Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Trouble with Texting Teenagers

I love everything about technology except how it's passing me by. As a proud member of Generation X, I tend to embrace all things pop culture including social media. Yet, interestingly enough, I am also intensely loyal. So while I was the first to sign up for a smart phone I’m still toting around a six year old Blackberry.

In other words, I’m super proficient in outdated technology.

Even as a child I would have wanted a cell phone. Especially when my parents forgot to pick me up after Girl Scout Troop 989’s cookie rally. But back then parents
didn’t give kids cell phones, they gave them quarters. Sadly for me I couldn’t
locate a payphone and so I sat abandoned, forlorn, fingering my worthless
twenty-five cents.

This will never happen to my kids because they have their own phones. Quarters, of
course, would be a much cheaper albeit unrealistic option.

Funny thing about cell phones; teenagers don't use them to actually talk to people.
Communicate? Yes. But talk? Not so much. My kid, and every other kid with a
device, spends more time staring down at their screen than they do in actual,
real life conversation.

Think I’m exaggerating? My last cell phone bill said my kids sent over 10,000 texts
in one billing cycle. I’m starting to believe I could pick my kids out of a line up based on the tops of their heads alone.

I don’t know about you but this is not why I gave my kids a phone.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Every Parent is an Educator, Throwback Thursday

Time for another #ThrowbackThursday here at To Write a Better Story.
This article is one I wrote in 2001 for Monmouth's Daily Review Atlas.

In 2001 my family looked like this: 

My kids were 5, 2 and 1. The twins weren't even born yet!

This article reminds me how very important the early years are. So many foundations are laid in our kids during that time. I, like most new parents understand just how much is on their plate in those including, well - you know ... surviving,
so the thoughts below are not meant to add to the burden but instead offer  a reminder clothed in encouragement.
Hey! I survived those early years.
Therefore, anyone can!

Every Parent is an Educator

I've been in the early childhood education business for almost ten years and I am still regularly awed by the unmatchable importance the role parents play in the development of their children. 

There is an old argument of nature versus nurture or in other words, do children come smart or do we make them smart?

Well actually, both is true and parents of young children everywhere, myself included, need to be regularly reminded.

Increasing in popularity is homeschooling. In its everyday usage we understand that term to mean a classroom environment in the home for school age children. However, every child is a home schooled child, regardless of their age, and every parent is a teacher.

From the moment an infant enters this world it has begun the process of learning. One of the first thing he learns is how cold it is outside his mama's belly. So he cries. His tears usually result in a warm blanket, a snuggle with mom or dad and maybe even a chance to nurse.

From that very moment we have taught our children. They have learned, when I make this crying noise, people around me respond. They learn they have power to manipulate their environment. And thus parenting begins.

Our babies may not be learning their abc's and 123's (although many parents purchase flash cards as early as a child's first birthday in efforts to give their child an advantage) but they are learning something ... much, much more important.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Menu Monday

Now that we've dropped our first born off to college it is time to get the remaining Tribe organized for the upcoming busy season. To simplify I've created 7 weeks of menus. It goes like this:

Monday = Mexican
Tuesday = Pasta
Wednesday = Chicken
Thursday = My Choice
Friday = Pizza
Saturday = Soup & Sandwich
Sunday = Brunch & Cereal

At the risk of sounding insanely Type A, I admit knowing ahead of time, yes even waaaaay ahead of time, what's for dinner crosses one more thing off my daily To-Do list. Knowing what's for dinner, knowing what I need at the grocery store ... makes my life easier. And easier suits me well.

So this is what we're having this week for dinner:

  • Monday - Tacos (I fry up all my beef & save half for the next recipe i.e. Thursdays tator tot casserole)
  • Tuesday - Fettuccine Alfredo, Garlic Bread sticks and Steamed Broccoli
  • Wednesday - Italian Shredded Chicken Sandwiches & roasted red potatoes (save the extra chicken for chicken buritos or chicken salad!)
  • Thursday - Tator Tot casserole
  • Friday - Pizza made from bread dough
  • Saturday - Chicken Wraps (prepare frozen all white breast chicken strips add with lettuce, ranch, tomato and cheese)
  • Sunday - Hootinanny Pancakes (Everyone should make these just once. I bet you will make them again & again. Right Jen G? :))


I actually just got back from the grocery store and got everything needed for the above recipes and cereal, lunch meat, chips, etc for $160.00
That's $26ish a day
$4.60ish dollars per person per day!

Clearly we strive for budget friendly meals and the "real-er" the food the better. But it's gotta be quick! And it's gotta be easy! I hope you're inspired to cook for your family.
Bring them around your table.
Break bread together
but mostly enjoy it as much as you can. Because if you're lucky the time will come when your birds leave the nest. And in our case, my kid is already complaining about the food in the cafeteria at college!

(Like the idea of menus? Check out she has a Menu Plan Monday link up every week with TONS of ideas including vegetarian and glutton free goodies!)

p.s. thanks for visiting!
p.s.s. what's your favorite go-to family dinner? I'd love to know!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Menu Monday

Menu Monday!
It's Monday.
THE Monday before school starts.
Before practice starts.
Before soccer games start.
Before work starts.
Before hubs returns to school.

This is how we survived last week and in the upcoming weeks I've preplanned 7 weeks of menus.

Lots of work now so little work later.

That's how I survive!

Sunday Brunch - Quiche, Cinnamon Roll Waffles & Melon

Monday - Chipotle Bowl with Chips & Salsa

Tuesday - Ham Sandwich & Fries

Wednesday - Fried Rice with Tereyaki Chicken

Thursday - Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Friday - Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Cottage Cheese & Fruit

Saturday - Leftovers!

For more ideas follow me on Pinterest!

I love sharing recipes too, so feel free to leave me a link or suggestion in the comments below!

And as always ... thanks for visiting To Write a Better Story!

p.s. Like the idea of sharing menus? So does the orgjunkie Check out her awesome LinkUp 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Appreciate Teachers Early! They've Earned it!

Thanks to summer I haven't looked at my planner for months. I'm not gonna lie, it's been awesome but now suddenly it is back-to-school time and my brain is shifting to think about appointments, practice schedules and reestablishing bedtimes. Can you hear the grinding of the gears? 
My kids, and probably your kids too, are just now thinking about classrooms, homeroom and where to sit in the cafeteria. Important stuff, no doubt. 
But in order to make that first day awesome our educators have already put in some really long hours, invested their time and money and are preparing feverishly for your family.
Yes, there is a small army of men and women that you'll never notice preparing for your arrival. 
In case you are unaware, at the end of every school year, teachers pack up their classrooms. They box it all up and store it for the following fall. This keeps their materials in good condition and allows for their rooms to get a thorough cleaning. 
I moved twice in one year back in 1999 and I haven't moved since. Packing, labeling and inventor-ing is grueling work. That's why people use moving companies! Except teachers, they do it all themselves.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Child's First Teacher is You!

As the new school year is approaching I've been doing some cleaning and rearranging of my office and found 11 year old articles I wrote for The Review Atlas! I guess I've been dishing out parenting advice for over a decade!

I therefore dub Thursdays "Throwback Thursdays" and will re post some oldies and some goodies!

This one is dated September 7, 2001.

There are many seasons in life. There are the obvious calendar seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall, but there is also: summertime, Christmastime and back-to-school-time.

When the stores put out the school supply lists and the ads start running for sneakers and blue jeans, we know it, the kids know it ... it's inevitable. It is time for school.

So we do as all good parents do, we attempt to put the kids to bed earlier and vow to make a hot breakfast at least once a week. The school bell rings and off they go. It's time to learn.

The first day of school is monumental for all ages but especially even more so for the younger students; the kindergartners and preschoolers. Many a mother sheds a tear as she leaves her baby for the first time in the hands of a gentle, coaxing teacher. But that is not your child's first teacher.

No, that's not even your child's most important teacher.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How I'm on Top of my Parenting Game!

Our Jug, Libby!

Attention parents of teenagers I believe I have found an ingenious answer to some of our parenting woes; you must get a dog, specifically a barking dog. Allow me to explain. 

In last's week's article I shared that this summer has been a transitional time for my family. As my kids have gotten older I've had to come to grips with the fact that they are at an age where they shouldn't need my constant attention. They don't want a helicopter mom and I lack the stamina to hoover, so we've come to point in our relationship where, despite my gut instinct, the kids are spending an increasing amount of time out from under my thumb. 

So far, so good.  Thanks to Libby.

Libby is a little high strung. Part jack russell and part pug, she is on high alert constantly as we've totally hijacked her routine as of lately. With our erratic summer schedule she never gets a chance to relax as she is constantly monitoring the premises and the less she sleeps, the more hyper she becomes. She's like a furry, four legged toddler that way.

If anyone comes to the door, Libby barks. If the mailman drops the mail in the box, Libby barks. If a car drives in the alley Libby will run to the window to see if it friend or foe before deciding if she should bark. If Libby hears the keys in the side door, she will bark. I'm not exaggerating. Libby is a barker.

Initially I thought I would be unable to live with her incessant woofing. There wasn't enough migraine medicine in town that was going to help me survive this dog. Then I considered searching for a dog trainer who could help us curb the barking but then we got some inconsiderate neighbors who thought the entire block was their turf. That is until they encountered Libby.

And suddenly, I loved Libby.

I realized I could use Libby to my advantage. Other than the volume induced headaches (and the shedding, oy vey, the shedding!), I discovered Libby wasn't a burden as much as a strategic defense.

My kids, bless their teenage hearts, should they ever try to sneak out of the house would never make it back in without Libby announcing their arrival. Libby can keep unwelcomed visitors, solicitors, nosey neighbors and ruckus teenagers away. 

Heck, if I work this out fully I doubt I'll even have to stay up to monitor curfews! I could go to sleep and wait for Libby to bark and alert me to check the clock. I can feel my blood pressure dropping even as I write this!

I assure you our dog is not mean. She's the very reason the phrase "her bark is worse than her bite" was coined. Anyone who is brave enough to enter our home despite her barking, scrambling and sniffing, would find that as soon she goes through her big, bad, mad dog impersonation she rolls on her back and begs for a belly rub. 

Unless you are on a bike. She hates wheels. We almost lost her once to the poor unsuspecting boy who mistakenly rode his bike down our driveway. It took a lot of Captain Crunch cereal to get her back in the house after that chase. FYI, dogs love peanut butter flavored cereal.

Anyway, now that I'm learning to trust Libby's instinct, I feel like I'm on top of my parenting game. The perimeter is secure, the teenagers are too afraid to be sneaky and I'm resting easy. Now, if I just get the dog to do the dishes. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why! 

Stephanie is a parent educator for the Monmouth-Roseville school district and a mother to five children. This article appears as a part of her weekly Practical Parenting series for the Review Atlas, a GateHouse Media Company. She keeps Captain Crunch stocked in the pantry for both her children and pets. She can be reached at

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Get Off My Homemade Back!

I've spent a little bit of time in my life taking a few punches. Maybe you have too.

"Of course these are homemade." "You're house is allll-ways clean."
"You make your kids breakfast in the morning!?"

These are rarely said as a compliment.
There is a tone to them that communicates, "B!tch, why you gotta make the rest of us look bad?"

Listen to my words; I'm not trying to make anybody look bad.

Get off my homemade back!
I'm just trying to take care of my tribe here, ladies.
My homemade cookies have NOTHING to do with you.
I like to bake.
My family likes to eat.

I'm not so super sensitive to it now - I mean, I'm getting better about not letting those comments get to me but there was a day when I would dumb myself down so others wouldn't accuse me of being super-mom.

As if doing my best for my family was bad.
How messed up is that?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Secret to my Sanity

My first child was born when Dr. Richard Ferber's book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, had taken the world of parenting by storm. I enthusiastically adhered to his notion that children can and need their sleep. That's why, for eighteen years, I have been a strict proponent of bedtime for all five of my children.
This has been my most brilliant parenting move ever. In fact, I often contribute my children's good behavior to a solid night's sleep as well as their advance love for literacy. I tuck my kids in early every night with hugs, kisses, books and the warm glow of a bed lamp. It's downright angelic. 
All of that is true however I don't want to mislead you. I also support early bedtimes because I believe it to be my strongest defense against insanity. Caring for five kids all day, everyday is enough to push any middle-aged woman over the edge. The fact is I need a break, a big fat break everyday from my own children. 
I'm not ashamed to admit it. Make no mistake - they are the light in my world, my heritage, the joy of my life and twinkle in my eye. I love them. I totally do. I just also need a break from them. 

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