10 Things That Made 90s Summers All That (And a Bag of Chips)

It was 1996. School was out for the summer. And there we were, red Squeez-Its in hand, taking a much-deserved break from our latest MC Hammer trampoline choreography. I’d seen a million days like this—though we did throw some No Doubt, Will Smith, and Aqua into the dance mix for good measure—and I’d see what felt like a million more.

But then the 90s ended and things changed. Frosted tips were out, and so were my perfect childhood summers. But if I could bring just 10 things back from those beautiful days, you bet it’d be these.

90s summer fun

1. Rollerblading—Duh. The quintessential form of exercise, mode of transportation, and reason for road rash of the 90s.

2. Trampoline sleepovers—Waking up sweating in your sleeping bag, smashed on every side because the eeny-meeny-miny-mo gods condemned you to the middle spot…again. And—bonus—there were no concerns about four young girls being snatched from the un-fenced side yard.

3. Boy Meets World—Because let’s face it, Girl Meets World just isn’t cutting it and nothing could ever represent the definitively 90s neighborhood vibes better than Eric yelling Feeeeeeeeeney out the back door.

4. Land lines—Yes, the prank calling was best done with the provocative risk of a parent answering, but what I really want back is the idea of not being at everyone else’s beck and call 1440 minutes a day (that’s all of them, by the way) because of the blessed/cursed mass propagation of the cell phone.

5. All-day play dates—That were never called that. It was called life. You left in the morning and, so long as you came home at night, what you did in between was a time warp left to your imagination. So many adventures that could never happen with today’s structured “play” regimen.

6. The community pool—Do these still exist? I mean, the way they used to? With the entire family there, picnicking between high dives and underwater somersaulting contests?

7. The Skip-It—Obviously the ankle cuts were worth it, but “the very best part of aaaaaaall, there’s a <pause> counter on this ball!!” I’ll never forget that jam. And was there a greater accomplishment than outskipping your BFFs? I think not.

90s summer skipit

8. Reasonable pay for family chores—There was over half an acre of grass on our property and if I mowed the entire thing, I earned $9. That would now be a job for professionals with a trailer full of equipment and they’d charge $100. Ugh. What has happened to slave child labor?

9. Caboodles—How else would you carry your Polly Pocket collection, LipSmackers, and Pogs all at the same time??

10. Innocence—And not just mine. But the world’s. Sure, there was OJ. And the Lewinsky stuff. And… Well, maybe it wasn’t all the best, but as a kid, it wasn’t shoved in our faces like today. We were ignorantly blissful for the most part, like kids should get to be.


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5 Rules I Don’t Enforce In The Summer

It’s time to start thinking about summer rules. Before you know it, school will be out for the summer and it’s important to keep some structure for your kids. But before you start crafting your summer rules, think first about what rules you are willing to throw out the window during the summer break. More and more, our kids are tied to electronics and the indoors. Remember those days of playing in the neighborhood with friends until dark? That doesn’t really happen in American society today, at least not as much. And then there is the summer bucket list (which I think is great). But it’s still a list of things to be checked off. Can you see where I’m going here? I’m all for structure and summer rules but I also think it’s the perfect time for me to lay off a little and see where summer takes us.


1. Time for bed

All year long we struggle at bedtime. Get your teeth brushed! Floss your teeth! Get your jammies on! GO TO SLEEP! And it is all in the name of getting your children in bed at a certain hour, sometimes to the minute. If they don’t get enough sleep, they’re going to be cranky. If they don’t fall asleep soon, I’ll go nuts. If I have to get one more thing for them before bed (a snack, a drink, a stuffed animal), I’m going to lose it. Whatever the reason, I take a well-deserved break from the tension-filled bed time routine. I don’t do it every night and I recognize that they still need their sleep but I’m far less tied to a certain time. If we are having fun playing a game, I won’t shut it down all in the name of 8:00 pm. I’m willing to go out somewhere with the kids after dinner and stay out until dark in the quest to enjoy summer.  My kids tire out on their own, are able to wind down and are way more reasonable when we offer flexibility. Many times, if we’ve had a really full day out in the sun, they’re ready for bed at a reasonable time anyway. Somehow getting rid of that specific “bedtime”, we all take it a little easier.

Stay out until dark - Summer Rules


2. No treats before dinner

I’m not saying that I completely throw my kids’ nutrition out of the window but I am certainly more willing to allow them to have a treat without worrying that it will ruin a meal. We make frozen treats all summer long. I also stock up on ice cream treats so that when the ice cream truck comes through our neighborhood, they can run to my freezer instead of over-spending on that same treat from the truck. When the kids have been at the pool or have been playing in the sprinklers, it is just a perfect time for a cold treat and if it’s an hour before dinner, I don’t sweat it.

Summer Rules - Frozen Treats


3. Homework packets

My kids get an optional homework packet every summer which we promptly discard. Of course I recognize that the summer brain drain is real but summer is a time for my kids to explore learning and reading on their own terms. We visit the library almost weekly and I encourage them to check out non-fiction books along with what they are currently reading. We will often check out books about arts, crafts or science and try a new project or experiment. There isn’t an end to their learning during the summer, I just try to let the kids direct it themselves.


4. It’s breakfast/lunch/dinner time

We are so scheduled in our meals during the school year. My son hates breakfast. He has an especially hard time because he has to eat it quickly before school. My daughters had lunch last year at school at 10:50 am. That’s not even close to lunch time. Summer affords us flexibility. My son loves to sleep in and it’s not uncommon for him to have his own little brunch in the summer. The un-rule with meals in summer is to eat when you’re hungry, not when you are scheduled to eat a meal.


5. Don’t make a mess

I take a page from my husband and let a mess happen every once in a while with my kids. It seems to make my head explode during the school year to get out the paint or to let them play in the dirt but during the summer, I’m willing to let them get messy, wet, dirty, etc. I keep old towels in my car all summer long just for this reason. When they start wading in the creek, I know that even if I tell them not to get wet, they’re going to end up completely wet and muddy. By preparing ahead of time, I may pretend to put up a little fight but really, I’m just watching them have the time of their lives.

Summer Rules - Get Dirty


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Fortnite: The Video Game Craze You Don’t Need To Worry About

If you have a gamer in the house, chances are you’re familiar with “Fortnite”.  It’s taking gaming households by storm.  Fortnite is the new video game craze capturing excitement of kids, and adults, everywhere.

EPIC Games

Fortnite is a survival game that drops 100 players on to an island. You skydive out of a plane… (err…battle bus…my son just corrected me) and are thrown immediately in to survival mode.  Last man standing is the winner.  Although this is a hunger-game type battle to the death, the cartoonish characters and landscape make the game fun and lively.  This game is rated T for teen due to mild violence, but truly this feels more like a paintball game than a bloody battle scene.

Why is Fortnite so fun?

I don’t fully understand it, but I do know I can’t pry my boys off the xbox without a fight or  desperate plea of “After this round?!?! PLEEEAAAASE?!?! There’s only 10 of us left!”.

<insert eye roll and angry-mom-sigh>

Parenting Tip: Rounds can take up to an hour so don’t let those little rugrats drag you in to approving “just one more round” 20 minutes before bed. Let me tell you, I have been known to pull a power cord here and there.


Another piece of the game that gleans giggles from even my toughest teenager: dance moves. So many dance moves. If only my life could garner the same excitement as it did for my children when they discovered the “floss” had been released as a dance option in Fortnite. In fact, a lot of dance moves have been hijacked from our favorite characters and shows. 



As gamers try to survive they will collect weapons, build structures and even work as a team to survive as long as possible.  All the while a “storm shield” inches closer and closer to the middle of the island, forcing players closer together for a battle. And you don’t want to get stuck outside the safe zone because then… you guessed it, you die.



There are a lot of explosions and references to real-life guns and weapons, but no blood.  It’s all fun and games.  There is a fair amount of “taunting” from other players via emotes (aka actions of other players such as slow claps) but nothing terrible — just a little bit of playful banter.

Be aware that like any other online game, your gamers can converse in real life with real people.  These individuals can be added to a friends list or online party. Based on settings and the gaming console (or computer) you are on, anyone can join a “party” which allows real time conversation (like being on the phone together). Be sure to check your privacy settings if this is a concern of yours.


Epic Games

With constant updates and additions to the game (new dances, outfits, etc) your kids won’t be getting bored of Fortnite any time soon.  All in all, it’s just good fun; a strategy game that makes them think and work as a team to survive. My kids even convinced their Grandma to play online with them. Best. Day. Ever.


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6 Vacation Supplies You Shouldn’t Pack

The school year is winding down, and Elsa finally let go of this year’s eternal winter, which can only mean one thing—summer vacation is coming!

Independence Day Summer GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Summer vacation means summer vacationing, but I think we can all agree that packing is the worst part of traveling. Packing for an overnight trip or a week seems to be equally terrible. If you’re a mom, it’s even worse because you’re responsible for packing ALL. THE. PEOPLE.

I recently vacationed with some friends and their kids, and they taught me something that blew my mind. Instead of packing all the nitty gritty vacation supplies that weigh down your suitcase or make it necessary to check (hello, extra baggage fees), they made Amazon do the work for them and shipped stuff directly to their hotel. Genius.

Stacks of Amazon Boxes

The Today’s Mama Editorial Team put their heads together, and came up with six vacation supplies you shouldn’t pack. Instead, you can ship these bad boys directly to your destination. I’ve made it even easier by linking directly to some of our favs. Just click, add to cart, ship directly to your hotel, Airbnb, or relative’s house, and you’re done. At the end of your trip you won’t feel guilty leaving these goods behind. Or you can pack them home if you have room. The choice is yours. The world is your oyster. And I can guarantee this will make your vacation at least 9.7% more enjoyable.


Baby Supplies

For being so tiny, babies require a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff that takes up a lot of room. Don’t waste precious cargo space with diapers, wipes, formula, swim diapers, or pull ups. You will use most of that stuff completely up on your trip anyway. Pack only what you need for your travel time, and ship the rest to your destination.


Beach, Pool, and Other Gear

I’m just thawing out from winter, so I can’t think of a vacation destination that doesn’t involve a beach, pool, or the blazing sun. Pack these things for a trip where the sun shines: Sunscreen spray, face sunscreen stick, and because there’s a 99% chance I will mis-apply sunscreen on myself…after sun gel. You may also want floaties, goggles, sand toys, and a beach bag. If you’re headed somewhere wet, don’t forget the ponchos.


Toiletries and Medicine

This is the stuff I hate packing most of all. It’s all the necessities, and the “just in case” stuff you will inevitably need if it’s not on hand.

Grab a toiletry kit for women or toiletry kit for men to get all of the necessities like shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Or at the very least, send some disposable razors to your destination.

I heard about pre-pasted toothbrushes awhile ago, and they seem perfect for vacation. Use them once and toss them out. No little tubes or bulky toothbrush holders. Grab a 36 count pack or 144 count pack.

You don’t have to pack your entire medicine cabinet, but it is nice to have Infant Tylenol, Children’s Motrin, Zarbee’s Children’s Cough or Baby Cough medicine, Advil travel packs, allergy medicine for adults and for kids, and a first aid kit on hand, depending on what you think you’ll encounter on your trip.


Food and Snacks

Why does everyone want to eat all the time? Don’t they know you’re on vacation too?!?! Sure, it’s great to eat out, but doing that for every meal can get pricey. Stock up on some basic snacks and treats like goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars, or cracker snack packs, or even bottled water. If you’re gluten free, check out these specialty snacks.

If you have space to cook, order your groceries online from Walmart. They will gather your order and even load it in your car. That means you have more time to enjoy your vacation.

Snack GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Kid’s Entertainment

In a perfect world, kids would stay entertained with the vacation itself, but in reality, you may need some tricks up your sleeve. If you think you’ll need to entertain some kids, ship sidewalk chalk, bubbles, crayon and coloring book sets, or activity books like this one or this one, or this fun kit that’s both a craft and a game.


More than Vacation Supplies: Souvenirs, Birthday, and Holiday Gifts

Here’s a pro-tip for you. If you’re headed to Disney, or any other theme park or major attraction, don’t buy your souvenirs at the park. You can save a bundle by getting them on Amazon and having them shipped to you. Things like this Mickey Mouse plush, Minnie Mouse plush, Minnie Mouse headband, Mickey Mouse hat, Disney lanyard, or Disney pins will cost way less when you buy them online instead of at the park.

If you’re vacationing for a child’s birthday, or over Christmas, Easter, or another holiday, Amazon has you covered with toys and games for every age.

That’s our list of ship, don’t pack vacation supplies. Did we miss anything? What would you ship?

(Also, I should probably note that if you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, you should be. There are so many benefits. Sign up today here.)


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It’s Mother’s Day, So Leave Me The Hell Alone

The irony of Mother’s Day is that mothering is the exact last thing I want to do on this one special day of the year dedicated to the moms who give their all to these tiny fart nugget children who are also the pride and joy of our very existence in this life. 

Holla at me if you relate to any of the following: 

I’ve bled for these children, fluctuated 50 lbs a piece for these children, fed these children (FROM MY OWN BOOBS WHICH ARE NOW SAD AND FLAPPY BECAUSE OF IT), lost sleep for these children (so much sleep, remember what it felt like to sleep? ), sprouted varicose veins for these children, gotten stitches in my vagina for these children, spent all of my money on these children, attended so many games and practices for these children where they do nothing but swarm around a ball, or sit in the outfield and stare at the sun. Driven all over kingdom come for these children.

happy mothers day sleep

Worn my heart on the outside of my body for the past 9+ years for these children. 


And yet, the last thing I want to do on this blessed day is to actually be around these children. Like, at all. 

It’s nothing personal, my sweet darlings. It’s just that I want a day. One day, just one where I can 100% check out and the house doesn’t burn down and life goes on and we all wake up the next morning and go back to our old routines.

I need one day to enjoy Netflix to my heart’s delight, to sleep in, to lock the door without small hands sticking underneath or anyone asking me to help them wipe. One day without breaking up a fight, just one. I need one day where Dad handles it all. I don’t want flowers necessarily (although, I wouldn’t say no because flowers are beautiful and delicate, just like me), I don’t even need a gift.

I do want my children to understand that this is a special day just for Mom where we have to leave her alone, OR ELSE, and that they all must make her a card professing their love and appreciation, even if that card just has their name written on it with some half-crooked hearts and something that looks like an orc drawn on there which actually turns out to be a rendering of yours truly.

Whatever, it’s fine. I’ll take it. 

Dads or significant others, do your lady a solid on this Mother’s Day if you’ve still got kids at home (and if they’re gone make sure you remind them to call home because duh, still important): 

  1. Have each child write a card or note to her expressing their love and undying devotion and appreciation and make sure you write her one too.
  2. Let her sleep in
  3. Get her favorite treat and leave it like a peace offering at the bedroom door. Don’t open the door unless she specifically calls for you and invites you into her kingdom, for she is the queen of the day. Or whatever. 
  4. Don’t ask her to do anything. Anything at all. If she comes out of her room don’t make eye contact and just stare at the ground unless she speaks to you directly. 
  5. Don’t ask any questions either, you can figure it out for one single day. 
  6. Prepare or fetch any food for her that she desires. Bonus points for having her favorite treat on hand (*COUGH CHOCOLATE COVERED CINNAMON BEARS).
  7. Let her wake up to a clean house. Do the dishes, don’t leave laundry out, just take care of the kids and all the stuff she does every single day. You can do it. Don’t screw this up. 
  8. Don’t forget to call your own mom and tell her you love her too. She’s important, DO NOT FORGET. 

I recognize that I don’t speak for all moms, but for all moms who are on the same page as me…all we want is one dang day. 

Tomorrow, it’s back to business as usual. 

Happy Mother’s Day! Now leave me the hell alone. 




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Science Says: Stay Bare Down There

Today my son hit a milestone I didn’t think we’d see for several more years: his very first hole-in-the-sock.

My mom laughed as I told her about this monumental moment and said maybe it was time to put some shoes on those little socky feet.

But it turns out, science thinks that maybe I should not only not buy those stupidly expensive slip-ons he’ll “wear” for 3 months before growing out of them but ditch the socks as well.

Did you know that our feet are some of the most sensory-rich parts of our bodies? According to Dr. Kacie Flegal, wearing shoes can inhibit our proprioceptive and vestibular systems which are critical to instinctively learning about our bodies and the space around us, movement, and balance—all extremely important parts of learning to walk. When those sensory systems are blocked by socks and shoes, we’re also blocking neurological pathways that not only help us recognize basic concepts like pressure and texture, but more important functions like emotional control and social interaction.

Pretty sweet!

Many podiatrists encourage going barefoot from an early age whenever possible and safe. I mean, take it easy on the Lego-treading. But definitely try other sensory games for those little piggies, too—like walking through wet grass or a squigging your baby’s toes in a bowl of those weird boba tea balls—and let the neurological pathways light up!

Oh, and don’t forget to bare those soles sometimes too, Mama—apparently we can re-center our brains with a little foot-on-earth action, too.


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How Movies Can Cultivate Character in Your Kids (and Ones That Do It Well)

By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media

Has your kid ever misbehaved like Alvin from the Chipmunks movies? Or mean-girled her friends like the Bratz dolls? Don’t feel bad. Kids pick up all kinds of things from movies. But they can just as easily absorb positive messages. The trick is finding movies that teach the stuff you want your kids to learn. And, if you know a little bit about how kids learn from movies, you can make sure they’ll get the right lessons.

Photo by Steven Libralon on Unsplash

Fortunately, you don’t have to look far for character-building movies. Plenty of popular picks have lessons such as gratitude, humility, and integrity embedded in their story lines. And if you’re concerned that self-absorption, immediate gratification, and lack of empathy seem to be the prevailing characteristics of today’s digital kids, these movies are the perfect solution. (Learn more about using media to promote social-emotional learning.)

It’s important to choose movies that impart lessons designed for your kid’s age and developmental stage. You can reinforce the movies’ ideas by talking about them, asking questions, and sharing your values. These tips can help you spot movies that help kids absorb character-building messages:

Little Kids (age 2–7)

  • Pick simple story lines. Little kids learn best from movies with one main idea that’s central to the plot and supported by the action.
  • Make it obvious. If it were in print, the lesson would be in bold, capitalized, and underlined three times. Little kids need it to be that blatant.
  • Look for human characters. Although animated movies rule the box office, little kids actually learn best when human characters demonstrate the lesson. Think of the 1960 Disney movie Pollyanna, whose lead character was so empathic that her name came to mean “someone who finds the good in everyone.”
  • Try: Dear Dumb DiaryThe Indian in the CupboardVeggieTales: Madame Blueberry

Big Kids (age 8–9)

  • Keep it simple. To learn lessons from movies, elementary school-age kids still need to see the basic cause-and-effect sequence of how a character’s motives are connected to actions and consequences.
  • Find the funny. Kids learn when they laugh. The challenge is finding movies that don’t mock the lesson you want them to learn. Some character traits, such as curiosity, can be dealt with humorously, as in the Curious George series.
  • Forget fables. While movies with an implied (not obviously stated) moral seem obvious to parents, they’re lost on kids (until about age 9).
  • Emphasize the positive. Look for mostly positive examples of the lesson rather than negative examples. If you want kids to learn courage, for example, they need to see attempts at courage and courageous acts being repeated and rewarded throughout the movie.
  • TryThe Tale of the Princess Kaguya, The NeverEnding StoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Tweens and Teens (age 10 and older)

  • Look for relatable characters. Tweens and teens are more engaged when they can see themselves reflected on the screen. Cher, the main character in Clueless, for example, is far from perfect, which is why older kids can relate when she ultimately learns humility.
  • Seek out complexity. Tweens and teens can understand plots and subplots. As kids get older, they enjoy sorting through complex ideas to figure out what a movie is really saying.
  • Dismiss the obvious. Tweens and teens will reject a movie that’s clearly trying to teach them a lesson. They can understand, for example, a loner who learns the value of teamwork (such as Indiana Jones) or that perseverance takes a lot of failing.
  • TryMcFarland USAHe Named Me MalalaBridge of Spies

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The Easiest Way To Limit Screen Time {We’ve found it!}

One of the biggest issues facing parents today is how to limit screen time to healthy, constructive levels. Ever feel like monitoring your kids screen time is a full time job? You feel like a police officer instead of a guidance counselor? It’s can feel overwhelming, time consuming and frustrating. We’ve found a tool to make it easier.

The best tool to limit screen time

Don’t get me wrong. No tool can fix the screen time problem at your house without your participation. As parents we’ve got to tow the line, model the behavior, and have ONGOING talks with our kids about building healthy habits. I wrote a little bit about the guiding principles at our house here:


3 Screen Time Rules My Kids Actually Thanked Me For


The reality is, we can talk all we want about not eating too many cookies, and if we fill all of the cupboards of our house with cookies, avoiding those cookies is going to be a whole lot harder. 


“By designing for laziness, you can stop or reduce a behavior. For example, put bad snacks in garage on shelf that requires a ladder.”

— BJ Fogg


So let’s do a little better. Let’s create digital environments that limit screen time to healthy levels and leave us all happier. 

Designing our physical and digital environments to set us all up for success is KEY! We want our kids to understand “the why” in all of this, and then back them up by setting them up for success . . . guard rails to keep them safe and help them establish good screen time habits while we’ve still got them under our roof.

One of the tools we’ve found that is our very favorite is Circle. It simply takes me out of the role of police officer and let’s me stick with the role of guidance counselor {most of the time}.  Consider Circle your digital assistant screen time manager. 



Our Favorite Tool To Limit Screen Time


Drum roll please . . . Circle!

There are 2 products: Circle Home and Circle Go

What’s the difference? We’ll break it down.  Here’s our Circle With Disney Review:


Circle Home

Circle Home pairs wirelessly with your home Wi-Fi and allows you to manage every device on your network. Using the Circle app, families can create unique profiles for each family member. From here, kids will have a connected experience that is designed just for them.”

The Circle Home is basically your parental control router (that thing that manages your home network). 

That means as a parent I can:

  • Set time limits both on the device and on individual apps and platforms
  • Assign a bedtime
  • Filter the bad stuff
  • Create rewards and incentives
  • Hit pause on the internet
  • Set “offtime” or screen free hours 
  • Track and monitor usage {Like, I can see exactly where my kids are spending time online broken down by app, platform and website}

Even better? I can tweak these settings for every person in our home. My 9 year old has her own profile and my 15 year old has his own profile. Different kids, different settings — ONE place to manage it {insert praise hands}! 

Basically, Circle combines the best features of the apps and services we’ve tried in the past, all in one place.

There was once a drawback . . . in the past Circle really only worked inside my home, when my kids were within the bounds of my wireless router. Now that’s changed. Enter Circle Go!


Circle Go

Circle Go does all that stuff I just outlined above, but now it extends beyond the walls (and wireless network) of my house. Yep – that means that while my kids are hanging out with their friends on a Friday night all those same guard rails are in place {more praise hands}! We think it’s the best parental control app for iPhone and Android. 

“Apps are the new Internet, and managing them wherever your kid goes is a must for parents. Filters and Time Limits apply anywhere and everywhere, even for apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.”

The Circle App connects to both Circle Home and Circle Go and you manage everything from there. 



What devices can connect with Circle / Circle Go?

iOS and Android! You can get a full list HERE

How much does it cost? 

A Circle Home is a one time cost of $99 and Circle Go is $4.99 / month for up to 10 devices.  Worth it? YES. 

How hard is it to install? 

Honestly, so much easier than most of the parental control apps I’ve tried to set up to limit screen time and manage our devices. Set up is simple and the design of the app is intuitive. A degree in tech ninja NOT required. 


Bottom Line

I’m deeply involved in my kids tech habits. I’ve got to be. But I also don’t like feeling like a one woman show, personal screen time tracker, internet timer, living breathing parental control app. Circle simply sets the environment on all the devices to make making good choices easier. 

You’ll still have work to do, you’ve still got to talk to your kids about technology (a lot), you’ve still got to put your phone down yourself, BUT you’ve got help. 



This post is sponsored by Circle with Disney. But guess what? We pitched them – not the other way around.  Our readers are constantly asking how we limit screen time in our homes. We reached out to Circle because they are legitimately our favorite parental controls, screen time management tool out there and we wanted to share. 



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6 Things Every Mom Needs to Remember

My oldest child is heading to college this fall. That translates in mom talk to, “Friends beware. Spontaneous ugly cries may occur.” It also means I’ve gotten a little bit (okay… a lot bit) sentimental. While meandering down memory lane, I remembered two friends of mine. They were both older – one a grandmother with gray hair and dimples. The other an energetic empty nester. Every visit these ladies slipped in some piece of mothering advice before they left. Their perspective changed my perspective of how to raise my kids and I’m so grateful for it. Guess it’s time to pass that good advice on.

Things to Remember…


1. Don’t Stress About Keeping a Clean House.

It’s a phase. You’re not a slob. One day those sticky handprints on the glass are going to make you smile.

happy messy kids

2. Happiness is Not About Stuff.

Name brand clothes, yearly vacations, and presents overflowing under the Christmas tree aren’t necessary. Kids can be happy with a lot less than we think. Never go in debt for a kid’s want. Wanting is a motivating and healthy thing for every child.


3. Date Your Spouse.

Find a babysitter you trust and get out of the house! Weekly if you can. One day the kids will be gone and you need to still like your spouse! Dates can be as simple as going on a walk. Strengthening your marriage will strengthen your whole family.


4. Date Your Kids.

Your kids need time with you too. Not time with you and the baby. Not time with you and their little sister. Just you. Go grab a one-dollar ice cream cone together. That’s enough! Find ten minutes regularly that’s all for them. Doing this with my kids when they were young made them more willing to talk to me about the tough stuff when they were teens.

kids helping make dinner


5. Teach Them How to Help Themselves.

Chores teach hard work. Saving money teaches discipline. Talking face to face with unkind friends teaches bravery. Asking a teacher for help teaches self-reliance. Don’t save your kids when things get hard. Walk beside them and teach them how to save themselves.


6. Praise, Hug, Repeat.

Let the little things go. Praise the good more than you correct the bad. I know I would feel awful if someone only pointed out my mistakes while I was learning something new. Our kids are still learning how to be kind human beings. Be gentle, fun teachers. They’re going to turn out great.

love your children



About the Author

Hey! I’m Jenner –  a mother of four. A Texan. An author. And the wife of a beautifully bald elementary school teacher. I’m a wee bit obsessed with Christmas music and love writing. My writing has appeared in Jack and Jill, Friend, Ensign and Highlights magazines. You can also find it on storybird.com.  Catch me on my blog or follow me on Twitter here: @slushpilestory




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To Spy or Not to Spy: When to Give Kids Privacy

Privacy: what kids want and what parents struggle to give. Tweens and teens especially crave independence and privacy from their parents. If they think their parents are spying on them, they will figure out how to be sneakier and do more stuff behind their parents’ backs. Also, parents who give kids more autonomy and privacy are victimized online less frequently than kids whose parents are more controlling and invasive. So we definitely want to give kids privacy!

But the world is a scary place – what if something bad happens and you aren’t even aware it’s happening? How do you protect them while also giving them the independence and privacy that they deserve and need to become responsible, thriving adults?

How much privacy you give depends on your child’s age and level of responsibility. Start out young, like when they are preteens, with less privacy.

kids privacy rules

So for instance, your 10 year old wants an Instagram account. This is a great opportunity to start getting your child used to what is okay for social media. Let your child know that you will be monitoring her activity and after a weekend of having Instagram, the two of you will review what’s been going on and then create a social media contract. This will give you the chance to see what she does with Instagram and how it could possibly be dangerous or inappropriate – like having a public account and random people liking her photos.

Once you’ve set up those guidelines, continue to monitor her account with your own account. Check out her photos, who is liking them, and what comments people are making. Whenever something weird happens, like maybe there is a comment that you think could be mean, ask her about it.

Then keep the conversation going. Ask her about things you see on Instagram – fun videos she has posted, how to create an Instagram story, has she heard about a recent news story on cyberbullying and why might someone cyberbully someone else? Getting these conversations started early, when you are still monitoring her activity, and she is open to talking with you about these things will make it easier to continue these conversations as she gets older.

Often during these conversations, our own preconceived judgments come out. Maybe you think your child said something mean to someone else. But sometimes, that’s just an adjustment in communication that happens across generations. So instead of accusing her of saying something mean, start the conversation by approaching it from a truly curious perspective. That will help your child feel comfortable talking with you and won’t put her on the defensive every time you talk about social media.

teens privacy guidelines privacy rules

The more your child proves that she is responsible, the less you check in on her – the more privacy you give her. Maybe she can have a SnapChat account. There are still rules that you came up with before in your contract that you continue to develop, but you also give her space to be independent and stop checking to ensure she’s following the rules because she’s already proven how trustworthy she is.

Giving your kids privacy doesn’t mean that you’re not paying attention to their online or in real life lives. You keep that conversation going that you started when they were younger. You ask them about new apps and how they work. You can ask them about their friends. You can ask them about their Instagram account. You can ask about something you heard happening at school and what do they think? Do they ever have trouble with social media? Again, by being truly curious and open to learning from your child, they will feel more comfortable coming to you and telling you what’s going on. Then, when something uncomfortable, risky, or hurtful happens, they will know it is safe to come to you for help. And that is how we keep them safe.


About Fireborn Institute

Fireborn Institute is a non-profit that provides parents with practical and easy-to-remember strategies to help their children in school. Through our lectures, podcasts & handouts, we coach parents on topics such as helping with homework or conquering a messy backpack. Our ultimate goal is to help parents help their kids thrive at school.

About Katherine Firestone

Katherine had a hard time in school because she suffered from undiagnosed ADHD till her junior year of high school. What made her successful during this time was the support system she had around her. After college, she worked as a teacher, and saw that parents wanted to help their kids at home, but didn’t know what to do. She started the Fireborn Institute to give parents ideas on how to help because success at school is enhanced at home. 

She is also the host of The Happy Student, a podcast for parents on promoting happy academic and social lives.  The show provides practical strategies on a variety of topics based on Fireborn’s 4 pillars



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