Be Better Than You Were Yesterday

Mariah Carey. Muhammad Ali. Michael Jordan. They all have something in common. They are the best at what they do and arguably so.

One of the hardest lessons there is to learn in life as a kid growing up (and even as an adult) is there will always be somebody better than you at something. Always. The chances that you are THE best at something are like 1 out of a trillion and I challenge you to prove me wrong.

If by that slim chance you are the best at something, kudos to you. Yeah I’m talking to you Michael Jordan. Mariah Carey. Muhammed Ali. These people are THE best at what they do and arguably so. I get it, there HAS to be someone who is the best at something, someone at the top. Never in my life did I think I was going to be a better runner than Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I was a good runner, but I soon realized I didn’t even run the events that Jackie Joyner ran but I digress.

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Life Skills All Kids Need to Learn Before They Head to College

Life Skills All Kids Need to Learn Before They Head to College

Going off to college may seem like it is far away, but it will be here before you know it. Having your child prepared academically is probably on your radar, but what about practical skills? You can start by teaching your son or daughter these valuable skills now.

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Cooking
While your child might eat cafeteria food the first year, at some point they will be cooking for themselves. Cooking, at least on a basic level, is a skill that everyone should have.

Grocery Shopping
Being a smart grocery shopper is also something that has to be learned. Teach them to buy wisely and how to spot a good deal. Teach them what to stock up on, and which items they should be fresh.

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How to Talk to Your Child about the Death of a Family Pet

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We recently lost a neighborhood dog, but it wasn’t just any ole neighborhood dog. This dog was my little Lola’s favorite. We knew he was suffering and had lived a good, long life (I think he was 15 years old?!), so it wasn’t such a bad thing for him to go. The big question was, how are we going to explain to Lola that her best furry bud is gone?

It is hard on the whole family when you lose a precious pet, but how do you talk to your children about this loss? Knowing what to say and how to make sure the kids understand is crucial in moving forward. You want to know your children are okay and help them get through the grief of losing your pet.

Keep in mind that most of the time your child will look at your reactions and do what you do. It is natural to be sad and upset, and you need to let the children know that it is ok and normal to feel this way. Make sure to discuss this right away since the longer you wait the more questions and doubts your child may have.

If you have younger children, say 3-5 years old, their concept of death is that it is a temporary thing. Be honest with them that your pet is not coming back, and try to share some good memories you have together.

For kids ages 6-8, they understand the concept of death, but maybe find it hard to believe that your pet is truly gone. Children this age may feel like they could have done something to prevent your pet dying, so make sure to let them know it had nothing to do with them.

Older kids might want to know more information or ask more direct questions, so be prepared for this.
Every child may grieve differently, so just make yourself available to them if they need you.

One thing you don’t want to do is give them vague answers about what happened to your family pet. Kids’ imaginations can go wild and they need you to be direct and honest with them. You can be brief, but give them accurate information so they do understand. You don’t have to go into details that will disturb them, but let them know the truth.

The most important thing your child needs during this sad time is comfort. Grieve as a family but always hold those precious memories of your pet close to your heart.

Common Core Frustrations: I’ve Got Them

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The implementation of Common Core into our education system has been disruptive for many kids (and parents!) Parents are frustrated and sometimes confused by these standards and the new methods of teaching. If you feel this way, you are in the majority. Here are some of the frustrations that parents experience.

Math? Well, you would think Math would be pretty straightforward. Numbers just make sense, right? The curriculum coming out of the Common Core testing make doing math problems complicated. Teachers have to be an expert in these methods to give your child a good education. Doing Math homework takes twice as long for the kids, and most parents don’t understand enough to be able to offer guidance to their kids. Um, yeah…that would be me! And by the way, that upper image of homework is, indeed, my 9 year old’s math homework.

Keeping America Competitive
The biggest reason we hear about why Common Core testing is used is that America has fallen behind the rest of the world. That may be true in some instances, but we are being forced to use methods that are not necessarily proven to be effective. Jumping into these changes without more research and preparation has just mucked up the education system and our kids will be the ones suffering, not succeeding.

Teaching to Testing
Teachers are now put in the position to have to teach to the tests. Students have to pass these standardized tests and the curriculum caters only to this end. I am not sure our kids are learning, they are just being taught to pass a test.

Questionable Reading
The Common Core recommends many books that parents don’t agree with. Some of these books for older kids have many questionable themes and language. I understand that kids will expand their minds during their older school years, but why throw out classic literature that is in good taste?

Common Core standards are supposed to make our kids better and ready for college and employment. In reality, by teaching to the test, we are limiting our kids’ education and not really teaching them to think for themselves. As parents, we will do everything we can to make sure our kids are happy and successful, but Common Core does not seem to be the answer.

And, it really makes me feel like an idiot trying to help my kid with math. Just saying.

9/11 For Me Is Like Menstruation

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I woke up this morning feeling icky. Not like all creepy crawly skin icky, but with a heart filled with a plethora of emotions. You know how you feel like you want to punch someone in the face because they said something ridiculously annoying? How about hug your little ones, feeling their soft skin on your cheek and want that comfort to last forever? Ever feel like curling up in a ball, with tears streaming down your face, wrapped underneath a sea of blankets and not come out until you can’t drop one more tear? Now combine all those feelings into one. Yeah, that’s how I felt 14 years ago today and now that memory that hides in the back of my mind crawls out with a flood of emotions every year I discover still exists.

It’s 9/11.

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I clearly remember that day as most Americans do. I remember where I was and what I was doing. I remember the smell of the burnt toast that I was making for breakfast at the old folks home where I worked. I remember the breaking news headline on the bottom of the break room television. I remember watching Katie Couric and Matt Lauer’s live report…the back and forth questions of uncertainty…the speculation…the horrifying accident.

And then the second planed crashed into the twin towers.

This was no longer an accident. These two plane crashes were intentional.

I remember rubbing my heavily protruding baby bump and breathing in a deep breath after being kicked in the ribs by my soon to be born baby girl.

Fourteen years later, I drove to work this morning with a car full of kids and listen to the radio deejay interrupt the music program with a moment of silence, followed with a patriotic interlude all while my oldest tells my youngest to quit talking. My eyes well up as I listen to my oldest try to explain why my 5-year-old needed to be quiet at that time and it really made my mind wander.

The result of this day changed my life in so many ways. No, I didn’t lose anyone close to me that day, thank gawd and oh how I pray for those poor people who did. What I did lose was 18 months without my husband because of the declared “War on Terror”. It was a time in my life I wouldn’t wish upon nobody. And even though I know I wasn’t the only person to go through this, it sucked. I felt alone even when I wasn’t. I forced a smile on the outside, while I was dying on the inside. When asked how I was doing, I wanted to burst into tears, but I smiled and said I was “fine”. Like millions of people across the country, I was taking it day by day.

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This horrific day has and still is affecting millions of people across the country.

2,977 victims lives lost during the 9/11 attacks.

3,527 soldiers died in Iraq.

1,742 soldiers died in Afghanistan.

All of these people have families whom they left behind.

I’m proud of my husband who was deployed to fight a war and blessed that he came back to me. My blessings are counted, but there is still that anger. Still that sadness. Still that frustration of all we had to go through back home because of cruel, heartless human beings who wanted to break the American spirit. Those emotions run wild like a raging, crying woman during menses but they will never break the bravery and fight that the American people have.

Despite all that we’ve been through, we’re stronger and will never forget. I know that I won’t ever forget and every year I have and know I will feel this same icky feeling on this day.

My Youngest Starts Kindergarten And I’m Freaking Out…

It is the day I have been looking forward to immensely and now that it is here, I am kind of freaking out. My youngest child starts school. Not kiddie campus. Not preschool. Like REAL school. No more diaper changing (which I am oddly missing) and no more spoon feeding. This kid has moved on to holding her own in more ways than one.

About five years I calculated this day out. My oldest would be in 8th grade, my 2nd would be in 3rd grade when my youngest started kindergarten. It seemed so way off. It seemed like the far off future. But now, that moment is here.

Her backpack is packed. Her outfit is clean and the camera is ready for the annual first day of school photo.

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I made stops at all four schools the first day to drop off each kid. After I made the last stop and was ready to head into work, a sudden wave of sadness hit me. THAT just happened. All my kids are in school. Not only do I feel old, but I also feel as if life is flashing before my very eyes.

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That’s why moments like this make me realize even more how much I need to NOT will my time away. I need to live in the moment and enjoy every smile, every fight, every hair pulling session these kids have. Time goes way too fast.

So why is it that that first day of school is so bittersweet?

This is the start of a chapter they are starting to write for themselves.  The handwriting may be a little messy  They need us, but not as much as they needed us before.  The fruits of my labor are being tested.  And while my work is not totally done, I can only hope that they don’t forget to soak in every moment and remember how much I love them!

Attention, Helicopter Parents!

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Settle the frick down!

We all want to be good parents and take care of our kids, however, there is too much of a good thing with being involved. There is a fine line between being a caring parent and hovering too much (known as being a Helicopter Parent.) And yes, I admit…I do hover. A lot. But, I’m working on…well…not hovering so much.

Here are some things you want to avoid doing:

Saying No
If you find yourself always saying “No” to your kids, you may want to think about why. Granted, the world seems like a scarier place today compared to when we grew up, but we have to allow our children the opportunities to become independent. It is natural to worry, but try to step back for a moment and say “Yes” sometimes when your kids ask you if they can do something they want to do.

Always Speaking Up
While this can be a hard one, you can’t always speak for your child. You don’t want to scare off your child’s teachers by being that parent who is always calling or asking for meetings. Our kids have to learn to speak up for themselves sometimes. Now if it is very important, then of course you may need to get involved. Just don’t get involved every time there is a minor problem.

Doing Homework
Yes, maybe you tell yourself you are just ‘helping’, but we have all been there with that last minute project or assignment. There is nothing wrong with helping your child, but don’t take over. Even if the project is not ‘perfect’, don’t worry so much. Let your son or daughter be themselves and work in their own way.

Too Clean
Some Helicopter Parents don’t let their kids do anything where they can get dirty. Getting dirty and scraped knees are part of growing up. You don’t want your child to be afraid of doing things. Dirt washes off, so don’t obsess too much.

Give your child the chance to make decisions and learn from mistakes. Of course, it health or safety is involved, then you may need to step in. Let your kids know you are there for them, but don’t hover or smother them!

Too much hovering will lead to an insecure child and will probably end up with your child living in the basement in your house at the age of 50.

5 Things You Need To Know About Stitch Fix

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It’s been all the rage in the fashion world and blogging land and so, I decided to give Stitch Fix a try. I do work a full time job outside of my websites and media business that requires me to dress up a little bit. And by dress up I mean, no sweats and tanks with no bras (which I used to do when I was a stay-at-home mom).

First of all, raise your hand if you like to receive packages in the mail! Right now, I’m raising my hands and my legs. It’s so fun! How about a package that you aren’t quite sure what is in it but you know it is going to be brand new pieces of fashion to add to your wardrobe? YES, please!

How about a box full of goodies automatically sent to you every month or as frequently as you want, tailored to your style taste? Oh em gee, gazillion yes’s! That’s generally what Stitch Fix is all about and I received my first “fix” last week.

Five Things You Need To Do To Get Started With Stitch Fix

1. Sign up! Here is my referral link HERE.

2. Answer a series of questions regarding your style. And these questions are pretty in depth!

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3. Understand the payment situation. You will be charged $20 JUST for your stylist to put together your stitch fix box. That is all you will be charged to get started.

4.  When you receive your Stitch Fix box, you will receive FIVE pieces for you to try,  information regarding the items sent in your fix, different ways to wear your items and an invoice.

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5.  Try on all the items and send back the items you do NOT want.  There is a bag included in the box for you to use to return the items you don’t want to keep.  Postage is already paid for you!  Make sure you go into your online profile on the Stitch Fix website and “check out”.  Select the items you want to keep and indicate the items you are sending back.  When you checkout, you will be paying for the items that you keep.

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I must say, I loved all of the pieces that I received, however they didn’t fit quite right.  I ended up keeping the blue and yellow tank.  After deducting the $20 styling fee from my total, I paid $18 to keep the tank.

I left a note for my stylist to make sure she sends a bigger inseam for jeans/pants as I am fairly tall.  While I did only keep one item, I definitely like the quality of the clothing, so we will see what Stitch Fix box number two brings.  Stay tuned!

NOTE:  No, I am not being compensated to write any of this, however if you sign up under me, I will get a $25 credit to use towards my next fix and you will have your very own fix set up and can also share your link with your friends to snag up your own $25 credit.  Win, win!

My Son Has A Video Game Addiction

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Or at least I’m beginning to think so.

When I was a little girl, I remember the age old familiar question posed to me quite frequently. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My parents asked me. My grandmother asked me. My kindergarten teacher asked me. My first grade teacher asked me. My second grade teacher asked me. You get the picture.

It’s a big question! A big question with an answer that I know I filled in the blank with a different answer every time. And I remember pondering and then spouting the first thing that came to mind.

In kindergarten, I wanted to be a teacher.

In first grade, I wanted to be a chocolate chip cookie maker.

In second grade, I wanted to be a track star.

In third grade, I wanted to design Trapper Keepers.

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And I think that is why we ask relentlessly young kids about their future occupations…because you just never know what will come out of the mouths of little ones.

While my answer seemed to be different every time I was asked, my son’s answer has not changed the past few times I have asked him.

So what does my dear little 8-year-old want to be when he grows up? Check out our actual conversation below:

Curious Me: “So Carter, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Carter: “I want to be a gamer.”

Confused Me: “A what?”

Carter: “I want to play video games”.

Not-sure-if-I-heard-that-right Me: “Like, play video games for a living? For your job? For the rest of your life?”

Shocked

Carter: “Yep.”

Me: “Well, I bet if you really wanted to, you could maybe be a graphic designer. Or learn coding that it takes to create the game. You think?”

Carter: “No, I want to play them.”

Me: “Well, you can play them after you design them. You know, like testing them out before people buy them to play. That would be kind of cool.”

Carter: “Yeah.”

Positive-Because-I’m-hoping-this-is-just-a-phase me: “Okay, buddy. Well you be the best darn video game player ever then!”

Carter: “Ok”.

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Well…what else am I supposed to say?! I’m not supposed to crush my kid’s dreams, right?

My mind is clouded with visions of a fifty year old Carter sitting in his underwear…playing Minecraft edition 545 while snacking on Doritos and counting down the days to the next national video game conference on his MarioKart calendar stuck to my living room basement wall with half-chewed Hubba Bubba.

I’ll let you know what he says when I ask him about his future endeavors when he turns 9. My fingers are crossed that he doesn’t say video game player.

Somebody Else’s Kid Is Going To Be Living At My House For A Year And I’m Freaking…

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Yes, you read that right. We are going to be taking another person’s child into our household for the duration of a little under a year…okay, 10 months to be exact. While this is something I have been looking forward to for months, as time creeps closer to the date we go and pick up our new teen daughter I’m nervous as all heck…well, for more reasons than one. I will get to those reasons in a hot minute, but first…how it all transpired…

When I did my research on becoming a host parent to a foreign exchange student, the fond memories that I had of my aunt and uncle’s exchange student came flooding back.   In high school we had a couple exchange students whom I became friends with, one including a boy whom I wished would have asked me to Prom…but that’s a ‘whole nother story. How hard could being a host family be? At this point it isn’t that I feel as if I am second-guessing our decision to host. It’s the whole are we-a-good-representation-of-the-American-family question that keeps flowing through my mind…among other things.

1. I’m sure she and her brother and sister have argued and fought before, but will our student be able to endure the possible show she’ll get as my two youngest go at it WWE style?

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2. My littlest ones like to run around and eat cereal in their underwear.  We don’t call my youngest mini Kevin Sorbo for nothing!  Cripes, sometimes the kids think streaking across the house in their birthday suits after bath time, yelling and laughing like hyenas is the highlight of their day.

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3. While we are pretty active with different activities through the school and church during the year, our life here isn’t all THAT exciting. We don’t travel every weekend. After a busy week of work and school, we prefer to be home. With each other…even if we are all in different rooms. We could be boring?

4. Then there’s the potty talk that my children (and sometimes husband) engage in. Quite frankly, sometimes the PT lasts longer than it really should. Suddenly accidental body functions turn into loud chaotic, intentional obnoxiousness for a solid fifteen minutes or longer. But, I’m assuming that’s good, normal American fun?

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5. After enduring all this and discovering her host family is rather quite eccentric, she’s going to REALLY miss her family and friends back home. But what happens when reality hits her, she becomes inconsolable, and refuses to speak to us in English?

Despite all of these worries, how cool to be able to take a teenager from another country into your household for a period of 10 months, take care of them, learn about their culture and have a lifelong connection?  Teenagers are fun, right?!

Oh gosh, I’m hoping.

Heck, if all goes well, perhaps we’ll be on the next flight to Thailand to visit and stay with HER family. Maybe we will discover her family likes potty talk and Kevin Sorbo too?