Tag Archives: Parenting

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 Groundhog Day is really Thanksgiving Day for me

Groundhog Day is really Thanksgiving day for me. Seventeen years ago today while we were living in Maine, Steve’s car lost its purchase on black ice. The ensuing head-on collision happened on the little country road right in front of our neighborhood. One of those worst case scenarios I fretted over in the middle of the night? It was happening in real time. Steve was hurt, and we were miles from anything resembling support. But I was still unaware of all that as I was tucking my two toddlers into bed. After wrestling little warm bodies into footie pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading just one more book, I had just found a moment to breathe when a stranger came to the door.

“There’s been an accident.”

I don’t remember losing my breath or crying or reacting at all really. Some people report such things when disaster arrives on their doorstep. But that was not me. With our closest family and friends over 12 hours away, I had no real options. So I absorbed the words being spoken to me by a man I had never met. This stranger, a young professional on his commute home, was the first man to the scene. Apologetic in his lack of details, he told me that Steve had sustained a head injury and was being taken to the local hospital. As he was not a medical professional, he tried to reassure me that Steve had been alert enough to give him directions to find me (this was pre-cell phone for us). Because he wasn’t a medical professional, that gave me little comfort.

Lessons about the strength of motherhood and the joys of friends becoming family can change a life. Even on Groundhog Day. Why Groundhog Day is My Thanksgiving Day. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Of the many things I learned from this first crisis of my marriage, I remember these three every Groundhog Day:

1. Not all fears are unfounded.

I  was a young mother whose first child was a honeymoon baby. Confidence was a fickle friend. I doubted myself often and loudly. But this crisis taught me to lean into my intuition and trust my abilities. This helped me confess my fears about 4th child to the pediatrician, advocate for my middle son’s dyslexia diagnosis, send my son away for the summer, and hone my senses to parent teens.  I handled everything in those first few post-accident days from medical jargon to childcare to family notifications on my two shaky shoulders. If some of it was messy and uncomfortable and scary, well, I cleaned it up, asked for help, or even cried. But I learned that when the world hits hard, I bounce, if not beautifully, at least, passably well. We all survived, but the experience gave me a stronger spine, a more open heart, and a head that trusts that gut a whole lot more.

2. You can make family.

With my social safety net existing of moms I had met a handful of times at the library and playgroup , I felt panicky. My family wouldn’t be able to help me any time soon, and I needed mountains of assistance pronto. So I called one of them who I liked a lot, the one who would become my “Maine Ellen.” I relayed to her the scanty details I had about the accident.  Ellen ony knew me as a playgroup buddy, but she didn’t blink an eye.

Register that: she would being taking care of my babies who were both under two for an indefinite period of time. She had two toddlers of her own.  I had no idea what I would find when I got to the hospital, and no idea when I would be able to pick them up again. Her “absolutely, no problem, drop them off” was only the most beautiful thing someone has probably said to me EVER. The deep gratitude I still feel today for this gift is hard to measure.  I had many things to worry about that day, but my kids were not on that list. “Maine Ellen” and her family have been a beautiful grace note on our life ever since. 

3. When you are lucky, be grateful.

Our story has a happy ending of course. Steve is still here, and Ellen is still a big part of my life. We were hugely lucky that day. Steve had a head injury that, in the end, was truly just a laceration ( a big one, but STILL). The what-ifs haunted me for a short while, but then we got back to the lovely, blessed task of just living. With each extra year we have been given and the three children who have joined us since that day, it seems appropriate to take a moment to just sit in my thanks once in awhile or, in this case, once a year.

So every Groundhog Day, I try to really feel that gratitude and be in that moment again, a difficult task for an impatient, slightly hyper puppy of a woman like me. Remembering the gift of  Steve that our family still has is important to me. We are largely who we are today because of the love we have shared and grown over the past twenty years. Honoring Ellen and the gift of friendship I received that day is important to me too. She taught me what it really means to show up for someone. I have tried ever since to give even a small measure of that gift to others when I see a need.

Groundhog Day is really no big deal for, well, everyone. For me, however, it’s truly a day of Thanksgiving, a day to remember what was almost lost and to appreciate all that I gained.
Today will never ever be about a groundhog for me. It will be forever and always one of gratitude and love!

But I really hope spring is just around the corner!

-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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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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Is Your Child Ready For Kindergarten?

Five years ago, we  had THE TALK. Not THAT ONE, the other one—the one where you meet with the preschool teacher about whether to send the baby to kindergarten.  Mothering a brood is supposed to make decisions like this one less fraught. Experience times 4 or 5 should make you wiser, right? Was I really supposed to still be wringing sweat from my hands trying to decide if my child  was ready for kindergarten?

Trying to decide if your preschooler is ready for kindergarten? Asking friends, family, and the internet is one way to deicide if "red-shirting" is right for your child | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Unfortunately, there was no “GET OUT OF THIS CONVERSATION FREE” card for me this time. I promised my husband to muzzle it and let the teacher talk. The main arguments for holding my son back were that he was physically small, has a birthday in the late summer, and the majority of his class cohort has much older birthdays so he looks even younger in comparison. These were fair arguments, just not compelling ones—at least to me. With no concerns about my son’s academic readiness, his social skills, or his developmental readiness, the teacher felt strongly that another year could be a gift to him—another year to play and be a little boy. Who wouldn’t get on board with that? The only thing I said during our hour was “Thank you, we would like some time to think this over.”

And that’s what I did, except when I said “think it over” what I meant was give myself time to read everything I could find and poll every person I know. At this point, I want to be able to say that the research (the paper kind and the people kind) clarified everything, but what I found was. . . contradictory at best.

There were some very good reasons for holding him back. One study found that the youngest students were much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and were three times as likely to repeat a grade. Umm, no thank you. Another study found that the oldest students were most likely to become student leaders. Well, what parent DOESN’T want that? At this point, I started daydreaming about my sweet boy as class president circa Class of 2022! But by far the most compelling argument for another year of PreK was what my mother (former preschool and kindergarten teacher) said: “You cannot underestimate the power of feeling confident and capable in the classroom.” Maybe Momma IS always right.

I was all ready to give him another year, but, of course, then I kept reading. The arguments against another year of Pre-K pushed me right back on my fence. There were negligible long-term academic benefits. The differences between the oldest and the youngest are the largest on the first day of kindergarten, but the advantages decrease over time. Younger students catch up with the oldest by third grade. Even studies that matched each child who delayed entrance with a child of like intelligence who had not delayed entrance did not find any solid proof that this practice made any difference at all.

Wowzers. What’s a good girl to do with data like this? So I shared it with my husband and then with Ellen, who both love a good dive into some research the way I love me a Netflix marathon. In the end, this was the take-away: despite research indicating there is no real benefit, it is becoming a common practice to “red-shirt” for kindergarten.  While there are no large studies with good statistical significance to show that it is beneficial to hold back, it is most often recommended to white males with summer birthdays. Quite frankly, there are also whiffs that it is recommended so that schools have better scores on their rankings.

But even after this fair-minded even-handed analysis, I was still undecided. I called my dad, the fair-minded judge and father of 4. It’s his daily work to evaluate two sides of an issue, balance interests, and come up with good solutions. He just said, “What did your mother say? Do that.” Well, that was helpful. Thanks, Dad.

And my girlfriends? I leaned hard on those who had a summer baby that had started school already, but I was open to all advice. The results, while very much appreciated, were mixed and, in the end, not all that helpful. Asking the question did help move the needle a little though. I heard validated time and again what I already knew: all of these kids, including mine, are going to be just fine no matter what side I came down on. The decisions to start preschool or kindergarten and when are important decisions, but they are not deal-breakers. Kids grow where they are planted and nourished and cared for. I knew that. I needed to remember that. And the fifth time around this tree made it easier to see that.

At decision time, despite having to surrender my Good Girl crown, I went against the teacher’s advice and sent my child to kindergarten. This conclusion didn’t arise from any single thing we read or brilliant insight someone shared. The readiness assessments, while they did make us feel better, weren’t the deciding factors either. In the end, our son went to kindergarten, because one night after we put him to bed, Steve and I looked at each other and at the same moment said, “He’s ready.”  He went because he was ready, and we both felt that to be true.

So five years later, how did things turn out for us and our boy? Well, there were mixed results for awhile. While he adjusted to kindergarten well and was meeting academic milestones with his peers, when I had a meeting with his teacher in the spring, she still had some concerns. Chief among them was that he was the youngest in his class (sound familiar?) and because this particular class skewed old, he looked young. Was he still appropriate for his age? Yes. Was he a behavior problem? No. Was she concerned about him academically? Not really. Was he driving her a little crazy? Maybe. We repeated this pattern in the classroom for the next couple years. But by third grade, he was doing so well, he earned himself the Citizenship Award that earned him a dog. But that’s a story for another day.

Bottom Line for You: If you plow forward with your summer baby and keep him or her with their birth cohort, you might still be talking about this or thinking about this. For AWHILE.  This means that if you follow this path, you may be sitting in the little chairs discussing issues a little more often than other parents.

Remember what the literature said: it can take until third grade until everything evens out. Or not. All kids are different.

We are still putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward taking one day at a time with this child, but that’s honestly just parenting as I know it. Now we ask questions like: is he ready for the next step, challenge, or opportunity? So far, with love and guidance, the answer has been yes.

-Erin

Trying to decide if your preschooler is ready for kindergarten? Asking friends, family, and the internet is one way to deicide if "red-shirting" is right for your child | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

For additional resources, we suggest you check out this great 60 Minutes segment about kindergarten redshirting. Definitely worth a look if you are also in the midst of this decision.

Also, Steve and I found some great resources online to determine academic readiness from sources like Scholastic, BabyCenter, and FamilyEducation.com. We took two readiness assessments—one from School Sparks and one from Covenant Home.

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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Five Things Better to Give Than Presents

It’s that point in the busy holiday season where we are all calling which corner we want to rock in later when we get a free moment. We say that you can keep on railing against the gods of time suck or you can make some adjustments. While we can’t stuff your stockings,  hang your baubles, or roast your beast, we can help you find happiness amidst the hullabaloo. In fact, finding calm in the Christmas chaos is as easy as putting down the paper and scissors and putting on your thinking cap instead. We’re gonna keep this short and simple, folks, because quite frankly, who’s got the time, but here are five things better to give than presents. It truly is better to give than to receive, and these will bring you back to the holiday spirit in no time. Promise.
 Holidays got you stressed and not your best? Here are five things better to give than presents. Parenting at Christmas made simple, easy, and full of the joy of the season. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1) The Gift of Experience

We both believe that experiences trump things. To that end, over the years, we have given concert tickets, special trips, museum visits, and special lessons. We could say that the memories from those special moments were as much a gift to us as to our kids. But spending special time with their awesome moms is the ultimate gift for our kiddos AND they usually end up with a souvenir AND we end up with great pictures! Consider this idea a win-win-win!

Bonus that these gifts don’t need to be wrapped either.

 Holidays got you stressed and not your best? Here are five things better to give than presents. Parenting at Christmas made simple, easy, and full of the joy of the season. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

The lads and Ellen AND her kids had a brilliant Christmas.

2) The Gift of Tradition and Time Together

We both be-deck our halls and weight our trees with as many memories as the walls and limbs can stand, but we never underestimate the power of unplugging.Erin’s family kicks it old school with a new puzzle every year. After they work as a family to put it together, then they mount it, and use it for a Christmas decoration the following year. A foolproof plan for fun and festive flair!

We both also give games. Sure, one might argue that our deeply rooted competitive natures might be at the heart of this one, but we offer this counter-argument. The Great Scrabble Rout of 2007? The Epic Camel Slaughter in Parcheesi? The time the four year old won the UNO tournament? These memories all rival any trip we have ever taken in the annals of family fun. So bottom line, you can think what you want. And if you are coming over this Christmas, be prepared to pick a card.

 Holidays got you stressed and not your best? Here are five things better to give than presents. Parenting at Christmas made simple, easy, and full of the joy of the season. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Every year, Grandma likes a photo with all of her grandbabies. It goes reasonably well most of the time. Not this year, apparently, but most of the time.

3) The Gift of Memory

Each year we both work our Shutterfly accounts like a boss to create calendars with pictures from the past year to guide us through the new one. We also both make family yearbooks. Because we started blogging in 2011, Erin is a little behind so her family is getting the 2011 yearbook this Christmas. Resist the urge to point out that we are now in the fleeting days of 2016. She knows. She KNOWS!

 Holidays got you stressed and not your best? Here are five things better to give than presents. Parenting at Christmas made simple, easy, and full of the joy of the season. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

We like the also ran photos more than the album-worthy ones. These are the memories we hope we don’t lose.

4) The Gift of Acknowledgment

Every year Erin’s kids pick someone who has been an angel to their family. Then they give a plate of cookies and an angel ornament to that person. The conversation as they decide who to pick each year is a gift to them all as they realize how many wonderful people they have in their life.

 Holidays got you stressed and not your best? Here are five things better to give than presents. Parenting at Christmas made simple, easy, and full of the joy of the season. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

5) The Gift of Each Other

As a general rule, the best gifts don’t actually fit in a box or bag. When Erin’s kids were young, they spontaneously created a play one Christmas Eve.  Even as the kids have crossed over into Planet Teen, they have never given up creating a special performance for that night. It is, without question, the best gift Steve and Erin get all year and they are really hoping that one of the videos from these performances will hit it big on Youtube. Then it can keep on giving all the way to the Ivy League. How’s that for a Christmas wish?

 Holidays got you stressed and not your best? Here are five things better to give than presents. Parenting at Christmas made simple, easy, and full of the joy of the season. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Watching a little girl get all her big cousins to play trains with her is wish fulfillment of a different but equally great kind.

But that’s not all.

Our trees are trimmed to the nines with handprints, school pictures, and handicrafts of all skill levels. Our schedules are crammed with band concerts and Christmas plays and choral recitals. Our houses are full of trays of cookies, homemade decorations, and gingerbread houses.

 Holidays got you stressed and not your best? Here are five things better to give than presents. Parenting at Christmas made simple, easy, and full of the joy of the season. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Apparently when boys outgrow gingerbread houses, they get creative and start crafting things on their own. Like the TARDIS from DOCTOR Who.

We know that this is the good stuff.  So we clean up the glitter glue and the paper confetti on the floor, work our crockpots to the max to get dinner to the masses before each performance, and buy more cookie sheets to keep our little cookie sweat shops cranking.  The big wide world will be taking these kids soon enough.

For now, we will just take a deep breath, enjoy the chaos, and be grateful for our gifts.

 Holidays got you stressed and not your best? Here are five things better to give than presents. Parenting at Christmas made simple, easy, and full of the joy of the season. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

And if none of this helps, we have found that nothing will help you get your holiday spirit on like a reluctant angel.

These are some things that have helped us find the happy sweet underbelly of Christmas in the midst of the madness. Think of them as the cookies before the main course. What? Cookies don’t come first? We’ll never tell. It’s the most wonderful time of the year after all.

A merry, merry Christmas to all!

Erin and 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.

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Easy Christmas Tradition You Can Start Today

Even on Planet Teen, the “making of the memories” part of parenting is the silver lining to all the other stuff that’s not fit to be shared on social media. We love investing in our family memory vaults even more when we can do it cheap and easy.  That’s why this Christmas tradition is a slam dunk. On the one hand, you get a great family tradition to enjoy in the here and now. On the other hand, you get a holiday decoration you can pull out each year to relive the fun from years past while making even more memories. What is this fabulous unicorn of an idea? A Christmas puzzle. Here’s our short, sweet guide to an easy Christmas tradition you can start today and enjoy year after year.

Easy and Inexpensive Christmas tradition you can start today! Check out this great family puzzle activity to make the holidays bright! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Erin’s family grew up with this puzzle-making merriment, and she has spread this idea as far and wide as she can.

Step 1: Get a Christmas puzzle.

In Erin’s family, St. Nick brings the Christmas puzzle and leaves it by the shoes left by  the fireplace on the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6th, BTW). You can do it however you want. Heck, that crazy Elf could bring it. In any case, this whole thing will be a moot point if there is no Christmas puzzle to assemble.

Easy and Inexpensive Christmas tradition you can start today! Check out this great family puzzle activity to make the holidays bright! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

There is already enough crazy this time of year. Just buy the puzzle already.

Step 2: Build the thing.

We highly recommend a puzzle with 500 pieces if you are new to puzzles. Traditions are supposed to be happy and bring joy, not take your family to the edge of sanity. Look for lots of different colors and patterns. Then designate a table with good lighting and have at it.

Easy and Inexpensive Christmas tradition you can start today! Check out this great family puzzle activity to make the holidays bright! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Bad lighting makes the natives restless. Proper illumination required.

Step 3: Stand back and admire your handiwork.

Not gonna lie. One man will carry your team to victory, and one other man (or woman or child) will claim he is the one who made the magic happen. That’s why it’s best to record these things for all eternity.

Easy and Inexpensive Christmas tradition you can start today! Check out this great family puzzle activity to make the holidays bright! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Erin may have said this when she placed the last piece.

Step 4: Mount the thing.

Do not skip this step. Puzzles do not go back into the boxes. It is now on its way to becoming your Christmas wall art. You must now carefully cut a piece of  1/4 ” plywood to the dimensions of your puzzle.

When we do this, we put a piece of contact paper on the front of the puzzle. Then we use a foam brush to put glue all over the plywood, and then we carefully attach the puzzle to the backing and remove the contact paper. But we are not awesome crafty people like Ellen. If there is a better way to do this, please tell us. We then let our puzzle dry for at least 48 hours before we move it.

Easy and Inexpensive Christmas tradition you can start today! Check out this great family puzzle activity to make the holidays bright! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Step 5: Record something special about the puzzle-making magic on the back. 

Don’t skip this step either. We love reading the comments on the back of the puzzles almost as much as the puzzles themselves. We have no time for baby books or fancy journals, but this is so worth it. Honestly.

Easy and Inexpensive Christmas tradition you can start today! Check out this great family puzzle activity to make the holidays bright! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Step 6: Replace every last wall hanging with PUZZLES!

Not. Kidding.

Easy and Inexpensive Christmas tradition you can start today! Check out this great family puzzle activity to make the holidays bright! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Not even every puzzle we own, but you get the idea. No more wall art. Only puzzles. All season long.

You get the incredibly awesome, super simple, relatively cheap idea. Join us in holiday merry-making at its most fun!

Enjoy you holidays! Feel free to share with us any great traditions you all have!

Erin and 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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Ten Commandments for Being a Great Volunteer

Volunteers make the world go round. Whether you work with your kids’ school, your church, the local Boy Scout Troop, the animal shelter, or even with an international organization like Shot@Life, your time and efforts makes all of the things possible.

Buuuuuuuutttttttt . . .

We all know—especially those of us who have been chairpersons—that not all volunteers are cut from the same cloth. There are the fakes, flakes, and troublemakers who make volunteering as painful as a Brazilian bikini wax administered on a fire ant hill. Volunteers need to work as a hive and if too many bees go rogue, the honey is just not getting made.

Don’t worry, we’re going to stop with the insect analogies there. Shifting gears, to completely illustrate our commandments for proper volunteer etiquette, we have created this entirely FICTIONAL school event—The Annual Penguin Craft Party.  Once again, this event is entirely made-up, but if something strikes a chord, perhaps it is time for a little reflection. We’re going to be honest, failure to follow these simple rules will rightfully earn you the title “Monarch of the PITAs“.

Volunteers make the world go round, but not everyone is a good one. Heed this advice for being a GREAT volunteer. Psst, a sense of humor helps.| Ten Commandments for Being a Great Volunteer | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Without further ado, we bring this meeting for The Annual Penguin Craft Party to order.

1.Respect the planning period! If while setting up for an event that has been planned for months, you try to push in another direction because of the idea that just popped into your head . . . DON’T!

Count to ten. Think of something completely relaxing and indulgent . . . you, know, like sitting down after the penguin party is over. DO NOT utter your brilliant thought NOW. That ship has sailed. Here’s a little example to illustrate our point. Say, you are in the gym hanging streamers for the Annual Penguin Craft Party. Now is not the time to rally support for the idea that this shindig could be so much MORE if it just had an actual dogsled race and the kids worked together to carve a true-to-scale igloo.

 

2. But don’t be an idea killer DURING the planning period! Nothing breaks hearts and quashes spirits more than the simple phrase:

“But we’ve always done it this way.”

DO NOT let these words leave your lips during a PLANNING meeting. This is the time to let the creative juices fly! It really might be fun for the kids to toss live mackerel into the penguin’s mouth! Builds hand-eye coordination and deadens olfactory sensitivity! Give every dreamer her (brief) moment. Every golden idea was a dusty little nugget at some point.

 

3. Execute your own ideas!  If you throw an idea out there, be ready to catch it, and run with that ball. DO NOT expect your vision to magically happen. If your brilliant idea is going to take 50 million woman hours to pull off, you should think about putting in a lot of those hours yourself, not just patting yourself on the back for how creative you are.  Start Googling how to make that igloo!  Look up dry ice dealers!  Be ready to drag that dogsled yourself.

 

4. Just worry about yourself!  Everybody is a volunteer. Nobody is getting paid, and everyone has someplace else to be. You’re hanging with the heroes. If you spend more time complaining about all the people who never volunteer than you do making those papier mâché penguins, you are bringing us all unpleasantly down. Stop griping! Get pasting!

 

5. Follow the 10 second rule! If you have called your event chair four times in the past hour, take a deep breath and put your cellphone down. Perhaps you can solve this problem yourself!

We believe in you!

Think for 10 seconds! Remember you are competent and bright. Acknowledge that your chairperson, though in charge, is still just a volunteer. Envision your sweet little cherub’s face and remember why you’re volunteering in the first place. Use the time you just saved NOT making that phone call to cut out some more penguin bills.

 

6. Keep any urge to cat fight to yourself!  If you start a spat worthy of a middle school cafeteria (even if you ARE standing in a middle school cafeteria) in the midst of the snow cone booth, you are a PITA. Period. It is NOT proper etiquette to squirt blueberry syrup down your fellow comrade’s shirt no matter how many eye rolls she gave you or how satisfying it may feel.

 

7. In fact, bring a great attitude. Chances are that inspirational posters promoting just this very thing are lining the school halls. If it applies to the kids, it applies to the adults. You don’t have to whistle while you work, but don’t swear, moan, or gossip. The penguins don’t like that. Makes ‘em cranky.

 

8. Do what you say you are going to do!  There is no credit for great intentions. We’ve heard there’s a pathway to hell paved with these. The only thing that matters is results. Nobody cares if your uncle is the Chief Penguin Wrangler at the local zoo unless you get him there. If you volunteer him to show up and talk to the kids, he better be there with some of his feathered friends even if you have to drive him to the event yourself. In a dogsled. It’s all about the follow through.

 

9. Clean up after yourself.  We all have kids. That’s what got us into this mess. When our kids leave a path of destruction in their wake, we feel like kicking a kitten. When you do it, we just feel like kicking you. You’re not royalty. Don’t act like it.

Nothing tarnishes your “Volunteer of the Year” crown awarded for cutting out 200 snowflakes like leaving your confetti scraps on the floor for someone else to sweep up.

 

10. Keep it up. Don’t be a One Note Nelly. Consider doing a little something to make EVERY event a success. Every time you put down that glue gun, another volunteer has to pick it up with the third set of hands she doesn’t have.

Volunteers make the world go round, but not everyone is a good one. Heed this advice for being a GREAT volunteer. Psst, a sense of humor helps.| Ten Commandments for Being a Great Volunteer | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

But, seriously, every hour you donate makes your kids’ schools, churches, youth groups, teams, and world better. Thank you and keep up the good work!

-Ellen and 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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The Electoral College Explained for You and Your Kids

Can't find the perfect article about the Electoral College? See the information I compiled: The Electoral College Explained for You and Your Kids! | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Every four years it’s like a civics lesson all over again: What the heck is the Electoral College? Wait, that’s not accurate. We only truly care we are not actually voting for a president—but for a slate of electors—when the popular vote does not jive with the electoral college votes . . . like it did in 2000 (Bush winning over Gore) and 2016 (Trump winning over Clinton).  The Electoral College/popular vote disharmony happened in 1876 and 1888, too.

Since Clinton supporters are petitioning electors “to ignore their states’ votes and cast their ballots for [former] Secretary Clinton,” and I have these pesky offspring who ask questions that matter, I have found myself delving for hours through the internet, books, and ::gasp::  the Constitution. Yes, the ACTUAL Constitution printed on ACTUAL paper. This post is born out of the desire to not wash, rinse, and repeat this research when my youngest is able to vote in her first presidential election in 2020 because spoiler alert, I’m pretty sure the Electoral College will still be a thing.

The Basics of the Electoral College

There are 538 electors (one elector equals one vote), and a candidate must win 270 votes to become President. The number of electors for each state is determined by its congressional delegation: the number of Representatives in the House plus the two Senators. So, for my home state of Maryland that makes 10.

Such an unwieldy filter for direct democracy must be mandated pretty clearly in the Constitution, right? Nope. Different states choose their electors in different ways. Some states have nominations for electors during party conventions, while others choose their electors in primaries. It’s a hodgepodge free-for-all. The only two things that can really disqualify you from being an elector is holding a federal office or having engaged in some sort of insurrection against the U.S. government. In general, electors are loyal party members who can be counted on to cast a ballot that’s in line with their state’s popular vote.

However, only 29 out of 50 states, and the District of Columbia, have passed laws binding their electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their state. (Doing the math, that means there are 21 states where no such law is present at all.) Yep, the most powerful position in our country is really meted out on a wave of tradition. So what happens if an elector breaks rank? Uh, they get a fine, get called a “faithless elector,” and sometimes . . . become a folk hero. In 1972, Roger MacBride, the treasurer of the Republican Party of Virginia, was a pledged elector for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Instead he voted for the Libertarian candidate. That little move got him the Libertarian party presidential nomination in the 1976 election. There have been others who have broken rank, but it has never really made a difference.

In general though, the electoral votes in each state are allotted to the candidate who nabbed the popular vote there in a winner-take-all scenario . . . but there are special snowflake exceptions. Those crazy kids, Nebraska and Maine, decided to let each congressional district determine its own candidate while still awarding 2 electoral votes to the state winner (these account for the 2 electoral votes given to each state because of Senators). Although Maine and Nebraska have been using this system since 1972 and 1992, respectively, split votes have only happened once for each state. Nebraska’s electoral vote was split in 2008 with Barack Obama carrying a congressional district centered around Omaha, and his Republican rival, John McCain gaining the state’s other four votes. This year’s election marks the first time that Maine will split its electoral votes with one of its four votes going to Trump. It’s didn’t make much of a difference in either election, but maybe this split vote thing could make a difference in states with a greater number of electoral votes?

So when are these votes cast? Right after the election would make the most sense since we have the news outlets telling us who won the election by 2 am, but nay, nay. The chosen electors all meet at their respective state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to cast their votes. (Seriously.) The votes are then counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6. Yeah, and the Inauguration is held on January 20th (20th Amendment), so by all appearances it is just for pomp and circumstance.

Why We Have the Electoral College

Since it seems like the Electoral College is just a bunch of curlicues and flourishes and is the very definition of “extra,” why do we have it?

The easy answer is that while we often throw around the word democracy, the United States is actually a representative republic because the creators of the Constitution valued federalism—meaning that power is divided between our federal government and our state and local governments. So in the most idealistic terms, the Electoral College was supposed to prevent a power grab by a tyrannical majority. Alexander Hamilton indicated in “The Federalist Papers” that the point of the Electoral College was to preserve “the sense of the people,” while at the same time ensuring that a president was chosen “by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”

So that’s the very verbose ideal, but while the end product of our government’s creation is pretty amazing, it was founded by real men with real prejudices and real self-interests. In 1787, at the Philadelphia Convention (where the Constitution was created to replace the Articles of Confederation), the Pennsylvanian, James Wilson, proposed direct national election of the president.

However, James Madison figured out that in a direct election system, the North would outnumber the South, whose many slaves (more than half a million in all) could not vote. The Three-Fifths Compromise was enacted to count each male slave as three-fifths of a person to determine representation in the U.S. House, and consequentially a state’s number of electoral votes. Of course the only “representation” was of pro-slavery interests since slaves were still not allowed to vote. (Did they actually listen to themselves?) States were basically rewarded for the number of slaves they bought and bred. Because of the Three-Fifths Compromise, for 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years, a white slave-holding Virginian occupied the presidency. (The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, abolished the three-fifths rule and granted (male) former slaves the right to vote.)

The Electoral College Was Almost Immediately Obsolete

So it seems obvious that a system birthed out of political slight of hand to gain advantage by abusing the rights of human beings might not be something we need today? Heck, before we exited the 19th century, the Electoral College became a clunker. The 12th Amendment establishing the Electoral College was ratified in 1804. So let’s just consider the noble reasons for it, and assume it was developed to prevent “the tyranny of the majority” and because people across the vast United States would lack information to make intelligent decisions when choosing a president. It was around the same time of the 12th Amendment ratification that our two party system began to emerge providing more balance to prevent tyranny, and effectively tying presidential candidates to state and local governments. The development of standard political platforms meant “the people” would know who and what they were voting for.

So Why Do We Still Have It?

All pros and cons aside, the biggest reason we still have it is that it would take a Constitutional Amendment to change it. After including the whole “Alcohol is illegal! Nope, it’s legal again!” in the (18th and 21st) amendments of the founding document of our government, constitutional amendments are a hard sell because we are thankfully a bit more discerning now. (It literally takes an act of Congress, see below.)

Another bugaboo is that when the electoral votes don’t reflect the national popular vote, the party in power is the one that benefited from the Electoral College. Yeah.

In a more positive point, there are some analysts who insist that the Electoral College ensures that middle and rural America will not be ignored by presidential candidates, and that urban centers won’t determine elections. They argue it ensures that the President represents everyone.

Then there’s the ever popular “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Our electoral system has been stable for over 200 years. By all results, the Electoral College has effectively preserved federalism and prevented chaos. That is nothing to sneeze at. Building onto this thought, some believe that the Electoral College supports the power of the states in determining our president and ensures that presidents receive support from a diverse array of people around the country.

But Really . . .

The only “real” argument for why the Electoral College will endure is because it is in the Constitution. It is intentionally difficult to change the Constitution: two-thirds of both the House and Senate would need to vote to repeal it via a Constitutional amendment, AND THEN three-fourths of state legislatures would need to ratify the amendment.

However, there is a loophole to convening a Constitutional Convention: The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). In a nutshell, the compact is designed to ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes is elected president. Several U.S. states and the District of Columbia have adopted the agreement to award all their respective electoral votes to the candidate winning the popular vote. So if you use this election as an example, each state in the NPVIC would award its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote—Hillary Clinton—no matter if the state itself went red or blue.

So why is this not happening? Well, only ten states and the District of Columbia have joined for a total of 165 combined electoral votes. You can see a map of which ones have joined here, and by the way, they are all blue states. There needs to be enough states signed on with enough votes to make it to that magical number of majority: 270.

Oh and there is one more litttttttle thing. Even if enough states join, it may require Congressional approval. Article I, Section 10 of the US Constitution states that: “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress . . . enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power. . .” HOWEVER, it is being heavily debated in legal circles whether this article would actually apply to the NPVIC. While the legalities are convoluted, the takeaway is simple: the NPVIC is not an uncomplicated or straight path to circumventing the Electoral College.

Why the Electoral College is an Unnecessary Dinosaur

Can't find the perfect article about the Electoral College? See the information I compiled: The Electoral College Explained for You and Your Kids! | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. Small states don’t need the protection. First, states with smaller populations receive an unfair “bump” in voting power with the Electoral College, and that goes beyond “protection.” For example, there are 711,723 Californians for every Electoral College vote that state casts in the presidential election, but in Wyoming, there’s one Electoral College vote per 195,369 residents. How does this happen? Because no matter what the population, a state still gets those 2 electoral votes tacked on for its 2 senators.

So what about the argument that urban centers on the coasts would determine the elections without the Electoral College? I disagree. With just a quick look at population numbers (I realize not everyone in the census count can vote, but still, it illustrates the point).

California (38.8 million) plus New York State (19.75 million) equals 58.55 million people.

It only takes 13 red midwest and southern states (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Indiana, and Missouri) to equal a population of 62.27 million. (There were still 17 more red states leftover.)

I’m just not buying that if everyone came out to vote, California and New York would determine the President on their own.

2. Hey, the Senate ensures equality. The less populous states don’t need the 2 senator vote count advantage in the Electoral College (explained above) because they are already getting the advantage in the ACTUAL Senate. Every state gets two votes. Each presidential election year everyone seemingly forgets that the Executive branch functions under the checks and balances of the Legislative and Judiciary branches. Our government is constructed so that our state elections (which are direct, one person equals one vote, 17th Amendment) determines our state’s federal power.

3. The Electoral College can actually diminish the rural voice in an economically diverse state. In my home state of Maryland, every four years, five of the most urban counties determine the winner of our electoral votes. This produces feelings of disenfranchisement where farmers, watermen, and small business owners feel like the city of Baltimore decides who our president is going to be.

5. The Electoral College only acts to draw candidates to swing states. It’s also often argued that candidates would only focus campaign attention on huge states if the Electoral College was eradicated. Well, all the Electoral College ensures is that states split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans (like Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida) get attention. States that are locked into their voting patterns like Texas (red) and New York (blue) get very little campaign attention despite their large number of electoral votes. Candidates ignore where they are hopelessly behind or drastically ahead. Basically, votes in swing states carry more power.

The Main Reason The Electoral College Needs to Go

It creates voter apathy.

Votes are “wasted” under the Electoral College. It doesn’t matter if a candidate wins by 1,000 votes or 600,000 votes in California, they still receive the same the power of its 55 electoral votes. Likewise, every vote for the candidate who doesn’t win the electoral votes goes into the metaphorical garbage.

In Maryland, many of my friends and acquaintances didn’t want Trump or Hillary, but they especially didn’t want Trump. They felt like they could just not vote, thus not supporting Hillary, but knowing Hillary would win our blue state anyway. There had to be Hillary supporters who didn’t vote because they knew it didn’t matter. With or without their votes, Hillary would get out 10 electoral votes. The fact is only 2.37 million people out of 6 million voted in Maryland.

Extrapolate this nationwide. How many people don’t vote because they know how their state is going to go? If more people voted would elections still be cutting it as close as they are now?

The Most Interesting Question I Have Not Seen Asked

If we eliminated the Electoral College would it increase voter turnout?

Only 57.9% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2016 election. That left over 90 million votes on the table. Would knowing their personal voices would be heard and not filtered through the Auto-Tune of the Electoral College bring more Americans out to the polls? In our nomadic, global society should our voices be drowned out by the choral “AMEN” of the state we happen to land in or should we all be allowed to sing our own solos? I, for one, would like my off-key soprano to be heard.

-Ellen

References

All website sources used are linked throughout this post.

You can get your own Constitution here for $1.00.

Texts used: Everything You Need to Ace American History in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide and Prentice Hall’s United States History.

 

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