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Why You Need to Say Yes to the Thin Mints

It’s that time of year when we’re asked to buy tagalongs, thin mints, and trefoils.

I remember the first time our neighborhood Girl Scouts showed up unannounced on our doorstep sporting their patched vests, adorable smiles and a cart full of cookie boxes. The only noticeable thing missing was a parent by their side.

Where in the world was the girls’ mother?

This week the sisters who live at the end of our cul-de-sac showed up and confidently handed me a card listing all of their offerings. They told me about their new flavors, informed me of their gluten-free option and explained that the thin mints are vegan. They also suggested I not buy the Smores ones because they’re not very tasty.

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If you tell the girls that you’re watching your waist and not eating cookies right now, they are ready for your excuse. They say you can buy the cookies instead for the troops and they will ship them overseas.

Gracie and Maya bravely stop by annually to sell their Girl Scout cookies without a parent by their side.

Where is their mother and why is she not involved?

Actually, Mom is their troop leader and is exactly where she is supposed to be- encouraging and empowering her daughters from afar. In a culture of helicopter parenting, Girl Scouts allows parents to step back and let their young girls build confidence, character, and courage through their cookie selling program.

Even though my daughter isn’t a Girl Scout and I have no personal experience with the organization, I find the tradition of a sweet young girl boldly asking us to support her cause very refreshing.

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In an age where children are more often seen strapped into the backseat of the minivan racing off to their organized activity rather than traipsing around the neighborhood, I welcome this change of childhood pace that Girl Scout cookie selling provides.

My neighbor Angela Kisner said she grew up nervously hiding behind her parent’s legs and was anxious about having to talk to anyone in person. When she had her daughters, she wanted to empower them to have a voice and found Girls Scouts as one arena to help her raise confident young women. Angela also encourages her troop parents to allow their girls to do all of the cookie selling by themselves.

“The biggest sellers year after year are the girls who sell themselves rather than the parent being the leading factor,” said Jennifer Roman, Arizona Cactus-Pine Council volunteer troop leader and service unit cookie manager. In my training, I also emphasize the importance of the financial and business skills education for the girls, not the actual quantity of cookies sold.”

Did you know that the Girl Scout Cookie program is the largest girl-led financial literacy program in the country?

Do you realize that by buying that $5 box of cookies you are not only receiving a familiar special treat, but you are helping a young girl gain confidence in her leadership abilities?

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The Girl Scout Cookie Program: Learning by Earning program teaches five essential skills that prepare a girl for future career success.

  • Goal Setting – Girls set cookie sales goals and, with their team, create a plan to reach them.
  • Decision Making – Girls develop a basic business plan for cookie sales and decide as a team what to do with the money they earn: like Girl Scout activities, camp, traveling or service projects.
  • Money Management – Girls develop a budget, take cookie orders, handle customers’ money, and gain valuable, practical life skills.
  • People Skills – Girls learn how to talk to, listen to, and work with all kinds of people while selling cookies.
  • Business Ethics – Girls are honest and responsible during every step of cookie sales.

Because these five skills are embedded throughout the Girl Scout Cookie program, cookie sellers learn in a hands-on, fun way how to set goals and meet deadlines, work well with others, understand customers, and be trustworthy and reliable.

So when you’re asked to buy tagalongs, thin mints, and trefoils from a smiling Girl Scout this month, remember that what you’re really buying is so much more than a box of cookies.

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7 Ways to Add Excitement to Your Family New Year’s Eve Party!

Ushering in the New Year as a family can be a blast with just a little effort on your part. Here are seven ways to entertain the kids and make your family New Years Eve party memorable for your family and friends.

1. Make bags for the kids to open each hour up until ‘midnight

I usually start letting the kids open goodie bags beginning at 8:00. These bags give them something to look forward to as they count down each hour until midnight. Each bag contains a variety of poppers, sparklers, noisemakers or candy in them.

2. Freeze Dance Parties

After the kids open their bags, we start our hourly freeze dance party until we’re down to one winner. It keeps everyone laughing and looking forward to the next hourly celebration!

3. Turn your Christmas Tree into a New Years one

We always leave our tree up until after the new year, so turning it into a New Year tree is a lot of fun! I love this idea of adding balloons, filled with money and fortunes, to pop at midnight. You probably need to have a faux tree like ours to do that though.

4. Fun, interactive games are a must

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Especially if they involve a little money. We always play Left, Center, Right using pennies or quarters to make it a little more fun for everyone. Other games we love to play are Telestrations, Speak Out and Wits and Wagers get the creativity and laughs flowing!

5. Serve Festive Drinks

How about a fun Torani Soda Bar setup? Or sparkling cider in plastic stemware is always a fun option for the kids.

6. Make Vision Hats or choose your One Word for 2018

A friend gave me the idea of turning our New Years Hats into walking vision boards. Such a fun idea! Have everyone cut out pictures and words from magazines representing what they hope for in 2018 and glue them to their party hat! Or start thinking about your One Word for 2018.

7. 20 YEAR END REVIEW QUESTIONS

Cut these up and put them in a New Years Hat. Pass them around and have each person answer the question they draw. Print the entire list and have everyone answer all 20 questions!

1. What new friends did you make this year?

2. What friendships did you let go of?

3. How did you express creativity this year?

4. How did you serve others?

5. How did you live out your faith?

6. What was the most fun thing you did this year?

7. Who did you miss seeing this year?

8. Who did you love visiting with this year?

9. What moment from 2017 brings a smile to your face?

10. What’s something sad that happened in 2017?

11. How were you courageous this year?

12. How did you relax this year?

13. What was the best place you visited this year?

14. What new restaurant did you enjoy this year?

15. What’s something new you tried in 2017?

16. What movie did you love watching this year?

17. What was your favorite book that you read?

18. What was a favorite gift you received this year?

19. Who helped you be a better person this year?

20. What’s something that surprised you in 2017?

Happy New Year Friends!! See you in 2018!

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5 Gifts To Give Your Child This Christmas

Youthful eyes are on us this holiday season.

They watch how we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

They pay attention to what we spend our money and time on.

They feel our stress or our peace during the month of December.

What our children learn to value at Christmastime, they learn from us as parents.

The holidays are the perfect time to teach our kids life lessons through how we choose to celebrate, give and receive.

Are you gifting your children lifelong lessons this holiday season?

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Here are 5 gifts you need to give your child this Christmas season

1. The Gift of Appreciation

Model for your child how to show appreciation to others throughout the holiday season.

What should you do when invited over to a home for a party or dinner? Let your kids see you contribute to the holiday meal by bringing a dish or a small gift for the host. Teach them not to show up at someone’s home empty-handed.

By all means, teach your child the importance of handwriting thank you notes for gifts they receive or kindness they’ve been shown. Teachers also cherish receiving written words of appreciation from their students.

5 reasons writing thank you notes should not be optional for your kids

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2. The Gift of Giving

Teach your child the importance of giving to others instead of focusing on just receiving.

Let siblings pick out gifts for each other and buy them with their own money. Growing up, my Mom had a ‘Mom store’ where my sister and I could buy things from a closet shelf where she had gathered inexpensive items for us to choose from. I carried on the same tradition until my kids were old enough to go out shopping on their own.

Let children be involved in the gift giving by using their own money and ideas. This way they begin to learn the value of selecting personal gifts that fit each person. Who doesn’t love a thoughtful gift giver?

3. The Gift of Compassion

Talk to your kids about how you are helping people with your time and money this season. Unfortunately, there are many people who are hurting during the holidays. What can your family do to show that you care?

We kept a Christmas Jar out all year long to collect change we found. I have a family in mind to gift it to but want to see if we are all in agreeance or is there someone else we should bless instead?

Carry dollars for kids to drop in Salvation Army buckets. Pull angels off of mall trees and buy gifts for kids in foster care. The ways you can help others through your giving is endless. Let your kids watch you continuously give to those who need your help if and when you’re able.

4. The Gift of Contribution

Christmas cheer shouldn’t just be made possible by mom, it should be a collective family effort contributing to traditions together.

Have your kids help bake the cookies. They can stamp and seal the envelopes of the Christmas cards. Pull out the ornaments and adorn the tree together.  Help pick out gifts for loved ones and wrap them as a family.

Get children of all ages involved in contributing to the magic of Christmas rather than just consuming.

5. The Gift of Humility

Teach your son or daughter that gifts aren’t for posting on social media. Google the Christmas Haul if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Kids sit around on Christmas morning showing off everything they unwrapped on Instagram and YouTube for everyone to see.

We must talk to our kids about the inappropriateness and unnecessary posting of material items received at Christmas. Better yet, how about us not gifting them anything worthy of bragging about in the first place. We don’t want our children finding their worth in owning the top of the line iPhone or expensive athletic shoes.

If we teach our children to appreciate, contribute and give to others this Christmas season then our gifts will live on way beyond December 25th.

Merry Christmas to your family! May you enjoy this precious season with your loved ones celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ!\

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6 Ways Parents Can Help Keep Teens Safer

It’s a boy. A boy. And yet another boy.

The ultrasound confirmed that I was officially a Mom of triplet sons which meant I was going to have my work cut out for me. It wasn’t the dirt and grime or nonstop action of raising young boys that scared me. The thought of having three sons who would grow into teenagers with a natural ‘need for speed’ is what intimidated me.

Our trio is now sophomores in high school and the new book Born to Be Wild interested me to review because I want to know if we can really help our teenagers navigate risky choices more successfully.

Can parents make a difference when it comes to minimizing risk in their child’s life?

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According to Born to Be Wild Author, Dr. Jess. P. Shatkin, we can absolutely make a difference by being proactive in our parenting.

Shatkin is a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine and also a Dad of two teenagers. His new book tells us why teens take risks, and how we can help keep them safer.

Enter to win your own free copy of Born to Be Wild now by commenting below!

How can we positively influence our teenager to make the best choices?

When our kids are young, we need to make many choices for them. As they age toward the teenage years, we need to curate their choices. Adolescence is an enormous developmental opportunity. During these years, we must allow our kids to practice all of the many things that they will one day need to do independently as adults, but we as parents must also continue providing close supervision.

How do we help our kids make healthy decisions when it comes to risky behaviors?

Dr. Shatkin recommends we take Wayne Gretzky’s advice and skate to where the puck will be. See the reality of the road ahead and be proactive in designing strategies to reduce upcoming risk factors in your child’s life.

We’re only kidding ourselves if we choose to believe that our adolescents won’t face risky situations each day. Instead of waiting for those risks to happen, we can anticipate the dangers and be ready for them.

Texting while driving, binge drinking, bullying, unprotected sex, vaping and many other risk factors are real concerns and keep us worried about our growing adolescents today.

Here are 6 proactive parenting strategies for reducing risk in our teens’ lives.

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How Do We Make Kids Feel Safe In An Unsafe World?

Growing up I was fearful of roller coasters, bees, and thunderstorms.

Our children are growing up scared of being shot or blown up while at school, the movies, church or at an entertainment venue.

When I was young we used to practice tornado and fire drills at school.

Today, kids are taught to silently hide from gunmen under their desks during classroom lockdown drills.

It’s an unfair and disturbing world that we are raising our kids in today.

How do we raise kids to not be fearful walking out the door of their home?

How do we acknowledge the truth of painful events without frightening our kids?

Our family had a trip planned to Las Vegas over our school fall break. Little did we know that tragedy would strike the city just before we were to head there. Should we even still go? Staying in the safety of our own home feels like a better choice nowadays, doesn’t it?

But, we must help our kids to feel safe in an unsafe world by continuing to live life to the fullest. 

Our family traveled to Las Vegas as planned because we want our kids to see that there is, and always will be, more beauty, than evil, in the world. We won’t hide or ignore the truth of the tragedy that occurred there, but we will certainly balance it with joy, love and laughter.

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Have you visited the Seven Magic Mountains two-year art exhibit in the middle of the desert just outside of the Las Vegas strip? Go check it out before it’s gone in May!

How do we talk to our kids about tragic events without making them fearful and scared in their daily lives?

I would much rather pad, protect, shelter and hide the pain and suffering in the world so that my children can live a carefree existence. The problem is that isn’t responsible, nor is it teaching our children truth when we ignore the suffering and heartache that innocent people have endured at the hands of evil.

We shouldn’t shelter our kids from the truth but introduce today’s painful realities age appropriately.

My friend, Ashley Barden, is a mother of three and was amongst the crowd enjoying the Route 91 Harvest Festival until the evening turned fatal on October 2. Luckily, she and her friends were among the fortunate ones to make it out of the venue alive.

Ashley and her friend, Cassey, just minutes before the shooting began.

Separated from her friends, Ashley ran out of the outdoor venue to an executive airport hanger where almost 60 people hid in a storage room until police released them around 2:30 in the morning. Shortly after she was able to fly home to Arizona and back to her children. What did Ashley tell her kids about her scary experience?

Not much. Fortunately, her kids are young (11, 6 and 3) and overall unaware of the magnitude of the tragedy that their mother was involved in…. for today. Ashley wants to raise fearless kids and is adamant that she will encourage herself and her trio to live life doing what they love.

We must not raise fearful kids, but faithful ones instead.

Our kids were uneasy to go stay in a high rise hotel on the Las Vegas strip understandably after what had just occurred. We talked about how God has us and that we can rest in Him. We must acknowledge that evil unfortunately exists but we cannot let fear override our faith. Our family drove by the site of the mass shooting so that we could see with our own eyes the area where the tragedy happened and answer any questions our kids had.

On our RV trip around the USA, we visited the site of the OKC bombing. Our kids have seen where President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas and they have visited the September 11 Memorials and Museums in NYC.

I wish evil and hatred weren’t a part of the world we live in, but unfortunately, they are. We have to wrap our head around the pain, talk about it age appropriately with our kids, honor those who’ve senselessly lost their lives and continue to pray for and help our hurting people together.

We must lead our kids from a fearless place so that they can feel secure to live the carefree childhood that they need and deserve. We must show children how to live faithful lives instead of fearful ones.

What can we do to help ourselves be safe the next time we, or our children, are in a large public venue? Ashley recommends that you know where your exit options are and have an escape plan in mind, God forbid something happens while you’re out living your life.

Learn more about the Route 91 Victims and how you can help and support their individual families here.

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5 Gifts to Give Your Kid for Their 16th Birthday!

How does this…

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Turn into this… in a few blinks of an eye.

I’m not sure how we’re already at this stage in our family, but I have to say these guys are way more fun now than they ever were 16 years ago!

The big question I’m asked is did we buy them three cars for their milestone birthday?

Not a chance.

If there was no car with a bow, no epic party or promised iPhone X, then what did we give our 16-year-olds besides a little cash?

Sometimes we can get so caught up in what material item to buy or what Pinterest worthy event to throw, that we forget what’s really important to give our kids- the gift of lifelong values.

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1. The Gift of Desire

All my sons desired for their birthday was to get their drivers’ licenses and hit the open road. They wanted the gift of freedom as they turned 16, and that’s what we gave them- a ride to the DMV.

There was no party, no promise of the latest electronic or a new car. We had simply instilled in our boys the desire to set up their own appointments online to take the driving test the minute they could on their birthday. I wasn’t even aware that you could do that. Good for them.

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One Thing Good Parents Need This Back to School Season

We know it’s our kids’ work to do, but we remind them constantly of what needs to be accomplished before school starts back up.

We see no hope for our child to get their reading and math work done if we don’t help them along.

Helpful, not helpful.

Our high schoolers just picked up their freshman and sophomore schedules this week. Some classes and teachers make them happy, while others make them cringe.

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One Thing You Should Not Pay Someone To Do For Your Child

Teach your kids how to sort, separate and put their dirty clothes in the wash now.

Show your children how to treat stains, measure detergent and explain the importance of removing lint from the dryer vent after every cycle.

Don’t turn your son’s sports socks right side out, since you aren’t the one who took them off like that.

Parents should teach their kids how to do their own laundry instead of paying someone to handle the task for them.

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How to Strengthen Your Kid and Your Entire Family

There’s nothing I love more than the week after my kids get home from sleep away summer camp. Our kids hang around home reminiscing about their few weeks away in the Missouri humidity while we tend to their bug bites, bumps, and bruises.

One is nursing a painful ingrown toenail; one is peeling profusely from his sunburn while healing a sprained ankle; another has strained and cut up knees from who knows what and one has no idea how he got the open wounds all up his arm.

Proof of time away at summer camp.

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One Sure Way To Strengthen Your Child This Summer

In a few days our kids will shut down their technology. All Snapchat streaks must come to an end.

They will bid farewell to their normally scheduled academic and athletic programming and head to the woods.

Our four teenagers will go live amongst strangers and bugs and humidity and uncomfortable beds. I’m going to assume they brush their teeth, put on deodorant and apply sunscreen on some of the days.

What I know for sure is that these few weeks at summer camp will be some of the most important days spent in their childhood.

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