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Archive for November, 2013

Corn Chowder on a Cool Night

From Simplyrecipes.com: 

Corn Chowder Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 strip of bacon or 1 teaspoon of bacon fat (substitute 1/2 Tbsp of butter for vegetarian option)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 large carrot, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 celery stalk, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 2 cups), cobs reserved (see steps for taking corn off the cob)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 1/2 cups milk, whole or low fat
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, or Russet, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

METHOD

1 In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon strip (skip this step for vegetarian option, just add more butter) and fry until the bacon renders its fat, but doesn’t begin to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes.

2 Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer (on our stove we had to use the “warm” setting) to prevent scalding the milk on the bottom of the pan.

3 Discard the cobs, the bacon strip, and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes, red pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt, fresh ground pepper to taste, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost fork tender.

4 Raise the heat, add the corn kernels and the thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

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Katie Couric hired as YahooNews anchor 

Pre-game for Thanksgiving / The Mom Vivant

From ABC News.com: 

Nov 22, 2013 12:50pm

Credit: Getty Images

By  ABC News’ David Zinczenko:

If you think about the latest financial advice you’ve received, it probably all sounds something like this: Stop buying lattes! Cancel cable! Live by candlelight and sleep in your coat! Seriously? When it comes to improving your financial situation, sure, you can spend less. But wouldn’t it be great if you could just earn more?

In a way, your belly is no different than your wallet. Practicing restraint is no fun, especially with the holidays upon us. The average American downs 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day — about 2,500 more calories than he or she does other days of the year. Wouldn’t it be great if you could bank enough caloric goodwill to simply erase those 4,500 calories from your waist, and linger at the table as long as you like?

Here are five painless ways to “pre-game” Thanksgiving. Try them for a week, and you can safely and easily bank 640+ calories per day in the seven days surrounding Turkey Day to make for a splurge that doesn’t inspire a purge.

Pull out your stretchy pants, kids!

1. Get Moving for 2.5 Minutes. The best way to earn more calories for turkey dinner is to increase your heart rate, and interval training has proved particularly beneficial. Research presented at the Integrative Biology of Exercise conference showed that people who did five 30-second bursts of max-effort cycling, followed by four minutes of rest, burned 200 extra calories that day. That’s just 2.5 minutes of work for a metabolism boost that will last 24 to 48 hours. Beginners may have difficulty maintaining the needed intensity for all 5 30-second bouts, so feel free to mix things up with your favorite cardio machine or hit the track. Consult your physician or trainer to make sure any workout plan is right for you.  Calories earned for Thanksgiving Blowout: 200

2. Drink two cups. Research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society showed that people who drank two cups of water before a meal wound up eating 75 to 90 calories less than they would otherwise. This may simply be because water is filling, but the added H20 may well be displacing calories otherwise spent on calorie-laden beverages. Calories earned for Thanksgiving Blowout: 225-270

3.  Eat before you eat. A series of studies at Penn State showed that eating an appetizer of soup, salad or even an apple can reduce total calorie intake over the course of the meal by up to 20 percent. But make sure to choose wisely: Pick low-calorie, broth-based soups, and stick to mixed greens with a simple light dressing of oil and lemon or vinegar. This concept of  Volumetrics, an eating plan focused on getting more mileage from eating low-density foods that leave you full, is based on a series of studies led by Dr. Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State and author of “The Volumetrics Eating Plan.” Calories earned for Thanksgiving Blowout: 134-187

4. Use the dessert plates. Guys, we have a plate problem. Over the course of the past 50 years, the average plate has grown from 9 inches in the 1960s to today’s 12. So what? Research printed in the journal Appetite found that, on average, people clean their plates 91 percent of the time, no matter how much food is on the plate and even if they are no longer hungry. Data from the study suggests that switching from a 12-inch plate to a 9-inch plate may help reduce caloric intake by up to 48 percent. I’ll take it! Calories earned for Thanksgiving Blowout: 275-350

5. Go to sleep 30 minutes earlier. Sleep deprivation has a profound effect on the way our brains respond to junk food. Even though we burn more calories while awake, researchers from the University of Colorado found that dieters consumed 6 percent more calories when they got too little sleep. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s 120 calories. Not only that, lack of sleep actually alters fat cells’ biology, aging them over time. Sleep requirements vary per person, but studies suggest a basal need of seven to eight hours of sleep for most adults. Calories earned for Thanksgiving Blowout: 120.

David Zinczenko is ABC News Nutrition and Wellness Editor and the author of “Eat It to Beat It!” To discover more hidden sources of sugar, and how to lose weight by skipping other ingredients in our everyday food, check out “Eat It to Beat It!” here.

 
SHOWS: 
 

63% of Americans favor A Pathway to Citizenship

 

By JULIA PRESTON

 
A consistent and solid majority of Americans — 63 percent — crossing party and religious lines favors legislation to create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the United States illegally, while only 14 percent support legal residency with no option for citizenship, accordinga report published Monday by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute.

Those surveyed expressed strong support for citizenship for 11.7 million immigrants in the country without documents just as Congress appears to be shifting away from that approach, with Republican leaders in the House working on measures that would offer legal status without a direct path to naturalization.

Sixty percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats favor a pathway to citizenship, according to the report. Majorities of Protestants, Catholics and Americans with no religious affiliation also support that plan.

The institute found that there is slightly less support for limiting the immigrants to legal residency than there is for a tough enforcement strategy of identifying and deporting them, a policy favored by 18 percent.

The report is based on results from four national surveys, one in Ohio and focus groups in Arizona, Florida and Ohio. It compares results from a national poll in March with a similar bilingual telephone survey that was conducted nationwide in English and Spanish from Nov. 6 to 10 among 1,005 adults, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. The nonprofit research institute conducts surveys on public policy issues and religious values.

Support for citizenship has not changed significantly since March, the institute found.

The group drilled down into that issue, creating subgroups for the November survey who were asked questions with differing levels of detail about the requirements immigrants should have to meet to become citizens. When there was no mention of requirements, 59 percent supported an option for citizenship. When the question specified that immigrants would have to pay back taxes, learn English and pass background checks, support increased to 71 percent.

The requirements were “most important for Republicans,” the report said. When the question did not mention requirements, only about four in 10 Republicans supported citizenship. When the requirements were described in more detail, Republican support increased to 62 percent.

In June, the Senate passed a broad bipartisan bill with a 13-year pathway to citizenship that includes the hurdles mentioned in the poll: paying back taxes and passing English tests and criminal background checks. House leaders have said they will not take up that measure, but will address immigration issues in smaller bills. Several House Republican leaders have said they are drafting measures that would provide “lawful status” for many unauthorized immigrants but no “special path” to citizenship.

According to the report, nearly seven in 10 Americans believe the 13-year wait for citizenship under the Senate bill is too long, while 24 percent said it was just right.

The institute found that Americans living in Ohio — the home state of Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican — are significantly more likely than those in Arizona and Florida to say “things have gotten worse” in the country over all and to hold negative views of immigrants. Nevertheless, the surveys found similarly broad agreement in all three states on a pathway to citizenship, with 60 percent of Ohio residents favoring that approach.

 

It is a mandate but ….

Court Confronts Religious Rights of Corporations

 
By ADAM LIPTAK

 
A Hobby Lobby store in Little Rock, Ark. The company’s Christian owners want to limit insurance for contraception.Danny Johnston/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts stores, closes on Sundays, costing its owners millions but honoring their Christian faith.

The stores play religious music. Employees get free spiritual counseling. But they do not get free insurance coverage for some contraceptives, even though President Obama’s health care law requires it.

Hobby Lobby, a corporation, says that forcing it to provide the coverage would violate its religious beliefs. A federal appeals court agreed, and theSupreme Court is set to decide on Tuesday whether it will hear the Obama administration’s appeal from that decision or appeals from one of several related cases.

Legal experts say the court is all but certain to step in, setting the stage for another major decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act two years after a closely divided court sustained its requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.

“The stakes here, symbolically and politically, are very high,” said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, citing the clash between religious teachings and the administration’s embattled health care law.

In weighing those interests, the Supreme Court would have to assess the limits of a principle recognized in its 2010 decision in Citizens United, which said corporations have free speech rights under the First Amendment. The question now is whether corporations also have the right to religious liberty.

In ruling for Hobby Lobby, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit said it had applied “the First Amendment logic of Citizens United.”

“We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich wrote for the majority.

A dissenting member of the court, Chief Judge Mary Beck Briscoe, wrote that the majority’s approach was “nothing short of a radical revision of First Amendment law.”

But Judge Harris L Hartz, in a concurrence, said the case was in some ways easier than Citizens United. “A corporation exercising religious beliefs is not corrupting anyone,” he wrote.

Among Hobby Lobby’s lawyers is Paul D. Clement, who led the 2012 Supreme Court challenge to the health care law. The new case opened another front in a larger war on the law, which, as Hobby Lobby put it in its Supreme Court brief, “imposes massive obligations on individuals and corporations alike in the process of attempting to fundamentally reorder the nation’s health care system.”

Mr. Clement’s main adversary in the 2012 case, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., told the justices that the 10th Circuit’s “unprecedented ruling” in this case would allow “for-profit corporations to deny employees the health coverage to which they are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the individuals who own a controlling stake in the corporations.”

The Supreme Court is generally receptive to appeals from the solicitor general, especially when a lower court has effectively held a federal law unconstitutional. The justices are also apt to step in when, as here, lower courts are divided on an important legal question. Even Hobby Lobby, which won in the appeals court, agrees that the justices should hear the administration’s appeal.

 

Photo

The lawyer for Hobby Lobby, Paul D. Clement, challenged the health law in 2012.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

 

“This is a perfect storm,” said Richard Garnett, a law professor at Notre Dame, adding that it is also a worrisome one. “Debates about campaign finance in Citizens United and abortion and Obamacare,” he said, “could distort the court’s analysis of religious freedom.”

Hobby Lobby was founded in 1970 in Oklahoma City by David Green, and it now has more than 500 stores and 13,000 employees of all sorts of faiths. Mr. Green and his family own Hobby Lobby through a privately held corporation.

The Greens told the justices in their brief that some drugs and devices that can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb are tantamount to abortion and that providing insurance coverage for those forms of contraception would make the company and its owners complicit in the practice. They said they had no objection to 16 other forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several kinds of birth control pills and sterilization surgery.

 

But Hobby Lobby’s failure to offer comprehensive coverage could, it said, subject it to federal fines of $1.3 million a day. Dropping insurance coverage for its employees, it added, would be disruptive and unfair and lead to fines of $26 million a year.

147

 

RECENT COMMENTS

  1. Alexander Flax 23 minutes ago
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Mr. Verrilli countered that requiring insurance plans to include comprehensive coverage for contraception was justified by the government’s interest in “the promotion of public health” and in ensuring that “women have equal access to health care services.” Doctors rather than employers should decide which form of contraception is best, he added.

The administration has excluded many religious organizations from the law’s requirements; it has grandfathered some insurance plans that had not previously offered the coverage; and, under the health care law, small employers need not offer health coverage at all. In June, a federal judge in Tampa, Fla., estimated that a third of Americans are not subject to the requirement that their employers provide coverage for contraceptives.

But the administration drew a line at larger, for-profit, secular corporations.

“Congress has granted religious organizations alone the latitude to discriminate on the basis of religion in setting the terms and conditions of employment, including compensation,” the Justice Department told the 10th Circuit appeals court, in Denver.

“No court has ever found a for-profit company to be a religious organization for purposes of federal law,” the brief went on. “To the contrary, courts have emphasized that an entity’s for-profit status is an objective criterion that allows courts to distinguish a secular company from a potentially religious organization, without conducting an intrusive inquiry into the entity’s religious beliefs.”

The appeals court disagreed, ruling that Hobby Lobby is a “person” for purposes of the relevant federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Religious liberty, Judge Tymkovich wrote, cannot turn on whether money changes hands. “Would an incorporated kosher butcher really have no claim to challenge a regulation mandating non-kosher butchering practices?” he asked.

Other federal appeals courts considering challenges to the health care law’s so-called contraception mandate have ruled that the 1993 law does not apply to corporations.

After finding that Hobby Lobby was entitled to the law’s protections, the 10th Circuit went on to say that the company’s sincere religious beliefs had been compromised without good reason, noting the limited number of contraception methods at issue and the many employers exempt from the law’s requirements.

147COMMENTS

Professor Laycock said that only one thing was certain about the issues presented in the case, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, No. 13-354.

Explaining Obamcare to Kids

From Healthcare.gov

• Most people who currently have health insurance can keep it.

• Young adults can stay on their parents plan until 26.

• If you don’t have coverage, you can use the new Health Insurance Marketplace to buy a private insurance plan.

• Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace goes from October 1st, 2013 to March 31st, 2014.

• If you don’t obtain coverage or an exemption by January 1st, 2014 you must pay a per-month fee on your federal income tax return for every month you are without health insurance.

• In 2014 the fee is $95 per adult ($47.50 per child) or 1% of income, whichever is higher. The family max is $285.

• The cost of your marketplace health insurance works on a sliding scale. Those who make less, pay less.

• American making less than $45,960 as individual or $94,200 as a family of 4 may be eligible for premium tax credits through the marketplace. Tax credits subsidize insurance premium costs.

• If you are able to get qualified health insurance through your employer you won’t be able to receive marketplace tax credits unless the employer doesn’t cover at least 60% of your premium cost, doesn’t provide quality insurance or provides insurance that exceeds 9.5% of your families income.

• Up to 82% of nearly 16 million uninsured young U.S. adults will qualify for federal subsidies or Medicaid through the marketplace.

• You don’t have to use the marketplace to buy insurance, but you should fill out an application to see if you qualify for assistance before shopping for insurance outside of the marketplace.

• The ACA does away with pre-existing conditions and gender discrimination so these factors will no longer affect the cost of your insurance on or off the marketplace.

• You can’t be denied health coverage based on health status.

• You can’t be dropped from coverage when you are sick.

• Health Insurers can’t place lifetime limits on your coverage. As of 2014 annual limits are eliminated as well.

• All new plans sold on or off the marketplace must include a wide range of new benefits including wellness visits and preventative tests and treatments at no additional out-of-pocket cost.

• All full-time workers who work for companies with over 50 employees must be offered job based health coverage by 2015. Employers who do not offer coverage will pay a per-employee fee.

• Small businesses with under 50 full-time employees can use a part of the marketplace called the SHOP (small business health options program) to purchase group health plans for their employees.

• Small businesses with under 25 full-time employees can use the marketplace to purchase subsidized insurance for their employees.

• Medicare isn’t part of the marketplace. If you have Medicare keep it!

• Medicaid and CHIP are expanded to provide insurance to up to 16 million of our nations poorest.

• When you apply for the marketplace you’ll find out if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage from Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). You’ll also be made aware if you qualify for Medicare.

 

Pork Ragout

 

From Dinneralovestory.com: 

Spoiler alert: If you come over to our house for dinner any time between now and the first day of spring, there’s about a 90% chance we’re going to cook this for you. The pork shoulder ragu you see above is our new obsession. It’s the ideal dish for Sunday dinner, or even better, an informal winter dinner party: It’s warm, it’s hearty, it smells insanely good, it goes well with red wine, and my God, is it tasty. But none of those are the main reason we’re so obsessed with this right now — no, the best part of this one is that, once the guests arrive, your work is already done. All the prep — what little of it there was — is four hours ago, a distant memory. Which is increasingly the way we like it. It seems like the older we get, and the more cooking we do, the simpler we want our entertaining to be. For sure, there was a day when we would have spent the afternoon, Martha-style, frantically scooping out little cucumber cups with a mellon-baller and filling them with creme fraiche and topping them with smoked salmon and dainty sprigs of dill, when we would have been stirring (and stirring) risotto and mandolining three different kinds of potatoes and being distracted, instead of hanging out with our guests. But then kids happened, and our tastes changed, and those days are gone. These days, I love nothing more than a one-pot meal — I am a braising machine! — and this really basic pork ragu over pasta is where our heads are at right now. It’s an instant party: you just take it out of the oven, shred the pork, boil some pasta, and you’re done. If the kids don’t like pork, they can eat the pasta; if they do like pork, then I love them, and there’s still plenty for everybody. Though I should add that, as good as this is on a cold winter night, it’s even better for lunch the next day. If it weren’t for a little thing known as coronary heart disease, I would eat this every day for the rest of my life. –Andy

Pork Shoulder Ragu
Because this is pork, it goes well with a salad that has a little sweetness to help cut the porkiness. (That’s Jenny’s word.) Greens with pear, blue cheese, and pine nuts? Greens with pistachios and pomegranates? Either would be good with our standard vinaigrette.

Also, this serves about six normal-size people. If you are cooking for more than that, cook another pound of pasta, up the meat to 3 pounds, and add few more tomatoes, and another 1/2 cup of red wine. Like the other braised pork recipe we ran recently, it’s nearly impossible to get wrong, so don’t get too hung up on the exactness of measurements. But if you use 3 pounds of pork and keep the liquid at a third of the way up the meat, that will be enough to feed four parents and four kids. With leftovers.

2 to 2 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small pat butter
1 large can whole tomatoes, with juice
1 cup red wine
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 sprigs fresh oregano
Small handful of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon hot sauce, for smokiness (I used Trader Joe’s Hot Chili Sauce)
Pappardelle
Freshly grated Parmesean

Preheat oven to 325°F. Liberally salt and pepper the pork roast. Add olive oil and butter to large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high until butter melts, but does not burn. Add pork roast to pan and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes in all.

Add the onion and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, fennel, and hot sauce and bring to a boil. Cover, and put in oven. Braise for 3-4 hours, turning every hour or so. Add more liquid (water, wine, or tomato sauce) if needed. (The liquid should come to about 1/3 of the way up the pork.) Meat is done when it’s practically falling apart. Put on a cutting board and pull it apart with two forks, then add back to pot and stir. Cook 1 to 2 pounds pasta according to package directions. When it’s is ready, put into individual bowls and top with ragu and lots of Parm.

 

 

Why the Health Care Law is so Complicated / Gerald F. Seib

Why New Health Law Is So Complicated

http://on.wsj.com/1byWoH

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act is in trouble, functionally and politically, and the simplest critique of the new health law is that it’s simply proving too complicated. Indeed, its complexity—the need for multiple pieces to work in harmony from the outset—is the single best explanation of why its introduction has been so problematic.

What’s less recognized is why the new law is so complex in the first place: It represents what may be the biggest attempt ever to weave together big-government impulses with free-market forces.
 
That is what sets Obamacare apart from other big efforts at social engineering. The effort to improve health care would be much simpler—though no less controversial—if it instead took the form of the dream system that either liberals or conservatives would love to create.
 
For liberals, that ideal would be a single-payer system in which the government simply bypasses the health-insurance system and provides coverage for everyone. For conservatives, the dream system would place health care firmly in the hands of the private sector, with insurers and doctors handling decisions and the government providing aid directly to those without the resources to buy their own coverage.
 
In that sense, it is an even grander experiment than commonly recognized. Whether it ultimately works or is seen as a hopeless Rube Goldberg machine may well determine whether such an effort, on such a scale, will be attempted again.
 
To see the challenge, consider how the Affordable Care Act incorporates elements of both worlds. It is built on the back of the current, private employer-based insurance system.
 
Two of its fundamental components—health-insurance exchanges and the individual mandate—actually began as Republican ideas, conceived as ways to better put market forces and the conservative notion of personal responsibility to work in the health sphere.
 
Exchanges are simply health-insurance marketplaces that, while organized by law, are meant to foster competition within the private sector by bringing together multiple insurance companies and their policies to jockey for consumers’ business.
 
Early exchanges were created by two Republican governors, Jon Huntsman in Utah and Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.
 
And the idea of an individual mandate—that every individual be required to acquire health insurance to improve the efficiency and fairness of the broader system—was advanced in a 1989 publication by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. It argued that requiring every household to have coverage would ease the burden on businesses, and prevent any household from placing an undue obligation on society to provide it with health care.
 
If exchanges and the individual mandate represent two pillars of Obamacare, the others come out of the playbooks of Democrats and liberals.
 
The dream of insuring millions more Americans is possible only with significant expansion of a classic government benefits program, Medicaid. It provides government health coverage directly to the poor and many of the elderly—and is the very route by which the largest number of Americans are taking advantage of the new law. Other coverage expansion comes through direct government subsidies to the working poor.
 
In addition, the dream that health care be made not merely available but robust for all is to be achieved through a basic liberal impulse, which is to simply impose new standards that all health policies have to meet.
 
This regulatory impulse, of course, is what pulled President Barack Obama into a nasty trap over the past two weeks, and it presents a classic illustration of why it is so hard to reconcile market forces and regulatory impulses at the same time.
 
The idea, oft articulated by Mr. Obama, that “if you like your insurance you can keep it” under the Affordable Care Act neatly captures the free-market impulse behind the plan: No, the government isn’t supplanting your private insurance. And in theory it isn’t. But the law’s imposition of standards for acceptable policies—and the unavoidable reality that some people will lose policies that don’t meet them—sends government mandates running smack into free-market impulses.
 
Is it possible to weave together big-government ideas and free-market forces? In smaller ways, it has been done. States already intervene in both the health and auto-insurance markets, though in more limited ways.
 
The explosion of 401(k) retirement programs is, in a sense, also an example of government power and market forces working in tandem: Government sets the rules and provides the incentives, but private investment firms handle the money, the risks and the rewards.
 
Can merging the two impulses be done successfully on this scale? That’s the big question hanging over Obamacare, and the answer will determine its fate.
 
Write to Gerald F. Seib at jerry.seib@wsj.com

Debbie Baldwin / Ladue News

 

So something funny happened last week. It’s not earth-shattering or anything, but it did kind of creep up on me. Birthdays don’t exactly appear out of nowhere. On some level, we know when our kids’ birthdays are coming up. Punch’s big day shouldn’t have been a shock. We’ve been celebrating it for years, after all. I remember the first one vividly as it was the night of the infamous Bush-Gore presidential election, dimpled chads and all. Nevertheless, when he burst through the bedroom door that morning and announced, I’m a teenager! It hit me like a safe falling from a roof: I have three teenagers.

This is my favorite time of year for many reasons, but high on the list is that this is the one-month window when my poor family-planning leaps to the fore: Cranky (15), Whiny (14) and Punch (13) are one birthday year apart. And now that I have three teenagers, the three Ds (drinking, dating, driving) are all on the horizon–but not yet. Well, to the extent I’m still in denial about it, not yet. As I forge ahead with this parenting thing, sadly there’s no other direction in which to go, I am reminded every day that all I know is that I know nothing. Huh, Socrates must have been the father of something other than Western philosophy. For the record, here is what I do know about teenagers. If you ever find yourself surrounded by a herd, this may help.

Teenagers are starving

I vaguely remember worrying that my kids were so finicky that they were going to end up with rickets or scurvy. I used to fly airplane-spoonfuls of mushy, indeterminate vegetables into their mouths, only to be met with a sealed-lip rejection. I called the pediatrician for supplement suggestions. (His new home number is unlisted.) Now, I come into the kitchen, and it’s as if a swarm of locusts has passed through while I slept. Entire boxes of cereal have been devoured, empty milk gallons scattered. I baked cookies the other day, and they never made it to the cooling rack, much less the plate. If I didn’t have the dirty bowl, I wouldn’t have known they existed.

Teenagers are unimpressed

Very little impresses a teenager, and I have learned the hard way that attempts to do it backfire, as a special treat suddenly becomes the norm. Backstage passes for one concert make sitting in the audience at the next one ‘gross.’ After a visit to a box at a sporting event, perfectly good seats illicit a look akin to something one would make after smelling bad cheese. And I try to lend perspective, to give them a peek at all worlds, but with limited success. For now, I guess I can just be glad they haven’t had a chance to meet the Jolie-Pitt kids…yet.

Teenagers are devious

Do yourself a favor and don’t pick up that gauntlet. You might think you’re sneaky with your tracking app, but something tells me if my kids put as much effort into their studies as they did into making sure their whereabouts and communiqués were not monitored, their grades would be vastly improved. Unless you are employed redirecting satellites for NORAD, you can’t out-techno a teen.

Teenagers are insecure

I don’t know how much we can do to help. It’s easy to say you won’t judge until Cranky shows up one day with a piercing or a tat. Teens are bullies and victims and outcasts and leaders and athletes and geeks and talkers and thinkers. I guess what I wasn’t really prepared to acknowledge is that teenagers are people: decision-making young adults. I’m not really sure what to do with that, but I better figure it out before they do it for me.

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Wisconsin Gov. forced to expand Medicaid because of “abysmal” rollout of Obamacare