Tag Archives: Parenting Advice

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.

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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Why I Prefer to Parent Outside

Many times in my nearly twenty years of parenting, I have felt the need to adjust my course and reroute us. This weekend was one of those times. Tempers were short starting at breakfast on Saturday morning. By mid-afternoon, we weren’t just crabby, we were ducking for cover. If only I could say what sent us careening off our happy family road, I might have been able to tame the tempest brewing in our midst. But alas, the usual culprits—misunderstanding, miscommunication, misfiring temperaments—were reeking havoc on our normally happy home life with no endpoint in sight.  Sleep did not restore my people to their more human selves and Sunday dawned with no respite from the relentless bickering. With nowhere to retreat to, I issued a maternal decree: we were taking a family hike, all hands on deck, and now. Their response was swift and pointed, and it prompted this post: Got teens, tweens, or in-betweens? Parenting outside is the best advice we can give you! | Sisterhood of the Sensible MomsNobody had the insight to see that they were the very worst versions of themselves. Nobody realized that they were making me long for the days of toddlers. Anyway, a little fresh air and exercise away from screens was just what the Momma ordered. Nature recalibrated my crew and set us back into our reasonably happy routine. This ability to take terrorists and turn them back into fully functioning and fun people is just one of the many reasons that I prefer to parent outside. But there are many more and I feel like I need to share this piece of parenting good news with anyone who will listen. Because this quick fix is cheap, easy, and packs a lot of family fun into its itty bitty price tag.Got teens, tweens, or in-betweens? Parenting outside is the best advice we can give you! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Other reasons why in no particular order . . .

1. I suck at crafts. 

We are all living in a Pinterest world, and ain’t nobody need that kind of pressure. While Ellen can bust out  container gardens, repurpose pool noodles like a HGTV host, and turn a picnic table into a coffee table, I am a Pinterest craft fail waiting to happen. Honestly, even simple t-shirts are outside my realm of competence. Just ask my oldest son about the “pink pumpkin” shirts I made for his soccer team to wear in a Halloween tournament. In any case, parenting outside is exactly the kind of hands-free parenting that makes Pinterest go ’round without subjecting me to sticky fingers. Also, I’m at least competent on a trail, not so much with a hot glue gun.

2. The open air wears my kids out.

Seriously, I’m raising puppies over here. Laps around the house are not uncommon. Trails, especially long, hilly ones, are my friends. If you too have offspring with boundless energy, heed this good advice.

3. They talk more outside.

If you have never been stuck on the other side of a sulky teen in a conversation, you might not feel me on this one, but it’s scientific fact. A good walk is the equivalent of popping the pickle jar open. The words which were few and far between in the living room flow free and easy in the great outdoors. There’s no explanation, but who really needs one. Results talk.

4. Nature’s buffer is most appreciated.

The herds whisper more than thunder in the open air. Trust me on this one.

Got teens, tweens, or in-betweens? Parenting outside is the best advice we can give you! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

5. I’m a sucker for a pretty view.

Aren’t we all? Well, all the good ones are outside.

Got teens, tweens, or in-betweens? Parenting outside is the best advice we can give you! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms6.  It’s affordable travel at its finest.

We all have a heart for the wild blue yonder, but this cash-strapped mom with almost two college tuitions to fund needs her adventure to really have some bang come with every buck. Outdoor adventure brings the adrenaline rush without the credit card bill.

7. It’s my passion.

One of my friends said that the definition of joy was when your kids love something you love. Well, even though I have been throwing books at my kids since they were cuddled up in the womb, nobody is a bookworm yet. I love games too, but our competitive natures can turn family fun into bloodsport. And while we all do enjoy a good Netflix marathon, coming to consensus on what to watch can be tough. (Except for Sherlock. We all love Sherlock.) But the one thing we all like/love/tolerate well as a group is time together in the great outdoors. I’m taking this as one for the win column.

Got teens, tweens, or in-betweens? Parenting outside is the best advice we can give you! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

8. It’s solid gold for making the memories.

Because most of my life is like this up and down weekend, I sincerely hope in the overall balance of my parenting that my kids can point to mostly positive moments when they remember me and our family life together. The memories where we are stretching ourselves together in beautiful places with no real agendas are the ones that will knit tightly in the fabric of our family bond.

I hope.

Because while I can’t make all their roads smooth, I can strive to let my kids know that they are not traveling alone. I want the things that stick to be the ones where we enjoyed each other’s company in a simple, uncomplicated way. But mostly, I just really want them to stick. I want, in the final sum of this beautiful family I am making, to find that this cache of memories is hardy and stands up to the harsh sands of time.  I want these pieces of our life together to be the things that bolster them in hard times and walk with them on lazy afternoons. I want our special brand of family to burrow into their marrow and become the very fiber of their selves. And nothing, absolutely nothing, makes the kind of teflon memories I’m striving for like parenting outside.

If you think I’m just waxing poetic here, I also wrote about this here  and here. I’m all in when it comes to the Great Outdoors.

Any great ideas for bonding with your crew outside? Drop those here. 

-Erin

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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One Tip for Parenting Through the Teen Years

Man, it has been a rough teen week in the Dymowski household. My daughter is finishing up all of her college applications, my fifteen year old is learning to drive, and the thirteen year old who hates to read has a book report. We are, in short, a hot mess of emotions. As is our way, we are splashing this everywhere, a fair warning to anyone considering a visit or even a casual conversation. The conditions are, however, optimal for a little introspection and reevaluation. So it’s the perfect time to remember a tip for parenting through the teen years, one born many moons ago before Steve and I were even parents.

Teens being difficult? A tip for parenting through the teen years that will make you a calmer and happier mom | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Back then, we were just two kids on our honeymoon in Ireland. The wildly changing temperatures meant that even in August, we might freeze like popsicles on a moor or dissolve in puddles of sweat walking through a quaint town. We casually mentioned this to our host at one of the bed and breakfasts. His reply? “That’s Ireland. Our country’s motto should be: don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” Such straightforward, unadorned, and simple advice was exactly what we needed to adjust our expectations. Knowing that whatever foul weather befell us would swiftly give way to sunnier times made it easier to wade though the uncomfortable and unpleasant moments. Armed with newfound hope and perspective, we enjoyed the rest of our trip a little more.

Shortly after we returned home, we moved to the lovely coast of Maine. Ireland and Maine have much to recommend them in terms of raw, natural beauty and friendly natives. In terms of weather, not so much. To be frank, weathermen in both places have the easiest job ever. Pick a weather condition, throw it out there, and for at least part of the day, they are probably right. In any case, we felt that our friendly Irishman’s insight worked here too. “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute” became a salve on a raw, frigid day, a buffer that took the edge off a wet and miserable one. Better times were a-coming. We could soldier on.

Fast forward thirteen years (we had a honeymoon baby), and we were facing down a storm unlike any we had ever seen before. Our newly minted teen son was shaking our house with the full force and raw power of his adolescent fury. Gale force winds wish they had the power to rattle the windows like he did that day. Completely at a loss for what to do, Steve said under his breath, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

“This too shall pass” on steroids, these words defused the situation. We both exhaled. Things were ugly now, but they wouldn’t always be.  We could stay calm and cool. We could deflect his words and anger with a soothing presence. We could use the minute we were taking to practice empathy for our son. And we were lucky. This storm, like most teen tempests, blew hard but fast. Dawn brought cooler heads, better talks, and with them some much needed perspective.

Planet Teen can be a rough and inhospitable place.  Harsh things are said, emotions run high, and terrible storms blow up. But here’s the thing, they also blow over.  The key to staying high and dry when you are in the thick of it is to remember that most of the teen landscape, while a little rocky, is also full of wonderful things to see and do.

But if you have had a week with your teens like I have, let’s all just give ourselves a minute. Not all days are going to make the Facebook feed, but we are still living them. This bad weather we may be experiencing, while tough, isn’t the overall climate of our home.  Better times are a-coming, and we are going to soldier on.

Teens being difficult? A tip for parenting through the teen years that will make you a calmer and happier mom | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

-Erin

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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Teach Your Teen to Drive With These First Steps

Chances are if you have a teen ready to drive, you’ve been motoring around for a decade or three yourself. It’s hard to recall a time when jumping behind the wheel was fresh and new, but this is exactly the mindset you need when teaching your child to drive. Yes, YOU teach your darling to drive. Maybe senility is knocking at my door, but I really feel like “back in the day” the drivers education instructor did most of the well, instructing. Where I live in Maryland, my kid needs to be in the car with me for 20 hours before they get behind-the-wheel training with an instructor.

Here’s a direct quote from the pamphlet:

The behind the wheel lessons are intended to guide your teen by evaluating their current driving skills, determining where they need more practice, and preparing them for the MVA exam. The parent/adult driver(s) that work with the student for the 60+ practice hours are teaching the teen how to drive.

You could have knocked me over with a feather once I realized this with my oldest daughter. I was already finding this phase of parenting to be the most challenging (realizing 14 years too late that potty training was NOTHING), but finding out I couldn’t really turn this over to a professional was pretty disheartening. Like a bag of chocolate chips followed by a red wine chaser disheartening.

Hey, I’m an experienced driver with a clean record, and the DMV gave me a trifold pamphlet, so it was all good, right? It wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as being handed my firstborn at the hospital with the proclamation “Go forth and be a parent!” but it wasn’t great either. At least now I had the internet. Okay, I had the internet when she was born, but Google didn’t launch until two months later. Let that sink in.

But while handy dandy Google had answers for me this time, they were all over the place. All I wanted to know was where to begin. Luckily I was able to formulate a plan by piecing together what I read and adding it to the advice offered by our Facebook followers.

Teach your teen to drive with these first steps. Tips and tutorials because the basics may be even more basic than you recall. Learn also about the role of muscle memory. |Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

My biggest revelation with my oldest daughter was that the first lessons happened way before the open road. My biggest discovery with my second daughter was that The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) launched teendriversource.org; a site chock full of research-based guidelines, tools, and tutorials for parents, teens, and educators. The only “problem” is there is so much information, it’s hard to initially land at the starting point.

Follow these tips and tutorials to teach your teen to drive. The basics may be even more basic than you recall. Learn also about the role of muscle memory. |Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Here’s how to get rolling:

First Steps for Teaching Your Teen to Drive

  1. Start with getting YOUR mind in the right place. It is your job to remove distractions and one of them is YOU. Yep. Teens report that one of the biggest distractions is when parents get emotional. So get ready for an Oscar nomination because you must maintain an air of calm through it all: keep your voice modulated, try not to stomp a hole through the floorboard, and always have them pull the carover to discuss dicey situations. This two minute video can give you further tips on creating the right learning environment.
  2. Go over the car thoroughly. Remember this is all new. Consider every button mysterious and explain it. Describe how to adjust the mirrors and the seats. Explain how you turn on the car and work the pedals. Need some help remembering what all of the basic steps are? Check out these short videos where it is all laid out. Have your teen put the car in gear and go down your driveway a bit (or do this in a parking lot) so your teen can use the pedals and see if the mirrors are positioned correctly. Believe it or not, this may be enough for the first lesson.
  3. Practice in a parking lot . . . a big, empty one. Go over the car again. Then just have them get a feel for the vehicle in motion. Play around with the accelerator and brake. Have them discover what reverse feels like. Just let them drive around developing a feel for the “corners” of the vehicle. You can even set up some cones or boxes for them to maneuver around. You can review tutorials for your parking lot sessions here.
  4. Discuss scanning techniques. SO IMPORTANT, BUT SO OFTEN OVERLOOKED. You avoid accidents by anticipating hazards you detect while scanning your surroundings. Good drivers routinely sweep their gaze beyond the lane in front of them and constantly check their mirrors. Guess what? New drivers tend to stare straight ahead. Teens must be told how to move their eyes and they need to be reminded every time they get behind the wheel. Scanning from lesson one helps cement it into a habit as soon as possible. For help describing the technique, watch Parking Lot: Introduction to Scanning.
  5. Practice checking for blind spots. Novices need to learn early on that checking mirrors is not enough, they need to physically turn their heads to check blind spots. It’s best to start this early because it may take a while before they can turn their head without turning the wheel. Teaching how to look around before backing up fits in nicely here too.
  6. Comment while YOU drive. Talk about how you’re scanning the road. Comment on the mechanics of making a turn while you’re doing it (so much easier than trying to remember and reconstruct how you do that automatic action while you’re sitting in the passenger seat). Explain why you picked that particular parking space. However, to avoid eye rolls think of this as dispensing public service announcements, not creating documentaries. Narrate little tidbits, not full instruction manuals.

Don’t be anxious to blow through these steps to get out on the road because that’s where you think the real lessons occur. It is so hard for novice drivers because they have to think about every single little action with their higher brains. That processing adds crucial seconds to reaction times.

Driving is so automatic for you because you are doing it from “muscle memory” controlled by your lower brain, and more specifically, your cerebellum. Every time your child drives, they are strengthening neural connections in their cerebellum and thus heading toward better and faster reactions. “Practice makes perfect” was coined for this part of the brain. Because I know these neural pathways are being forged, I don’t rush my kids out onto the interstate. Every time they practice braking on a local road means they will be better at braking on the highway. It’s a matter of brain training.

So there you have it: not everything (by a long shot), but at least your starting point. Don’t worry though, teensource.org will take you to the next level, too. Stay calm, buckle up, have a plan, and know you’re not the only one who is not a fan of this part of parenting!

-Ellen

Want to know more about how to protect your teen driver? See what we wrote about it here.

How To Protect Your Teen Driver - #JustDrive - Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Our kids also made a video with us about distracted driving. Watch it for the valuable information, enjoy it because they are adorable.

 

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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Ask This One Question to Make Family Weekend a Success

Fall is in the air! In the past that just meant trips to the corn maze, hot apple cider, and pumpkin spice everything. And while it’s still all about these niceties, if you’re the parents of a college freshman, it now means you get to see your baby during Family Weekend!

Family Weekend is the lifeline many of us hang onto after we drop our kids off at the dorms, especially if they are our oldest, and ESPECIALLY if they are far away. “Just two weeks, seven days, and fifteen hours until I get to see/hug/smooch my girl!” I would market the heck out of a countdown clock if I didn’t think the added hype would break some poor momma’s heart even more.

What am I talking about? Hear that faint noise whistling below the rustle of leaves and the honking of geese? Like air leaking out of a balloon? Well, if you’re within earshot of said parents of a brand spanking new freshman, that’s the sound of high expectations for Family Weekend deflating. Or maybe it’s coming from you as you stand in the middle of that pricey campus with nothing to do and no idea where your offspring even is.

See, not all Family Weekends are created equal. Some are extensively orchestrated affairs that would make cruise directors weep with pride. Others are steeped in vague suggestions like “check out the soccer game, have lunch in the dining hall, then enjoy the city.” Neither one guarantees a great weekend. While it sounds good to have a full dance card, it could dupe you into touring the third floor of the research library instead of hanging with your kid on her break between classes. But on the other hand, “enjoy the city” translates roughly into “better spend tons of time on the internet finding something to do besides eating cafeteria tator tots.”

But by asking your student one question, you can transcend events, schedules, and the particularities of their college to ensure that everyone gets a needed boost from the visit. For you: time with your child you have been missing so much. For your kid: moments of unconditional love where they can bask and relax.

There's so much anticipation surrounding visiting your freshman in college that the weekend can actually flop. Ask this one question to make family weekend a success. | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Are you ready for the magic words? Drum roll please . . .

When and how can you spend time with us during this weekend?

Simple, right? It’s so simple, it’s often overlooked. Here is why this question is the key to everything.

  1. Your kid has a whole new life. While there continues to be space in your home life for them, their college life has been created without you. There is no place for you to pick up where you left off. The time and space for your visit has to be crafted.
  2. Your kid probably doesn’t know the event schedule. More often than not, YOU’VE been getting the Family Weekend emails, not them. They are just trying to navigate their classes, and maybe a social event or twenty.
  3. Family Weekend is not a national holiday. While you have these dates blocked off in Sharpie on your calendar, your kids’ professors and bosses do not. Class deadlines and work schedules do not break for this weekend.
  4. Your child is hosting you, but they may not realize it. Just like you had to teach your little darling to say please and thank you, you need to teach him how to manage visitors. More than likely, they are use to following your plans, and it’s really not self-explanatory how to take over the reins.

So how do you teach them to host you? Most importantly, start a couple of weeks in advance, or at least allow time for more than one discussion. Don’t put them on the spot. No perfect weekend ever came out of that. Just like everything in parenting, take baby steps.

  1. Forget the word “perfect” and adjust your mindset. I’ve throw it around a couple of times here, but now it’s time to throw that expectation out. Ahhh. Doesn’t that feel better? Also, throw out the notion of spending every minute together (or that you have to attend the scheduled events). It bears repeating that you have to honor their schedules, commitments, and new life. And while we’re tossing things to the curb, also school yourself to not assume anything. Your mantra should be “Clarify Everything.” Ohmmmm.
  2. Ask your kid if she has seen the schedule for Family Weekend. She probably has not. Offer to forward it to her so you can decide together how to make it work.
  3. Follow-up that email. Text your kid and ask him to call you when he can talk about Family Weekend. This conversation is when you ask, “When and how can you spend time with us during this weekend?” Do not expect finalized plans. This is why you started this ball rolling early.
  4. Follow-up until you have a plan. Ask for realism, honesty, and consideration in your discussions. Always remember that this is a learning experience for you all. Ask your kid if they want to stay with you in the hotel or in the dorms. They may want a break from the bunk beds or they may want to go back to the action. Decide if you want to take any of their friends out for a meal and be very clear about what time is purely family time. Also, ask if you can see their dorm room if that is on your list of “must dos;” don’t just assume entry without warning. It seriously may not cross their minds that you would want to see it again and you WANT to give them time to clean up. You need to respect that it is also their roommate’s space.
  5. The best plans are flexible. All of that planning is the key to success, but don’t be a slave to it. There are no gold stars to be had, only good memories. Scheduled events aren’t really fun? Scrap them. You just saw a banner for an apple festival and you all are dying for some pie? Make time for it.

I present this advice to you because it worked for my family. We made our first night in town strictly for family, then took a group of her friends out to brunch and shoe shopping (which turned out to be my favorite). On Saturday we didn’t even see her because it was her first big rivalry football game and she wanted to be a part of all of the festivities, including sitting in the student section. We went to the game (I LOVE college football), but watched from the parents’ section.

There's so much anticipation surrounding visiting your freshman in college that the weekend can actually flop. Ask this one question to make family weekend a success. | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

She slept in her dorm, but hung out with us at our hotel on Sunday enjoying the food and the privacy of the luxurious bathroom (“I don’t have to wear shower shoes!”). We visited her dorm room during the middle of the day when her roommate was out.

While it was not a perfect weekend, everyone’s expectations were perfectly met because we assumed nothing, respected our daughter’s new life, and discussed how we were going to fit into it. I still can’t wipe the smile off of my face.

What was your experience with Family Weekend?

-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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Soothe Away Your Cold with Saline and a Giveaway

Cough and cold season is here, and I’m teaming up with Boogie Wipes and Saline Soothers to help you and your family feel better faster with a Cough & Cold Giveaway.

You know I feel strongly about these products (and saline) if you read How to Treat a Cold: The Myth of Boosting Your Immune System. Saline Soothers were in my care package to my college freshman with walking pneumonia. While I wasn’t happy to be away from my girl when she was sick, I’m glad to give you even more tips and the chance to win some amazing merchandise.

When Kids Get Sick

From the first sniffle to feeling downright sick, Boogie Wipes has tips, tricks and hacks to guide you through the entire cough and cold season (including great information on how to keep germs from spreading between siblings!)

Click here to read through their cough and cold survival guide and be prepared for the season.

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When YOU Get Sick

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Enter to Win!

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One winner will be randomly chosen to receive Boogie Wipes, Saline Soothers, Burt’s Bees cough drops, Purell hand sanitizer, DavidsTea Cold 911 tea and color-changing mug, plus a $100 Target gift card.

Giveaway ends on Monday, November 21, 2016 at 11:59 pm ET. Giveaway is open to residents in US and Canada over the age of 18. If winner lives in Canada, alternate gift card will be provided of same value.

-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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Why Helping Out Helped Make Me a Better Mom

Nineteen years in, is it too late to register a complaint? Having kids means calendars exploding with commitments. A little heads up when they handed me my first newborn and sent me out to “go forth and mom”  would have been very much appreciated.  In fact, when I was knee deep in diapers and burp cloths would have been the perfect time to rain down some solid mom truths on me. So here’s one for all my new mom friends, one that seems counter-intuitive in light of the exploding calendar truth: helping out helped make me a better mom.

Here’s how my volunteer story started. Ten years ago, a kind but wily acquaintance was giving me the hard sell. He was leaving the neighborhood Cub Scout pack and moving on with his son. He was looking for a replacement/fresh meat/gullible sucker to take his place. I was strong and full of good reasons why I was not the girl he was looking for. He listened intently to every word I said and nodded his head in quiet acknowledgement. But as he was leaving, he handed me a note and said, “read this when you have time.”

Well, to this day, I think of him as the Lex Luther to my Supermom persona. On that little note, he had written the following: Parenting can be hard. Helping out made me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible MomsLet’s just say that his little note was the kryptonite to all my arguments. I have been happily traipsing, backpacking, hiking, biking, and canoeing the outdoors with a gaggle of boys (and girls too) in tow ever since. But that doesn’t mean that I was ready for the job I had undertaken. I love the outdoors with a passion, but you know what they say about passion making you blind, right? I have gotten lost on familiar mountains more times than I can count. I would send up flares when the Diet Coke supply got a little low in the house, so my wilderness skills weren’t exactly honed yet. And the extent of my nature knowledge was mostly stuff I learned off of Snapple caps and from my own well-intentioned but equally clueless mom.

So why do it? Why take the reins at all? I have a hand full of excuses I call kids that would have totally let me off the hook. The truth is that helping out changed me in good and important ways that I couldn’t have predicted but greatly appreciate.

Parenting can be hard. Helping out helped make me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. Valuable Point of View

As a leader, I’ve got the goods. I also now have valuable intel. My kids’ friends are three dimensional fully formed creatures in good, bad, and very annoying ways. Of course, I have front row seats to petty disagreements, power struggles, and general malarkey; but I also stand witness as these kids blossom and bloom. I cheer on the shy ones as they evolve into leaders, and I nod approvingly as the “straight and narrow” ones reap their just rewards for all their good listening. But those ones that drive me crazy? The squirrelly, wild ones are some of my favorites. I now appreciate and value their energy and good spirit. Yes, they flexed my patience muscles, but they also helped me see the forest for the trees. Not all kids walk an easy path, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t heading somewhere great. Helping out helped me parent through my own rough patches with my kids by reminding me of this.Parenting can be hard. Helping out made me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

2. Front Row Seat on Big (and Little Moments)

I also got some great seats on my kids’ growing up action. So much of what happens as our kids grow up is outside our sphere of influence. Helping out meant that I was front row center to a lot of the subtle but important moments. The Moment Where He Conquered His Fear of Heights? Yep, I was there. I was also there when his brother tantrumed his way through his first Pinewood Derby. It wasn’t all pretty, but I am counting it all in the win column. These were moments that would have been hidden from me. I was peaking behind the curtain, and I liked the view.

3. Organizational Skills Made Me Bold

There is no denying that planning and executing activities for a gaggle of boys every week helped me step up my game, but it also gave me an attitude of “what’s the worst that can happen?” This gave me a lion-hearted approach to parenting and made me do crazy things like invite my friends on summer adventures and take my parenting show on the road every chance I got. My mother-in-law may have worried about us, but I was freed in a way that I still treasure. Helping other kids unlock some of the great joys of childhood helped me embrace it for myself and my own family.

Parenting can be hard. Helping out made me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

4. Dynamic Shift

A challenging aspect of volunteering in the beginning was leading my own kids. With time, I appreciated how leading taught my boys to lead too. The other kids had their mom or dad right there with them helping them at each step. My sons each learned to self start and keep rolling, because I was often busy facilitating. They helped set up, clean up, and often were my harshest critics and greatest advocates. We became partners of a sort during my adventures as a leader, and I appreciated the new and welcome change in our relationship. It echoes of a larger shift that comes when they leave the nest, but we are trying those roles on now and they fit just fine.

5. Perspective

Parenting can make you crazy. Kids are particularly clever in their ability to create new ways to annoy and confound. Yep, my kids are certifiable at times, but I can say with authority that all kids tend towards nutty with extra nuts on top. Being privy to so many kids on such a regular basis for so long made me appreciate my home team more. Reassurance that our particular brand of kid is turning out A-OK was worth every marshmallow tower and scout song. It also made me empathetic to the difficult task of growing up. We forget once we cross that finish line to adulthood all the steps it took to get there. Volunteering gave me back a window on that world again. Parenting can be hard. Helping out made me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms But ultimately I most appreciated the fact that experience is a fine teacher. Volunteering taught me things I needed to learn and in a way that benefited my kids and their friends too. I am not the same woman who picked up that gauntlet laid down by my friend so many years ago, a very good thing for me and my kids. It’s also good for you if you know me. I am a kinder, gentler, and far more patient version of myself. But perhaps even more importantly, ten years into this scout leader gig, I have some SKILLS. You can feel safe sending your kids into the woods with me. I can climb mountains, build fires, triangulate my position, and kayak like the fearless leader I have become. I am a full-fledged member of the village raising some fine young people in my community and that is the best thing of all. So feel free to join me the next time you see me heading out on the trail. We might get lost but we will have a darn good time getting there.

-Erin

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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Empty Nest? I Wish!

Kid off to college leaving you with an empty nest? I WISH!! Seems not cleaning my kids' rooms was an initiative that should have had an exit strategy. Here's how to deal with it. | Parenting Advice| Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Empty nest? EMPTY NEST?! Bwahahahaha! I wish. My girl may have launched 1150 miles away to college, but she left her nest anything but empty. I think more fitting words would be disarranged, disorganized, and disgusting. In truth it looked like a mob boss had tossed the room for the secret stashes of cash before fleeing the country.

To her credit, she washed, cleaned, organized, and packed all of her things for college. She managed to do such a good job that she was able to get it all in her allotted suitcases coming in under the airline weight restrictions. But once we returned home from drop-off and the brain bash of leaving my first baby at college drained away, the full disaster of her room walloped me. First it stabbed me in the heart because it looked like she should be arising from the rubble to greet me every morning. Seriously, her bed not only looked like she was still in it, but I swear if you stared at the heap long enough, it looked like it was breathing. My girl used A LOT of blankets since her father keeps the thermostat just north of “meat locker.”

It was with a healthy dose of trepidation that I sidled into the room and threw off the comforter. Hey, she once had a bat doing a jig at the end of her bed so a family of possums setting up camp under there was not beyond the realm of possibilities.

“Whoosh” went the covers and “ewwww” went the very core of my psyche. Had she even changed her sheets in the past three months, wait . . . THREE YEARS? It really could have been longer because I think I stopped cleaning my kids rooms and ceased being the sole laundress when she reached middle school. Silver lining: I still didn’t have to wash the sheets because they went directly into the trash.

But gah! Even though I wasn’t cleaning my daughters’ rooms, they were expected to clean them. But now that I think about it, I never inspected them. I would inspect the bathrooms they decontaminated weekly because I swear about every two months the blow dryer would just whisk the procedure for scrubbing a toilet clean out of their heads. And there was that one time our mismatched sock basket overflowed to Vesuvius levels because apparently it was easier to assume EVERY sock in our dryer was flying solo than it was to match and fold them. But their rooms? If they bothered me too much, I just closed the doors.

I truly thought she had cleaned her room though. I know I had seen it tidy at least once during the Obama administration, but once the stripped bed floated like an oasis in the middle of the room, it became clear that instead of following the “touch-it-once” rule, she was employing the “why-throw-something-away-when-you-can-shove-it-under-your-bed-in-your-closet-in-a-drawer-or-behind-the-trash-can” rule. “Just-leave-it-in-the-middle-of-the-ever-loving-floor” rule was her fail safe for when doing the bare minimum to qualify for lazy was just too taxing.

What started as “I’m just going to just pick up those pencils and put them in the caddy,” turned into a full-on excavation. Oh the treasures I found.

There was the solitary volleyball knee pad that was so old, the spandex crumbled when I picked it up. At least there was a deteriorating lollipop stuck to it gluing part of it together.

Then I found a little straw dress-up purse that contained such treasures as an expired coupon for toilet bowl cleaner and yet another decaying lollipop. (I’m starting to think her superior dental health was because she liked to hoard candy rather than eat it. Why we didn’t trade dental bills for exterminator fees, I’ll never know.)

Also amongst the rubble was a princess jump rope (permanently tangled), a junior scientist kit (never opened), and one hundred plus eleven lip balms (half of which where plastered to—you guessed it—lollipops).

I’m going to save you any more particulars, but suffice it to say, I filled up three garbage bags with stuff I didn’t even have to think twice about throwing away. Okay, I did pause over the one little purple fuzzy slipper because WHAT IF THE OTHER ONE TURNED UP?? They were pretty stinkin’ adorable.

Seems not cleaning my kids’ rooms was an initiative that should have had an exit strategy. This became abundantly clear when I started stumbling over emotional landmines like her “All About Me” kindergarten profile, the stuffed cat she use to snuggle with, and her stack of Webkinz adoption certificates. Those trips down memory lane would have been so much better with her rather than by myself three weeks into her departure when the ache of not seeing her was starting to set in. Silver lining: I had the cover of dirt dervishes to explain my reddened eyes and snuffly nose.

I really meant for the Big Clean to happen over the summer with her fully in charge; but when faced with grief or change I tend to “panic travel.” It’s like a driving force that overtakes me, compelling me to move forward and make new memories rather than dwell with the ghosts of the past, no matter how cute they are.

Besides, I hate to clean, too. Going to Philly was soooo much more fulfilling than battling dust bunnies.

Kid off to college leaving you with an empty nest? I WISH!! Seems not cleaning my kids' rooms was an initiative that should have had an exit strategy. Here's how to deal with it. | Parenting Advice| Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Oh, but snooker me once . . . you’re obviously the oldest child. Second child: don’t even think about it. You’ll have to blaze your own trail to elude me because this pathway has been scorched.

My 10th grader is shoveling out her room even as we speak . . . under protest of course. “My sister made it all the way out of the house before having to do this and now YOU’RE cleaning her room.”

True, but I did leave this wall of memorabilia for her to deal with. I’m COMPLETELY positive I won’t be the one taking it down weeks after her wedding day. I just wasn’t ready to turn her nest into the perfect guest room quite yet. She needs somewhere familiar to land when she comes homes to roost every once in a while.

Got clutter? Get clean and organized with a Memorabilia Jar. Easy DIY project. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

I’ll leave you with a pro tip since we are after all the Sensible Moms. My girl has a TON of knick-knacks as you can see. I consolidated a bit of the tedious mess by putting the smallest treasures in a two gallon glass container creating a Memorabilia Jar. It truly cut down the clutter more than it may seem. The biggest trick to it is to put some boxy types items in the center so that everything gets displayed around the perimeter.

Got clutter? Get clean and organized with a Memorabilia Jar. Easy DIY project. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

-Ellen 

[Speaking of memory lane, I found the post I wrote when we redecorated my daughter’s room five years ago. I actually wrote about how I would be happy for the massive clean out I was doing then because it would save me from doing it when she went away to college. I don’t know whether to be grateful for the realization that THIS cleaning could have been worse or to tip over laughing at my delusion that a whole new mountain of stuff wouldn’t accumulate in five years time. (Obviously things slithered through that first wave of cleaning like her kindergarten profile because, well, we’re awesome.) You can be the judge after reading it 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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