Category Archives: Need A Little Ellen In Your Life

What You Need to Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Your Teen

80,000 kids and #teens are treated for #IBD each year: What You Need to Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Your Teen. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms | #parenting #teens #health #wellness

Trust me when I say this is information every parent should know; it’s why I agreed to partner with Med-IQ to spread the word. But first, let’s talk about what exactly inflammatory bowel disease is because I am a stickler for defining terms. It must be all of that time I spent in medical school.

It’s important to understand that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is NOT the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The “I” stands for very different things, but I often hear people using “inflammatory” and “irritable” interchangeably.

IBD (remember, “I” = inflammatory) is actually a collection of diseases, the two most common of which are Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).

  • CD is inflammation that can affect any part of the gut, from the mouth all the way down to the anus. It can progress from mainly superficial inflammation in the lining of the intestine to a deeper inflammation that burrows into nearby organs or through to the skin. There can also be scarring that narrows the intestines and causes blockages that can lead to hospitalizations and surgeries.
  • UC is inflammation that is confined to the large intestine (colon). Complications can include toxic megacolon (an emergency condition where the colon dilates), and in the long-term, colon cancer.

IBS (remember, “I” = irritable) does not involve inflammation, and having IBS does not make you more likely to develop other colon conditions like UC, CD, or colon cancer. Although IBS can produce cramping, abdominal pain, and diarrhea like IBD, it does not have the IBD symptoms of bloody stool, lack of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue.

So now that we know exactly what we are talking about, let’s discuss why it should be on your radar as the parent of a teen.

  • Nearly 25% of people with IBD are diagnosed during childhood or the teen years.
  • In 2015, 1.6 million people were treated for IBD, and 80,000 of those were under the age of 18.

Taking these numbers into consideration, it is important to also understand that adolescents have a way of adjusting to a “new normal” when they don’t realize what they are experiencing is unusual. For instance, they may have diarrhea so routinely (and associate it starting with something they ate so completely) that it’s just a way of life for them that they never think to mention. If you hear frequent complaints like “my stomach hurts,” it’s time to dig a little deeper.

80,000 kids and #teens are treated for #IBD each year: What You Need to Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Your Teen. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms | #parenting #teens #health #wellness

Ask about the following symptoms, and remember these can fluctuate over time:

  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to move bowels
  • Abdominal cramping and pain
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation (feeling like you have to “go” even after you “go”)
  • Constipation

There are also non-specific symptoms associated with IBD including fever, loss of appetite, weight loss of 5% of body weight, fatigue, night sweats, and loss of a normal menstrual cycle. You can also experience joint pain, eye inflammation (uveitis), painful lumps on the shins, and mouth ulcers.

If your child appears to have even one of these symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor because fast and aggressive treatment with immunomodulators or biologic agents can induce remission, heal the bowel wall, and reduce the number of future hospitalizations and surgeries. Starting with these agents improves the overall quality of life more than past therapeutic strategies in which treatment would start with less-intensive therapies and only “step up” if symptoms didn’t improve. Common prescription medications to treat IBD can be found here.

To prepare for your appointment:

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions (like fasting)
  • Write down symptoms
  • List all medications
  • Schedule a family member or friend to bring along
  • Write down questions to ask the doctor

There is a fantastic app for tracking symptoms called GI Buddy.

More general information about IBD and preparing for appointments can be found on the Mayo Clinic website.

Useful information is presented during this Q&A Session with IBD expert, Dr. Hanauer. I especially found the probiotic discussion informative.

 

If your child is diagnosed with IBD, support groups are available:

Specific resources geared toward teens can be found here:

Remember, knowledge is power and early, intensive treatment can not only improve your child’s quality of life right now, it can reduce complications later down the road.

-Ellen

I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. to write about the signs and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. All my opinions are my own.

Furthermore, this post does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis. Contact a medical professional with any symptoms, questions, or concerns.

Links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

 


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The Best Gift Guide for Teen Girls

The Best Gift Guide for Teen Girls | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms | A gift list that is actually teen reviewed and approved! Something for every girl, something for every budget. #GiftGuide #GiftList #Holidays #Christmas

I’m not much for the Black Friday hoopla, but I can get down with Cyber Monday. You can’t beat shopping in your pajamas or while you’re at work . . . on break of course. So I’m making lists and checking them twice and hoping I can get some steals and deals for my teen girls. Even if these gifts don’t go on sale, there is a price point for everyone. All gifts have been Daughters of the Sisterhood approved, so behold in no particular order . . .

Exploding Kittens

Exploding Kittens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

A card game about kittens and explosions and sometimes goats. I mean, what more can we say? If we didn’t have you at exploding kittens, we should have nabbed you at goats.

In this highly-strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette, players draw cards until someone draws an Exploding Kitten, at which point they explode, they are dead, and they are out of the game — unless that player has a defuse card, which can defuse the Kitten using things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches. All of the other cards in the deck are used to move, mitigate, or avoid the Exploding Kittens.

It’s family-friendly for ages 7 and up, super portable, and provides hours of fun.

 

Panda Bank

Panda Bank | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

It’s hard to anticipate just how big of a hit this gift will be. It is so cute and entertaining though, it steals the show for not a lot of coin. See what I did there?

 

Mermaid Tail Blanket

Mermaid Tail Blanket | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

Do I even have to explain what is cool about this?? It comes in bunch of colors and for around twenty bucks, you should just order one for yourself, too. Seriously, you’ll have gift envy if you don’t.

 

Mermaid Pillow

Mermaid Pillow | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

And if you have a mermaid tail you might as well complete the look with the pillow. These things are addictively relaxing. You rub your hand over them to change the pattern and color of the sequins. Your teen could probably use the good, clean stress relief.

 

Infuser Water BottleInfuser Water Bottle | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

Flavored water is all the rage, and infusing it yourself is more economical and healthy. This 32 oz beauty comes in a variety of colors and features a securely locking lid so that your hydration doesn’t leak all over your backpack.

 

Dimmable Color Touch-Activated Lamp with Bluetooth SpeakerNight Light with Bluetooth Speaker | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

Honestly, you’d have any teen girl at Bluetooth speaker, but combining it with an adjustable color night light is so cool it will elevate you into the realm of best gift-giver ever. Even comes with the USB and AUX cords, and you can never have enough of those.

 

LED Photo Clip String Lights

LED String Photo Clip Lights | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

All you need to know is that girls love LED fairy lights and photo clip strings, so combining the two is a winner, winner chicken dinner.

 

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera and Accessories

Polaroid Camera and Accessories | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

This would go super nicely with the LED Photo Clip String Lights featured above, just sayin’. My daughter loves the “old-timey” Polaroid pictures. Her words, not mine.

 

Funny Mug

Funny WiFi Mug | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

If you have a coffee or tea drinker on your list with a sense of humor, this mug will hit the spot . . . much like a warm latte on a cold day.

 

Iconic HatIconic Hat | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

I’m not sure why it’s a thing, but my girls say it is and I’m going with that. Plus, who doesn’t miss The Office? “I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.” — Michael Scott

 

Echo DotAlexa Dot | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

This little gift is affordable, but bursting with “wow factor.” My daughter uses her’s to listen to music in the shower because she can control it with voice commands. She also calls out to add things to her calendar or one of her lists. Honestly, this gadget would really be a winner for anyone on your list.

 

Beats Wireless Headphones

Beats Wireless Headphones | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

I cannot say that these are affordable, but they will make you a hero. With the lack of headphone jack on the iPhone “version whatever,” maybe you could say they were practical? Maybe even necessary. Suuuurrree.

 

Unicorn Make-Up BrushesUnicorn Make-Up Brushes | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

Apparently, these are the brushes used by the Instagram make-up artists all the kids are following these days. Even better, they are SUPER affordable, beautiful, and get tons of high reviews.

 

Facial MasksFacial Masks | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

Girls love facial masks and this is a veritable bonanza. Enough said.

 

YETI Rambler TumblerYETI Rambler Tumbler | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

These things are so popular. I can see why. They keep your drinks hot or cold for hoooouuuurrrrss. One thing though, the lid is not leak-proof, but no one seems to care. After much research, this is the link on Amazon for the authentic product.

 

Milk and VineMilk and Vine | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

If you don’t understand the now defunct social media platform, Vine, you are definitely not going to understand the appeal of this book. I might not have even included it on the list if my college sophomore daughter had not just given it to her high school junior sister for her birthday. They LAUGHED and LAUGHED. One warning, it does have strong language and themes, but for under four dollars you can buy yourself the title of coolest aunt ever.

 

My Lame Life

My Lame Life | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

So while the previous book was for the older teen set, this one works well for the younger ones on your list. Just a well-written book where the characters’ voices ring true, especially the main character, Plum. What I appreciate most about this book is that the parents are not banished to the sideline as doofuses. They are a real part of Plum’s life, and of the story. In all, the relationships and story line make this an authentic, fun read.

 

Cute SocksCute Socks | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Teen Girl Gift Guide

If you don’t know that teen girls love socks, you don’t know teen girls. One of our previous gift lists was pick up by CNN and we were raked over the coals for socks being a crappy gift. Not. True. Trust us.

 

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links which means I get a few coins to complete my holiday shopping at no cost to you!

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Ellen

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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How To Avoid Clashing With Your College Student Over Break

How To Avoid Clashing With Your College Student Over Break | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms | #parentingadvice #college

The first time your college student comes home for break is a time for celebration. All of your chicks are home under one roof! The world as you’ve known it for so many years is back as it should be. Or is it? While you have been home adjusting to familiar routines and spaces without your child, they have been cultivating a whole new life! They have enjoyed freedom! Choices! A lack of supervision!

While you have remained the same, they have simmered in a pressure cooker of decisions and responsibilities that sends them back expanded and changed. Conflict can spring up if you expect their new wingspan to squeeze back into your nest in the same old way. This conflict can be further intensified if your child cherry-picks exactly what “an adult” is.

As with most things, honest communication of expectations can make the transition smoother for everyone. I started off the conversation over the phone with my freshman daughter before she came home for her first break . . .  before we butted heads over differing assumptions of what our relationship as parent and child was now. I think starting it over the phone made it go smoother because she was on her own turf and able to control the length and intensity of the conversation. It was a preemptive move before we were in the heat of the moment. However, no time is a bad time for an honest, respectful conversation. If Junior is on his way home as we speak, carve out some time to talk, just not as he walks through the door.

So how did I kick off this conversation? I started by complimenting her responsible handling of her school work and job, and then I just asked her how she thought she had changed. I asked her what she thought being an adult meant. We discussed how being in the rarefied university environment meant she is not facing all of the challenges that might be upon her once she is really out on her own—everything from meal prep to mortgages.

I had heard nightmare tales of kids bursting through the door thinking rules about curfew, respect, and drinking no longer applied to them. I made sure to discuss what I like to call “The Realities of Adulthood,” the version of grown-up beyond what a child imagines. Being a real adult is not about getting to do whatever you want to do, it’s about being responsible enough to complete all that you need to do.

For example, it’s not about getting to stay up as late as you want, it’s maintaining a schedule that allows you to get your stuff done. And REAL adulthood is being denied sleep and forging on anyway. Furthermore, it’s not about controlling your time and doing what you want when you want, but losing control of your time to your responsibilities. And most importantly, drinking doesn’t make you an adult, but being responsible about it does (and remembering the legal drinking age is 21).

Having freedom doesn’t mean disrespecting others in the household. Because of our open conversation, she acknowledged appreciation for her safety nets instead of slashing them out of resentment. She does have pressures and obligations, but not to the degree she will have later on and she is grateful for that.

We came to the conclusion that she is an adult with training wheels . . . and she was just fine with it. Heaven knows she is pedaling faster and steadier every day.

-Ellen

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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The One Reason You Should Let Your Kids Watch 13 Reasons Why

What’s the one reason you should let your kids watch 13 Reasons Why—the story of why Hannah Baker committed suicide?

The controversial Netflix phenomenon has taken the internet by storm. Here's the one reason you should let your kids watch 13 Reason Why. Yes, parenting is hard. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

It’s because they’ve already watched it.

By the time the school emails and letters were spawned from the reports on CNN, NPR, The New York Times, and the like, that barn door had been opened and cued up for a month.

It doesn’t matter that you have controls on your Netflix account, or that your child doesn’t have a smartphone, or that you have drawn your line in the sand over what is appropriate viewing. Your child has gained access even if they had to watch it in ten minute increments on Billy’s iPhone before batting practice. This show is that much of a phenomenon.

Think I’m wrong? Just ask your kid, “Hey, what does ‘here’s your tape’ mean?”

And believe me, I know the issues with 13 Reasons Why. I already visited this fun house seven years ago when the novel was assigned to my daughter for a book report in seventh grade. She was twelve and her teacher RECOMMENDED this book. Yeah. I spent two days skimming it and gathering age appropriate information on sexual assault and suicide so I could have discussions with my daughter to give her some context for the book’s themes.

I was not pleased . . . but I am grateful. This was my wake-up call: I was no longer my daughter’s filter for the world. My control had been evaporating since the moment she stepped foot on the bus for kindergarten, but I had been too busy to notice just how gossamer it was. Fast forward to when I found out my other daughter had binge-watched “American Horror Story” at a sleepover, and I was primed to accept that forbidding books and shows was like the Little Dutch Boy trying to plug the holes in the dyke. Just when you think you have it covered, another one springs up.

There is a real danger in forbidding certain shows, books, and movies, too. If your child has to sneak behind your back to be part of the pop culture tsunami, you’ve closed off the possibility of discussion. Worse yet—in the case of “13 Reasons Why”—maybe they’ve only had time to sneak the brutal rape and suicide scenes without any of the context of the rest of the series.

I am not campaigning for or against kids watching “13 Reasons Why.” That is already being covered in the news outlets by experts and playing out in PTA meetings across the country. I am acknowledging that it simply is, and it has to be dealt with.

I urge you as a parent to watch it, invite your kids to watch it again with you, or at the very least watch the documentary at the end, “Behind the Reasons,” together. This documentary was filmed as a tool to help parents and teens frame the mindset of the artistic choices made by the creators, and to encourage those at risk to speak up and seek help. This show needs that explanation and discussion. There are some very useful talking points available from the JED Foundation, a teen suicide prevention group, and there is crisis help information on the 13 Reasons Why website.

This is arguably a dangerous series for at-risk youth, but it is not going away. Many summaries of the series claim that the story ends with Hannah’s suicide, but it actually doesn’t. It ends with one of the students reaching out to reconnect with a girl who was once his friend.

This series provoked tears, anger, frustration, outrage, and indignation in my own daughter. However, when asked what she got out of it, she replied, “Well, we all need to be nicer to one another.”

Now that can’t be argued with.

Ellen 

National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255

 

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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Here’s Why to Start College Tours During 10th Grade

It's all about the calendar! - Here's Why to Start College Tours During 10th Grade | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Why are we starting college tours for our second daughter during her sophomore year?

It’s not to freak out my friends or make them feel like they’re behind.

It’s not to draw the scorn of those who are silently screaming: “WHY WOULDN’T YOU START EARLIER?!” (I will go on record saying to chill with the tours starting in grade school.)

It’s because this IS my second rodeo. The April of my first rodeo—also known as my oldest daughter’s senior year—had us zipping up and down the East Coast with her college decision coming down to the May 1st wire. My brain wants to shutdown and take a nap just remembering it.

See, I was so intent on avoiding the competitive college stress spiral that I may have underestimated how little time there really was. I realized that maybe, just maybe, the parents who I thought were zealous were just good planners. I was also lulled by my daughter’s methodical selection of schools based on the major she wanted to pursue. She was so focused on what each college offered that it almost seemed beside the point to visit them.

But most importantly, we didn’t start touring before junior year because of good ol’ run-of-the-mill naiveté. IT WAS MY FIRST TIME! IT FELT LIKE WE WERE GROPING AROUND IN THE DARK!

Most college advice found on the internet was too intense, and while the guidance office was fantastic at meeting deadlines, it was a little light on the guidance. Even friends were not much help. It seems like the college application process is a lot like childbirth: people forget the hours of labor and only remember the outcome. I mean seriously, my daughter ended up at the perfect school for her so I could be spouting “all’s well that ends well” and calling it a day. Luckily for you, I am cursed with a mind for remembering hardships, blessed with an ability to learn from experience, and overflowing with a passion to share what I know. Apparently, I also have a wee flair for the dramatic.

Why I Now Think Touring in 10th Grade is Swell

It all comes down finding free days on the calendar.

It's all about the calendar! - Here's Why to Start College Tours During 10th Grade | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

You need to tour when students are there. We learned the hard way that a campus can have a drastically different feel when it’s devoid of life and bustle. It’s really the difference between looking at buildings and truly experiencing the campus vibe. So. This strikes holidays, most of December and January, the school’s spring break, and summer from available tour dates. Remember too that spring session often ends at the beginning of May. Now if you’re driving past a school on your summer vacation and want to take a peek, don’t let me stop you, just think twice before making any costly special trips. Even summer session is not the same.

[20 questions to ask on campus tours.]

Shifting your child’s focus. If your kid hasn’t already experienced the college process with a sibling or friend, it may seem very unreal to them. Touring some beautiful campuses can be just the ticket to make your literature-loving child realize that chemistry does indeed matter as a means to an end.

Tip: If the times for tours seem to be full for your desired date when you check online, call the admissions department. More times than not, they are very accommodating.

Junior year is crazy crammed . . . and stressful. There’s SATs and ACTs, regular sports and clubs, travel teams, AP exam prep, proms, driver’s ed, and driving tests . . . to name just a sampling. Couple this with the hardest course load your child is likely to face in high school, and your sweetie might not have a day to spare for college tours. On my junior’s few scheduled days off that coordinated with the college calendars, she just wanted to catch up on her work and sleep.

[10 Tips for Surviving College Prep Stress.]

The stakes are lower. Yep, this also has to do with the calendar; hear me out. When you tour a school as a junior, and especially as a senior, the pressure of getting in can loom heavy. We did not tour some of my daughter’s “reach” schools because she thought it would be too disappointing if she didn’t get in. This left us with at least three schools she needed to see after she got accepted in March. They weren’t close to each other—or us— and it was a struggle to see them before commitment day: May 1st. We all agreed that if we had toured some of them in sophomore year, the pressure would have been reduced.

Location matters. If my daughter had visited Boston University in February of her sophomore year, I doubt she would have applied to any school north of the Mason-Dixon line because the cold stunned her. Instead, we were trying to book hotel rooms during the Boston Marathon because that was the only open weekend for us in her senior year. See? Still about the calendar.

It's all about the calendar! - Here's Why to Start College Tours During 10th Grade | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Just look at her middle school room redo. How did we not know she was destined to fly south?

One disadvantage of touring in 10th grade: your child might not be focused enough to know their desired major. Tours of specific departments really are invaluable in the selection making process. But even so, the general tour will help your child decide if the school makes their list. Also, school doesn’t necessarily need to be in session for department tours to be informative. Those sessions are more about the facilities, professors, curriculum, and advisers.

One last thing: It will be okay. It might not be the “okay” you were hoping for, but it will be a version of it. Not every kid gets accepted into their first choice or can afford the school of their dreams. However, with enough work, planning, self-realization, and a hefty sprinkling of knowing when to give it over to faith, a solid college experience can be crafted. Sometimes even better than your child could have conjured.

[Real talk about college rejections.]

And if your kid is still in diapers? Relax. You have lots of other things to worry about before college, like potty training, kindergarten, middle school, dating and driving.

Ellen

Looking for some more prep for yourself? Start here.

 

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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20 Questions to Ask Your College Tour Guide

Get the most out of your next college tour with these 20 questions to ask your college tour guide. Great advice! | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

College tours are essential for deciding where your kid’s home away from home is going to be for the next four (or more) years. It’s a big deal! In fact the gravity of the situation may have you obsessively making lists of questions to pepper the tour guide with once you get them in your sights.

But . . .

Remember college is all about your child stepping out on their own. If you take over the tour group time, you’re essentially creating a filter between your kid and their experience of the campus. A wise compromise is to discuss using the tour group time effectively BEFORE you slap on that name tag. This list of questions will help. In fact, why not just forward the entire article to your child now?

3 General Tips

1. Only tour when students are present. It makes all the difference in the world. Without the students, you’re just looking at a bunch of buildings. We already made this mistake, learn from it. The first school we toured was on winter break, and my daughter got a very negative impression of it: cold, too expansive, and boring. We went back later and she discovered a whole new perspective when the student union was hopping and the quad was filled with students. Luckily this campus was only a couple of hours from our house, but who has time to tour all the colleges on their list twice?

2. Understand what questions NOT to ask the tour guide. If it’s a question that can be answered from the website, skip it. Enough with obsessing over the average SAT scores already. Also, realize what is beyond their scope. Your guide will generally be a student—a well-trained student—but still, they have no admissions authority. On every. single. tour. someone asked about financial aid. Just no. That’s what an appointment with a financial aid counselor is for.

3. If you have to choose between a tour and sitting in on a class, take the tour. While it may be exciting for your student to get a taste of college, they’re getting a very narrow experience just sitting in on one class. We got much more decision-making information from thoughtfully using a tour. By our third visit, even if we had time for our daughter to sample a class, she was passing on that option. Sitting in on a class was more helpful on accepted student days.

Questions to Ask

First consider your tour guide to be your window into what it’s really like to attend that school! Just remember, this is their job, a job they picked because they love their school, but still a job. They’re trained on how to deflect negative questions. I’m definitely NOT saying they are disingenuous, but let’s just acknowledge that questions like “how’s the party scene?” have certain scripted answers.

To get information not found anywhere else, it helps to get your guides talking about themselves—everyone’s favorite subject.

With that in mind, a good place for your student to start is  . . .

1. Why did you choose this school? Ask this of as many people as you can to get as clear a picture as you can. It’s better than the anonymous info on College Niche.

2. What is this school known for? If you keep hearing “sports,” you need to decide if that’s an important thing to you or not. When the social scene revolves around going to games, you may be lonely if you don’t join in.

3. What do you think the “big” majors are at this school? If all you hear is “engineering” and you’re a dance major, you may want to assess how much funding goes to the arts.

4. Have you switched your major? How hard is it to switch your major? MANY students switch their majors. One school dropped off of my daughter’s list when she discovered she had to pick between applying to the School of Communication and the School of Journalism. If she wanted to switch between the two after she started attending, it was a whole new application process, not just a transfer form.

5. What year are you? How easy was it for you to get the classes you wanted? How about when you were a freshman? Most students readily spill about the pain and annoyance of being shut out of classes. This is very telling.

6. How were you assigned your adviser and do you use them? Be very concerned about finishing in four years at a school where people claim not to use advising. It of course can be done, but it takes a high level of diligence.

7. How did you communicate with your adviser before you signed up for classes as a freshman and how helpful were they? We did not ask this once and it should have been one of the deciding factors for picking a school. We lucked out that the advisement program at my daughter’s university is superb. Her adviser spent a couple of hours with her on the phone over multiple calls helping her map out her classes for freshman year and beyond. Be aware that the quality of advisement can vary by major even at the same school.

8. What year do people start to get internships? Be a little worried if the answer is senior year because from internships come jobs.

9. Is studying abroad a big deal here? What year do people do it? Also be aware that some schools encourage it during winter breaks and summers meaning extra cost on top of tuition. Some schools have programs where a semester abroad is covered by tuition plus travel costs.

10. What are the best dorms? Did you get that one as a freshman? Good to get the inside scoop.

11. How did you get your roommate? At my daughter’s school there was an official questionnaire and matching service, but my daughter found hers on the unofficial Facebook page. Also good to note, especially if it is a local college, do people seem to room with friends from high school?

12. Are there “quiet” dorm or floor options? Another question we did not think to ask. This is good for the introvert and the extrovert. The quiet person can get what she wants and the socialite can avoid being shushed (or worse) all of the time.

13. Do you still live on campus? When do students generally move off-campus? Another question we should have asked. I thought my girl would have at least three years in the dorms, but alas, many of the students at her school move off-campus after freshman year (the only year they are required to live in the dorms).

14. Have you been here during a campus lockdown? Are alerts sent out often? These questions delve deeper than “is the campus safe?”

15. Does the campus clear out on the weekends? If you are hundreds of miles away from home, you don’t want to end up at what is essentially a commuter school.

16.Describe your typical Saturday here to me. Gets at the above question from a different angle.

17. What are you involved with on campus? This is a more open-ended way to see what clubs, endeavors, and activism your tour guide is involved with.

18. What kinds of off-campus things do you do? This can be very telling about the surrounding art culture, jobs, and club scene . . . or it can drive home that you are looking at a school in the middle of a cow pasture.

19. What do the locals say about this school? Also very telling.

20. How necessary is it to have a car? If freshman are not allowed cars, how do people work around that? This will clue you into how prevalent the use of Uber is or whether there is a sweet garage where students keep their cars off-campus.

Okay, now breathe. These questions only serve as a guideline for information you may not have thought to gather, not as permission to monopolize the group. Let others talk. You may just learn something neither you nor I realized we needed to know. And by all means, if you think of a good question, please add it in the comments. I have college tours looming on my horizon AGAIN.

I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: if your child is very interested in a school and has narrowed their major down, please consider calling that department to arrange for a specialized tour. They may even offer for you to meet with a dean or an adviser before you even have to ask. We found this VERY helpful if we were visiting from far away and “popping over” for another look was not possible.

Oooo, one last LAST piece of advice. Talk finances with your child before you tour. If you can’t swing a school without significant aid/scholarship, let them know that caveat before they fall in love. It’s an easier conversation before they have stars in their eyes.

Happy touring and take plenty of pictures! This may be the start of your child’s new path!

-Ellen 

 

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

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DIY Flamingo Party

A flamingo party theme works for birthdays, showers, pool parties, and barbecues! Easy, DIY, and fun! Great cake decorating tips too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms!

I do like a good party. I have even been known to go a wee bit overboard. Not like drop the down payment on a Winnebago overboard, but more like having fourteen four-year-olds crowded around my dining room table crafting with glue and scissors. Rest assured I drew the line at glitter. Never glitter. ::shudders::

Littlest Pet Shop Habitats. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

For me, it all starts with a good theme I can sink my teeth into, but I am older and more exhausted now. Can you feel me? I now require my themes to be fabulous with a side of easy. So to that end, one of the easiest ones I have hit upon is a Flamingo Party. The best thing? It works for all ages and types of parties: birthday celebrations, baby showers, bridal showers, pool parties, and barbecues. One advantage to this theme is you can extend it cheaply and easily just by using color. Pink balloons, streamers, and netting can really extend the theme to fill your entire space.

My particular party was to celebrate a thirteenth birthday. For me it all begins with the cake . . . or in the case of the parties I orchestrate, cakessssssss.

Here’s the one I created for the family party:

Easy Flamingo Layer Cake

Decorating With Marshmallow Fondant! A flamingo party theme works for birthdays, showers, pool parties, and barbecues! Easy, DIY, and fun! Easy Cake decorating tips! Look like a pro! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms!

This cake is a great example of a wow factor that exceeds the effort. In other words, it’s easier than it looks. Always a bonus.

Start by making a layer cake from scratch like our favorite, Chocolate Coca-Cola Cake, or just use a box mix.

Next, frost it up with a base layer buttercream frosting.

Mix up a buttercream frosting and tint it with turquoise food coloring. You can find the food coloring I used here. Pssst, you can also use canned frosting. I won’t tell. Pillsbury even makes an aqua blue frosting that saves you all kinds of time.

If you need help with your frosting game, I recommend this tutorial. She mentions using a bench scraper to achieve a smooth frosting surface. I use this one.

The flamingo is made with fondant icing. I generally make my own marshmallow fondant because not only is it significantly cheaper than store bought, it is so much tastier, too. Your guests won’t be peeling it off into a discarded lump on the side of their plates.

I also find it more forgiving to work with. When you are rolling it and transferring it to the cake, I always have less frustration with breakage than I do with prepared fondant out of the package. This excellent video is EXACTLY how I make it.

She also has a video describing how to color it. Two caveats I have for that one, though. One, I almost always color mine by mixing my gel into the melted marshmallows as she describes in the beginning of her tutorial. It takes A LOT of kneading to mix color into a whole batch of refrigerated fondant. I’m talking kneading on the level of a P90X workout. And two, I always wear vinyl food prep gloves so that my hands don’t get stained.

One other tip: it’s not worth it to make black fondant. It takes forever and a ton of color to make it anything but a weird gray. I did it once, but never again. You can find it here. Keep in mind you can purchase a whole tub of white fondant, too, if you just want to skip making your own altogether.

I used leaf cookie cutters to make the feathers. I free-hand cut out the neck, used a small dish to make the circle for the head, and used the same dish to help gauge the size I needed for the beak. The eye was made from a dab of white buttercream and a speck of black fondant. Because the pieces are relatively small, it’s a much easier decorating process than trying to transfer an entire sheet of fondant to your cake. I have yet to be able to cover a layer cake with a sheet of fondant without curling up in the fetal position from the stress of it all. But just decorating with fondant pieces? That’s a hack I can completely manage.

Now remember I said cakessssssss? In my family, each birthday girl gets her own cake to dive into with abandon.

Fondant Flamingo Cake

Fondant Flamingo Cake! A flamingo party theme works for birthdays, showers, pool parties, and barbecues! Easy, DIY, and fun! Easy Cake decorating tips! Look like a pro! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms!

This cake was also decorated with marshmallow fondant, but this one is all about the shape. I baked the body of the cake in a Pyrex oven-safe bowl. Once it was COMPLETELY cooled, I sculpted the body shape with a serrated knife making sure to carve out a complete shape that would work for the neck. The rest of the scraps went to the kids who were watching my every move.

The head is a cupcake. That little beaded necklace camouflages the joining of the head to the neck. Because this cake is personal-sized, I could basically pick the pieces up and wrap the fondant around them. In case you are new to working with fondant, you need to actually ice your cake with a buttercream first so that the fondant will adhere to it smoothly. I did not do that with the neck though. The fondant around that is very thick to achieve the rounded look I wanted. I figured there was enough cake-y goodness in the body and head to make it acceptable that the neck was just for decorative purposes.

And then there were the cupcakes . . .

Easy Flamingo Cupcakes

I’m going to be honest, by the time I got to the cupcakes I was TIRED. I ordered some pretty cupcake liners, some flamingo lollipops, let the kids ice the cupcakes anyway they wanted with the remaining blue frosting, and called it a day. See? Easy! You can’t accuse me of being a perfectionist.

Easy Flamingo Cupcakes! A flamingo party theme works for birthdays, showers, pool parties, and barbecues! Easy, DIY, and fun! Easy Cake decorating tips! Look like a pro! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms!

But—and this is going to sound radical after the previous several hundred words—great parties need more than cake! Check out these fun ideas to rocket your party into the realm of success!

Flamingo Party Ideas







Ellen

This post contains affiliate links? What does that mean? Amazon gives me a few cents when you buy something I suggest at no cost to you.


Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

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For Those Who Are “Still” Grieving

How to create space for your feelings when you are still grieving because "Time heals all wounds" is too simplistic. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

People are generous with their kind words immediately after you have lost a loved one. Despite death being a inevitable part of everyone’s life, people often feel awkward about what to say; but at least the time and space provided by social norms are there to encourage them.

Unfortunately that window for condolences closes up fairly quickly, and the awkwardness morphs into the fear that they will upset you if they mention your loved one. You are now left with your own awkwardness surrounding how to talk about your grief, how to bring it up. Maybe a prescribed period for wearing black back in the day wasn’t such a bad idea. Black arm bands or those silicone bracelets could work nowadays. It just seems like we could use something to indicate “handle with care.”

“Time heals all wounds” is not so much a falsehood, as it is too simplistic. Yes, the hurt scabs over, and the pain dulls, but the loss is healed with a scar. A scar that tugs and throbs predictably, yet can grab you unexpectedly .

The  holidays and anniversaries with their brightness and intensity serve to highlight the voids  . . . voids you can often avoid staring into on a day-to-day basis once your grief scar has formed.

“My mom should be here baking cookies with my kids. She always had the patience to make cut-outs.”

“This is where my son’s stocking should be hanging.”

“My father always lit the candles.”

And while you can predict the holidays are going to be tinged with blue, it’s often the little things that surprisingly leave you with the most intensely hollow longing. To prepare for my college freshman daughter’s homecoming for winter break, I was changing her sheets, even though she had only slept in her bed a couple of nights over Thanksgiving and changing sheets is one of the household chores I inexplicably hate the most. I mean, there are so many tasks that are so much worse. Scrubbing toilets anyone?

But as I was grumbling at myself for performing this largely unnecessary task at 11:30 PM, I was overcome. I sank right down on the floor among the pillows and stuffed animals as tears slid down my cheeks. Changing sheets was my mother’s love language of comfort. Sick with a fever? Clean sheets. Home from college, just had a baby, recovering from surgery? Clean sheets. Facing my fourth Christmas without her, I was unconsciously following her script for loving, and grieving anew that she would never give this “love letter” to me again.

Rest assured, you are not the only one “still” grieving. You are not the only one who knows how grief and joy can snuggle side by side, neither diminishing the impact of the other. You certainly aren’t the only one who understands the bitter truth about how time actually heal wounds.

Since I know I’m not alone, this holiday season I am going to reach out to others to give them a space to share. The internet isn’t only about political rants and cat videos. It’s for connecting. I encourage you to try a post as simple as “I miss the way my mother descended on my house a couple of days before Christmas with a cooler bursting with pure deliciousness and a trunk brimming with presents. I miss the way Aunt Ruth delighted us with the latest musical holiday toy from Hallmark each year. What do you miss about your loved ones?” My friend Meredith of The Mom of the Year did this sort of thing in a Facebook group we share, and the resulting comments were uplifting. She is my inspiration.

Follow Meredith’s lead and don’t be afraid to create the space you need for your grief. You never know who you will help as you help yourself.

For Those Who Are "Still" Grieving at Christmas. How to create space for your feelings when you are still grieving because "Time heals all wounds" is too simplistic. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

-Ellen

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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What Surprised Me When My College Kid Came Home for Thanksgiving

What Surprised Me When My College Kid Came Home for Thanksgiving | I was not prepared for how I felt when my college kid came home for Thanksgiving. Her visit illuminated with LED intensity all that had been missing. | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

My college freshman daughter came home for Thanksgiving and it. was. glorious. Some friends who still have all of their chicks under one roof commented that Thanksgiving break came up pretty quickly considering it was only three months since I said good-bye. Only. I just again read my piece about sending her off in August—contemplating whether or not my “sweet spot of motherhood” was behind me—and it feels like it has been three lifetimes.

My “sweet spot” did indeed expand as I had hoped to encompass long distance parenting from Maryland to Miami. My daughter has communicated with us with a regularity beyond my wildest hopes via texting, Face Timing, calling, and Snapchatting. She is generous about sharing her new life, and has continued to seek my advice. I haven’t been kicked to the proverbial curb. For my part, I have become the master of high quality care packages.

Halloween Care Package | Use a cheap seasonal blanket from Walmart to line the box. | College | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

She is still in my life, it’s just in a different way. In a way that is the epitome of life moving forward. In fact, life continued to march forward for all of us. As soon as we dropped her off, field hockey was in full swing for my sophomore daughter. And then I shoveled out her room. And then we got a dog. There really was no time for weeping or hand-wringing . . . or at least I didn’t leave myself time for that.

In general, I’ve handled marching forward pretty well. That’s why I was taken aback by the wave of emotion that hit me during the week she was home for Thanksgiving.

I missed her most while she was here!

I mean I have missed her since the moment she left, but I had gotten use to her not being around. And by “used to” I mean I just didn’t think about it that much. I really just couldn’t. Besides, she is happily hitting her stride, and we had a lovely visit over Family Weekend. How could I complain about a natural order that was going this well?

But, I have felt a bit off-centered and blah. Not exactly mopey, just unsettled. Beating her room into order and adopting myself some unconditional canine love helped, but I hadn’t really worked through it all. There’s not a lot of space to discuss ambiguous feelings. People can maybe handle hearing that you are sad, but they really just want you to say “I’m fine.” My kid was busy being everything I hoped she would be, so what right did I have to be sad anyway? And really, when people ask you how things are going with college, they want to hear about your kid and then get back to picking through the pumpkins at the farm stand.

What Surprised Me When My College Kid Came Home for Thanksgiving | I was not prepared for how I felt when my college kid came home for Thanksgiving. Her visit illuminated with LED intensity all that had been missing. | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

While I had adjusted to her being gone like a swell little soldier—my life is pretty good after all—her being here for a week illuminated with LED intensity all that had been missing. It took the return of her vim and vigor for me to realize the full impact of its absence.

I felt unmoored because I missed the dynamic of her just being in our space: her wit, her clutter, her willingness to pitch in, as well as her exasperating insistence that we embark on a ten minute hunt for another tube of toothpaste because brushing her teeth in the shower “saved” time and her sister was currently using the only other tube. While I love her snip-its of news and Snapchats, I missed what her presence brings to our family unit under this roof: completeness. Her whole senior year through college move-in day was such a seismic shift, but when the earthquake was over, I just plowed ahead instead of assessing the aftermath.

When spellcheck bleated just now that “unmoored” was not a word, I looked it up to find descriptive perfection: to bring to the state of riding with a single anchor after being moored by two or more. Eureka! This is it! After spending sixteen years with the tug and grounding of two kids with their schedules, activities and needs, I was suddenly lighter with only one at home. But instead of feeling free, I only had the uncomfortable sensation of buffeting in the breeze. In related news I may be prone to mini-panics that my youngest will be going to college in three short years.

More than once during the week I had to snap myself back into the moment instead of anticipating the empty space yawning wide again once she left. It really wasn’t hard because we had such a great time, but you know what? It hasn’t been that bad she she went back. I feel better now that my brain realizes the void my heart was flapping around. I still miss her, but I feel more grounded knowing that our family “completeness” isn’t gone; it’s just something I have to look forward to now when she returns. And boy, do I have a detailed answer for the next person who asks me how I am doing.

-Ellen 

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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