Family * Travel * Food

What advice would you give to a college freshman?

We knew the day would eventually get here. The day when our first child would go from elementary, middle and high school to college student. Our daughter will be attending the University of South Carolina and has opted to live at home. The incoming freshman class is the largest in the University's history with almost 5,000 students. That's a very large number, but as my husband puts it, "It's not about how many start, but how many actually finish".

Although our daughter is very intelligent and responsible, we still made it a point as parents to offer our guidance and support with her entering the adult world. Life is about to change quite a bit for her. I will no longer be packing her lunch, signing her papers or waiting in the carpool line. She will be doing things on her own. She is off to a great start as far as getting all of her business in order.

This weekend kicks off move-in day and there are various welcome activities for University students. We saw her off as she drove out of the front driveway. I won't lie, my heart sank just a bit. She's an adult and the high school days are over. With that said, this does not mean that rules no longer apply to her. We sat her down and went over our rules and expectations and she was able to voice her opinions on how she felt with everything. We spoke about many things, but here is a rundown of the main points:

  • Driving safety is essential and not negotiable. Yes, you have your own car, but that does not mean you abuse it. You don't get to pick up and go or come in as late as you please. No rides should be given to just anyone. Never let anyone drive your car unless there is an emergency situation that affects your ability to drive. No texting or phone calls while driving. We just require a simple text or phone call to let us know your whereabouts. We pay for the car, insurance, gas and phone so this is not unreasonable. Failure to comply with our simple rules results in your mother dropping you off and picking you up. 
  • Personal safety is another very important matter. Always be aware of your surroundings. Have your mace in hand when walking through the parking garage. Beware of who you associate with. Report anything that you know isn't right by law to campus police. Stay in good physical shape. Eating well and exercise are essential and should be taken seriously. You never know when you have to move quickly out of harm's way! 
  • Not everyone is your friend! With the social media age comes "friendships" formed online. You don't know the real person just by his/her updates, tweets or Instagram pics. Stick with the people you know throughout the first year. Look at students you KNOW who are going into their second or third year for tips and advice that can be helpful. Not all advice is good advice. When in doubt, ask your parents. 
  • Your social media presence is your digital resume. Watch what you post and the types of comments you leave on posts. Future employers scour through all social media sites to dig up what they can about you. Be mindful of that! It takes one suggestive picture to potentially tarnish your good name and even mess up your future. 
  • Always have cash on hand. As easy as it is to use a debit card, it is not always the smartest choice. Around the college, there are dozens of businesses that sell products primarily to college students. With advanced technology in place, stealing your money has become so easy. Anyone can get access to the debit/credit card readers that attach to a smart phone/iPhone. You never know if someone is swiping your card behind your back! You have fewer worries with cash.
  • DO NOT APPLY FOR CREDIT CARDS.  Buying on credit that you can't pay back ruins your financial future. On top of this, opening up several credit cards can hurt your credit, even without spending on credit. Avoiding credit malpractice is not hard, there are plenty of student resources available online that aim to about credit cards. For instance, did you know that your credit status is repairable no matter how ruined it is? It won’t happen overnight though. For now, pay with cash. You can slowly work your way up to establishing credit in a smart and organized way.
  • We are here to help out if there is a NEED. Parties, sporting events and dining out will not be on our dime. 
  • Of course we touched on the drugs, alcohol and sex topic. She hated it, but what can you do?
In the end of our conversation, we stressed how proud we are of her and that we just her to be happy and successful. We let he know that we are always around and are happy to lend our advice and support. Our daughter felt our rules were reasonable and has agreed to comply. Maybe it was the part about having her mother pick her up and drop her off? Hahaha! We feel like she will do well and sets very high standards for herself. 

If you have any advice you would give to a college freshman, what would it be? Do you have any advice for the parents as well? I would love to hear your thoughts! 


Getting prepared for kindergarten

I can't believe the time is closing in on us. William starts kindergarten next month and he is so excited. He does still have some days where he tells me he thinks he will just stay home with me forever and I tell him he has to be a big boy. To say that I have been emotional is an understatement! The whole family has been pitching in to help William get prepared for going to school. Daddy has been working on reading and memory and the girls help with coloring, writing and organization. Together, all of the little things are helping to build William into being more independent and well-prepared for school.
Since William still have some issues with eating certain foods that the average kid would eat, I invested in a hot food jar for his lunch. I ordered all Spider-man themed lunchbox stuff from Amazon . I also ordered a small sized back pack from L.L.Bean with his name embroidered. I received a lot of recommendations about the brand. I love that they never charge you for shipping and stand behind their products 100%.
When William tried his back pack on for the first time, we all thought we were going to cry! I have him pack small items and take it with us each time we go anywhere in the car. I figured since he has not had the need for one before now, he needs practice with it. The same goes with his lunch items. Each day I will pack his lunch and he will get the hang of using his lunchbox and food jar. All we can do is encourage him as much as possible. It will be a big transition for all of us!


Making Laundry FUN!

September 23-29 is National Keep Kids Creative Week. Gain recognizes the importance of National Keep Kids Creative Week and believes that there are ways to make laundry more fun. I am so thrilled to be teaming up with Gain to show you a very simple way to make a sometimes boring chore for a kid, a fun adventure! If you ask my son William what his favorite things are he will quickly tell you, DINOSAURS! He carries around everything from dinosaur flash cards, books, toys and loves his dino apps on the Kindle Fire. It has gotten to the point where he can tell you the names of at least a dozen dinosaurs and fill you in on how big they are and what they like to eat.

I figured that dinosaurs would be a great subject to incorporate into helping out around the house and allowing his creativity to shine. We decided to make a "Dino Adventure" laundry basket. You should have seen the excitement on William's face when we were gathering our craft items for the basket project. I came up with the basic idea but had William do all of the coloring, gluing and helping to hold things to assemble.

We started with some dinosaur template cut-outs that we found online. William chose all of the colors he wanted his dinosaurs to be and enjoyed making dino sounds as he colored. He really got into it! His big sister helped him to cut the dinosaur and dino egg shapes out and glue down them down on construction paper to make them sturdier. We attached simple assorted plastic greenery to our laundry basket to give that jungle feel. Once all the dinosaurs and eggs were completed, we punched holes in them and attached them with bag ties onto the basket in between the greenery. To personalize the laundry basket even more, we made a nameplate so William can be proud to have his very own hamper in his room.

He just loves the fact that this is his very own basket that he helped create. I think it turned out really cute and it was such fun crafting this masterpiece together. He is already asking about what our next project will be!

He is so proud of his special basket.

I have never seen William so eager to help with laundry before. He very happily loaded all of the dirty clothes in the washing machine.

Of course you must have some good old-fashioned shenanigans to make the chore of laundry even more fun! I am sure William is going to show a lot more effort in keeping up with his dirty clothes. Hopefully I will find more of it in the hamper instead of on the floor!

Won't you join Gain in this great initiative? Have your kids decorate a basket and tag Gain on Facebook. It is such fun! Check out the Gain Facebook page for more details on National Keep Kids Creative Week. You can also follow Gain on Twitter. What creative things will you do with your kids or what suggestions can you share that can bring out your child's creativity

I am being compensated by Gain to share the importance of National Keep Kids Creative Week and Gain believes that there are ways to make laundry more fun. All thoughts/opinions are 100% my own.
Shelly, Mom Files

The life of the SAHM

We have less than 2 weeks of the school year left. Time has flown by. The girls have been immersed in studying, exams, SAT's and volleyball conditioning. Of course I am in overdrive as a mom making sure they have all the necessities to make their days go smoothly. I have been spending a lot less time online and a lot more time on the floor playing dinosaurs, camping, blocks and flashcards. I am really working hard at giving little Will the same head start that the girls were given. You really do get to see the big differences between boys and girls! It does seem a little more challenging getting the boy to sit down long enough to learn something new. I think he does better absorbing information as long as he is moving. This sometimes means practicing numbers while doing jumping jacks! Needless to say, I am in great physical shape!
I still go through those days feeling mommy guilt wondering if I am doing enough for the boy. At the end of the day, he displays a lot of what he has learned through his actions. He is listening and paying attention. You better believe if anyone does something they shouldn't be, William will be the first one to let you know that you are not making a good choice. Those are the times that I think he is listening a little too well :)

I already have the Summer calendar prepared and it looks like the kids will be very occupied. I have some family trips I am planning as well. This Summer, we will take day trips or very short trips to close-by cities. No big vacations for us. I just hope that gas prices will continue to decline. I am also getting back into couponing so that we can maximize our cash.

Have you started getting your Summer family calendar set up? Do you have any fun plans?
Shelly, Mom Files

Undoing the damage I have caused

This post has been sitting tucked away in my brain for some time now. Perhaps you can call it out of sight, out of mind. You might even call it denial. I have been slowly suffering inside from guilt. I do the best job I can at being a great mother. So far, I have succeeded and my kids are happy, well-rounded individuals. I do have one secret though. I have over-mothered little William. What does that mean? Well I have ruined this child by doing WAY too much for him. I do EVERYTHING for him. It's such a shame. He is a very well-mannered and sweet child but there is one problem... He can't do a lot for himself because I have him conditioned to me doing it for him.

I am feeling so much anxiety as I type this post. I am so embarrassed by how much the average 2 year old can do for themselves and how pampered my boy is. I don't even make him pull his own underwear up. It has finally hit me that I need to get William in a more independent mode if he is going to start kindergarten in Fall 2013. I never thought I would spoil a child like I have with this last one. I am too ashamed to tell you the extent of how bad it is.

Thankfully I have been able to recognize what I am doing wrong and have made a vow to make it right.

Have you ever encountered this type of situation raising your children? 

Shelly, Mom Files

Being like dad

Every time Dwayne is around William tends to want to hang around him and in some cases imitate his daddy. This can be a great thing and other times... it can be a very bad thing! Thankfully the good outweighs the bad and Will gets to learn a lot of things from his dad. Dwayne has taught him how to cast a line out in the water, catch a fish, take out the trash, throw a football and so many other neat things. I love when he sees his dad reading and wants to do the same. When I see the two of them together I realize how important a father's role is most especially for boys. After all, a boy can only learn how to be a man from a man.
Now some days Will takes his manliness too far. Yesterday I caught him pulling the cushions off the couch and destroying the family room so I asked him why he was doing that. He responds with "Go back in the kitchen and wash the dishes!" I tell you what, he is lucky he is so adorable or else.... Now you know Dwayne was proud and pulled the old "That's my boy!" Men!!!

Shelly, Mom Files

Good manners make moms happy!

Some days William goes into overdrive when it comes to not listening to me, making a mess or being wild. Of course I take into consideration that his is only 3 and is also 122% boy. I let the little things slide with him... maybe it's that sweet smile or that special way that he says "pleeeeeease". One thing I will say that I get all day long from him are the words "thank you". He thanks me for everything... food, bathing him, taking him to the store, giving him his toy, brushing his teeth, getting him dressed... It doesn't matter how small it is, he thanks me. He even takes it the extra mile and requests a hug and kiss. This makes me feel so good to see that he is grateful for everything. It never gets old hearing him thank me and those sweet hugs and kisses are a bonus :)
Shelly, Mom Files

Snack is Fwack

Lately William has shown us what a big boy he is through his language. He never fails to amaze us with the words that come out of his mouth. He can speak in full sentences and manage to throw in some big words here and there. He does have one little problem though. He has trouble pronouncing his "L" and "S" sounds. For instance:
  • snack = fwack
  • snake = fwake
  • sleep = fweep
  • smell = fwell
  • slippers = fwippers
  • smart....I'll let you figure that one out!
It seems to be more of a trend with the sl, sn and sm words. He can say words like sky, sister, sun... I have been working with him to correct it and he gets it sometimes. It is really neat that he can say certain words flawlessly and others more in "baby talk". We are still very proud with how much he has learned and think back to the days that we thought he would never speak. I am hoping in the near future I will have the same memory about potty training!

Did your child have any issues with his/her speech? What did you do about it?
Shelly, Mom Files

Yep, I'm the mean mom

Today marks the first official day of Summer break for the girls. Most of the nicer parents let their kids sleep in as late as they would like. Not this mean mom. I expect both teens to be up no later than 9 AM. I remember the days when Dwayne and I were first married (even right before) when his grandmother was still alive. She would start knocking pots and pans around and also turn up the volume on the TV to wake us up. I will never forget how each and every day she would tell us that young people have no business staying in the bed late. That made no sense to me at the time. She would express how important it was for us to do something, be productive. After all, we were young, healthy and energetic. Why waste it sleeping until noon? I think from listening to her tell us these things for 2 years that it somehow got stuck in my brain. I have the same feelings about young people getting up and getting out early. My kids tell me all the time how their friends get up at 1 in the afternoon! No way, not my kids. Thankfully my girls are pretty good at getting up and at 'em. I do have some days that I give them a free pass to stay in bed longer but for the most part they still get up out of habit. Call me old-fashioned~~ That I am!
Shelly, Mom Files

Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs

If you have been reading Momfiles for some time now, you will know how important it is for our family to understand money. Our girls are doing an outstanding job in the money management department and are very smart shoppers. I received this wonderful book called Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs by Lori Mackey. It came with an audio CD that you can listen along to with the book. It's so cute because the narration is in children's voices. William is a little too young to follow along with the CD so I opted to read it to him instead. He was immediately drawn in from the great illustration. Although he does not have an understanding about the teachings of the book, he will get it over time. Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs explains all of the aspects of money management in a child-friendly way. I was thoroughly impressed with this book and I think it would make an excellent addition to any child's book collection. It would make an excellent gift for birthdays, holidays or as a "just because" gift.

In order for a child to learn about money, they must be taught early on. They will have a greater likelihood of making better decisions about finances when they are adults. You can purchase Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs here. Be sure to check out Prosperity4Kids, Inc. on Facebook and Twitter.

I received a copy of the book to review. All opinions are 100 % mine as always.

Shelly, Mom Files

Fun in the kitchen

On the Saturday before Mother's Day I got all my ingredients to bake up some loaves of pound cake for my neighbors. I used a Jacques Pepin recipe so I just knew it would be perfect. William was acting like a donkey that day. I called him into the kitchen and asked him if he wanted to help me bake a cake. He shot around the corner and back with his step stool in hand.

I had all of the ingredients measured out and ready to go. He enjoyed helping to add things and of course to mix them all up. He smiled the whole time. Sometimes during the day I will take the remote control and change the channel from Nick Jr. to the Cooking Channel or Food Network. William loves to watch Aaron McCargo Jr. and Guy Fieri (they are the only manly man chefs my husband approves of). William always yells out "He's cooking yummy food!!"

Although this photo is not all that great, it still warms my heart to know that my kid loves doing things like this with me. Guess what? The cakes came out delicious but sadly you needed a sip of water or milk after each bite. It would make you feel like you were about to choke. I will not be sharing this recipe with anyone! I was so disappointed that it was not what I was expecting. After all the butter and eggs that went into it I surely knew it would be moist. Nope, not this time. I did have fun with my boy and the girls gladly ate the cake. My ingredients and time did not go to waste :)
Shelly, Mom Files

I am thinking about reusables

William has been potty training for several months now and it has been interesting. He has his good days where he will stay dry all day and even all night. Then he has those days that he just decides he will go in his pants. We have been using Huggies brand Pull-ups training pants. We tried a couple other ones but I like these the best and I find coupons more often for them. I have noticed something odd though. They have the regular ones and the overnight ones. I have found that the overnight ones are a little thicker which makes a lot of sense but they are cut shorter.

The training pants on the left are the regular and the overnight is on the right. If I use the overnight and he has a wet night, he wakes up soaked through to his pajamas. This does not happen when I use the regular ones. That makes no sense at all! I even get a couple less in the overnight pack. I am really thinking about purchasing the reusable trainers since it looks like this little dude will be taking his sweet time. Any suggestions?

Shelly, Mom Files

Parents are the first teachers

Today I am making these sentence strips and other random tidbits as part of William's daily learning activities. He has shown a lot of maturity with his memory and vocabulary so it is time to step things up. I plan to hang some of these in his room so he can read them out loud every morning when he hops out of bed. We did something similar with the girls and I really think it helped.

One very important thing we feel every child needs is to have self-confidence. Why should a child not feel like he or she is the best? I feel like the old school teaching methods I used for the girls were a success so I am doing the same for William. I am still playing with the idea of home schooling him. We shall see!

Shelly, Mom Files

Brainetics Review

I recently received Mike Byster's Brainetics Complete Set for review. My husband actually had his eye on it for a while and really wanted to order it. He is big on anything that has to do with brain power. My 14 year old daughter Briahnna was immediately intrigued by this system and volunteered to test it out.
Here is what Briahnna had to say:

It was easy to use because the playbook went right along with the DVD and the shortcuts and tricks really worked. They made the problems easier. I can totally see this helping make math a bit easier at school. I completed the first workbook that was a bit random but as long as you followed the directions you could figure it out. I think the 9-99 age range that it recommends on the box is correct. I think I prefer to do this by myself but the instructions says you can do it with other people. I can't even figure out how the person who created this system came up with it! It's pretty cool and I would recommend this for other people.

For more information on how this system works or to purchase Brainetics, check out the website here.

I received a Brainetics system for review purposes. All opinions are 100% mine as always.

Shelly, Mom Files

My tribute to working moms

I read about it all the time~ the moms who work full-time jobs and have to come home to laundry, bills, cooking, cleaning...oh yeah and being a mom! You are exhausted from the work day but still you make sure your little ones are fed, bathed, read to and just loved. If your child has a doctor's appointment you put in for a few hours off to take care of it. If you get called at work that your kid is in the nurse's office with a fever, you hop into your mom taxi and whisk them up and make sure you do all you can to cure what ails them. Some of you who blog have obligations to PR firms and have a mountain of posts to publish each night. You somehow manage to get through them even if it means you might get 4 hours of sleep. Some moms are still taking college classes, trying to get to the next level. There are classes, homework and exhaustion yet you persevere. You get that degree. Some of you are doing this alone [without a husband]. You sacrifice everything for the sake of your children. I am in awe of the working mothers who "do it all". You are the ones that wear the cape to me. You are all my hero!
Shelly, Mom Files

And why should kids pay attention?

I took this photo yesterday after seeing an adult ditch their shopping cart next to the cart return area. My guess is that it would have taken an additional 8 seconds to have successfully put it up in the right place. Behavior like this astonishes me. It's lazy and inconsiderate. This person had an older child with her. I guess that child will learn that doing things like this is okay. I know that this is a little thing but children learn from little things. It's our job as adults to be a good example!
These same "parents" are the first ones to try to start a fight with teachers when they hear their child is not listening or following directions in class. Sorry, I just had to vent my frustrations~ Thanks for listening, I feel better now!
Shelly, Mom Files

Run your family like a business

Our family schedules a family meeting once per month. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss everything that pertains to our household including short and long-term goals, finances, as well as needs for each person. These meetings are a forum for each family member to voice their concerns on anything and everything. Each person takes a turn to speak on a particular section of our list. These things include: A recap of the last month, personal goals and family goals for the next month/next quarter, also if you need something (supplies, haircuts etc..). I am the note keeper for the meetings and I type up the "minutes" just as any business or committee would do. At the beginning of the next meeting each person will receive a copy of these minutes almost as a road map for that meeting. These meetings have really kept us on track as a family and is essential to our growth. Now don't get me wrong, there are some months that we have to cancel or reschedule a meeting and we really get thrown off. We do our best to catch back up and take it from there. We really try to run our family like a business so that we can teach our children the importance of communication within their family. I know that the girls get so disgusted and bored with it but at least they know they are a part of a caring family unit.

Do you have any type of family meeting in your household?
Shelly, Mom Files

I know I can't be the only one

So, we are in potty training mode with Will. He has not shown signs of readiness although he does go pee pee in the potty when you tell him to. He still wets his diaper during a nap and saturates it at night. I stop giving him anything in liquid form by about 5:00 and he still soaks a diaper overnight. I swear the kid is a pee pee machine. He is not a big drinker either. So what do I do? Am I pushing potty training to early? I don't even think Will can comprehend when he needs to go to the potty. He turns 3 at the end of March and I feel like such a loser mom. Please tell me that someone else has gone through this. I try not to always go with the theory that boys are harder or take longer than girls but it is really looking that way. Help please...
Shelly, Mom Files

Why I refuse to give my kids everything

I was talking to an old friend a couple days ago and the first thing she asks me was how our holiday was. Next question she asks is if the kids got a lot of stuff for Christmas. I told her no. She was puzzled and could not understand why. I told her that I refuse to stress myself out to buy a bunch of things for my kids just for them to have a lot to open on Christmas. I explained that there is indeed life after Christmas. She then goes on and on about all the fancy gifts her young child got as well as how much she and her family members got. Big freakin' deal. Can I afford to buy a bunch of things for my kids? YES. I just won't because these same kids will eventually be adults and will eventually get married and have their own kids. I will not do a disservice to my kids by giving them everything they want. I had plenty as a child and when I was on the streets at 17 (by choice) I did not know how to survive. I was clueless and broken. I had to learn to grow up very fast. I also had to learn that things would not be given to me, I had to make a living. I suffered greatly--walking to where I had to get to, learning to catch the bus, being approached by pimps and strip club promoters, not eating some days because I could not afford it, not having many clothes besides the 3 outfits I left home with. The spoiled girl who grew up like a princess in her designer duds got a rude awakening called "real life". Real life kicked my ass hard.

Even when I got married and we had the girls we still struggled. We had no help from anyone, it was just us. We did not have our own home, no car and Dwayne would work 2-3 jobs at a time so we could buy diapers and eat. We did whatever we had to for our family. We persevered and eventually were in a position to buy a home and really get established. It was a hard road but we have all that we need and then some. My kids don't have an iPod touch but never complain about their $30 mp3 player. They actually laugh at their friends who brag about their brand name stuff and what they paid. One of Brie's friends got some UGG boots for $150. Brie was bragging about her Aeropostale boots that were on sale for $25 and the fact that she was able to get 2 pairs. You see, my kids know the value of the dollar. They know how to spend smart as well as save. They both got a large amount of cash from Dwayne's parents for Christmas to buy whatever they wanted for themselves. The first thing they said to each grandparent was "Are you sure? This is so much money!" I took the girls shopping and they were very selective about what they were willing to spend on. They hit the clearance racks and got a ton of stuff at deep discounts. As a matter of fact they both still have a big bulk of that money left over. I can only hope that they will always be this smart and pass it on to their own children. I am very passionate about raising well-rounded children who know how to make decisions. I want to be able to let them go out into the world and know that they will do just fine. Real talk people.

Shelly, Mom Files
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