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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’


It’s around this time of year that I start receiving requests for my “Ultimate College Packing List.” Making lists helps me prioritize and bring order to my projects and so ten years ago when my first born was headed off to college, I began a list on my computer of the many things my artistic, right-brained child would need for life in a college dormitory. After asking advice from friends with older children and checking lists given out by stores, I compiled this Ultimate College Packing List, which I’ll refer to as the List in this post. A few years later I revised it for my second child, and then again for my third child. With the changes and updates throughout the years, the List is now in its eighth version.

Word eventually got around that I had a college packing list and for ten years now I’ve mailed it or emailed it to friends, friends of friends, family, friends of family, and so on. It has been circulated way beyond my local area and I’m always amazed when people I don’t know mention my List! For example, I was in a store one day last year and the clerk asked my name and when I mentioned my name, another customer exclaimed, “Are you the Linnell of The Ultimate College Packing List?” When I said I was, she thanked me for the list and told me the story of how she came about receiving it! Yet another reminder of what a small world it is!

The List is pretty comprehensive and maybe a bit outdated with today’s technological advances, but my suggestion, as stated at the top of the List, is to use it as a springboard or a starting point. Personalize it for your child; delete items you know your child won’t use and add items as you are reminded of things your child will need. Some of the items on the List will seem far-fetched and unnecessary, but it is, after all, the “ultimate” packing list. I’ve heard back from moms who didn’t think their child would need a particular item only to find out he/she actually needed it and had to go out and buy it. And as thorough as I’ve tried to be, I’m sure there are more things that could be included in the List. For the most part, there’s a reasonable explanation for almost everything on the List. I should also preface this introduction to the List by saying that my children went to colleges six to eight hours away from home and did not have cars in college. Some of the items listed were based on availability – like needing medications in the middle of the night or being hungry while studying. So depending on whether or not your child has a car and depending on what his proximity to supplies is, this list could be easily adapted.

Another suggestion related to the List is that it’s a financial drain to buy everything on this list, so look around the house for extras such as desk supplies, cleaning & kitchen supplies, and things like pillows and desk lights. Ask friends whose children have finished their freshman year in college to save their bed lifters, shower totes and such. Save coupons from stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Shop throughout the entire summer and look for bargains on these items. Designate a room or part of the house to deposit your finds and purchases. It’s a lot of stuff to organize! Check with your student’s college housing department to find out specifics on what is allowed and what is provided.

Needless to say, my kids were the most prepared kids in their dormitories, and continued to be so in their college apartments. Stay tuned – my Apartment Inventory List (a good one for students moving into their first apartments) will be posted sometime this summer!

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As my husband prepares to leave for a business trip, I pepper him with questions like, “How can I reach you?” “What airline will you be flying?” “Which hotel will you be staying at?” “Who’s the contact person at the conference?” etc. My husband takes it all in stride and patiently answers my questions. He is aware that I’m on a need to know fact finding mission. I’m like this all the time with everyone in my family. Even my parents can’t go on a road trip unless I have their itinerary first.

My daughter, who is seeking her independence daily, rolls her eyes at me whenever I ask her questions about her travel plans. “Do you really need to know this, Mom?” she impatiently says to me. My reply is, “Yes, I need to know and this is why I need to know:  If something happens to you on your trip and I don’t have a clue about your whereabouts, there will be no way of retracing your steps.” Inevitably, I get the information I need to satisfy my overactive imagination.

I need to know my kids are okay. I started “Sunday Night Check-ins” when my oldest child went off to college. Primarily, I wanted him to stay in touch with his siblings and to not lose track of what was happening in their lives and to share with the family what was happening in his. Basically, it was just good to hear his voice. I figured Sunday was a good choice, because if he had gone out of town or if any part of our family had gone away for the weekend, we’d all be back by Sunday evening. When my second son went off to college, he rightfully assumed he’d be making Sunday night calls. To this day he checks in with me whenever he’s been out of town for a while to let me know that he made it back safely. He knows I just need to know.

Apart from being a mom, I can attribute my “need to know” behavior to one particular event in my life.  When I was in my twenties, I went home to visit my parents for a weekend. One morning my parents went out to run errands while I stayed behind. The phone rang and I answered it. A voice pleaded to me, “Where’s my brother? . . I need my brother . . . .” My uncle was on the line, but this was not the voice of the intelligent and funny man I knew. His son, my cousin, was a freshman in college and had become seriously ill. Because this happened before the invention of cell phones, there was no way of contacting my parents directly. As I tried to remember everything my parents had told me about their morning plans, I frantically called store after store and had my parents paged. This proved futile; I could not find them.

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.“ I can’t really recall my uncle’s exact words, but I will never forget the overwhelming cries of desperation, fear, and sadness in his voice that morning. I learned many life lessons from my cousin’s tragic death, but the one that surfaces regularly is how important it is to know where your loved ones are – so my dear family, please indulge me.

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“Are you sure you don’t want to take more long-sleeved sweaters and fewer short-sleeved shirts?” I ask my daughter as she packs up her belongings for a study abroad in Greece. “I’ll be fine, Mom,” my daughter says without hesitation. I worry because I read that it can occasionally snow in Greece during the winter and my darling daughter is packing as if she were going to Hawaii.

If there were a job description for being a mom, I’m sure worrying would be right up there with nourishing. Being a mom is by far the most difficult job I’ve ever had and the white hairs on my head are proof. Using Sharpie pens to disguise those hairs has become too time consuming and, anyways, my triceps muscles are too weak to hold my arms above my head for extended periods of time. My parents have always said that no matter how old my siblings and I become, they still worry about us. Don’t get me wrong, none of us are hellions, but how well children are prepared to weather life’s up and downs are all causes of concern to parents.

Unfortunately children do not come with instruction manuals, so when mine were babies I would fret over whether they were getting enough to eat, whether sending them to daycare was the right choice, and whether they were developing normally. The latter was needless worrying since, thankfully, none of my children are normal. They are all extraordinary!

As they grew up and went to elementary school, I worried about constant colds, ear infections, and major childhood diseases. But also on my “worry meter” was their fine and gross motor skill development. Could they skip? That was always the test to see if they could progress on to first grade. When would they learn to read? Would they learn to say their “R’s” the normal way so that car did not sound like “caw?” These worries dissolved away as each concern was resolved.

When they approached junior high school, I stressed over eating habits, study habits, hygiene routines, and their burgeoning sport and social schedules. High school offered little relief for me as sports and social activities, driving lessons, high academic standards, and college applications all warred against each other. But alas, all that high school worrying was for naught; they all got into good colleges. Then the college years came and brought worries about drinking, driving, drugs, and roommates! After almost ten years I can see light at the end of the college-years tunnel.

You get the picture. My worrying can take a siesta now. All seems calm . . . but wait . . . will number one graduate and get a good job? Will number two continue to manage his health issues adequately? And will number three be alright in Greece? I don’t have a crystal ball that can predict the future, but I do know that I’ve tried to be the best mom I could possibly be and I must now rely on my children to remember all that I’ve instilled in them and to make the right choices. Hmm, I just noticed that it is 37 degrees in Athens right now. So why am I worried?

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Sitting in front of the fireplace with my furry little dog at my feet, I warm my hands on a mug of hot cocoa and savor the rich chocolate flavor. Ah, the good life. You’d never guess that just a few short hours ago I packed up my kids and sent them on their merry way. Each got a hug and a goody bag of Thanksgiving leftovers. Since they left, I’ve washed six loads of laundry, stripped and remade all the beds, cleaned every sticky square inch of my kitchen, mopped dirty floors, and vacuumed leaf-strewn carpets. That was the easy part of my Thanksgiving holiday.

Despite the nonstop cooking and cleaning, the craziness of playing referee between my kids (yes, even at their ages they still have tiffs), and the constant scheduling of family time around their social schedules, I really love it when my kids come home! But four days goes by quickly, and soon I find myself standing in the driveway waving goodbye to them one by one. As they each drive off, I feel a little emptiness in my heart and sadly I turn around and head back to the house. Miraculously, though, every time they leave and I pass through the threshold of the front door and see the chaotic mess they’ve left behind, that sad feeling is gone! It’s replaced with the Do-You-Think-I’m-The-Maid feeling!

So whether you’re feeling blue because your kids are gone again or you’re just happy to be by yourself again, here’s a recipe for a nice, comforting spicy mocha beverage. A neighbor gave it to me many years ago and it’s a good mix to have around the house during the holidays to serve to guests. For a great gift idea, put the mix in a cellophane bag, tie it up with a pretty ribbon, attach the directions, and tuck in a small bottle of brandy or your favorite liqueur (such as Frangelico or Kahlua) to make your gift complete. Wrapping a bag of mix with a cute pair of coffee mugs is another way to give this mix as a gift. Marshmallows optional with this version!
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Spiced Mocha Mix
Mix together:
1 cup nondairy powdered creamer
1 cup hot cocoa mix
2/3 cup instant coffee powder/granules (decaffeinated or regular)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Directions: Place 2-4 tablespoons in the bottom of a mug. Add 6 ounces of boiling water and stir until smooth and blended. Garnish with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Add your favorite liqueur or brandy to taste – not optional during the holidays!

Don’t forget: When packaging this mix as a gift, make sure to include a printed copy of the directions!

Note: My “Falling Leaves Snowflake” cards were made from outdated calendars. Calendars with beautiful images and high quality paper can be reused for other projects!

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The crisp air and clear blue skies were enough to lure me outside to enjoy the fall weather. This past weekend my husband and I paid visits to two of our favorite local produce haunts. Struble Ranch has just opened for the season with a bumper crop of mandarins and is located on one of the prettiest pieces of property around. Otow’s Orchard grows a multitude of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, but right now is selling fresh persimmons, hoshigaki (their famous dried persimmons), and winter squash. Wherever you live, please support your local growers.

#1 – Mandarin Oranges
According to Peggy Trowbridge Fillippone of About.com:
“Mandarin oranges” is a term that applies to an entire group of citrus fruits. This group, botanically classified as Citrus reticulata, includes such varieties as Satsuma, Clementine, Dancy, Honey, Pixie, and tangerines in general. Most are sweeter than their other citrus cousins (yet there are some tart varieties), have a bright orange skin that is easy to peel, and inner segments that are easily separated. There are seeded and seedless varieties.

Depending on the variety, mandarin oranges are in season from November through June in the Northern hemisphere, with peak season being December and January.

Select fruits that are unblemished and heavy for their size. Avoid those with cuts, soft spots, or mold. Bright color is not necessarily an indication of quality as some are dyed and some naturally have green patches even when fully ripe.

They may be stored in a cool, dark spot for a few days, but ideally should be refrigerated to extend shelf life up to two weeks.

#2 – Identifying Drinking Glasses
My kids are coming home for the Thanksgiving holidays, so the rubber bands are coming out of the kitchen drawer. Years ago I figured out a system to prevent my kids from reaching for new glasses every time they were thirsty. I purchased wide, colorful rubber bands and wrote my children’s names on the rubber bands. As soon as he/she took a glass out of the cabinet, his/her rubber band was slipped onto the glass immediately. This little trick continues to save me a lot of needless dishwashing!

#3 – Wearing Red This Holiday?
Here’s a tip straight from stylists Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, “We love red with silver as opposed to red and gold. The latter combo can look a little too much like a Christmas ornament. An alternative to metallic accessories would be another bright color; accents of violet or light blue look spectacular with a red dress . . . !”

#4 – Consider This
If a man has a talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he has a talent and uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If he has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of it, he has gloriously succeeded, and won a satisfaction and a triumph few men ever know. Thomas Wolfe

#5 – Random Act of Kindness
Each of us must do our part to make the world a better place, so how about carrying out a little random act of kindness this weekend? It could be as simple as giving someone a complement. Here’s something I’ve done before: I’ve wrapped up cookies in cellophane, tied them with a ribbon, included a brief note of thanks and stuck them in my mailbox for my letter carrier to pick up.

Enjoy the beautiful fall weather and have a great weekend!

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I always say that raising three children is a juggling act. In three ball juggling, there is never a moment when all three balls are in the air simultaneously and that’s pretty much how it is with my three kids. If I can get two of them in the air, or in my analogy, concern-free, then the third is at the bottom and needs a boost up. Not to say that any of my children have huge issues or troubles, but more just a matter of dealing with the curves that life throws at them. Periodically, each of them needs a little parental support and my husband and I are happy to give it. That was the deal when we signed on to be parents. We knew it was a lifelong commitment.

My husband and I always wanted three children. When our first two children were born, we were over the moon with happiness, but in our hearts we knew we had room for one more. When I was pregnant with our third child, a wise friend informed me, that having three kids was not just a simple equation of 2 + 1 = 3, it was more like the chaos theory. Her point was that with two children you achieve equilibrium because you have one hand for each child. With three, there’s always one on the loose and you’re always off balance. Without a doubt, having three is challenging just by virtue of being an odd number. Pairing up for amusement park rides is awkward, packaged toys are often packed in twos, and the two-against-one argument is commonplace.

The thing about having three children is that there has to be one in the middle. Being a middle child myself, I know about threes. I am sandwiched between an older sister and a younger brother, so I am well aware of birth order characteristics. My sister, the oldest child, definitely has the leadership characteristic stamped in her DNA and my brother, the baby of the family, is characteristically comical and entertaining. As for me, three, yes, three, middle child characteristics jumped off the list when I first read it. “Creative.” Yes, I am creative – that’s why I’m a blogger! “Doesn’t like to follow authority.” Hmm, I view it more like I have a lot of questions for authority. “They can usually read people well, they are peacemakers who see all sides of a situation.” I’ve certainly had on the job training as peacemaker in my family.

As a kid, I thought I would never have three children, because I didn’t want to create a middle child. Obviously my husband convinced me otherwise. But as I raised my children, I made a concerted effort to be especially fair to my middle child. The tough thing, though, is life is not fair and will never be fair, so maybe I should have taught my middle child that lesson instead from the get-go. From a middle child’s perspective, it’s all about expectation, therefore middle children are better off if they have no expectations and then they can be pleasantly surprised.

If I had to do it over again, I would still have three, because I cannot imagine my life without anyone one of my children. They are three wonderful individuals marching to their own drumbeats who every now and then need a boost from their parents to get back in the air. Who will be up and who will be down next? Your guess is as good as mine.

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