spouse to a child.  In this situation, the trash talk not only puts a child in the middle of his or her parent’s conflict, it usually backfires, as a child resents the parent who disparages the other parent whom the child also loves.

What’s Mine is Ours

To help parents come together in making the best custody decisions for their children, Baer says seemingly small things like terminology can make a difference.  When a parent says, “our child” instead of “my child,” and avoids talking in terms of their “rights” to a child, tensions can melt away, as both parents realize the child is part of both of them and that the child’s rights are of highest importance.

Similarly, Baer urges parents to view the needs of the child before the rights of the parent or the needs of the parent, so that a child does not become a trophy or property that parents fight over, ignoring what is best for the child.

Couples Retreat

Baer’s conflict resolution methods often involves using mental health professionals who guide the parents in finding ways to best relate to each other and their children.  While Baer does not necessarily prescribe therapy for couples, he encourages them to use therapists as coaches to help fix or improve their relationship, which is not always attended to in the divorce proceedings.

“Therapists can teach exercises and coach parents on how to deal with their feelings appropriately.  Often fear– whether real, perceived or exaggerated — gets in the way.  Divorce has many emotions around it — of loss, grief, fear and stress.  While feelings are raw, it is not a time to make important decisions,” said Baer. “Research shows us that second to death, divorce is one of life’s most stressful situations.  Studies show that IQ test performance drops by as much as 30 percent in these situations.  Your navigational system is off.  You need to get your cognitive reasoning skills back online.”

Sorry is the Hardest Part

Though the marriage has ended, Baer advices couples to heal their relationship, often by taking personal responsibility for their part in the failure of the marriage.

Often an apology and forgiveness goes a long way in mending a relationship and begins the process of healing, for the good of the children.  This holds true especially in situations where there has been an affair in the marriage, and the injured party tries to punish the guilty parent by withholding custody.

“An affair is between adults.  It should not be used to prevent a parent from having a relationship with a child,” says Baer.

While an affair is, “irrelevant to law,” says Baer, “Once there is an apology, there can be forgiveness, and the emotional posturing is gone.”

Baer laments that the current legal system is “terribly flawed,” but he is heartened that more divorcing couples are seeking constructive family law as a way to deal with the aftermath of a failed marriage and taking the matter of custody into their own hands for the best outcome for the children, instead of leaving it up to litigation and the courts.

“You know your kids, yourself and your spouse.  Is it up to you or your attorney to decide what’s best?

Six things that are better on a treadmill desk

For the A-type tech junkie who likes to stay plugged in at all times, working on a treadmill desk is the ultimate multitask. Not only is walking while you work a great way to stimulate your mind and body to boost productivity, active lifestyle pundits like Kathleen Hale, founder of the Chair Free Project, point out that rising and moving instead of sitting all day at a desk could save your life.


That’s right, sitting is the new smoking. Those long hours on your butt are not only the cause of what my desk-jockey cousin’s husband nick-named “spreading a**,” but sedentary habits are a factor in heart disease, diabetes, cancer and a host of other bad things that can happen to a body that sits too much.

So if you are so inclined to avoid overly reclining and chair sitting, here are some great tips for effectively using a treadmill desk to get work done while you do your body good.

Conference calls – Talk about thinking on your feet, walking and talking makes you a better listener and thinker; and stretching your legs is far better than distracted doodling on those long squawk box calls.

Pitching – Your prospects can hear a smile on the phone, and they can hear energy in your voice when you walk and talk. An upright, walking posture opens up your diaphragm and makes you sound robust and peppy.

Admin and busy work – Keep the blood moving and keep yourself alert for no-brainer work. Timesheets, deleting old files, archiving your inbox, and other boring tasks don’t feel like a waste of time anymore when you are improving your health while you tackle them.

After lunch break – A conveyor belt under your feet does wonders to keep you from nodding off after a heavy lunch. It will also help your digestion and burn off a few calories.

Talk-to-text time – use a dictation program to go handsfree and knock out responses to those emails piling up in your inbox, update your social media, compose memos, and draft proposals or other long-winded documents that would otherwise have you sitting for hours. Dragon has a variety of software version for business or personal needs and is 99 percent accurate and three times faster than typing, and it can even search the web for you and integrate across all of your devices.


Total Recall break – plug in your headphones, close your eyes and take a stroll on the beach without ever leaving the office. Amazon music has an endless selection of play lists for every mood, and if you have an Amazon Prime membership it’s free.

Change your clock, check your smoke alarm

Today at 2 am clocks rolled back one hour to observe daylight savings time, which is also when safety experts recommend you check and change batteries on home smoke and CO detectors.

Taking a few minutes to swap out batteries could save your family’s life.  Most 9 volt batteries, which are the most commonly used in smoke and CO alarms, can last several years, but the minor expenses of about $4 per battery is worth the security and peace of mind of knowing your home is protected.

If your smoke detector is mounted in a place that is hard to reach, or if you don’t like to have to frequently change batteries, consider an alarm with a sealed lithium battery, such as the Kidde Worry-Free combination smoke and CO alarm. The system eliminates the need for up to 20 9-volt batteries, which is not only easier on the user but also saves the environment from the battery waste.worry-free-combo-smoke-and-co-with-voice-angleKidde products are sold at national retailers such as Home Depot and Walmart.  Depending on the features, smoke and CO alarms cost around $17 to $55.