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Friday, October 17, 2014

Middle School Maekover: Part 6

Middle School Makeover Part 6: Social Media and Sex Talks

Now onto part two of Middle School Makeover where we delve into more specific situations! 

Let’s start out with number one: “Everyone has an Instagram but me.”

So your child wants to jump into the world of social media. This can make any parent understandably wary, but there is a positive side that Michelle points out, “[Instagram is a] creative communication tool that kids use to express their interests and concerns, and powerful parenting tool that lets us stay connected with kids when they begin to pull away during the tween years” (page 87). If shared and open communication is being made about the content on different social media sites it can give you clues about your changing child’s new hobbies and likes, leading to a deeper more involved relationship between the two of you.

Michelle gives a list of her Instagram/general social media on pages 88-91, which I highly recommend reading through. Make sure you don’t skip over the important safety rules to protect your family like not sharing personal information. It is vital that you go over online etiquette and discourage inappropriate and bullying behavior. 

Allowing for open discussions about social media can prevent your child from going behind your back and making an undercover account of which you aren’t aware.

Issue number two: “Goodbye, birds and bees—hello, porn.”

This period of life comes with awkward more advanced questions about sex that you may or may not be ready to talk about with your children. However, it is important to face the question head on and give an accurate response so he/she doesn’t turn to Google or some misinformed kid and end up with a skewed perception of sexuality. Most of the time, kids just want enough information to save face with their peers and not be the only one who doesn’t know. 

Michelle gives an example of a boy asking what sixty-nine is. You can give the brief answer of “a nickname for a sexual position between two adults” and then if he presses for more information give a quick definition of oral sex, but likely, he won’t press that far. It is also important to buy yourself time if you need to look up correct language to use or think about how to say it. Let your child know you’ll get back to them, and make sure you do. 

Most importantly don’t react in a negative way that will discourage them from coming to you with more questions. It says a lot about your child’s trust and comfort with you that they would ask you awkward questions.

For Discussion:

How have you handled social media with your child? Did you set an age limit for joining facebook or instagram? What social media related problems have you faced?

Has your child come to you with more "advanced" questions about sex? How have you handled it?

Shaving Time and Shaving Money In Your Busy Life #timemanagement #moneysavers #frugalmoms


How many of you wish you could have more time and money? All of us do don't we? Our lives seem so much busier these days, we run from sun up til sun down and never have enough hours in the day to get all those "things" done. Then we go to bed and worry about how we are going to afford to do the things in life we want. I know just how you feel, being a parent these days is a hard job.

Lets talk about some ways we can take some stress off our life, add more time with our friends, family and time for yourself.

Tips for Shaving Time (off those "things" and getting your time back)

  1. Number one thing- Learn to say NO!! (stop adding extra work onto your already busy list)
  2. Plan your trips- make a strategic list of all the things you need to do, make ONE trip out - don't go to the grocery store but once a week or if you can once a month, add picking up prescriptions or a dental/doctors visit to the same day, don't waste gas.
  3. If you are going to waste time --do it at the end of the day--Facebook, Pinterest etc. blogging and other distractions can be done After you have your important tasks finished, so if time gets away from you (or you are like me and fall asleep on the couch--confession time) you already have your important things finished.
  4. Create a routine if you do something over again- like laundry- make a schedule and post it on the family calendar/grand central area. Tuesday--Dark clothes, Wednesday- Whites, Thursday- towels Friday- sheets/bedding. Involve the entire family with that routine, even small children like a routine and can help.
  5. About that Family Calendar- Grand Central Station-- for communication- so everybody knows what to expect everyday, as a nurse, homeschooler and weekend worker, my poor family needs to know what we are doing, and eating every single day of the week. When is mom working and when is mom sleeping (since I work third shift and dare them to wake me up--I have
  6. Shave everybody's online and internet time, make a day of each week for "Family night" and do not allow phones or tablets to the party. You won't believe how much more time, laughs and projects you can get done when everybody chips in to play a board game or plan to just clean out the garage.
  7. Plan a menu for each week or if you can do it monthly, it does not have to be elaborate, but just a blueprint for your shopping and planning.
  8. Order online and let someone else bring your shopping to you, save time, money and gas. Amazon and many other box stores now have all the same stuff you might buy at the store. Have you tried The Dollar Shave Club ?? you can actually order razors, shaving cream and butt wipes online! And they are great! The prices are fantastic also.


Tips for Shaving Money (off those "things" you have to buy or think you have to buy)

  1. Another number ONE -- Learn to Say "NO" to things you just don't need (come on, you know you can do without a Starbucks Venti sized Carmelo MaccioChocolateWonderful with whip every day of the week, or what ever your spurge is each day)
  2. Make your coffee, tea or other daily morning beverage at home, you can find tons of recipes online, put it in a pretty thermal mug and off you go-- you save money and the time it took to run thru the drive thru.
  3. Pack your lunch along with your kids lunches. Practice portion control and you will shave off a few pounds in addition to shaving off $$.
  4. Create a price list book -- it can be as fancy as a notebook with colorful printed out sheets or just a spiral notebook from the Dollar Tree. Do some research at your local stores of the most commonly bought items your family uses and how much each store charges for that item. You can them compare prices each week with the sale papers, your coupons if you use them and your meal plans. It is worth the research, you will have a good idea of prices and if an item is really a good buy or not.
  5. Try couponing, you can save money using couponing if you can dedicate the time to make it work.
  6. Shop again online if you are going to gain the time and money savings, I love using Amazon for many things and have my most commonly used items on a monthly order now. Since I now have a teen male that is shaving along with my hubby, we use The Dollar Shaving Club monthly now for our razors, it saves me money and time, plus my daughters and myself use the razors too (shhh don't tell the boys) , we don't run out of razor blades now and I could not stand to pay nearly $25 for refills for their fancy razors. They love The Dollar Shaving Club blades!
  7. Create your own washing soap, cleaning products out of simple household ingredients. You can find the recipes on Pinterest or Google them . I use vinegar and baking soda to clean everything now, buy it in bulk at your local Sams or Cotsco and you have plenty.
  8. Reuse your water bottles, or buy water bottles for each member of the family in doubles or triple and wash them out. Mark their initials or a color code on them with a permanent marker. Refill and put in the refrigerator. Can you imagine how much money you are spending on buying water from the store??
  9. Use old socks instead of those expensive sweeper duster(Swiffer) thingys, just wash the sock when it gets to dirty. Those fuzzy socks work the best, but my husband's old socks work great too.
  10. Make your own baby wipes-- Baby shampoo and old cloth diapers or paper towels- you can find recipes online also. I use these baby wipe things to clean everything else too, with pets in our house we have a zoo and they are messy too. Cleaning counter tops, sinks, the bathtub, you name it they work for everything you can (my cats are running and hiding now)
  11. Make Pinterest your best friend for finding ways to save time and money, it is mine, gets my creative brain juices going. Set a timer --so you don't spend 3 hours on there :) learn how to search using the hashtag #, you will find what you want faster and not get distracted by all those cool recipes.

I hope some of these ideas help you, they have helped our family as we live on a very limited budget and I have had to learn out of necessity to live without and say NO more often. Your family grows up so fast, so every little nugget of time you can spend with those kids is priceless.

The opinions posted here are my own, I received no monetary awards for this post. Please read our full disclosure policy for more information about affiliates.




Friday, October 10, 2014

#MrsFieldsMoments Slow Down And Enjoy A Cookie With Someone You Love! #USO #interbakefoods #cookies

Share your story Here and download your coupon 

 Mrs. Fields Famous Brands ("Mrs. Fields") and Interbake Foods LLC ("Interbake Foods," the company responsible for the manufacture and sale of Mrs. Fields branded pre-packaged cookies sold at retailers throughout North America) today kicked off "Mrs. Fields Moments," a national campaign inspiring busy cookie lovers to slow down and enjoy a cookie moment with loved ones.
At a time when obligations leave precious little time for the ones that matter most, Mrs. Fields is encouraging a nationwide movement to dedicate Sunday night to cookie moments with family and friends. Mrs. Fields wants every cookie lover to embrace and share their #mrsfieldsmoments – from milk-and-cookies to bedtime treats – and has provided fun and useful tools for doing so at
Mrs. Fields is a Proud Supporter of the United Service Organizations, Inc. (USO), and "Mrs. Fields Moments" builds on the Organization's "Every Moment Counts" campaign, which helps all families – military and otherwise – make the most of every moment together.

"When you buy Mrs. Fields cookies, you're not just buying a cookie: You're helping create moments that matter for troops enduring long deployments," said Kevin McDonough, President of Interbake Foods. "By buying a box of Mrs. Fields cookies, you help give a cookie moment for you and for them. It's a touch of home to those who need it most."
Visit for "Snacktivity" ideas, Conversation Starters, more information about the Mrs. Fields–USO partnership, or to find a grocery store with Mrs. Fields Cookies (look for the USO banner on the box!).

About Mrs. Fields Famous BrandsThe Company is a well-established franchiser in the premium snack food industry, featuring Mrs. Fields® and TCBY® as its core brands. Through its franchisees' retail stores; it is one of the largest retailers of freshly baked, on-premises specialty cookies and brownies in the world and the largest retailer of soft-serve frozen yogurt with live active cultures. Its franchise systems operate through a network of more than 950 franchised and licensed locations throughout the United States and in 23 foreign countries. In addition, it operates an internet and catalog gifting business, a branded retail business and has entered into licensing arrangements that leverage awareness of its core brands among its retail customer base. The Company is currently relocating their headquarters from Salt Lake City, Utah to Broomfield, Colorado.
About the USOThe USO lifts the spirits of America's troops and their families millions of times each year at hundreds of places worldwide. We provide a touch of home through centers at airports and military bases in the U.S. and abroad, top quality entertainment and innovative programs and services. We also provide critical support to those who need us most, including forward-deployed troops, military families, wounded warriors, troops in transition and families of the fallen. The USO is a private, non-profit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and services are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff.

About Interbake FoodsHeadquartered in Richmond, VA Interbake Foods LLC is a baked goods manufacturer with over 110 years of business experience. Interbake Foods is the North American cookie and cracker Division of Weston Foods.  This includes Interbake Foods in the USA and Colonial Cookies Limited in Canada.  Weston Foods' mission is to be recognized by its customers as providing the best bakery solutions in North America and Interbake is privileged to serve the marketplace with our award-winning products and services.  Interbake Foods consists of three distinct business segments: Retail Private Brands, Contract Manufacturing and Girl Scout cookies through our ABC Bakers Division. 

We would like to encourage you to spend a little extra time this Sunday with your family, here is a list of great "Snacktivities" to enjoy with the kids, from mix and watch movie a family costume contest, these ideas are so much fun. Turn off that TV and put down those devices for a little quality time.  Enter to win the trip of a lifetime for your family in the #MrsFieldsMoments contest HERE , just upload a fun photo of your cookie moment and you will be entered to win a trip to Washington DC. 
Share this with your fellow bloggers and friends! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Middle School Makeover Part 5: It’s not your problem

Our last big general advice chapter focuses on handling problems with your teen. Let’s dive right in:

“One of the biggest, most important, and hardest paradigm shifts that comes with parenting a middle school is that you should no longer solve their problems for them” (page 67).

This can be difficult for some parents because it means your child is growing up and becoming more independent. It can be helpful to see this as the remarkable thing that it is. You get the opportunity to teach them to solve problems rather than just tell them how to.

Michelle offers us some problem solving DON’Ts:
     -Don’t solve issues for them
     -Don’t skip empathizing and rush to solution
     -Don’t suggest a solution that would be right for you and not them
     -Don’t blow it off or make it seem unimportant if it matters to them.

She also gives us some tips on how to teach problem solving:
     -Introduce idea before problem occurs
     -Promise to stay calm
     -Promise he/she doesn’t have to take action
     -Get buy-in (ask them to continue to come to you with problems)
**you can also refer to the very helpful flow chart supplied on page 81 for more structure

Remember: even if they don’t choose the best option, their problem solving skills will be strengthened!

Thoughts for Discussion:

How have you tried problem solving with your teen in the past? Has it been successful?

Have you ever struggled to coach your child how to problem solve?

Next week we will begin going through part two of the book and dissecting more specific situations you may come across with your middle schooler. Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Do You Give A Hoot?

Do you give a hoot?

Creating a inviting play place for children with special needs.

by Lauren Rinehart- TMN content blogger

If you’re the mother of a child with special needs, there’s undoubtedly been a time where you felt uncomfortable, hurt, or indignant at the looks your child got while in a public area.  This is something that owner and CEO of Hoot Studios, Anna Brown, has seen time and again and knows how difficult it can make normal play and healthy interaction for children with special needs.

As a home-based behavioral therapist for autistic children, Anna observed that many of the children she worked with engaged with noticeable behaviors that tended to draw unwanted stares and negative attention during community outings.  Becoming more and more frustrated over the unwelcome feeling she got in these situations and the complete lack of indoor play places tailored to children with special needs, she decided to create one herself. 

Anna, and her husband Chris, who is the Creative Director at Hoot Studio, envision a warm and non-judgmental space where parents can bring their child to play, no matter their ability level.  In her own words, Anna says their hope is that, “through play at Hoot Studio we can bring families closer together, nurture friendships, and build a stronger community.” 

Hoot Studio will be based in Columbus, OH, with the first location still being decided.  This multi-sensory activity center will be divided into several different play areas for children with special needs, their family, and friends: 

•          A large gym will hold a variety of therapeutic equipment such as swings, a climbing wall, foam pit, soft surface, and bikes, among other things. 
•          Rooms dedicated to art and music will be used to host classes and therapy sessions.
•          A calming dark room will offer a welcome escape for over-stimulated children, with fiber optic lighting, soothing sounds, and bubble tubes.

On your first visit to the studio, you can expect to receive a warm greeting from a friendly face at the front desk.  The staff will get you checked in and give you a brief orientation on the equipment available and proper uses.  After your questions are answered and you feel comfortable, the fun part begins!  You get to watch your child be a kid and play!  No judgment from strangers.  No disapproving stares.  No negative vibes.   Hoot Studio is a place for your child to be 100% themselves.

Hoot Studio is a membership based establishment with different membership plan options based on the amount of time you spend in the gym each month.  Memberships start at $35 a month for 5 hours of play time and go up to $95 a month for unlimited access to the Studio.

A quick Google search will reveal that there are very few places like Hoot Studio around the country and certainly none in Ohio.  Hoot Studio will fill a much needed role in the community by providing a fun, safe, and warm place for children with special needs to play in a way that is natural to them.  Initially, there will be one location, but Anna and Chris would love the opportunity to bring more locations to make Hoot Studio a convenient destination anywhere in the Central Ohio community. 

And who (hoo?) knows, with a little help from you, maybe Hoot Studio will make it to your community as well.  To get their first location up and running, Anna and Chris need your help!  They are holding a crowd-funding campaign through Indiegogo to raise funds for their initial space and equipment.  And no amount is too small!  Even a few dollars can make a difference.  

Check them out on Facebook and on the web for more info and updates on their progress.

Do you give a hoot? 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Middle School Makeover: Part 4

Middle School Makeover Part 4: Talking with Your Middleschooler, or Not

In this chapter we tackle communicating with your child, which to say the least, can be challenging sometimes. “Turns out, adolescents are terrible at reading facial expressions. They often perceive you to be angry when you aren’t. Do yourself a favor and keep a neutral facial expression when talking to your middle schooler” (page 52). Michelle refers to this as “Botox Brow” which will prevent your teen from misinterpreting your furrowed eyebrow as anger or frustration with them. By practicing saying what you are feeling instead of expressing it with your face, you open the lines for clear communication. 

Maybe the most important piece of advice in this section is rather simple, about reacting to unexpected news from your child: “When you don’t know what to say, be quiet” (page 57). Take a deep breath and buy yourself some time before jumping to a reaction that can make your teen less likely to open up to you in the future. 

This is only helpful, however, once your child is communicating with you. If your middleschooler isn’t opening up to you, Michelle offers some helpful tips on page 58. I’ve made a quick reference list here:

            -create a village of friends for them to turn to aside from parents
            -ask them for advice
            -ask to talk later instead of springing conversation on them
            -text, or use their preferred form of communicating, keep it casual
            -offer some incentive
            -include their friends, they may be more likely to open up with them around
            -use bedtime as a talking opportunity

It is important to understand that as your child grows up it is perfectly natural for them to tell you less about their personal life—not a reflection on you or your parenting. Try not to be too hard on yourself about it.

Thoughts for discussion:
Have you had trouble getting your middle schooler to open up to you? What made it difficult? What helped?

What advice could you offer a parent who is struggling to communicate with their teen?

Do you think using “Botox Brow” would work on your child? Or would have encouraged you to speak more openly with your mom when you were a teen?

As always we love hearing from you. See you next week! Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Building a Better Student Series: Rich and Famous by Dom Testa

Rich and Famous

By Dom Testa

For whatever reason we’re entertained by surveys, and when the subject matter is kids we’re entertained even more. (Kids and puppies always make for guaranteed interest, right?)

We’re suckers for the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Maybe we want to see if kids are interested in our own career choice, or maybe we just want to be reassured that the next generation shares our values.

For years kids responded exactly the way we wanted them to: They always said firefighter, nurse, astronaut, doctor, etc.

Those days are quickly evaporating.

Sure, in a survey done earlier this year police officer, firefighter, and doctor all scored in the top ten. But they were far below the top two responses - the same two that have dominated these surveys for the last five years or so.

Today’s kids once again chose “rich,” followed by “famous.” Most probably hope for a combination of both.

These results cause quite the wringing of hands, and I must admit that I originally fretted, too. But now that I’ve digested everything, I’m not as bothered.

See, the path to these outcomes wasn’t discussed. If the kids had all proclaimed that they wanted their own reality TV show, then I’d be depressed. But there are many ways to become rich and/or famous.

Early designers of the artificial heart did pretty well for themselves. Elon Musk, the force behind Tesla’s electric cars, the SpaceX program, and SolarCity, one of America’s largest solar energy providers, is worth a couple of billion dollars without appearing once on a Kardashian show. And we all rely on the gadgets that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak brought to the marketplace.

We cringe at the notion of “rich” and “famous” because we assume that the young people have no interest in working for their rewards. That’s unfair; I’ve seen the hours and hours that some kids invest in their passions, and it’s inspiring.

(Disclaimer: 6% of kids did answer the survey by stating “I don’t want to work,” but I’ll bet that more than 6% of us adults have muttered that at 6 o’clock on Monday morning.)

As parents, we can use this survey as a teaching moment, talking with our kids about what it actually takes to achieve their dreams of riches. Being a YouTube sensation might capture their fancy - the ‘famous’ element - but we all know that education, attitude, and work ethic are the most reliable vehicles for actually delivering success.

Our job is to help students connect the dots between learning and living large. School is step one, followed by rolled-up sleeves.

There’s nothing wrong with a young person’s desire to be wealthy. Let’s make sure we show them a path where they can achieve it while providing value and service to others. Once they learn that - along with a heavy dose of giving back to the community - we won’t worry about how famous they get. And they probably won’t care either.

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty-four years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit student-development foundation. His new book, Smart Is Cool, is now available. More info at