Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Three Things to Consider before Giving Car Keys to Your Teen

Obtaining a driver’s license is a rite of passage to which many American teens look forward. As parents of a house full of teens, we knew that we’d be called upon at sooner, rather than later, to do our duty in helping to add to the number of teen drivers on the roads.

In the spring of 2014, our then-16-year-old son was excited about getting his driver’s license. However, there were a few things that needed to be done before he could be let loose and trusted to operate a vehicle without supervision.

In our state, before a teen can attempt the road test to obtain a license to operate a motor vehicle, he or she must:

  • Pass a written road rules and signage test drivers-ed-cartoon2
  • Take 24 hours of classroom training
  • Spend 8 hours behind the wheel with a driving school instructor
  • Spend 50 hours behind the wheel with a parent or guardian (10 of those hours must be nighttime driving)

Our teen successfully completed all of the requirements, and subsequently, took care of scheduling a road test. When test day arrived, we all drove to the testing site in two vehicles: the one that we bought our teen a few months prior, and one of our other vehicles. Having our son take the test using his own car helped to alleviate potential test stress related to operating an unfamiliar vehicle.

When he drove away with the motor vehicle bureau’s test employee, I prayed – fervently! I prayed for his safety, I prayed for him to remember what he’d learned about driving, and I prayed for him to pass the exam. Then we all waited. Those were some of the longest…minutes…ever!

Finally, when our teen made it back to the lot, we all rejoiced outside of the testing site when he gave us a thumb up and flashed a huge smile. He did it!

Passed Driving-Test

We giddily discussed his testing experience as we waited in line for him to get his next driver’s license – the one that didn’t have “temporary” on it. Besides my newly-licensed teen, no one was more ecstatic than I was about his newfound freedom. I was no longer his taxi service. Yay, me!

After the new license was obtained, we watched our teen step into his car and drive home. We drove behind him, I prayed even more, but then he went off course and took the highway home. That wasn’t part of the plan, but he made it home OK.

Teen-Drivers Picture 1

We had done all that was required to get our teen road ready. We registered him for driving school, helped with driving lessons, bought a car for which we made him pay a portion of the purchase amount, insured our teen driver and his vehicle (at his expense), and discussed driving expectations. However, once the honeymoon period was over, we were faced with the fact that those things are just pieces of the driving puzzle.

Don’t be taken off guard like we were. Before the new-driver honeymoon period sets in for your family, consider implementing the following tips.

Tip #1 – Set Driving Expectations

Discuss your family’s expectations of your new driver, put them in writing, and have all involved parties sign a driving contract. Here are a few dos and don’ts that you may want to discuss and add to your contract:

  • Do adhere to driving curfews (Our state has reasonable driving curfews for teens, so we didn’t need to rewrite the book
  • Do limit the number of passengers
  • Do practice safe driving habits, always
  • Don’t drive aggressively
  • Don’t use a phone while driving (If a phone call must be made, pull over to a safe place and put the car in “park” first.)


Of course, these common-sense rules apply most families, but your family’s rules should be based on your teen’s required boundaries. You may find that you’ll have to make a “No driving out of town” rule for your teen, or a “Don’t drive it ‘til the wheels fall off” rule, which leads me to the next tip.

Tip #2 – Require Completion of a Basic Vehicle Maintenance Course

There are times during which your teen will be driving and you won’t be immediately available to help him or her out of a bind. Therefore, unless you don’t mind having your teen sitting on the side of the road, you should insist that he or she knows how to:

  • Add fuel to the tank
  • Change a tire
  • Inflate a tire
  • Light emergency flares
  • Measure how much oil is in the vehicle
  • Read and interpret dashboard warning lights
  • Use jumper cables

If you’re not knowledgeable enough to teach these things yourself, or if your teen prefers to obtain information from anyone other than parents (we’ve all experienced this), find a local vehicle maintenance class, make use of online tutorials (teens love web-based tools), or recruit a friend or family member to help teach these valuable lessons.

We also encouraged our teen to read his vehicle’s operating manual, but we’ll make this a requirement for our next teen driver. NOTE: Sometimes, parents (present company included) learn the hard way that we need to use the word “must” instead of “should”.

Tip #3 – Keep up with Scheduled Maintenance and Necessary Repairs

Our teen simply hops into his car, adds fuel when needed, and drives all over town with no concern about brake health, battery level, oil condition, tire pressure, or even how to contact our roadside assistance provider.

In frustration, after a flat tire, a missed oil change, and a dead battery (twice), we finally had to give our teen a deadline to take care of his car’s concerns. Our expectations now state that if maintenance and repairs aren’t adequately addressed by given deadlines, the keys will become parental property.

We believe that it’s better for our teen driver to learn how to properly care for his vehicle while he’s still at home, instead of having to suffer preventable breakdowns while away at college.




What are your teen driving tips? Please share in the comments section!

This blog was inspired by personal events. For more teen driving tips, visit

Teen’s First (Real) Summer Job


The picture above sums up the past few weeks in my household. Trying to get my sixteen-year-old to understand the importance of getting a summer job, at times, seemed like a full-time job for both my husband and me.

I could hardly believe my ears when my teen yelled, “You don’t need the money! I don’t need the money! So why do I need a job?! It’s pointless to make me look for one!

Where, oh, where had the drive to earn his own money and not rely solely on allowance gone? Surely, this kid’s memory of summers’ past hadn’t been erased. We used to pay him for cutting the grass and he was ever so proud of his accomplishments and earning potential. Especially, after a neighbor hired him to cut their grass for the entire summer.

Despite his resistance, my husband and I stood our ground, lectured frequently, and even issued an ultimatum that our teen didn’t take seriously. Given that we say what we mean and follow through with most it, it’s a wonder that we had so much opposition.

While the battles were intense and emotions sometimes got the best of us, all is well that ends well. You see, after submitting just one application, placing a follow-up call to the employer (at my insistence), and refusing to apply for any other other job on the face of the planet, my teen landed an interview. Just one day later, he heard the four words that we’d all prayed he would hear:






The scowl that I thought had been permanently etched onto my handsome boy’s face had vanished. Despite our worst fears, he hadn’t blown the interview on purpose. He presented himself in the best light possible and impressed the interviewer who, in turn, put in a good word for him with the head manager who ultimately made the decision to extend a job offer.

Sure, it’s not a humanitarian role or a graduate school appointment, but we’re still proud. At sixteen, our teen has gotten his foot into someone’s door and he will soon realize that the sky is the limit.

Praise God for opening a door that my teen didn’t want to pass through and praise Him for breathing optimism into the life of a kid who didn’t think he wanted to enter the workforce as have many of his peers.

The big day at work is Monday and we will continue to pray that this experience will be positive and enriching in purpose.

Love to all!


Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

Doing Your Child’s Homework

Children are busier than ever. Early morning hockey and swimming practices, after-school sports activities, religious obligations, and maybe even after-school employment or volunteer responsibilities compete for their time. Schedules can become overwhelmed and not allow enough time to do everything, so some families find that they skimp and relax the rules for homework.

However, some parents take it much farther than just allowing their children to skip homework. They step in and do it themselves.

In a national survey, 778 parents were asked if they do their children’s homework for them. Here are the surprising results.

  • 87 percent of parents in the south admitted to doing their child’s homework.
  • 43 percent of parents nationwide admitted to doing their kid’s homework.
  • 47 percent of dads nationwide did their children’s homework.
  • 39 percent of moms nationwide did their children’s homework.
  • 38 percent of the homework done by parents is math.
  • 28 percent of the homework done by parents is English.

The study found that some parents did the homework themselves to relieve their children’s schedules, but others completed the work for an even more dubious reason: higher grades.

*dragging soapbox to the front of the audience*

I have never, and will never complete my children’s work for them. I repeat, haven’t ever done it and will never do it. If they’re
overscheduled, it is my job as a parent to step in and relieve some of the extracurricular stressors. Doing the work of my children helps them in no way long-term. However, it does teach them to say “Yes” to every opportunity, except school. In my humble opinion, it also teaches them that they don’t actually have to work hard, someone will always be there to pick up their slack, and that it is OK to cheat. Yes, even if you believe you have a good reason for completing your child’s homework, it’s still cheating.

*putting soapbox back into corner*

Please don’t misunderstand me. Helping children with homework is not the same as doing the work for them. I help, in fact, I teach (two of mine are homeschooled), but I do not give them quiz and test answers or complete homework for the two who are in brick-and-mortar schools. Parental guidance and involvement are absolutely required for most children, but by definition, guidance does not mean doing the work on someone else’s behalf.

Some homework “helper” excuses:

“She’s busy with [insert activity here] and knows the subject matter. I’m just helping them, since they’re short on time.”

“We were at a PTO activity and got home late. It wasn’t their fault that I had to drag them along.”

“Homework isn’t that important. What’s important is the classroom instruction.”

“They’re unable to focus for long periods of time.”

“They get too much homework!”

“The assignments aren’t engaging.”

“They get good grades and already know the content.”

If you find that you’re completing your child’s homework, or have considered it, try these 10 tips from blogger Julie Rains:

1. Start now with the it’s-your-homework-not-mine stance when (hopefully) the stakes are low, rather than in high school when grades start to matter. Remind yourself that having your child take responsibility is much more important than getting the answers right every time.

2. If the work seems overwhelming and your child is anxious, show your child how to calm down and tackle each assignment. This is a good opportunity to teach time and stress management.

3. Find and use resources. For example, when my son was having difficulty understanding double-digit subtraction and parents were instructed not to use the term “take-away” as I was taught at his age, I went to the math book’s website. There I found an animation that explained the proper methods and terminology; my son and I watched the subtraction segment over and over until he (and I!) finally understood the process.

4. Let your child ask a friend for help. Kids tend to relate to each other better than adults, especially when they have been sitting in the same classroom or learning the same material. My child’s middle school encouraged this behavior and set up teacher-supervised, kid-to-kid tutoring sessions. Not all friends will be able to help but those who truly understand the material will probably be better helpers than parents.

5. Encourage your child to ask the teacher for help. Some teachers have time set aside to give extra help to students, either right before or after school, or during times dedicated to independent work.

6. Figure out where your child needs extra guidance and give assistance for certain subjects, but not all classes. Younger kids may not have learned what approaches work for them, so they may need some help in figuring out how to tackle a new subject. If they can develop independence in at least one area of homework, they are more likely to learn how to do homework in other areas.

7. Teach project management. One of the biggest areas of homework frustration at my house, especially in the elementary school years, was the project. In some classes, teachers actually broke down projects into manageable, doable, understandable steps. This approach taught project management (there were steps and timelines with due dates!) for which I am most grateful. But if the assignment isn’t that clear, you may need to help with project planning.

8. Let your child make mistakes. Even if you see (or think you see) an error, don’t correct the homework. If your child consistently hands in perfect homework, the teacher may make the reasonable assumption that your child doesn’t need help and that the student (and possibly the entire class) can move forward with new concepts; if the class does move forward (and your child doesn’t grasp earlier concepts), you’ll likely get stuck with perpetual homework helping.

9. Show your child how to find and evaluate resources needed for assignments. For example, when my kids needed to write on current events in Europe, I pointed them to BBC rather than the international section of our local newspaper.

10. Get the answer wrong. I stumbled upon this approach when my oldest son was taking Geometry in third grade, and it’s perhaps my best advice. I have some sort of visual-spatial deficit so my assistance with this particular subject was useless. Fortunately, he then turned to his teacher, who taught him strategies that helped him to overcome any geometry-related deficiencies that he may have inherited.

If you’re considering picking up a pencil or logging onto the computer to complete your child’s assignment, ask yourself if you’re teaching them a respectable virtue then proceed as your conscience allows.



Going to School – PBS

How to Motivate Your Kids to Do Homework – News for Parents

Stress-free Thanksgiving Vacation and Dinner…Almost

My first attempt at going solo cooking a Thanksgiving feast was nothing less than a total disaster in every sense of the word. Who knew that frozen turkeys required days to thaw? Who knew that there was a bag of innards that needed to be removed before cooking? Who knew that my parents didn’t wake up to begin cooking a lavish feast soon after midnight just because it seemed like a fun thing to do?

Well, apparently, the whole world knew except me. Draw your own conclusions as to how my first Thanksgiving attempt really went down; it’s too nightmarish for me to recount.

Fast forward almost 15 years to Thanksgiving 2010. Two words: Boston Market. Yes, they have become my festive meal savior. The new tradition in my household is to log onto BM’s site, order a holiday meal complete with two pies, and choose a pick-up date and time. That’s exactly what I’ve done each Thanksgiving and Christmas since last year. So this year, pairing a vacation with the promise of having a stress-free, Thanksgiving feast seemed like the right thing to do. Those plans hit a snag and were in serious jeopardy just days before the big road trip.

You see, for the entire week leading up to Thanksgiving, I’d been terribly sick and was praying for a sign as to whether we should cancel our vacation plans, or stay at home while I nursed myself back to good health. The answer to that prayer? I awakened on Wednesday morning feeling much better than I had in a week.

I spent the morning taking care of a few chores, we left home just 10 minutes past our self-imposed deadline, and after running a few essential errands (including a stop at Boston Market), finally hit the road a mere 1.5 hours behind schedule. Success! This was going to be a wonderful Thanksgiving vacation.

Although the drive out of town was harrowing at times, we arrived at our destination unscathed, but you wouldn’t have known it if you’d seen the horror on my face as we drove up to the hotel. How could it be? I’d booked rooms at a townhouse-style hotel without knowing it! What’s the big deal? Well, the two rooms were in different buildings…a no-no as we were traveling with four children. Not to mention, breakfast was in a separate building and the only pool on location was an outdoor pool – a no-go in 50-60-degree weather.

Sigh! So I walked inside, inquired about a penthouse suite, learned that they were all booked, and ultimately handed over my form of payment – for two rooms – in separate buildings. Not one to be defeated, I headed out to the van to call the hotel company’s reservations center and found an alternative hotel that suited our needs. Just as I was giving the agent a credit card number, the call was disconnected.

Had I misinterpreted “the sign” about whether or not we should stay home? If so, how many more roadblocks would be in our way over the next few days?

Still not discouraged, I called the reservations center again, gave the agent very specific information about where we wanted to stay and skipped ahead to the good part where I heard the magic words, “Your reservation number is…” Yes! “Kids, buckle your seat belts! We have a new destination!” :-)

There we were, back on the road again, but this time, we needed only cover about 15 miles to reach our destination. As we sighted the new hotel, the word “Hallelujah” came to mind.

As we checked in, we found that although the new hotel had interior room entrances (not separate townhouse-style buildings), no adjoining rooms were to be had. Not a big deal, because the desk clerk said she’d give us rooms next to each other. Well, it turned out that the rooms weren’t next to each other as the room numbers would imply, they were across the hall and diagonal. Good enough!

After settling into our rooms, we headed out to pick up a few last-minute items from the grocery store and set out to find dinner as well. Panera was nearby according to our navigation system, so we headed over for dinner! The parking was metered, but payment wasn’t required this time of night. Another good sign.

My husband and I strolled hand-in-hand down the walkway toward a much-anticipated bowl of broccoli and cheese soup. It sure seemed dark inside, but Panera does tend to have tinted windows. We tugged at the door handles, but the doors were locked. Now what? It was getting late on Thanksgiving Eve and our dining options were dwindling by the minute.

Back to the car we went – no merry stroll this time. After using the GPS to search for other restaurants, we managed to find food. Finally, went back to the hotel to eat, my husband and kids swam, and I enjoyed the hot tub. A great night was had by all! Things were going our way.

As I looked through our “fully-stocked” hotel room kitchen, I realized that there wasn’t a pot big enough for something that I needed to make the next day. So we spent a portion of Thanksgiving morning hunting for a large pot in which to boil the pasta that was needed for the homemade mac & cheese. Sorry, but the mac & cheese and cornbread stuffing are dishes that I don’t think Boston Market does well. After just two stores, we found a suitable pot.

Let’s get this minimal cooking underway! Gosh! What was that horrid smell? The pasta! No! The pot was cheap, therefore, the pasta burned after just a few minutes – and it was still undercooked. After that part of this slowly-unfolding disaster was taken care of, I had to deal with the fact that neither or our rooms had ovens.

The hotel company decided that the extended-stay rooms no longer needed ovens, so all of the newly-built and newly-renovated locations that had granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and flat-screen televisions have…no…ovens.

What happened to “all the comforts of home?” Utensils…check! Full-sized refrigerator and freezer…check! Cloth dinner napkins…check! Dishes…check! Dishwasher…check! Mixing bowls, pitchers, pots and pans…check, check, check!

Oven…Houston, we have a problem. My home, as do most others, surely has an oven! But no ovens were located in our “fully-stocked” hotel room kitchens. Luckily, the front desk clerk offered to let us use the ovens in the main kitchen that the hotel’s chef uses.

Final crisis averted.

We enjoyed our almost-stress-free feast and relaxed before heading back to the pool and hot tub.

Our Black Friday plans didn’t involve going to stores that would be the scenes of pushing and shoving, so we slept in late (7 AM), enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and headed out at 9:30 AM to pick up a new blazer for my husband and camera lens for me. We conquered Black Friday sales in under an hour and ended up having the rest of the day to do whatever our hearts desired.

Speaking of which, we haven’t decided what to do for the rest of the day. The kids are enjoying a low-tech game of Monopoly, my husband has awakened from a nap, and I’m bidding farewell for now to you.

I hope that a Happy Thanksgiving was had by all!

Feeling truly blessed,


Family Christmas Gifts

The cold blast that parts of the country are experiencing and the advancing months on the calendar have me thinking about the upcoming Christmas season. Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. Obviously, the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, is the true reason for the season, and I feel beyond blessed that He was sent here to save us. The gift of Jesus is immeasurable. Along those lines, but obviously not of the same magnitude, the joy of showering my children with gifts is immeasurable to me.

While the joy that gifting my children brings is immeasurable, the amount of money that my husband and I spend to make their dreams of dolls, video games, other assorted electronics come true is very measurable. In fact, the amount that we spend is set in stone. Each child gets the same budgeted amount and must live within their means. What a novel idea!

In a household where everyone has what they need and most of what they want, I wonder how necessary it is to continue filling our empty spaces with material things just because there’s a budget for it. My intent is not to be a scrooge, but to turn our focus from solely tangible items to memory-making gifts with some, or all, of our gift money. Perhaps we can begin a new family tradition that would demonstrate an immeasurable love for one another and for others.

A few ideas that I’ve thought of so far are:

  • Adopting a family and sharing our blessings with them
  • Taking a family vacation for the holidays – the gift of time
  • Purchasing season tickets for amusement parks or sporting events
  • Buying several $5 or $10 gift cards and distributing them randomly to strangers based on the Spirit’s guidance

As I sit here typing this blog, a commercial for spending Christmas in Branson, Missouri is playing on the television. Is that a sign? LOL!

Our household is a democracy of sorts (parents can veto just about anything though), so any ideas must be presented at a family meeting where a vote would ultimately be held. It’s a bit late to hold that process for this year as each kid has already mentally spent their gift budgets, so any decisions would not take effect until Christmas 2012.

Have you adopted a family gift tradition in your home? If so, what is (or has been) on the gift list? Any comments would be greatly appreciated!


Let’s Eat!


Guys, come eat!” Those are the words that my family eagerly awaits to hear each evening at dinnertime. The patter of nearly a dozen feet can be heard on every floor of the house as everyone makes their way to get cleaned up for our last meal of the day.

One of my teens is usually in, or near, the house with two friends. Routinely, I invite them to stay for dinner. Inevitably, both teen boys decline. I began to wonder if my cooking abilities could have been the reason for the repeated rejection. So, to my surprise, when I offered to have them join us for take-out, the invitation was once again declined.

How could this be?! Teen boys…love…food!

Question: What could be the reason teen boys would turn down an offer to eat – even if they’d already had dinner at home?

Answer: Family habits.

Let me explain. I later learned that neither boy’s family enjoys mealtime together. Everyone eats at different times and not always at a table. One friend admitted to my son that he eats dinner in front of the television every night – alone. Why? The table in their dining room has a glass top and has been deemed too fragile for use. It’s just there to fill space and no one can use it.

That story made me sad. I can’t imagine not regularly having dinner with my family. Sure, we have nights when one or two of us are absent from the dinner table due to a class or some kind of practice, but we still dine together nearly every evening.

I love hearing about what’s on everyone’s mind. I love seeing their faces. I love the silliness that’s expressed in every prank, comment, or joke. I love taking turns praying over our meals. Simply put, I love the time that we spend together.

In a household with one tween and three teens, we are well aware that our days together as a nuclear family are numbered. Soon, our oldest will be leaving for college. Two years later, two more will also leave for higher education. And two years after that, we will become empty-nesters.

Time is not on our side, so for us, dinnertime is a sacred gathering where stories are shared, questions about life are asked and answered, manners are taught, jokes are played, and silly faces are made. Families bond are tightened and memories are made at the dinner table.

Dinnertime togetherness is one of the most blessed gifts we can give to our children. I pray that the values we’re passing along to them will be passed down by them to our grandchildren and that the tradition of family togetherness doesn’t become lost in conflicting schedules or the simple awkwardness of needing to be alone.

What’s dinnertime like in your house? Is the dinner table a place for laughter and sharing? Do conflicting work or activity schedules keep everyone from dining together? Does a museum-like status of your furniture trump use of your family’s dining area?

Share with us!


Back into the Swing

Ah, the lazy days of summer… The warm glow of the sun peaking through my window serves as nature’s alarm clock. No electronic screeching. Just the sound of chirping birds enjoying an early-morning feast. The sound of Grieg’s Morning sets the mood.

Scratch that! Fast forward to today!

The tranquility of lazy days has given in to craziness. School is back in session. Most days are filled with an extracurricular activity of some kind that is supposed to make my children better people, better musicians, better dancers, or whatever their current ambitions drive them to do.

Scouts, band, dance, Bible study and other activities all occupy time on our busy calendars. Some of these activities have a sneaky way of throwing monkey wrenches into the best-made plans. Those like mandatory, afterschool peformances that always seem to happen on Wednesday evening. In my house, Wednesdays are for worship service, so whenever the children’s schools decide they want to meet me on this evening, they’re putting me in a bind. On other days of the week when I find that my ferrying service has been double-booked (eek!), I have to use the on-call chauffer – my husband. Thank goodness for backups!

With so much going on this time of year, organization is a necessity, so calendars are posted on walls, online, and on our telephones. One of these days, I may just find that I’ll need to write appointments on our foreheads or some other body parts.

Dinners are cooked and eaten on the fly! With all of my might, I try to stick to the monthly meal plan that’s posted in our kitchen, but life happens, and so does fast food.

Would I change any of part of this hectic pace in exchange for an opportunity to sit around the house – or better yet, do chores? No way! The lessons in which our children partake and the groups to which they belong are molding them to be well-rounded people. Most weekends in autumn are laid back in our house, so I try to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel every week. This former Type A mom is trying her best to leave weekend days open for simply bumming around the house or spending time with the family taking in some kind of event or scenery, or just seated around the table playing a board game. Of course, Sundays are always set aside for morning worship and Bible study. The rest of the day is treated like a staycation.

Life is back into full swing, but downtime has been scheduled as a priority in this palace that I call home.

How hectic is your life? Share any tips that would help other readers find peace in the crazy, raging storm.


Eight Tips for Back-to-School Walking and Biking Safety

It’s that time of year. Children all over the country are enjoying the crispness of new school supplies and clothing, excited about seeing friends again, and filling the streets with laughter, giggles, and stories of summer’s adventures.

In order to keep them safe along their journey to and from school, these eight simple steps can help to keep the children in your neighborhood safe.


  • Abide by speed limits along neighborhood streets and in the immediate vicinity of school buildings. If in doubt, neighborhoods typically have a limit of 25 MPH and streets within several hundred feet of schools usually have a limit of 20 MPH.
  • Ensure the safety of your children by arranging for them to walk with friends, at a minimum, and with adults, when available. Safety in numbers!
  • Obey traffic signs and signals . A “Stop” sign is not a suggestion, it is a command. Come to a full stop, then look both ways and allow pedestrians to safely cross intersections.
  • Teach your children about stranger danger. The rule, “Don’t talk to strangers”, still holds value and can help to save a child’s life.


  • Cross the street at marked intersections and stop. Look left, right, then left again to ensure that it is safe before crossing. Never cross the street between cars. It is difficult for drivers to see you, not to mention, it’s impossible for them to know whether or not you will attempt to dart into the street. It takes time for drivers to bring a vehicle to a full stop.
  • Don’t talk to strangers. If someone offers you a gift or ride, or asks you to help them find something, yell, “No!”, and run away immediately.
  • Wear a bicycle helmet. Many head injuries sustained in biking accidents are preventable. Remember, it’s more important to be safe than it is to look cool.
  • Use bicycle reflectors or reflective tape on your clothing if you begin your journey to school before the sun fully rises. It will help drivers spot you in the cover of darkness.

For tips on starting a neighborhood walking or biking group, or to join an existing group, visit Walk to School Day 2011 is October 5!

Have fun! Get fit! Be Safe!


The Evergrowing School Supply List

My, oh my, how they have grown! Back in the day, my parents needed only supply my siblings and me with paper, one notebook with dividers, a pencil box, writing utensils, and an optional backpack. Nothing more was required or expected. Our schools provided glue, rulers, scissors (left- and right-handed), textbooks, and all the stickers a kid hoped to earn.

Fast-forward 30 years: my children’s school supply lists have sucked the excitement out the start of each school year. Back-to-school shopping had become an Olympic sport of sorts. Dash here for that supply! Fly to that planet for another! Outspend the previous year’s list, but try to find the best deals in town! It was exhausting and there were many rules. Only send specific brands of crayons, disinfectant wipes, and pencils. Only send certain requested folder colors (even if the demand was for six named colors, one of which no store seemed to carry). Don’t buy small boxes of facial tissues. Don’t label items. Do send everything on the first day or expect to get a note from the teacher.

One hectic summer’s end, a few days before school was due to start, I dumped the contents of all of my shopping bags onto the floor, gathered the supply lists for each of my four children, and started sorting my “scores’ into piles. Piles quickly became mountains and soon, I had to ask for help. I suddenly got a glimpse of what it must be like to work in a distribution center.

After an hour or more of sorting supplies with the assistance of my little helpers, inserting items into newly-labeled and overstuffed backpacks, and putting everything else that wouldn’t fit into plastic shopping bags, this huge task was completed. Mission accomplished! I deserved a pat on the back and an “A” for effort.

The elation was short-lived. The first week of the new school year, each of my four children came home with new supply lists from their “special” classes: art, foreign language, music, and physical education. Really?! More?! Back to the grind (a.k.a. school shopping) for me.

I soon learned that every item I’d doggedly tracked down, purchased, sorted, and labeled was tossed into a “community bin” for disbursement as teachers saw fit. With that knowledge, I decided that enough was enough. No more would I spend hundreds of dollars on school supplies. No more would I run to just about every store in town trying to find 2″ binders in our local school district’s colors, per demand. No more would I send a half-dozen rolls of paper towels on the first day of school. No more dozen red pens! No more dry erase markers! No more! Enough was enough! The next year, I sent what I wanted to send in the quantities that I decided and when I received notes from the school, I kindly explained that my children would receive their supplies per my distribution plan. Problem solved!

How does your school supply list compare. Check out these lists for the 2011 school year. Find out which one requests “one used clean sock”!

Happy New School Year!


Etiquette for Children and Teens, Part 2

Part two of a two-part series on etiquette for teens and children.

The second part of this series focuses on appropriate telephone etiquette, theater behavior, and table manners.

While telephone etiquette is always a matter of great importance, this topic would be rather lengthly if I included all scenarios. Therefore, this article will focus on appropriate behavior when calling someone. If I had a dime for every time a child called my home and asked, “Who is this?”, I’d be able to fill the tank of my van – even at today’s prices. Whenever I am the victim of such bad manners, I have no problem taking the opportunity to teach the child something they may or may not have learned at home. When calling a phone number that is shared by two or more people, the polite thing to do is to introduce oneself and ask for the person with whom you wish to speak. For example, “Hello, this is Sarah. Is Cindy available? If so, may I speak with her?” This approach works best for someone with whom the child is not familiar. However, if the child knows the person who answered the telephone, an appropriate greeting would be, “Hello, Mr. Smith. This is Jackie. How are you?”, or some other pleasant chit-chat. When the time is right, it is OK to then ask to speak with the primary person with whom you wish to speak. Don’t forget to offer “please” and “thank you” for the time that the other person took to respond to your request.

The next topic of etiquette can result in flared tempers, because it requires having to approach someone publicly. Movie theaters should be treated like libraries (quiet) and not living rooms, phone booths, raceways, or trash cans. Before your next trip to the theater, go over these simple rules with your child or teen:

  • Do not kick the back of the chair in front of you.
  • Silence your cell phones, so as to not disturb others. If your phone vibrates and you must take a call, take it outside of the theater.
  • Do not treat the aisles like runways by running up and down them, because you are bored.
  • Place your trash into receptacles generally located at various places near the exit.

Following these few simple rules will allow your fellow movie-goers to enjoy the film that they paid good money to see. It’ll also likely keep you from being tossed from the theater.

Finally, teach your children that proper table manners are important. Believe me, this is a constant battle in my home, so I know it’s not an easy one to win. This advice will focus on dining etiquette when eating outside of the home, but there’s no place like home to practice. As a former restaurant hostess, I’ve seen it all. Parents who let their children empty condiment containers onto tables, treat restaurant workers disrespectfully, throw trash on the floor around and under the table, have loud conversations, and disrupt the peace of other diners by tugging on their hair or clothing from the other side of the booth were constant concerns. Helping your children exhibit good dining behavior is quite simple. When you see any of the above behaviors (or gasp) or something worse, address the immediately. Don’t wait until the manager or an angry guest has to approach you.

Think about how you’d want to be treated when having a conversation, watching a movie, or dining outside of the home. If you see your child behaving unpleasantly, do something. Don’t sit back pretending not to see an issue and force others to do your parenting for you.

Have any stories of unbelievable bad behavior? What did you do to address it?

Let’s chat!


Other Resources

Rude Busters

Family Education: Manners for Kids (and Parents)