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Are you kidding me? School starts in less than two weeks! There’s no time for back-to-school clothes shopping! We just got back from a huge family vacation, before-school activities have already begun (marching band anyone?), and there are about a million things on my mom-plate trumping a long drive over the mountain to find the mall. And please, I have no love of school clothes shopping in the first place!

In case I seem like a terrible mother, don’t worry; we’ve already purchased all the items on each kid’s school supply list. I love shopping for crisp clean notebooks, new pencils to sharpen, and pink erasers—which they will lose in the first week.

I’m all over the über-sales in July and August for 5-cent copy paper. I’ll even make an extra stop at a random shop that has Sharpie pens on sale (I am a Sharpie junkie, people!).

Then why, you may wonder, is it so hard to get out there and shop for school clothes in a timely manner? I’ll tell you why it’s hard: The crowds. The parking. Oh and that little thing… MONEY. 

So, this late in the shopping game, we’ve decided 4 things:

1. We are NOT traveling any more this month (especially not for shopping), not even just over the mountain. And when you live in a small town with very few stores to choose from, that means you turn to the Internet to help you out.

2. We are not purchasing multiple outfits and overdoing the clothes closet right now. Maybe a first day of school outfit and a couple pairs of jeans without holes in them! 

3. We are NOT paying for shipping. This may mean we will have to pool our efforts with another household of teens and tweens to save on shipping (Usually $50-100 = free shipping), and locating free (or nearly free) shipping sites.

4. We will hope for after-school-starts-sales in mid-September and go shopping when we aren’t so overwhelmed from the summer travel (and heat!). Of course all the school activities will be in full swing so don’t quote me on that if we don’t make it happen. (Did I mention the teen is doing flags this year in marching band?)

I was feeling bad that my little boy is the only one who hasn’t really gotten new sneakers in the last few months. And I told him we would go find him new shoes at least (no way am I shopping online for shoes!). He looked up at me and said, “Nah, I don’t need new shoes right now; mine are fine.”

Spoken like a true 8 year old, who possibly hates shopping for school clothes more than I do!


Everyone should learn how to make an easy, simple “white sauce.” Also called “gravy”—and similar to a roux or remoulade in fancy French circles—the uses for this sauce include everything from a topping for mashed potatoes to a key ingredient in “Gourmet Salmon Remoulade.” (Not that I’m ever that fancy around here.)

The beauty of a white sauce is that it grows up to become ANYTHING you want it to be. If you are hankering for a homey potpie some weeknight, simply doctor up the sauce with some salt and pepper, and add some parsley. If you and your kids are feeling a bit of a “fiesta” coming on, enlist the kids' help, add Tex-Mex-style seasonings, and bake up some yummy Creamy Chicken Enchiladas. Really, the sky’s the limit for whatever your imagination can dream up when it comes to experimenting and changing the ingredients to create new favorite family meals.

I’ve used this sauce to make a thick, sausage gravy for dinnertime biscuits and gravy, without the huge amounts of pepper that come in store bought “country gravy” packets. (Yuck.) I also use it to make Homestyle Chicken Potpie and Family-Friendly Chicken Curry Over Rice—which my kids love.

Dinner will taste awesome if you start with a white sauce you make yourself (and can control for thickness, seasonings, etc.), rather than any cream-in-a-can.

So, now that you’ve got a simple white sauce…what’re you gonna make with it?!

Editor's note: Readers, let other SchoolFamily.com cooks know what you make with Carissa's recipe for Simple White Sauce! We'll share your recipe idea on our Recipe Share and here on our blog site. Send us your recipe using this Recipe Submission Form, and happy creating!




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The cell phone representative looked over my account and asked if I had a teenager. “Of course I do,” I said, adding, “Why?”

Apparently my 14 year old sent out and received more than 9,000 texts last month. The shocked phone rep told me it was a new record, in her experience. 

Uh oh. Apparently it’s time to be a parent over here in “GoodNCrazy” world.

My first thought was to either take away my daughter’s phone completely or put a block on her texting ASAP! My second thought was to contact my pal Mary Heston, a respected teen online and mobile expert.

Mary responded with words to the effect of “Slow down, Mama.” Remember, she said, teens do NOT communicate the way we did (or do). And while it’s strange for grown-ups to imagine sending hundreds of texts per week (or per day); it’s equally strange to them that we DON’T send very many texts.

I began breathing more deeply and slowly.

But still. Three-Hundred-Texts-Per-Day, folks!

Then, Mary’s next statement brought me down another notch. She told me to make the conversation with my daughter more about “increasing the quality—and not just about decreasing quantity—of texts.”

She was referring to all those: “k”, “jk,” and “lol” comments. I really had to think about this: The difference between creating a teachable talking point for a mother-daughter conversation, versus yelling at your kiddo for X, Y or Z (and getting nowhere).

Thanks to Mary my brain was in a much better parenting mode. I don’t want to police her phone any more than I want to police her grades or her afterschool activities at this stage of her life. I’d much rather she begin to grasp the “whys,” and then determine the changes that are needed.

Fast-forward to the same afternoon when I held her captive in a 15-minute drive-time chat. I explained that I had some bad news for her. And I simply stated that the previous month she texted so much that even the phone store rep was shocked. I shared the number (300) and asked if she was surprised by it. She was, a little.

I asked if she thought it was time for a few teen-changes. And then I began the conversation about amount of texts as they relate to “quality of conversation.”

She was completely open and, big surprise, I swear I didn’t see any eye rolling! She suggested time limits, including putting the phone down after 6 p.m. (instead of living in her pocket), and never texting after bedtime.

I tried to understand how many people she is communicating with (is it hundreds of texts between a few friends or a few texts with many different friends)? I asked more questions and tried to refrain from using an “accusatory-Mom” tone. I let her talk. (That’s a hard one for me.) And she surprised me with her responses and her suggestions.

We don’t have the situation under control yet, but we’re working on the issue as best we can. But not by enforcing strict rules and heavy-handed parent policies. Instead we’re doing so by helping her see where the normal limits should be (though who really knows?), and then following up daily for a while to be sure she can break her own habits and find a new level that is acceptable to her and to us.

She was hoping to get the hand-me-down smart phone I was in the store upgrading in the first place.

Yeah. Probably not anytime soon.

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Family reunions, neighborhood potlucks. and church gatherings. What do they all have in common? Don’t say crazy Aunt Erma. I’m talking about the food of course! Specifically SALADS, which are perfect for summer potlucks.

I know what you’re thinking: We’re all about the meat at these group gatherings, right? While camping and reunion-ing with my giant family (in the photo, that’s me in the middle with 4 of my 6 sisters), hot dogs and hamburgers reign king and queen. At block parties the meat-eating fare is more sophisticated: grilled chicken or even ribs might turn up and surprise you. While at church or school dinner nights; spaghetti bakes are common. But in my world there’s almost always baked brisket or tri-tip (a cut of beef from the sirloin) —YUM!  

Now that your mouth is watering, let’s talk about those salads? What to bring? Green salad? Pasta salad? Fruit salad? Because I certainly don’t want to bring the same thing as 6 other people (how embarrassing). So, here are the best of the best in my book.


My Top 5 Favorite Potluck Salads

1. Chinese Cabbage Salad. This is my new amazing FAVORITE salad. I plan to bring it to every potluck all summer long. Even my kids beg for this. Since I’m not a huge fan of coleslaw, but love cabbage, skip the sweet creamy dressing and go for a rice wine vinegar-style dish with lots of crunchy add-ins instead (BTW, toasting the sesame seeds, almonds, and ramen noodles in butter first will pretty much insure a blue ribbon win at your next group gathering. Fat free? NO.)


2. Broccoli Salad. My second favorite salad. The dressing is very simple: rice wine vinegar with a little bit of mayo and sugar. It’s easy to experiment with or dress up each time you make it—try different nuts, seeds, raisins, Craisins, bacon, red onion, green onions, apples, and all sorts of different cheeses. My special GoodNCrazy tip: Peel and slice the inside stalk of broccoli and toss in the salad; I’m surprised how much I like the “heart” of broccoli.


3. Green Jell-O With Cottage Cheese Salad. It shows where I’m from (Utah), but I’m a sucker for anything with cottage cheese in it. People put all sorts of wacky things in this type of salad. I’m happy with a few fruits (apples and pineapple), and adding whipped cream in with the Jell-O after it’s partially set.


4. Angry Taco Salad. This is the perfect way to use up leftover taco meat. The best variation I know for this salad starts with seasoned hamburger. Add shredded lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and then top the mixture with a WHOLE bag of crunched up Nacho Doritos (YUM, huh?). Stir it all together and then… wait for it… the secret ingredient: add one-half to a whole bottle of store-bought French dressing. I’ll admit that the dressing threw me at first, but trust me and give it a chance. People will be all—“WHO made that salad?!” and “What’s the secret?!” And you can tell them…or not. (Recipe courtesy of my friend @AngryJulie!)


5. Acini de Pepe Salad (also known as Frog Eye Salad in my world). This salad is a staple at my huge family reunions. It’s like an Ambrosia salad with mini pasta dots, pudding, whipped cream, pineapple, and coconut. It makes a HUGE vat of salad and feeds literally hundreds of people.


So there you have it—5 fabulous summer salads. Now, share with me…what’s your favorite summer salad?


Be honest:  Are you the type of mom who shaves her legs every single day? Does the thought of stubble make your eye twitch and inflame your OCD tendencies? OR, are you a closet European? Is your razor rusty from UN-use between shaves? Are girlfriends braiding your shin hair during book club meetings?

 I admit these are extreme illustrations (bear with me; I’m employing the fine art of exaggeration). But I’m guessing we all fall somewhere along the spectrum between these two examples…

 Personally I’m closer to the European extreme. I never liked shaving my legs. And bless my husband for loving me anyway! I polled my 6 sisters and they all pretty much shave daily. So it’s confirmed—I’m weird this way.

Just so we’re clear; I rarely wear make-up, I’m not a fan of high-end, name-brand clothing, and I’ve been known to stay in my “work-out” clothes all day…even if I never enter actually enter a gym. (SIDENOTE: One year in high school I kept a running tally of days without hairspray—people, this was the 80s…think about that). I think it’s safe to say I’m not one to follow the crowd.

I won’t be jumping into the Botox game anytime soon either (needles are involved for pete’s sake!). My inner feminist is very much against breast augmentation—and believe me, after nursing 3 babies my girls are droopy!

I’m simply trying to embrace my age and near-40-ness with fierceness, not fear. For example, I need reading glasses and I’m okay with it.

All that being said… I have a personal hypocrisy to announce.

I’ve been finding grey hairs in my hairline for a few months. And I hate it! Last week, I marched into my stylist’s salon and said: “Help, I don’t want to start the hair-coloring-never-ending-cycle, with the hairline streak of grey creeping up every 6 weeks to give me away.” And she replied, “No problem, semi-permanent hair color is for you. It fades after 6 weeks and no one will know you jogged down the road of high maintenance in this one thing.”

Whew. I did it (the photo above was taken literally minutes after I left the salon). And, 6 weeks from now, I’ll let you know how it’s gone. Will I continue the hair color treatment or not? Hard to say. My stylist can’t remember my name—that’s how often I DON’T  schedule haircuts, much less keep up with the ball and chain of 6 week hair coloring appointments!)

Where are you on the mom-high-maintenance treadmill? Hair color, shaving, nails, Botox—where does it stop!?

Do you plan to keep up the crazy until you’re 80? (Me neither.)


Tagged in: Carissa Rogers

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Recently, I was asked to answer this question (and do so in a serious tone): “What are you good at?”  And I was completely stumped. I couldn’t come up with a single fabulous response. I’m an impatient parent, I often lose my mom-cool, and the “mommy monster” is well known around our house.

I’m loud, there’s no two ways around it. I just am. Raised in a household of 10 kids, you get that way, and 20 years later you can’t strip yourself of it. I’m also opinionated, competitive, and passionate about the things I love and care about. In my experience those 3 things are volatile, and heaven knows I can rub people the wrong way.

But….several hours later, I got to thinking less about my faults and more about what I was really good at. I mean REALLY good at… so good that they might even count as multiple Super Powers in 3 different categories. Here’s what I came up with:



• Teaching Independence

I happily encouraged my kids to stand on their own feet at very early ages, and to step out of their comfort zones. From buckling their own car seat to riding their bike “all the way to the store” alone, I love watching my children grow up! Believe me when I say I do NOT cry when my kids head off to kindergarten.

• Responsibility

My son could clean the toilet at 4 years old (okay I had to clean it after him), but my 11 year old babysits her younger brother (and practically taught him to read), and my 14 year old juggles honors classes, hours and hours of after school drama practice, and still finds time to experiment in the kitchen on her own.

• Teaching Financial IQ

I am great at helping my kids understand that money doesn’t grow on trees. They don’t always love me for it, but when that student loan is paid off, they’ll appreciate my money lessons.

• Getting Along With Others

Over and over I remind my kids to pay attention on the playground and look for the friend who’s feeling left out that day. “Imagine if it were you,” I tell them, “and see if you can help him/her out.” I never allowed a threesome playdate to turn into a fight of 2 against 1. And I can honestly say all 3 of my kids have strong friends and make new friends easily. A true gift that will keep on giving.



• Talk to Strangers. I am able to leap a scary cocktail meet & great in a single bound. I LOVE meeting new people. (“Hi my name is Carissa, what’s yours?”)

• Loud Voice Syndrome. My voice carries—YO! (It’s not always a bad thing).

• I Love Talking (and even sometimes listening) to a huge variety of people. People in general fascinate me!


IN MY “JOBBY” (Job/Hobby) AND “WORK:”

• Creativity. I have a blast doing what I do. I get to throw out amazingly AWFUL ideas and when bounced off other people, those ideas turn to gold. See? That’s just like a super power.

• Problem-Solver. Willing to brainstorm any time, day or night. I am most happy when in a conversation of what if’s. What if we tried this? What if we changed that? It paints a huge smile on my face.

• “Good Soldier.” When another takes the lead I happily follow! I don’t always like to be in charge (loud mouth or not). What I really love is a great leader, one I can follow, then creatively jump in and take on my part of the gig.

Fellow Moms, what’s your super power? Promise me not to freak out if you can’t think of something right this second. It might take a few hours. It might take a few weeks.

The first step, however, is ignoring your faults. You’ll be surprised at what super power emerges, because I guarantee you have a few—you simply haven’t identified them yet!


Tagged in: Carissa Rogers

My daughter did it. She made her first sale—of cupcakes! A friend needed 60+ birthday cupcakes for her daughter’s class at school and the after school birthday party.

After checking with a gourmet shop my friend realized they were charging between $2-3 per cupcake! Let’s just say my kiddo charges much less than that. And we think she does a pretty darn good job! (The “Shark” cupcake she’s holding in the photo was for her little brother’s birthday.)

I can’t say she’s always been a superstar in the kitchen—soupy red velvet cupcakes (what did she forget to add?), and mint chocolate cupcakes (when the peppermint ran out she used mint flavoring instead, which tasted like toothpaste).

But she’s been creative and brave in the kitchen for many years. And she keeps on trying.

I have to thank/blame my husband for all three of my kids’ willingness to experiment gastronomically. He has been perfecting the mostest-bestest chocolate chip pan cookies for 15+ years! Every Sunday night he whips up a batch from “memory,”’ which, translated, means a slightly different version each time (sometimes awesome… sometimes NOT so awesome). The kids know that when dad’s in the kitchen anything’s possible. Are we out of chocolate chips? How about marshmallows instead? Should we try adding cocoa powder? Peanut butter? You get the picture.

I’m willing to try new recipes, and I will experiment a little bit especially with dinner ideas. But when it comes to baking, I’m a stick-to-the-recipe kind of girl. My kids get the bake-outside-the-cake-mix gene from their dad.

Back to my daughter: She’s been a cupcake-making fool the past 3-4 months. Here are a few of her culinary creations:

  • One more set of cupcakes for the youth church group
  • And of course… those 60 birthday cupcakes (cha-ching!)

Since it took a long time to put all those cupcakes together, she quickly learned that her per hour rate for all those cupcakes wasn’t high enough. “I think I make more money babysitting,” she said after the cupcake sale. But she likes baking more than child caring, so maybe that’s okay.

And since she’s not in this commercial endeavor alone, you can guess who serves as the cupcake-making-assistant, grocery purchaser, and [sigh] kitchen cleaner-upper more often than not. Yes, that’d be me. But I try not to grumble because I love that she experiments in the kitchen. I love that she makes her own refreshments for parties. And I especially love what she’s learning about money and business.

Cupcakes, anyone?


The sweetest words any mom will ever hear: “Mom, I’m so glad you told us NO when we were little, and you meant it!”

I did a complete double take when I heard them. We were in the car, and I may or may not have zigzagged around the freeway while I recovered.

You’re what? You are GRATEFUL I’m so mean? Is that what you’re saying?

This quote is from the Facebook page of Erin Hampton, a friend of mine:

It would make my life easier if my daughter's circle of family and friends had the same opinions that I do, LOL. She just doesn't understand why at 9 p.m. she can't [read the] Twilight [series] or watch [the] The Hunger Games, etc., and I am just a Mean Mom because ‘everyone else's Moms are letting them watch the movie or read the books.’ UGH”

—Erin Hampton

Erin said that after she wrote it, about 100 people wrote comments with kudos and statements like, “Here, Here! Keep up the good work, Mom!”

I agree with Erin. My middle daughter is 11 and she hasn’t even watched the whole set of Harry Potter movies yet because the later ones are so graphic. (And we generally stick to the PG-13 ratings, waiting until they are 13 to consider watching.) The Twilight books are a long way away for her (make that both the books and the movies). However, she just finished reading The Hunger Games series…so will we let her see the movie?

Probably not.

I also agree with Erin about the “Meanest Mom On the Block” syndrome when your kid realizes that “friends” are allowed to do something, wear something, or attend something that she most definitely is NOT allowed to do, wear, or attend.

Is it worth sticking to your “Meanest Mom” guns? I say yes. Helping your kids understand the importance of modestly dressing and staying away from inappropriate images is totally worth ignoring the rolling eyes and tween whining. You’ll be as grateful as I was after the above “thanks for saying NO” comment.

BTW, that comment came after a friend’s 12-year-old spent the better part of a half hour throwing a complete knock down tantrum because his mom said no to a request. My kids and I were witness to the tween nightmare. Did I mention he was 12?! I was appalled, but didn’t realize how intensely my children internalized that moment. They clearly realized a big kid in tantrum-mode isn’t pretty. In fact they were grateful for a mom who loves them enough to say no.

And Mean It.

I’ll take the “Meanest Mom” compliment ANY day of the week!

Because that’s how much I love my children.

How mean do your kids think you are?





Let me set the scene: TIME: Last spring, at the end of the school year. LOCATION: The library at my kid’s school, Roosevelt Elementary. SETTING: The last PTO meeting of the year.

I was tempted to pretend to be sick. I’d spent the previous year acting as vice president of the whole “she”-bang! It was hard work but my youngest child was in school full time and I gave it my all. And anyone who volunteers in their kid’s school knows how rewarding it is.

We raised money for new playground and PE equipment. We planted 4 new trees on the school lawn. We supported teachers and staff during teacher appreciation week and created a new community movie night for the whole “school family.”

And we were exhausted.

I was doing the whining, but my PTO president was finishing up her THIRD year, the first two without a vice president! Bless her.

Still, I showed up to that end of year meeting with a plan. Because, you know, vice presidents often become… (gulp) presidents! And I knew I couldn’t do that. I was working more and more from home and, as a family, we had decided to bring a foster child into our home (back to the world of pre-school, people!). And with my oldest child going into high school, I worried about what sort of new and scary time commitments that would bring. (Drama Club, anyone?)

I knew it was my year to be the soldier. Not the general. A change in rank.

It was a hard-fought battle, and I had to stand my ground.

But in the end, I caved… a little. I didn’t agree to run the whole organization. Instead, I agreed to serve as chairperson for the largest fundraiser of the year: the [dreaded] school rummage sale!

At that time, the sale was a whole year away and I figured I had plenty of time to plan for it. I mean, it’s a massive undertaking and a lot of work, but it’s all over in about 2 weeks.

Fast forward to last weekend…and the big day. Thanks to several moms, friends, and a few dads, it went very well. I’m still massaging my feet from being on them all that day, but a $1,600 check for the PTO is worth a couple of tired dogs.

But, what am I going to say at this year’s final PTO meeting? Can I run the school rummage sale again? (Only if I have a co-chairperson.) Do I have any more time this year to do even more volunteering than I did last year? (No.)

I’m afraid it’s another year of being the soldier. Happily doing what I’m told and jumping in where needed. Maybe I’ll get moved up to the rank of sergeant?

Hey! That has a nice ring to it—“Sergeant of the Rummage Sale”!

Anyway, I thought I’d compile 6 Lessons I Learned From Running the School Rummage Sale:

1. Start early. No matter what date you choose, many people will be busy on the same day, so get your team in place early. I used VolunteerSpot.com to create free online sign-up sheets for each task.

2. Send out fliers and use social media early and often. We had (have) a group Facebook page for the rummage sale. Between that and the fliers, we reminded families to bring in their items for the sale and encouraged folks to volunteer to help with the work.

3. Have yummy treats to sell during the day. We asked someone to serve as chairperson of a bake sale with donated baked items. The funny thing” Visitors to a rummage sale will haggle over prices of used goods, but then happily pay whatever you ask for a doughnut or a cold soda!

4. Make sure you hire a charity or second-hand store to help you remove the leftover items at the end of the day. Be sure to call and remind them the day before the event. Our charity forgot and we were stuck “storing” everything all weekend.

5. Pricing items isn’t nearly as important as sorting the goods. Remember, everything is negotiable in the end, anyway!

6. My top tip: Make sure you have an extra-friendly person on site running the sale early in the morning when people first arrive, who’ll gently remind visitors that “this is a fundraiser for the school.” The best phrase I learned to say was as follows: “Your items come to cost $8; will you round that up to $10 for the school?” I was amazed at how many said “Sure!

My husband worries that this sort of fundraiser isn’t sustainable, that our “school family” won’t be able to fill a whole gymnasium with, um, “stuff” year after year. Well, this is the 4th school rummage sale I’ve been part of in this particular school and I swear donations of “stuff” appear like magic every year! Huge thanks to the Roosevelt “school family.” I’m grateful to be part of this team.

I just “accidentally” spent $100 on clothes.

I figured only half of the stuff would fit and/or look decent so it was really like I spent $50 and I’d just take the ugly back, right?

Um. Yeah.

“Accidentally,” everything fit—and looked awesome.

Now what?

I opened it up for discussion on my Facebook wall; I mean I’ve never had this dilemma before. Shopping for me tends to be a wham-bam affair. I find a shirt or capris that seem like they might work, and I buy and take home. Later I say a prayer to the hip Gods and try stuff on in the privacy of my dark closet. If they fit, I’m pleased, but more often… when they don’t I take them back between buying bread and eggs. I tend to be ‘fashion stupid’ so this is a regular event for me.

The other day I had a whole 25 minutes to myself and slipped into a discount clothing store, thinking I’d just buy a few fun and funky shirts, maybe a pair of summer pants for an upcoming trip to a social media conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Anyone gonna be at the Type-A Parent Conference in June? I would love to see you there!!)

I bought a couple of shirts with crazy stripes (totally not my usual bland mom-fashion) and not one but two (!) pairs of summer pants. I was feeling oh-so-wild that day, I guess? And later that evening I had to text my husband the above quote: “I accidentally spent $100 on clothes today.”

He didn’t mind and all the Facebook chatter ended with… “It’s almost Mother’s Day; keep the stuff and call it a gift to yourself!” Thank you, I did.

The funniest part is that my 14-year-old daughter keeps eyeing my new funky shirts. (She’s wearing one of them in the photo with me.) There’s no way MY pants would fit her… so don’t even go there. But I have to chuckle a little bit at her willingness to share my fashion, because lately she hates that I sing along to Adele. I mean, Please. As if Adele is “her” music?  When it totally is MY music.

She recently laid down a new edict: Mom is not allowed to sing along to ANY music (in her presence) unless it was written the year I was born. I’m nearly 40—do the math. I am soooo not singing along to disco anytime soon!

So, I figure if I can’t sing to “her” music… I can at least dance to it (in my new accidental outfits)!



My grandma passed away last Friday. And worse, I missed her funeral.

It’s not as bad as it seems. I’m sad of course; literally, as I type this, her funeral is taking place more than 12 hours away in another state. She was emotionally in a lot of pain and while I’m upset to miss the funeral, I’m relieved to think about her in a better, happier place (btw, that's her in the photo, with my younger daughter). 

The thing is…our family had enough notice to plan to attend. We have the gas money and a working vehicle. We could stay with family for a night in between the funeral and driving.

But. We’ve come to realize we are now “teen-parent-people.” And when you are the parents of teens you learn (sometimes the hard way) that their events and their timetables often trump the family’s plans.

It reminds me of a poem a friend recently shared with me:


“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

—Catherine M. Wallace


Back in February over President’s Weekend, we were set to get away for a couple of nights. My husband was exhausted from work and we all needed a break to just be a family. However, my daughter’s play practice kept us from going. She swore up and down she would be kicked out of the play if she missed the “special” extra practice on Monday. (Who does that, by the way? Holds play practice on a holiday?)

We debated— leave her home for the weekend with friends we know and trust? Fight it out with her director? Get the principal involved? Insist she not be punished for a weekend our family sorely needed?

In the end I had a mother’s epiphany (they can be very painful, I’m warning you): I realized this play was her WHOLE life right that second. And while it seemed small compared to the overall family picture, it wasn’t small to her. It was huge to her.


“…because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”


We decided to stay home that weekend and we managed to find plenty of family time and renewal right in our own home.

I tell you about February because this past weekend, as we plotted to attend the funeral, we realized the oldest kiddo had a state band competition the morning after the funeral. No matter how we sketched it, the best we could figure was leaving the funeral early and driving straight through the night (no potty breaks allowed), getting home at 7 a.m., with less than an hour to spare for her to catch her band bus.

The other option was to leave her home with friends. And again, we couldn’t do it. I never want to be the parents who leave a teen behind while the family goes off to play…or even to mourn.

The question is: Did we sacrifice a family need for the teen’s need? I don’t think so. I think events will eventually arise where the teen’s universe will not trump the family’s need. And we’ll make that decision as it comes.

But for now, we’re ‘teen-parent-people’. We choose to let the big stuff in their lives rule our “stuff.”  

Soon enough our kids will be grown, and dealing with their own kid’s stuff.





Tagged in: Carissa Rogers

I’ve spent nearly 15 years celebrating Mother’s Days. And after a while it sort of gets mashed into all the other days and craziness of May. School is winding down, with end of year celebrations and field trips, plus Little League is ramping up. Add to that all the band concerts and awards banquets, and literally every evening of every week is crazy busy.

Also in May we have a couple of family birthdays and with the second Sunday of the month being Mother’s Day, honestly, I just don’t need another stress in my life! I’d so much prefer a calm day off without too much fanfare and of course my family nearby (if possible doing all the “work” it takes to run the house...).

I know my husband and kids mean well, and they say it’s the thought that counts, right? But sometimes I wish “the thought” would ask me what I want first!

Here’s an unofficial survey—on Mother’s Day, which would you prefer:

  • Sleeping in ’till 9 a.m. —OR— having breakfast in bed? (I love runny eggs and dandelions in a cup as much as the next mom, but extra sleep is divine!)
  • Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Caramel —OR— homemade cupcakes made with love and a few extra doses of salt ‘cuz the 2-year-old helped?
  • That new artwork you’ve been dreaming about for the entryway —OR —child fridge art of creatures with monster arms and robot heads, and framed in macaroni ‘gilt’ edges?
  • A gift certificate to your favorite day spa —OR— foot rubs from 3 little kid’s hands and a shoulder rub from a big strong dad?
  • A day off from all household work (NO DISHES!) —OR— I can’t think of anything better (NO DISHES? What?!)
  • A quiet walk with one of your kids, and a picnic lunch —OR— a rambunctious afternoon at the park playing catch with the whole family followed by a lunch of leftovers?

I’m not saying the only thing I want is a day to myself without my family, (not that I wouldn’t appreciate a day like that!), but there are a few special pleasures I genuinely enjoy. Sleeping in is one of them, dark chocolate is another, and a day without dishes would be a dream come true! However, I so rarely get to spend time with just one of my kids that I’d LOVE, as part of my Mother’s Day” gift, to have a scheduled afternoon alone with each of my 3 kids. 

[Sigh]. It might have to wait until after Father’s Day!

What’s your dream Mother’s Day Gift?


My girlfriends, Mom friends, BFFs (whatever you want to call them), save my life on a regular basis.

This photo, at right, is from a recent birthday party for my friend Julie, the woman in the tiara (I’m sitting next to the birthday girl). We all had party assignments, and since she’s a total candy-head, everyone brought a different bag of her favorite sugar-high treat. There are always a lot of kids around when the moms get together, so for this occasion we opted to have a lunch at my house. We each purchased several of the birthday girl’s favorite food items from restaurants around town: a sandwich, an appetizer, or a random smoothie. Then we all shared the food finds for our lunch. We called it the “Julie-Smorgasbord!”

How exactly does a birthday party celebrating the guest of honor’s favorite foods save my life? It doesn't. But getting together often does! Pretty much any excuse will do for an impromptu gathering. Does anyone need a late night run to Walmart? Count me in!

We meet every Tuesday night for “Old Lady Basketball,” where we laugh (and run) for an hour. Afterwards, we sometimes head to one of our houses or maybe hit Denny’s—we figure we deserve to eat the calories that we just worked off! 

About once a month we hold “Book Club.” I say that with a grin because recently, when we realized no one was reading the books, we changed the name to just “Club.” Some suggested having a “magazine” reading club but the purists in the group (me) said NO WAY. (A parent-child book club is also a great idea.)

We create capers as often as we can invent them. About a year ago one mom was having her fourth baby. A “shower” didn’t quite fit, so we donned black clothing, fake moustaches, and stretched black panty hose over our heads, and “abducted” her away to a “Mom Party.”

And last summer we found out there is such a thing as “National Toilet Paper Day.” Who knew? Well we knew we couldn’t let that go by unheralded. We snuck out late and toilet-papered the house of one of our favorite grandmas in town! (Her husband was in on it and we cleaned the whole thing up the next day. We are Moms, after all!)

My husband has been traveling more in the past few months than he ever has in our nearly 20 years of marriage, and people often ask me how I do it. I simply say: I don’t do it alone! My mom-friends help me. (And it also helps that my kids are older now.) I also have to give a plug for my 14-year-old daughter who helps a ton (when she’s not going to play practice, that is).

But back to the girlfriends…we lovingly refer to ourselves as sister wives (don’t tell our husbands), but it’s true. If I need help with my younger kids so that I can attend an older child’s awards banquet, I have no less than 5 friends I can ask to watch them. And if I need adult conversation after a week of doing the single mom thing, I simply send out an email smoke signal (and a request for hot wings), and 8 women show up after my bedtime routine with the kids.

These late night chats, post basketball outings, and “Club" meetingts—or get-togethers for no reason at all, are literal life savers and I don’t regret a single bleary-eyed morning after!

BTW, guess what we have planned next? We’re excited because one of our gal-pals is engaged!!! Traditional wedding shower? Heck, no. We’re gonna throw the best little bachelorette party this town has ever seen! Shhh don’t tell her; it’s a HUGE surprise!

My children love Little League. Me? Not so much. I like watching them play baseball—I do. And I’m pretty sure it’s un-American to dislike Little League. It’s just that I’m a fair-weather sports mom. And I live in a part of the country where spring has a short memory, forgetting that even though daffodils already came up, snow often blankets us in June. (You may think I’m exaggerating, but last year it snowed twice in June! That may have been an anomaly. But old-timers swear it has snowed as late as July before.)

 What I’m saying is that it’s rarely very warm here in April/May during peak Little League season. As a mom it’s already chaotic enough shuttling 3 kids to the other side of town for separate practices, games, and oh don’t forget—“Your turn at the concession stands.” Add to the chaos cold temperatures, possible rain, and often hail or snow, and you get a grumpy M-O-M who’s tired of Little League! 

How do you enjoy a kid game when you’re sitting in a van keeping warm, while they are clearly freezing their chicken legs in the dugout? Do I have Mom Guilt that I’m toasty warm in the van? Yes! But no way am I sitting in the stands when it’s that cold.

 Last Saturday was “Opening Day.” That means I was at the fields for no less than 7 hours. SEVEN.

But instead of bracing ourselves for the freezing spring weather (blankets, hot chocolate, warming up in the Mom-van between games), we experienced a strange phenomenon called A Warm Day. Complete with sunshine and above 80-degree temps!

We needed extra sunscreen, water stations, and I even got an umbrella to shade myself (did no good at all; I still came home completely sunburned where I missed putting on the sunscreen). We hardly knew how to behave. The kids complained of the heat and the sweaty gloves—never heard THAT before! And the concession stand ran out of cold beverages.

I was blissfully happy in my role as fair weather Little League mom. My voice turned hoarse from cheering during the triple-header. I wore flip-flops and now sport a sunglasses’ “raccoon” tan.

I’m sure we’re in for an arctic blast straight from Alaska next week, but until then…bring on the Little League!

Editor's Note: If you have a little ones who aren't yet old enough for Little League, have them use these fun, printable, baseball-themed worksheets. For other sports, including basketball, football, and more, use these sports-themed, printable, coloring worksheets.


That’s right. CEREAL.

I am not a morning person. Instead I’ve taught my children the fine art of pouring milk and cereal. And I can’t figure out why they aren’t fond of it? I keep wondering: What kinds of kids don’t like cereal? (Mine, of course. That's them in the photo, smiling despite the cereal box in front of them).

I know there are amazing moms out there creating masterpieces of homemade goodness every single morning. They’re out there, waking at 5 a.m. to whip up a batch of scones, and sending their kids to school with whole-wheat heart-shaped sandwiches.

My own mom made breakfast for a family of 10 kids (that’s not a typo—I’m really one of 10!).  And she did it nearly every day. I often wonder why the early-to-rise and make-nutritious-breakfast-genes didn’t pass down?

Instead I keep the kitchen stocked in bagels and cream cheese to offset the cereal boredom, and plenty of PB&J for those (eek!) white bread sandwiches they make each day for school lunches. Come on…the loaf says “whole grain;” ’ that counts right? (Oh, forget it.)

I do own a few breakfast skillz. We simply eat breakfast for dinner! No. Not cereal; I’m talking the real deal—homemade waffles (chocolate waffles, orange-infused waffles or waffles with peaches and cream)! And choose-a-flavor-omelet night or pancakes spelled into kid names on the skillet. Oh, we have breakfast, don’t get me wrong, but we eat it when our eyeballs are wide awake and can truly enjoy it!

That reminds me. Have you ever had German Pancakes? We eat them for lunch nearly every Sunday, directly after church. Who doesn’t love eggs and lots of butter?! It’s become more than a tradition; it just is.

The weekend breakfast plan has been similar to the school week for years (I certainly need my beauty sleep on the weekend MORE than weekdays!). But recently, my 14-year-old daughter has decided she likes getting up on Saturdays to make breakfast for the family—especially if she has a friend sleeping over.

Maybe the “morning gene” skips a generation?!

Anyway, who’s with me? Breakfast for dinner anyone? I thawed out the frozen sausages and everything! You’re invited.




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Why is my little boy so dang forgetful? He is smart, amazing, fun loving, and all about science, engineering, and Rube Goldberg contraptions…but ask him where his library book is, and you’ll get a stare of obliviousness that only a 7 year old can muster (that's him in the photo at right).

I might go insane.

"Where did your spelling list go? I thought we agreed you would stick it in the SPECIAL homework spot as soon as you were finished with it each night? So where is it?"

(DUH-FACE as a response.)

"Are these your socks?"


"Then WHY are they sitting on the stairs?!"

And on and on and on. I love him. I do. But I pity his future wife.

This past week at school he was selected to be the “Star Student.” A sheet was sent home (which he promptly lost) the Friday before with important instructions as to how the week would shape up for him, and the following things we needed to do: 


  • Send in photos
  • Write up a "cute short story" with special anecdotes about your kid
  • Create a “Guessing Jar” filled with 100+ small items
  • Prepare his favorite “healthy” snack, enough for 33 kids (this is my favorite item— healthy? And 33 kids? Really!?)


So, I got the list of tasks about mid-week after he “remembered” to request a second copy of it. Because of this, his “week” was shortened to: Two Days of YOU!  (I made that up myself.) But the thing is, he didn’t care one bit.

He loved his special, albeit shortened, week, and he loved me for making a million ham and cheese tortilla roll ups for his whole class. (It was actually 33, but felt like a million; just sayin.’)

I  have to mention that, of course, he can remember all the teeny tiny details and minutiae of his favorite science experiments (aka huge mess-making-projects in my kitchen!). From his teacher he “borrowed” a small piece of plastic that links 2 large plastic bottles in order to create water tornados inside the bottles. For hours and hours he experimented and played and altered and played some more with those 2 bottles. 

Clearly he doesn’t have a hard time focusing on a project he loves. And I guarantee he won’t lose these two bottles. Probably because he’ll wake up in the morning with them on the pillow next to him.

The ending of the Star Student “cute short story” I wrote up about him went like this:

“There is one word to describe my little boy: Happy-Go-Lucky.’ And we love him for it!”

Now if he could just remember where he put his baseball mitt…


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April Fools’ Day came and went this year with very little fanfare or pranks in my world. Landing on a Sunday meant it wasn’t very easy to catch a schoolmate, or surprise a teacher with a silly joke on THE joke day of the year. Plus we were driving home from a short weekend getaway so even less fun for us!

My little boy did get me right before bedtime though. I had encouraged him to get his PJs on and when I turned around he was vacuuming the kitchen!? I was confused and when I asked what he was doing he hollered: April Fools’!  Ha, no kidding? (A child doing a chore unbidden?) That IS a joke!

We love April Fools’ Day around here. Once we swapped one child’s clothes from one dresser with the older kiddos’ stuff while they were sleeping. Another year we surprised dad with “fake” breakfast foods (yogurt spread in a circle with a half slice of a peach on top to look like a fried egg!)

By far, however, the best story is that I met my husband on April Fools’ Day 1993.

No kidding!

We were both invited to a “surprise” birthday party. Upon receiving the invitation neither of us realized it was scheduled for April Fools’ Day. We were in college and believed we were to keep the party a surprise from the birthday boy. The day came and we all showed up, and the birthday boy was very surprised.

Because of course it was not his birthday and the “party” was staged by the person who sent the invites. We had all been had. The joker showed up with games and treats and the real party began.

During the party I kept wondering who the funny guy on the other side of the room was… turns out he was my husband and I just didn’t know it for 10 more months! And now we’re celebrating 19 years since that first April Fools’ Day. Can everyone please say: Awwwww.  Thank you.

What’s your best April Fools’ Day story? Do your kids get involved in the tomfoolery?


Fifth grade is American History year. And four years ago my oldest daughter’s class (then 5th grade) had planned to visit Washington D.C. to tour the National Mall and a few historic sites. The problem was that the “group” plan for the class to travel was going to cost more than $2,000 for my kid—and nearly $3,000 for the chaperone! (And no way was I sending my 5th grader on a trip like that without a parent!)

We weren’t allowed to use air miles or hotel points, we wouldn’t be able to eat our own choice of food, and the hotels booked would be four kids to a room and no guarantee they wouldn’t be co-ed. Um. Yeah? NO.

Instead we put together our own “American History Washington D.C. Tour.” (And my favorite part of the whole experience? It was a Father-Daughter excursion!)

The whole thing cost less than $700 for both of them for over a week, skipping the expensive (yet cheaply done) group tour.

My husband also turned it into a “learn how to use public transportation” excursion. They flew in to Baltimore, took AMTRAK to Washington D.C., and then used subways and buses to get around the city. Best of all, he allowed the 11 year old to map out their daily jaunts and determine the best transportation routes each day!

Her favorite part of the trip was seeing the actual Declaration of Independence. She couldn’t get over that it was the REAL document! They also stumbled upon so-called “Embassy Row”—where all the foreign embassies are located—and found that all the embassies had opened their doors to the public that week! They were allowed inside the Italian Consulate (all the Italian marble, ooh la la), and the London Embassy gave out small Union Jack flags (which they brought home to the younger siblings).

Now, here we are four years later. My middle daughter is now in 5th grade and she’s having none of our “It was a one-time thing” business about her sister’s father-daughter trip. Oh no. This tradition has officially begun! (That's her and her Dad in the photo, above).

She’s super excited about HER trip to D.C. this year! And yup, again it’s Dad doing the honors. (Maybe Mom will get to take the boy child in three more years?)

We’ve been planning the trip for months now. (You have to get permission way in advance to go inside many of the government buildings.)

The father-daughter combo is making it as educational (and fun) as possible. With tours of the White House and Capitol planned, all the national mall time they can stand, and even a trip out to Mount Vernon (bonus!) And it turns out that the Yankees are in town to play the Orioles so even they figured out how to fit that in too!

And yes again they will be mainly using public transportation to get from point “A” to the Lincoln Monument.

Their trip will span the weekend of Easter, which is a little weird, but we decided it was worth it. An unforgettable trip with her Dad, while the rest of us enjoy our own fun weekend with Easter treats and celebrations, seemed WIN/WIN.

The biggest bummer is that the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin will have already bloomed by the time they get there in early April, due to the early spring back East.

Good thing the monuments are fun to see in any season!

What types of “educational travel” have you taken with your kids?


 We’ve spent our fair share of spring breaks in warmer climates, enjoying far-flung family vacations and returning home plain exhausted and needing a break from spring break! Last year we decided to stay home for the spring break (that's hubby and the kids in the photo, taking a break from bowling), and it was such a hit the whole family requested the same vacation again this year. I think we've started a tradition at my house (at least until the kids are out of school; then you’ll likely catch me on a spring break cruise!)

Top 10 Stay-cation Rules (listed in reverse order):

10. Pretend We Aren’t Home

  • Don’t answer the phone, let the machine get it (We’re on STAY-cation we can’t come to the phone, we’re having way too much fun!)
  • Close the garage door immediately upon returning each day
  • If a neighbor notices us in the backyard playing catch… pretend we can’t see them!
  • Above all, treat the whole week like a real vacation!


9.  Bedtime. What Bedtime?

 Every man, woman and child shall fend for themselves. This mom is so tired of waking up too early every day, then fighting each evening to convince my munchkins that, yes, bed time IS still at 8 p.m., even with confusing daylight savings!

So, yay! On a Stay-cation, you can sleep in, go to bed late—I don’t care!

It’s very classy vacationing at “Chez Rogers.” We set up all the kid’s mattresses in the living room with DVDs, popcorn, and their own pillows! The best part of this deal is that mom gets to sleep in her own bed at the end of the night.


8. Entertainment

We search out all the local fun things to do, as if we were on a real away-cation, such as:

  • Children’s museums and petting zoos
  • Bounce houses, open gymnasiums and batting parks
  • BOWLING! (It’s become a Rogers Stay-cation tradition that every year we must go bowling! And eat the greasy food of course.)
  • Movie theaters and community plays 
  • Local hikes and parks, depending on weather


7. Limit the Electronics

All cell phones, iPads, iPods, (i-everythings) are gathered up and stored in the “basket of screens,” only to be returned for 30 minute increments as determined by the sanity level of the mom throughout the day. Yes, even mom’s computer is off limits for a whole week! (She’s rolling her eyes right now.)


6. Family Time

What’s the point of a family stay-cation if the whole time everyone is off doing their own thing? To that end, we have lists and lists of activities, games, and for all of us projects to work on:


  • Each year we plant spring pansies together during our spring vacation.
  • It’s a great time to play the least played board games (all at once!), which we set up around the living room with a 10-minute timer. When the buzzer rings everyone switches to a new game.
  • We love dragging out old home movies from when the kids were babies, and then of course we make new ones, including silly family plays the kids make up on the spot.
  • We’re already planning our projects for the week: sewing Easter skirts with my daughter, working on art projects with my creative middle daughter, and performing a whole laboratory of science experiments for my little boy. I’ve warned the fire department.


5. Hotel/Pool Time

You didn’t think we would go without the requisite pool time while on vacation did you? No—we’re local after all, which means we know how to get the best hotel deals right here in town! One overnight stay and as much pool time as our prune hands can handle is perfect for our stay-cation.


4. Maid Service

We figure with all the money we’re saving on what we’d usually spend on six nights at a hotel, gas money, and other travel related costs, we owe ourselves a few hours of cleaning services. Plus there are plenty of “daily half off deals” to be had. Watch and get a cleaner at a steal (or see if your teen wants to earn a little moolah for her upcoming band trip to Canada, and pay her to clean instead!)


3. Food

Speaking of vacation cost savings…we don’t have to eat every meal out like on an away-cation, but we still get to pamper ourselves. We eat breakfast out one morning, and lunch a couple of days. We eat out for dinner as a family once during the week, but we grab take-out or pizza on other nights. The one hard and fast rule is that mom and dad get to have a dinner/date away one night during the stay-cation (babysitting—that’s what teenagers are for, right?).


2. Day Trips

What are the best off-the-beaten-path day trips in your area? We live near Crater Lake National Park, and it’s breathtakingly gorgeous in the springtime. It’s the bluest blue and something everyone should see before they die. And yet places like that in all our communities fall to the bottom of the priority list because they’re so close that you either forget about them or figure they’ll always be there for a later time. Go NOW! (TIP: On the way home hit the mall and make a sulky teen smile.)


1. Relax. Enjoy Your Family (for a change)

Sometimes we forget what it’s like to just BE together. The hustle and bustle of daily life—kid’s crazy school and extracurricular schedules and daily homework; volunteer hours; church dinners; not to mention dad’s travel time—are all on hold during a spring break stay-cation. Enjoy the down time and even the “boredom” time because it won’t last for long. Sleep in, eat cereal for dinner, wear your PJs all day, and above all RELAX. Chill out. Dare I say it? Do nothing!





I’ll be 39 in a few weeks.

And—what a surprise—I have a few special wishes for my birthday. First, I want a pair of red boots. A little sparkle, a little kick to make my black boots jealous. And second, I want a new practical, yet “girly,” watch. I wear the time on my sleeve, non-stop. In the shower, to bed, to fancy occasions—everywhere, so it has to be functional and please, can it be pretty too?

There’s one more thing I want for my birthday. I want to stop feeling so old!?

Nearly 40 isn’t all that ancient after all!

Okay, yes the usual aging suspects are tiptoeing in. At night I can’t read the CNN news ticker. My weight is getting harder to control; I almost lost those 10 pounds from the beginning of the school year, but a few pounds always find their way back home to my hips no matter what I try. My husband will tell you my hearing is starting to slide—I’ll tell you I don’t always WANT to hear him! And wrinkles, what is that about? SO not fair.

But the thing that is really disturbing me—making me think I’m officially crossing over—is my memory. Or, my “lack thereof” lately? Plus it doesn’t help that my daughter is playing the song “Memory” from Cats over and over on the piano for an upcoming recital! Good luck getting that out of your head!

My husband has been traveling so much in the last 5 months, he’s beginning to resemble George Clooney in the film “Up in the Air.” It’s really dragging on me as a not-quite “single mom,” which in turn drags on the kids. I’ve even hired an after school assistant to help me with some of the chaos when my husband is out of town. But, still? I’m forgetting small things!

 A little taste of what I mean...

 I left a pork tenderloin out all night that was “thawing for just a few hours.” I completely forgot to put it in fridge before bedtime. The next morning I trashed it, too worried about salmonella to cook it.

 One morning I walked out to start the car and realized I had left the garage door open all night. I should have written a sign that said: “Burglars welcome from 2-4 a.m.; the good stuff is in the back!”

 I bought really nice steaks the other day, on sale, intending to save and freeze them for the next Sunday dinner…only, a few days later I noticed a strange grocery sack sitting on the garage floor. It was over by the deep freezer…yeah, it was the steaks. I had walked over to the deep freezer, set the bag down, opened the freezer, probably rearranged frozen peas and carrots, and then “distraction(?)”  took over and I left the steaks to babysit themselves while I meandered into the house. I was so disgusted with myself!

 Is it really my memory though? (All alone in the moooon-light?)

This is the stuff that’s making me crazy. Is it really my age? I think it’s more like I'm overwhelmed with the kids’ never ending needs, my own work, and, you know, all the household tasks like remembering to take out the trash! Why can’t I simply remember to walk through the kitchen one last time before bedtime?!

Maybe my new birthday watch will have extra alarms for Forgetful, Overwhelmed Mommy Syndrome? Is that asking too much? Otherwise I’m taking my new boots and going for a long walk! (NOT in the moonlight.)



Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?