Teen Driver-To-Be? Institute for Drivers Safety A Must

Do you have a teen driver-to-be?  I do.  Again.  Already.  It is my second time around to teach one of my babies how to drive as child #2 edges even closer to the edge of the nest.  There is my girl behind the wheel.  Here we go again and boy, she can’t wait to go, that is for sure. So, as we did before with my son, we hired the first-rate, highly recommended Institute For Drivers Safety to take my girl on driving lesson drives.  She had her first one today and we are just as impressed as we were four years ago with this organization.  AND THE BIG GREAT NEWS….and a big bonus…now the institute offers the actual driver’s license test again so the pesky DMV can be avoided for the road test!  I’ll drive to that!

The Institute had previously offered this, but the state took the option away…but they have brought it back again.  Just in time for my girl to get her license in a few short months.  Yay!  And if you look below at the comments made about this article, Kimberly Bodine’s comment is right on when she says, “My daughter used them also and it was worth every penny and the pressure of not having to take the driving test at DMV was great for her anxiety.”  I am so excited that my daughter can take her test with the Institute for Driver’s Safety in a few months instead of having to endure the long wait at the DMV!

Today my daughter went with instructor, Joe Navarro and he was terrific.

There she goes on her first drive lesson with the pros!

He had her drive him on four freeways and in downtown Phoenix, too.  When they came back home after the 3-hour drive, he met with us and gave us a report on how she did and which areas she needs to work on to get her ready for the big day that she takes the road test for her license.  This is helpful to all of us and is smart!  Plus I feel more confident having her drive me to further distances now that she is taking these professional lessons.  She does the driving and the professionals do the teaching!  So read on to see how the Institute for Drivers Safety works, who goes behind the wheel with your kid and how to sign up.  More links and information are below in the article.  This is the one I wrote about my son and all is still current…

Oh and one cool item that is not in the article below is that my son scored 100% on the driver license road test (and that was at the DMV at that time) and he credits that to Institute for Drivers Safety.  Yep, this organization is a must for teen drivers.  Here is the scoop from the last time we did it in 2013…

Manic:  My mind as I realize that in 2 1/2 weeks my first born will get his driver’s license and drive off, without me next to him, for the first time.  Yay and yikes all in one!

Managed:  Enrolling him in a local top notch driving school has improved his driving skills and lowered my stress level. Many of you have asked me to share the driving school information, so read on to find out how to enroll and how it works. Yesterday our boy earned this Behind the Wheel Certificate of Graduation certificate that I have pictured, along with his driving report cards…. drivingWe are very happy to receive this completion certificate, not only as peace of mind that a professional driving teacher agrees that our boy is ready to drive by himself, but this nice piece of paper will also give us an insurance discount (as will his straight A report card), so we are celebrating that bonus.

The Institute for Drivers Safety is a terrific organization that I highly recommend.  The instructors are all trained police officers and all have had car control, collision avoidance, and accident scene reporting training at the police academy.

From start to finish, the process was easy and very beneficial.  To enroll your child (make sure they have their state issued drivers permit first), simply call 480-921-8834 or visit The Institute for Drivers Safety to schedule a drive.  You can also purchase a package of three drives and classroom instruction.  Call for different pricing information.  I paid $175 for his first driving lesson that we did back in May (right after he got his permit and before I let him drive me on any freeways) and we just paid $175 again for his last lesson that took place yesterday.

For that price, you get a qualified instructor who comes to your home (or even to your child’s high school) to pick them up. They leave in an instructional car that has a brake pedal on the instructor’s side (a perk that we parents don’t get when we are doing the teaching).  Your kid does the driving the entire three hours.  I especially like that the teacher had our son drive him through the airport, down different freeways, one way streets in downtown Phoenix and they did some parallel parking practice, too.

When they return, we parents are given a report card, which is pictured above.  It is quite thorough and it really gives the teenager some areas of improvement to consider.  I don’t know about your kid, but when a teacher or coach reinforces a lesson, sometimes it means more than if we say it to our child.  It packs a positive punch into their selective memory bank.  It does take a village and I like the support!

When our son returned home yesterday (and it was nice that the Institute for Drivers Safety was available on a Sunday morning from 7:30am to 10:30am), the instructor told us, and him, that he graded strictly because that is what the DMV instructor will do when the big day arrives.  With that, he told us that he believes that our teen is ready to take the road on his own (that is reassuring to us), but he shared with us that several areas need improvement.  More attention needs to be paid to always using his turn signals and he actually didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Really?!  And with the driver instructor with him?!  That is why they are called teenagers and not young adults!  The teacher also told us that our kiddo handles the car well and has good driving skills.  So with that, we’ve got two weeks left to hone his skills with us in attendance in the vehicle.

After that, we give him our blessing, say our prayers and let him loose behind the wheel, with rules of course.  Please son, do not text and drive!  He will have a curfew to follow and he will check in with us on arrival and before departures.  We will follow the law and limit his passenger load.  If he abuses his newfound privilege, he will be riding the schoolbus, we told him.  He didn’t like that idea!  So as we enter yet another parenting chapter, that is both thrilling and terrifying, I can tell you that hiring The Institute for Drivers Safety was worth the money and peace of mind that we have done all that we can to prepare our teen boy to take the wheel.at_the_wheel

But first, he has to endure 2 1/2 more weeks of his annoying parents back seat driving. Here we go!

My 3TV Segment: Smart Summer Solutions Stuff

If you caught my KTVK 3TV segment on the Your Life Arizona show today and want more details on the stuff I showed, it is all  here….

Summertime brings all kinds of stuff like travel, summer break from school, hot dry temps and more.  To keep summer fun and manageable, I found some cool gadgets that work great for solutions to summertime issues sun damage protection, traveling with kids, camping smart and more.  I also found some stuff that is cool for summer in fashion and fun.  Read on to see if one of your summertime issues is solved here and let the summer fun begin as you work to stay cool and keep the kids entertained.

Smart Snacking

With the kids home from school, snacks become a required part of the daily routine, which can throw parents off the diet track and contribute to unhealthy eating and weight gain in everyone.  So, my family came up with some smart snack ideas.  Here are a couple of our summer snacks that we place ahead of time on fun brightly colored Re-Play dishes.  I love these cool plates because they are made from recycled milk jugs, so they are earth friendly.  We try to live life as green as we can.  Here are some of our snack ideas…

*Red, white & blue food – Red frozen grapes (tastes like popsicles when eaten frozen), blueberries and popcorn without butter.

*A better chocoholic snack – Dark chocolate squares with almond butter for dipping or strawberry slices with dark chocolate syrup for dipping

*Guac & cucumbers instead of guacamole and chips

*Eat to hydrate snack pack – watermelon chunks, celery sticks with peanut butter and tomato slices with mozzarella cheese and a basil leaf.  Watermelon, celery and tomato are all hydrating foods.

The fun Re-Play dishes for your easy and earth friendly summer snacking are sold for $18 for a set of $6 at Teresa’s Creative Gifts on Facebook.  The Re-Play snack cups sell for $21 for a set of six and can be ordered at Teresa’s Creative Gifts on her Facebook account or email her at teresascreativegi[email protected] or call 602-710-9181.  These dishes are made for babies, toddlers and kids and we also use them for our summer snack dishes as described above.

Smart Camping

Plan to camp this summer? Check out these cool accessories for smarter camping.  And some of these items make good Father’s Day gift ideas, too.

*Adventure Bracelet – This unisex bracelet can be worn or tied to backpack.  Multiple mini tools are all packaged neatly in the bracelet that includes a compass, temperature gauge, knife, screwdriver, whistle, scraper, fire starter, bottle opener and the cord can be cut if needed.  Teresa’s Creative Gifts sells 2 of these for $10.

*Fit Zip Illuminating Waist Pack – This expanding fanny pack holds a bottle of water, smart phone, keys and more.  Plus, it has a USB charging port and three LED flash modes so you can be seen when camping, hiking, biking and more. $15 each or 2 for $25 at Teresa’s Creative Gifts.

*O2COOL Battery 5 Inch Portable Fan – My family is addicted to sleeping with a fan, so if you are going camping, this portable fan will do the trick to keep you cool.  It also has a USB cord with an adapter for use in hotel rooms, etc.  I also like the white noise that this fan provides, which is nice when falling asleep away from home. Sells at Walgreens for $12.99

*Boiron Calendula Cream – This is a terrific go to homeopathic cream for all sorts of ailments like cuts, scrapes, minor burns, chaffing, bug bites and sunburn.  Calendula contains the natural ingredient, Garden marigold, which has been used for centuries as a healing and soothing substance. The light texture is ideal for use on dry or chafed skin and it is soothing and moisturizing.  This is such great stuff to know about for camping and for all sorts of summer activities that can result in skin issues.

Smart Sunning

Out in the sun for fun?  Don’t forget to protect yourself, especially here in the desert.  Here are some of my go to smart sun protection picks for all ages…

*La Roche Posay sunscreen – I like this line because different options are offered like the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Dermo-Kids Gentle Sunscreen Lotion SPF Broad Spectrum 60 that is paraben-free and fragrance free.  I also like the Oil Free La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen because it doesn’t cause breakouts.  This one is also free of parabens and fragrance.  This brand is sold at CVS stores, Walgreens and Target.

*Sun Burnt Advanced After-Sun Gel – I keep a bottle of this on hand every summer because usually someone ends up getting too much sun.  This nonsticky formula is gentle on already sensitive skin and rehydrates chapped and burned skin with aloe, Echinacea, calendula and cantharis. These natural actives soothe, heal and rehydrate skin.  I buy mine at Walgreens.

*Flapjacks Reversible Hats for kids – With UPF 50+ protection, this cute reversible hat is a must for babies, toddlers and young kids.  90% of sun’s rays are blocked out with this hat.  Sold at Teresa’s Creative Gifts for $25 and because it is reversible, it is like you are getting two hats for the price of one!

I also showed some stylish and cute hats and bling visors in my segment.  All sell at Teresa’s Creative Gifts and the links are in my blog at managedmoms.com.

Smart Summer Kids Travel Tool

I love when I find parent invented tools that work, especially when it comes to traveling with kids, not an easy thing to do.

*Lugabug – Busy mom, Jennie Helman, came up with the idea for Lugabug when she was traveling with her young children at a busy airport. Lugabug is a child’s travel seat that secures to luggage, creating the experience of fun, safe and efficient transport for kids. It’s a collapsible, economical and multi-purpose family travel accessory for quality-conscious buyers who prefer a compact product that minimizes their load, not adds to it, and reduces chaos while traveling.The child travel seat secures in seconds without taking up extra space. It is multi-functional and versatile and can also be used as an extra pocket when hung over luggage, a camp chair and/or a sitting pad. The top strap can also be adjusted and worn over the shoulders to carry extra stuff. It is intended for children aged 2 or older; maximum weight of 60 lbs. Made in the U.S.A. It is available for $64 at www.lugabug.com.

Fun Summer Stuff

I found some fun summer stuff as I was putting together the smart summer stuff, so I had to share.  Love these items!

*4th of July stuff – Look no further than Teresa’s Creative Gifts for all kinds of red, white and blue loot to have you in the spirit of the day come the 4th.  I showed the red, white and blue giant makeup/all-purpose bag ($26) and the red, white and blue scarf/vest (sells for $25 at Teresa’s Creative Gifts).  She has a ton of 4th of July items, so take a look to be in the red, white and blue spirit with your dress, accessories, decor and more.  Shop Teresa’s Creative Gifts at her facebook account here or email her at [email protected] or call 602-710-9181.

*BigMouth Inflatable Pool Party Beverage Boats – I saw these last year at more expensive department stores, so how fun that these are now available for less at Walgreens for $6.99 for a set of two.  Unicorn and donut shaped inflatable drink holders float in the pool and keep cups close and upright.  So fun!

Did I share any smart summer tools or fun summer items that you will use?  Any I should know about for my blog and segments?  Share here in the comments section.

Happy Summer!



Impressive So Far: ASU Sports Journalism Program

Although only a freshman, that is my son in the yellow and blue tie co-anchoring an entertaining and informative sports program.  My son is about to wrap up his first year as a sports journalism major at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.  He has already done play by play announcing for ASU hockey and for ASU lacrosse. And this week he got to anchor his first sports program called Cronkite Sports Live.  In the video above, you will see him anchor, interview, read teleprompter and even play a fun competition reporting game with his co-anchor, all in good fun.  I laughed out loud with his sign-off action, which you will see at the end of this 13 minute program.  He is having a good time and it shows!  This clip will also have you updated on ASU and college sports.  I am extremely pleased to see our tuition money being put to good use with the abundance of journalism activities and experience he has already accomplished.  He is also enjoying the Barrett Honors College and ASU in general.  Kudos to the Sun Devils for having a top notch journalism school that truly gives students hands-on experience.  My son is also working on two separate sport journalism scholarships as well.

We are especially pleased that he is on the Dean’s List with all As, as he balances it all.  So a shout-out to ASU and a check-in on my son’s college experience as his freshman year winds down.  That is…almost…a wrap! My pals told me that our kids’ college years would go as fast as high school did, maybe even faster. Yep, it is true!



AZ Local: Valley Youth Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland Fun For All Ages!

With my daughter playing the Queen of Hearts, I knew I would enjoy Valley Youth Theatre’s (VYT) Alice in Wonderland production and I did…but I also thoroughly enjoyed every actor on that stage.  The entire cast shines and provides the house with laughs and wonderment as Alice’s journey progresses through that special place of imagination called Wonderland.  Fun for kids and a reminder for adults to cherish childhood and to embrace the wide-eyed imagination that the children in our life possess, that sadly, disappears as one grows up.

Proud parents of our queen, who is certainly the queen of our hearts.

The high energy, expressive and very talented cast is comprised of kids and teens of all ages.  Each actor has an absolute blast taking the audience along with Alice through Wonderland.  A bright set, fun props and plenty of twists and turns with clever lines that get laughs, VYT doesn’t mess around.  This theatre is very professional and respected with famed and successful alumni like Emma Stone and Jordin Sparks.

With close to 20 shows still left to perform, the seats are going fast.  So much so, that VYT extended the show through the first weekend of March.  Below is a 30 second promo clip….

This super talented, hard-working cast has been rehearsing for three months and opened last weekend to sold out audiences.  Such a thrill!  Director Sandi Carll has a cast that has worked hard for her, loves her and celebrates her directing talent and the classic story of Alice in Wonderland with their spot on performances.

On Thursdays, the team comes together to perform for schoolchildren, who have studied the Alice in Wonderland classic story and then come to VYT on an educational field trip to see the characters come to life on stage.  How refreshing to get kids off electronic devices and out of the classroom to a live theatre experience.  Great idea, VYT!

After each show, the cast comes out in costume to meet and greet the audience.  Children especially love posing for pictures and having the cast members sign their program. And those incredible costumes, designed by the uber talented Karol Cooper, are spectacular to see up close!  VYT longtime producing artistic director, Bobb Cooper runs a children’s theatre with a team that is a well oiled machine and behave and work together like a close knit family.

My Queen with Bobb and Karol Cooper, VYT extraordinaires!

I got to experience this first-hand after I volunteered all weekend.  Kids that are cast pay nothing to be in the production as parents and family are simply asked to volunteer instead. A brilliant formula that saves families money and creates a cohesive cast with all involved. I helped to sew costumes along with my son’s sweet girlfriend, who volunteered with me, and my hubs participated in building sets.  This experience has been a special one for us and our teen daughter to bond, which isn’t always easy with busy teenagers.  And that has been yet another wonderful perk of this production and overall experience. 

VYT’s downtown Phoenix location makes for a nice afternoon out with family and friends with many delicious restaurants nearby, too.  Shows run every weekend through March 5th at noon and 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.  For tickets, click here. 

Yes, I am a bit biased since my daughter is having the time of her life yelling “off with their heads”….but all who have come so far tell me (both strangers and friends) that the entire show is so well done and very entertaining from start to finish.  So join us in Wonderland.  Get your tickets and don’t be late or off with your heads it will be!

For The Class of 2017 Moms

This article, that I published one year ago, was one of my most read pieces ever.  So I am running it again for my Class of 2017 moms.  Last year when I was a Class of 2016 Mama, this was about the time of year that the bittersweet excitement of everything graduation and everything about being a high school senior hit home for me.  This time last year I found myself planning all kinds of stuff from graduation announcement orders, college dorm selection, spending hours filling out the pesky FAFSA form, adding prom picture taking night to my calendar and more.  I also found myself smiling quite a bit with all of the excitement…and also tearing up, at times when I didn’t see it coming.

Getting to this magical moment is horribly wonderful for the Mamas. Oxymoron is appropriate!  Me last year with my now college student. I miss him, but I’m happy to report, that one year later, he is happy and thriving. 

The title of this from last year was Moms:  Senior Year is the Worst in a Good Way! Check this out as you continue through the journey of these last few months of your child’s senior year….

Moms:  Senior Year is the Worst in a Good Way!

Moms of teens.  Read this or bookmark this to read before or during your child’s senior year in high school. It just may be therapeutic for you.  Because something unexpected happens to a lot of mothers during this final year of school for your child.  Something a pal told me about.

She said that senior year is the worst!  But in a good way.  With a lot of cheers.  And some unexpected tears that may take you by surprise when you least expect it. 

You may think that it is PMS, hormones or maybe perimenopause.  But read on because it is a phenomenon that I am so glad my friend told me about before it happened to me…during the nine months that make up a child’s high school senior year.

Yeah, that 9 month thing is ironic!

But first let’s talk about your kid.

This is your child’s big year.  The year that their senior year of high school arrives.  2016 grad paperAnd since my child’s senior year is rapidly coming to close, I feel like I am now experienced enough to write this piece and to share this insight with you.  It is your son or daughter’s special senior year.

And a lot of milestones and busy work come with that final year of high school….

Cap and gown pics.

College tours.

College apps….lots of work for your kid…you have been warned!

First games, last games.

Senior nights when moms are recognized and appreciated.

College acceptance letters 🙂

College rejection letters 🙁

18 year immunizations and those medical records that must be sent to colleges.

Last Homecoming.  Last prom.

FAFSA college form…not fun! Again you have been warned.

Designing and ordering the graduation announcements.

And many more moments that I am forgetting.

And at last graduation and move out day.

And for you…..a surprise.  Unexpected tears months before those milestone days arrive.

And sometimes no tears at all…even at a moment where tears are expected.

You think it is only going to happen on graduation night but I’ve got news for you mommies about facing your child’s senior year.  Kind of like labor, the nine months that make up that senior school year is filled with emotion as you once again help your child to prepare to enter the world.

And this time around it is the real world, not the cozy world of a new Mother’s arms.  But a world with Mommy’s arms gently pushing that baby of yours out of the nest.

I haven’t decided yet who this is hardest for, the child or the mother.  I will get back to you on that, but my hunch so far is that it is harder on the Mama.

Lucky for me, I was warned about this motherly phenomenon of unexpected grief and tears ALL throughout senior year over a glass of celebratory wine last summer with my gal pals, Amy and Melissa. We went to dinner to toast and cheer the big event that they had both just experienced, the graduations of their firstborns.

Me about to join this club...moms of seniors club!

Me about to join this club…the moms of high school graduates.

I sat wide eyed sipping my wine listening to their experiences.  I was thinking about my firstborn, my son who had just finished his junior year in high school.  I asked the gals all about the big day, the graduation. And about the day that they moved their sons to the dorms, too.  I expected tales of giant tears and tight hugs with an extra squeeze from the emotional mothers on those two big anticipated days.  I didn’t think about the nine months leading up to graduation day and how much the mom feels.  I figured that all happens on graduation night.

So I asked the gals all about the big graduation day.  How they felt.  Their answers surprised me.  And prepared me.

There were tears on that big day they told me, but then Amy said something that I want to share with you.

Amy gave me some insight that I hadn’t thought of before.  Some of the days and months that fill the year, those nine months leading up to the big graduation (and soon after the move out day) are actually more painful than the big day itself.

MORE painful.  I hadn’t thought of this.

She said that senior year is the worst!  In a good bittersweet and emotional way.  What?!  I hadn’t considered that I would be celebrating AND mourning ALL year long.

Now with my boy’s graduation day a little less than two months away, I get it.  I really get it.

It has been true for me.  I am so glad that Amy explained this. So a few months later when my own unexpected tears sometimes trickled down quietly, I remembered Amy’s words.  And at other times when the emotions poured out (and couldn’t always be hid from my bewildered boy), I remembered again what she had shared with me.  Thank you Amy!

Senior year is the worst!  And the best!  And I’m not crazy to have these see saw emotions.

It is not my crazy hormones or perimenopause.

It is a normal.

And it is probably a little confusing for your kid, too.  Whether or not they admit that to themselves or to you.

You may even notice that your child pulls away a bit more than usual and is a bit grumpy with good ol’ mom at times.

My belief (and my mommy intuition tells me, which I have come to trust after 18 years of this parenting gig) is that this sometimes hurtful behavior is also normal.  That my child is preparing to leave the nest, so separating from Mama may be a subconscious way of preparing.

After all as anxious as we are, it has to be somewhat scary, even for the most adventurous and confident kid.  Don’t you think?!  I do.  Even if they don’t show that and some do, but others keep quiet about their emotions.

However the good news is that the loving and fun moments outweigh the tough ones, as that 17 or 18-year-old does celebrate the many milestones of senior year with Mom.  Well most of the time anyway.

Sometimes they want a little space.  I get it.

But back to this Mom’s roller coaster emotions.

Funny thing.  Some predictable moments didn’t make me tear up at all.  Like the day the cap and gown pictures were taken.  No tears.  Not sure why, perhaps because those pictures are done right after junior year ends so it hadn’t really sunk in yet.  I mean graduation was still one whole year away.  cap and gown pic proofs

But I’ve got news for you.  Senior year flies by!  The fastest one yet, in my opinion.

I also didn’t cry when the boys gave their mothers flowers at the season ending Varsity golf banquet. What’s wrong with me, I thought?  Why am I not tearing up?

And a big surprise is that I didn’t cry when I was called out to the ice to accept flowers from my 6’1 strapping hockey player son.  Hockey has been a part of our lives with our boy since he was a little wide eyed 5-year-old.

But don’t be fooled.  If this happens to you and tears don’t come at expected times, just wait because that lump in your motherly throat happens.  And it happens more than once during that incredible and very busy senior year.

Because you see I did end up tearing up on the ice.  It just wasn’t at the moment that I expected.

As soon as this formal picture was taken, he surprised me.  I figured he would skate quickly away as I left the ice.  But instead he took a moment to lean down, plant a kiss on me and say, “I love you, Mom”

….and I melted. on ice senior night with Jack

I hurried off the ice so the next mother could have her moment, but I almost choked on the lump in my throat!  I didn’t see his embrace or his kiss coming and it rocked.  It rocked my motherhood galaxy.

And there have been other unexpected surprise tears along the way.  Just like Amy warned me about.

The first day of the new and final hockey season back in September.  After 14 years of hockey, I figured I was ready to hang up my hockey mom hat this season.  But the moment that I plopped that worn out old hat on my head, tears enveloped me.  I didn’t see that one coming either and it took my whole family by surprise!  Fortunately, I had my tears under control by the time we took this picture.  Then we left for the very first game of the very last season.  Yep more quiet tears as we drove there.me looking up at my Jack hockey 2015Thank goodness Amy had warned me about this so I could reassure the family that I was OK.

It is normal because senior year is the worst.  In a good way!

And more recently there was that day that I realized that it was time to email far away family the graduation plans.  I kept putting off writing that email until my sweet Mother-in-law asked me about sending it out.  I told her that I was excited to write it and didn’t understand why I kept delaying the email.  Then I realized why and I said to her, “It is time, isn’t it?”  and she softly replied yes as we both understood my quiet tears that spilled over to her end of the phone.

Happy tears and sad momma tears of putting the process of letting go into actual words that was emailed to loved ones.

Putting it in writing makes it official.  Cue lump in throat.

And the day that the actual cap and gown came in. Jack's grad cap

My son asked me not to cry (and he sounded serious like it was going to maybe annoy him….pesky teenagers!) so I made sure that I  didn’t shed one tear when he tried it on.

I unintentionally saved the tears for later when I went to the dry cleaners to retrieve the nicely pressed gown.  Still doing just fine.

Until I placed it in his closet.

Where it sits now waiting to come out soon, very soon, to take him across the graduation stage and into the next big chapter.  I didn’t see those tears coming either that hit right when the hanger hit the rack.

But time to get it under control again.  The clock is ticking so quickly now.

I have left before me one last Prom picture session, graduation day and dorm move in day.

Those teary moments that come and go throughout senior year have helped to slowly prepare me for the inevitable and yes, very exciting, next step of letting go.  A little like labor pains I guess.

Those unexpected senior moments helped me to prepare.  Each tear cleansed my weary AND happy heart to cherish the past and embrace the future.  HIS big new future.

And yes you will feel both weary and wonderful at the same time.

Because senior year is the worst.  In a good way.

You have been warned.  Buy a big stock of Kleenix at Costco before senior year starts.  Then keep those tissues handy and embrace it, sweet beautiful Mamas!

You earned every one of those bittersweet tears.

SAT & ACT Helpful Study Apps

I wrote this article two years ago when my son was studying for the ACT and SAT.  He took both and did very well and he told me about two helpful study apps that prepared him.  Since many of my readers have teenagers, I am running this again.  The links to each study guide are included in the article.

I wish your kids successful test taking as they embark on their collegiate future.  My son is now in his second semester of his freshman year at ASU in the Barrett Honors College Sports Journalism program and he is really thriving and loving it so far.  It seems like just yesterday I wrote this his junior year in high school.  So check this out for your high schooler and be sure to spend some time with them before they head off to college.  It gets here so fast!  Here is the original article…

Many of you have asked me what my son did to prepare for both the ACT and the SAT.  And when I asked my son how he studied, I was surprised by his answer!  First let me tell you about his test results, which makes this Mama pretty happy and relieved as I was a bit worried at first.  I worried because during his Junior year and the proceeding summer he didn’t seem to be studying for the big college entrance exams much at all. We received a lot of mail advertising study workshops that he didn’t sign up for due to his busy schedule.  So yes, I was starting to worry about how he would do on test day.  But he did have a plan and that plan of his worked well!

1st day of high school

He did very well on the ACT, scoring a 32, which is in the 98% of the national test results and he also did great on the SAT.  His score on the SAT was a solid 2000 which is in the 93% range, according to PrepScholar.

In addition to his high test scores, he has a 3.9 weighted GPA and has taken both AP and honors courses all through high school.  So I am joyful to share that he has been offered two academic scholarships, one to ASU and one to UofA.  He has been accepted to The Barrett Honors College at ASU and is leaning towards that honors college since it is highly rated, works closely with the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, which is what he wants to study, and demands top academic performance from the students. The Barrett Honors College even requires that a thesis be written to graduate!  So Barrett definitely has his attention.

However before he makes his final decision, he is waiting to hear back from our alma mater, UT Austin (Hook Em Horns!) and Northwestern.  I find it frustrating that Northwestern doesn’t even give us their decision until April!  Oh well!  Patience is a part of this college planning process, I’m learning.  So be ready to be patient, both with your teen, and with the process, as your family moves through the lengthy experience of preparing for college applications.  But first those pesky exams must be taken!

During his sophomore year, we told him it was time to start gearing up to take the SAT and ACT.  We insisted that he take both.  He wasn’t happy with our demand at the time, but now he is thankful that he has both scores to share on his college applications since he did so well, on the ACT, especially.

So what did he do to prepare?  His answer surprised us even!  Keep reading as the answer is coming!  But first I must tell you what he didn’t do.  He didn’t take the PSAT…although I highly recommend that your kids do so.  The only reason he skipped the very beneficial PSAT is because he had out of town hockey tournaments during the scheduled test dates. jack at nationals high school

He also didn’t sign up for the day long ACT and/or SAT prep courses that are offered on some Saturdays at the high school. Again, I suggest that your kids do that, too.  Like before, his athletic and job schedule, got in the way of those workshop calendar dates.

So by the time the ACT and SAT dates were looming on the calendar, we were a bit worried about his lack of prep and we started to nag him.  I mean really nag him, too!  At his 17th year physical, his pediatrician shared with us that her teenagers weren’t allowed to leave to hang with pals until several hours of ACT and SAT study time was complete.

She enforced this rule every single day in the months leading up to the big test day.

Kudos to her because her children are now attending Ivy League colleges.

Our son didn’t like that idea.  So we told him that he better come up with a plan.

He did.  And it worked.

He used two free apps on his smart phone!  Both apps prepared him and gave him sample test questions. Then the apps would keep track of his areas of weakness and prepare further sample testing and study in those subjects to better prepare him for the test day.

For the ACT, he signed up for and used ACT Up. This free app worked well on his smart phone and he gives this app a thumbs up.  ACT Up features over 1,000 practice ACT test questions that are written by expert tutors and cover academic areas that include English, Math, Reading and Scientific Reasoning.  He also really liked that the app sent him what is called daily workouts that worked on his weak areas of academic practice for the big test.  He definitely improved greatly in those areas by test day. screen322x572So the ACT Up app kept track for him in the areas that he needed work on and provided additional instruction and practice test questions to strengthen his knowledge and test readiness in those particular areas.  Cool graphs are also provided.  He liked that this app tracked his progress and then displayed his results and readiness in those colorful and easy to read graphs.  All of these visuals, mock tests, workshops and instruction, were all done easily on his phone and that appealed to him.  This encouraged him to open the app every day to work on preparing for the ACT.  He only took it once, too!

For the SAT, he used the app called SAT Question of the Day.  This app is also free and is our son’s favorite prep tool to date.  He likes this one because the SAT Question of the Day app promotes daily practice instead of last minute cramming to properly prepare for the SAT.  With the new revised SAT it is a bit different now from when my son used the app but that link will give you all the updates and the available apps that are now offered with the changes.  screen322x572 (1)

And for me, to find a study tool that my teenager was enjoying because it challenged him daily was a great thing!

Did you know the the SAT has been changed?  Click here to get all of the updates and study apps available so that your teen is prepared!

There are other study guide apps out there that you may want to check out.  These are the two that are highly recommended by our teen son.

And do what he didn’t do….have your teen take the PSAT and attend a workshop or two for extra prep. Our son told us that both exams were tough and that he was thankful that he used the two teen user friendly apps to help him prepare.

And I liked what his pediatrician told us.  Make sure your kid is studying and preparing.  Because like all of the other teenage milestones, this too will get here so fast that you won’t believe it!

Happy college exam test taking to your teen and happy teen parenting years to you.

I can hardly believe that my firstborn’s teen years are winding down while I am looking up at my soon to be college student! me looking up at my Jack hockey 2015

Movable Cool Closet Organization System

I may be just a little bit jealous of my teen daughter because she got a closet makeover and now I want one!  When she asked for a new closet for her birthday, we liked that idea because she works hard in school and aims to be organized.  Since she is on the right track and is being a pretty good teen for us so far (crossing my fingers this continues) we decided to incur the cost and purchase one of the elfa sets from The Container Store.  We also decided this because the organized closet set can move with us when we move out someday. I had been under the impression that the big get organized closet makeovers were permanent pieces, so this is good option.

At a little over a whopping $1,000, was this new closet system worth it?  That is an awful lot to spend on my girl’s closet, but again, we can take it with us when we move in the future.

My answer is yes.

For us, it is worth it.

I will tell you that money can be saved by ordering a similar online kit and doing the measuring and installing yourself.  With our busy schedule, it was worth it for us to have it professionally done by The Container Store.  Units sold by this reputable store are good quality and the design team, personal consultant and installation person were all professional and good to work with from start to finish.  So, I do recommend it, if you can stomach the cost.

The Container Store elfa set we selected gives her five shelves, eight drawers, a hanging area and four racks for shoes that hold 16 pairs.  Her reach-in closet is not that big, as you can see from the before picture below…














With the new elfa system, she can hold a lot more clothing and shoes than she could store before in this closet.  Plus, she doesn’t have a dresser and didn’t want one, so that she would have more space in her room.  This system works very well for her.  I am especially fond of the racks that pull out and hold so many shoes.  My girl added a few hooks to hang her caps on as well. 

Deep drawers are nice for her bulky sweaters and sweatshirts. And the thinner compartments are perfect for socks, lightweight workout pieces and more.  All of these drawers nicely pull out for quick and easy access.  

Since the closet space is tall, Jen, our wonderful Container Store organization consultant, fit in high shelving for additional storage.  Perfect!

This closet is terrific.  My teenager has stayed organized and clutter-free since we had this system installed.  That makes me happy as she works hard to balance her honors classes with her intense community theatre rehearsal schedule, her high school dance team, her involvement with National Charity League which involves community volunteer hours and cherished time with her gal pals.

With her room organized and peaceful, she finds calm there to study, rehearse and rest.  Since she is a hard working and good kid for us, my job is to support her and get out of her way at times. This room gives her that space.  Teens definitely need our steady guidance, but that is also balanced with giving them space.  This bittersweet and amazing time is when a teenager employs the roots we provide, but really start to spread their wings at the same time.  This can be a confusing time for all.  Having just done this not long ago with my college son, it is hard to believe how fast we are back here in this stage.

For my daughter, this closet gift gave her control to streamline her stuff, get organized and dive into her high school years ready to rock and roll.  It is truly amazing how being organized and clearing out clutter can make one feel more relaxed and on top of things.

Yeah, I thought this purchase through.  It was a big purchase.  It was her one big 15th birthday gift and she cherishes it and appreciates it.  So together, we give the Container Store elfa unit a thumbs up.  We could have gone fancier with wood paneling, etc…but we didn’t want to add to the budget.  This simple, clean and efficient system was the perfect choice for my girl’s reach-in closet.  
Her busy arms reach in there multiple times a day to keep up with her different wardrobe needs for her many activities.  Being organized like this saves time since items are always easily found now and keeps her less stressed.And that keeps this teen Mama less stressed, too!

The Art of Patience

As I write this, with a swollen jaw from gum surgery three days ago, I feel compelled to discuss the art of patience.

Patience.  Easier said than done.  Truly.  My lesson in patience has been this holiday season.  And this week, too.  But I will start with last month.  It was hectic as usual, but all of my tasks were completed just in the nick of time.  And I mean in the zero hour nick of time.  I will NOT do it that way again next year.  Or so I say every year.  I truly aim to have it all done next year in November because December is filled with recitals, birthdays, year-end deadlines, holiday parties and of course the countdown to Christmas.  That countdown includes buying, wrapping, shipping and traveling.  At the same time last month, our washing machine broke down twice, we had a gas leak in the back yard, I blew a tire on the road, etc, etc, etc.

You know the sayings.

When it rains, it pours.

Things happen in threes.

And as it all came to a glorious close by December 25th, I was presented with a nasty little cold/virus that was fierce and very contagious.  So on Christmas Eve, I began to feel ill and by New Years one week later, my daughter and husband caught the same pesky virus that sent him to the ER with some scary symptoms. And just several hours after that, I had to take my girl to urgent care to treat her double pink eye, that was the end result of that stubborn and frustrating holiday virus.

Yes, I had to have patience that week for sure.

Patience was also practiced as my hubs and I waited and waited and waited for the chest X-ray results. When the physician called the X-ray, “beautiful” we both sighed with relief…and disbelief that this virus, which was not the flu or pneumonia, was so brutal.  I don’t know where I picked up these unwelcome germs, but I was sorry that my family ended up sick, too.  None of us needed antibiotics. We just needed patience. [Read more…]

Happy New Year To My Blog Readers!

It is almost that time…Happy New Year!  

I can’t tell you how much I truly appreciate your support and the time you take to follow my humble little blog! I like to think of this space as a resource, a place to share manic managed mom tidbits, a place for flavor with recipes and a place to smile.  I am wishing all of you a happy and healthy 2017.

Here is our 2016 in review as we let go of the old and ring in the new!  This is a version of the print letter that we mailed out.  Unfortunately, I ran short on cards, lost my address book and came down with a nasty cold/virus over the holidays, so I fell a bit behind and not everyone I intended received our letter, so here it is on my blog to share.  Although I have heard excessive exclamation marks can be unappealing in writing, you will see many below because 2016 brought a lot of excitement to this manic managed mom’s home…

Here is page one about our Jackie boy…

Be still a proud Mama’s heart!

2016 was exciting for us! Our first-born graduated with honors and flew the coop!


We traveled to Washington DC/Virginia when Jack’s high school hockey team went to Nationals!  We were blessed to get to visit all of my Maryland/Va relatives, including my beautiful 91-year-old Grandma who resides in West Va! 

I loved senior night when moms were honored and given flowers on the ice by our player! 14 years of hockey, with so many amazing memories, flew by!


Jack and his cutie pie girlfriend of 2 1/2 years, lovely Hannah banana, as I like to call her. It is so nice when your kid dates such a nice young lady!

Jack loves ASU Barrett Honors College and his major, sports journalism.

Jack also does a great job doing play by play announcing for ASU hockey.  
You can hear two :30 second samples of his announcing work here…

He finished up the semester on the Dean’s List with a 4.02 GPA.  He was also hired to be the sports journalist intern for the Junior Coyotes, a youth hockey program.  He manages social media and weekly sports reports on behalf of their multiple teams. Jack is off to a great start and we are so thrilled for him.  He loves college life and has made very nice friends from all over the country.  Jack helped us out by earning a 4-year academic scholarship for part of the tuition, too!  A big Congrats to our Jack!        

Check out Jack’s grad life memory video here on my blog if you haven’t checked it out yet.  It was my labor of love to put it together!  And to see a short 1 minute video of Jack’s dorm move-in day from my Mama perspective, look here

And page 2 about our girl is here…

Our young lady is now 15 and is anxious to get her driver’s permit! Here we go again!

Alexis has been busy with some wonderful achievements.  She was recognized as a Principal’s Award finalist, a tremendous honor, as the recipients are selected by their teachers based on their academic & leadership performance all three years of middle school!  In August, she started high school.  She works hard in her honors classes, on the school’s Advanced Gold dance line and in drama club.  This year, Alexis and I were lucky enough to have been able to join NCL (National Charity League), a mother and daughter organization, that volunteers time to help those in need packing food boxes, volunteering in after school programs, working in an animal shelter and more.  We really enjoy it! [Read more…]

Jack’s Graduation Video: A Look Back at my Favorite Part of 2016

For my faraway family and pals, our holiday letter says that if folks want to see my labor of love, the gratitude life video that I put together for Jack’s graduation back in May, check my blog.  So here it is for those looking for it.  I have been told to warn that some may need a tissue because my mama heart took over more than once as I created this video celebrating our first born’s first 18 years. So much fun!  I just watched it again, after not seeing it for five months and the tears fell!  My favorite parts are the little sister chapter, the grandparents chapter, the milestones and the cool surprise at the very end.