Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Back to School Frenzy: Why we Need a Bro Code for Moms #BackToSchool (PART 2 of 2)

He doesn’t see the competitive chaos that has crept in everywhere. Lining up the tutors, coaches, instructors, and activities is the baseline. Then I hear about all the skills training and amazing adventures all the other kids had. Shoot! I should have skipped the relatives and sent my child to an academic boot camp or a total immersion language program. I start to second-guess myself. Am I doing enough?

I already have a pile of back-to-school nights on the calendar. 

The back-to-school frenzy is one place a mom’s code would help. I will illustrate with a few true scenarios.

The mom who asks at the sixth grade session, “What can be done to accommodate my child who studied math at John Hopkins and should really be working above grade level?” makes us cringe. As my friend Lanie says, “I wish someone would sew her mouth shut.”

Or the mom at the seventh grade session who says, “I think exceptions should be made for some children to take Latin and another language. Latin will help on the standardized tests, but it’s a dead language so the brightest kids should take two languages.” I think she believes we live in the Netherlands where every eleven year old should speak at least three languages. Then again, being able to talk in a dead language to zombies and vampires might come in useful. I’m joking. Comments like these add too much pressure and ‘schedule panic’ to the laid back ‘meet and greet’ atmosphere the teacher is struggling to create. Please reserve this for a one-on-one with the teacher. 

Or, one of my favorites, at the fourth grade open house, all the good field trips are filled up before the back-to-school event starts and the guilty parents run to the bathroom as the other parents, who are first in line, start to point fingers. Add on pick-ups and drop-offs rules that are never followed by some parents who think they have more rights than the rest of us. Every year there is a mass of chaos. I think the school should designate a ‘for special people only’ line as this is one line people would want to be seen in. There should be some line, somewhere that moms feel embarrassed to cross.

School hasn’t even begun and the voice classes are full. The same is true for drama and dance. My kids sometimes change their mind about what sports or activities they want to sign up for, but by then there are no spaces left! Things filled up months ago. How I can execute my strategic mommy agenda when my little monsters keep weighing in and asserting their strong wills against my overscheduling and worry?

My kids aren’t worried about a lack of college prep or making a sports team at school. Or advancing a level in piano or starring in the school show. Or securing the best tutor. I worry that they are not worried about the right things. But deep down inside I know they are worried about the right things (like humongous kicking giraffes and clowns) and I need to step back out of the competitive chaos and keep some perspective.

I will participate to some extent because some of it is okay. But we need a few ground rules. I’m hungry and sleep deprived and don’t have time for the competitive nonsense. Or else I’m going to buckle and eat a bowl of brownie batter. And I’m only one day into my diet.

It’s time we admitted that we need a Bro Code for Moms. The Mom’s Code.

Eileen Wacker, a Harvard Business School graduate, lived and worked in seven different countries, including the United States. She commuted to Asia for nearly three years as part of a business development team, which sparked her interest in Asian culture, then lived in Seoul Korea for four years. Wacker now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii, with her husband and four children, one of whom is a daughter adopted from China. She wrote the Mom’s Code, which includes over 100 stories from women around the globe about raising kids in today’s challenging arena. She is also a passionate and involved advocate for children’s literacy. For more information please visit her new website:

The Back to School Frenzy: Why we Need a Bro Code for Moms #BackToSchool (PART 1 of 2)

I just pulled an all-nighter. Not a partying all-nighter with friends, but a night spent staring at the ceiling with a giant ‘to-do’ list looping through my head. Eyes wide open, trapped in my worry vortex. It’s back-to-school season and I’m exhausted and frazzled.

On one hand, having my four kids back with their friends at school will be blissful. We’ve had lots of together time, traveling to the East Coast to see family and friends, sleeping in princess beds and doing laundry on the fly. Stressful travel and time changes threw a few moments of suffering our way, but it was worth all the fuss to catch up and reconnect.

My kids miss socializing with their friends when they are on a long break. When I drop the last kid off at the school curb, I celebrate. I can finally get some work done. I can have lunch with a friend and eat food that I want to eat. I can start to work out again. All the fast food, ice creams, meals out and barbeques add up. Building childhood memories is fattening and I need to lose weight. But when I’m really hungry, I lose patience more easily and end up yelling at my kids.

I’ve spent the last week getting school supplies and making sure they have the right clothes for the school dress code, PE, and sports. I was taking my daughters back-to-school clothes shopping today. They are pretty fun to shop with if they get to pick out their own clothes. My oldest daughter said, “Can I ask you a question?” She had already asked me about 167 questions and I was sure I’d been asked over 300 questions from the four kids combined. “Can Asheley sleep over? Can you pick her up? Her mom works. Can I meet some friends at the movies tomorrow and go to the beach if there is no hurricane? Can we get pesto sauce so I can make pasta to bring the first day?” She doesn’t wait for answers. I want her to enjoy her last moments before school, but her proposed agenda times four kids makes me start to clutch the wheel and sweat. Her sister wants her friend to come over for two days of swimming, Dave and Busters and hide and seek. My son is all-in on bowling and reminding me that he is absolutely the only eighth grader in his school or on this planet for that matter who is not allowed to see rated ‘R’ movies. My other son’s club basketball started and there is practice or a game every day in all different parts of the city.
My kids claim I force them to go to summer school, tennis, running and basketball camps and National Geographic expeditions. They insinuate I stole their summer and owe them these last moments of fun. I want to yell, “It’s for your own good and I had to pay for it and get you there with the thousand pounds of gear you needed!” But I have to remain the bigger person, at least until I get them to the school gates.

Thank goodness for my mom friends. We all have slightly different versions of the same stories. We get together and we vent. This is the cleanse diet for stress. I can’t really vent to my husband or he gets out some random power tool ready to fix something, or makes the colossal mistake of saying, “You always overschedule them. You need to cut this out.”

Click here for Part 2

Eileen Wacker, a Harvard Business School graduate, lived and worked in seven different countries, including the United States. She commuted to Asia for nearly three years as part of a business development team, which sparked her interest in Asian culture, then lived in Seoul Korea for four years. Wacker now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii, with her husband and four children, one of whom is a daughter adopted from China. She wrote the Mom’s Code, which includes over 100 stories from women around the globe about raising kids in today’s challenging arena. She is also a passionate and involved advocate for children’s literacy. For more information please visit her new website:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to Make Back to School Fun For Everyone

As it does every year, the summer has flown by and it is already time for kids to be going back to school. Although the summer months coming to a close is always disappointing, for many parents sending their kids back to school is not quite as bittersweet! What can be chaotic, however, is making that transition from a summer routine back into a school routine. 
For children, the end of summer can be a sad time and for those who are nervous about going to school, it can also be quite anxiety provoking. However, there are some ways that parents can ease anxiety and keep the fun going even as the summer winds down. Keeping kids positive and happy about the start of school makes the transition from a summer routine easier for everyone involved. 

Mommy Blogger and writer for MadameNoire, Tanvier Peart, gives some of her best advice for how parents can make the most of the end of summer and get their kids back on track for school. 

1. Make back to school shopping an exciting event
Finding new clothes and checking off all the supplies on their seemingly endless school supplies list can be a hassle and sometimes end up as a source of stress if the kids are not enthused about the trip. By trying to make it a really exciting event that signifies back to school and getting new stuff, it will pump kids up and most likely make them more pleasant shopping companions- and make the expedition run a lot more smoothly in general. 

2. Talk up their grade
Making the grade your child is about to go into sound really cool and exciting will most likely ease some of the anxiety or dread of the upcoming first day of school and make kids proud to be getting older and moving up in school. 

3. Host an end of summer bash or cookout
Ending the summer with a really fun neighborhood get together or cookout with family and friends will give the whole family something to look forward to and make the last bit of summer really count. 
In addition to a cookout, host a family game night or camp out in the backyard. 

4. Create a stylish homework station
Every student, from kindergarteners to high schoolers, need a quiet space to do their homework every day after school- so use this time to find the best spot in the house to dub the homework station, whether it is in the child’s room, an office, or a corner in the kitchen. Then, make it fun by decorating the station and adding some stylish supplies. Have the kids help you to get them more excited too and make homework as fun as homework can be!

5. Create a fall activities calendar 
For kids who are really bummed about the end of summer, it is important to remind them that just because summer is ending doesn’t mean that the fun stops. Create a fall activities list or calendar to show kids all the fun activities there are to do in the fall, even when they’ve gone back to school. This list might help to ease your end-of-summer-blues, as well! 

Parents! Let us know: How do you make back to school time fun for your kids? 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Friday, July 31, 2015

Starting the Transition Into A Back-to-School Routine

Although its only the last day of July, getting the kids into a back to school routine can be an ordeal that takes several weeks. To minimize some of the stress and chaos that the end of summer can bring, it is often better to slowly ease back into the school routine bit by bit. The adjustment is easier for everyone involved (parents included) when the changes begin early on. 

One of the best parts about summer (besides the weather of course!) are the unstructured days and the freedom from a rigid routine. However, that is also one of the parts that children struggle the most with when its time for school again. To remedy this issue, parents can use the few weeks (or even month) leading up to school to re-introduce some structure into their days. For example, if homework time is at 4pm during the school year, organize mandatory reading or learning time for 4pm every day. Meal times also often become less structured during the summer, so use this time to get dinner back on a normal school year schedule. 
A second important way parents can prepare children for back to school is by starting to reel in the late nights. If children have a relax bedtime or a bedtime that changes during the summer, use August as an opportunity to start moving the bedtime clock forward. Start having the kids get ready for bed or be in bed reading by a certain time, even if its just 15 minutes earlier than usual. Then, slowly week-by-week make the bedtime earlier and earlier until kids are back to their school year bedtime. 

In addition to earlier bedtimes, start waking kids up a little earlier in the mornings too. Children get used to sleeping in as late as they want during the summer (and for those with teens that can be very late) and so waking up early for school can be a shock to their system. Help children adjust by slowly waking them up a little earlier in the morning each week before school, so by the time school rolls around their bodies will be more adjusted. This is also better for you because it will save you from having to deal with some seriously cranky children on the first day back to school!

Parents, we want to know your thoughts! What strategies do you use to prepare your kids for the back to school routine?

Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Strategies For Surviving a Family Road Trip

The end of July and August are the most popular times of the year for parents to take time off from work and go on a vacation with their family. However, this doesn’t mean that every family will be flying to their destinations (which opens up a host of its own challenges)- but for many families, this means a road trip. Perhaps road trips were fun and exciting when you were 22 and going with all your friends, but some parents would call a road trip with all your children in a packed car something out of a horror movie. 

No matter what, the road trip probably won’t be an experience you would call amazingly fun and exciting or something you’ll want to do again right away, but there are strategies you can take to ease some of the stress and chaos and make the trip at least bearable. Some of these strategies involve planning and completion ahead of time, and the others are for when the road trip is in progress. 

For the days leading up to the road trip:

1. Check the weather
Bad weather can make a road trip extra stressful, even without kids, so put a car full of kids and bad weather together and you’ve got yourself a nightmare road trip. At the beginning of the week be sure to check the weather forecast and see how the weather is going to be on the day of your trip. If it is going to pour, leave a day earlier or leave the day after you planned because, I promise, it is not worth it to drive through a storm in order to be there on schedule. 

2. Pack a cooler of easy to eat and not too messy snacks
Emphasis on the not too messy part! Having a cooler filled with snacks and refreshments will keep kids from wanting to make unnecessary stops or continuously whining that they are hungry. And they are there for when you get hungry too! Great road trip snacks include goldfish, apple slices, cheese, and juice boxes. 

3. Perfect your “you better stop doing what you’re doing” face 
Having the ability to communicate your expectations with a single look is an art that seems to be perfected by mothers. This skill becomes extra important when you’re up in the passenger seat or driving and can’t take your eyes off the road for longer than a split second- or when you just don’t have the energy to yell or lecture. Bonus points for being able to do it in the rearview mirror!

4. Charge all electronics
This one is super important because if the technology and entertainment dies and the children are bored- you’ll be the one paying for it! The night before the road trip, make sure that all portable DVD players, kindles, iPads, cell phones, ect are plugged in and charging.

5. Make sure headphones are packed 
Not only make sure some headphones are packed, make sure enough headphones for each child are packed because, trust me, you do not want the kids fighting over who gets to use them. Forgetting headphones would also mean that you have to listen to their movies or music the whole ride too instead of your own, and that will probably put a damper on the trip.

For when the road trip is in progress:

1. Don’t stress
This may sound impossible, but try as best you can to not get overwhelmed and let the little things bother you. The trip will probably not go entirely as planned or be easy every second, but it is important to go with the flow! Remember, you are on your way to your vacation!  

2. Forget about potty training: bring extra diapers
Even if your toddler is doing a pretty good job with their potty training or fully potty trained, forget the lessons and just throw on a diaper or pull-up. You’ll be glad you did when your 20 miles from the nearest rest stop and your child says they need to go like, immediately. 

3. Master the art of peeing on the side of the road (for you or the kids…)
Sometimes rest stops can be few and far between, and every parent knows when a child has to go to the bathroom, they cannot wait. For those of you who have children too old to put a diaper on, get ready to have to pull over. From what I have read, the best thing to do is pull over so your car is completely off the road, on top of a hill if possible to decrease visibility, open both passenger side doors, and have your child stand or squat between the doors. If your child doesn’t feel comfortable doing that- they are just gonna have to get over it or hold it!

4. Do your best to ignore them
Kids and long car rides do not mix well. They are probably going to annoy the heck out of you at certain points, but do your best to resist giving in or lashing out because that will just make things worse. Just put in your favorite CD, turn it up, and tune them out! 

5. Have some “road trip games” ready

The classic road trip games may have lost their popularity since the increase in technology, but they can still be a great bonding experience and provide some technology-free entertainment. If the kids are in a good mood, and you’re in a good mood, give some of these road trip games a try. 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Monday, June 29, 2015

28 Summer Bucket List Ideas for Your Family

Every summer at the beginning of June it feels like we have endless time ahead of us, but without fail, every year August rolls around and we hear ourselves saying, “where did the time go?”

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t let the summer fly by without doing any of the fun activities you wanted is to make a Summer Bucket List. At the very beginning of summer, sit down with the family and make a list of all the activities you want to accomplish and places you want to visit that summer. Then make sure to hang the list up in a place where you’ll see it everyday, like on the fridge. Not only writing it all out on a list but also hanging it up as a daily reminder will help you keep track of what you’re accomplishing and not let the days get away from you. It can also serve as a reference for those rainy days when the family is bored and looking for something to do. 
 Have the summer you always say you’re going to have when June rolls around, while you still have plenty of time left! To help you get started, we asked real moms for some ideas straight from their own summer bucket lists.

1. Go strawberry picking

2. Set up a lemonade stand with the kids 

3. Have a family water balloon fight

4. Explore a part of town your family has never been to

5. Have at least one family picnic (complete with straw baskets and everything!)

6. Go for a family bike ride

7. Have a family cook off or bake off on a rainy day 
Make two teams, one with mom as the coach and one with dad, and then compete against each other to see who can make the better meal or dessert.

8. Host a BBQ for your family and friends

9. Go on a family nature walk and learn about the plants and birds

10. Have a family game night complete with snacks and prizes

11. Catch fireflies

12. Visit your local farmer’s market

13. Run (or walk) a 5K race with your family

14. Take the kids to a drive-in theater

15. Go camping (even if its just in your backyard)

16. Make a slip-n-slide in your own backyard

17. Make a fire and roast marshmallows

18. Volunteer with your family for a local charity

19. Visit a park you’ve never been to

20. Go to the zoo and teach the kids all about the different animals 

21. Start a garden with your children as helpers

22. Make up your own holiday and celebrate it as a family

23. Do arts and crafts outside as a family 

24. Make homemade snow cones with the kids

25. Teach the kids how to fish

26. Play flashlight tag or ghost in the graveyard with all your neighbors (yes this includes the adults too!)

27. Go for a family bike ride

28. Go kayaking 

To find the book series that inspires these stories, click here

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Parents Can Stay Sane When Kids Are On Summer Break

During the school year, parents and children develop a concrete schedule or routine of daily and nightly activities and know what to expect when each day arrives. Parents find comfort and stability in this routine and it helps free them from some of the chaos of parenthood. However, when summer break arrives and the kids get out of school, that routine is abolished and can make parents feel, well, a little bit crazy. Psychologists and child specialists recommend a few strategies for parents to utilize during these summer months to free them from some of the chaos and get some structure back in their life. Three months is a long enough time to develop some sort of routine, but the first few weeks can be hectic. 

One of the first ways parents can stay sane as they watch their routine dissolve right before them is to organize a new (but less structured to compensate for the flexibility of summer) schedule before the kids even get out of school. This includes new summer bedtimes, meal times, and maximum technology hours. It can also include a list of activities family members are still expected to do on a daily basis regardless of summer vacation, such as making their beds or tidying their rooms. 
Another way to stay organized and feel a sense of structure is by making a summer bucket list. Three months sounds like a long time but once August rolls around, many of us find ourselves asking where the time went. Filling your family’s summer with fun and exciting activities is a lot easier to accomplish when you have a list to serve as a reminder. It can also provide a reference for when a nice summer day comes around and you aren’t sure how to spend it. 

Parents can feel the craziest during the rainy days when kids can’t play outside and the whole family is cooped up indoors. Use these days to have movie marathons, read or play board games as a family. Make it fun by letting everyone stay in their pjs all day and picking out movies everyone can enjoy. Another fun activity to try on cooler or rainy days is baking. Kids love to help parents bake and kneading dough or using cookie cutters will keep them occupied long enough for parents to take a deep breath and relax for a minute. 

Another method for keeping somewhat of a schedule over the summer months is to establish a daily quiet time. Even if it is just for an hour or two a day, kids can use this time to read, play quietly, go outside, write stories, or watch a TV show. This gives parents a window of time each day to get some important things done or just take some time for themselves knowing the kids are occupied. 

A last, but important, way parents can stay sane over summer break is by having the kids help out around the house more than during the school year. Summer is for everyone to enjoy, including parents, and without a long school day, kids have unlimited free time. Give each child a few summer chores to help out around the house so everything gets done faster and everyone can have more free time to enjoy themselves. 

Long breaks from school can feel overwhelming and anxiety provoking for parents of children with unlimited free time, but there are absolutely ways parents can minimize some of the chaos and make it so they have a fun and relaxing summer, too! 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books