Category:

Parenting

Parenting is nothing you expected and everything you could have imagined all rolled into one. I have been spit up on, pooped on, vomited on all before 7 a.m. in the newborn years. I’ve watched my toddler shove a pearl up her nose and poop in her mouth, and I’ve even masticated food. Not as fun as it sounds. I’ve survived breast buds and the sex talk. I share everything I ever learned and you might want to know about parenting from pregnancy to labor thru to the teens years.  It’s is hard but it’s the toughest job that you’ll ever love but the salary sucks.

How to keep your children safe online from toddler to teen, online safety

Children and teens love being online. The older they get, the more they love it. Whether it’s watching videos on YouTube, playing Fortnite or interacting with friends from school on SnapChat and Instagram, our kids spend a lot of time online. The thing is, do we really know who they’re hanging out within the online world? We can’t even be sure that we know who we’re dealing with in this world of online personas and filters. Is anyone who they seem to be? I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to keep my children safe online from the toddler age through to their teens.

Maybe it would be easier if our kids were just playing outside. But that’s not the real world. It’s only part of it and our kids need to learn how to navigate safely through the digital world. It’s not like when we were kids. There’s a whole online world connecting our children to people all over the world. All the hoping and wishing is not going to unring that bell.

READ ALSO: Online Persona who’s real and who isn’t? How to know the difference.

There may be those that argue that digital technology makes children unhealthy from the lack of fresh air and physical activity. People will tell you that this generation of kids will be awkward and develop poor social skills but I think that’s an alarmist attitude. Our children need to have their bearings in both worlds because currently, the future is living in one and experiencing life in the other.

There are solid arguments in defense of having exposure to technology from a young age. Many games involve complex problems that need solving. Schools use online classrooms and apps to teach our kids. These same games can improve hand-eye coordination and children learn very quickly how to use technology in great depth, in a very natural and intuitive way.

A bigger concern though is how safe our children are online. With access to so much, often unrestricted content, how do we know that our children are not going to come into contact with things that they’re not old enough to deal with? We have parental controls on our daughters’ computers and phones. They are only allowed the apps we give them permission to use and we check often. But even the most vigilant parent can’t be everywhere all the time. We need to teach our children, from an early age, how to be safe and smart online.

READ ALSO: How to keep your family safe online

The other aspect of this is also a concern over who they might come into contact with. There is always a worry with social media or games that have chat functions, that children may come into contact with strangers who prey on the young. My biggest fear is a pedophile posing as another child, gaining my daughters’ trust and violating them in some way.

So how do we deal with this challenge? Nobody wants to cut their children off entirely from enjoying something they love, and with technology being a bigger and bigger part of our lives, the children of today will have even more of a relationship with technology.  As parents, we have to keep them informed, tech-savvy and safe by doing a few simple things.

Take An Interest In What Your Child Is Doing Online

Make online activities a family experience where you can. Get involved with their gaming, and spend time understanding what they’re doing when they are online. My girls only game online when their dad is playing with them. Keeping a healthy, positive interest will mean that your children will be less likely to hide activity from you. If you know the games, they’re playing, and the sites that they’re visiting, you’ll have a better idea of what any specific risks are. This will help you put things in place to minimize these risks.

Teach your children about passwords by sitting with them when they sign up to their first sites. Make sure they learn early on how important passwords are, and that they should use different passwords on different websites and use a healthy mix of letters (upper and lowercase), numbers and special characters.

Having Straight, Honest Conversations

Be honest with your children about the dangers of strangers online, and the kind of content on there, but try not to scare them too much. They do have to live and work online. Encourage them to be cautious. Encourage your children to talk to you about anything that they see so that if something ever happens, they go to you immediately.

Parental Controls

Make sure you know how to access any master parental controls from your home router, as well on every device your children might have access to. This is so important. Find out about the best apps and devices for monitoring your kids safe online activity. Make sure that these are installed and working.

“Friend” Your Children

If your children are using social media, befriend or follow them online. Your children need to learn that anything they post online has the potential to be viewed by anyone and that once it’s posted, even if it gets deleted, it could come back and cause them damage. I taught my girls from the beginning to not post anything that they wouldn’t want their grandpa seeing. I’ve also shown them how screenshot works and the reality that nothing is temporary on the internet. The Internet is forever.

How to keep your children safe online from toddler to teen, online safetyThese are just a few tips for keeping your children safe online. What’s your best tip?

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Going back to work, stay-at-home mom, new career

Are you a stay-at-home mom? Have you taken a break from corporate America to be at home and raise your family? Maybe you’re thinking of dipping your toe back in the office pond? You’re not alone. It’s scary.

A few months ago, I got really excited about the thought of returning to a corporate job. I actually got way more excited than I expected to. Dare I say I was giddy. Suddenly, the thought of someone calling me by my actual name and not needing me to keep them alive was very appealing. I felt wanted for my brain and it was amazing.

Building a fulfilling career is a challenge that a lot of people struggle with. It takes years of pushing yourself in the right direction and doing the hard work to move up the ladder. It’s easy to end up back at square one in the process, especially if you take time out for personal reasons, like raising a family. Nobody wants to hear it but it’s true even if it shouldn’t be.

READ ALSO: Working Mom Guilt; Finding the Balance 

Raising children takes a lot of time and effort, so it’s no wonder that you have to work twice as hard if you are trying to balance that with climbing the ladder in corporate America. Let’s be honest mamas and papas, I’ve only got two legs and after spending the day chasing little ones and running behind eye-rolling teenagers, my two legs and my brain are exhausted.

That shouldn’t keep us from having the careers we went to school for and worked so hard for before we became parents. Being a parent should not mean an automatic, go to jail do not pass go. We should not be penalized. Let’s be honest, parents need the money more than anyone else. Kids are expensive.

If you’re planning on returning to the workforce, hopefully, this post will help pump you up to go out there and do you.

Why Do It?

First, decide what your ‘why’ is? What is your reason for wanting to return to work? If you’re like me, your “why” are those little people whose butts and noses you’ve been wiping for the past few years. Then, get your head in the right space. There are so many reasons to want to build a career as your kids grow up, from wanting something different in your life to planning ahead for when the kids are grown. You have to decide what makes it worth it for you and your family. Obviously, there are benefits anyone would get from this, you’ll find a few below.

Money: While working any “job” can provide enough money for you to live on, especially if you are going from a 1 to 2 income household, but getting something higher up the ladder will obviously present the potential to earn more money. This extra money could go towards a vacation home, helping your kids as they start their own careers, traveling the world or just saving for a rainy day. But, I’ll be honest, if I’m leaving the house and my family, it’s got to be worth it, so the higher up the ladder, the better to me.

READ ALSO: Would You Prefer Being Divorced over Being a Stay-at-Home Parent?

Satisfaction: Personal fulfillment is a big motivator. I used to speak 4 languages. Now, my first languages are baby gibberish and teen slang. Retirement sounds like the real American dream when you’re in a job you hate. However, the reality is that spending all of that time focused on yourself might not be all it’s all cracked up. You might actually find it to be boring, especially if you take early retirement. By building a career doing something that you love you can add a lot of satisfaction to your work life and when you do retire it will be because you’re ready to relax not because you are trying to get away from a job you hate.

Personal Value: Not everyone cares about being around other people, and will be happy to work for themselves for their entire life. If you value the community to live in, maybe you pursue a career as a way of increasing your personal value to your local area. For example, entering a new field where you are contributing value to your community may be something that you find fulfilling and fills a need for the people in your area.

Your Direction

Now that you’ve considered the benefits, time to think about how you’re going to build your career. First, decide on your direction. This doesn’t have to be as specific as the company you’d like to work for or the exact role you want, as long as it gives you a clear path to follow. Not a lot of people take this approach, but it can be a good idea to build your goals into something like a business plan. Having a plan will help you find your way to the career path you want.

This is a serious decision and it’s important that you consider everything and everyone this move will affect. You’ll want a career that you will enjoy and this will probably be the most important factor for most of us, but it isn’t the only thing to consider. It’s also worth considering the things that you’re good at, as well as those things that you struggle with. With these considerations in mind, it should be easy to find a fulfilling career path that you’ll love. You’ll need to do lots of research to find something you can jump into that meets all of your criteria.

Education

There are several hurdles that you’ll need to overcome before you can find yourself a new career, and education is one of the biggest. It’s common for employers to expect degrees and certifications from potential employees, even if the jobs being advertised don’t require them. The market is oversaturated with qualified people. With Professor Google, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what you need and you can easily search for courses to upgrade your qualifications.

Research: This will start with a little bit of research, with each of the courses you have available asking for different requirements. There are websites out there which collect and compare qualifications, but you may have to do some extra searching to make sure that you’re not missing an option that could be perfect for you.

READ ALSO: If You Send Your Kids to Public School, You’re the Worst

Type Of Study: Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly common for schools to offer e-learning courses. These options are perfect for those who want to raise children at the same time as learning. Not everyone will have the discipline or attention span for something like this, so seriously consider the commitment before you decide to take on something like a BBA online to become a business manager.

Get Qualified: Once you know what kind, of course, you’d like to take and how you’d like to do it, it’s time to start getting qualified. This could take anywhere from a couple of months to several years, making it hard for a lot of people to stay focused and motivated. If you start when your kids are babies, you’ll have lots of great opportunities to do some learning as they grow up. Or maybe you prefer to wait until they are in school all day, either way, where there is a will there is a way. You can do this.

Experience

Along with working on your education to build a new career or return to the one you had, you may also need to spend some time thinking about the experience you have. While you need to work to be able to get experience, most roles will expect a minimum of a few years working in an entry-level role before you can get into something better. For some people, this will be a normal part of progression, and it won’t be too hard to push yourself to work for a few years before you can get the job you really want. However, maybe you’ve been doing some on the job training as a parent that you haven’t even considered. For example, I think my organization and multitasking skills have definitely grown as I’ve been working with children for the past 14 years.

As your kids grow up, you will have plenty of opportunities to get experience. If you wanted to become an office manager, for example, it would make sense to spend some time working in the school office or a local doctor’s office. This can be done when the kids are at school, and even as little as one day a week can be enough to build the background you need. This will enable you to slip into your new career far more quickly once the kids have left home, and won’t force you to spend the first leg of your career doing entry-level work.

Getting Your New Job

After all of this effort, it’ll feel like you’ve done more than enough to get the job of your dreams. In reality, though, you still have to go through the application and interview process. Applying for the job you like is simple enough; you only need a resume and a cover letter. There are loads of resources around the web that can help you with this. Employers will get far more applications than they need, and your documents could end up simply being ignored. This isn’t something you can control but makes sense to cast a wide nest and apply for as many jobs as possible.

If you’re successful with your application, you’ll be asked for an interview, and this will usually be face to face. This can be equally terrifying and surprisingly exciting. This is where I got to in the process. Prepare for your interview. Even if you feel confident, a question you’re unprepared for can easily throw you off your game. There are lots of resources on the web to help you prep for an interview. You might get confusing and difficult questions, but it will be worth taking the time to think about each of them. Anything that makes you feel more at ease in the interview process is an asset and a weapon that puts you ahead of the other candidates.

READ ALSO: What’s the DIfference Between a SAHM and Working Moms?

In most cases, you will only ever hear back from an employer if you’ve got the job, with the rest of the candidates being ignored. It’s not worth letting your hope die if a couple of months go by, though, as a lot of businesses have to go through long processes to hire someone, and won’t be able to get back to you until everything is properly in place. Unfortunately for me, that position that I was really excited about got put on hold according to the last email I received from the HR department. But still, it felt good to be interviewed and see a company get excited about what I have to offer.

With all of this in mind, are you ready to take on the challenge of building a career while you’re a full-time parent? And what parent isn’t a full-time parent? This approach can make your future more enjoyable with more money, satisfaction, and skills you’ve ever had before all working together to provide you and your family with a higher quality of life.

Are you ready to go back to work?

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father's day, what makes a father, how to be a good dad

Today is Father’s Day. When you think of the word father, you think of the man who gave you life. But really, a father is something much more than that, if you’re lucky. What makes a father? More importantly, how do you know how to be a good dad? A father is someone who loves you at your worst, someone who shows up every single day, even when it’s harder than anyone could have ever anticipated.

I think in a lot of ways; men are given hall passes on their responsibility as a parent. It’s like we’ve lowered the bar so far we don’t even know what makes a father anymore and no one is teaching men how to be a good dad. I’m not even blaming the men. I’m blaming society as a whole. Somewhere along the way, it became acceptable to do the bare minimum and still hold the title of father. A lot of dads just accepted the status quo. Maybe they didn’t know any better or maybe it was all of those pats on the back for taking care of their own children.

READ ALSO: Happy Father’s Day

What is a father? A father is defined as a male parent but to be a good dad includes behaving paternally. Instinctually putting your child before yourself. Prioritizing their happiness and well-being above your own sometimes. We should celebrate these dads every day of the year, not just on Father’s Day. It’s about more than gifts, it’s about appreciating all that they do.

Today, I wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the involved fathers.

There are a lot of great dads out there. Men who constantly show up and are there for their children and partners all the time. Men who embrace the title and feel privileged to be a part of their children’s lives. Men who do everything possible to create a better world for their children. I hope there are more of those dads than there are men who contribute to the genetic makeup of their children and think that’s where fatherhood ends.

father's day, what makes a father, how to be a good dad

I’d like to say a special Happy Father’s Day to my husband, the Big Guy, for being the best father and husband anyone could ever want. He is 100% my partner in parenting. There is nothing I can do that he can’t do for our girls, well, with the exception of gestating them but then again, he is the husband who had sympathetic symptoms and weight gain so he tried. All kidding aside, I know that we are lucky because he is a kind and good man at his core.

He shows up when he’s exhausted and weary. Woke up many a night with our newborns, paced the floor with a colicky baby and held toddlers with nightmares of chickens and lemurs. The Big Guy does what needs to be done even when he doesn’t want to. He’s selfless and caring. His family always comes first and even though he and I had different upbringings and came from different cultures, he saw how important family was to me and he embraced it all.

father's day, what makes a father, how to be a good dad

This is what makes a father.

He drives on long road trips so that he can show his girls the world. He treats them (and me) we unconditional love and respect so that they can see what a relationship is supposed to look/feel like. He holds them when they’re sad, listens when the world is hard and confusing, hears the things that go unsaid and makes them smile when they are sad. The Big Guy tries new things and goes out of his comfort zone so that our girls won’t be afraid to spread their wings and fly someday. His love knows no bounds.

father's day, what makes a father, how to be a good dad

He’s driven to and attended countless ballet classes, recitals and performances. The Big Guy has worked backstage and volunteered to do things most dads would emphatically refuse. He’s been there for Robotics, soccer, gymnastics, violin and cheerleading. Helps with homework and hugs them when they’ve had a hard day. Listens to them gossip about school and talk about boys. Holds their hair when they’re sick, keeps them calm when they need shots and laughs the loudest when they are funny (even when it’s not funny). He builds them up so no one else can knock them down.

READ ALSO: A Baby Changes Everything

The Big Guy spoils them and makes them feel special because they are his girls. He encourages them and supports them in all that they’ve ever wanted to try or shown interest in. He is a cheerleader and a coach. He’s a soft place to land when the world knocks them down. He is so much more than words can say. They call him daddy, Papi and papa and he is all of that and more.

father's day, what makes a father, how to be a good dad

Wondering how to be a good dad?

I am so happy that my daughters have such an amazing man as their father; a man who comes home from a long day at work and still musters the energy to play for hours with the girls. A man who listens quietly as they recount the most inane teenage drama there ever way. A father who doesn’t try to fix everything and knows when to just hear you. He makes 3 am runs for Tylenol and 6 am runs for cupcakes for school, rides your favorite roller coaster with you 15 times in a row and watches your favorite cartoon until you tire of it. He does all of this and never complains. This is love. This is what I wish for every child.

father's day, what makes a father, how to be a good dad

Happy Father’s Day to our Big Guy. We love you so much and we see you. We see all that you do for your family. We see the sacrifices that you make and we feel the love you give every single day. You are the best man we could have ever hoped to share our lives with.

Love you to the moon and back and to infinity and beyond!
XOXO Your Girls

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birthday, just a little longer, 12th birthday, love letter to my daughter

She runs up to me and holds my face in her tiny hands, “Mama, I love you foreber and eber. Ok?” Gabs posed everything in question form as a toddler. Still, my heart knew what she meant. She was going to love me as long as I was going to love her. This is our legacy, to love just a little longer.

READ ALSO: Happy Birthday to my Daughter on her 14th Birthday

Since she was born, my personality doppelganger, she simultaneously pushed me away as she pulled me near. I got it. I get it. I am her and she is me. We are the same in so many ways. When she was tiny, so tiny, she wouldn’t let anyone else hold her (except for the Big Guy but still, she preferred me over all else and I loved it.) Everyone else hated it but, secretly, I loved that I was the one she always wanted and I happily obliged. How many evenings did we spend, just the two of us, feeding and her falling asleep in my arms? I could have stayed there in those quiet moments, just the two of us, forever.

READ ALSO: Love Letter to my Daughter on her 7th Birthday

But children are like trees, they plant roots but they just keep on growing and evolving; more beautiful and more majestic with each passing year. How I love to watch them grow. It is my greatest pleasure and biggest honor. That’s what being a mom is… letting go and being thankful for the opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself. They are my legacy.

Still, as I watch my newly/nearly/almost 12-year-old, my heart still pulls toward her and wants to caress her face softly and check that she is breathing, just like I did on all those nights while I watched her sleep as a newborn. I may have even woken her up a few times, just to be able to hold her for just a little longer.

She is growing up to be such an amazing young woman. She is strong, independent, fierce and not fearless but brave. She is scared of a lot of things; mostly big things like death and life and endings and beginnings. She is wise beyond her years.  She has the wisdom of a scholar and a heart that loves with no boundaries. I am fascinated by who she is becoming.

READ ALSO: I’ll Love You Fourever

She is me and I am her but she is so much better than I could have ever have hoped to be. My Gabs is truly a gift to all who know her. She’s effortlessly witty and funny; charming in her own special way.  I only wish that she knew how genuine and one of a kind she is. I watch her from a close distance because she is not the child who wants me to do everything for her. She wants to do everything herself.

Learning from mistakes is where she thrives. Even though I hate to watch her stumble as she grows, her independence only allows me to help her up after she falls. That is the beauty in her. She never gives up. Once she decides what she wants the only thing that can stop her is her and I admire her for that. Her spirit is like an eagle taking flight and I love this kid more than words can adequately convey. I hope she always knows how proud and honored I feel to be her mother.

READ ALSO: Love Letter to My Daughter on her 11th Birthday

 

Gabs,

 

12-years ago tonight, I held you on my chest for the first time ever. Meeting you will always be one of the most profound moments of my life. I have and will always love you more than everything. You make me proud every single day of your life. Don’t grow up too fast. I want to hold you in my heart and be your favorite person just a little longer. Keep being yourself and making your videos and cracking your jokes. Keep saying what’s on your mind. Never stop dressing and dancing they way you want. You are amazing. You’ll always be my love and my life, sweet girl. I’m going to love you forever and ever, ok?

 

Love,

Mama

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Dreft, eczema, how to protect baby, caring for baby skin, sensitive skin, spring allergies, mom tips

Do you like surprises? Me, neither. Unless it’s, here’s a bag filled with a million dollars sort of surprise. Still, I got a big one this Mother’s Day. My baby girl became a woman.On.Mothers.Day. If that isn’t putting a fine point on it all, I don’t know what is. I thought we had some time. She’s only 11, well, nearly 12. In a week, she will be 12-years-old. But if I’d been in any sort of denial about my baby growing up, welp, that’s all been slapped right out of my mind.

Mother’s Day wasn’t what I expected this year on any account. Normally, I relax and spend the day focused on myself, alone. It has been heavenly and indulgent and wonderful for my entire tenure as a mother because my husband is awesome. He gets me. He really does.

This year was different because mortality decided it wanted to pay me an unexpected visit just to remind me that I am not actually invincible. I am human. I err. I can die at any moment. We all can.

READ ALSO: How a Doctor’s Visit Saved My Life

While I’ve been secretly patting myself on the back because I don’t feel like I’ve had a “midlife crisis” like some others who have told me they are in the throes of one, I got too damn big for my britches, as my southern mama would say. While I was busy not obsessing over my looks, rejecting bread like it was syphilis and trying to fight mother nature my body played a nasty trick on me. While I was being “cool” and “aging gracefully” my body had other plans.

Here I am with a health created, self-induced midlife crisis. Suddenly, the carefree, living in the skin I’m in, tired of being fat but not tired enough to do something about it woman is now, working out and eating like her life depends on it. I’m not fighting the hands of time but I’m trying to keep death at bay. I’m trying to reverse the damage a lifetime of abusing my body has inflicted.

READ ALSO: That One time I went into “HEAT” at Panda Express

So amidst all of this, on the bleakest of Mother’s Day, laying in bed feeling completely overwhelmed by my own inner monologue…living in this moment of the winter of my most discontent…an effing period snapped me out of it. My baby girl became a woman and put even a finer point on the fact that I’ve got work to do. My girls need me and there is no time for self-pity. Self-care yes. Self-reflection? Hell yeah. I need to be at my best because my girls need me for many more firsts.

She was a little scared. It’s new and it was her first. It was different than her sister, as they’ve always been. It was magical and scary for us both. But it was exciting too because it’s her first and she’s a young woman. This is the beginning of a lifetime of womanhood. We are all three of us women. We’re like a club or a coven or something but this binds us in an even deeper way. Then we went out to celebrate with Starbucks because in our house becoming a woman is cause for celebration.

READ ALSO: Girl, You’ll be a woman soon

My babies are growing up. One of them, quite literally, on Mother’s Day. The Big Guy and my girls have been my saviors in this life, more times than once. They give me reason and purpose and that is more than enough. The Big Guy saved me from myself when he came into my life. The girls rescued me from mediocrity. Having them has always made me want to do and be better. Because of them, I am becoming my best self.

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day? What do your children inspire you to do?

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Mother's Day. march of dimes, anthem foundation, premature births, fertility, regret, postponing motherhood, baby, birth, pregnancy, labor, delivery,new mom, what labor feels like

Normally, for Mother’s Day, all I want is a day of peace and rest. The kids leave me alone (except for hugs and kisses in the morning) and the Big Guy assumes 100% of all the parenting and household duties. This has been my dream Mother’s Day for many years and I’ve been living the dream.

 

I’ll gladly accept homemade cards, baubles and gift cards for massages. I love all of those things. But mostly I love sleeping in, no bickering, not having to do dishes or cook or think. I love binging R-rated movies and blasting the music that I want to listen to as loud as I want. Now if a cleaning fairy would just show up and dust and fold all the clothes (and put them away).

 

However, this year is different. Monday I was told I’m sick. Really sick. Life-threateningly sick. So this year, while I would love to sleep in and have no bickering or do any menial household chores, I mostly want to enjoy my family because that I’ll always be here is not a given. That I can send them into another room while I binge Netflix alone isn’t what I want. This year, I feel like I can’t take anything for granted.

 

Maybe I won’t be secluding myself this year, as I’ve done for many other Mother’s Days. I won’t be over planning or trying to fit someone else’s expectation of what Mother’s Day is supposed to look like either. I don’t want roses or brunch at the Waldorf, I just want to relax and not have to be anywhere or do anything. I want to live a day at my leisure with no responsibility and yes, this year, I want it to be with my family.

 

I want snuggles and cuddles and kisses and hugs. I want talking and laughing and enjoying one another’s company. I want memories and nostalgia and never letting go. I want to be a Mother because not everyone gets to.

 

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate motherhood. For each of us, it is different. For all of us, it’s personal. Each mother is beautiful and special in her own way and each family celebrates differently. The important thing is that we take the time and savor the moment, reflecting on the honor it is that we are blessed to have children and they are blessed to have us because without one another, what would we be?

 

This weekend, we’ll be celebrating in a way that is us. Saturday, we’re taking a short road trip to see Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo and I’m super excited because it’s in the middle of the day so I don’t have to worry about early mornings or late nights.

 

Sunday, I’ll sleep in until I wake up then head to mass because this mama can use all the God she can get these days. Then, home for a healthy brunch cooked by the Big Guy. It will be a designated bickering-free zone for the day, so the lovely tween and teen will have to abstain from killing one another. Followed by watching movies, a nap, a family walk, and a delicious, yet healthy, dinner. Then, Game of Thrones and a back rub. Maybe I’ll even throw a long bath in there somewhere. I haven’t had a soak in years. Sounds like perfection to me. I know, I’m pretty specific but this is what my dreams are made of these days.

 

Anyways, that’s my dream Mother’s Day 2019. Normally, it’s to be alone so if that is your perfect Mother’s Day, I am not mad at you. We are the same people. This year, I have a different perspective and every moment with my girls counts so this is where we are…spending the day in peace and love with my family. Here’s hoping it all plays out.

 

What’s your dream Mother’s Day? If you could do anything in the world on Mother’s Day what would it be?

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Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

If you want to take your children or teens someplace that will leave them speechless, visit Banff, Alberta. If you’re a parent, you already know how rare that can be. Children and teenagers are always in a hurry to get to the next place, the next thing and are easily bored and not afraid to tell you. If you prefer not to be serenaded by choruses of, “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored” then Banff is for you.

I’m a talker who is easily bored and when I found myself standing at the mouth of Lake Louise, I had no words. I’m a city girl.  Grew up in Chicago. Love the city. I feed off of the hustle and bustle of people in a hurry. Kinetic energy gives me life. Standing in the stillness surrounded by all of that natural beauty, embracing the quiet is an inexplicable kind of breathtaking.

READ ALSO: Things to Do In Portland Maine with Kids and Teens

In my opinion, Banff is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. The moment that I set eyes on Moraine Lake, I knew that I needed to share this place with my girls and the Big Guy. It’s a gift I want to give them.

There are certain things in life that have to be seen with your own eyes, felt with your heart and experienced to be believed. Banff is one of those places. You have to stand there and soak it in to believe this kind of beauty exists. I don’t want to oversell it, but then again I don’t think that is possible.

READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Boston with Your Tweens and Teenagers

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in the province of Alberta, Canada, Banff has mountains, rivers, valleys and glaciers. If your family loves exploring new places and going on adventures while being 100 %present, this is the perfect family vacation for the teenager or child who can’t sit still.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

Moraine Lake

This might be my favorite spot in all of Banff. I may or may not have requested upon returning that my ashes be scattered there one day. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of all of that beautiful? Moraine Lake’s blue waters are surrounded by towering mountains, including 11,500-foot Mount Temple, the third highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Located a 15-minute drive from the quieter more serene Lake Louise, popular Moraine Lake, can be crowded in summer. My suggestion, arrive early to enjoy canoeing and hiking before the crowds arrive.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

Lake Louise

Lake Louise, located within Banff National Park, is absolutely stunning. The emerald green lake is spectacular and the region has a range of hikes from easy lakeside strolls to more difficult ascents. The town of Banff is located 35 miles from the lake, so you will not be immersed in the crowds. The Lake Louise region has a sightseeing gondola and horseback riding.

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, provides classic Canadian Rockies scenery. As the park’s only lake to allow motorized boating, Minnewanka is popular and crowded. Make reservations and arrive early to take a 1, 2, or 3-hour cruise around the lake. Lake Minnewanka is located a 20-minute drive from the town of Banff.

Banff Hot Springs

After a day of adventure seeking with your teens, what’s more relaxing than winding down in the Hot Springs? A natural hot spring provides an invigorating mixture of minerals to soothe your family’s sore muscles after a day of hiking, skiing or mountain biking. The Hot Springs are open seven days a week and well into the evening.

Banff Hiking

With more than 1,000 miles of trail, Banff National Parks offers path options for every level hiker. For an easy hike, try the Tunnel Mountain trail. Accessible from the town of Banff, the 1.4-mile trail leads to the mountain’s summit, with great views of the Bow Valley. Both Emerald Lake and Lake Louise offer additional easy family hikes with little elevation gain but with gorgeous scenery. In July and August wildflowers lace the Garden Path Trail, at Sunshine Village ski area.

Several outfitters offer guided hikes within the park, including the Mountain Heritage Guide Program at the Chateau Lake Louise.

Ice Climbing Banff’s Frozen Waterfalls

If your teen really wants to explore Banff like an adventurer, using an ice ax to climb a frozen waterfall is about the most exciting way to do that. Get yourself a guide for this excursion this winter and impress your teens with your adventurous spirit. You’d be hard pressed to find a cooler way to explore Banff’s creeks and canyon.

Climb Banff’s Majestic Walls

Banff has more than just fresh powder and raging rivers to offer. Being in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff has numerous cliffs and crags to rock climb. Hire a guide to bring you along on a multi-pitch trek in Bow Valley or the Ghost River area. Whether you are looking for traditional top roping or pushing your limits with sport climbing, your teens will be safe as you explore. Banff boasts some of the best limestone formations that give you the most accessible and remote areas of Alberta to enjoy.

Ski the “Big Three”

Skiing is a year-round possibility in Banff. I was there in August and it snowed. The big three resorts to go to are Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort. These three mountains, give you access to 8,000+ acres, 26 chair lifts, and 30+ feet of annual snow fall. There is something for everyone, whether your teens are first timer skiers/ snowboarders or black diamond ready or simply want to take in the majestic mountains, Banff is an excellent choice.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

Banff Trail Rides

Biking Banff will give you the ultimate Canadian choose-your-own adventure with all the scenic views and the opportunity to stop at will and take it all in. The best time for cycling through Banff is May through October for milder temperatures.

Banff Horseback Riding

Trail rides are a fun way to take in the scenery for those who prefer horses to hikes. Horses carry riders 2,000 feet up the mountain to the 7,000-foot-high tea house. After a break, you mount up and head back down. More experienced riders can sign on for longer expeditions that takes you through the forest, up mountain trails, to the banks of a waterfall and then high above the tree line for a panoramic view.

Banff Gondola

An eight-minute, enclosed gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain gifts you with panoramic views. At the summit, stroll the Banff Skywalk or try the more difficult South East Ridge Trail hike depending on your family’s skill level.

Snowshoe through the Rocky Mountains

If you want to take your teens on the ultimate backcountry adventure, snowshoeing might be for you. Depending on how outdoorsy you and your teens are and your skill levels, you can choose a half-day to multiple day excursions. These adventures could include climbing the Continental divide, snowshoeing across frozen lakes or seeing Banff from a mountain peak. Possibilities for thrills is endless.

Rafting the Chinook River

Rafting is something that I’ve always wanted to do and that I think my teens would really enjoy. Banff offers several different rafting routes to choose from. Two of the most thrilling river rides are Horseshoe Canyon and Kicking Horse River. These rides will leave you exhilarated and soaked after a day on the rapids. On Horseshoe Canyon, you even have the option of cliff jumping if the rapids are not too fierce. Some excursions offer a BBQ lunch and professional photos of your family in the rapids!

Canoe or Kayak the Bow River

The Bow River is almost magical, born from snowmelt from the peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It winds through Banff flowing south. You can rent a boat and go exploring alone or hire a local guide.

Columbia Icefields

On this adventure, you and your teens will board giant buses with tires the size of adults that can handle moving through the ice on the Athabasca Glacier. You are left atop a glacier where you can stand on ice created by snow that fell 400 years ago. Holy wow! Your children of all ages will love this. Imagine a snowball fight made of centuries-old snowflakes. The Columbia Icefields cover nearly 200 square miles, the Athabasca Glacier is one of the most easily accessible. Tours take place mid-April to mid-October. Reservations are recommended.

Icefields Parkway

This is where you can really get some quiet time, save for some gasps of OMG! Stretching for about 143 miles between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) delivers breathtaking scenery. You’ll pass forests, river valleys, mountains with peaks reaching 10,000 feet and Peyto Lake, the bluest in the Canadian Rockies. This bluer than blue color is a result of fine particles of ground rock scattering the sun’s rays. Bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goats and ravens can often be seen along this drive.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola

Kids, teenagers and adults will love this scenic summer gondola ride up the Rocky Mountains in Canada’s oldest national park, Banff. Begin your adventure by hopping inside an eight-person gondola at the base of Sunshine Village and enjoy a 20-minute scenic mountain ride. At the top, you will arrive at Sunshine Village.

A short walk from the gondola, visitors can hop on a four-person chairlift to reach the top of the mountain. This brings you to the magnificent viewpoint at the top of the mountain. There is a short, gravel walking trail to reach an elevated viewpoint. As you walk along the trail, you will enter the Canadian Provence of British Columbia and then cross back over into Alberta. The kids will think that’s cool.

Take your time and enjoy the breathtaking mountain and lake views from the summit and take tons of photos. Though I literally took thousands and it still wasn’t enough. Photos cannot accurately capture the magic that is Banff. These views have to be seen to be believed. Several hiking trails begin at the top of the mountain and head back to the village or you can take the chairlift and gondola back down the mountain. It’s up to you.

These are just a few of the things that you can do with tweens and teenagers in Banff. The possibilities are endless. The adventure begins with you and the feeling of experiencing it all together as a family will last a lifetime.

What’s your favorite place to travel as a family and why?

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The Truth about Parenting Teenagers from a Teen Mom, teen mom, parenting teenagers, parenting teenage girls, raising teens

Ok folks, this is not a drill. We are in full teen mom mode. We’re over here parenting teenage girls. Well, a champion eye roller tween with cramps and a newly minted 14-year-old so the end is nigh and all of that, I suppose. At least that is what the world would have you believe about parenting teenagers but it’s a lie.

Obviously, no teen parenting experience is the same just like no birth or the first day of kindergarten is the same. I feel like maybe I should knock on some wood before I type this post. You know how fate likes to make fools of us all. But, dare I say, I kind of love parenting my tween and teenage girls possibly even more than when they were toddlers.

I’m in that point of parenting where I have to be the adult. Yep, either I act like an adult or this train derails. Now, I’m not saying that means that I need to go hard and fast on the discipline. Doing that would only make that train jump the tracks. Believe me, I’m talking from experience. No, I’m playing the long game, as I have since they were toddlers, and I’m following my gut. That’s the real trick to winning the parenting teens game. No matter how hard they push you away, if your gut tells you something, listen. Your mama and papa instincts are smarter than you are.

READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls Pt. 1

Sometimes, it’s hard looking at an overgrown child with their own thoughts and beliefs and not giving them what they want. Teens like their space. They value friendships above all else. I know this from being a teen myself. Now, that I am a teen mom, I am trying to keep all of this in mind. I listen, even when I find it mundane or infuriatingly contradictory because we need to hear what our teenage girls and boys are saying to us. They really aren’t much different from their toddler selves in terms of what they need from us. They need love, compassion, guidance and understanding not a punishing dictator, even if we do know better. Like my mother always told me, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Keep in mind that your teenage son or teen daughter is still that beautiful little human being that they laid on your chest and you brought home from the hospital. That tiny, helpless human being that you loved more than life itself is still right there inside of the angry kid, bickering with her sister and talking back to you. Remember when your teen was a baby and he cried out in frustration because he couldn’t communicate his needs to you and you had to use your mom superpowers and figure it out? It’s the exact same thing. They need you, the world is new and scary again, and they don’t know how to tell you or ask you for what they need.

READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls Pt. 2

The thing is society has played a cruel joke on all of us. They’ve falsely made us all believe that once our kids are a certain age/size that they are capable of doing almost everything. We expect them to behave accordingly. This, in turn, makes our children believe that when they are a certain age/size they are expected to know everything. Secret: They don’t know and how can they? We’re not done raising them. They still need all of our unconditional love, understanding, patience, guidance and compassion; probably now more than ever.

I liken it to when my girls were little. They were always off the charts, size wise, so people always expected them to be further ahead in their developmental skills. I distinctly remember one occasion when Bella was just over one (she was easily the size of a 3 or 4-year-old) and we were in the grocery store and Bella was talking baby talk to me and an older woman came up to us and very condemningly said, “Shouldn’t she be “using her words”?” I nearly swallowed my tongue but managed not to hit the woman and squeak out, “She is using her words. She’s one.” I knew from that moment on that I would spend my parenting tenure being my child’s advocate and to do that, I needed to communicate with my children openly and honestly to really know what they needed from me.

READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls Pt. 3

I’ll be honest, parenting a teenager is not that different from parenting a toddler. The key is paying attention (even when they make it difficult), giving them grace and space when they need it (not always when they want it) and as angry as they can make you, remember growing up is hard on them too. They are afraid and feeling like they’ve lost their place in the world. Everything they knew up to this point is changing, including their own bodies and minds. Give them wings to fly but be there to catch them when they start to crash and burn. Most importantly, keep talking to them, keep listening and look past the angst and anger façade…your baby is still in there.

Tips for Parenting Teenage Girls from a Teen Mom

Unconditional Love

Always, every day, no matter what love them like you loved that baby they laid on your chest. They are still in there hiding behind the eye rolls, smart mouth and pimples. No matter how big they get, they still need positive affirmations and love. Give hugs and keep telling them you love them. Maybe just not in public as much as when they were in kindergarten.

Communication

Talk to them. Not just when you think they did something stupid but all day every day. More importantly, listen. When they talk, they are trying to tell you something even if they don’t have the words. Read between the lines. Fight for them like you did before they were taller than you. Let them say whatever they need to say to you, try to keep your cool and see through their own insecurities and fear. Be there.

Patience

Count to ten before you scream at them. I know that you are tired of them looking at you like you are the dumbest person on earth. I know it breaks your heart when they look at you like you are a stranger on the street. Don’t allow them to be disrespectful or cruel but remember sometimes they are having a bad day. Maybe someone at school was being cruel or unkind, give them the benefit of the doubt. Try not to tell them you hate them ( even if in that moment maybe you do). Remember hate the sin not the sinner? Be patient, the child you couldn’t get enough of is inside that teenage girl smacking her lips and thinking she knows everything and soon enough, you’ll be needed as her soft place to land.

Understanding

This one is hard because teenagers can be frustrating and infuriating and sometimes you just don’t want to rise above it. Sometimes you want to get down in the dirt with them and make them cry to give them a taste of their own medicine. Don’t do that.  That’s what bathrooms are for, go cry in private. Don’t fall apart. You need to be the adult.

When your teen girl tells you something that you don’t want to hear (she’s thinking about having sex or she drank at a party) you need to remember you were her not so long ago. Then ask yourself, what will yield a better outcome 1) screaming at her with full disappointment and having her never tell you anything again or 2) listening, recognizing that she is becoming a young adult and these are young adult issues and calmly offering advice and guidance? I think you know the right answer. It’s hard. No one wants to have these conversations with their “child” but this is how they learn to do the right thing and be kind humans, from our sacrifice of weighing in on these topics when we’d really prefer to just lock them in their rooms and keep them safe until they go to college.

Listening

Use your voice of reason, stop talking and listen to the words coming out of their faces. Will it always be what you want to hear? NO! Do you need to hear it? Hell YES! As parents, just because we don’t hear something doesn’t stop it from happening. It’s like not going to the doctor when you have cancer because you’re afraid of the diagnosis. Knowing the diagnosis is not what’s going to kill you, ignoring the symptoms and not getting treated is. Have the hard conversations and listen to everything they say because they are trying to tell you something you need to hear and maybe it could save their life.

Forgiveness

This is a big one. Wow! Teenagers can be cruel and have a biting tongue. They have a knack for going for the weak spots. It must be a defense mechanism against bullying that kicks in with the hormones at puberty. While most won’t dare use it against their peers, they will easily use it on the people who will always love them, their parents. Keep in mind, the teen years are only 7 years of their entire lifetime, don’t punish them or hold grudges against them for what they say or do as teens. Discipline as needed but also remember to dole out positive enforcement and random acts of kindness towards your teenage children, they need it more than anyone else. Let it go. Forgiveness is for both of you. Forgive yourself too for feeling like you’re failing. We all do in these years.

Guidance

Always be there to gently guide your teenagers in the right direction. Firstly, demonstrate good behavior by example. Just like toddlers, they tend to do what they see not what they are told. Next, you can’t force a strong-willed teen to do anything. You can but nobody wins. But you can gently nudge them in the right direction by limiting the choices available. They still need to feel like they have free will.

Make life more of a would you rather situation instead of a what would you do situation because the world is still too big for all of that responsibility. Also, be available to give feedback when asked. If they are talking to you, they might want you to give them your input. This allows them to make their own informed decisions rather than listening to just their peers. But this only works if you respect and value your child’s thoughts and opinions. We are teaching them to make good choices. You can’t just tell them. They have to learn to use logical thinking and decide for themselves.

Compassion

This is so important. Remember you were where they’re at, not so long ago. You didn’t always know everything. I still don’t. When your child messes up, listen to them and be there. Hold them. Help them get through it. Don’t chide and chastise them. Just love them and let them know that everyone makes mistakes and, unless someone’s dead, we’ll all get through it.

It sounds like a lot of rules but in the end, all you really need to do is follow your gut. Your mom intuition tells you when things aren’t right, even when your mind and heart don’t want to believe it. I’ll be here if you want to commiserate and compare notes. We’ll all survive.

 

 

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What is a Quinceañera and How to Begin Planning Yours

Our oldest daughter, Bella, just turned 14-years-old which means next year is her quinceañera. That means this 1/2 first-generation Latina is planning my first ever quinceañera for my 1/4 Latina. I never got to celebrate my quinces and I regret that. The planning process is exciting and overwhelming but I love that my daughter and I get to do this together with a little help from our village. It’s bringing us closer in ways I hadn’t considered.

What is a quinceañera, you ask?

It is not the same as a sweet sixteen in American culture. Is it the same as a Bat Mitzvah? Closer, there is definitely a religious aspect to it. Because I didn’t get to celebrate the quinceañera tradition myself, I’ve always secretly hoped my girls would want one.

Most cultures celebrate a young girl coming of age, in the United States that’s usually done by throwing a big sweet sixteen party. For Latinas, ideally, we celebrate our becoming a woman when a girl turns 15-years-old, the age of maturity in the Catholic church. (Similar to a Jewish girl who celebrates her Bat Mitzvah at 12-years and one-day-old; the age of religious maturity in the Jewish religion). As Latinas, we celebrate this birthday with a mass followed by a huge celebration with family and friends. It’s a time-honored tradition and a big part of our culture.

READ ALSO: The Day My Teenager told me How She Really Felt

I didn’t have a quince because, quite frankly, my parents couldn’t afford it. It’s expensive for a birthday party. I always wanted one and I promised myself that if my girl wanted one, I’d find a way to make it happen. That’s what I’m doing. It’s a bit overwhelming since I’ve never planned one before. My mom is not Latina and I don’t live near any of my Latina friends or family so everything is a work in progress but 100% worth it to see the excitement in my daughter’s eyes.

It’s hard to explain the entire idea of a quinceañera to people who didn’t grow up around the culture. Basically, it’s celebrated like a wedding, often referred to as a mini boda, minus the groom and the honeymoon. If you’re not raised in the culture, from the outside looking it, it looks a lot like an extravagant party for a fifteenth birthday but it symbolizes so much more than that. It’s the celebration of a girl becoming a woman and I think that should be celebrated like this for every little girl.

What is a Quinceañera?

For Latina girls, the 15th birthday marks the most lavish celebration of their lives. Symbolizing a girl’s transition from childhood to womanhood, the quinceañera is a two-part celebration consisting of a religious celebration and a reception that traces back to both indigenous and European cultural traditions. Parents often spend more on their daughter’s quinceañera than their actual wedding. In fact, quinceañeras are often referred to as mini bodas, or miniature weddings. A low-key quinceañera in the United States can easily cost upwards of $3,000. The key is to set a budget and stick to it.

When you see the quince girl (nickname for the quinceañera honoree) on her special day, the high price tag makes sense. A prom-like gown (quinceañera dress) like the ones found at PromGirl.com is the central quinceañera tradition. They’re often made of satin with lace overlays and rhinestone accents, not unlike a wedding dress. Think Cinderella dressed for the fairytale ball. Traditionally white or pale pink floor-length gowns were worn, but in modern times dresses in all colors of the rainbow are acceptable. The quince girl wears a delicate tiara or crown (corona) and during the mass, she carries a Bible or book of prayer.

READ ALSO: Things to do in Chicago with Teens

The Quinceañera celebration traditionally begins with the religious ceremony. We’ve already booked our mass and priest for next year. Before anything else happens, the quince girl attends a special Mass in which she reaffirms her dedication to God and receives a blessing from the priest. The Quinceañera will also leave a bouquet of flowers at the altar of the Virgin Mary to symbolize her purity. As a symbol of her transition from childhood to becoming a woman, a quince girl gives away a porcelain doll (ultima muñeca) to a younger sister.

How to begin planning your quinceanera

A reception is held following the mass at home or a banquet hall. We reserved our hall in December, well over a year in advance. The celebration includes food, music, the quinceañera dress and most often, a choreographed waltz and baile sorpresa (surprise dance) performed by the Quinceañera and her Court de honor (honor court).

What is a quinceañera honor court?

Quinceañera custom calls for 14 damas, or maiden attendants, to accompany the quince girl and symbolize the past 14 years of her life. And a group of young ladies needs a corresponding group of escorts, which means the quince girl must also select 15 chambelans, or male attendants. Less formal quinceañera celebrations typically use 7 or 4 damas and chambelans.

At the reception is where the quince girl is officially presented to guests. She can pick a quinceañera theme of her choice. I’ve seen everything from Disney princesses to Great Gatsby. Similar to cotillion and debutante traditions, quinceañeras serve as a young Latina’s official entrance into society and womanhood and incorporate a host of unique elements and rituals that celebrate a young woman’s coming of age as well as her Latino heritage.

One of the final rituals of a quinceañera, and most sentimental, is the changing of the quince girl’s shoes. After the party is in full swing, the quince girl’s father will remove the flat-soled slippers his daughter wore to the party and replace them with a pair of heels. This symbolizes that the 15-year-old girl who arrived at the quinceañera will leave a young woman. This pays cultural homage to coming out ceremonies orchestrated by Aztec high priests in the early 1500s.

READ ALSO:  What Does Be “More Latina” mean?

Aztec Indians considered young girls marriage-ready at the age of 15. As a result, ceremonial rites of passage including parental speeches begging their daughters to become wise, upstanding women. When the Spanish invaded modern-day Mexico and overthrew the Aztecs in the 1520s, they brought their European influence to the indigenous people. The upper-class debutante aspects of quinceañera emerged as a result.

Today, there were certain privileges associated with the quinceañera. Being that it is a celebration of her transition into womanhood, the quinceañera might be allowed to attend adult parties, pluck her eyebrows and shave her legs, wear makeup, jewelry and high heels and maybe even start dating. Whoah! We will have to wait and see about this “dating” business. I mean, she’s still my baby.

Quinceañera Traditions

From surrendering the last doll (ultima muñeca) during the Catholic mass to the shoe ceremony before the final father-daughter dance afterward, the quinceañera is full of symbolic gestures and gifts. Unlike the ordinary birthday parties that the quince girl might’ve enjoyed for the first 14 years of her life, her quinceañera party officially marks her coming of age and therefore, requires appropriate gifts and apparel to carry her through that transition.

The quinceañera itself is the present for the birthday girl from her parents. Sometimes, parents may give their daughter a regálo sorpresa, or surprise gift. However, the emphasis of traditional quinceañera presents, including the prayer book, rosary and Bible needed for Mass, is on what the quince girl will wear and carry to her ceremony. These gifts may be given by a combination of grandparents (known as padrinos), other relatives and friends, and each of them carries a special meaning:

Traditional  Quinceañera Gifts

  • Quinceañera dresses represent femininity.

  • Quinceañera rings represent a girl’s bond to God, family and her community.

  • Quinceañera crowns and tiaras represent her superior morality.

  • Quinceañera cross necklaces emphasize a girl’s devotion to the Catholic Church.

Considering everything that goes into planning for your quinceañera, it’s understandable that they only happen once in a Latina girl’s lifetime. Though the rite of passage may vary slightly from country to country, the heart of the quinceañera remains constant. Whether it’s lavish or low-key, these extraordinary parties allow young girls to become fairytale princesses for one day on their way to becoming grown women and embracing all the responsibilities and duties that come with it.

We’ve just begun planning my daughter’s quinceañera but we’ll be sharing it all here and hope that you’ll join us on this exciting journey and celebration from little girl to young lady. We’ll be sharing everything we learn along the way and all things quinceañera.

 

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tweens, teens, Teen Girls Rebel when Teen Boys Rated Female Classmates on Looks, Teen Boys Rated Female Classmates on Looks, teen girls rebel, girls fight rape culture, #MeToo, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School

You’ve heard of burn books? We all have. I remember in high school they were called slam books; same difference. Same jerky idea, different decade. Well, a group of high school boys at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Maryland are bringing it back. But in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the girls are refusing to stand for it. Teen boys rated female classmates on looks and the teen girls rebel. They will no longer stay quiet. Like teenage superheroes, these girls fight rape culture.

Teen boys rating girls on their looks is a practice as old as time. For as long as men have been objectifying women, girls have been getting rated by their looks in burn books, slam books, bathroom walls and in guy group texts. It’s a national pastime for men and boys. The undiscriminating discriminatory act of objectifying the part of the population born with girl parts. It’s sickening.

This time the list is in an iPhone Notes app. It included the names of 18 girls in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, ranked and rated on the basis of their looks, from 5.5 to 9.4, with decimal points to the hundredth place. There, with a number beside it.

A number rating system for girls like they’re cattle being rated for purchase. A group of male students created the list over a year ago and it’s been recirculated. Spreading like a plague through text messages and whispers during class. One male student saw the name of his friend, Nicky Schmidt, on the list and told her about it. Within 24 hours, most of the senior girls knew about the list. Teen boys rated female classmates on looks and the girls are not having it.

READ ALSO: The Problem with Little Boys

In the past, tween and teen girls would see the list, hang their head in shame and pray no one brought it up again. It’s shameful. It’s one thing to feel ugly ( as we all do in those awkward years) but it’s quite another to have everyone at school to see your national ugly average rating in notes, much less hear it whispered as you walk through the halls. The thing about these sorts of lists is that it shakes even the most confident young women to their core. Even if you’ve always thought you were pretty, these books have a way of crawling into your psyche and taking root; growing, twisting and digging in.

As someone who suffered from eating disorders and was never sure of herself, at least in the looks department, finding myself in a burn book would have made me feel so isolated, unsure and depressed. As a grown woman, it would make me rage because of two things, 1) I know I’m attractive enough 2) I don’t care what anyone else thinks about how I look or think or exist. But this is as a grown woman, it took years to have this confidence.

Yasmin Behbehani, a student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, found herself ranked on this list after her friend, Nicky Schmidt, let her know about the list, as a heads up. But Behbehani didn’t want to know about this list. She was trying to stay in her lane; just trying to survive high school is hard enough without extracurricular  humiliation. She’d spent her entire high school tenure recovering from eating disorders and trying to avoid this kind of triggering comparison to her classmates but there is was in a text message with a screenshot of the list, typed out in the damn notes app.

These kinds of lists are not new. And they will never not exist. As long as boys are raised to objectify women with no real consequences they will continue to do so. But today is not yesterday, or last year, or the last decade. Today, we live in the world of #MeToo.

We are raising ours girls to not take this kind of treatment. Raising our girls to know there are more important things to be than beautiful and to speak up, no to scream, when we need to be heard. We’re empowering our little girls. We are not afraid of you any longer. You can’t demean us with your stupidity and objectification because we know we are more than our parts.

READ ALSO: Raising Girls to Survive Misogyny, Sexting and Slut Shaming

The girls of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School felt violated, objectified by classmates they thought were their friends. They felt uncomfortable getting up to go to the bathroom, worried that the boys were taking notes and editing their scores.Objectification feels horrible; judged at your very existence.

The things that no one counted on in this “boys will be boys” rape culture that we live in is that  there is power in numbers. Dozens of senior girls spoke to the school administration and to the boys, demanding not only disciplinary action in response to the list but a school-wide discussion about the toxic culture that allowed the list to happen in the first place. This resulted in one male student being given an in-school detention for one day. It wouldn’t even be on his record.

Not happy with the disciplinary action, Schmidt texted 15 friends and told them to tell all of their friends to show up at the school’s office the next day during lunch, “to tell them we feel unsafe in this environment and we are tired of this toxicity,” Schmidt wrote in her text. 40 senior girls showed up, packing into the assistant principal’s office where Schmidt read a statement she had written.

We want to know what the school is doing to ensure our safety and security,” Schmidt said. “We should be able to learn in an environment without the constant presence of objectification and misogyny.”

READ ALSO: The Reality of Being Born a Woman

The girls and administration agreed that to have a meeting with the male students in the program, including the assholes who created and circulated the list. On International Women’s Day, almost all of the students in the IB program — about 80 students — met in a large conference room for what was supposed to be a 45-minute meeting during fifth period. It lasted over 2.5 hours.

The girls shared personal stories and impassioned speeches about how the list made them feel. They shared their stories of sexual abuse, harassment and the lasting effects objectification has had on them. And something miraculous happened, the boys heard them. In fact, the boy who created the list stood up, took responsibility for the list and apologized for the hurt the list caused. I am so proud of the girls for uniting and standing up and demanding that their voices be heard. Silence is the enemy of equality.

The thing this isn’t new and the kid who made the list and the ones who passed it around are not the minority. The girls who spoke up and refused to be treated like this, they are the minority in our culture. We need to make doing the right thing easier and more common. It shouldn’t be this hard for women to be treated like humans. We shouldn’t have to fight for a basic human right like being treated like people and not objects.

What will we do next time we find out teen boys rated female classmates on looks? Where will we be when our teen girls rebel?

To be honest, since the #MeToo movement began, I have shared my own stories. I shared them before but I never realized that men don’t actually understand what it feels like to be a woman and be objectified. They have always been bigger, stronger and more privileged than women. They’ve always lived in a boys will be boys culture and they’ve watched, from the time they were little boys, the world apply different rules for women and girls. Boys assault women in so many ways and all they get is a slap on the wrist, even from women. But no more.

Since the day they were born, we’ve been raising our girls to respect themselves and to value no one’s opinion over their own. I’ve taught them that no means no and if they have to scream that, then do so. We’re raising our girls to be brave and determined. They know that they are as good as any man and in some instances, even better.

This generation of moms is raising an army of feminists ready to do battle for their human respect, equality and dignity. If you can’t get on board with that, that’s your problem. It’s happening. Be ready for it. Don’t stand in their way. This is their future and their worth is more than any ranking a man could ever give them.

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