Tag Archives: Sisterhood Secret

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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For Those Who Are “Still” Grieving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My father always lit the candles.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Ellen

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

I Just Want to Be Perfect

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

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

 

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Gadget Gifts to Thrill for Way Under $50

‘Tis the time in the season where we all hit gift gathering crunch time. Are you checking your lists and just now realizing there is nothing on there to “WOW” them? I mean, I know they really, really wanted that sweater and those boots, but will there be anything under the tree to surprise them and make them squeal “this is the best!”?

Virtual reality for under $10 anyone? It's holiday gift gathering crunch time. Here are some gadget gifts to thrill for way under $50. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Are you thinking, “That’s a great point, but I’m also tallying up my credit card statement and there’s not a lot of ‘flow’ left to my cash.”

Well, delight can come cheap and easy, my friend. That “may” have not come out exactly as we intended, but with this list you can be a hero on par with Santa for not a lot of reindeer chow.

 

3D Virtual Reality Headset

3d viewer

These right here are the entire reason this post was written. A friend told Ellen about them, and she was amazed! Every person Ellen has told about them has been amazed! Virtual reality for UNDER $10? It’s amazing!

So this is the world of Google Cardboard. You download the apps to your phone, pop it into this viewer, and you’re off to play games, explore ancient temples, or immerse yourself in the world of Star Wars. Just with this little thing. Really. These sturdy gems come fully assembled, and the only real complaint at this price point is that the cardboard hurts your nose. Some genius in the Amazon reviews discovered that slitting a Nerf dart along its length and slipping it over the cardboard edge provides the perfect cushion for your $8.99 wonder.

If you would like a bit more of a comfort upgrade, you can check out this plastic model. Still under $25!

VR plastic

 

Gyroscopic Wrist and Forearm Exerciser

gyroscopic exerciser

Got a baseball player, tennis player, golf pro, or musician on your list? This fun little gadget can get them in tip-top shape in the most conversation-igniting way possible. You basically have to provide resistance against its spinning. It’s more addicting than it sounds. Trust us.

 

Handbag Light with Automatic Sensor

handbag light

Never again get caught in the dark searching blindly through your handbag desperately trying to find your keys, cosmetics or other items that settle to the bottom of a cluttered purse. This little light is motion activated and turns off after a couple of seconds. Genius can be found in the simplest of ideas.

 

USB Leather Tassel Key Chain Charging Cable

USB tassel

Speaking of losing things, we feel like we keep buying USB cables because we keep leaving them like breadcrumbs everywhere we go. Even if we have a plug or car charger available to us, we don’t have a cable. This beauty clips onto your purse or backpack to always be handy in a form meets function kind of situation. Works for Android and iPhone (there’s even a lightning cable).

Okay, maybe the last three gifts weren’t so much “wows” as much as they were “that’s pretty cool.” But seriously, just get the virtual reality glasses, be a hero, and call it a day.

Happy Holidays!

Ellen and Erin

This post contains affiliate links because, hey, Santa could use a little help in our houses too.

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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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.

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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

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

 

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How to Cope When Your Kid Goes to College

When your kids go to college, it leaves a hole in your heart, in your home, in your everyday. Yes, they are not gone forever, and this is the natural progression of life, buuuuttttt, there is an undeniable void left behind. Or at least there are less shoes to trip over by the door. You can fill this space with a new job, more volunteering, a trip to the shoe store, or maybe even with another heartbeat. Relax! We’re not suggesting a visit from the stork, but a visit to your local animal shelter just might be the ticket. Apparently when your kid goes to college, it’s not uncommon to add to your furry brood. Our story is more than a tale of two pound puppies, it’s about the lengths two moms will go to cope with their kids flying the coop to college.

How to cope when your kid goes to college. It's more than a tale of two pound puppies; it's the lengths moms will go to deal with kids flying the coop. | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Erin’s Story: Our dog adventure began as a parenting cautionary tale. My kids were jonesing hard for a dog long before my oldest began filling out college applications, but my youngest son, in the way of wiley family bookends, set the putsch in motion. He asked if he won the Citizenship Award at school if we could get a dog. Now, the first thing you need to know is that my youngest, while sweet, dear, and loved, is not always model student material. The second thing is that I’m not the girl you want to take to Vegas with you, because I thought we were a couple of frozen layers of hell away from my son getting this particular honor. So I took the parenting sucker bet and said, “Absolutely.” Well, ole sonny boy straightened up real good, real quick; so much so his halo was veritably shining.

Within the month, he pinned his bright new award to his shirt and marched home victoriously to show us. It turned out to be just what we needed right when we needed it most. His award came when we were in the middle of a deep familial funk over missing our biggest brother. In lieu of some plans to steal big brother back from college, we all cuddled up to the idea of a new four-legged family member. How to cope when your kid goes to college. It's more than a tale of two pound puppies; it's the lengths moms will go to deal with kids flying the coop. Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms We had a couple of roadblocks ahead of us though. One was the insane adoption process (Ellen will explain about it more below. I can’t even. Really. It  almost broke me.) The other was our crazy spring schedule that would end in a big international family trip to my brother’s wedding. As much as we wanted a dog five minutes ago, we decided to postpone the arrival of our new fur-baby until post-Cancun.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the rescue to meet our perfect, made-just-for-us pup (so perfect he was even named Luke Skywalker!), we were heartbroken to discover that he had been adopted by someone else. Lucky for us, Ellie decided that we were hers and she adopted us on the spot. Bigger than we wanted, younger than we wanted, and a little (read: way more, like a crazy lot more) high energy than we wanted, she also turned out to be just what we needed. And even despite the fact she just ate the baseball glove my husband has had for 33 years, we would adopt her again.

How to cope when your kid goes to college. It's more than a tale of two pound puppies; it's the lengths moms will go to deal with kids flying the coop. Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

And now there’s just one more face that’s happy to see you when you are home for Fall Break!

Ellen’s Story: It began as a joke between my youngest daughter and I as the oldest of my two was rapidly approaching her high school graduation. Maybe it was because Erin was talking about getting a dog, maybe it was because we could sense the impending sucking void in our household that would yawn wide when Coco blasted off to college, but we started saying, “We need a dog, a replacement Coco, a Re-Coco, if you will.” Well, jokes became discussions, discussions became research, and research set off plans. Well, for my youngest and me that is. Coco just shook her head at us, her attention focused on the distant shores of the University of Miami. And my husband? His battle cry became, “But we have a cat!”

How to cope when your kid goes to college. It's more than a tale of two pound puppies; it's the lengths moms will go to deal with kids flying the coop. | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Why? WHY!?

And we do have a cat. An adorable, beautiful, fluffy princess named Pebbles that is just, well, a cat. She gives some love in the morning, but that about taps her out for the rest of the 24 hour cycle. Sparkle, the cat we had before her—that my kids grew up with and thought was the norm—was really more of a dog. She would greet us as we came home by jumping up at the door then flopping on her back, follow us from room to room, and settle down to sleep with my youngest every night, nocturnal rhythms be damned.

See? We had already lost a measure of love three years ago with the passing of Sparkle, we were not willing to have Coco exit the scene without topping off our furry love mug. Plans did not turn into action though until my husband and I went down to the University of Miami family weekend. Seeing Coco in her element and being away from the bustle and grind of daily life brought about the magic words I was waiting to hear from my him, “Coco has this, you all need a dog.” That was all it took. We got back from Miami and I started searching rescues and shelters like it was my job . . . if my job lasted ten hours per day.

Prior to our trip, I had been scouring Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet sending in one application at a time when I found a dog bio that met our criteria: around twenty-five pounds (Corgi mixes were high on our list), good with kids and cats, and willing to dole out the love. I did this for the month and a half after dropping Coco off at school, either never hearing from the organizations or being told the animal had already been adopted. I was starting to think that catfishing was a given in the adoption game: “Oh you’re inquiring about that adorable little Corgi with the lopsided grin?” He was adopted 5 minutes ago, but could I interest you in a 100 pound mastiff that chews on felines for fun?” We were dragging on a Tinder merry-go-round of find the perfect pet, swipe right, craft application essays, have heart broken, repeat. Coco applied to college in less time than it took me to fill out some of these applications (“what is my doggie parenting philosophy??”), but I dropped everything else and focused on following links and scouring Facebook to find new rescues so I could get applications in as soon as I found suitable dogs.

Then at the end the week, I stumbled upon First State Animal Center and SPCA, a more traditional shelter, and they had just updated their new rescues on Facebook. I saw Pumpkin and was in the car within 5 minutes to see her. Well, Pumpkin was indeed there, but she bared her teeth, growled at me, then cowered in the corner shivering. It was less than a match made in heaven. But there was this one dog, one that never even barked when the rest of the kennel run was rioting. I took her to the meet and greet room without even reading her description, where she jumped up on the bench, lay her head in my lap, and the rest was history. Meet Roxie. The sweetest dog with the worst bio in the shelter: noisy, not good with kids, returned twice, 5 years old, and previously heartworm positive. None of those negative personality attributes on her profile were accurate. At all. The vet even said she looked more like she was 3 than 5. In the end, the words didn’t matter, only the love. Before her, I didn’t even know a pug and beagle mix was a thing, but now I know why puggle rhymes with snuggle. How to cope when your kid goes to college. It's more than a tale of two pound puppies; it's the lengths moms will go to deal with kids flying the coop. Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms And guess what? She’s not stingy with her love! Within minutes of Coco coming home for fall break, she was cuddling with her! How to cope when your kid goes to college. It's more than a tale of two pound puppies; it's the lengths moms will go to deal with kids flying the coop. Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms And I’ll let you in on a little secret. The dog didn’t replace Coco, it’s there to cushion the blow when my youngest leaves the nest. It’s good to have plans.

How to cope when your kid goes to college. It's more than a tale of two pound puppies; it's the lengths moms will go to deal with kids flying the coop. | Parenting | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

So if sending a kid to a university is in your near future, take note of our “How to Cope When Your Kid Goes to College” plan. It’s cheaper than therapy, healthier than chocolate, and infinitely cuter and snugglier. But you better start applying now.

-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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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

It’s bad enough when your kids aren’t feeling well, but when you aren’t feeling well, it’s downright miserable. While there’s no cure for the common cold, Saline Soothers Nose Wipes provide soothing comfort for sore noses with Natural Saline, Vitamin E, Aloe and Chamomile.

Click here to learn more about Saline Soothers and grab a coupon.

where-to-purchase

It All Comes Down to Saline

Whether you reach for Saline Soothers or grab your kids’ Boogie Wipes, it all comes down to Natural Saline. The Natural Saline in both products loosens mucus, while the Vitamin E, Aloe and Chamomile soothe and comfort even the most sensitive skin. Click here to learn more about the benefits of all-natural saline.

Enter to Win!

Stock up on your cough and cold supplies so you’re ready when sickness strikes this season. Complete the form below to enter to win! (Click here to enter if you do not see the form.)

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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