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tweens and teens

Parenting, tweens and teens

Connecting with Your Kids

Are you familiar with Dan TDM?

I am.

I know all about his Pugs and his wife, Jemma.  I recognize his British accent on the TV almost instantly.  And I have opinions about his various hair color experiments.  (Just so you know, I am a much bigger fan of the purple-ish hair color over the green.)


Why on earth does an almost 40-year-old mother of four know all of this information about a 20-something-year-old Minecraft Youtuber?

Because of my kids.

Three of them love Dan TDM.   They regularly stream his YouTube channel on our television so that I hear his voice most mornings when I enter the kitchen.  My boys love to discuss Dan’s latest adventures with me.  I listen, ask questions, and do my best to engage them in conversation.

(I should confess that I cheat a little though.  I follow Dan TDM on Instagram.  Then I can share little-known facts with them because my boys don’t have Instagram yet.)

But why?  Why all of this effort to talk about Dan TDM?

It’s simple really.  It’s about connection.

Ideas for connecting with your kids on their terms. Continue Reading

Homelife, letters to my kids, Parenting, tweens and teens

An Open Letter to my Kids about Texting

I wrote this letter over 2 years ago, in January of 2014 on the brink of my oldest daughter’s purchase of her first iPod.  I wanted to record a few of my hopes and thoughts about the “world of texting” that I knew we were about to navigate.

Two years later, it is interesting to note that my priorities and hopes for our journey have not changed though I am much more comfortable with this modern form of communication.  We took the plunge and have navigated all sorts of forms of texting and social media these last 2 years.  Without a doubt, these forms of communication have enhanced relationships within our family and have created positive impacts on my kids relationship with the world around them and their friends outside of our home.   It hasn’t always been easy or straight forward to know what to do, but we keep working on it together.

I think I will read them this letter tomorrow and see how they think we have done with our priorities.


Dear Children,

You are growing up so quickly and I have no doubt that I will blink and you will be teenagers, navigating the world of text.

Twitter.  Facebook.  Email.  Blogs.  SnapChat.  Instagram. Text Messaging.

And everything else “they” come up with in the next few years.

Instant text will be a significant method of communication and somehow I have to help you navigate this world of text.   Admittedly, aspects of this frighten me.

Because text is dead.  It lacks tone and emotion.  There isn’t body language or facial expression.  Yet, it is a primary method of communicating these days.

And let me teach you right now that cute little emoticons at the end of very nasty words don’t make them friendly, funny, or nice.

Seriously.  Remember that!

And remember that whether you like it or not, your text reflects YOU.

Yes.  Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and all of these cute ways to share and communicate are reflections of YOU.  They are not the entire you, but they reflect your values, likes, choices, and life.  And they often are avenues to communicate with folks who may not really KNOW you.

And once you put something “out there”, you can’t take it back.  Sometimes there are serious consequences to your writing in worldwide text.  We must guard what we communicate and that is tough in the world of instant “sharing”.

So we will practice.  And we will mess up.  Together. 

Yes.  I, too, have learned some lessons in this area.

And while text might be a handy form of  communication, it is not the primary form I want you to have!

I want you to learn to value the company in front of you without hopping on a smart phone to see what other folks are up to.  And to know you are worth face to face conversation that disconnects from everyone else around.

That means we don’t have to answer texts instantly.  Truly.  I don’t.  You don’t.  It is OK to wait for an appropriate moment.

And I am strongly suggesting you don’t have a second date one day with someone who seems more interested in their phone than in you.

I hope we remember that being present in a moment is more important than sharing a picture of that moment.

I don’t care how many likes the picture might get.  It doesn’t matter how many likes you get if you find yourself constantly distracted from your own life.

It is my hope that we always make time to turn off the phones, close the laptops, stow away the tablets and declare a space and time that is not shared with anyone who isn’t present.  A time where we ignore the bings and the beeps and the buzzes of those who might steal our moments as we work together to protect them.

I hope to teach you that sometimes you should pick up a phone and talk.   Your inner circle of family and friends should laugh with you and cry with you absent of emoticons.   You can hear stress in a person’s voice that you can’t hear in their email.  Issues sometimes need to be resolved in a manner that requires voice or face to face contact.  Hurts can be healed more effectively with a conversation and a hug then with a smiley face text.

Other times, text will be the fastest, easiest, and most efficient form of communication.  Use it.

But always remember that real relationships aren’t usually fast, easy or efficient. They take time, energy, and effort.

They are always worth it.

Flashback Friday, Homelife, Parenting, preschoolers, tweens and teens

Flashback Friday: Embracing YES

Below is a post from September of 2008 on my former blog.  I love peering back at the mom I was at that time.  I had a 5, 4, and 1 year old and was continually shaping and re-forming my parenting practices.  MUCH has changed over time, but this one practice hasn’t.  I confess that I am still a #yesmom.  In fact, this is the scene I found in my basement yesterday…yes, you can play in the cabinets


And now to the flashback post from 2008:

I try not to fight battles with my children unless it is necessary. I remind myself to say YES more often than I say NO. Even when I just feel like saying no because their idea is about to create more work for me…

Mom, can Dad turn on the sprinkler for us?

Girls, you’d have to get bathing suits on.

We’ll wear our clothes, mom. Can we?

(Now I’d rather avoid the work of wet clothing, but I remind myself to say yes…)

OK girls. Go ahead. I’ll get some towels to put by the door.

Mom, can we have umbrellas?

Sure guys.

After putting the towels by the door, I went outside to watch. And then I grabbed the camera. It was a memory in the making…

Yes, T (age 4) is in her Easter Dress. But she is one happy clam. Just check her out on the sidebar. [not present on this repost]  That photo was taken on this day and she is having a ball!

Boy did D (age 18 months at the time) have a ball…

And he was NOT going to be left out of the umbrella fun.

Something about those sprinklers that go back and forth is just fun.

And I am reminded that many times the best memories are often made because Mom said, “Yes”.

Homelife, Parenting, tweens and teens

The Freedoms List

When we discussed the idea of giving our children “Freedoms” for each birthday, we brainstormed a master list to choose from.

This is important for 2 main reasons:

1.  Not all freedoms are automatically given at a certain age, with a few exceptions at ages 10, 16, and 18.  At 10, all of our kids will get the “Freedom of Things”.  At 16, they will get the freedom of the car.  At 18, they will all get freedom of themselves.  Beyond that, each freedom given is based on the individual child and areas of responsibility that we observe in their lives.

2.  We purposefully hold off on things that we might not really care about.  This INTENTIONALLY builds the importance of the freedoms.  For example, I could really care less about my kids choosing their hair style or even dying their hair, but I will purposefully hold off on allowing them to dye it or get a “dramatic cut” until they earn the freedom.  This makes it more special when you do earn it!

A list of freedoms to give your child at each birthday.

That being said, the following is my list of freedoms in no particular order:

1. Freedom of a phone.  It would probably be their very own “dumb phone”.  I don’t think we would purchase a smart phone for a child as we aren’t eager to hand over internet access, but I know things change over time, so I will never say “never” on that.   I do consider this one for 12-14 years old.  My daughter is pretty responsible now and carries a purse quite often, so I have thought about the phone as an option.  Gift idea:  uh….the phone….and maybe paying for the service for a certain amount of time.

2.  Freedom of your bedroom.  Decorate how you want.  Hang what you want.  Clean it when you want. That last one is KEY here.  No more telling them to clean their room.  That means that this particular freedom is going to be hard to earn for some kids.  In fact, the pastor’s wife who shared this with me said one of her children never earned this while living in their home.  Tough with my boys who share a room….hmmmm….  Gift idea:  Loft bed.  Ikea gift card.  Movie poster.  Bedroom Makeover.

3.  Freedom of your hair.  Chop it.  Shave it.  Dye it.  Whateva’.  I see this one around 13-16 years old.  Depending on the boy, this might be a big deal to them too as they could grow it long, which they won’t be allowed to do under my control.  Gift idea:  trip to the salon or funky hair dye.

4.  Freedom of your music.  Listen to what you want.  UGH.  Since I have a collection of rap music from my high school days, I am sure I am in for it with this one.  Yes, I can still sing some Snoop Dogg.  Gift idea:  iPod.  iTunes gift card.  Wireless speakers.  Headphones.

We are about to celebrate a certain 12 year old in this house who loves music and music video making. We found highly rated wireless headphones for kids, a wireless waterproof speaker with a suction cup for the shower or anywhere, and a new iPod case:


5.  Freedom of your clothing.  Crop tops.  Short skirt.  Crazy colors.  Oh my.  This one opens so many doors.  I consider this between 14-18.  Gift idea:  favorite clothing store shopping spree.  Maybe a pair of shoes or a coat they are dying to have.

6.  Freedom of make-up.  The freedom to wear as much as you want.  Grab that blue eye shadow and have at it, kid!  Gift idea:  makeover with some lessons on how NOT to overuse that blue!  Make up kit.

7.  Freedom of the internet.  Not sure if and when we will do this.  It is something we debate as we want our kids to learn what is “out there” and to become responsible in this area of internet searching, use and time limits.  We recognize that they will take over this area of their lives at some point, so we want time for mistakes at home.  I can’t imagine we would do this before 17.  Once they earned this, then they could have a “screen” in their bedroom for the first time and we would remove “screen time” restrictions. Gift idea:  tablet or laptop.

8.  Freedom of money.  Spend it how you would like.  Of course, my child wouldn’t be allowed to buy anything that is against our family rules.  But if you typically have a tithing or saving percentage that you enforce, this would be the time to let it go.  Gift idea:  Cash!  (My older daughters have both earned this and we made their gift a whooping $100 in cash)

9.  Freedom of accessories.  Scarves.  Shoes.  Jewelry.  Time to have some fun and accessorize!  Gift idea:  Jewelry.  Gift card to store with accessories.  New shoes.

10.  Freedom of things.  All children get this to kick off the “freedom” birthdays at age 10.  This is the first time that my kids get the freedom to own an expensive personal object and to have the responsibility of caring for it.  Gift idea:  We bought our daughter a digital camera.  Tablet.  Video Camera.  Basically whatever fits your child.

11.  Freedom of the car.  Access to drive the car.  AND to own one.  (not saying mom and dad have to purchase that)  Gift idea:  Car keys on a cute (or manly) keychain.  Maybe a car if you have the funds!

12.  Freedom of the house.  Time to be allowed to stay home alone.  We missed out on this one as MD law allowed 8 year olds to stay home alone, so we started this one ages ago.  But if you held off on this one, it is a great idea from a 10-13 year old!  Gift idea:  Keys to the house.  A night alone with a bag of treats and a rental movie.

13.  Freedom of your bedtime.  This does not mean you are free to choose when you have to be in your room, but you are free to choose when you would like to turn off your light and go to sleep.  Maybe it includes a later “time to go up to your room” as well.  Gift ideas:  book light.  alarm clock.  a stack of late night books.  (clearly, I am at a loss on this one)

14.  Freedom of food.  This one walks a bit of a tightrope between respect for the home you live in (as in, eating the dinner you were made) and allowing the freedom of food.  Overall, this would mean that you don’t need permission to grab some food.  No one will watch over your shoulder as you pack your lunch.  You could eat what you wanted….maybe even drink soda….that you can buy yourself since Mommy doesn’t.  (*wink)  In our house, I would probably see this as permission to make your own breakfast and lunch choices without comment/input from me.  They could also choose their own snacks when they were hungry.  I see this one for older kids who are pretty responsible about eating fairly healthy.  Maybe ages 13+  Gift idea:  case of soda.  ice cream.  bag of chips.  and of course, a ton of fruit!  (My BRAND NEW teenager received this today at 13 years old and was thrilled!!!  Her gift was a date to the Melting Pot, brownie mixes, and her favorite trail mix)

15.  Freedom of media (not internet).  Pick your books.  TV shows.  Movies.  Gift idea:  Movie passes.  Kindle gift card.

16.  Freedom of yourself.  This is the “given” at 18.  You are now your own adult and a “roommate” in our home.  Please respect us as roommates and we will do the same. Gift ideas:  their share of the electric bill?  (wink)

What freedoms would you add to the list?

Homelife, Parenting, tweens and teens

The Gift of Freedom, Part I

Every year, starting at age 10, we celebrate our childrens’ birthdays by giving them the gift of a “Freedom”. The first part of their gift is a gushing letter from us letting them know how proud we are of them and what wonderful people that they are.  In the letter we list all of the amazing ways we have seen them mature over the year.  Then we reveal their new freedom and why we think they are ready for it.

Freedoms could include:  Freedom of music;  Freedom of money;  Freedom of your bedroom;  Freedom of driving (age 16);  Freedom of food;  Freedom of hair;  Freedom of clothing;  Freedom of bedtime/curfew…(stay tuned for full details in Part II)  The list gets longer as we keep brainstorming more!

We decided to make the first freedom, given at age 10, a standard freedom that EVERYONE would receive at this age.  This would be the FIRST time our children would receive a nice/expensive object to call their own.  They would make the rules about its use and they would take on full responsibility for its care.  We would be completely hands off.

This freedom didn’t have a great name, but it has slowly been dubbed, “The Freedom of Things”.

This means that we don’t give them nice/expensive objects as their own before they are 10.  We have a FAMILY iPad, computer, video camera, and camera that they can use.  But we reserve the right of ownership of these devices for children over 10.  It is one of those privileges of growing up!

We kicked off the “Freedom to take care of a nice object” at K’s birthday.  Here she is turning 10, reading the letter that we wrote her.


Then we presented her with her gift:  a brand new digital camera.  This was a HUGE deal!


We told her that it was hers to take care of.  It is the FIRST gift that we told her that she didn’t have to share with anyone AND we recommended that she not let anyone use it who couldn’t afford to replace it.  (Yes, I have borrowed it for trips before)  We also suggested that she order a case for it with her money, and she immediately did that!

It has been almost 2 years since K earned this freedom/responsibility.  Her camera is still working well for her.  She keeps it charged and takes it on trips.  She continued to be responsible in this area, so we bought her a kindle for Christmas in 2013.

Our second 10 year old was just as excited, even though she was pretty sure that she knew what was coming…


While the 10 year old freedom is “carved in stone”, the others aren’t.  This means that is a fun guessing games as birthdays approach, “I wonder what freedom I will get!”

It is our desire is that we are communicating respect for each of our children as individuals and instilling joy and excitement about this decade of “growing up”.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more information on the Freedoms we have on our list!

Book Clubs, Brave Writer, Homeschooling, Literature, tweens and teens

Happy Hunger Games (aka: Our First Boomerang Bookclub)

{This post contains affiliate links.  Read my full disclosure.}

This year, my 7th grader (Kayleigh), graduated from using the BraveWriter Arrow book guides (grades 3-6) to the Boomerang book guides (grades 7-12).

The Boomerang book guides include Think-Piece questions and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun to discuss the questions between the two of us, so I decided to organize a book club!

I selected one of my favorite books, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, as our kick-off book. The characters are fantastic and the writing is incredible.  I was hopeful that our first book discussion would be easier because I knew that most of the girls would be familiar with the plot.

We kicked off our first meeting last night and it was a huge hit!

Our First Party School Book Club was Hunger Games themed for a discussion of Catching Fire. Click for ideas for food, decor and discussion. Continue Reading