Your Game Plan to Ace Your Tween's School Open House

8/23/16

New backpacks are getting worn in.

The new shoes are a bit scuffed.

The mounds of paperwork are flowing in, your hand is probably tired from signing your name so much.

Right in the middle of the pile of paperwork is the notice for this year's Open House.

Ok, don't panic. This is a different year, new teacher and you have a new opportunity to get a new game plan for this year's Open House.

This year's open house is extra important to us because this is Tween Girl's last year of elementary school. We want to be aware of things happening in the classroom that may prepare us for middle school next year. Studies show that parental involvement decreases once a child reaches high school. The tween years are already a roller coaster ride, so we want to make sure that we are showing Tween Girl that we will remain an advocate for her when it comes to not only her well-being but her education as well and open house is a great kick off to show her that.

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Now, in the past, you may have treated open houses like an informational where the teacher does all of the talking and tricks you into signing up to volunteer for the Fall Festival. Or a time for you to show up and sign more papers and look at some of the work your child has completed during the first few weeks of school.

But isn't that the purpose of Open House?

Yes and no.

Most teachers will tell you a different side of the purpose of an open house.

In my preparation for Tween Girl's open house, I reached out to a few teachers just to pick their brains about how parents can get the most from open house. Their responses are not shocking or too much to ask. Really just simple and practical things we can ask or discuss, things that we may already know to ask or just have forgotten to do so.

Before the big evening, get your game plan ready of what to ask and what to discuss. Not sure what to talk about? Here are some ideas:

Routines and Rituals

No, this does not involve witchcraft or sorcery. These come in the form of the process for turning in homework, class schedules for things such as gym, art or music, or the types of curriculum that will be used for the year. According to one teacher, teachers love to explain the classroom rituals and routines. This is especially worthy of knowing for us because it gives us a head start on teaching Tween Girl better organizational skills for middle school next year.

Best ways to stay in contact

Hopefully, you've filled out the emergency contact sheet (remember that big pile of paperwork your kid brought home on the first day?). If so, you've given the teacher and the school the best way to contact you now you need to know which method is best when contacting him/her. That will either be email, the class website or apps like Edmodo or ClassDojo. This is a great practice to start now before middle school because the teachers' time will become even more limited because of the numerous classes/students they must manage.

Volunteering

Sorry, but I had to include this one. I know, it makes me cringe as well but studies do show that when a parent is active in their child's school, the child is more likely to attend school regularly, earn higher grades and have better social skills. Many parents contribute by being the classroom parent, the chairperson for classroom parties or festivals. There are parents who "volunteer" by sending in classroom supplies (yes, believe it or not, they do run out of glue sticks!) or snacks. Edutopia has some great advice on how working parents can volunteer. My advice here is to be honest about the amount of time you can dedicate to volunteering at the school. Many times, parents who work outside of the home feel guilty because their time is very limited during the day. Let your child's teacher know your work schedule and offer to help in nonconventional ways. Many teachers appreciate this and see that you  are committed to helping.

Ways to enhance learning at home

Ask the teacher if they have any recommendations of websites, books, apps or other ways that you can help your child at home. Again, enhancing learning at home can open the gate to testing the waters with middle school subjects.

No discussions of your child's individual needs

Open house is not the place for each parent to voice concerns about their child's individual needs. Of course, the teacher wants to know these things, just not at open house. This type of discussion is best reserved for a 1:1 conference between the teacher and parent. Keep in mind, the teacher;s time is limited and he/she probably has a script ready for open house because they so much information to cram into such a short amount of time.

The fact that you're showing up for open house speaks volumes to teachers. It's one of the first steps a parent can take to show that they care about their child's learning environment and that they are there to help make sure it's great.

Open house is only one night but don't let that stop you from communicating with the teacher and school year round. After all, you're the parent of a tween. Once they hit middle school, you will be interacting with a multitude of teacher's with varying needs. Open house is one way to get some practice for what's to come.

How do you engage with your child's school and teacher(s)?

Mama "me time" for less with Groupon

8/9/16

**This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. 

With school back in session, there are moms all over the land in desperate need of some "me time". You know, some time when we can unwind, relax and do some things we enjoy doing without breaking the bank.

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Let Groupon help you out! What are you in the mood for? A new hair cut with a new color? Or a soothing massage? What about a new, energizing nail color with a manicure/pedicure?

There are many sweet deals for Health, Beauty &Wellness Groupons available on Groupon.

In the past, I have struggled with finding a nail salon that offered great service along with an array of nail polish colors (yes, I have walked out of salons that had limited color choices.) Even though I like a good selection of colors,  I'm a low maintenance kinda girl who enjoys a good looking gel manicure/pedicure. By purchasing a Groupon for nail services, I was able to try out different salons for a great low price.

When it comes to events, experiences, goods and services, Groupon has got you covered. Access by the website or download the app to stay in the know of the great deals offered in your area.

So, moms, go pamper yourselves with Groupon's help!

Which Health, Beauty & Wellness Groupon will you purchase to pamper yourself?

A Foolproof Mama Formula for an Organized School Year

8/2/16

There is nothing we can do to stop it.

It starts to creep up on you towards the end of July, especially those of us who live in certain regions.

Retailers start tempting us with all that could be because after all this school year will be different.

Or will it?

Each and every school year, I make vows only to watch them wither away each month.

This year will be different.

Why?

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This year will be different because I have cracked the code, I found the foolproof mama formula for an organized school year.

Before we get into the details, let me tell you how I set myself up for failure each year.

Let's start with the food.

Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I make lofty goals of cooking breakfast and packing healthy lunches each day. Usually, around the two-week mark, I am back to paying for school breakfast and lunch.

After obsessively viewing Pinterest perfect breakfast foods and bento boxed lunches (which I have already purchased 2 new bento boxes), I glance in my Pinterest feed only to see the most gorgeous, braided hairstyles for girls.

Each year I vow to create fantastic hairstyles for Tween Girl each week. Reality quickly sets in and I realize that I cannot braid, which leads me to accept that there are well-trained professionals who want nothing more than to earn a paycheck by doing your child's hair.

As if that's not enough, I have been working on a morning routine for myself since Tween Girl started kindergarten.

Combine that with being more active at her school and you've got one mama who is in need of a foolproof plan for an organized school year!

Many parents already know what it takes to make a great and organized school year. Just knowing that isn't enough though.

We want to raise kids who take responsibility for, not only their education but also for their own well being. Tweens are still like sponges, watching our every move. I want her to know that it's ok to acknowledge her own imperfections.

So, wanna know my foolproof formula for an organized back to school?

Being honest about my abilities.

That's it.

Nothing to run out and buy. Nothing you can order from Amazon.

It's simple, practical, do-able.

I know what I can handle. So, I may not be able to handle being the room parent but I can send in extra school supplies.

I may not be able to kick off the morning breakfast for teachers because I work outside of the home but I can attend the family fit night event later that evening.

I know what I can handle.

So, this year, I am honest about my abilities on having an organized school year. In that honesty, I want Tween Girl to see that "perfection is the enemy of good" (Voltaire).

This year, I will continue my lofty dreams of making those hot breakfasts and perfect lunches. I will join PTA and still send in classroom donations. I will finally wake up and meditate for 10 minutes each morning. And, I will...keep the hairdresser's phone number on speed dial.

Here's to a productive school year!

What types of vows do you make about the upcoming school year?

What a Tween Likes: FabKids!

7/22/16

I always love when I don't have to put much effort into anything but can reap the good rewards.

This philosophy comes in handy when it comes to raising a tween...especially a tween girl.

As she gets older, buying clothes gets harder and harder and harder...

But I believe I've found a solution...at least for now, with FabKids.


Fab*Kids is a curated boutique for kids. Parents can select clothing pieces to make an outfit, pricing varies unless you become a VIP member. VIP members pay around $30 for an outfit, while non-members pay anywhere from $40 and up. 

Here's why it works:

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We love Fab*Kids because of the customized wardrobes, it helps with eliminating the time spent putting together an outfit. Not only am I saving time but it helps that Tween Girl gets to help pick out the outfits. It's a win - win! 

What's your "go - to" shop to find your must-haves?

**All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. I have not been compensated for this post, nor did I receive samples or product for my review.

What a Tween Likes: Fashion Angel's BeBe's Beats

7/15/16

Doodles, sketches, and beats, oh my!

Those are three things that will occupy a bit of my tween's time!

Fashion Angel's BeBe's Beats is a nice distraction for her.

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I won this product by way of a giveaway. 


Fashion Angels is a brand targeted towards tween girls, with a mission to encourage girls to "believe in themselves, express themselves and be happy with who they are and proud of what they can do".

Those are characteristics that I try to instill in Tween Girl on a daily basis, so I definitely enjoy buying products that will help me on this journey.

We've purchased a few Fashion Angels products in the past, there are still Braidzilla cords all over our house!

This time, though, we actually won a cool product from Fashion Angels' Sunday Funday Facebook Giveaway.

BeBe's Beats is a doodle sketch book that plays music!

There are approximately 80 pages of sheets for tweens to doodle, sketch, jot down music lyrics, space to write about how certain songs make them feel. It really sparks creativity!

As they doodle, tweens can jam (do the kids still say that?) to their favorite jams (ok, I know, overusing this word.).

Fashion-Angels
Thankfully, the music does not blast loudly, the volume is controlled through whichever device used to play the music.

Of course, BeBe's Beats is only a temporary fix to ward off the many requests of having that first cell phone, which we will not be buying until Tween Girl turns 12 (another post for another day). Doesn't help that the top part of the product is rather flimsy, be careful that the speaker portion does not fall off. This didn't bother us, given the regular price of the product.

Tween Girl has enjoyed coloring the pages and writing down her thoughts. I've enjoyed it because it's allowed her to clear her head (yeah, kids need to that, too!) and practice writing.

Thanks, Fashion Angels for continuing to spark creativity in tween girls!

Which song would you blast through the BeBe's Beats speakers?

7 Ways to Survive Summer With an Extroverted Tween

7/12/16

I have super powers.

Not just the regular, normal mom super powers.

I shape shift when necessary.

Necessary moments include when, in unfamiliar territory, Tween Girl flutters off and begins to chat it up with a group of girls she's never met before. This, of course, leaves me to push myself to start conversations with moms that I've never met before or even those I am already familiar with.

You see, I am an introverted mom raising an extroverted tween.

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I am a rare breed of introverts. I have extrovert tendencies. I can come across as a social butterfly, all the while in my head I am screaming to be left alone. I enjoy being around people, just for certain lengths of time. I thrive in quiet time, it's my energy source.

Meanwhile...

I am raising a tween girl who feeds off of constant interaction, it recharges her.

She's drained when she's unable to interact and socialize.

Introverted moms are thankful for school months because they provide some much needed balance. There's so much going on during the school year, which provides much needed energy sources for the extroverted tween to feed from. And by the time the day is over, mom is winning because bedtime is only a couple of hours away.

Now, of course, this will all change as your tween gets older. But hey, it works for now.

Summers, though, pose a different type of threat.

Summers are made up of no schedules, no routines. Those are both things many introverts thrive on, while extroverts are in heaven!

Introverts are perfectly fine with sitting by the pool, it's not necessary to actually get in it.

Unless, of course, you have a tween that's pulling your legs until you slip and fall into the pool.

Introverted moms and extroverted tweens should have the best possible summer with ways for them to stay connected without being locked into a summer contract.

Need some summer dates that cater to your introverted ways and her extroverted personality?

Try these:

Pool time

Do you have a pool in your neighborhood or your back yard? Regardless of where it's located, spend time there. Most tweens love to swim or just play around in the pool, it's a great way to get a bit of exercise in their day.

Hopefully there are some other kids there to interact with your tween (fingers crossed). This would be a great time to have family, like cousins her age, to come over for a day at the pool. If not, join her in the pool and do a few obstacle courses. Remember, extroverts enjoy attention and a pool obstacle course puts your tween front and center.

Go ahead, splish, splash and have some fun!

Video games/Board games

Games can be a great way for extroverted tweens to be in charge because they are probably way better at them than their parents!

Introverted mom can sit back, relax and kick some butt because she is still in her space.

From the old school board games, like Life or Risk to new school favs on the Xbox or Playstation to trivia quiz based Jackbox Games, there are many games to choose from.

Reading

Proceed with caution. Reading can be a treat for an introvert but it may take some patience for the extroverted tween to sit and read...quietly. Believe it or not, reading aloud can boost a tween's vocabulary and bring a sense of closeness with mom and tween, according to Between Us Parents

Reading aloud also opens the door to discussions, otherwise known as lectures, that tweens may not care to listen to. Parents can select books based on certain issues their kids may be coming up against. 

Tween Girl and I have taken this time to read and talk about "The Care & Keeping of Us: A Sharing Collection for Girls & Their Moms". This is a great resource for starting puberty discussions and keeps the atmosphere comfortable. 

Why not create a cozy reading nook for mom and daughter to stretch out and relax? Pinterest has a boat load of reading nook ideas

Movie nights

During the tween stage, a child's movie tastes are also "caught in the middle" of still enjoying general audience type movies (cartoons) and movies on a bit more mature level. What a great opportunity to introduce your kids to movies you enjoyed when you were their age. Unless, of course, your tween says that "The Never Ending Story" is creepy. 

Movie nights are great because introverted mom doesn't have to leave the comforts of home and extroverted tween can pick a movie they enjoy (if it's their turn to pick!). 

Need some help picking out movies that are tween appropriate? Common Sense Media is a great site check movie ratings for kids. 


Mani/pedis

Manicures and pedicures are a bit of a splurge but can provide the atmosphere for some great mom/daughter bonding. Most girls enjoy picking out colors and having the water tickle and massage their feet. Moms enjoy this ritual for the relaxation it brings, girls should see their moms taking care of themselves.

Extroverted tweens can engage in conversation with the nail technician while introverted mom can nod and smile, all the while enjoying the rolls of the massage chair.

Craft store trips

Put your walking shoes on! If crafting is a hobby both mom and daughter enjoy then craft store visits can be like walking into a candy store. Michael's, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn's offer a wide variety of crafts for moms and daughters to enjoy. Both mom and daughter can stroll the aisles, either window shopping or catching some clearance items. Introverted moms can enjoy strolling the aisles, methodically thinking of frames, fake flowers and washi tape. Extroverted tweens can grab some colored pens, sketch pads or pom poms. 

Want an extra craft related bonding experience? Sign up for a class like sewing, knitting or jewelry making. 

Walks/Bike rides

Staying active during the summer months is key for both mom and daughter. Walks and bike rides can not only provide exercise but great bonding moments. Being in the great outdoors creates a carefree atmosphere. My tween uses this time to share things that have upset her or to talk about life. 

My tween's extroverted ways have helped me to ease out of my introverted ways, not just during summer months. She gets to learn to respect other's needs to have alone time, this way she learns how to be self reliant and I can hang up my clown shoes (entertaining is a tough business!). 

What summer activities do you and your kids enjoy?

5 reasons why my husband ROCKS as a step dad

6/17/16

Her opening line was "That's my mommy."

Those were the first words Tween Girl (age 5 at that time) spoke to my now husband 5 years ago.

Oh, and she also jerked my hand away from his.

Fast forward to 3 hours later!

Yes, that is about how long it took for both of my kids to become attached to the man who would become their stepfather.

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You're probably expecting me to say that things changed, that they started to hate him, or that he started to hate them.

Nope.

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Their relationship, if anything, is a picture perfect version of what most blended families can only dream of.

And I am not exaggerating.

Most days, I think they like him more than they like me.

How does he do it?

Why do they like him so much?

It's actually pretty easy to answer those questions.

He treats them as his own.


He knows that he is not their biological dad. That does not stop him from investing in them. He never addresses either kid as his "step kids", instead, he refers to both as "our kids" or "my kids". Both kids know how he feels about them by the way he treats them. He takes pride in driving to soccer practices, even driving 5 hours to drop College Boy off at school (ok, maybe he painted that look of pride on his face!). He is excited when Tween Girl remembers how to solve math problems from an example he has shown her or when College Boy applies the wisdom my Hubs has shared with him. Needless to say, he actively shows up on a daily basis to make them feel like his own kids. 

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He shows his love for me.


I believe this was the game winner for my son. My son has always had my back because, for many years, it was just me and him. 

Not to toot my own horn (toot toot!) but prior to my Hubs, I was the breadwinner as a single and married woman. I became used to doing things myself. You know, things that come with running a household. So, to have someone who wanted to partner with me, to relieve me of some of the duties of being the "head of household" was something that my son needed to see. Kids can sometimes stress over the stress that their parents are under. My Hubs' daily actions show our kids that he loves me and that love extends to them. 

He knows the value of quality time, with and without kids.


My Hubs has taught the kids and I the meaning of family. By actively spending time together as a family, we have learned how to respect each other, how to work together, and how to listen to one another. We have done this from simple things like eating dinner together most nights, playing games, or from taking vacations together. These moments are important because we are setting an example to our kids of how families should interact, hoping that they carry these same traits into their homes when the time comes. 

Couple time is just as important to my Hubs as family time. We know that it is important for parents to spend time alone together without the kids. This gives us a chance to experience each other and to grow the relationship so that we can be better equipped to battle parent when back together with the kids. 

My Hubs can go from flying a kite in the backyard with Tween Girl to going to a professional soccer game with College Boy to driving with me to Asheville for a weekend getaway. He's a regular jack of all trades when it comes to spending quality time with us. 

He's always of good cheer. 


If you walked past our house, you would absolutely believe that we have about 10 kids! My Hubs knows how to get both kids going and ramped up. He understands that life is too short to be grumpy because things aren't going your way. The kids see, that even when my Hubs is facing an obstacle, he keeps a good attitude. I know they see him as the "fun one". Even when my fuse is short, he turns the situation around with a few of his famous dance moves (well, famous at our house anyway) or one of his play on words (ever heard of a jack-a-lope?). Trust me, he has taught me a thing or two or three about how to use lemons to make lemonade. 

He has set boundaries when it comes to his authority.


The kids don't mistake his good cheer as him being a pushover. He has boundaries in place that they know not to cross. It took some time to get to this part of the blended family process. In the beginning, we both agreed that I would be the disciplinarian because we knew that the kids would not respond well to him dishing out rules and orders. This worked for us because the kids had no idea that he and I were working together to come up with the discipline, I was the one who communicated whatever course of action to take. 

As time passed, he has gained the kids' trust to where his opinion matters to them, in no way do they want to disappoint him. 

It's pretty easy to see why the kids love this guy so much. I mean, after all, who could resist being in the presence of a man who knows how to rock a mullet on Halloween (thank goodness, it was only for a Halloween party!)!

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Look at that 'stache!

Keep rockin' this stepdad thing, Hubs, rock on!

How does your husband/significant other rock as a dad/stepdad?



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