Tag Archives: teens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To prepare for your appointment:

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

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

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

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

 

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

Specific resources geared toward teens can be found here:

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

-Ellen

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

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

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

 


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The Best Gift Guide for Teen Girls

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

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

Exploding Kittens

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

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

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

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

 

Panda Bank

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

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

 

Mermaid Tail Blanket

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

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

 

Mermaid Pillow

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

LED Photo Clip String Lights

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

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

 

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera and Accessories

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

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

 

Funny Mug

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Beats Wireless Headphones

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

My Lame Life

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Ellen

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

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How To Avoid Clashing With Your College Student Over Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Ellen

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

I Just Want to Be Perfect

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

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

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

It’s because they’ve already watched it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that can’t be argued with.

Ellen 

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

 

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

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What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Parenting Teens

Over the years we have shared a lot about the joys and pitfalls of parenting teens. We have compiled booklists to read before college and to keep on your bedside table and garnered advice about talking with your kids about sex, dating, and even medicine abuse. We have shared commandments and tips for how to survive.  When we needed it,  we even offered up some prayers. But we haven’t shared the rest of the story. It’s not that we are holding back on purpose, it’s just that parenting teens is a complicated endeavor. But because it’s long overdue, here’s some of what we don’t talk about when we talk about parenting teens.

The rest of the story about parenting teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. It can be a lonely time for moms.

Oh, sigh, It really is all about us, isn’t it? Let’s just say this: it’s a whole lot easier commiserating over things like sippy cups taking over your kitchen and goldfish crumbs smashed into the carpet of your minivan than failed drivers’ tests and low SAT scores. Some of this stems from the truth that your child does not necessarily want you spilling all the details. Respecting your child as a person means that you could and should put a lid on it.

Some of it though comes from a desire to not be judged as a mom.  Different methods of handling potty-training or toddler meltdowns can be entertaining. Different methods of handling teen drinking can cause an uproar at Girls’ Night Out. In any case,  It’s the height of irony that at the moment when you probably need it most, moms can have a hard time finding support from their tribe. Heck, even finding time to get together with the busy schedules that accompany teen parenting can be challenging.  In any case, it can make traveling this stretch of the parenting highway a little lonesome.

The rest of the story about parenting teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

All of these ladies are our buddies from our young mom days. It’s tough to find time to see each other but when we do, it’s like no time has passed.

2. You won’t always like your kid.

Love them? Of course! Like them? Well, let’s just say it’s complicated. Kids trying to figure out who they are means that often they are unrecognizable to you. The girl who ate twenty hot dogs at the county fair is now a vegan. But that’s not even the worst thing. The real sticking point comes when she decides to take down the family holiday meal. The 360s that happen can be disorienting, but they are also oddly comforting. There were parts of every stage and age of parenting that weren’t fun or funny. The same is true for the teen years.

The rest of the story about parenting teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

But some things never change. Pumpkin patches are always fun.

3. You will feel like you are doing it wrong.

Just know that the moment is coming when you will feel bad about yourself, your kid, every decision up to this point, all of it, every last thing. These are the moments when you will lean into your loneliness from your friends, your sense of alienation from your child, and just need a major chocolate fix. Take that moment to exhale, breathe, regroup. You and your child will live to fight another day. More likely, tomorrow will be rainbows and sunshine, because that’s how things go on Planet Teen.

The rest of the story about parenting teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

But they can also save the day, like at Grandmom’s 90th birthday party, and that will make you feel better about all of it. Promise.

4. Things will go wrong.

In the time I have been parenting teens, we have had concussions, car accidents, break-ups, break-outs, heartbreaks, and losses. Expect that balls will get dropped, mistakes will be made, and fenders will be dented. It makes it so much easier to take that phone call when it comes.  One of my favorite professors said that a great gift to give a child is a back door. Come up with graceful ways to help your child retreat from situations that get out of hand. Give yourself and your child grace when they do.

5. Things will go right.

The stars will align just so sometimes. At these moments, the grumpiness will recede and all those forgotten aspects of your child’s character will shine through. Forget everything that went wrong. Revel. A lot. Take a picture when you can.

The rest of the story about parenting teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

The infamous New Year’s Day hike. Every last teen was not having it, but then the winds changed.

6. Sometimes you will like them so much it hurts.

They are going to be hard to take sometimes, but they are also going to blow your mind with hints of the amazing things to come. Because crowing from the rooftops about their awesomeness is frowned upon by said offspring, you might feel lonely in this knowledge. However enjoy your moment and spread the news surreptitiously. Recently, one of my friends commented about a teen playing kindly with her tween at a swim meet. She was surprised and impressed. While I was happy for her experience, I wasn’t as taken aback by it. I made the point that I have never NOT seen a teen be generous to a younger child they knew. Teens like to keep their goodness simmering below the surface of potential peer review, but there is so much good news to be found. Celebrate the small victories and point out all the good you see.

The rest of the story about parenting teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

She did not have to ask them twice to play with her.

7. Sleep will be a luxury again.

Sure you are prepared to lose some zzzzs waiting up for driving teens or worrying about college, but you might not know how much. Adjusting your parenting to adolescent biorhythms means late night Netflix binging and baking chocolate chip cookies at eleven o’ clock at night. All of this is to say that being ready to drop everything and hang means that you might want to invest in some industrial strength under eye concealer too.

The rest of the story about parenting teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Who could say no this face? Why, of course, I will make cookies with you after my bedtime!

8. Friends reign supreme.

Happy families know this. Happy families honor this. Happy teens reward your attention to this important truth.

The rest of the story about parenting teens | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

As you can see, we weren’t really holding back so much as pacing ourselves to reveal the full picture of what it’s like parenting on Planet Teen. In spite of everything, we really are pretty happy here. We think you will be too.

-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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Five Things I Learned Sending Another Kid to College

So the countdown is on again: we are sending another kid to college. While this means that already tight spring schedules just got “sweet-cheezits-loosen-that-buckle-please” uncomfortable, there is a silver lining here: it’s not quite as rough the second time around. Now don’t get me wrong, I still get a little catch in my throat thinking that this time next year I’ll be the only girl living here besides the dog. And I will miss having my girl’s special blend of spunk and sass on the daily too . But having been in this place before means that I can lean into the excited part a little more than I did the first time around. We can hang out in all the upsides of this big new step for her without wallowing too long in the emotional messiness for me. If I have to keep sending kids out into the Great Beyond known as college, I might as well share some of the things I learned sending another kid to college.

Sending another kid to college? Your first one? Erin shares parenting lessons she learned and tips for a graceful post-graduation transition | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1.There’s more financial aid.

This silver lining that came with the shiny acceptance letters was much appreciated. Oh, the joy! If I could have fired cannons into the air, I would have been that obnoxious neighbor. With one son currently residing on a campus, the gods of FAFSA were kind and benevolent in ways they had not been before. As a mother who will have a child (or two) in college for the next twelve years, this was the best gift ever.

2.There’s less angst.

When I was sending my oldest to college for the first time, I wrote about our emotional fall (read: MY over-the-top emotionally splashy fall), my resolutions (which should have included not tearing up every five seconds), and some things I needed to say to him (cue the tissues) before he crossed that stage into the brave new world of college. I couldn’t imagine my everyday world without him in it. Furthermore, I was bucking at the very idea of it altogether. My people took some time getting used to our new normal too.

Ellen, in her way, was less fraught in the build-up to college, but she wrote beautifully about the change for her household when her daughter came home for Thanksgiving. The truth is that having your child move up and on is a big change. But the  more beautiful truth is that moving on doesn’t necessarily mean moving away. We parent differently the ones who aren’t in our nest, but parent them we still do. Exhibit A: the 19 year old calling home from his Canadian Spring Break, because his route home was literally closed due to a freak March storm.

“Help me, Mom and Dad, you’re my only hope.” Nah, he didn’t say that exactly, but that’s what I heard. They are still ours; we are still theirs. Time, distance, and a college dorm room doesn’t change that. Acknowledging this makes it easier to go to the college’s Accepted Student Day and imagine it as your child’s home away from home for the next four years.

3.There’s a different list of Must Haves/Would Likes/Etc

The first time around, my son had a very specific dream of sports journalism and we were laser-focused in our search. While my daughter can fill out a March Madness bracket with the best of them, she has different aspirations. But the college list we built this time wasn’t only different due to intended major. My son liked smaller schools; my daughter thought the bigger the better. He was open to rural; she was insistent on a city. What I really loved this time around was seeing the way she was already starting to spread her wings as she focused on what was important to her. The conversations that evolved over college catalogs were enlightening and let me into her head a little.


4.There’s a better To-Do List

The really great thing about doing this a time or five is that you learn a thing or two. Like . . .

  • Just how important it is to try and get an ACT and SAT in before the end of Junior year. Honestly, if you have a child on the advanced math track, you could even think about scheduling at the end of sophomore year. Ideally, the best time is when your child has finished Algebra II, and it’s still fresh in her mind.
  • Create the high school resume as you are living it. No joke. My high school sophomore just pulled up the document he started and added his winter volunteering and sports. It’s so much easier to build as you go.
  • Build relationships with mentors. College recommendations are important elements of the application. When they come from someone who knows, understands, and likes your child, they could tip the scale to your child’s favor. I encourage my kids to write thank you notes to every coach, teacher, and advisor. When they reach out years later for a letter, hopefully, the gesture will resonate and help that adult remember them positively.
  • Focus on moving your needle forward. The first time around, we bowed before the cult of  the almighty resume. While it IS important, my time spent with many a college
    recruiter has changed my thinking. Resumes should tell a story of personal growth, not just be busting at the seams with activities. To that end, we talk to our younger kids about following ideas and exploring pursuits. “You love boats? Have you tried to get your boater’s license?” “You love basketball but didn’t make the team? What else can you do?” In both cases, my kids responded in ways that made them more interesting in person, not just on paper. We also push them outside their comfort zones. “So your friends aren’t doing it? Tell me again why you don’t want to.”
  • Take younger siblings on college trips. It’s nice to have time alone with your child on these visits too, but if you have siblings that aren’t that far behind, it’s a great opportunity to get a two-fer. The conversations about the school will differ of course, but they are valuable in helping create those future lists. An addendum: if you are already planning travel near a college, swing by and check it out even if it’s just a walk through campus.

5.There’s better downtime

Knowing how things will change means we leap at chances to create memories
together when we can. Whether it was doing an escape room together, hitting the road, taking an international trip, or even just hanging at home watching movies, we focus less on ourselves and more on just being together. Most of the time. We are a regular family and sometimes retreating to our individual corners save lives. But we ARE mindful of our time now in ways that make for an overall better family life.

While it’s true that my family will not be off this college-launching ride for awhile, it’s definitely more fun the second time around. We are happier sending another kid to college not because we love her less, but because we are appreciating the moment more.  This time around we have clearer eyes to see what lies ahead: a chance to watch her knock it out of the ballpark. Watch out, world, she’s on her way! Stay tuned for what I learn as we launch 3, 4, and 5!

-ErinSending another kid to college? Your first one? Erin shares parenting lessons she learned and tips for a graceful post-graduation transition | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

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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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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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.

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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