Tips and Tools for Working Remotely

Tips and Tools for Working Remotely

Here are some tips and tools for working remotely whether it’s for a job or for school. Our lives look different these days! Work is from home either completely remotely or partly at home. School finished out remotely most places. Many communities are still quarantined, and a number of businesses are going remote for the time being, and possibly offering even more remote options in the future. 

Workplaces and schools have many plans in place for the upcoming days. No one plan for work or school is set in stone. I hope that this helps you with any job or school situation. *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.

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Tips and tools for working remotely|

Tips and tools for working remotely -for studying too!

“Working” can be a description for both actual work or studying at home. Both have many similar elements. As a student, many of the habits that you establish will help you later when you are working at a job, remotely or not. Here are some tips and tools for working remotely.

Routines and dedicated space/time for working remotely

Routines will be very important for you to get the most work/studying accomplished during your day.

Create a morning and evening routines –Each morning look over calendar for the day, set timers for appointments, create a daily checklist. Start some music. Find a playlist that works for you, I like to listen to smooth jazz because there are no lyrics to distract me. Try different playlists for different tasks so that you won’t get bored.    

Each evening set a time for finishing and clear your desk for the next day. If you are in the middle of a project, straighten it up, and make sure that it is in a safe spot overnight.

Dedicated work space -Have a dedicated space which can be indoors or out, sometimes both depending on where you live, and what your day needs to look like. Some jobs might need to be done all inside because they will take longer, and you don’t want to move all your things in and out all the time. Other smaller tasks might be more fun to do in the morning outside before the heat of the day.

Keep set hours -make a weekly schedule each Friday for the following week. Take breaks for set amounts of time- don’t skimp on breaks.  Take breaks at the same time as friends so that you can socially distance meet for a walk in the park, zoom for fun etc. Protect your personal time-in other words, just because you are home, don’t work ALL the time.

Set ground rules with others in your home -no interruptions, no touching papers. If you have kids or siblings, spouses even, let them know of your schedule. Have a procedure in place if someone really needs your attention. A “do not disturb” or stop sign can be a great signal. On the other hand, have a green light sign if you are available, so that your people know!

Tips and tools for working remotely.


This is one of the most important tips and tools for working remotely. You have to take care of you. Whether you are working remotely for a company or studying and attending class as a student, don’t forget to do the following things regularly.

Get out of your house -Go for a walk. Go to the store. Sit out on your front porch and watch the sun set.

Take sick days -You would take these if you were going into work, so take care of you while at home. There will be days that you cannot work because of illness, your boss and/or teacher knows this!

Be positive -It can get easy to just focus on work, to get lonely, to get bogged down in not being able to get out. Make healthy choices to do what you can. Set a timer to stop work every so often. Make a date to meet someone for lunch, however that has to look. Communicate in ways that are not work related-send that funny GIF or meme to fellow workers

Take advantage of being home -Start a load of laundry when you first get up. Fold it during a break, so that the evening is free of this chore. Deal with dishes in the same way. 

Set times for your meals – When you have set times for meals, you can better plan your day. This makes it easier to make plans for lunch out or scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Try to avoid too much snacking! 

Give yourself grace -Working from home can be great, but it has its own stresses. Avoid overworking- this is easy to do when you are at home all the time. Know that mistakes will be made at home just like anywhere else.

Tips and tools for working remotely.

Work relations for working remotely

Socialize with your colleagues -Communicate in ways that are not work related-send that funny GIF or meme to fellow workers.

Use a VPM (virtual private network) –I had to look this one up. It is highly recommended especially if you are working from home. Not as necessary for schooling, but not a bad idea. These can be free, but really, all the ones that I found ranged in price from $4.99-$12.99 a month. This seems really reasonable when you are thinking of internet safety.

Show up for meetings -If there is a meeting or class that is scheduled, then you should be there. This includes any meetings for group projects. As an employee, your job performance will be based on attendance as well as other intangibles such as effort and problem solving.

Get face time with your company -at least once or twice a year, hopefully, this will be possible! It is always a good idea to meet in person.

Look for training opportunities -Another term for this is “upskilling”. Take it upon yourself to learn new skills. Websites such as Udemy, Skillshare or even Khan Academy are all good places to look. Some examples of skills to learn might be: preparing Excel spreadsheets, making pins for Pinterest on Canva, or even a new language.

Overcommunicate -Be present, even virtually. Be available. Document everything. Be polite. Follow up. This applies to students as well as employees.

Use separate phone number for work -There are many options for this. If your company doesn’t set this up for you, then you might check into it for yourself. Be sure to mute your personal phone when working for less distractions.

Ask for what you need to work from home -Anything that you feel would make your experience better is always worth asking for. Whether it is for a job or school, please ask your boss or professor. They will do their best to help if you have good reasons for asking.

Ergonomics are important -This is “engineering for your body.” Not only is comfort important, it will help you to maximize your time, and prevent burnout. There are many reasons why this is something to think about.

How to negotiate working remotely

Decide your “why”  -Do you really want to do this? What would be your benefits of doing so? 

Be prepared with solid information about how this will work -For instance, how will you keep track of hours worked? How will communication work between you and your co-workers? Come up with all the concerns that you think your boss will have, and be ready with an answer. In other words, do your homework.

Start with a trial period, of say 8 weeks -Both you and your boss can assess whether this is working or if anything needs to be tweaked to make it better.

Have you been home and want to stay there to continue working? Read this article for ideas how.

Tips and tools for working remotely.

Working remotely best practices

Find out what your employer or school policies are for remote work.

Know how to reach your boss/manager or professor. Do they keep set hours?

Be flexible.

Clarify expectations between co-workers or fellow students working on a project.

Set meeting times with extra time in the front and back end to catch up just like you would in person.

Get dressed for the day.

Do you have a work “playlist”?

Try new ways of doing things.

Assess what is working regularly- for yourself, and the company or school (grades).

Tips and tools for working remotely.

Tools for working remotely

Comfort is key when working anywhere. If you are newly working or studying at home, look at what you have around the house that will make your work area both comfortable and inviting. You would do this at an office, and you should make an area or two where you work or study a place that you enjoy. I have listed some tips and supplies that will help you as you begin or continue to work remotely at home.

Pomodoro method -This is a great method for working and/or studying. You break down tasks into manageable chunks and set a timer. If you have never tried this method, it’s worth trying!

To-do lists -Tips to creating the best lists for getting things accomplished in a logical order. This is great when you have lots going on!

Apps for working remotely  -Great stuff in this article!

Background for video meetings-Keep it neutral! You can purchase one or just use the side of your house or apartment if you are out on your deck or patio. I often use a closed closet door!

Cart for supplies -This can be rolled from inside to outside easily to keep your office supplies organized.

Laptop stand -This is so that you are not bending over your computer all day. Move this to wherever you are working! Will save your neck and back! Grab a wireless keyboard and mouse for this set up.

Blue light blocking glasses -even if you need no correction to your vision, these will help protect your eyes from hours on a screen. 

Outdoor setup for working remotely

I highly recommend working outside when you can! It is always nice to get fresh air, and it will give you a different work space that won’t leave you feeling trapped inside all day. Work outside in the morning before the heat of the day, or maybe in the evening after a few hours off in the afternoon through dinner. Here are some tips and tools for working remotely outside.

Tips and tools for working remotely.

Sunscreen -Even if you are out before prime sun hours, you really should use this! Don’t forget the back of your hands, your neck and ears.

Sunglasses -These are also a must. Don’t squint into the sun! Wrinkles in your future so much faster! And,  Blue light blocking glasses -even if you need no correction to your vision, these will help protect your eyes from hours on a screen. Blue light glasses reduce fatigue and improve your sleep!Bug repellant -This is an all natural bug spray. You can also make your own. There is also a mosquito repeller that works on a charge for more than six hours. If you don’t like the idea of spray, this might be a good option!

Camp table -This has adjustable legs, folds up, and has a smooth, not slatted surface.

Sail canopy -Automatic shade! These are really nice, and really easy to set up.

Balcony table -This is cool! It hangs over your balcony railing. Really nice if your space is limited! There are two sizes available.

Comfy chair -This is so important! Make sure that you find a chair that you can sit in comfortably for a couple of hours. Of course, it’s best if you get up more often than that, but you may have to sit through a long meeting or class. This one is nice with the mesh seat and back. There are four color choices.

Planter pots– These are great for indoors or out. I like the size of these, and these two pots look a little like concrete.Rug -This one is sisal, and comes in many sizes. This material is great indoors or out.

Throw blanket -This will be great for cooler mornings and evenings. The design in this is classic, and comes in many different colors. The price is right, too!

Tips and tools for working remotely.

Indoor setup for working remotely

Many of us have indoor offices set up already. Look at your area with a set of fresh eyes. What could you do for a refresh? Do a deep clean first, and throw out anything that is no longer needed or necessary. Could you pull a new area rug from a different room? What about a new plant? Purchase some new art, or even better take some time to do an easy DIY project for your update. Here are some tips and tools for working remotely inside.

Comfy chair -This is another ergonomically designed chair. I love a chair with armrests!

Standing desk converter -This is the bomb. I have ordered one for my desk. It will raise so that you can stand while you work. My rear end gets so tired!

Planter -This set of 2 little brown/ cream geometric planters are really cool for a girl or guys work space.

Rug -This rug comes in many colors to match any decor. Also many sizes. It’s amazing how just a rug can transform a space from drab to amazing.

Lamp -This is dimmable, has different settings for brightness, and has a USB charging port. It comes in a couple of colors. 

Foot rest -I have to admit, this was not one that I thought of myself. But, as I researched for this post, this came up a couple of times. There are so many benefits of using a foot rest, I never knew!

Technology for working remotely

There are so many apps and software available now, that it is hard to know where to begin. Talk with your work to see if if any of these could be provided for you. Know what the choices are and do some research about the pros and cons of each tool, app or system.

System for sharing projects for work/school -This is so important for both employees and students. 

Glare guard -for screen (especially if working outdoors) This particular guard is anti-blue light, anti-glare, and blocks UV rays.

Power station -This is not totally necessary, but would be nice to have on hand in a few instances of low power or a power outage.

Wifi booster -This can be helpful in many instances. We have a couple of these in our home because our wifi is awful!

Hope that these tips and tools for working remotely help!

Working or studying from home is a challenge and a privilege. Even if you have no choice about your home location, then you do have a choice about making it the best experience that it can be. Be sure to use these tips and tools for working remotely.

Be comfortable. Be smart. Be productive. Good luck to you!

Other posts that might be helpful: College and Career Planning: 3 Tips for Success, College: Strategies for Success

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COLLEGE BOUND: The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School

COLLEGE BOUND: The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School

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I wrote a book about having conversations with your teens.

It has been a life long dream of mine to write a book.  When I was young, and I loved reading the Little House books, I thought that I would write a story about a pioneer family.  Well, it turns out that I have a lot to say about parenting teens.  So, I wrote about having conversations with your teens to help them figure out life.

Have you got a teen or two in your house?  For awhile, we had three teenage boys.  Our oldest is now in his 20s, and we have survived so far.  One thing that we have used in our parenting journey is conversation.  Lots of talking. Here’s a link to another post, 5 Ways to Improve Communication With Your Teen.

College Bound came about as a way for me to give back to other parents.  My husband and I struggled to find our way parenting our teens with no real road map in our hands.  There is no “what to expect” when your teen is 13 or 15 or 18….!  We stumbled onto a system of having regular conversations with our teens.  It has really worked for each of our boys, and they are all as different as they can be. *This post may contain affiliate links.  This means , at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.

Grab the Conversation freebies here!  I realized since publishing my book that I left out the questions and conversation starters for the end of each conversation-ugggh!  So, here is a link to that list of questions.  

College Bound: The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School|

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Did we use magic?

Many of you might scratch your head and wonder how it is that we got our teenage boys to talk.  It was not magic, if that’s what you’re wondering.  We started these “talks” when the boys were younger, always around the time that their grades arrived home.  This occurred about every six weeks.  You too, can talk to your teens.

The beauty of this system was that it happened regularly.  The boys knew that when their grades came home, we would soon be setting up a time to meet with each of them one-on-one.  (And, just so you know, our expectations were that they get all As and Bs.  The occasional C was only ok if they were trying their hardest in a subject that was hard for them.)  They knew that whether or not we were pleased with their grades, a meeting would occur. It was amazing how many times we had to tell them to do better in school-still do to this day!  It was a good and regular interval of time to have these conversations.  Our teens could talk about all sorts of things that were going on in their lives at that particular time in their lives.

Keep in mind that my husband and I are not parenting experts.  Far from it.  However, we have gotten one kid out of his teens and into his senior year of college.  Another is into his sophomore year of college, and our baby is entering high school.  This has been a fun, but challenging journey.  I hope that some of what has worked for us will work for you!

About the book…

I have broken College Bound into 14 conversations.  They range in topics from setting up a college budget, obtaining letters of recommendation, contacting colleges with questions to finding scholarships, and more. Each chapter covers a conversation, why each is important, different things to think about, and how to talk about each topic.

There are many other conversations with your teens that need to occur, but for the sake of the book, these topics were the ones I felt were the most important when thinking about college and life prep.

Will these topics matter if my child decides not to attend college?

Yes.  All of these topics matter because if your child decides to go into the military, get a job, or go to trade school a resume will always be a good thing to leave high school with.  Grades and test scores will matter.  Maybe not to the degree as getting into college, but the real world is competitive. 

The better your teen looks coming out of high school compared to the next guy who is applying for the same program, the better their chances for getting that job or higher rank or whatever!

Have you grabbed my high school parent toolkit yet?  It is a blueprint for staying organized through all four high school years!  Get it here!

Isn’t this common sense?

A lot of it is common sense.  When we first started out in these teen years with our oldest, the amount of things that we did not know was overwhelming.  This book was born out of frustration with not knowing what to ask or even who to ask about parenting teens. Counselors at high schools are awesome, but totally overworked.  They are also usually trying to help those kids with no support systems in place. 

It seemed like other parents had the same questions as we had. So, between my husband and I, we started researching and asking questions to anyone who looked like they might have an answer.  I read books, Googled a lot of things, and we both asked parents with older teens what had worked for them.

Have lots of conversations with your teens!

We talked with our kids a lot.  Note the use of “with” and not “to”.  Of course, there were times that we did talk to our kids, but we really wanted to engage them in conversation.  There were times that it seemed like our conversations were going nowhere fast, but then one of the boys would make a decision that made sense.  Or one of them would tell us something that gave us a glimpse into the fact that maybe we were making some sort of headway into this parenting thing.

Parenting teens is NOT for the faint of heart.  It takes consistency, patience, and stamina to say the least.  Remember that many, if not all, of these conversations will need to take place gradually.  Start where you are. Having conversations with teens is not for the faint of heart! If none of these topics have been discussed before, then choose one.  Talk with your spouse or significant other first to make sure you are in agreement or at least know where you each stand.  Teens are super smart and will be able to tell if you guys are not of the same mind.  They will use this to their advantage every time, so be prepared!

Do not try to talk about all of this at once!  Have discussions a little at a time, and spread them out.  It would be really easy to overwhelm both you and your teen.

The key is to just start.

Just because your teen might not be talking to you at this moment, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start these conversations.  Try to find some common ground.  Call a truce. Talk about starting this in the context of making plans.  Most teens are wanting to talk about the future, they are feeling lots of mixed emotions.  They are scared, excited, overwhelmed, and usually have many questions if given the right situation.

These conversations with your teens are for them to start the process of preparing to leave your home.  These are all topics that need to be covered in most situations.  Set some goals together.  Make the time.  Remember not to lecture, but have discussions.  Let your teen talk and ask questions.  Try not to interrupt.

My teen thinks that they know it all.

I feel your pain.  Have them do some research about the thing or things that they are trying to convince you of.  This has worked for us, a lot.  We had one son, who really thought he knew a lot about a lot.  He is super smart, but through his research online and asking around, he realized that maybe we knew a few things as well.  This was something that we let him discover over time on his own.

We also have learned so much about parenting teens.  Our teens were smarter and more responsible than we had given them credit for.  Patience was something that we had to use in all of these conversations.  We learned how and when to shelf a discussion for later without everyone getting mad–not always, but most of the time.  There is also the fact that our teens have so much going on in their lives, that they really appreciated these times to debrief and make plans.

Try to have some conversations with your teens!

Set up a time to have a conversation with your teen.  Let them know when and why you are wanting to do this.  Tell them that there will be time for them to talk about things that they want to talk about as well.  Start out short and sweet.  See what works, and what doesn’t.  Each child and each conversation will be different.  Take notes.  Try again soon.  Grab my book, College Bound now! 

You will hopefully find that your relationship with your teen will improve.  It won’t always be great, but in general, your kids will talk more in every day situations than they used to.  They will have more questions.  They want to plan for their own future, and you will find out that it is really fun to do this! Grab my three freebies for this system here.  They are:

         1. Template for keeping notes from each conversation.

         2. Conversation starters.

         3. Tips for success when starting this plan.

Download these freebies to help talk with your teen about college

There may be more going on with your teen than you think.  Talking with them will hopefully help to bridge that gap, if there is one, between you and your teen.  If there is more going on than you can handle, here is the link to a good post about your teen and drugs.  If you think that your teen may be depressed, check out this link for more information.

Share any ideas that you have that might help the rest of us!  I can’t wait to hear what works for you. Remember to get College Bound here. Related posts:  Our 2 1/2 Rules for Raising Teens5 Ways to Improve Communication With Your Teen, 7 Things to Know If You Love a Teenager  and 6 Books You Should Read If You Are Parenting Teens!

College Bound:  The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School|

Talk with your teens! Use my tips for success.


My Son, An Onion, and His First Apartment

My Son, An Onion, and His First Apartment

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We recently moved our middle son into his first apartment.

Last year, it was a dorm, now he’s moving into his first apartment. This means essentially, that our son will never be moving back home again. 

Moving him into a dorm was hard work, and I was a little emotional because it was the end of an era. I knew that we would all miss him, especially his little brother. But, I also knew that he was embarking on a new adventure, and that he would have lots of fun in college. Therefore, I didn’t get too sad. 

Plus, silly me, I thought that he would be moving home for the summer after his first year away. So, what does an onion have to do with this story you ask… *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.

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Bathroom humor wall art for first apartment

All moved in

Well, now it is July after his freshman year, and he has been in his new apartment for a few weeks.  I have had time to process this a little bit.  He is still in town.  He still comes home a couple of times a week.  He came home yesterday for an onion.

Really?  We are still helping with his groceries and rent money.  He does know how to grocery shop on his own.  But here he was for an onion!  

He is a great cook.  He has helped with meals ever since he was in middle school.  He is looking for a grill on Facebook marketplace because he would like to have cooking options.  His roommate doesn’t cook, but said he would split the cost of food and clean up if Will would cook and share.

My son called after their first trip to Aldi’s to say, “Momma, that place is a miracle.”

So, yes, he has moved out, but that’s okay.  He is still my sweet boy.  Who calls and stops by to grab an onion, who wants my *chicken salad recipe, and who is very particular about how his room looks now.  

We are still looking for some good deals on some things that they need for their apartment, but it is coming together nicely.  

As your teen (or anyone) is moving into a new place, here is a great guide to what and how to pack for an organized move-in.

*Recipe at bottom of this post.

How it all came together

One thing that his roommate’s mom and I did was to shop ahead of time at garage sales, estate sales, online, and our own homes to gather a lot of their necessary supplies and furniture.  This really helped to split the cost and not have it all be happening at once.  Here is a first apartment checklist!

I shopped at Home Goods for a lot of his bathroom supplies, and I do believe he was as particular about what he wanted as any girl would have been.  I took pictures and texted them to him.  His comments were priceless. 

“Too girly.”   “Too patterned.”  “That’s ugly.”  “Too brown.”  You get the picture!

He and I just headed to another home supply store last night, and I think he is set with his first apartment must haves. He mentioned when we walked through the doors that this was his new favorite kind of store!  I was cracking up.  He looked through all the kitchen gear, and we spent at least fifteen minutes in the candle section trying to find just the right scent for his room.  Priceless time together! 

Here is one thing that he and his roommate are learning.  

They are really proud of their new home.  They have worked hard to make it nice.  It is amazing what a little ownership will do for their housekeeping!  I have dropped by with a few items a couple of times.  Each time, their apartment is spotless!  This is the boy who, when we moved his bed out of our house, we were able to fill a trash bag with the stuff from under his bed.  It was DISGUSTING!

They have started to learn who of their friends they can trust to be respectful of their space and things in that space.  This has been very eye-opening for them.

Speaking of friends… It is good to remind your teens to stay safe. It is important for them to know who all are aware of their address. Read the following article about staying safe in their new digs here.

They have established house rules.

They have established a time for the end of the night.  Obviously, they will make exceptions, but in general they decided what time they want everyone to leave.  

Another thing that they have decided is that their friends need to let them know that they are headed over, and their friends need to make sure that it’s an okay time.  

My son and his roommate are both on really tight budgets.  They have asked that their friends not show up empty handed.  They cannot afford to host with food and drink every time their friends are over.  This is a very social group, and basically their apartment is one of the few that any of them have right now.  Many of their friends living at home for the summer and are wanting to come over away from their parents.

My son has the hall bathroom.  He has learned that a lot of his friends are pigs.  His term, not mine.  He has had to clean his bathroom many times more than probably ever in his life!  With that in mind, I created some fun bathroom art for him.  Here is one of them below. They are each meant to be printed out and trimmed to 5″ x 7″.

Setting up a budget has been a work in progress for a couple of weeks.

We have been helping him with all the expenses of a first time apartment set up.  Now that it is pretty much a settled place, we have had him keep track of expenses.  


Paper goods

Summer fun money

He is now on a set budget where he takes care of all but the groceries.  This is with the understanding that he needs to be shopping at Aldi’s and not the gourmet grocery store downtown.  We will adjust the amount in a few weeks if it isn’t enough or is somehow too much.  He already pays for his own gas, and will start paying us for his car insurance in the fall after he has made his summer money.  

Don’t forget to grab the first apartment checklist here.

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Bathroom humor wall art for first apartment

Parent Guidelines

Have you checked about renter’s insurance?  If the apartment is on campus, it may not be needed.  If off of campus, check with your insurance carrier.  Coverage is offered for many things.  The building itself will be covered by the apartment owner’s policy.  Personal property is covered by renter’s insurance.  Only 37% of all renters have this, so it is definitely worth checking into!

(Please note: renter’s insurance may be required by the landlord and it’s typically very affordable!)

Remember, this is your teen’s apartment.  You are probably not welcome there very often.  Get them moved in, and then stay away.

If you do stop by, do NOT say anything about the way it looks.  Giving your child a fair warning that you are coming would be polite.

Do not assume that your kids know what you will be paying for.  Both of our boys thought that since they were now going to be in apartments that they would have to pay for their own food!  We told them that we would help them to get on a budget and give them a little towards food weekly.  They were both shocked because they thought moving out meant they were on their own.

I ask occasionally if either of them needs anything at Walmart or wherever.  I like to let them know I got extra toilet paper or cleaning supplies that they can come pick up.  They love this because it mean their budget will go towards more groceries for the week.

If you live far away, here is a great post for sending a first apartment care package.

If you are getting ready to experience a first apartment with your teen, have fun!

Work together to find good deals with both your teen and the others that will be living there.  It worked really well and evenly when I worked with my son’s roommate’s mom. 

We both scrounged up furniture from around our homes.  She looked at estate sales and garage sales.  I did the same as well as using Facebook marketplace-that place is amazing!

We also shopped at Home Goods, Target, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Dollar Tree for their sales.

Enjoy this time of new freedom for both your teen and yourself!  And, be sure that you always have an extra onion around-just in case!

If your older child is moving into more of a grown-up permanent place, here is a post I wrote for a friend’s blog about 7 Unexpected Costs in the Real World.

Have you read my book?  College Bound: The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School  It is all about the conversations that will help move your teen towards independence whether that means college or not!

Related posts:  Parental Right Change When Your Teen Turns 18, What Your Teen REALLY Needs in the Dorm, Backpack Essentials for College 

Mel's Chicken Salad

The best chicken salad around!
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken salad, chicken, salad
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8
Author Mel


  • 1 whole chicken, boned or equivalent pieces (rotisserie chicken is super easy to use, just skin and debone)
  • 1 c. celery (chopped fine)
  • 1 c. white grapes (halved)
  • 1/2 c. sliced almonds (browned in skillet or toaster, about 5 minutes)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley (dried)
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream (not whipped cream!) (whipped until soft peaks)


  • Skin, debone, and loosely chop chicken. Add to large bowl.
  • Brown sliced almonds about 5 minutes in a skillet or toaster. Add to bowl.
  • Chop celery and grapes. Add to bowl.
  • Whip cream. It takes about 5-10 minutes, the higher the mixer setting, the quicker it comes to soft peaks. Add to bowl. Tip: Put metal bowl and beaters in freezer for 15 minutes for quicker mixing.
  • Add spices to bowl.
  • Add mayo to bowl.
  • Combine all ingredients. You want it to be pretty wet from the mayo and whipped cream. If it's not, add more mayo.
  • Refrigerate, overnight if possible because the flavors will get better and better!


This is great on a sandwich or on top of a bed of lettuce and tomatoes. Also, really good by itself. My boys inhale this stuff!





Best Books for Teens About Social Justice

Best Books for Teens About Social Justice

Lessons we need to learn…

Social justice for teens is a real world lesson that needs to start at a younger age, and continue throughout their lives. Social justice is an ongoing issue in real life. As a mom, as a teacher, as a person, I need to be willing to put myself in someone else’s shoes. To empathize with my fellow man. As I live out my life, I hope that the lessons my own children, as well as my students, have learned from me will help them to be better people. To be empathetic, sympathetic, to be GOOD people, now and always.






These are all concepts that need to be taught. Defined. Lived. As mothers, teachers, parents, we can only do so much, but with everyone’s help, our world can be a better place.

With headline after headline of police brutality, rioting, social injustice-sadly, the list goes on and on. We need to do better. We need to BE better. No excuses. We have run out of time.

What I have taught….

One of the units that I teach as a middle school English teacher is Deep Study of Character -with Lucy Calkins curriculum. It is literature based on all the above characteristics woven through their themes. I love to use books to teach all sorts of lessons.

I was new back to the classroom last year after a long hiatus bringing up my boys, so many of the books on the following list are still new to me. However, I have researched all of these, and I am part of a wonderful group of teachers on Facebook that shares and elaborates, so I pulled a lot of information from that group.

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Books That Were Chosen

These books were chosen to represent the best of what I have taught and what I have learned as a teacher listening to other teachers…

There are sections for picture books, short stories, young adult and adult, and finally, authors who have written so many books to choose from. I wanted to get this out and published because this is such an important subject and will be adding to this list frequently! *This post may contain affiliate links.  This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”― Martin Luther King Jr.

Picture Books

Not My Idea -Higginbotham This is an honest book that looks at race, racism and being white in today’s world. This addresses the topic of civic responsibility in a great way for kids to relate to. I have ordered for my classroom!

For white folks who aren’t sure how to talk to their kids about race, this book is the perfect beginning. —O MAGAZINE

It’s Our World, Too: Young People Who Are Making a Difference: How They Do It -How You Can Too! -Hoose  This is two books in one. First part is stories about kids today who are making a difference in various ways. The second part is how-to advice to get started for young people who WANT to make a difference in positive ways.

Separate is Never Equal – Tonatiuh  The unknown story of school integration in California 10 years before Brown v. The Board of Education. This began school integration in California for Mexican-Spanish American children.

You, Me, and Empathy -Sanders   “Showing empathy towards others is a learnt trait, and one to nurture and cherish with the children in our care,” -this quote taken from the book description. Such a wonderful book about the main character, Quinn learning that empathy means “being able to understand how another person is feeling and recognizing their needs helps people to connect to one another across race, culture and the diversity that is ever-present and so important to our world.”  Everyone needs to read this one!

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is that they must change if they are to get better.”― Georg Lichtenberg

Short Stories

Thank You, M’am – Langston Hughes This short story is all about morality. What is good? How do we know? A boy tries to steal a woman’s purse to buy a new pair of shoes. Find out what happens… I found this on the CommonLit website.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories -Ellen Oh   This selection of stories is such a great collection. I have not read them all, but between my classes last year, I have heard about all of them from my students. All sorts of stories about all sorts of people. My students chose the story with this book that resonated with to do a project on for class. These ten stories are all great in their own way.

The Hero Next Door -Rhuday-Perkovich  This is another gathering of stories about being brave in today’s world. Young people can make a difference, all it takes a little courage. Again, I have not read all of this collection, but the couple that I have read were great!

Fresh Ink – Giles  These short stories are unfinished. Their endings are still playing out in today’s headlines. These are all amazing stories of individuality and bravery. Diverse and raw and uplifting. Please read!

Our Stories, Our Voices -Reed  These are essays by popular YA authors who all have something to say about all sorts of things that happen as kids grow up.

The Treasure of Lemon Brown -Myers  I found this on  We studied this story in my eighth grade class this year. So many lessons contained in this short story! We all loved it.

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Try Audible on Amazon and get 2 free books!

Young Adult

Wishtree -Applegate  An old oak tree that has been used as a “wishtree” for the surrounding community. A new family that is not necessarily welcomed by all. A crow and other creatures watch from the trees branches as this story unfolds. This is a wonderful story told by a tree, but so much more! If you are not a fan of fantasy, give this a try anyway-because, a tree is wise.

Dear Martin -Stone  This follows the story of a Justyce, who always Is doing the right thing: honor student, helps those in need, all-around good guy. Then, he is arrested and cuffed by an off-duty police officer after an event which Justyce just happens to be there. I have not read this, but it’s on my list! There is a sequel, Dear Justyce, which follows up as Justyce is at Yale as a college student.

Refugee -Gratz  This was another class favorite. Three refugees on three different paths are all connected  by the end of the story. All of them leave homes that they love for reasons beyond their control. They encounter so many difficulties both on their journeys and at their different destinations. I learned a lot about the plight of refugees and many of their circumstances!

All-American Boys -Co-written by Reynolds and Kiely  This story could unfortunately be ripped out of today’s headlines. Gripping and realistic. Could not put down!

Long Way Down -Reynolds  This book has haunted me. My students all were intrigued by this story and a lot of great discussion came from this. The length of time it takes to get down Will’s building’s elevator. His brother has been shot and killed. While Will rides the elevator down one day, he is visited by people from his brother’s past as it stops at each floor.

Will got on the elevator with a singular purpose. Will he get out at the bottom and carry through his plan?

The Poet X – Acevedo  The main character her, Xiomara, is a young woman with a lot to say. She writes in her journal, and has many thoughts that she feels cannot be shared anywhere else. She is invited to a slam poetry contest, but she knows that her family would not approve.

The 57 Bus -Slater  This is based on a true story. Two kids from completely different parts of the world, within one city. They have eight minutes together each day. Then a tragic event occurs. One is injured. One is charged with a crime…

Monster -Myers  This is a complicated story about the trial of a young man for a crime. Is he guilty or innocent?  A pawn of the system and the characters surrounding the crime. Is he a “monster” as he has been titled? Steve, the young man in this story, starts to transcribe his story as a film script. What is the verdict? This would be a good one to read with your teen…

Mexican White Boy – de la Peña  Half Mexican, half white, Danny is struggling with a lot of things as a teenager in San Diego. He mostly wants to figure out where he belongs…

The Hate You Give -Thomas  I have to admit that I have not read the book, but I loved the movie!

Harbor Me -Woodson  I loved this book! Six kids meet in a room that they have a special name for.  They can talk about their lives. It’s a wonderful story about a caring teacher, a group of kids dealing with so much, and the friendships that evolve from their meetings. My students loved this book.

Out of My Mind – Draper  This book really got to me. Locked into a body that won’t work, Melody is assumed to be stupid. Far from it. She finally proves that she is really smart only to be rejected again. Heartbreaking, heartwarming… My students learned that students with disabilities are always what they seem! Along the same lines as Wonder, another wonderful book and movie -talk about overcoming adversity!

Ghost Boys -Rhodes  Two boys meet who have been tragically been killed as a result of racism in different places and times. They help one another to figure out some things about what happened to each of them. This is on my list to order for my classroom!

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry -Taylor  This is a classic! A wonderful story set in the depression about hate and racism and social injustice. It stands the test of time.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You -Jason Reynolds and Ibram Kendi  The authors reworked Kendi’s book Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and write it in a way so that you can identify racist thoughts and ideas and “stamp” them out when they begin. I have not read this, but it was recommended by a good friend who is a counselor as a great choice for this list.

“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.”― Ijeoma Oluo

For Adults

Just Mercy  -Stevenson  This is a true story about a young lawyer defending a young man accused of a crime he swears that he did not commit. Compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, another great book about good v. evil.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness -Brown  Written by Austin Brown, who finds out at the age of 7, that her parents named her Austin so that future schools and employers would think that she was a white man. As she grows up, Austin learns that people don’t mean what they say, and she grapples with what it means to be a woman of color in today’s world. Really good insight for me.

Raising Fences -Datcher  I read this a few years ago for a book club. It’s a memoir written by a black man who wants to be a good father without having had one himself. This was painful to read, but I never felt so white while reading this.

Americanah -Aditchie  This is a novel that really opened my eyes. It is a love story, but is also a story about how unaware we are of race in this country as white people. This was so good!

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration -Wilkerson  This is a story that covers the migration of six million people from the south to the north in the US from 1915 to 1970. Thousands of interviews and really great stories of a people who tried to escape oppression and find a better life for themselves and their families.

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America -Kendi  “In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.” This is at the top of my list to read. Grab the companion book co-authored by Kendi and Jason Reynolds, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.

“The world howls for social justice, but when it comes to social responsibility, you sometimes can’t even hear crickets chirping.”― Dean Koontz 

Authors to Check Out

Kwame Alexander

Matt de la Peña

Gary Soto

Jason Reynolds

Jacqueline Woodson

Walter Dean Myer

Alan Gratz

Hope this helps you start a conversation…

This list is by no means complete! Please let me know if you have a good suggestion that will help to teach our young people lifelong lessons. I hope that these books will help you start or continue a conversation that has to happen in order for our world to be a better place for everyone.

Other book posts: 9 Books to Read With or Without Your Teen, Great Book Gifts for Teens (And Adults!),

And, here is a link to my ongoing list of favorite books on Amazon!

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15 Ways Parents Can Help A Stressed Out Teen

15 Ways Parents Can Help A Stressed Out Teen

Today is such a strange reality. We are all home. Working at home. Staying at home. Our teens are home from school and college. There are so many things that keep happening, it makes your head spin! Here are some ideas that will  help out a stressed out teen in overwhelming times.

Our whole world completely turned upside down! What is next? For about four days in a row, I kept thinking that it could not get any worse, and I kept being wrong… If our adult heads are spinning, just imagine what is going on in our teen’s brains and hearts right now.

I have reached out to my blogging friends to find the best advice that they have for our stressed out teens today and any other time.

Here is the advice that they have shared. *This post may contain affiliate links.  This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.

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Grab a Coronavirus Survival Chart for your stressed out teen here!

Calming Tips

Leo Baubata posted his zen habits for calmness. Here are his 7 habits and the link to his article with much more information:

  1. A calm morning ritual
  2. Watch your response when you are stressed
  3. Don’t take things personally
  4. Be grateful
  5. Create stress coping habits
  6. Single task
  7. Reduce noise

If you can encourage your teen to just try one or two of these habits to try, it will go a long way to relieving their stress. I, for one, reduced the noise I was hearing over the past weekend. I did not listen to news. I did not read anything that might stress me out.

I basically took a time out from now for a couple of days. It was wonderful, and I plan on doing this every weekend from now for as long as this current situation goes on.

The news isn’t going anywhere. I was available to my family and friends if something came up, but it really refreshed my soul to tune the world out for a bit.

Have your teen try a time out, even if it’s just for a few hours, they will be glad they did it!  This will be a great way to help a stressed out teen.

Here are my friends’ tips for calming your teens…

Calming Activities by Karen at Nourishing Teens

Tips for Getting to Sleep Faster by Dana at Parenting in Real Life

Calming an Anxiety Attack by Dana at Parenting in Real Life

Diverting Activities

Our teens have a lot of time on their hands even with school, friends, social media, and right now, a world-wide pandemic. Here are a few fun things that might distract them when they have a moment of boredom!

Staying busy is good for a stressed out teen, as long as it is balanced with rest and relaxation.

Here are my friend’s tips for keeping your teen busy…

18 Killer Podcasts by Nancy at Raising Teens Today

101 Things to Do When You’re Stuck at Home by Nancy at Raising Teens Today

Things for Bored Teens/Tweens To Do While Stuck Inside by Karen at Nourishing Teens

100 Blissful Solutions to Teen Boredom by Shannon at Skip to My Life

5 Things That Your Teen Needs to Know About Their Grandparents by Shannon at Skip to My Life

Things To Do During Quarantine by Loren at LorenKellyCoaching

Stressed out teens|

Helping Your Teen With Anxiety

If a teen has anxiety, it’s a whole other dimension of stress. It is all-consuming, and overpowering. Teens may need outside help. They for sure need for you to know that it is very real to them. More than anything, they need your love and support!

Here are my friends’ tips for dealing with teen anxiety…

Why Anxiety Can Destroy Your Gen Z Child by Shannon at Skip to My Life  

How To Mitigate Anxiety In Your Teen by Dana at Parenting in Real Life

Helping Teens Manage Their Anger by Dana at Parenting in Real Life

Parenting Through Mental Health Challenges and a Global Health Crisis by Betsy at with Dr. Marcia Morris  (This is a podcast as well as a blog post.)

Natural Stress Relievers for Teens by Miranda at The Reluctant Cowgirl

School Angst

Here are some basic tips to help teens with school stress…

  1. Have a schedule 
  2. Use a planner or some sort of calendar
  3. Start big projects early-as in right away!
  4. Create a dedicated work space
  5. Talk to the teacher
  6. Get a tutor
  7. Prioritize work by date due and amount of work that will be needed

Here are my friends’ tips for dealing with school stress…

Helping Kids to Thrive As They Adjust to Distance Learning by Betsy at with Kellyann Rohr  (This is a podcast as well as a blog post.)

Ways That You Can Help Your Teen With Finals (Or School Stress in General!) by me

Model behaviors to help a stressed out teen

Stress is a factor every day in our teens’ lives. School, work, family, money, dating relationships, the list is endless. We need to model behaviors that are positive for our teens to emulate. We need to practice self-care, so that we can help meet their needs and show that it’s a great stress management tool.

Let’s help our teens to fill their toolboxes with strategies for dealing with stress today and any other time that will be stressful in the future.

Here is a great post on coping with all this as a mom from my friend Miranda at The Reluctant Cowgirl.

Here is a post that I wrote about self-care under the best of times, but is great for now because there are tiny doable things that you can do to have a better day, every day!

Here are some affirmations to get us through these days from my friend Shannon at Skip To My Life

Conversation can help

We have time now because everyone is at home. The thing is that we should always make time to have conversations. Our teens are only with us for a limited amount of time-the countdown has started for them to leave for college or a job or the military or one of a million things.

Use the time that you have with your kids to have some of these important conversations about making their future a better place to be. Help you teen to have an advantage by discussing important tips that will help them no matter what is going on in the world.

The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School by me

5 Easy Ways to Improve Communication With Your Teen by me

Things to Know If You Love a Teenager by me

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Your Parental Rights Change When Your Teen Turns 18

Your Parental Rights Change When Your Teen Turns 18

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Your teen is 18!  Your parental rights are different now, as in basically gone.

Do you have a college freshman?  Get ready for things to change in more ways than one.  Your parental rights are about gone!

Did you know that you have no rights to their school information like grades, financial aid etc?

Did you know that once your kiddo turns 18, you will not be able to even make them a doctor’s appointment or call with an insurance question about your own child?!!!!!  Whaaaaaaat?

I found this out the hard way when I called to doctor to find out some info about one of my boys’ doctor appointments. They wouldn’t tell me anything! Keep in mind that this was our pediatrician, who I had known since the morning my oldest was born more than 20 years ago…

In addition to all of the dorm room supplies, school supplies and other miscellaneous stuff,  you need to be aware of some really important terms:  FERPA, HIPAA, and Selective Service to name a few.

Once your child enters college, and especially after they turn 18, your parental rights will drastically change, as in disappear.  Read on to find out what these terms mean, and how you can be prepared for these changes.  *This post may contain affiliate links.  This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.

Coronavirus Update

(In this day of COVID-19, the medical portion of this post is very important to know about. Your child needs to let his medical providers know that he or she gives permission to you for medical treatment. In most cases, the virus has been mild for young adults. However, the doctors are saying, if a case becomes severe, it can happen very rapidly.) Please read the section below about HIPAA carefully.

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FERPA – Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

So. let’s say that you suspect that your child has been skipping classes, or you want to make sure that your child didn’t drop a class and scoop up that money.  You cannot find out from the college unless the FERPA has been signed!

FERPA is the law that protects student educational records.  It includes protections for … a child’s education records, such as, report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact and family information, and class schedules.  

This means that at the age of 18, all rights that you have had as a parent regarding these types of information transfer to your student.

There are exceptions when a school may, but IS NOT REQUIRED to-share this information about the student’s educational records.  The exceptions include situations where the student’s health or safety may be at risk, instances of drugs or alcohol if the student is under the age of 21 and/or if the student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes.

The point being, that unless your student signs the FERPA when registering for classes or at student orientation or at any time, then you may or MAY NOT be able to see your child’s grades, see their financial records at the school or be able to help make decisions regarding their health should a situation occur on campus.

It is a simple form that carries significant weight.

The truth is that your child will not necessarily know what this is!

Unless you basically make your teen sign the FERPA, then you will be out of luck when trying to communicate with the school if you want any real answers.  Look for this when your child is uploading all of their info to their college once they are accepted.



Here’s another example of parental loss of power…  Your child has gone to the health clinic at their college.  You call the clinic to find out more information from them about the diagnosis because your child cannot tell you much since they didn’t really listen.  No can do.  Unless your child has signed the HIPAA and put your name on it!

HIPAA is another governmental term.  The Health Information and Portability Accountability Act comes into action when your teen turns 18.  Up until this point, you as the parent have signed the HIPAA form at all doctors visits.  This includes dental, vision, and insurance information as well as primary care.

Now, your 18 year old will sign the form and list any adults who may be given information regarding their health. If you are not on that list, then you will not be privy to any of that information. (A really good description for an 18 year old to read about what the HIPAA means is here.)

Another option to consider is a durable power of attorney.  This would need to be signed by your teen once they are 18.  This would be a really good thing to have in place if for some reason your child were to become incapacitated in some way.

Check out Mama Bear Legal Forms. They offer both health and financial power of attorney legal documents. We have had these drawn up for our two oldest boys while they are in college.

Selective Service

Once your son turns 18, he needs to register with the Selective Service.  He will have 30 days to do so.  It is a federal offense not to register.  He will be unable to get a driver’s license or apply for student loans or grants.  There is a hefty fine of $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison for not signing up.

Conscientious objectors and disabled persons need to register as well.  If the draft ever comes back, those individuals can can register their objections or disabilities then.

At this point in time, girls do not have to sign up for this.

Legal Status of Being 18

Turning 18 has many implications.  In most states, being 18 is considered being an adult-age of majority.  Some things to consider…

As an adult, a person can buy property, vote, or even get married in most states.  Jury duty is now a possibility as well.

As an adult, a person can now be put in prison if convicted of a crime, can legally gamble, and can now be sued.  Not all fun and games!

One tool that young adults may want to take advantage of is life insurance.  It all depends on circumstances.  Some young people may be facing financial hardships or want to utilize life insurance as an investment tool.  Here is a quick link to a guide explaining more about this.

One more thing that your 18 year old needs to consider.  Sex.  If your son or daughter is dating someone younger than them, which many of them are, then they can be charged with, and be prosecuted with statutory rape.  This varies from state to state, and the description of what that means also varies from state to state. Also, sexting as an adult is a crime.  It is distribution of pornography.   Please make them aware of this!

This is a lot!  All of it is important!  Be sure that you and your teen have discussions about all of this over time.  These are big topics, so don’t try to discuss it all at once.  Your role as a parent will definitely change, and that’s a good thing!  Just know that as you lose your parental rights, they are gaining their rights as adults, and that’s a good thing too!

I feel your pain, but hope that this information helps you along this crazy journey as our kids become adults!

Related posts:  10 Items You Will Be So Glad to Have in the Dorm, Ways to Help Support Your Teen Get Ready For Finals

If you have a younger teen, check out our Parent Toolkit for Surviving High School

Have you read my book?! Take the time to have these important conversations with your teenagers, even if college is not on their radar. There are many life skills that are covered.  College Bound:  The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School

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