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Friday, September 19, 2014

Middle School Makeover Part 2! #bookclub #TMN #MiddleSchoolMakeover #Parenting #TeenBrain

Middle School Makeover: Chapter Two!

Michelle uses this chapter to emphasize that kids of middle school age think differently, and shows us how this information can help us empathize and understand their thinking process. 

One very interesting and enlightening fact is that at ages 11 and 14 (girls and boys respectively) brains are about half developed, biologically speaking. The prefrontal cortex—which controls critical thinking, decision making, and impulse control—is not working to full capacity at this point, leaving teens ruled by their emotions. Michelle suggests being sympathetic for this weakness and assisting rather than criticizing for it, the same way you wouldn’t berate a toddler for not having strong leg muscles and falling down from time to time.

Ways to help your teen with this include being what Michelle describes as their “assistant manager” and helping them compensate for what their brain is lacking. She suggests ways to do this, similar to the actions of a good leader. These can be found on page 26, but to recap a few: give consistent feedback, set clear expectations, communicate clearly for something well done, give constructive criticism, respect personal life, encourage risk taking to grow, provide new opportunities, and enjoy their role. However, this does not mean giving up stern rules on all issues. “[Y]ou should absolutely set limits on middle schoolers. Make them go to bed at a reasonable hour, make them do chores, and make them spend time with your family. Set your hard limits but pick your battles wisely” (page 29). 

Another fun fact: “Twice in our lives, the temporal lobe purges information it deems unnecessary so it can make room for new information, roughly ages two and eleven” (page 32). For the reason, Michelle expresses the importance of practice and repetition for your teen to develop a skill to carry with him/her throughout their teen years and life. She suggests role-playing through tough scenarios and practicing good skills with them to ensure their proficiency. 

Some thoughts for discussion:

Have you experienced situations where you could tell your teen wasn’t thinking rationally, proving their “manager” frontal cortex wasn’t fully developed?

Do you have any success stories being an “assistant manager” for your teen and constructively guiding them without necessarily setting harsh limits?

What boundaries are important for you to set for your teen? (Bed times, curfew, chores, family time?) How do you enforce these boundaries?

Michelle discusses using “Botox Brow”, a neutral expression, while listening or speaking with your child to keep communication lines open and prevent a situation from escalating. Have you had success with this? Would it work for you and your teen?

How else could you encourage critical thinking for your teen while their prefrontal cortex is on “vacation”?

Interested in learning more about the development of the teen brain? Check out these links!:
PBS: In "Inside the Teenage Brain," FRONTLINE chronicles how scientists are exploring the recesses of the brain and finding some new explanations for why adolescents behave the way they do. These discoveries could change the way we parent, teach, or perhaps even understand our teenagers.
Or for an enlightening TED talk by a social brain researcher:

Stop by next week and we’ll go over chapter three which explains why middle schoolers prefrontal cortex needs to take a vacation during this time anyway. Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Building A Better Student Series: Circles From The Air #education #knowledge #goodread

Circles From The Air

By Dom Testa

The flight from Austin to Denver was routine. We pulled away from the gate right on time, the guy next to me had already drifted off to sleep with his ear buds snugly tucked, and I settled in with a million-page Michener novel. (Is that redundant?)

After so many years of choosing window seats, the view from 37,000 feet was familiar and strangely comforting. The lakes, the highways, the shadows caused by stray clouds, 

the thousands of circles . . .

Those circles. Have you noticed them? The endless patchwork, dotting the landscape? Have you ever turned to the person next to you and said, “What’s up with the circles?” (Note: If the person is asleep with ear buds jammed into his head, don’t do this.)

Funny, but I've never remembered to investigate this question after touching down and retrieving my carry-on bag from the overhead compartment - whose contents may have shifted during the flight. And then on the next flight I’ll find myself peering through the acrylic pane again and wondering.

This time, however, I made a note on my phone: Circles from the air.

Turns out that it’s not the most exciting answer - sorry, no aliens - but at least I’ll know it for the rest of my life, which will be helpful in case I’m ever the guy in the middle seat. It also made me realize something else.

(First, the simple answer. The plethora of circles are the result of something known as center-pivot irrigation, or sometimes simply called circle irrigation. It’s a form of crop watering that allegedly works better and conserves natural resources. Long tubes roll on wheels around a center pump, creating round crops and . . . well, that’s enough about that.)

Here’s what popped into my head after reading up on this farming technique: If I was a four-year-old, I’d pester the hell out of my parents until they explained what those circles were. Four-year-olds ask WHY - along with other questions - something like 250 times a day.

A day!

In fact, we’re at our most curious at age four. After that, apparently, we pick up on the fact that mom and dad are mentally exhausted and we clam up.

But curiosity is vitally important. It’s true that we live in an age where information is so readily available (not all of it accurate, of course) that we’re almost numb to it.

We swim in a sea of minutiae, and I wonder if that diminishes our natural interest in learning. Sadly, I know how many yards rushing my favorite team had in a silly pre-season game, but I’d never bothered to find out about something that actually feeds me on a daily basis. I’d stopped asking WHY?

Perhaps you can extend the lifespan of your child’s curiosity. I know we get cranky after Question #214 - that’s usually around 5:45PM - but we should suck it up and remember what a great gift it is. We WANT curious children; shutting them down means a population of mental zombies who aren’t engaged beyond 140 characters or mindless YouTube stunts.

My pursuit of circle knowledge took two minutes. The greater awareness, though, will help me for years. Are you on board?

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty-four years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit student-development foundation. His new book, Smart Is Cool, is now available. More info at

Friday, September 12, 2014

Breakfast On The Go: Friday Foodie Smoothie PB & J #foodie

PB&J Protein Smoothie 

photo and recipe credit 


1 scoop vanilla protein (of your choice) powder
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp all-natural low-sugar strawberry preserves
¾ cup Silk® unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp stevia
14 ice cubes

You can add frozen fruit or honey to this also, I do and it is wonderful.
Place in a blender together and blend together to your desired consistency, enjoy! The protein will hold you thru the day well into lunchtime and give you the energy to tackle your day. A perfect smoothie for the kids in the morning before school.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Middle School Makeover Part 1: Introduction and Foundation! #bookclub #middleschoolmakeover #parenting #teens

In this section, Michelle Icard breaks down her goals and basic set up for her book. She says the “middle school makeover is about improving the way we think about the middle school years. What if, instead of dreading middle school, we got excited about it?” (p 11). Her idea is to not let your own experiences with middle school spoil how you might talk about it with your child. 

This is an important stage in your child’s life because, “our experience in middle school sets the foundation for what we believe about ourselves in high school and beyond” (p 19). It is the time when one starts developing their own individual identity apart from their parents. On page 12 Michelle suggests using positive words such as “opportunity” and “exciting” to encourage a more optimistic view of this part of their adolescence.

Plainly summarized: “Our middle school makeover begins with shedding any negative thoughts you still carry around from your own experiences and preparing to support your child’s independent experience, by being enthusiastic and hopeful about this new phase in your kid’s life” (p 19).

Discussion Questions:

How did your parents speak with you about middle school? Did that affect how you went in to the experience?

Have you tried or had any success with using positive words to encourage enthusiasm toward middle school?

What are your concerns/fears going in to this next stage with your child?

Please comment to share any personal thoughts/experiences or reactions to Michelle’s middle school story!

Also, if you’re looking for a fun activity, check out this quick middle school maze game to take you back to the good ole’ days! 

Never Forgetting September 11,2001 #9/11 #America

We will not forget those who lost their lives, the families that still mourn and the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price fighting for our freedoms as Americans.

Because Her Heart Is Tender
A Poem by
Michael R. Burch

for Bethclr gif

She scrawled soft words in soap: “Never Forget,”
Dove-white on her car’s window, and the wren,
because her heart is tender, might regret
it called the sun to wake her.
As I slept,
she heard lost names recounted, one by one.

She wrote in sidewalk chalk: “Never Forget,”
and kept her heart’s own counsel.
No rain swept
away those words, no tear leaves them undone.

Because her heart is tender with regret,
bruised by razed towers’ glass and steel and stone
that shatter on and on and on and on…
she stitches in damp linen: “NEVER FORGET,”
and listens to her heart’s emphatic song.

The wren might tilt its head and sing along
because its heart once understood regret
when fledglings fell beyond, beyond, beyond
its reach, and still the boot-heeled world strode on.

She writes in adamant: “NEVER FORGET”
because her heart is tender with regret..

Keep the candle burning for years to come.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Middle School Makeover Book Club!

Alright Moms! I am happy to announce that it’s time to officially kick off our Middle School Makeover book club! With all of the great advice and information Michelle Icard has provided in her book PLUS responses and thoughts from our network of Moms, we hope to generate a great space for learning and discussing the trials and successes of raising middle schoolers. If you haven’t yet, there is still time to acquire a copy of the book and take part in the fun.

Here’s how this will work: every Thursday I will be posting discussion questions, supplemental information, and other fun things relating to the reading for that week.

Here’s how you can participate: check back with our blog weekly and share all of your thoughts, comments, experiences and reactions. This is your club and we want to hear what you think!

Here’s our reading schedule:

Thursday, September 11: Introduction and Chapter 1 (pages 1-20)
Thursday, September 18: Chapter 2 (pages 21-36)
Thursday, September 25: Chapter 3 (pages 37-49)
Thursday, October 2: Chapter 4 (pages 50-62)
Thursday, October 9: Chapter 5 (pages 63-81)
Thursday, October 16: Social Media and Sex talks (pages 82-95)
Thursday, October 23: Friends, Fights, and Bullies (pages 97-114)
Thursday, October 30: Fashion, Trouble, and Cell Phones (pages 115-130)
Thursday, November 6: Dating and Independence (pages 131-150)
Thursday, November 13: Finishing Touches (pages 151-174)

We also hope to include some live chat sessions, stay tuned for those dates as we get further into the book. On behalf of The Mommies Network, Welcome to the book club!

Tera~~ Book Club Hostess

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Calling All Middle School Mamas! #bookclub #goodreads

Calling All Middle School Mamas

Is your middle schooler ready to join social media sites? What about handling a teenager’s questions about sex? How can you help your child navigate bullies, cliques, dating, and school—all while helping them grow into the confident, successful young adult you know they can be?

Michelle Icard offers creative and constructive advice for navigating through these tough times in her book Middle School Makeover:
Between funny yet informative stories and scientific facts about the changes a teen brain is undergoing, she imparts priceless wisdom on how to make the middle school experience the best it can be for both you and your child!

The Mommies Network is super excited to host  a book club in partnership with Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover. This is a great program/book for middle schoolers and parents of middle schoolers to try to strengthen the bond between parent and child and help each understand the types of challenges they will be facing in the middle school years. We are really excited to be working with Michelle and hope that this will give some of our moms of “older children” something to get excited about! 

Here on the TMN blog will be central location for posts and comments about the book club, stay tuned each Thursday for new posts and information from "Tera" your book club hostess. 

You can follow Michelle via social networks, her Amazon page , Goodreads and here via the book club as she will be join us for commenting. 

Order your book via Amazon in paperback, audible book and Kindle formats today! (contains affiliate links)


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Contains affiliate links that help support our network.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014



By Jennifer Lutz
Guest Blogger

A garage sale is perfect when moving out or simply de-cluttering your home. Instead of leaving them behind or throwing them out, make a quick buck and put them up for sale. Here are six simple steps to a successful and stress-free garage sale.

1. Gather your inventory

You don't have to do this all at once - it can even be a 6-month to year-long task. The easiest way is to have a box where you can periodically toss in a few things. Every time you clean up and find something that you want to get rid of, just add it to the box.

Once you have enough items to sell, go through them to check if they're still usable. If they're broken, make sure they can easily be fixed. You might also want to ask your family first before including their things to the pile. They might want to keep their old hammers and teddy bears for a while longer.

2. Plan ahead

Planning is key to a successful garage sale. This includes location, pricing, display, and advertising.


Choose a place that will attract a lot of buyers. If your house is next to a busy street, there are more chances of people stopping by. If you don't have the space, ask friends and family if they're open to hosting it on their property. They may even want to put up some of their own stuff for sale. More items at your garage sale could mean more potential customers.

In some areas, you may need a permit before you can hold a garage sale. Make sure to check with your local government first before sticking those flyers all over the neighborhood!


Schedule the event when you can get the most buyers. A sunny day is perfect, so check the weather forecast in advance to make sure that it won't rain. Weekends are also great because people are not rushing off to their jobs.

Most yard sales run as early as 7am then slowly dwindle down during lunch time. If you follow this schedule, you'll have enough time to sell your items and clean up afterwards.

The Display

Your display should be organized and the layout easy to navigate. People who just happen to drive or walk by are more inclined to take a look if your items are displayed nicely. The trick is to group similar items together. Place all your glassware and kitchen tools on one table, baby stuff and children's toys in another, and then books and old CDs in a neat stack on a third table.

If you're selling clothes, it's better to use garment racks and hangers instead of dumping them in a box. This makes it easier for potential buyers to browse, rather than rummaging through them. If you don't mind constantly re-folding clothes after people check the size, then a table works just as well.

3. Pricing

Pricing may be the most difficult part of a garage sale. It can be due to sentimental reasons or the original price you paid for the item. A good rule to follow is to think like a buyer. Would you pay $15 for an old table lamp? How about $25 for a hardbound encyclopedia set?

Another tip is to visit other yard sales to see how sellers price their items. If people are buying, then that's a good indication. This should give you an idea on how much people are willing to pay for second-hand stuff.

4. Put a price tag on everything

Much like when shopping in a store, it's more convenient to see the prices up front. Buyers immediately see how much they need to pay and don't need to approach you all the time. This means less work for you, giving you more time to focus on the sale. Remember that some people are shy about asking for prices and you could lose a sale if your items aren't marked.

Get cheap price stickers from dollar stores and place them in areas they're easily seen. You can also display all the items with the same price on one table and put the price on one big sign. For big items, such as a television or a couch, make the price tag as big and visible as possible.

5. Advertise

To gain plenty of buyers, you need to advertise. Create posters and flyers containing all the details in big, bold letters. Post them on the community bulletin board, coffee shops, and the deli store around the corner. If you're on Facebook, make an event page and invite all your friends. You can also use Twitter for more publicity.

6. Keep supplies on hand

Before the big day, make sure you have enough supplies to minimize running back and forth between your house and garage.

  • Plenty of loose change
  • Plastic grocery bags for sold items
  • Old newspapers to wrap breakable or delicate items with
  • Batteries and extension cords for testing electronics

A garage sale is not only a great way to de-clutter your home and make money, it also gives you the chance to get to know your neighbors. Remember that even a well-planned event can have a few glitches, so just enjoy the day.

Jennifer Lutz writes for Aside from the Jennifer's wealth of home organization and de-cluttering knowledge, she is also an expert in d├ęcor. Check out her post on summertime design here:

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