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Blog, Life Skills, Teen

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 2: Kitchen Essentials|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #adulting

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Where should one start in learning how to cook? Julia Child might ask, “Does she know how to make an omelet?” True, omelets can be a versatile meal, eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but let’s add more than eggs to our teens’ cooking repertoire.

As shared in my post on 10 Must Have Books for Teen Girls, a good cookbook is essential for independent living. We want our teens to not rely on eating convenience foods that are bad for both the body and the pocketbook. Teens need to learn that they too can make a fantastic meal. Even better than that is building up enough confidence in their cooking skills to give a dinner party and invite friends and family to enjoy their culinary masterpieces.

1. Teach teens to cook healthy, budget-friendly meals.

As a mom of four, I live by a routine of Spaghetti Monday, Taco Tuesday, and a variety of seasoned chicken on Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday. Dad takes over on Saturday and left-overs are for Sunday (weekends are my days off!). This keeps the budget low and stress-level for cooking low for me. All my ingredients are on-hand, and I know the recipes by heart. Inform your teen that cooking can get pricey depending on the ingredients. Give her a turn in cooking dinner once a week until she learns them all.

2. Let her bake.

The kitchen is my domain. I don’t want flour all over the counters, on the flour, or in the cracks beside the oven. By the grace of God, I’ve had to learn to deal with this. When I’ve let go of my desire to dominate the kitchen and have given free rein to my teen, she has flourished in baking biscuits, breads, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and muffins. She’s even made cream puffs! And, because my idea of dessert is in the freezer, I never would have been able to enjoy these scrumptious delights had I barred her from baking because, truthfully, it can get messy. I’ll share tips on teaching teens to clean in a later post!

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3. Start building up her own kitchen supplies.

One day, our teen is going to grow up and move out (that’s the plan anyway!) and she will need some kitchen items to take with her. My teen has asked for baking pans and a mixer for Christmas. With her knack for baking, I was happy to oblige. I’ve since acquired a new set of pots and pans, but I kept the old ones to give to her when she leaves the nest. I remember my mom giving me a great deal of her old dishes and silverware when I went off to college. I hope to do the same for my daughter.

4. Take her grocery shopping.

In our family, Dad is the grocery shopper. Before we had children, we would shop together. With each pregnancy, my husband starting shopping on his own. Now, he does it full-time, and I am more than thrilled with that. He’s known as “Super Dad” at out local supermarket with all the kids with him, holding onto the shopping cart. My stepdad used to do the same thing. He made a grocery list, took his calculator, and me with him. It was my job to add up all his purchases and make sure he stayed within the budget. Whether mom or dad is in charge of the shopping, try taking your teens with you and let them keep track of money spent. It’s eye-opening how easy it is to spend over two hundred dollars a week for a family of six. Maybe we should do once-a-month freezer meals, couponing, or base meal planning on BOGO’s? Encourage our teens to brainstorm ideas on how to save money.

5. Teach about expiration dates and food rotation.

I’ve learned the hard way that you should always check the expiration date on milk before pouring it into your cereal. My husband, (our designated family food shopper) is really good about rotating the food in our refrigerator and pantry to make sure the newer food is placed behind the food that would spoil first. Teens need to learn this when they help put groceries away. Also, they need to learn not to open up another bag of chips or carton of milk before the old one is used up.

With a little extra time and patience, we can teach our teens to take full rein of the kitchen so that one day, they too can make more than an omelet.

Blog, Seasons and Holidays, Uncategorized

School’s Out: {5 Ways to Curb the Summer Slide}

slideWith school out, wouldn’t it be nice to just let our kids have fun this summer?

No more being cooped up in a dusty building and confined to a desk. Let’s open our front doors and allow our kids to run free. Get some summer sun. Check out some cool parks, our city has to offer.

Wait a minute. During the 2-3 months with no school, our kids might forget everything they’ve learned, right? They could experience the “summer slide,” falling back in the reading skills and knowledge they’ve attained. Read more here.

 

Blog, Life Skills, Teen, Young Adult

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 1: Social Graces|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #Adulting

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By the time a teen turns eighteen, what sort of things should she know in the world of #adulting? Making a great score on the SAT’s is all fine and good for getting into college, but what about real life skills? We want to give our teens roots, but also wings that they may fly to new heights in their next stage of life called adulthood.

Interpersonal skills are a gift that some naturally possess and others have to learn or constantly suffer the consequences for committing embarrassing social faux pas. As an adult, this skill will translate into pragmatics, networking, or building relational capital.

Unwritten rules of our society are not easily deciphered, but here’s some tips I’ve learned that I’m passing along to my own teen. And going to parties is a great way to learn to apply social graces.

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18 Things to Share When Teaching Teens Social Graces

  • When you receive an invitation, RSVP by the deadline. If you cannot attend, try to refrain from saying a plain “no,” but politely reply with the other plans you had made.
  • When you go to a party, stay at least 30 minutes. It’s considered rude to show up for snacks and then leave before making any real conversations with other guests.
  • At a larger get-together, try to talk to at least three different groups of people.
  • Whether at a birthday, wedding, or graduation party, it’s important to know how to speak and act as to not offend others. There are many rules when it comes to learning social graces. If you do end up saying the wrong thing, it’s best to simply apologize. Most people are sympathetic and forgiving.
  • A simple rule for introductions is to remember The “Six S’s”:

1. Smile.

2. See their eyes (make eye contact).

3. Say, “Hi.”

4. Shake hands.

5.  Say, “My name is            . What’s your name?”

6. Say, “Nice to meet you, Mr./Mrs.            .”  

  • Try not to look insecure, even you feel like the simple country mouse visiting the extravagant city mouse. Give affirming smiles to others and add to conversations.
  • As a last resort, if it’s difficult to join in other ongoing conversations, try standing in a line of people, like the bathroom line or the buffet line. Strike up a conversation with others who are also waiting and maybe you’ll make a friend.
  • If there are no more chairs available, give up your seat to an elderly person, pregnant woman, or those with disabilities.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not talk about another person’s body or your own. Even if you’re hot, cold, or recovering from some sort of illness. It’s just not the stuff good conversations are made of and will lead to even more awkwardness.
  • It’s better to comment on what a person is, rather than what they do. For instance, “Sally is such a creative person.” sounds more affirming than “Sally likes to draw.”
  • Figure out your talking points. Try brainstorming about things you are good at talking about before a party.
  • Inquiring minds want to know, but please don’t share others’ personal information that you know they wouldn’t want others to know about.
  • Also, don’t gossip. Just avoid saying negative things about others, even if you add, “and we should pray for this person.”
  • In my writer’s group, Word Weavers Int’l., I learned the “sandwich method” of critique. When saying something that could be upsetting to someone, but it still needs to be said, first say something positive, then the hard truth, and follow up with something encouraging. For example when in a conversation with someone who is gossiping try, “You seem like a caring person, but maybe we shouldn’t talk about Kayla’s boyfriend troubles. Hey, she’s sitting on a chair in the corner by herself. Let’s invite her to sit with us.”
  • Nobody likes to listen to a one-sided conversation. Keep the flow going by asking others about what is going on in their lives.
  • Learn the art of wrapping up a conversation. Steer what you are talking about to lighter subjects, like “Wow, this was a fun party.” Then end with something positive like, “It was so nice to meet you, Mrs./Mrs.            . I really enjoyed our conversation.”
  • When you need to leave, simply tell the host/hostess, “I do wish I could stay, but I really have to go.” No need to explain why.
  • Write a thank you card to your host/hostess. A simple message of thanks for a great party let’s them know that their hard work of hospitality paid off.

Whatever the occasion, applying common rules of interpersonal communication can lay the groundwork on which relationships are built. Doors may open in the way of making a new friends, growing in empathy, or a building connections for a future career. So let’s start those conversations with our teens about what it means to have social graces.

* Credit: Portrait of Princess Albert de Broglie, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1853

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Blog, Teen, Young Adult

10 Must Have Books for Teen Girls|Learning Essential Life Skills #Adulting

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Photo Credit: Margaret Gorman, at age 16, First Miss America in 1921.

Summer is almost here, but I don’t think we’ll be doing much relaxing. For my teen, there will be camps, volunteering at Vacation Bible School, extra art classes, and studying for a learner’s permit, with some Algebra thrown in for good measure.

Come to think of it, there’s only three summers left before she’s a full-fledged adult.

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Do you ever feel like there’s not enough time to teach your teen everything they need to know to grow up? How can a parent ever instill all the tools needed to navigate life? Thankfully, there are plenty of books to help our teens on their way …

Here are ten helpful books that teach our teens the life skills they need to know:

1. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 16th edition.

When I was a teen, my mother bought me my first cookbook. Sure, nowadays a recipe can be looked up on allrecipes.com or foodnetwork.com, but it’s wise to have a kitchen-tested hardcover in your hands. This cookbook is in a three-ring binder, so your teen can can pop out her chosen recipes and get to work.

 

2. Teen Practical Life Skills Workbook by John J. Liptak.

This great little workbook gets your teen thinking about what it takes to grow up. Because “adulting” is now a verb.

3. Getting Ready to Drive: A How-to Guide by Eva Apelqvist.

Education is key in teaching our teens to be defensive drivers and here is one book that will set them on the course to knowing how to be safe behind the wheel.

 

4. Smile and Succeed for Teens by Kirt Manecke.

It helps to get tips on  how to succeed in the workplace. Before getting her first job, this book shares with teens how to give great customer service and the things she must do to become a top-notch employee.

5. So Long Insecurity Teen Edition by Beth Moore.

Do teen girls realize models in magazines are airbrushed and given hair extensions? Comparing themselves to these unrealistic images, teens wind up developing all sorts of insecurities. This inspirational book gives ways to find security in a world where it’s hard to come by.

6. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey.

From the “Highly Effective” series of books, written by Stephen R. Covey, now his son, Sean Covey, shares all the tried and true advice his father gave him that works! Teens can also apply what they’ve learned to be successful in the companion workbook.

7. The Executive Functioning Workbook: Help for Unprepared, Late, and Scattered Teens by Sharon A. Hansen MSE NBCT.

For teens who have trouble making a schedule, taking initiative, and thinking outside the box, this workbook gives a preliminary test to find out what areas to focus on and then gives exercises on the areas where help is needed.

8. Facing the Facts: The Truth About Sex and You by Stan and Brenna Jones.

When your teen is ready to know a more detailed explanation of how babies are made, here’s the “how” behind physically developing into an adult, and why it’s good to wait until we say, “I do.” To some, abstinence may seem like shooting for the moon in this day and age, but giving teens high standards will help them to know there are better choices than what media is telling them, and that they don’t have to give in to peer pressure.

9. The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls.

A continuation of the first book in The Care and Keeping of You series produced by American Girl, this book picks up where Book 1 left off. The realistic cartoon-style details share what girls need to know about how their bodies work and what to do to take the best care of them.

10. The How-To Handbook: Shortcuts and Solutions for the Problems of Everyday Life by Martin Oliver and Alexandra Johnson.

In this purse-sized book of over 50 essential life skills, your teen will find tons of tips to learn how to be a fully functioning adult!

Next post, I’ll be sharing The Ultimate “Adulting” List, so stay tuned!!!

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Blog, Reading Challenge, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult

2017 Teen Summer Reading Challenge|Tackling “The Brick” #LesMiserables #TheBrickChallenge

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My Harry Potter fan teenage daughter decided tackling all the books in that series wasn’t enough of a feat. It was time to move on to an even greater challenge.

Classic literature.

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Looking for a good book, she chose one involving a love story with a historical element, action, and adventure.

Which classic did she choose?

The complete and unabridged version of Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.

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There’s a reason it’s called “The Brick.” There’s a wall down our street that has a huge hole knocked through it from being hit in a car accident. Copies of this ginormous book could literally be stacked up to fix that wall.

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Despite so great a challenge, I had confidence in this book-loving girl that if she set her mind to it, the book might be finished in a few months or before the end of this summer.

Turns out, my daughter is a speed reader. What would have taken me a year, she read in three weeks. Three weeks!

And, that is not what I am most proud of her about. The thing that makes my own book-loving heart soar is that she LOVES it! The book she read was on loan from the library. She wants to purchase “The Brick” to place on her own personal bookshelf. She’s saving up all her money to purchase her very own copy.

Not only did this challenge build patience (listed as one of the top 20 longest books!), but it also increased her vocabulary. Throughout the three weeks of reading, she stopped me on more than one occasion asking for the definition of words. At least half the time, I didn’t know the answer and told her to look them up.

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Holding up a book of that size also builds muscle!

A few times I heard her giggling while reading. Victor Hugo’s sense of humor must be timeless. And the love story has been made into a beloved musical and several movies, the most recent of which has become a family favorite soundtrack to sing on long trips. My husband does a great impression of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean!

I’d like to challenge teens around the world to take up “The Brick” and read! Find an unabridged version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo at the library, online, at a used, small, or mega bookstore and crack that baby open. Try to refrain from reading it on an e-reader. Have the real thing, in all it’s glory, in your hands. Let’s call it #TheBrickChallenge

What are you waiting for? Go for it!

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Blog, Children's Picture Books, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12), Special Needs

8 Kids Books to Teach Autism Awareness and Acceptance

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Everywhere I go, it seems, I spot a child who appears to have autism. Maybe having a child of my own on the spectrum makes me more in tune to the signs and symptoms. At the same time, my observations could be a reflection of the new normal for neurodiversity. According to the CDC, in only sixteen years the amount of children being diagnosed has significantly grown from 1 in 150 in the year 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2016.

Thankfully, with more children on the spectrum, there are more therapies, resources, and supports for our kids to succeed than ever before. Books, TV shows, and even movies now highlight people with autism, creating an atmosphere for acceptance.

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With April being Autism Awareness Month, here are eight books that will help teach kids to have greater understanding, empathy, and acceptance for those on the spectrum.

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Smokey the cat after his annual summer shave

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman

Our Maine Coon cat, Smokey, doesn’t like to be touched, on the tummy especially! He hears every little noise and loves to squeeze under things (like my bed). Wait, do cats have autism? Could be… The amazon.com best selling book, All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome compares cats to kids on the spectrum and the funny thing is, there are a ton of similarities.

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My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete

Founder of the HollyRod Foundation, both singer and actress, Peete now adds author to her list of credentials. Having a son with autism inspired her to write about the power of the sibling bond. A sister who has a twin brother with autism recognizes his struggles along with his unique talents and strengths.

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Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas

This book, written in the first look at disabilities series, introduces children to those growing up with special needs. But that’s the thing, being “special” means being singled out. Highlighting the things all kids have in common can be a positive way to help them relate to kids who have physical or learning differences.

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Sensitive Sam: Sam’s Sensory Adventure Has a Happy Ending! by Marla Roth-Fisch

Sam’s sensory sensitivities cause him all sorts of trouble. Witty and engaging, this story is sure to build understanding about the sensory issues involved in having autism.

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Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder

This book takes a look at different people throughout history who had learning differences that lead to amazing discoveries and lasting impacts on the world. Included are Temple Grandin, Lewis Carrol, and Albert Einstein.

BLICK ART CONTEST PAINTING

 Art by my fifteen-year-old, April Griese

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

This National Book Award winner tells the story of Caitlin, whose sensory sensitivities and difficulties communicating affects her ability to grieve the loss of her brother. Dealing with both the challenges of being a tween on the spectrum and the tragedy of losing her brother through a school shooting, this middle grade novel brings up some heavy realities with grace.

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Styrofoam found in a box helps my son with autism look at the camera

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Children try to figure out the world through observation, by seeing what works and what doesn’t. Catherine keeps a list of rules for her brother with autism to help him to be more normal, but she also keeps unwritten rules for herself. How do you really define what’s normal and what’s not? And, depending on how you look at it, maybe out-of-the-ordinary could mean extraordinary.

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Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

If you’re looking for a pictorial biography of Temple Grandin, look no further. This book shares how a simple girl with autism grew up to change the world. It may inspire both parents and children to reach for the stars.

 

Blog, Special Needs

Finding Hope in Autism

 

 

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Feather mobile from Brent Forsyth, Sunsetdriftwood on Etsy
When you have a baby, I’ve been told, life becomes like a fast-spinning mobile hanging above the crib. At first, it spins off balance, slows to a wobble and then balances out.
Having a child with autism has made the mobile of life be out-of-balance for longer than I would have anticipated.
It was nerve-wracking when our baby started talking, saying “mama” and “dada,” but then stopped by the time he turned one.
All the classic signs of autism appeared: gaze aversion, hand flapping, temper tantrums up to ten times a day…read more here