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Ten Commandments for Being a Great Volunteer

Volunteers make the world go round. Whether you work with your kids’ school, your church, the local Boy Scout Troop, the animal shelter, or even with an international organization like [email protected], your time and efforts makes all of the things possible.

Buuuuuuuutttttttt . . .

We all know—especially those of us who have been chairpersons—that not all volunteers are cut from the same cloth. There are the fakes, flakes, and troublemakers who make volunteering as painful as a Brazilian bikini wax administered on a fire ant hill. Volunteers need to work as a hive and if too many bees go rogue, the honey is just not getting made.

Don’t worry, we’re going to stop with the insect analogies there. Shifting gears, to completely illustrate our commandments for proper volunteer etiquette, we have created this entirely FICTIONAL school event—The Annual Penguin Craft Party.  Once again, this event is entirely made-up, but if something strikes a chord, perhaps it is time for a little reflection. We’re going to be honest, failure to follow these simple rules will rightfully earn you the title “Monarch of the PITAs“.

Volunteers make the world go round, but not everyone is a good one. Heed this advice for being a GREAT volunteer. Psst, a sense of humor helps.| Ten Commandments for Being a Great Volunteer | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Without further ado, we bring this meeting for The Annual Penguin Craft Party to order.

1.Respect the planning period! If while setting up for an event that has been planned for months, you try to push in another direction because of the idea that just popped into your head . . . DON’T!

Count to ten. Think of something completely relaxing and indulgent . . . you, know, like sitting down after the penguin party is over. DO NOT utter your brilliant thought NOW. That ship has sailed. Here’s a little example to illustrate our point. Say, you are in the gym hanging streamers for the Annual Penguin Craft Party. Now is not the time to rally support for the idea that this shindig could be so much MORE if it just had an actual dogsled race and the kids worked together to carve a true-to-scale igloo.


2. But don’t be an idea killer DURING the planning period! Nothing breaks hearts and quashes spirits more than the simple phrase:

“But we’ve always done it this way.”

DO NOT let these words leave your lips during a PLANNING meeting. This is the time to let the creative juices fly! It really might be fun for the kids to toss live mackerel into the penguin’s mouth! Builds hand-eye coordination and deadens olfactory sensitivity! Give every dreamer her (brief) moment. Every golden idea was a dusty little nugget at some point.


3. Execute your own ideas!  If you throw an idea out there, be ready to catch it, and run with that ball. DO NOT expect your vision to magically happen. If your brilliant idea is going to take 50 million woman hours to pull off, you should think about putting in a lot of those hours yourself, not just patting yourself on the back for how creative you are.  Start Googling how to make that igloo!  Look up dry ice dealers!  Be ready to drag that dogsled yourself.


4. Just worry about yourself!  Everybody is a volunteer. Nobody is getting paid, and everyone has someplace else to be. You’re hanging with the heroes. If you spend more time complaining about all the people who never volunteer than you do making those papier mâché penguins, you are bringing us all unpleasantly down. Stop griping! Get pasting!


5. Follow the 10 second rule! If you have called your event chair four times in the past hour, take a deep breath and put your cellphone down. Perhaps you can solve this problem yourself!

We believe in you!

Think for 10 seconds! Remember you are competent and bright. Acknowledge that your chairperson, though in charge, is still just a volunteer. Envision your sweet little cherub’s face and remember why you’re volunteering in the first place. Use the time you just saved NOT making that phone call to cut out some more penguin bills.


6. Keep any urge to cat fight to yourself!  If you start a spat worthy of a middle school cafeteria (even if you ARE standing in a middle school cafeteria) in the midst of the snow cone booth, you are a PITA. Period. It is NOT proper etiquette to squirt blueberry syrup down your fellow comrade’s shirt no matter how many eye rolls she gave you or how satisfying it may feel.


7. In fact, bring a great attitude. Chances are that inspirational posters promoting just this very thing are lining the school halls. If it applies to the kids, it applies to the adults. You don’t have to whistle while you work, but don’t swear, moan, or gossip. The penguins don’t like that. Makes ‘em cranky.


8. Do what you say you are going to do!  There is no credit for great intentions. We’ve heard there’s a pathway to hell paved with these. The only thing that matters is results. Nobody cares if your uncle is the Chief Penguin Wrangler at the local zoo unless you get him there. If you volunteer him to show up and talk to the kids, he better be there with some of his feathered friends even if you have to drive him to the event yourself. In a dogsled. It’s all about the follow through.


9. Clean up after yourself.  We all have kids. That’s what got us into this mess. When our kids leave a path of destruction in their wake, we feel like kicking a kitten. When you do it, we just feel like kicking you. You’re not royalty. Don’t act like it.

Nothing tarnishes your “Volunteer of the Year” crown awarded for cutting out 200 snowflakes like leaving your confetti scraps on the floor for someone else to sweep up.


10. Keep it up. Don’t be a One Note Nelly. Consider doing a little something to make EVERY event a success. Every time you put down that glue gun, another volunteer has to pick it up with the third set of hands she doesn’t have.

Volunteers make the world go round, but not everyone is a good one. Heed this advice for being a GREAT volunteer. Psst, a sense of humor helps.| Ten Commandments for Being a Great Volunteer | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

But, seriously, every hour you donate makes your kids’ schools, churches, youth groups, teams, and world better. Thank you and keep up the good work!

-Ellen and Erin


Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”


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Why Helping Out Helped Make Me a Better Mom

Nineteen years in, is it too late to register a complaint? Having kids means calendars exploding with commitments. A little heads up when they handed me my first newborn and sent me out to “go forth and mom”  would have been very much appreciated.  In fact, when I was knee deep in diapers and burp cloths would have been the perfect time to rain down some solid mom truths on me. So here’s one for all my new mom friends, one that seems counter-intuitive in light of the exploding calendar truth: helping out helped make me a better mom.

Here’s how my volunteer story started. Ten years ago, a kind but wily acquaintance was giving me the hard sell. He was leaving the neighborhood Cub Scout pack and moving on with his son. He was looking for a replacement/fresh meat/gullible sucker to take his place. I was strong and full of good reasons why I was not the girl he was looking for. He listened intently to every word I said and nodded his head in quiet acknowledgement. But as he was leaving, he handed me a note and said, “read this when you have time.”

Well, to this day, I think of him as the Lex Luther to my Supermom persona. On that little note, he had written the following: Parenting can be hard. Helping out made me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible MomsLet’s just say that his little note was the kryptonite to all my arguments. I have been happily traipsing, backpacking, hiking, biking, and canoeing the outdoors with a gaggle of boys (and girls too) in tow ever since. But that doesn’t mean that I was ready for the job I had undertaken. I love the outdoors with a passion, but you know what they say about passion making you blind, right? I have gotten lost on familiar mountains more times than I can count. I would send up flares when the Diet Coke supply got a little low in the house, so my wilderness skills weren’t exactly honed yet. And the extent of my nature knowledge was mostly stuff I learned off of Snapple caps and from my own well-intentioned but equally clueless mom.

So why do it? Why take the reins at all? I have a hand full of excuses I call kids that would have totally let me off the hook. The truth is that helping out changed me in good and important ways that I couldn’t have predicted but greatly appreciate.

Parenting can be hard. Helping out helped make me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. Valuable Point of View

As a leader, I’ve got the goods. I also now have valuable intel. My kids’ friends are three dimensional fully formed creatures in good, bad, and very annoying ways. Of course, I have front row seats to petty disagreements, power struggles, and general malarkey; but I also stand witness as these kids blossom and bloom. I cheer on the shy ones as they evolve into leaders, and I nod approvingly as the “straight and narrow” ones reap their just rewards for all their good listening. But those ones that drive me crazy? The squirrelly, wild ones are some of my favorites. I now appreciate and value their energy and good spirit. Yes, they flexed my patience muscles, but they also helped me see the forest for the trees. Not all kids walk an easy path, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t heading somewhere great. Helping out helped me parent through my own rough patches with my kids by reminding me of this.Parenting can be hard. Helping out made me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

2. Front Row Seat on Big (and Little Moments)

I also got some great seats on my kids’ growing up action. So much of what happens as our kids grow up is outside our sphere of influence. Helping out meant that I was front row center to a lot of the subtle but important moments. The Moment Where He Conquered His Fear of Heights? Yep, I was there. I was also there when his brother tantrumed his way through his first Pinewood Derby. It wasn’t all pretty, but I am counting it all in the win column. These were moments that would have been hidden from me. I was peaking behind the curtain, and I liked the view.

3. Organizational Skills Made Me Bold

There is no denying that planning and executing activities for a gaggle of boys every week helped me step up my game, but it also gave me an attitude of “what’s the worst that can happen?” This gave me a lion-hearted approach to parenting and made me do crazy things like invite my friends on summer adventures and take my parenting show on the road every chance I got. My mother-in-law may have worried about us, but I was freed in a way that I still treasure. Helping other kids unlock some of the great joys of childhood helped me embrace it for myself and my own family.

Parenting can be hard. Helping out made me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

4. Dynamic Shift

A challenging aspect of volunteering in the beginning was leading my own kids. With time, I appreciated how leading taught my boys to lead too. The other kids had their mom or dad right there with them helping them at each step. My sons each learned to self start and keep rolling, because I was often busy facilitating. They helped set up, clean up, and often were my harshest critics and greatest advocates. We became partners of a sort during my adventures as a leader, and I appreciated the new and welcome change in our relationship. It echoes of a larger shift that comes when they leave the nest, but we are trying those roles on now and they fit just fine.

5. Perspective

Parenting can make you crazy. Kids are particularly clever in their ability to create new ways to annoy and confound. Yep, my kids are certifiable at times, but I can say with authority that all kids tend towards nutty with extra nuts on top. Being privy to so many kids on such a regular basis for so long made me appreciate my home team more. Reassurance that our particular brand of kid is turning out A-OK was worth every marshmallow tower and scout song. It also made me empathetic to the difficult task of growing up. We forget once we cross that finish line to adulthood all the steps it took to get there. Volunteering gave me back a window on that world again. Parenting can be hard. Helping out made me a better mom. How volunteering for the PTA or Scouts can help you too! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms But ultimately I most appreciated the fact that experience is a fine teacher. Volunteering taught me things I needed to learn and in a way that benefited my kids and their friends too. I am not the same woman who picked up that gauntlet laid down by my friend so many years ago, a very good thing for me and my kids. It’s also good for you if you know me. I am a kinder, gentler, and far more patient version of myself. But perhaps even more importantly, ten years into this scout leader gig, I have some SKILLS. You can feel safe sending your kids into the woods with me. I can climb mountains, build fires, triangulate my position, and kayak like the fearless leader I have become. I am a full-fledged member of the village raising some fine young people in my community and that is the best thing of all. So feel free to join me the next time you see me heading out on the trail. We might get lost but we will have a darn good time getting there.


Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”


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Terrific Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas

The first full week in May is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Did you forget? For goodness’s sake, learn how to work your phone and mark your calendar. But don’t worry because we’ve got your appreciation gift ideas right here.

We are big fans of  teachers here in The Sisterhood, but then again, who isn’t? They change the world one little corner of it at a time by tapping those hidden reservoirs of awesome in their students.

With that in mind, we present you with two categories of gifts: some for the whole class to do and some for just your child to make. Either way, the teachers will know how much they’re appreciated without costing you a lot of time or money.

Get your DIY on! Teacher appreciation gift ideas that are rich in gratitude, but easy on the wallet: some are class projects and some are individual endeavors. - Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Class Projects

1. The TOTE-ally wonderful bag.

This one requires a go-getter Mom to spearhead it, most likely you, but that’s the biggest hurdle. Just order a canvas tote like the ones from LL Bean or Lands’ End. Buy an assortment of fabric paints. Arrange to meet with the class at a time when the teacher is elsewhere, usually lunch or recess. Paint each child’s hand, place it on the tote, and then have each child sign his or her hand print. (And yes, you’d better have hand wipes.) With a fabric pen, write a cute saying like “We have to hand it to you . . . You’re the best!” Or “You’re hands down the best teacher!”

2. Show them the money . . .  or at least the gift cards.

This one is a breeze but will have your teacher celebrating all year long. Have every student bring a gift card worth $5 to school. Place them all in a pretty basket and present it to the teacher.

3. “Thanks for Helping Us Grow!”

Show your teacher how much she has helped you grow by offering her a whole garden of her own. Have each child contribute a seed packet. Then help each child craft and decorate a pocket for each packet. Attach all the pockets to popsicle sticks and arrange in a pot. (Try reading those last two sentences aloud. Our gift to you.)

4. Give the “write” stuff.

Have the kids design custom stationary for their favorite teacher! Give each child two pieces of paper. Help them stamp their fingerprints in the corners and then show them how to create animals with them by drawing on details with colored pencils or crayons. Notes home have never looked so good.

5. Color your teacher fabulous!

Have each child donate a crayon he or she used in class during the year. Use the crayons to create the first letter of your favorite teacher’s name by gluing them on a piece of craft paper, then place the creation in a frame. Ask each child to remember something he or she drew that year with the crayon. Print their answers and tape to the back of the frame. Sweetness achieved!

Not really feeling up to organizing a herd? Here are six more simple ideas just perfect for your little scholar to give.

Get your DIY on! Teacher appreciation gift ideas that are rich in gratitude, but easy on the wallet: some are class projects and some are individual endeavors. - Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Individual Endeavors

1. Make an acrostic poem.

This quick form of poetry uses the letters of a word to begin each line. It’s an activity that even young children can do. Use the word “teacher” or even the teacher’s name. Write the name vertically and fill in the poem next to the appropriate letters. For example: Teaches us how to count, Every day, she is happy to see me, etc. Make it extra special by putting it in a decorative frame.

2. Write a meaningful thank you note.

There is something special in this fast paced world about receiving a handwritten letter of appreciation. It is also an important skill for any child to learn. There is no better time than this to show them how.

3. Create a book of gratitude.

Have your child write or type 5 to 10 valuable lessons he or she has learned from that teacher on separate pieces of fancy paper then make them into a little book.

4. Pass along some favorite easy recipes.

Do you have those go-to recipes that save you on a busy day? Share them with a busy teacher. You could put them in a decorative recipe box or better yet, just attach them to a plate of cookies. Here are some of our favorite recipes if you are searching for some to share, just click here.

5. Give supplies in a cup.

Need a quick and easy way to show you care? How about filling one of those lidded clear plastic reusable cups with some craft supplies. Paper clips, dry erase markers, or permanent markers make a colorful presentation. Don’t forget to add a cute note to the straw – “I am filled to the brim with appreciation” to complete the look of the gift.

teacher appreciation flag

Made in minutes on PicMonkey.

6. Honor an interest.

Is there something special the teacher likes? You can assemble a unique gift highlighting that interest. Use mints or candy to fill a tumbler emblazoned with his or her favorite team’s logo. Nestle a favorite DVD and some bags of microwave popcorn in a decorative bowl. The possibilities are endless.

 Now go out there and show some appreciation!

-Ellen and Erin

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Check out our books, please, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

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Pleading Our Case: 10 Things We Hope We Are Doing Right

pleading our case

Erin: Our babies are all growing up, and we are in the enviable position of sitting back and taking a little look-see around at how things are going. So I started thinking about what Ellen and I hoped we were getting right. 

Ellen: And I started panicking. I’m used to being judged by my tween and teen on a daily basis, but this performing for the gold medal of motherhood is going to go on forever! My kids could be writing lists about ME on a blog 20 years from now.

Erin: Oh my, that is something to think about…

Ellen:  We both have families that are great at grabbing the fun in life, but parenting is not all sunshine and giggles. I really feel like I need to defend myself for some of the things I do. You know, plead my case for the future.

Erin: Well now that you got me all worked up, I agree.

So without further ado:

Pleading Our Case for Ten Things We Hope We Are Doing Right As Parents

In Erin’s House, we say “Fight the Tiger. Embrace the Mountain.”

1.We work hard and ask them to do the same. We try to instill in our kids that they are blessed and for them to appreciate that. Some things will come easy for them and some things won’t.

Ellen’s go-to t-shirt motto is “Hard work beats talent when talent hardly works.” Pretty much sums it up. If you are talented, you need to bring your A game. Every Day. If you have struggles, you can beat them with hard work and determination.

We hope they know. . .

2. We support, but we don’t do excuses.  We are all kinds of available. Whether our kids need a ride, a good meal, help conjugating a verb, or advice, we make the time to listen and be there. We are their shoulder to cry on. But if they skip practices and don’t make the team or they blow off studying and get a “D,” we are here to tell them they got the results that equaled the effort they put forth. No pity parties.

And on that note…

3. We don’t do confetti canons. And we deplore participation trophies. A rich life is not about just showing up. We model that you achieve for yourself. Your reward is that you get to lead the life you want to live.


4. We respect their successes as THEIRS alone. NOT ours. We revel in their achievements and are thrilled for them, but when it’s their moment to shine, we step out of the limelight. We have chronic shoulder injuries; we refuse to tweak them by straining to pat ourselves on the back.

And to take it a step further…

5. We respect them. They are not our products or our possessions. They are their own people with their own thoughts, goals, and likes.

But with that in mind, we do our fair share of influencing…

6.We immerse our kids in culture.Ugh. Sounds dreadful, right? Wrong.

If you just make learning fun. . .

We watch movies, read books, use technology, dance to Wii games, watch Youtube videos, visit museums, travel, listen to music, take our kids to restaurants, take them to sporting events, and talk about the news. In short, we participate. It’s a great big world and we are all just living in it. Also, life’s a whole lot funnier if you get the jokes.

And the jokes are even better when you can share them…

7.We are good at turning family into friends. Family is your first best friend. Period. Siblings are included. Always. Our homes are places of safety and kind words. Meanness is not allowed or passed off as that is just what kids do. We hope this is the recipe for developing blood bonds into actual ones.

But don’t get us wrong, we’re not some freaky Von Trapp cult…

8.We are good at turning friends into family.  Friendships are the true gifts in life and we have been very fortunate in finding some that have moved into the realm of family.  Our kids are lucky enough to be surrounded by loving people. We hope they appreciate how special this really is.

But when you are this blessed, it is your responsibility to give back…

We get by with a little help from our friends

9. We model service. One of our friends said that she would feel like an utter failure if her kids achieved personal success without any regard for other people. We agree with heads nodding wildly in solidarity.  There is no aspect of our lives where we don’t give a little of our time and talent.

But you can’t feel a need to serve unless…

10.We teach responsibility. We teach household tasks and hold them accountable. We let them know that our teams require team players. No gold stars for pitching in. Adults don’t get any rewards for cleaning up messes or taking care of themselves. Some things just need to get done, and nobody is going to do them for you. Best to learn this lesson from those who know you and love you best.

Okay, gavels down. We’re going to make sure our kids have the hyperlink to this post, when they are passing their own judgments.



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Mom Brain Is Forever

We are all familiar with the fog that smothers your sleep-deprived brain when you first have a baby. A typical day consists of finding your cellphone in the refrigerator and discovering butter in your diaper bag. This fuzzy consciousness has frequently been dubbed “Mommy Brain.”

We hate to break it to you, but since we are The Sensible Moms, we have to set the record straight: it NEVER ends. You may now want to call us “The Buzz Kill Moms” or “Moms Who Need to Shut It”, but sticking your head in the sand won’t change the reality. In fact, we’re knighting this condition “Mom Brain” because our kids are too old to still be calling us Mommy.

Here’s a point to send you rocking in the corner: we are all aging as our kids get older. It’s a sliding scale for losing your ever-loving mind and for it staying lost. Erin is five years from infant times and Ellen is a whopping twelve years out, and Mom Brain is still kicking us in the rear. The Super-Duper-Swell-Can-I-Have-A-Xanax-On-The-Side difference? Now the collateral damage has an even larger zone of destruction.

Sad Scenario One: You lose important shizz.

Ellen: People! I misplaced not only my passport, but my husband’s, too! This was just two years ago. Do you know the expense and the paperwork that must be filled out when you can’t turn in the old passport? It blows.

But you want to play a little  crazy Mom Brain association game with me? What else do you blow? (Keep it G rated!) That’s right, birthday candles and balloons. And that’s where I found our passports one month after we got back from our trip —in the birthday candle and balloon box.

Erin: I think we need to discuss the “Birthday Candle and Balloon Box”. WTH?

Ellen: Hey, I can find those things when I need them, right? I’m combating Mom Brain with organization.

Yes, the Birthday Balloon and Candle Box is located just north of the litter box (that Ellen scooped right before snapping this photo because she loves you that hard).


Erin: Sounds more like hoarding because it would just be silly to lay out a buck for a new set of birthday candles each time. Much more economical to create a place for your passport to hide.

Ellen: So we’re throwing stones? How about that camera bag and lens you misplaced?

Erin: I can’t even talk about it. By the way, did security strip search you or anything because you were flagged for lost passports?

Ellen: No thank goodness. Why do you ask?

Erin: I MAY have just had to go through the same process when I couldn’t find my passport for the Bermuda cruise my husband, Steve and I are FINALLY sprinting away on.

Ellen: I will be over here fighting an uncontrollable urge to hide something in your luggage until the moment of your departure.

Erin: I would be worried, but you are going to forget about it anyway. See, I AM Pollyanna. I just found the sunny side of Mom Brain.


Sad Scenario Two: Your calendar plots to punk you all of the time.

Ellen: Mmmmm, I’m gonna have to call “projecting” and say that YOU punk me all of the time.

Erin: Does it make you feel better that I’ve gotten Steve, too?

Ellen: No, it doesn’t because I happen to like your husband. You know what would make me feel better? To transcribe MY incident down for the record.

Erin: If this can be the last I hear of it, go ahead.

Ellen: Short version: Erin needed to sign some paperwork for the blog. She was supposed to print it out, sign it, and mail it to me. We live about 35 minutes apart.

Erin: We’re 25 minutes apart if you believe our friend, Mary.

Ellen: Don’t try to derail my train of thought with another Mom Brain topic: the inability to properly gauge travel time.

Anyway, she forgot to mail it for a week straight, so she was going to bring it to me—sort of.  She wanted to meet me at my child’s high school because she thought her son, Ace (15) was playing soccer there. She maintained that the game was at MY school despite the fact I quoted three sources that said it was at her school.

Erin: I thought it had been changed!

Ellen:  So I drove yet another round trip to my kid’s school. That brought the grand total to five for that day, but at least that one was for NOTHING. Well, shame on my Mom Brain for listening to you instead of my three sources.

Erin: My Mom Brain and I are really, really sorry about that. I was still learning to juggle my new part-time work schedule with my soccer-moming and the volunteer commitments I had made the year before. All of that keeping my eye on the ball apparently blurred my vision so I just didn’t read the schedule right. End of sad, sad story.

Ellen: Amazing I can’t remember where my iPod is , but this story stays fresh. Probably time to let it go.

Erin: Like I said, it was nothing against you because I darn near did the same thing to Steve.

Steve was on soccer field duties with three of our spunky future soccer stars AND the crap schedule I gave him. As he fumbled around the soccer field trying to piece together where the boys were ACTUALLY supposed to be, I got to listen to the whole debacle unfold in real time via cell phone. Oh, good times! If the sound of the fuming husband didn’t make me feel like a crumbled biscuit, the pathetic whimper of the heartbroken five year old  who missed his game did me in. I took down my entire family’s happy Saturday with one faulty calendar entry.

Puddle of crap. Party of one.

Ellen: See what we were talking about with the larger radius of destruction?? Only so much chaos could go down when the only thing on your schedule was story time.

Sad Scenario Three: You have to go back to the paper trail.

Ellen: We can just hear your Mom Brains shouting, “But that is what smartphones are for! You can enter, link, and share calendars. There are even alerts!”

Erin: Oh, but there is this little thing my husband likes to call the ID10T error. Must I really explain?

Ellen: Yeah, I’ve muffed entering a date into my phone when bedlam is buzzing around me— the kids yelling and the cat puking on the 25% of my house that is carpet. The worst, though? Speeding through a calendar entry on my phone because, grrrrr, the phone starts ringing.

Erin: I not only have to record the date in my phone and on my wall calendar, but I have been schooled to keep the originals.  

My super-organized friend Nicole sent out her birthday party invitation well in advance. I promptly loaded that data into our Google calendar and tossed that puppy into the recycling bin. When I saw her at school, I said, “See you Saturday.” “You mean Sunday.” “No, Saturday.” “Erin, his party’s on Sunday.” “No, it’s not.” Do you see what I am laying down? I was arguing with my friend about the date of HER party. Good grief. Y’all should just put me down already. I’m not fit for human company.

Ellen: In all fairness, you really could have been correct. I was still putting the finishing touches on this beauty . . .

JellyBean’s (12) PERSONAL birthday cake because in our family you’re never too old to have your own cake to dig into with abandon.


Ellen: . . . when the guests started arriving for my daughter’s sleepover. Yeah, they were on time, I was under the delusion that I had one more hour, despite the fact I put the time on the invitations.

Erin: And so our lives are reduced to entering the date on multiple calendars AND keeping the originals. I miss the days when all I had was the pediatrician visit reminder cards.

So are you actually rocking in the corner yet? Where’s the trust? We’re not going to leave you without any solutions!

The Sensible Moms Solutions to Mom Brain

1. Number Your Children

In fact, number ALL of the children because those little hooligans are waiting to take you down too! We find this system works best if you always make them walk, move, and arrange themselves around the table in numerical order.


2. Tag Your Stuff

We know Brookstone makes a Wireless Key Finder, but it’s expensive, and let’s face it, you’ll probably lose the transmitter that locates your tagged shiz. Plus, you have more stuff to lose than keys. We’re solving this problem old school à la bright-orange-flag-on-the-back-of-a-banana-seat-bike style.


3. Velcro Shirt

Keep your MOST important items within your sight at all times. Your keys are just a boob length away!


Mom Brain might be here to stay, but it was all worth it. Right? Our kids, the precious memories, even the not-so-precious memories. It was all worth it, right? Right!?! At this point, we’re too addled to know any better. Bring your Velcro and come rock in the corner with us. Arts and crafts are soothing.



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The Best of 2012 Link-Up Par-Tay

On January 11, 2013, it will be official! We will say good-bye to our blogging infancy by hitting the one year mark! Don’t look over at Archives! Just don’t do it. She’s a liar-liar-pants-on-fire! You can get the full explanation here or just trust us and bake us a cake. Every toddler deserves a cake she can sink her face into.

This is how we eat all of our cakes. We find it leads to less of that pesky sharing thing.


What? No time to bake us a cake? We understand, plus our thighs couldn’t handle it anyway. How about joining our link-up instead?

Pick out your favorite post from 2012 and link away.

Since parties and blogging are all about the conversation, why not read the other bloggers who have linked in your row? It’s really the least you could do since you wouldn’t bake us a cake.

But before you go linkin’, check out our Top Ten from 2012. Don’t go pouting that we get ten and you only get one. We’re the Blogiversary girls and we’ll do what we want to, but to keep things fair, we promise to Pin each of your posts, m’kay? That’s definitely better than a favor bag full of Bits o’ Honey and Dollar Store plastic.

Our Top Ten From 2012

Starting this blog is one of the most fulfilling things we could have done  for ourselves in 2012. We thought we knew what we were getting into, but it has turned out to be so much more. We have made new friends and learned new things about ourselves — we love to craft with words, we have enough bravery to send our little word gems out to be judged, and we like to have an audience that listens to us and gives us feedback.

We have learned  bushels about ourselves and our friendship. If you would like to know more — this is how we write together, this is what our kids think of us, and this is what we think of each other. Maybe for 2013 we’ll open it up to our Sisterhood to see what they think of us, although we’re not sure we have THAT much bravery.

Without further ado, here are our seven most viewed posts and three that we think deserve a little more love.


Our Seven Posts With The Most Views

1. Boy Bands Are for Cougars Too — This one surely did so well because of the love shown to it by Duran Duran on Facebook and on Twitter. Ellen is still swooning. Ellen’s daughters have their fingers crossed that One Direction will respond too. (Piece of advice 1D, you’ll need these girls in three decades, just sayin’.)

Twelve year old Ellen’s obsession comes full circle three decades later.


2. Are You Mom Enough Not To Take The Bait. — Here is the one where Ellen gets uppity with the media for constantly stirring the “Mommy War” embers. In less than 500 words!

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


3. 10 Songs to Celebrate Woman — This quick little playlist has proven to be a blog traffic work horse, garnering at least 100 page views EVERY week. You know you want to check it out. Rock on!

This is how we boogie, Baby . . . or something.


4. Extraordinarily Ordinary — Erin shares a story about a carpool that ended up being so much more—a tale of a teen, a neighbor with autism, and the little favor that helped them all.

Acceptance is a powerful force.


5. Bullying: The Real B Word — Erin shows that there are actions you can take with YOUR kids EVERY day to weaken bullying.

Click on this badge to go to our Pinterest board and repin it for yourself to spread this positive message against bullying.


6. Helicopter Parents: Your Time Is Up. — You may not even know you’re doing it.



7. Ten Steps to Prevent Your Wedding From Being Pintershit — People looooooove our Pintershit series! Here are the others.



Three Posts That Deserve More Love

Hey, it’s not their fault only Aunt Karo was reading our blog when we posted them.

1. Fakes, Flakes, and Troublemakers Not Welcome — We like to volunteer and lend a hand when we can. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy until . . . we’re pushed to the verge of throat punching a penguin.

If only these were the flakes we were talking about. These can be easily handled with a flamethrower. Hmmmmmmm . . . guess the other ones could too, now that we think about it.


3. Don’t Box ‘Em In — It’s limiting to label your kids even if you think it’s something positive like Future Scientist of America. Save those labels for those Pinterest Mason jars.

Quite honestly, WE could use a little MORE boxing in.


3. The Stranger in My House — Genetics has never been so funny. It’s like an episode of CSI!

Anxiety!?! Yeah, I got anxiety! Ellen and her mad genetic knowledge saved the day!


Happy BLirth-day! Favorite Post of 2012 Link-Up PAR-TAY!

What’s a BLirth-day you say? BLogging + Birthday = BLirth-day. We explain it all here. All you need to worry about is picking your favorite post from the last year. We can’t wait to see (and Pin) what you link!

— Ellen and Erin

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Spinning In Circles

Thanksgiving has us thinking of circles — circles of love, circles of family, circles of friendship, circles of life . . . and now you’ve got The Lion King song blaring through your head. You’re welcome.

What Thanksgiving didn’t leave us with was a lot of spare time for blogging. Erin and her brood spent the better part of the week with her family only to drive back for two and a half hours to drop her girl child off at Ellen’s house for Jellybean’s (12) rockin’ sleepover. This sleepover went much smoother than some in the past and for that Ellen is grateful. With 14 girls there was the potential for much to go wrong.

So we’re thankful that Monday Listicles only required us to share 10 photos from our cell phones. THAT we can handle.


Ten Circles

1. Circling Above

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History


2. Dupont Circle Studs

Renaissance Hotel Lobby Dupont Circle Washington DC


3. Circle of Passage

Rowhouse Dupont Circle


4. Sweet Circles


5. Circle of Ducks

Duck, Duct, TAPE!


6. Cucurbita Sundial

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere


7. Circles of Relief

Survived a Sleepover with No Fodder for the Blog!

8. Circumference of Pie

Erin’s Aunt makes each kid their own pie for Thanksgiving dinner
Yummy AND sweet!

9. Psychedelic Circles

Cloud Gate aka “The Bean” Chicago, IL

10. Grammatically Questionable Circle

Found on the Christmas Bazaar Baked Goods Table


So in the end, we are thankful for being able to find the funny in every day. We are also grateful to Jessica Betke at Jesse’s Spot for making blogging fun and easy this week. We love ecards too and her funny Thanksgiving post made us giggle. Finally, this week and every week, we are also appreciative of Stasha for providing such a fun place to land every Monday.


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The Script For Saying “No” With Style

Ellen: I need a little more “No” in my life.

Erin: Well this conversation is starting off in a happy place. What does that even mean?

Ellen: I am drowning in “back to school.” It’s all flooding in: the schedules, the homework, and worst of all, the requests for my time filling up my inbox. My summer only ended 15 minutes ago, but my plate is piled so high, it looks like a Biggest Loser contestant fell off the wagon.

Erin: I hear you. I ‘m still pouring sand out of my shoes while trying to dole out sandwiches and loose leaf.

But I have two words for you. Nancy Reagan.

Ellen: I’m giving YOU two minutes to explain your ridiculous self. Go.

Ellen: Erin’s idea of a timely reference. Erin: TIMELESS! There is nothing wrong with timeless!

Erin: Think Nancy Reagan circa 1986. Think red dress. Nancy sitting on the couch with President Reagan imploring millions of kids to “Just Say No”. . .

Ellen: To drugs. You get that she was talking about drugs; which is what I’m going to need if you don’t get to the point soon. Do you realize you just made a 26 year old reference? More importantly, how is this related to my overloaded schedule?

Erin: You really need a better appreciation of the classics. I’m saying to channel your inner Nancy and just say “No”.

Ellen: I’m going to channel something in a minute, but you did get my brain churning again. Man, I am rusty from the summer. But YOU don’t even remember that you’ve already shared the “How to Say No” technique that, no joke, changed my life.

Erin: Hold on there, Sister, I’m not sure I can stand all this love. But what are YOU talking about?

Ellen: Why do you never embrace the GENIUS of this technique? It is a SCRIPT for saying “No”! It brilliantly removes the awkward!

Erin: I guess I’m just so used to using it.

Ellen: Okay, I’ll give you that. When you’ve been foolish enough to display competence in distributing Goldfish crackers and juice boxes like we have, you get placed on the “Call to Volunteer” short list.

Erin: If only all the volunteer jobs were that easy. Don’t get me wrong, I support volunteering, but maybe not everything is worthy of my time…

Ellen: Oh, I hear ya. Chairing the dunk tank at the school carnival? I’m there!

Erin: Selling Girl Scout cookies? Meh, I’ll do it.

Maybe this guy does need some love. Or dignity. Ok, we can all agree that he needs something.

Ellen: Knitting scooper cozies for underprivileged dog walkers? Pretty sure I’m busy until three weeks past forever.

Erin: We jest, but that’s why you have to slip into that Nancy alter-ego once in a while. While most of what we get asked to do is very worthwhile. . .

Ellen: And it’s usually asked by people we highly respect. . .

Erin: We still only have 24 hours in our day like everyone else.

Ellen: That is why this technique is so magical. It shows respect while still making it clear that you really mean no. There’s nothing worse as a chairperson than being strung along with maybes and half-hearted commitments.

Erin: Well, I can think of a couple of worse things….

Ellen: Save it for another post. I AM going to embrace the genius and present without further ado. . .

How To Channel Your Nancy and Graciously Say “No”

1. Thank the person. (We know, right!) “Thank you for asking me to knit scooper cozies.”

  • We definitely don’t want you to be insincere, but this generally stuns people into silence.

2. Compliment them. “You do such a great job of making sure dog walkers are comfortable and stylish.”

  • Once again, sincerity is key. This person probably does need to be thanked. They are giving their time for something they believe in.

3. Compliment them again and then just say no. “And while you do such a wonderful job, I must say no because I don’t have the time to devote to your project.”

  • This is to the point, honest, and does not leave any wheedle room.

Ellen: No more hemming and hawing! No more stumbling over excuses! And more importantly, no more looking like or feeling like a donkey diaper for saying no.

Erin: But the key to making this part of your arsenal is to practice.

Ellen: Stop laughing because we are not kidding. Every good actor has to practice her script. Those words have to roll off of your tongue for them to be sincere and to not leave further room for begging.

Erin: Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to go call my sister and see if SHE appreciates my Nancy Reagan reference.

Ellen: Yeah.

someecards.com - Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms present Nerdy Girl Funny


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Back to School: The Rest of the Story

Stasha at Monday Listicles asked us to make a list about school. Quite frankly, we have been too busy to have time for the requisite cartwheels and high-fiving, but we see you, Carpool Moms, celebrating with your barely concealed glee and we say, “Meh, we’ll catch ya next year.”

We COULD have made lists of the back-to-school necessities which almost required a bridge loan. With 5 kids back to school this year, Erin’s monetary expenditures over the last month rivaled the GDP of some small countries.

We COULD have gone on about the myriad ways in which we procrastinated at the business of back-to-school and  how that came back to bite us. Thank goodness for overnight shipping and generous return policies!

We COULD have poked fun at the Pinterest boards full of Bento boxes, healthy lunches, and back-to-school ideas all of which anyone living with an actual child has no time to do.

But like we said before, things have been a little hectic around here so our Monday Listicle is going to showcase what we’ve been doing since the kids went back to school.

Channelling our inner Paul Harveys, “This is the rest of the story.”

1. Ellen spent last week as a New York City nanny for a New York minute to her 3 year old nephew. She saw how the other side lives, this time as a City Mom rather than a Country Mom. She hung at the Central Park Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History.  We might have lost her to this urban oasis if she could hang in Central Park all day, the temperature never went below 55 degrees, and the taxi prices weren’t about to go up 17%. And, oh yeah, her family in Maryland falling apart without their fearless leader.

2. Two days before school started, Erin got a job!  After a 14 year baby-raising hiatus, she is officially back in the classroom as a teacher. It’s a dream part-time gig at her kids’ school.  In fact, the only better job for her might be driving the karma bus, but as it seems that THIS gig actually pays, she is pretty happy about this new change.

3.  Barely unpacked from her nanny gig, Ellen repacked and headed out into our local environs to play camp counselor for a week with the sixth-graders at her daughter’s middle school. Apparently, a summer spent kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and camping with her crew and all of ours wasn’t enough—she wanted to do it all with other people’s tweens. To further underline what a rock star move this is, we are sharing this card with Ellen’s philosophy on camping.

4. On the home front, Erin showed her homework center who was boss. She was not going to be taken down by chewed up pencils and errant pencil grips anymore. If you have a handful of kids, you know this was no small feat, so we are mentioning it. And yes, we would appreciate some nodding in solidarity and even a little shout-out for taking the time. Erin’s kids are not nearly as impressed as they should be.

5. In a similar vein, Ellen liberated her Tupperware drawer. She cleared out ALL of the old and replaced it with ten dollars worth of matching Rubbermaid.  Don’t judge. You know you wish this is what your Tupperware drawer looked like. Feel free to pin this on to your “Genius” board.

Okay, there are a few disposable Ziplocs left because those darn kids are always losing them at lunch.

6. Erin bought new brakes for her car, because while a “Soccer Mom with no brakes” sounds like a great punchline, it could get ugly and dangerous pretty quick.

7. On the SAME day, Erin bought a new water softener system, because if things are going to get ugly, they might as well get expensive and messy and stressful as well. Thank goodness we keep wine and Cheez-its around for just these occasions.

8. On the other side of town, Ellen’s lawn mower broke with her lawn half-mowed. These things tend to come in threes. But usually to the same person. Perhaps Ellen and Erin are spending too much time together.

9. Because Erin JUST got her job, she is still on the hook for some of the volunteering gigs she was doing BEFORE the big change. This means that she spent the better part of a week hunting down suppliers for 100 lbs of mushrooms and 80 lbs of cabbage for her kids’ school, hounding local businesses to sponsor her cub scouts’ pushcart race, and helping her son who is in the final stages of finishing his Eagle Scout project. Don’t tell her that she needs to slow down. Don’t tell her that she needs a break. She knows. She KNOWS.

10. Oh, and a fair amount of time was spent working on the blog, which was not an afterthought  AT ALL, but the thing we talked about in every spare moment NOT driving kids to practice, helping them with homework, and doing all of the other things we did since school started.

And now you know the rest of the story.

Erin and Ellen


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