My Favorite Survival Tool Tip For Parenting Teens

LA here we come.  My teen girl and I are headed to LA once again to check out potential colleges.  She will go off to college in just two short years.  Those years will be short…and we will have some long days.  Long and challenging days are gonna happen when raising teens who are straddling the fine line between kid and adult.

Each year as they approach 18 (and I know as my son is almost 21, so I have lived this once before) we parents have to have faith and let go a little more.  We also have to have boundaries, rules and consequences.  Consequences that are calm and fair.  And when our testy teen gets really testy, we parents must try to forget that we are human and respond in a calm, loving and controlled manner.  Not easy.  Parenting is not for sissies.  And sometimes we parents can’t help but be human and get a little too testy right back with a raised voice or being tempted to give that teen the silent treatment for the next few days as we lick our parental wounds and maybe take their testy teen words personally.  The irony is that these testy teens want to do it all on their own…BUT…they do, almost subconsciously, want limits because they want us to keep them safe.  Sometimes these years can be hard to endure with a hormonal changing teen who is growing up in an uncertain and crazy world.

And good news parents!  I have a wonderful survival tool for parents!  Two in fact!

When I have been pushed to my wit’s end by a testy teen, I first consult with my hubs.  He is so good at using humor combined with limits and consequences when our teens break a rule or tell us a fib.  We first remember that we were not perfect teens ourselves and that these last few years parenting a teenager may be our most defining years as parents.  This is it.  Our last few years to get it as right as we can before we send them off into this crazy world.  This uncertain world sure seems crazier to me since my own teen years back in the 80s.  So back to my tools that my gal pal told me about and these two tools have helped me SO much.  The tools are two very helpful books that not only get my teens…but also get the parent!  I felt so understood as I read these books.  Tools are presented with how to talk calmly to your teen, how to actively listen and translate teen talk and how to really enjoy your kid, while navigating the tricky teen waters.

Arm yourself with these two books…Yes, Your Teen Is CRAZY!  Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind

And…Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? 

Aren’t those great titles?!  And the books are great, too.  Since I started reading them, my girl and I are getting along better.  One thing I had to admit, as I read these books, is that I had to change some of my parenting behavior to better understand what my teen is going through with all of the pressures kids face in today’s world.

Knock on wood as I have been lucky since my kids have stayed out of the trouble, make good grades, work hard and are focused.  But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had some really hard days, too.  The books have given me the tools to help guide both my teen and myself through these incredible years.  And both feature chapters for all kinds of challenges that come with these years.

These years are priceless.  The last few before we become empty nesters.  The last few where our beloved kids live under our roof.  When one leaves, they are so missed and yet I felt myself so excited for my son’s future and his own excitement that those happy emotions for his future eased my sadness of letting him go.

I will do this again in 2020 with her departure.  And I will be a full-fledged empty nester.  That will be tough.  I want to do these last two years right in so many ways.

I feel close to both of my kids.  I left big careers and put my heart and soul into raising them.  And when I worked, I did the same thing as so many parents do to the level of exhaustion.  This is our biggest job in a very scary world.  It is also a world full of opportunity.  It will soon be their world.  As the roots are set and we now finish up the wings, these two books have eased the challenging days that are the normal push and pull of the teens growing up…and the parents letting it happen as safely as possible.

Here’s to raising teenagers.  As the first book I recommended says, these last few years with our kids may be our most defining parenting moments.

I am thankful for my excellent partner in my hubs, my amazing parents and in-laws who are an incredible village to my kids, to my gal pals whose ears and a shared bottle of wine remind me that we are all in this together.  And to these two books and authors.  So awesome to have discovered these helpful books (thanks to my cherished pal, Lizzy for telling me about them).

I have read both and I go back to certain chapters when needed.  Sometimes when I feel like yelling back at my kid, I pick up these books instead.  Almost instantly, I have a better understanding of why my child is so frustrated with whatever the situation is.  I get cool down time by reading the book, time to think about my response or future response…and I discover smoother parenting waters.

Yes, these books have helped me quite a bit. As I am a hard-working Mama with the best intentions to raise the best adults I can.  On most days, I do OK.

And I am human.  And on those days, I grab these books or I remember helpful passages from the parenting pages and move forward with those tips on what to do and what not to do.

So, if you feel like you need a little extra guidance on lovingly parenting your teen in today’s world, check these two gems out.  We are in this together, parents.  You truly won’t believe how fast your child, then preteen and then teen becomes an adult.  What an amazing job we are given helping them find their way there.  My son turns 21 soon.  So hard to believe!  And yet he is still my little boy in my heart.  Two years left to parent my little girl as a teen.  I am cherishing the time.

Hope this helps you, too.  Now I am signing off and am off to LA to make some memories and help my girl plan her future.  Cherished time…and did I mention that I am secretly packing the books?  Just in case I need a quick teen/parenting reference on the road  😉

A Letter To Moms & To My Younger Mama Self

Dear Moms of babies, toddlers, school-aged kiddos and teens, I have a little letter for you that celebrates you, includes a bit of reflection and maybe even feeds your Mama soul a little bit.  I hope so.

I write this to you because I just read a social media post by a super successful and well known business woman who is balancing it all with her beloved 1-year-old, whom she has fallen madly head-over-heels in love with…oh I remember that falling in love baby time!  In her statement, she basks in the love of her baby, but also wonders out loud if she could figure out how to dedicate a little more time to her career, that is also taking off at this point.  Of course, that is life’s timing.

As I started to type my response to her, I decided that I wanted to say this to all of you hard-working mothers, maybe struggling with how to balance it all and what to do with the guilt you may feel trying to do so.  I can now see those days of mine (that you are currently experiencing) in my rear view mirror.

That in itself, is strange to me.  That I am here now and that I got to this part of my almost post-kid life so fast.

It sure didn’t feel like time was moving so quickly then when I was trying to find a balance (and me time) in the haze of it all.  There were days back then that I craved to be where I am now.  I felt guilty about thinking that at times back then.  Don’t do that to yourself.

Instead do this, read my letter to you below.  I wish I had known my older self then, who now looks back with a full heart smiling…and sometimes longing for those busy hectic days with children hanging all over me to return.  If only for just a day.

That was then. I have to sometimes beg for hugs now. Bittersweet.

It is nice to have more me time now.  And sometimes it is also a bit painful as I adjust to my new normal, being almost a compete empty-nester (not quite, thankfully, but almost).

It is also nice to have my current perspective that I earned through 20 years of raising my two kids.  I am hoping that my current day thoughts in this letter to you can help those of you wondering how to do it all.  Spoiler alert – we can’t do it all and have it all every day, but maybe there are a few little tips in this letter that can help.  This is also a letter to my younger mama self…

Dear Moms (and younger me)-

You are doing a great job!  Please take a moment to pat yourself on the back!  Woot woot to you! 

Balancing it all is super hard. I know because my kids are 16 and 20 now and you truly won’t believe how fast it goes. And they won’t need you physically near as much as they prepare to leave home during the later high school years. Once they start to drive at 16, you see them a lot less.

During my years of raising kids, I went from having a big fulltime career as a marketing manager at Southwest Airlines to another big, but less demanding partime TV producer job.  Then I had several years off not working while having a toddler and an infant…oh I don’t like to call it NOT working…I worked, as you moms know!  Truly, the hardest I ever physically, emotionally and mentally worked was when I was a fulltime mom/homemaker.  I then went back to work when they were school-aged to a very fullfilling part-time TV producing/on air contributor position.  Then the teen years arrived, so I became a freelance work-from-home mother because my offspring needed to be driven ALL the time to ALL of their activities that were located EVERYWHERE.

Now my boy is away at college and my girl is 16 and driving herself, so I have more time to dedicate back to my career.  But it is always a balancing act. 

My mom once told me…

“That the one thing you can’t get back is time.”  I let that mantra guide me, as well as one a pal told me…

“When your priorities are in order, everything falls into place.”

SO true.

Being a mom is the hardest and most rewarding job.  I found that on some days I could have it all…but on many other days, I had to choose how to prioritize with help from hubs, fam and friends. You figure it out as you go along and then all of a sudden they are grown up. It is a crazy magic trick.

My best advice as you work so hard to find a balance, catch your breath and make daily decisions that affect multiple people, not just yourself anymore.  It is this…

Let your heart & your motherly instinct guide you.  Take good care of yourself.  Remember to give yourself me time, hubs (partner) time and gal pal time, too. 

AND most importantly, squeeze those little ones tight because it is so dang true when they say don’t blink! 

Back in my hectic mom days with little me time.  Energetic toddler & startled bath baby…LOL!   And now…

Me time meaning me with both of them together…that is now a hot commodity! Cherished time…then and now!

 

Less Blogging, More Living

Less blogging, more living.  Been blogging a lot less lately.  Some of it is due to that perfect phrase…how does it go…

“life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”

That is right on.

In the last year, I took several unexpected trips to care for family in need.  Those trips helped others, I am told and I am so glad about that, but the experience was also enriching for me, I discovered.  My head and heart both experienced a joy that comes from helping others that is unexpected and cool to feel.

Been blogging a lot less latey because my now 20-year-old son grew up way too fast and some of his years at home were spent with his Mama’s head stuck in my blog.  Yeah, I regret that now.  I always made time to be at his hockey games, school awards ceremonies, predance picture taking for the parents, etc.  But the quiet home life, with the ordinary moments that are taken for granted.  Well, some of that time was spent with my hands typing more and hugging less.  I missed some bedtime story reading as I chose to sit downstairs working on my blog instead of upstairs reading with my kids.  I didn’t do that every night, but I now regret the nights that I chose my blog over a book with my kid.

A few years back when I took those daily easily accessible hugs for granted!

This got here so fast. Unbelievable, truly.

With my second born home for only two more short years, I know better this time.

Been blogging a lot less with my hands hugging my girl more instead of my computer.  Ironically and truly typical of a teenager, there are days when she prefers to have me sitting at my computer and less standing there bugging her.

The only thing wrong with this picture is the phone in my hand. Let your phone go when you schedule your unscheduled time.

Growing up too fast, yet again.  An ordinary green juice moment and now she drives herself to buy a green juice, without me most of the time.

She doesn’t know this yet, as I didn’t know it when I was 16 so many years ago…but she will miss those annoying Mama hugs soon enough.

Teenager me back in the day not knowing just how much I would miss my Mommy when I had to start adulting.  I also didn’t know that my baby brother would be taken from us at only 22.  Cherished ordinary moments. 

Not long after leaving my own mother at 18 did I quickly discover just how much I missed my mother’s attentive touch and love that I worked hard to independently separate from during my teen years. It is a normal thing those teens do and they are supposed to do it.  So bittersweet.

But now I know to grab those hugs even if the annoyed teenager grunts and bears it.  And sometimes she even hugs pretty tight right back.  Whichever is the case, I’m not missing out this time on potential loving hugs because I chose my blog to work on instead of being present at home during those ordinary moments.

Been blogging a lot less because science says it is unhealthy to sit for long periods of time and blogging can quickly trick the mind into thinking one has only been sitting for an hour when the clock shows two hours have passed by.  Been blogging less and walking my neighborhood trails more. I am so lucky to have pretty desert trails to walk along in my hood.

Been blogging a lot less because the potential online financial returns for time spent on a blog have not been returned, which has been disappointing, but also freeing.  For those incredible bloggers who make the money producing a blog, my hat is off to you because I have learned that to make a profit, overtime hours must be put into that blog.  It is true what they say about time right now and why it is called the present. A lot of hours and travel and managing ad clients and more.

I am VERY lucky that my advertisers are super cool companies that are super nice to work with…thank you espeically to Boiron and to Toe Juice!

Been blogging less and living more because once one kid is raised and out the door, you can’t believe just how stinging that realization can be.

20 years ago, after I had my first baby, I laid in the hospital bed gazing down at my son completely head over heels in love.  I laid there carefully considering my very fulfilling fulltime career versus my new mommy role.  I discussed this with my mother, who had flown in from Maryland for the birth and after care (thank you Mom).  She listened thoughtfully and then she told me, “the one thing you can’t get back is time” and boy was she right.  I did go on to work in several awesome careers, some fulltime, some partime and some freelance.  And with each career decision I made, I considered her words and worked to find a good balance.  That never got easy, but I lived with another phrase my good friend, Lisa told me…

“when your priorites are in order, things fall into place.”

That became my mantra.  Thank you Lisa.  Family and friends.  What gifts.  Don’t miss out on those ordinary moments with these people, too.

Been blogging less because I have been living more.  Living incredibly joyful moments and experiencing some incredibly painful heartbreaks, too.  And those ordinary moments in between…I have been living those a lot more now.  Turning 50 helped with that realization, too.

Been blogging less because I made the choice to stop missing those ordinary moments at home.  Got off the keyboard and got the popcorn on to watch movies with my hubs and daughter.  Left the keyboard to run to the door when my son and his cutie pie girlfriend visit from college.  Departed from my desk and departed on airplanes to help family instead.

Been blogging less to cook whole healthy homemade meals more.

That time my son asked if his college buds could come for Thanksgiving dinner. The best!

I love my blog and will continue to write articles that I hope are helpful for my readers, insightful for parents and fun to read.  I really love to hear from my readers when an article has touched them or has been helpful, so a big thank you to the many of you who have left comments, emailed me or commented on my social media pages about my content.  I especially love blogging my 3TV segments, too.  So fun for me to share!

At my blog launch party in 2011! My good pal, Jill helped me to make the event great!

My little blog is my labor of love and gives me joy as long as I remember the important balance of blogging about life versus living it.

Product giveways will continue with less Freebie Fridays, mainly because some weeks the prizes go unclaimed, so doing a drawing instead lets those interested in the goods being offered enter.  So my blogging continues and I CAN NOT thank those who follow my blog enough for your support!  Managedmoms is still chugging along with a solid base.  But missing those ordinary moments (that are magical when looking back) to grow my blog…not going to worry about that so much.

More articles, recipes and giveaways coming soon and in the meantime, I will continue to chose my time on the keyboard with less blogging and more living.

Those ordinary moments at home are too important to miss.  Trust me on that 🙂

How is this five years ago?! Don’t miss YOUR ordinary moments. They are yours to cherish.

Sweet 16 Birthday Party Planning Ideas

Since I just received an email from one of my blog readers asking me for sweet 16 birthday party ideas, here is what we did for our daughter’s party. And for my blog readers…please share your sweet 16 bday ideas in the comments section to give our reader even more creative things to do when the sweetest of birthdays rolls around, the 16th one!  We love this blog to be a place where manic managed moms share tips to make our manic lives more managed.  Let me start by saying that my girl asked to plan her own gig.  So these ideas were hers, which is helpful since she is the demographic our reader is planning for!

The birthday girl back in November…

Idea #1Big ballon birthday numbers.  Kids love these giant numbers and the 16 one is especially sweet since it is the sweet 16th birthday.  They come in different colors.  Visit Party City stores for prices and sizes.  They make great decor and are especially fun for party pics, too.

Idea #2 – Make your own photo booth.  Simply make a backdrop with a white sheet and string lights across the top like my girl’s friends did for her.  So much fun!  Sweet 16 themed party decor, paper cups, plates, props and more can also be purchased at Party City hereProps for the photo booth can also be purchased at Party City as shown in this picture from the Party City website below.  Or make your own for creative fun.

Ideas #3 – Use more (like we did for the photo booth) white (or use colors) string lights for added decor.  My funny girl wanted to make her own from-scratch birthday cake! I didn’t argue with her as she is a better baker than I am!  She decorated it with fruit, so no fancy decorationg skills were needed and her pals loved the vanilla bean flavored cake with cream cheese icing.  She placed the cake in the middle of white string party lights laid flat and it looked great!  The white strung party lights can also be found at Party City.

*Idea #4 – Have the birthday girl wear a sweet 16 crown and/or sash, also sold at Party City.  In this picture below, both girls are wearing the fun sweet 16 sashes.  Since one of Lexi’s pals also turned 16, we did a double birthday party and we Mamas also had a great time! 

Idea #5 – Rent a bouncy house!  Yep, our girl and her almost fully grown teenage friends asked for a bouncy house!  I couldn’t believe it, but that is what they wanted and it was a hit!  I think sometimes our teens miss being little kids.  The bouncy house company I rented from told me that they rent to teens all the time.  Who knew?!  We rented from Slide and Bounce Around, Inc. and they were terrific to work with from start to finish.  I do recommend checking with your teenager before renting this, though.  It was cool with my own sweet 16-year-old and her buds, but that may not be true for all teens.  Definitely check with your kid first.

Idea #6 – Let your teen pick the snacks and food that will be served.  My daughter picked the snacks and the main fare, which was spaghetti tacos!  I forgot to take a picture of this crowd pleasing funny fare at the party, but I found a picture on Pinterest to share…Apparently, that was a big hit when ICarly aired when this age group was younger.  So we put out pasta and tacos.  Most of the teen guests did assemble spaghetti tacos and others either had the spaghetti (we ordered from Buca di Beppo and included Ceasar salad) and/or the tacos separately.  Again…who knew?!  The kids loved this party dinner idea!  Another good one is to get sub sandwiches catered from places like Subway or Jersey Mike’s, a favorite eatery of the teens I currenty know around our neighborhood.

Other Ideas – Another friend of mine surprised her sweet 16 daughter with a party bus rental.  Yet another one asked her to daughter if she wanted to invite several friends to stay at a local resort for one night.  Still others had a dinner party at Buca di Beppo, which is a good one to accomodate dinner parties.  And other pals took their newly 16-year-old to a quick trip to California, either San Diego or one of the beaches in LA like Santa Monica or Manhattan Beach.

I hope these ideas answer my blog reader who wrote in and other parents reading this, please feel free to add your sweet 16 party ideas to the comments section below.  16 is a sweet birthday, so happy sweet 16th to any of yours turning that magical number soon!  These two girls had a blast celebrating their milestone birthday a few months ago!  So much fun! 

 

 

Back To School Stress Busters

As seen in my KTVK 3TV segment that aired today at 10am.

Back To School Stress Busters

Sophomore is the big word around our house this year.  With a high school 10th grader and a sophomore in college, I now have a lot of back to school seasons under my belt.  A new school year brings excitement and stress.  We have found that the less stressed our kids are the better they do in school. Thinking about this got me thinking that I should share what stress busters have worked for our busy back to school family through the years.  Take a look and try these ideas for less stress and more success.

Food Fuel

Food is fuel especially with kids who are balancing school work, extracurricular activities and growth spurts.  I will admit that there have been hectic mornings when my kids only ate a bite or two before they rushed off. At some point, I told them no more skipping breakfast.  When kids become preteens and teens, it isn’t always easy to get them to wake up early and sit down to eat.

So here are some healthy ideas that work for both breakfast and/or after school snacks.  Grabbing fast food between the final school bell and practice, rehearsal, tutoring or whichever activity is on the calendar, is not wise.  I know at times we all must do it, but those empty calories that are loaded with sugar are not doing today’s kids any favors.  So, plan on the weekends and have some tasty and nutritious foods on hand.  Here are some ideas…

*On the run honey banana bun – This is my name for a quick meal/snack that is a healthier option than a typical white bagel.  To make my version, use Ezekiel Sprouted English muffins or bagels.  Sprouted bread is a healthy option because it is made from sprouts rather than white bleached flour, so the body easily digests sprouted bread.  With bread made from white flour, the body metabolizes it into sugar which makes insulin spike, which can contribute to inflammation in the body.  This is certainly not good for growing kids. Easier to digest, sprouted bread also contains beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  It must be kept refrigerated because it doesn’t have any preservatives, which is another thing I like about this bread.

To make the bun on the run, we toast the Ezekiel Sprouted English Muffin and then spread a good all-natural peanut butter on top (look for a brand that only lists peanuts as an ingredient).  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we add manuka honey and banana slices.  Let’s talk about manuka honey because it is expensive, but it is the gold standard in my opinion. 

But first before you read anymore…. this is very important…

***NEVER EVER give honey of any kind to a child under 1 year of age.  There are potential botulism risks associated with a child eating honey their first year of life. ***

Now back to school aged kids.  I first heard about manuka honey from my mom, who really knows her nutritional stuff, let me tell you! She did warn me about the price (ranges in price from $18 to $26 a jar…I know!!). Then when my daughter was ill (and was a lead in a big downtown Phoenix community theatre play, so we were stressed!) our pediatrician told us to give her a spoonful of that stuff a day!  I was awfully glad that I had purchased a jar to keep on hand because it really did help her heal faster from the virus she was fighting.  We have also found that our allergies are better with regular consumption of manuka honey.  Manuka honey truly does have medicinal properties, which is one reason our pediatrician recommended it for my daughter.

Next, we top the bun with banana slices.  Bananas provide potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamins and protein.  Eat them green because as they ripen and turn yellow, more natural sugars will be digested.

So, with this banana honey bun on the run, my kids get the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the sprouted English muffin, protein from the peanut butter, allergy fighting properties from the honey and potassium, magnesium and more from the banana.  And this is easy to take on the run, satisfies a sweet tooth with a much better option than junk food and is filling.  We love this option!

*Mom approved mixed berry yogurt – Yogurt is good for the gut, but oftentimes is loaded with added sugar.  To create a good naturally flavored yogurt that my kids will eat and that I approve of, I buy plain full fat yogurt.  Buying it full fat means it is less processed.  Then to sweeten it myself, I add vanilla extract, cinnamon and berries and either mix or blend.  If your child still wants it a bit sweeter, then add stevia.  Try it because this way your family is getting the good bacteria from yogurt without all of the added sugars.  Top with nuts or granola for crunch and protein.

For more food ideas and recipes, check the food section of my blog at managedmoms.com.

Get Organized for Success

An organized kid is a less stressed kid and I think that is true for adults, too.  Teaching them good organizational skills young sets them up for success later when high school coursework and college exam prep skills become crucial.

With so much academic work and calendars done online now, be sure to keep a back-up at a glance weekly calendar handy.  So, every week we write down what assignments are due, what tests are scheduled in addition to after school activities, appointments and more. Then on Sundays our family meets to go over the calendar so that we are all on the same page.  This avoids that inevitable night before when panic sets in because a child suddenly remembers that a project is due the very next day.  Most of us Moms have been there with this stressful scenario! We also work well as a team and are more supportive of each other when we discuss every family member’s different commitments for the week. Finally, an at a glance weekly wall calendar also serves as a back-up in case the computer goes down or an electronic calendar device is misplaced.

And the absolute best thing about doing this through the years is by the time my kids were in high school, they had learned to be organized on their own.  So, less nagging from me because they began to automatically use the organization tools that we practiced when they were younger.

I also love the Lakeshore Learning Store Keepsake Learning Portfolio that I showed in the segment.  A nice large expandable folder to save treasured school projects or organized files for your kids to use.  Great tool! These sell at Lakeshore Learning store locations for $19.99 each.

For more back to school get organized tools, see my blog under Family Matters.

My Fun Favorite Back To School Stress Buster Ever!!

A few weeks into the hustle and bustle of the new school year, spend an afternoon brainstorming and planning fun plans for fall break week.  Then once the plans are in place, whenever the kids feel overwhelmed, remind them that the fall break countdown is on with October just around the corner.  Like adults scheduling a vacation week, this incentive gives the family a date to look forward to and an incentive to work towards, which reduces stress and encourages hard work until that fun week break arrives.

The travel section in my blog is one of my favorite sections, so be sure to check that out for fall break ideas. Some you will find include…

*Classy Cabins AZ – In the lovely Flagstaff/Williams/Grand Canyon area, check out the beautifully furnished Classy Cabins AZ that are available to rent for a terrific family vacation.  I really like that these cabins are a mom and pop run business that is their passion.  Classy Cabins AZ owners, Steve and Amy Sorenson, custom build every cabin and then personally furnish and design each one, too.

College tour to UT Austin with our son.

*For teens schedule a college tour getaway – some of my best memories with my now college aged son, are the college tour trips we took.  It is beneficial to see and tour the university and the city that college resides in that your child may be considering.  And it is a fun vacation with a trip that motivates your student to keep working hard to achieve their goals.  So fun! I have college tour articles and links to several in my blog that include UT Austin, UCLA (will be published next week), TCU and more, so check my blog with the search word, college tour, to bring them up.

*Staycations are always nice, too.  I have reviewed almost every local resort in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area and I also did a write-up on a Tucson property, too.

Just look under the travel section of my blog to see the different resorts with links for booking.

So, food fuel, get organized tools and upcoming vacation break planning are our most successful back-to-school stress busters.  What are yours?  Share in the comments section as we like to share what managed mom tips make our manic lives less stressed!

Happy new school year.  Wishing you and yours a successful one!

 

Living 15 Again…There’s Something Special About 15

Here we go again.  My second born is at that age, 15 1/2 and everything is changing so quickly now.  I remember this time with my son. Getting a driver’s permit and actually enjoying  the time spent teaching him to drive (except for a few white knuckle moments) and knowing that on his 16th birthday, we would see a lot less of him.

Turning 16 with his keys to freedom, a car!

What I didn’t know is just how fast it would go from there.  Dating, first job, SATs, graduation, leaving for college!  A whirlwind.

Exciting.  Scary.  Wonderful.  Bittersweet.  All these words fit this extraordinary time in both a teenager’s life and in the parent’s life, too.

And now it’s happening again…slow down time.

Please.  Pretty please.

But time does not and the only time that time seemed to stand still was when I delivered these babies.  During the hospital stay, I checked out of the outside world, stopped listening to the ticking clock (except to time feedings) and was completely tuned in to time with my infant.  I was utterly consumed with my new little life.  I was instantly head over heels in love.

Driving, dating, SATS and all of that seemed galaxies away….hundreds of years in the future.

I am back in the passenger seat again.

But those days….yet again…my final teenage Mama ride is here again.  My girl is moving through these last few months of 15 so quickly now.

Just like that.  A magic trick.  Now you see a little baby.  Now you don’t.  Now you see a kid.  Now you don’t.

Now I see a cutie pie teenage girl before me daily.

Lunch with my girl. She drove me there. Cherished time.

Soon I won’t.  I know how fast it goes from here.

15 is pivotal.  So pivotal.  So good.  So hard.

So all of the above.

And this particular time for Mamas of almost 16-year-olds is a special and scary time.  A lot comes with that photo card that makes the kid an official legal driver.  Daily questions.

Can I go here? Can I go there?  What time is my curfew?  Can I pick up such and such?  Can I have some gas money?  Don’t worry, Mom and Dad….I know I am running late, but I won’t speed.  Can I have a later curfew than last week?

When I wrote about my son getting his license four years ago, the paragraph above wasn’t in my article. Because I hadn’t experienced those questions before.  I hadn’t yet experienced the joy and pride of watching him drive off.

And the fear.

Ugh.  Again so bittersweet.

Life gets easier for Mama when they drive.  But if you think you will now get caught up on lost sleep from all those years before….well…think again.

Now you get to worry from the comfort of your own bed when you wake up at the exact moment the clock turns to their curfew time.  And if they are late, you don’t want to text or call them while they are driving.  That is always a tough decision to figure out how long to wait before you call.

And then it is no fun punishing them for being late on a curfew.  But consequences matter.  And consequences still stand.  And now Mama has a big currency.  Taking away the car.  Hopefully when this happens they learn quickly to follow the rules of this new road to keep them safe.  And Mama sane.

But I don’t have to go there yet.  Soon, but not yet.

So yeah, there is something about 15.  It isn’t the start of the teen years with 13 or the official driving age of 16 or becoming a legal adult at 18.  15 isn’t a celebrated number, but it is a rite of passage time.  I didn’t get that the first time around when my son was 15.

It was all about him soon turning 16.  The countdown.

This time I am not counting down.  I am completely and 100% in the present.  I am all about 15 this time around.

15 is special.  15 is sweet.  Your 15-year-old is still with you a lot, learning how to drive and moving one big toe to the edge of the nest.  15 turns to 18 so fast that it will make your head spin.

Oh 15…you are the sweet one.  Sweet 16 for them, but 15 is sweet for the parents.  The last of that phase.  16 signals much more independence.  And it is right.  And it is good.

But I will greatly miss 15.

I am cherishing these days with my girl behind wheel WITH me BESIDE her.  So much will change this fall when she turns 16.

Here we go again and this time I have the pain of knowing how fast it goes from here.

So parents reading this piece.  My tidbits of advice.

It is a little unsettling at first, but cherish teaching them to drive.  Turn off the radio and listen to them, their driving questions and other topics that come up.  The more drive time put in, the more relaxed and experienced that teen of yours becomes.  And you, too.  Then casual conversation takes place.  They start to really talk to you at times, to open up.

Cherish that time.  Enroll them in professional driving lessons.  Then let them drive you all over town.  I do this when the pro driving teacher gives me a good report and tells me that they are freeway ready.

Cherish 15.  I know it is hard on some days.   VERY hard, I know.  I have raised both a boy and am nearing the teen years finish line with a girl.  I know it is hard on some days.  I repeat.  Very hard.  Tearfully hard.  Fights.  Hurt feelings.  Harsh words exchanged.  All normal. Hard but a part of them pulling away as they assert their independence.

To navigate the roads without you in the car. 

To navigate the roads ahead that life will take them without you right beside them most of the time.

And don’t you just want to jump in front of that moving car called life and point them in the right direction?!  I do! I do!  I do!

But 15 is the beginning of the end of being able to always do that.  15 is a big beginning for them and a beginning of really letting go for you.

Not easy.  Not for the faint of heart.

Parenthood is not for sissies.  Especially when they leave 15.

When my son proudly passed his road test with a 100% score in 2013, we celebrated.

And then he surprised me.

He asked me to please take him home so he could then drive off without me.  Ouch.  But I understood.  And I remembered doing the exact same thing to my mama in 1983.

I also remember thinking in 2013 that I had four years left before I had to go down this road again.  I had no idea that those 4 years would feel like 4 minutes.

Taylor Swift nails it with her 15 song.  It is a pivotal year.  Everyone thinks 13 or 16 or 18.  All big years.

But there is something about 15.  A time that sports a kid that is a combo of sweet, salty and spicy.  Hormones. Teenagers.  Change.  A lot for a teen to take in all at once.  A lot for the parents, too.

Deal with the salty.  Understand the spicy.  Cherish the sweet.

Communicate with your kid.  Listen to that soon-to-be 16 year old.

Oh 15…can you hang around a little longer with my girl?  Oh time, can you please slow down?

Time is telling me no again.  No way.  Not happening.  Sorry Mom.

My daughter is very thankful that I don’t have the power to slow down time!

Sigh.

I think I will go ask my daughter if she wants to take me on a drive now….me and my heart.

Bittersweet 15.

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!

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