Another Milestone: Our Son’s First Road Trip…Without Us!

Manic:  My mind when I think about our son and all of the big milestones that the teen years have brought, both with risk (hence my manic mind) and joy.  Starting high school, learning to drive, getting a driver’s license, preparing to take the SAT, school dances and more.

Managed:  Just when I think that the next milestone won’t happen until next year when he graduates from high school (is that really happening next year?!) he springs another one on us when he asks to drive his car on a road trip…with friends…to San Diego for Spring Break.  Yikes!  Did we let him go?

Believe it or not, yep we did and read on to see what went into our decision to say yes because it wasn’t an easy decision to make and to commit to with our boy.

Getting ready to go and my nerves were a little shaky.  Not too bad, but a little, I must admit.

Getting ready to go and my nerves were a little shaky. Not too bad, but a little, I must admit.

First of all he is 17 1/2 years old now and when the big 18 rolls around next fall, he will be asking to take road trips, I’m sure.  This particular road trip did include an awesome parent chaperon who would follow our son on the road to Spring Break fun and stay with the group, along with another chaperon, in the beach rental property.  So we decided that this would be good practice since he is sure to take future trips without us (sooner than later) and without a parent chaperon as well.

Another reason we agreed is that he paid his own way with paychecks from his part-time job that he currently balances with school and his Varsity sports teams.   He paid his share of the beach house rental, food and gas.  We did surprise him, as he left, with a little spending money from Mom and Dad, which also gave us peace of mind that he would have extra emergency cash on his person.

We also decided to allow this new found freedom after having a good conversation with the parent chaperon. He assured us that our son’s car would not be driven around San Diego and would only be used for the trip up and back.  He also met with the kids and gave them a set of rules that included a curfew and more. Meals would be breakfast and dinner together with lunch on their own and I liked that he had them coming together for dinner.  Good plan.

We required him to take his car in to the shop for a bumper to bumper road trip check, as I call it.  He did it himself, but I did call the mechanic to stress the importance of this check-up for the automobile that would take our beloved son and several of his friends to another state.  Precious cargo indeed.

Lastly, we let him go because he has been keeping up his grades (and he is taking some hard AP courses) and hasn’t done anything lately to not have earned our trust.

So off he went that first Saturday of Spring Break.

I talked with him about driving carefully, no texting, following the parent chaperon’s rules, avoiding being so exhausted by the end of the California stay since he also would be driving back.  I even told him to remember not to go out too far in the ocean and to wear sunscreen because even though he may be 6’1 now, shaving and driving, he is still my boy.  And it is my motherly instinct to prepare him as much as I can now that his big years of independence have arrived.

After he pulled off at 6:30am, hubs and I looked at each other with a combination of excitement for him and fear for ourselves knowing that we just allowed our kid to leave our safe home to drive 350 miles away from us….without us. Although it was early morning, we spontaneously decided to relax in the new spa we had just added to our backyard instead of trying to go back to sleep or getting on with the day. The hot tub (and a few spirited beverages as the day wore on, I must add) did the trick and truly helped us to relax as we waited for updates from the road during the breaks for gas and food.

I am happy to report that all went quite smoothly.  Our teenager had the time of his life and thanked us repeatedly for saying yes.  In fact we heard from him more than we had expected, which was a nice surprise. This picture below was shared with us by the very nice parent chaperon and we appreciated that.s break 2015 for Jack

And the nicest surprise of all was when he excitedly called us long distance to suggest that our family consider renting a beach house similar to the one his group was staying in for their 3-day getaway.  It made me smile that he still wants to plan a trip with his ol’ parents.

Miles away from us with the beautiful sea behind him.

Miles away from us with the beautiful sea behind him.


Back home in the safety and comfort of our backyard.

Back home in the safety and comfort of our backyard.

Putting our trust in him at this stage really got his attention in the right way and he really did appreciate it.  He told us this several times.

Yes, his wings are flapping.  He is at the edge of the nest now and I truly can’t believe that this Mama bird has one that is so close to flying away.  Bittersweet for sure.  I hope that we did a good job with the roots. We certainly tried hard and gave it our best and so far….so good…but also knocking on wood right now!  As his teen years wind down, we are also just beginning this journey again since our girl is 13…happy and exciting teen years for sure are keeping this household busy and exciting!


Why I Mostly Love Blue Apron Home Delivered Recipes

Manic:  Dinner!  Coming up with tasty and healthy dinner ideas night after night that my family will eat and that I can get prepared in time for their busy schedules.

Managed:  My friend told me about Blue Apron, which is a unique delivery meal service.  The one pictured below is the Blue Apron Ricotta & Lacinato Kale Calzone.  My family loved this super delicious entree and it proved to be a great way to get kale into my their meal. calzone picEvery Thursday I receive a box of fresh ingredients and three recipes to make three home cooked meals. For the most part I am loving this service and I really enjoy cooking the recipes because I’m using whole foods and many different vegetables and ingredients that I haven’t tried before.  Since I have now been using Blue Apron for the last six months, here is my review with the pros and cons of this helpful delivery service.  Mostly pros, I’m happy to report, but read on to see what I love about it and what could be improved.

Here is how it works.

1.  Sign up at the Blue Apron website.  The 2 person plan, which gives you three meals per week costs $59.94 a week.  The family plan, which gives you 4 meals a week costs $139.94 a week.  I think the cost is fair, especially with the ease and convenience of this service, because I spend close to that much on ingredients for multiple meals when I shop for the food myself at the grocery store, which is tedious and time consuming plus I don’t always get adventurous and try different ingredients like I do with Blue Apron’s recipes.

2.  Ingredients are fresh and are delivered right to my door.  I set up the weekly fee to be automatically charged to my credit card and I don’t have to be home to receive the box. I love this!  So convenient.

blue apron boxEvery Thursday I am greeted by my box of fresh foods and I get excited to cook the recipes at hand. That joy has not faded and I truly love making these recipes.  The box contents always include the best seasonal ingredients that come directly from farms, importers and family-run purveyors.  I love that except that the food isn’t organic, which is my biggest con here.  However most of the time the foods are as fresh (and sometimes fresher) than my local grocery store fare, so that makes me happy.


3.  Simply take out the ingredients and the recipe card and follow the easy steps to make your family meal from scratch.  Here are a few pictures so you can see what a typical delivery looks like although every week’s box contains different, delicious and unique recipes…

Box arrives with letter containing tidbits about this week's recipes and three easy to follow recipe cards with pictures.

Box arrives with letter containing tidbits about this week’s recipes and three easy to follow recipe cards with pictures.

Food is packed nicely inside with biodegradable ice packs to keep items fresh.

Food is packed nicely inside with ice packs (that come with earth friendly disposal instructions) to keep items fresh.

Here are the ingredients for one of the recipes doubled since I ordered times 2 to feed a larger group.

Here are the ingredients for one of the recipes doubled since I ordered times 2 to feed a larger group.

I then chop, grate, sometimes zest and whatever is needed to prep the ingredients for cooking.

I then chop, grate, sometimes zest and whatever is needed to prep the ingredients for cooking.

Next step is to cook the entrees carefully following the Blue Apron recipe directions.

Next step is to cook the entrees carefully following the Blue Apron recipe directions.

And it is done and very tasty.  This recipe for Vietnamese Style Shaking Beef incorporates red pear into the lettuce wrap stuffing and it the perfect cool and crisp compliment to the spicy beef.  This was a family favorite.

And it is done and very tasty. This recipe for Vietnamese Style Shaking Beef incorporated red pear into the lettuce wrap stuffing and it was the perfect cool and crisp compliment to the spicy beef. This was a family favorite.

If you are not a meat eater, Blue Apron offers a Vegetarian plan.  Lighter fare is also included like this tasty White Pizza with Meyer Lemon and Arugula Brussels Sprout Salad and the recipe had me roll out the yummy dough…blue apron piza

Here are my list of pros and cons based on the steps that I listed in the process above…

Step 1 Ordering – 

Pros:  I have tried lots of different ingredients with Blue Apron that I would have never tried before like turnips, Gai Lan lettuce, braising greens, collard greens and all kinds of healthy foods that my family would typically decline, but Blue Apron has terrific recipes that enable me to sneak these foods into recipes that are pretty tasty.

Cons:  With the 2-person plan (I currently double that and am considering switching to the family plan) you only get 3 out of 6 total choices of recipes to choose from and they have to be matched a certain way, so you may love 2 of the recipes, but dislike the third choice so you are stuck with an unwanted recipe. This has happened to us more than once.  You can skip that week or you can do what I did and still enjoy the two we liked, but I gave the other recipe to my friend, who happened to like that particular entree.

Step 2 Delivery –

Pros:  Conveniently delivered to my door and I LOVE THAT…less grocery store runs needed on my part. Packed in a refrigerated box so food stays very fresh even if the box sits out all day until you get home.  Earth friendly packaging that can be recycled which I fully support since I try to be as green as I can.  The ice packs are filled with a non-toxic, water-soluble gel. To recycle them completely, I cut them open and wash the contents down the drain, then recycle the exterior packaging with my plastics.

Cons:  More than once I have received contents that weren’t packed as carefully as the company says they will be since I had a bell pepper that was smashed to pieces, a dented tomato sauce can and a missing onion.  However I must report that Blue Apron emailed me back right away with an apology and a full refund so that impressed me and kept me on board!

Step 3 Prep & Cooking Dinner –

Pros:  Fresh foods are selected, packed and shipped to me which makes my job much easier!

Cons:  Once in a while there is a recipe that my family doesn’t like, but we like the other two for the week so we still order and opt not to skip a week.  More choices for a week like this would be nice and I hope that Blue Apron will add more variety per week in the future.

Pros/Cons:  This is a combo for me because I truly dig chopping, slicing, grating and more since I feel good about preparing whole foods for my family’s dinner.  However the con is that the recipe cards usually say that the meals take 35 minutes on average from start to finish, but it has been my experience that it usually takes longer.  For me, it takes about a good hour due to the extensive prep time to cut, skin at times, zest at times, grate, pick leaves off of herbs, etc.

So I do really like the ingredients and the fact that I’m pretty much making dinners from scratch but Blue Apron needs to be honest about the prep time.  I once gave a meal that my family didn’t like to friends to make and they liked it but commented to me that it took more time than the recipe card says and that is “was a lot of work” and I agreed with them.  However in today’s fast food, easy prep, processed food world, Blue Apron is a breath of fresh air that I feel good about feeding my family so I don’t mind the time it takes.  I also love that I spend less time at the grocery store.

Bottom Line – So I am a big Blue Apron fan and am pretty much addicted to the home delivery, fresh foods, homemade feeling prep, delicious dinners and less time spent at the grocery store.  As I said, I would like to see more weekly options and Blue Apron needs to extend the time they tell you it will take from start to finish.

Lastly and this is an important point — when I’ve had concerns the very friendly and professional Blue Apron team has always emailed me right back and made things right.  I truly can’t wait until this Thursday when my next shipment arrives.  On the menu this week for us is Corned Beef Spiced Flank Steaks with Braised Cabbage and Buttered Red Potatoes, Turkey Chili with Avocado and Cheddar Cheese, and Baked Fontina Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Sage Breadcrumbs.  Yum!

Fun tidbit – the company is called Blue Apron because chefs in training oftentimes wear blue aprons.  I definitely feel like a chef in training when I prepare these healthy and delicious dinners for my family.

Looking forward to this chili!

Looking forward to this chili!

Photo from Blue Apron website 


No compensation was received from Blue Apron to write this review. 


My Favorite Discipline Mom Tip For Teens: Know Their Currency!

Manic:  When your kids mess up and you have to dole out a punishment to teach them accountability and consequences while trying to stay calm and not be a manic mom!

Managed:  Hard to not fly off the hook, but instead try to stay calm and think through what the big consequence will be.  parenting picI once had a Mom share (who raised five kids and has appeared on my morning show’s Mom Squad) to find their currency!  I absolutely love that and read on to see what it means because trust me, this works!

My teen daughter recently broke one of our rules.  It truly wasn’t a huge offense, but it was still our rule that we had clearly voiced she must follow.  When she didn’t and her Daddy busted her, she came to me, apologized and then handed me her phone.  I carefully thought about my next words.  In my mind, I was so happy that she was acting calm and polite with a sincere apology to us.  Plus this wasn’t a big misbehavior, but she still broke our rule so I wondered just how harsh I should be.  And lastly, overall she has been a pretty good kid for us.  However, you do the crime, you must do the time.  Otherwise how will she learn accountability and she may not take our rules seriously the next time around if I simply let her off the hook.

So I chose my words carefully and began to answer her as I held her phone in my hand.  But then I remembered my favorite discipline mom rule….know their currency.  This simply means to pick a consequence that will get their attention. Take something away that they truly love and will miss while the punishment phase is in progress.  And choose a punishment that you can truly stick to, which isn’t always easy.  My girl does love her phone, but I need to be able to reach her now that she babysits, attends rehearsals and after school events.  So I decided that her phone wasn’t the right currency and that I couldn’t enforce this 100% when I would be giving it back to her time to time so that I can reach her when needed.

So, I looked her in the eye, thanked her for the apology and let her know that we were disappointed that she would break one of our rules that we were very clear on when we gave her this rule to follow.  Then I declined taking her phone, and boy did this surprise her and get her attention.  I instead took away her favorite privilege at this stage in her life….sleepovers!

No fun smores with pals with no sleepovers in session.

No fun smores with pals with no sleepovers in session.

She adores her sleepover time, both at our own home and at her friends’ homes.  And she darn near gets invited to sleep over just about every weekend! She has wonderful gal pals, which I am thankful for, so the sleepover ritual is pretty consistent at this point and time.

I could tell by her face that I doled out the consequence that she wasn’t expecting and the following weekend when she had to decline that cherished sleepover invitation, she was bummed.  I doubt that she will break that particular rule again.  I found her currency.

When it comes to our teen boy, we had to pick a big currency last year when he did some damage to his car due to unapproved off-roading.  Not only did he pay for every cent of the damage…which took every penny of his summer job earnings…but we decided to not take the car away.  Why?  Jack's first car!Because that would punish me since his wheels have made my life so much easier with my teen girl’s daily busy schedule that takes us all over town.

Instead, he was forced to ride the school bus while his car sat at home and he was not allowed to transport anyone other than his parents for the next six weeks.  Believe me, that was indeed his currency.  I am happy to report that his car is now very nicely maintained and he even keeps it squeaky clean.  Found his currency!

Kids don’t get that it isn’t fun for us to dole out consequences, but they do get the correlation between breaking the rules and paying the price.  Missing a sleepover or riding the bus is a much better lesson to learn now before they become adults and have stiffer consequences to pay when the currency is no longer safely decided by Mom and Dad.

I am happy to report (knock on wood) that at 13 and 17, this currency policy is working quite well.

Several smart currency ideas for teenagers include lowering a curfew (they hate that one), cancelling their weekend plans to instead to do labor around the house and the sleepover banishment, as I mentioned earlier.

The funny thing about teenagers is that they are like overgrown toddlers who still need limits.  Even though they don’t realize it, the limits set (within reason based on the age) do make them feel safe and help them to regain control.  After all, the teenage years are complicated with huge leaps and bounds that come faster and faster from enrolling in high school to driving a car to getting that first job.  Big years to learn and grow from with a little help, love and direction from Mom and Dad mixed with discipline when needed made up of their cool currency.

Happy teen parenting!  For the most part, I am having a blast with these years…for the most part!

My two teens...these are the years...and they are quite fun with the right currency at hand.

My two teens…these are the years…and they are quite fun with the right currency at hand.




Unique Photographer Captures A Day In Your Family’s Life!

Manic:  Life with kids!  And when they get older and you find yourself suddenly a cab driver getting them to practice, tutoring, rehearsal, dentist appointments, school shopping, etc, etc, etc….it can feel even more manic!

Managed:  Capturing one of these manic…but treasured days….on film so that you and your kids can look back and remember what life was like during these busy and full years.  And someday you just might miss these hectic days and find joy in going back in time with this special photo shoot.  When professional photographer Genesis Meyer with Genesis Photography wrote to to tell me about her very unique photography services and Day In The Life sessions, I was intrigued so I asked her to write a guest post about what she does.  I invited her to elaborate on how her photography touches families and imprints a lasting memory of life today in the heart and mind to remember forever.  I just love this concept!

Genesis says:

A few years ago I was looking at some old photos of my family and I realized something that would change my philosophy on family photography forever: there’s two ways to create a family portrait. My eyes fell to a family photograph taken when I was five years old that showed all of us beautifully posed and smiling happily at the camera. It’s a great family portrait, no doubt.  However, I cannot remember anything about that day besides dressing up, trying not to mess up my nice clothes before the photographer arrived, and feeling a bit stiff as my five-year-old self followed instructions so we could have a lovely portrait taken. I also saw a photo of me at the age of three on a swing. girlonaswingI’m leaning back with the sun shining down and I am smiling from ear to ear with my tiny hands wrapped around the chain, and my feet grazing the ground. Just looking at that photo I am immediately transported back to that time. I can feel the breeze in my hair, the smell of the freshly cut grass, and the memories of a full day of play until the sun reaches that point above the horizon where it turns from day to evening. The difference between the two photographs, I realized, is the girl on the swing is completely candid. It was a real life moment and any time I want to feel that day I can just look at that photo and I am instantly back there, on that swing. I can’t wait to share that image with my daughter when she is older. “That was Mommy at your age,” I know I will one day whisper in her ear. Life moves so quickly and these precious moments have forever impacted me and influenced my approach to photography.

In 2009, I started Genesis Photography. In the years since, I have photographed many families.genesisphotographyphoenix I love providing my clients with beautiful portraits, but I never felt I was able to give my clients all of the memories I wanted them to have because posing and creating a structured portrait doesn’t lend itself to the possibility of capturing true and honest memories. And so, my philosophy changed. In addition to posed sessions, I now offer “A Day In The Life” sessions. phoenixfamilyThis approach to photography has become my favorite and most treasured type of shoot. I come into your life for the day and I document your beautiful life story. Maybe I’ll come early in the morning to tell your breakfast-and-off-to-school-and-work-story. Or your Saturday-morning-pancakes-followed-by-outside-play story. The little moments, the ones we see and don’t see, are what make up our life stories, and these are the moments I so enjoy. I revel in these moments, in fact. A Day In The Life sessions are a minimum of 3 hours but can last much longer based on how we schedule your session and what activities you would like me to photograph. It is entirely about telling your family’s story, for as long as you’ll let me in.

I strongly believe this is the future of family photography because it allows for busy families to get real moments and memories captured for a lifetime. I am so passionate about this style of portraiture and cannot wait to watch this niche of photography grow exponentially; I want your family to have dozens of images full of emotion and life and not just a few posed shots that don’t show what your family was really doing in 2015. I have had many clients express concern that their lives are “too boring” for this type of session. That simply is not true.  There is nothing too boring and no part of your life too simple that it does not carry with it the beauty that makes up your family.  One of my favorite images is of my husband and our daughter just spending time together on the couch. phoenixadayinthelifephotography (1)There was nothing out of the ordinary going on but the image tells the story of his love for her. How amazing is it that she will have that picture of herself and her dad for the rest of her life? As long as there is love, interaction, and the bond that makes up your family, your images will be stunning. You will be amazed at how interesting you really are doing the simple day to day things that make up your everyday life.  Your life is your story, display it proudly.phoenixadayinthelife***And be sure to check this blog tomorrow for your chance to win a FREE…yep we said FREE…Day In The Life photography session with Genesis!  How cool would that be?!

About our guest writer, Genesis:


Genesis first picked up a camera in 1995 and hasn’t put one down since. In 2009, she began providing portraits for friends and family at their requests. She has taken her love of the hobby around the world to capture landscapes in several foreign countries. Prior to making photography her full time career, she worked in various Intensive Care Units in 4 different states, and specialized in life support. She draws on her experiences with raw emotions to capture real interactions and the bonds that exist among families. Her favorite part of being a professional photographer is receiving cards, phone calls, and emails from happy clients who are thrilled with their images. Genesis currently resides in Goodyear, with her husband of 6 years and their 8 month old daughter.

I am proud to say that this post was sponsored by Genesis Photography and I welcome this partnership with since she does a job that families will treasure forever.  My opinion about how much I love her work is 100% my own. 

Managing Screen Time: Teaching Kids To Disconnect To Connect

Manic:  The sheer amount of our electronics these days.  It seems that all ages are connected to a cell phone, the internet, email, an electronic game, etc. most of the time.  So connected that we become disconnected.

Managed:  Happily welcomed Dr. Lisa Strohman‘s guest article on this very important topic.  Dr. Strohman is a clinical psychologist who specializes in educating parents and children on the effects of technology overuse or addiction.  Connecting with our children is very important, and believe me, especially so when they reach the crucial teenage years, which is exactly where we are now.  So read on for her very helpful advice on this tricky topic.  And be sure to look at the information at the end of this article to see how you can attend a free seminar to hear Lisa talk more about this.  Her seminar is a very beneficial tool for parents.

Lisa says:

Managing Screen Time: Teaching kids to disconnect in order to connect

By Dr. Lisa Strohman JD, PhD

Parents are overwhelmed, unsure of how they can gain control. They frequently ask, “How much screen time is too much? And how can we get control or even know what our kids are doing online?” earphones-friends-hand-

Many parents find it all so daunting they give up before trying. Feeling overcome by the amount of time their children are spending online is becoming a common concern. We see news stories discussing the good, bad and ugly of technology and our increasing connection to screens.

The first step in determining if technology is negatively impacting your kids is to pay attention to how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or spending time online. If they are watching and using age appropriate media, their behavior is positive and their screen-time is balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free activities, there is little reason for worry. If you find them constantly glued to a screen, making more friends online than on the playground and sneaking behind your back to log online, you have reason for concern.

There is research that supports a link between heavy media use and health and behavior issues like:

  • Obesity
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Academic challenges
  • Aggression

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one of the only established organizations to make recommendations on screen time, advises parents that children under two-years-old should have no screen time. For older kids, the AAP discourages screen time beyond two to three hours a day.

To protect children from the negative impact of technology, parents should consider creating a  technology use schedule and adopting rules for the entire family. To gain control, I recommend a few initial steps:

  1. Reduce the number of devices or screens kids are allowed to use
  2. Determine guidelines on the types of online games or activities they can use
  3. Preview programs they can watch and games they play
  4. Set enforceable screen-time limits
  5. Keep an open dialogue with your kids about the dangers and pitfalls
  6. Include the whole family in conversation to determine household rules and consequences

Take time to learn what your children like watching and playing. Try to understand why they use the apps they are using and what shows and games they are interested in. Most children will go through periods of heavy and light media use. Parents need to focus on teaching the importance of balance and encouraging activities offline.

We know technology is ever changing with new apps, games and social media platforms being introduced almost every day. Setting limits and gaining control is not an easy undertaking, but there are resources available to parents that can help keep children safe and healthy. Before giving up on, learn what you can do to manage and monitor your kids’ activities on their smartphones, game consoles, computers and tablets. It’s never too late.


About our guest writer:

Dr. Lisa Strohman - Black topDr. Lisa Strohman is a clinical psychologist who specializes in educating parents and children on the effects of technology overuse or addiction.  Visit to learn more and to take her proprietary Technology Use Continuum (TUC) assessment to gauge a child’s risk for technology addiction or overuse.  In addition to counseling, she hosts free educational seminars for parents and educators. To learn more visit


Scottsdale Psychologist Tackles Technology Addiction  

Free Seminar Identifies Four Major Areas of Impact 

 Wednesday, March 4th

***Free seminar for parents on Wednesday, March 4th

WHAT:           Are your kids glued to their smart phones, hooked on their iPads or attached to their gaming devices? Dr. Lisa Strohman, clinical psychologist and founder of Technology Wellness Center, is inviting the public to Minimizing & Monitoring:  Combating the Four Areas of Impact.  The seminar will focus on how technology overuse can impact a child’s physical, emotional and behavioral well-being, and threaten interpersonal skill development. Dr. Lisa will provide tips for monitoring children’s exposure to suitable content and offer tools to help manage and minimize screen time.

Dr. Lisa is an expert in technology wellness issues and is dedicated to providing resources to combat the social and emotional issues resulting from technology use.


WHEN:           Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 9:30 – 10:30 AM

WHERE:         LifeScape Medical Associates @ 8757 E. Bell Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85260

      WHO:         The event is open to parents, educators and adults working with children.

     COST:         FREE to attend, but seating is limited. Attendees must register at       


CONTACT:       Phone: (480) 220 -4702 or Email: [email protected]  

Being Accountable To My Kid With One Simple Behavior Change

Manic:  That time of day every day when school lets out and I rush to pick my teen girl up and get her to the next thing on the schedule….a rehearsal, dentist appointment, voice lesson or whatever that day brings.

Managed:  Really listening to her and honoring her frustration that I was typically 5 to 10 minutes late…and then doing something about it.  Apologizing, being accountable and being on time, consistently.Gift of Time

The funny thing is that I was usually late because I was caught up at home doing something for my kids, like the mountain pile of laundry that contains the needed clean PE clothes for the very next school day.

Although I want to blame the cat for slowing down my folding because I didn't want to disrupt her cute nap, it is my fault that I let the laundry pile make me late on some days.

Although I want to blame the cat for slowing down my folding because I didn’t want to disrupt her cute cat nap, it is my fault that I let the laundry pile make me late on some days.

Or I may have been in line at the grocery store with an overflowing cart so that I can continue to cook more from scratch and to make her school lunches instead of buying the unhealthy cafeteria fare.

But that doesn’t let me off the hook.  The fact is that I would expect her to be on time for me so my actions must reflect my words.  And I want her to be an accountable human who apologizes and accepts responsibility when she makes mistakes, so the apology had to be my first step in righting my bad habit of being late to her school pickup.

I would also like her to be a person who is punctual and an employee that her boss will know is reliable with a strong on time record, both on the clock and with her assigned projects.  So again I must walk the talk if I expect her to be all of these things.  Being a parent is an honor and a big responsibility and I believe that our kids also teach us lessons as we take this journey of raising people to be caring and responsible adults who give back and then raise their own future humans.

So I have not been late since I looked her in the eye and gave her my word that her expectations of me matter to me.  That it is important to show respect to someone by being on time.  That I will model the behavior that I expect from her.

The next day when I was on time, she greeted me with a big smile and told me thank you.  And one more thing to note….since I have now been on time for three consecutive weeks, she makes her way to my car faster.  Mutual respect!  It is so true that you have to give it to get it whether you are the parent or the child.

Parenting is tricky and I’m absolutely loving the ride :) me and Lexi Xmas 2013 pics


Guest Post: Teen Online Privacy Issues

Manic:  The fact that my teens pretty much have to be online nowadays to check homework, team emails and more.  And of course, they have social media that I keep an eye on but it is all overwhelming yet it is the way of today’s world and I want to keep them as safe as possible.

Managed:  When guest writer and former social worker, Amy Williams asked me if she could write an article about teen privacy online, I readily agreed because she has some good and important information to share so read on to work together to try to keep our kids as safe as we can online….

Amy says:

 Teen Privacy Online

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With as many as 40.5 million of tweens and teens accessing the internet using smartphones, issues like cyberbullying and teen privacy have become not just occasional issues, but necessary for parents to understand in our current landscape. Deciding how much privacy your teenager should have online is unfortunately not a black and white issue–a multitude of factors must be taken into consideration before making an informed decision.

 The Realities of Teens Online

Teens are in a tenuous position, as their brains are not fully developed, yet seemingly have access to the whole rest of the world with a touch of a button. This dichotomy can lead to teens posting embarrassing photos of themselves or others online, giving out personal information to strangers, or participating in or falling victim to cyberbullying.

Don’t Wait for Cyberbullying to Happen

Conversations about cyberbullying need to occur once your child has been given access to online technology. These conversations need to continue on a regular basis, allowing parents to check in with their teens regarding their online activity, including cyberbullying.

One preventative strategy is maintaining a cell phone contract with teens that outlines expectations, responsibilities, and consequences regarding smartphone use. The second element is establishing a monitoring system, which may be difficult but is oftentimes necessary–especially to keep younger teens safe online.

Manage Access to Electronic Devices

image_child_tech_3Image courtesy of

One way to help teens keep information private is to limit their access to electronic devices, like smartphones and tablets, during certain times of the day. If a teen needs to surrender the device to parents by 6 pm on weeknights, for example, then chances go up dramatically that this teen will be working on homework and going to sleep at a reasonable hour.

There are many helpful ways for parents to manage technology in their homes, including:


  • Take time outs from technology – not every room needs an electronic device. It is increasingly difficult for kids to find peace and listen to their inner voices, and banishing technology from certain areas of your home can help correct that.


  • Model the behavior you want to see – Not every moment needs to be captured or every email and text answered within seconds or minutes of being received. Show your teens that you can put your smartphone away and live in the present.


  • Bear the blame – Kids want to be “cool” in the eyes of their peers and may resist limits on technology because they don’t want their friends to know that they need a break. Offer to be “the bad guy” so that your teens can tell their friends it is your fault that they are not online.

Above all, communicate with your kids. Keeping lines of communication open with teens can help parents be aware of how their kids are dealing with an increasingly mobile world.


About today’s guest writer:

amy guest writer

Amy is a journalist and former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. Having spent several years working one-on-one with teenagers, she has seen the impact that social media and the internet has on their minds and emotions. We live in a digital age and Amy believes that it’s time for parents and educators to let this truth impact the way we raise our children and students. Amy is passionate about this subject and works to inform and motivate others through her writing.

Introducing A New Cat To Resident Cats

If you are considering introducing a new cat to your resident cat or cats, this article is for you.  Our vet told us that sometimes, even with all of the proper steps taken, cats may never completely accept each other, but may learn to coexist by avoiding the other.  We are happy to report that our end result has been a happy one with all being feline friends.  And be sure to read this article all the way through to see some additional safety tips for the cats and the humans at the end of this post.

Will this playful stray kitten fit in with our happy and lazy trio of resident cats?

Would this playful stray kitten fit in with our happy and lazy trio of resident cats?

Yesterday I wrote about how we ended up having a household with felines that equal the number of human residents.  Although we never ever planned to be a 4 cat family, the story of our fourth and FINAL kitty cat rescue is here.

We took our time, about six weeks, to be sure that our three cats truly accepted our new stray kitten that my hubs named Sadie.  It did help that she was brought in as a kitten.  Adopting a kitten may make the process a bit easier with adult cats who don’t feel as threatened with the new kitty’s tiny size, although I don’t want to discourage you from saving an older cat because that can work with the proper steps and patience.

The one time that we just couldn’t get our brood of cats to adopt a new one was when we fostered a big tomcat.  Since we already have a big tomcat, he just couldn’t accept another male that was his size and stature.  So we haven’t always been successful, but we were able to find him a very good home. However, little Sadie has been a success, so here are the steps we recommend you try if you are considering bringing in a new cat…

1.  First keep the new kitty in a totally separate and safe room until you know that she is healthy with a visit to your vet.  We are big fans of Foothills Animal Hospital, especially Dr. Alex MacKenzie.

Baby Sadie in her safe room.

Baby Sadie in her safe room.

2.  Next let cats play paws under the door, but don’t open the door yet.

3.  Move new kitty into a new safe room and let resident kitties visit the room that new kitty had been in for a few days.  Let them smell her scent and leave a blanket or toy behind for them to get familiar with that had new kitty’s scent on it.  Don’t let them see each other yet.

4.  Although I’ve never read this in the guide books, I brought Sadie out and held her in my arms so that the existing cats could see that she was wasn’t threatening and was already accepted by the humans in the house.  I also let them smell her while she was in my arms, being careful not to let them get too close.  And if they acted aggressive, I put Sadie back in her safe room, for everyone’s safety, including my own.

5.  Next slowly introduce new kitty to resident cats in a large and open space with items that cats can jump up on to escape meeting when needed. Sadie & Lucy

6.  Supervise the cats closely and you will know if it is time to integrate the new cat or if you have to go back to the previous step, which happens a lot and is normal.  One step forward, two steps back.  Light hissing and growling is normal.

7.  Play with cats with cat toys so that they associate fun playtime with each other.  You can try feeding them together as well, but place bowls far apart so that they enjoy comforting feed time with each other while not feeling like they have to compete for food.

8.  Once cats groom each other, you know that acceptance is 100% complete and you can enjoy your multi-cat household that will keep bugs and critters away (a real perk here in the desert with the scorpions) and give your family lots of laughs and cuddle time!

Here a few fun pictures that captured some of the acceptance moments….

At first, Lucy didn't want Sadie up in her sleeping space, but with time she accepted her and even cuddled....slightly I must add.

At first, Lucy didn’t want Sadie up in her sleeping space, but with time she accepted her and even cuddled….slightly I must add.

Stanley was the first to accept the new resident kitty.  They each took their own time doing so, which was interesting to watch.

Stanley was the first to accept the new resident kitty. They each took their own time doing so, which was interesting to watch.


Tucker adjusting to Sadie girl.

Tucker adjusting to Sadie girl.

And this is when I knew that acceptance was complete!  Seeing them squeeze together in a hamper gave our family a big laugh.  Success!

And this is when I knew that acceptance was complete! Seeing them squeeze together in a hamper gave our family a big laugh. Success!

A few other points that I should make is that it may be easier to bring in an opposite sex cat, although we have two males and two females, but our two males were adopted together from the shelter when they were both kittens.  Make sure that everyone is fixed.  Neutering and spaying is essential.  Also when your resident cats…..or the newer cat for that matter…..become aggressive with each other, calmly tell them no without extra stress or yelling coming from your voice.   Throw a towel over the aggressor and then separate them. Never ever try to pick up an angry cat or you may end up with a bite or a few scratches. Our cats didn’t like the towel action and learned to quickly back away when we said no.  Then we were able to move the kitten back to her safe room.  It took time, but this all worked well.  We took a full six weeks to fully incorporate them and to leave our fab foursome alone at home, all together, when we went out.

So if you are considering adopting a companion for your house cat, have patience and be gentle with the process and it should eventually pay off for you with double (or four times in our house!) the cat love.

Disclaimer:  I am not a vet or a trained cat expert.  I did a ton of research before successfully introducing two new cats in the last three years and I have adored felines since I could first crawl, my Mama tells me :) 


Sweet Sadie Makes Four Felines

Some of you know (and some of you don’t know) that we are now a FOUR cat household.  I know, I know….it sounds a little crazy and like we are running a cat farm.  Well, we are not but the little Tortie kitten sweetie that my hubs found made her way into our Harris hearts minutes after we rescued her from the coyote ruled desert that is our neighborhood.  I have waited a while to write this post so that I could report on the successful integration of a 4th cat into a 3 cat household.  Now two months later, I can share that Sadie is fully incorporated into the household and it is pretty peaceful around here for the most part.  I will post my blog article about how to successfully introduce a new cat to your existing cats tomorrow.  But first the story of sweet Sadie, the little kitten who became a Harris cat over the holiday season.  It is truly shocking to find a stray in our neighborhood with all of the coyotes.  It never happens….except to us, I swear! Sadie

First, how we went from two cats to three and then on to Sadie.  Eight years ago we went to the pound to adopt two little boys that our kids named Tucker and Stanley.catsThey have been very good boys for us and pretty easy to care for.  So….when our girl asked for a pet of her own three years ago, we finally heard her case after a full year of her having to prove to us that she was ready for that responsibility.  She chose to rescue a black female because she told us that “everyone walks right past the black cats because they think they are bad luck” and with that statement (that is sad but true) she had me and off we went to the shelter find little Lucy girl.  See the cute kitten pics at this  Lucy’s story link. lex kisses lucy

Lucy has also been a good girl for us and boy is her black fur so silky and pretty.  Plus we’ve had a lot of good luck since her arrival, so take that any black cat naysayers out there!  The myth is simply a mean spirited myth when it comes to black cats and I’ve heard that some black dogs are also ignored.  So sad. lovely lucy at 2So we were good and done adopting cats for now….so we thought.

And then the first time that we almost became a 4 cat household…..

A sweet boy named Oliver appeared at our front door over a year ago and he acts more like a smart and very affectionate dog than he does a typical aloof and independent cat (although our current household of cats are way more social and affectionate than they are aloof). Oliver the beautiful sweetieSo we took Oliver in and were successful in finding him a good home….twice due to some heartbreaking circumstances that occurred with his first very loving adopted family.  You can read that story here. Thank goodness for that because Tucker (who is the same large size of Oliver and looks similar just would not accept him and scratched up his face once).  Fostering Oliver was a wonderful and warm experience for our family, but I quickly learned that my heart gets in the way and when he left I teared up.  ollie me

So when hubs spotted sweet little Sadie, I was thinking “oh no” to myself and I was wondering how these cats keep showing up at our front door when stray cats are truly NEVER ever seen in our area due to the very high population of coyotes.  But hubs happened to look out the window one early evening in October and she appeared.  A teeny 1 1/2 lb starving all skin and bones little kitty cat.  She was easy to catch because she wanted to be saved and was probably on her last skinny leg at that point so we took her in and had her checked out by the vet that evening.

This sweet kitten had hubs wrapped around her paw within hours of her rescue!

This sweet kitten had hubs wrapped around her paw within hours of her rescue!

Within a week, she had gained weight and sported the most beautiful coat and markings and the sweetest loving personality.  I have since read that torties really bond with their humans and boy has this been true.sadie kissesbaby sadie with lexIMG_6009

Hubs named her Sadie and he was off to the pet store to buy cat toys the day after finding her, so I knew at that point that we were destined to have a household with equal cats to humans.  We waited a long time to introduce her to the others and we have been very successful, I’m happy to report. Tomorrow I will give you those tips on how to do that.  We took our time to make sure that sweet Sadie was here to stay.


Stop, Drop & Roll Is My #1 Tip For Parenting A Teenage Boy

Since my son is now 17, I feel like I’ve been in this teenage boy stage for long enough to look back and to share my #1 tip when it comes to parenting a teenage boy.  I share this with 100% conviction that this advice has made a difference in some of the decisions that our boy has made when he is out there on his own. Has he made the right choice every time? Of course not.  But he has made enough of the right ones (so far, knocking on wood right now) to convince me that this is absolutely the best advice that I can share with my friends who are or will be parenting a teenage boy.  And since my girl just turned 13, I will get back to you on that one in a few years.  But here it is and it is such simple advice….

Stop, Drop & Roll…

when he wants to talk!

listen mom
Yep, just like the fire advice, these three words are essential.  If your son asks to talk or just starts sharing with you, believe me….take the time to Stop to really listen to him, Drop what you are doing and Roll with what he wants to tell you, especially if you want him to really open up to you.

This happened just last week when my son arrived home early before the rest of the family.  I was a busy bee, as always and he started following me around telling me about a fitness test at school that left his stomach queasy.  At some point, my motherly instinct told me to stop, turn around and face him so that I was really listening.  It is a rare occurrence these days when my teenage son really wants to have a chat with his Mama.  That is in part due to a very busy schedule with his sports, studies, job, girlfriend and buddies and part that it’s just not that cool to converse with Mom at this point in his life.

And just when I thought he was done conversing with me, the unthinkable happened!  He followed me into the kitchen and said that he would like to visit a little more.  So that is when I realized just how cool this day would be because my son and I were spending some quality time together and I for once was the listener. Not the nagger, the rule enforcer, the cook, the nurse, but the listening parent and friend.  I do believe that one can strike a balance of mostly parent, but a friend, too.

So I stopped what I was doing again, and this time I dropped everything for a bit and I rolled with whatever he wanted to talk about.  And when you try this with your own teenager, be ready for a few shares that begin with a request to not be mad or to “freak out” with a topic that he wants to share or ask about….hence the roll with it part of this advice.

We ended up talking about a lot of different subjects, some I could predict and some that took me by surprise.  I was eager to discuss these topics with him as he chatted and I listened.  But I stayed quiet and reserved my comments, thoughts and advice until he was finished sharing.  And we also shared a few laughs and that was nice.

But first I had to listen, really listen….stop, drop and roll :)

You can also create opportunities for a good discussion by going on a hike together hiking with my boyme and jack at dbacks gameor taking in a ball game, both things that we did the last couple of years.  When he got his driving permit, I turned down the radio when he started to talk because that learning to drive time can be hectic but can also provide some good talking time as well.

So if you try this with your son, don’t be disappointed if the very next day he returns to his usual quick “hey” with not a lot of chatter.  Believe me, he will remember that you had a chat and that you really listened to him.

Me and my teenaged boy.  Over a year ago I snuck in a rare kiss during our holiday photo shoot.

Me and my teenager. Over a year ago I snuck in a rare kiss during our holiday photo shoot.