Visit my website

Find Me On Facebook

View Kathy Sena's profile on LinkedIn
See how we're connected

Check out these terrific parenting blogs

New! Get your Parent Talk Today Gear Here!

  • Support This Site

Home Life

May 13, 2021

High School Confidential

Istock_000005085148xsmall I thought I was the only mom on the planet who ever feels that motherhood is a lot like high school. Turns out I'm not alone.

My buddy Cynthia over at Sugar Mama says the only difference is that now you can't run to your room after school on particularly bad days. "You have to live in your own mistakes, fears, bad haircuts, every second of every day and learn to love it," she adds.

Humor definitely helps — and Sugar Mama has that in spades. And some days, you receive support from someone out of the blue that means so much. Click on the link above to hear the rest of the story.

May 09, 2021

Cast Away the Clutter!

I love my husband dearly, but I have to admit that we have certain subjects where we don’t see eye to eye. The storage room off the garage, for example. I’ve (almost) stopped nagging him about the fact that it should be condemned and I’ve (almost) resigned myself to just not opening the door.

I want to take an entire Saturday and tackle this monster. Randy takes one look and wants to immediately grab the T.V. remote. But there’s middle ground here — and hope — according to the organizing experts I consulted. Like the old advice about eating an elephant, you just have to do these things one bite at a time.

Start with small, well-defined tasks and don’t get sidetracked, suggests Kim Taylor, owner of The 25th Hour in Manhattan Beach, California. If it's a closet, just organize the closet, not the entire room. If it's catching up on phone calls, make them all at once — and don’t start filing recipes or rearranging furniture half-way through the task. (OK, so Randy and I can start by clearing the old paint cans out of the metal cabinet in the storage room and taking them to the hazardous-waste drop-off station. Baby steps…)

Here are some terrific resources to help us tackle that stack of mail on the dining-room table, that pile of outgrown clothes in our kids’ closets — and even a storage room filled with who-the-heck-knows-what:

°    At flylady.net, professional organizer Marla Cilley knows what it’s like to suffer from CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). She’ll take you —  with her own brand of homespun humor — through the process of organizing and cleaning your home. She also has some fun organizing tools, including her book, Sink Reflections (Bantam; $14.95 plus shipping), available on her site.

°    Visit getorganizednow.com for great tips and to subscribe to professional organizer Maria Gracia’s free e-mail newsletter. (I save her newsletters in an e-mail folder for quick reference. Her holiday tips alone will make your life easier.) Gracia’s monthly checklists will help you stay on top of seasonal tasks around the house, such as putting up storm windows, cleaning gutters and getting the family car ready for hot- or cold-weather driving. Her book, Finally Organized, Finally Free For The Home, is available in print ($24.95 + shipping) or in a digital PDF version ($19.95) at the website.

°    The National Association of Professional Organizers can help you locate an organizer in your area. Just enter your ZIP code here.

Check out these other great tips from Gracia, Cilley, Taylor and Jeannie VandeWeg, a professional organizer and owner of All Squared Away Organizing in Sebastopol, California:

°    Stop keeping things “just in case.” Do you really need all those hair clips and those old issues of Newsweek? With the exception of certain seasonal or formal clothing, seasonal sports equipment, etc., if you haven't used it in a year, you probably don't need it.   

°    Double up. Double-hanging closet rods quickly expand the available space for young children’s smaller clothes — and make them more reachable. Add hanging baskets and boxes for socks, hair accessories, etc. Clear, plastic hanging shoe holders are great for holding accessories.

°    Grab your label maker. Large plastic containers with multiple pull-out drawers are inexpensive and great for storing loads of small toys and doo-dads. For younger kids, attach photos of dolls, Legos, etc. to the drawers to show where items belong.

°    Create a “wall-of-fame” bulletin board for kids’ artwork and stories. Every week, add new artwork and store favorite older pieces in a notebook with sheet protectors. Send the rest to family and friends. Kids can help address the envelopes. A fun added touch: Current offers kid-friendly address labels at great prices: www.currentlabels.com.

°    Designate a “morning-launch-pad” spot. Here’s where everyone places backpacks, keys, cell phones, DVDs to be returned, gym bag, outgoing mail, etc. It can be a large basket by the front door, a bench with a cubbyhole for each family member, etc.

°    Create an emergency station. The utility closet is a great place to store flashlights, candles, matches, batteries and a fire extinguisher. Keep the smaller supplies in a covered box and mount the fire extinguisher on the wall.

°    Too many toys? At the start of each new season, rotate younger children’s toys to keep them fresh and interesting. Donate gently used clothes and toys to a donation center or children’s shelter. Let your child help choose the items and help deliver them.

°    Create “kid-paper central.” Purchase a magnetic, vertical file holder with a section for each child. Attach it to the fridge and remind kids to put all school papers in their file each day. If space permits, different-colored 9-x-12-inch “in” baskets on the kitchen counter work well, too. In the summer, use the files for notices from camp, swim team or other kids’ programs.

°    Make bathroom sharing easier. Assign a favorite color for each child, and use colored baskets to separate combs, brushes, etc. This system works with everything from toothbrushes to towels.

°    Reduce morning bathroom traffic. Stagger wake-up and/or shower times and set up a separate area (with a small vanity table, mirror, etc.) in the bedroom for styling hair and applying make-up.

°    Color-code the family calendar. Choose a calendar with big squares and place it in a busy family area, like the kitchen. Attach different-colored pens (one color for each family member) with string or dental floss. Each person can see their activities at a glance — and the family carpool organizer can see what each day’s schedule holds.

°    Save the date. Stash birthday-party invitations, tickets for the school play and other date-related items in a tickler file by date or in a wall calendar containing a pocket for each month.

°    Switch to online bill paying. Many banks now offer this service at no extra charge. You’ll save time, postage and headaches. And at tax time, you can print out a record of all deductible expenses. (We’ve been doing this for two years now, and I’ll never go back!)

°    Purge old files. Sorting through just 10 files per day makes this task manageable. Shred and recycle unneeded items. And don’t forget computer files. Just 15 minutes spent purging old computer files frees up valuable hard-drive space.

°    Invite the “house fairy” into your home. This most-welcome guest leaves little thank-you notes for kids for a job well done and leaves behind everything from stickers or small treats (for younger kids) to notes telling older kids they’ve earned a movie rental or a music download. (Spouses like to be visited by the house fairy, too...)

°    Create family rewards. After spending the afternoon cleaning the garage, organizing closets or collecting toys for donation, your team deserves a reward. Take everyone for ice cream or rent a movie and snuggle on the couch. Don’t forget the popcorn!

May 06, 2021

How Many Balls Are You Juggling?

Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., author of Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap!, tells a wonderful story, over on his website, Crazy Busy Life, that every parent can appreciate:

"I once interviewed a professional juggler. He told me the greatest number of balls he could juggle was six. The greatest anyone had ever juggled, as far as he knew, was eleven... I asked him if he was working to get to seven balls. He told me he was not because in order to get to seven he would have to give up several hours a day for at least six months, and he didn't have time to spare to do that. 'I'm very good,' he told me. 'I put on a great show with six. No one has ever come up to me and told me they wish I had done seven. I can work many variations with six and make people's jaws drop. Six is enough. I don't need more.'

Hallowell then asks us to consider: "Are you juggling more balls than you NEED to juggle? What do you give up if you are?"

That's a tough one. I love my family. I love my job. I love volunteering at my church and my son's school. What tends to get lost in the shuffle are things like exercise, getting my hair trimmed, shaving my legs — you know, basic physical maintenance. Not good!

So this week I plan to visit the dentist, shave those hairy legs, and get on the treadmill (an actual treadmill, not the treadmill that is sometimes my life!) for some cardio work. (Maybe I'll work out during American Idol tonight. And if Jason Castro wins this thing in a few weeks, it will only be because every 11-year-old girl in America voted for him because of his eyes! My pick? David Cook.)

April 28, 2021

Children See. Children Do.

Australia's non-profit National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect is running a powerful ad, "Children See. Children Do." Fortunately for the rest of the world, the ad has made its way to You Tube. Check it out:


April 26, 2021

Four Top Tips for a Stronger Marriage

I just love Leo Babauta over at zenhabits.net. I never fail to learn something from his posts, and the discussions over there, in the comments section, are intelligent and thoughtful. Just hanging out there now and then makes me feel better about the world. (And there’s a reason zenhabits.net is one of the most-visited blogs in the world!) Leo has good stuff to say.

In his recent post, “The Seven Deadly Sins in a Relationship,” Leo says "While I can’t claim to be the world’s foremost expert on relationships, I do know that my wife and I have a very strong marriage, and have never been more in love.”

He’s failed at marriage before, he says, “but that’s helped me become better at it. I’ve learned the deadly sins of relationships, and how to recognize them and avoid them.”

A reader, newly married, asked Leo to share his tips on how to make a marriage work. “I wish I had a magic formula, but here’s a simple list of tips,” he says:

    * spend time alone together
    * appreciate each other
    * be intimate often
    * talk and share and give

Sounds good to me. And it’s so simple. But it’s so easy to forget these things, or to get too busy to do them. I think as parents, it's understandable that we focus much of our time and energy on our kids. And that's a good thing. But that relationship between Mom and Dad needs to be the foundation that everything else is built on in the family.

I know from experience that it's easy to get busy and assume that the foundation will just be there when you need it. But without doing what it takes to keep it strong, the walls can start to crumble. So tonight Randy and I are planning a date in the den with a good movie on DVD, a glass of wine and some popcorn — and maybe a little snuggling. (Proof that "dates" can be cheap but fun!)

Head on over to zenhabits.net to read the rest of Leo's post. You'll be glad you did. And thanks, Leo!

P.S. Corey over at The Simple Marriage Project also has a fun post on "How to Create a Passionate Marriage in the Shower." Check it out. Thanks, Corey!

April 22, 2021

You Create The Climate In Your Home

I stumbled across this quote the other day and it both intimidated me a little bit and also inspired me. It's a great reminder of how much a parent's mood and attitude have on the entire family. I think I'll stick it on my bulletin board as a reminder.

"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming."

— Goethe

April 21, 2021

Can Being a Parent Help You In Business, Too?

Today I'm happy to welcome guest blogger Adrian Miller, president of Adrian Miller Sales Training in Port Washington, New York. The proud mom of 23-year-old Eric (left) and 20-year-old Nick (in the green shirt, below), Miller has had just enough time away from the everyday parenting world to have gained a little perspective that the rest of us (who are still in the trenches) can benefit from. Here's her post on "How Being a Mom Has Helped Me In Business." Thanks, Adrian!

For most women, becoming a mother is a turning point in their life. It's a time that's rife with challenges, frustrations, and uncertainties, but it's also when many of life's most rewarding achievements and miraculous moments occur. What many new moms figure out rather quickly is that the skills that they use every day while taking care of children are also very applicable in succeeding in business. Nurturing a needy newborn isn't all that different from managing a high-maintenance client, and trying to juggle chores and kids can be strikingly similar to the multi-tasking required to manage a large list of prospects. Here are just a few of the skills that are fine-tuned and mastered the minute you take that leap into motherhood:

Patience. Colicky infants, whiny toddlers, defiant teenagers... If you didn't have patience before you had children, you quickly developed this virtue as a parent. And, the patience required for childcare definitely helps you increase your tolerance threshold in business. Difficult clients and prospects are plentiful, and patience is the key to unlocking their buying potential.

Time Management. As any new mother knows, time can be a scarce commodity and shouldn't be wasted frivolously. Whether you need to meet a specific deadline or only have an hour before your child wakes from a nap, time-management skills are essential to getting things done. Parenthood does wonders for enlightening women (and some men) on the need to budget time wisely, and this skill certainly gives moms a distinct competitive edge over their child-free colleagues.

Multi-tasking. If you've ever changed a diaper while on the phone making a doctor's appointment, while reading an email, you understand multi-tasking. Sure, we'd all love to be able to focus on one task at a time, but in this age of technology and information, the ability to multi-task is a necessity if you want to be competitive in the market. Motherhood promotes multi-tasking skills tremendously, and these skills remain with mothers long after the diaper changes cease.

Training Skills. One of the primary jobs of a parent is to teach your child what is needed to succeed in the world. This requires you to be a dedicated, skilled trainer. The same skills are required in business. Whether you're training a classroom of seminar attendees or guiding a client through the sales process, the training abilities you've acquired as a mother will certainly come in handy in the business world.

Flexibility. Children are full of surprises, and staying flexible is a necessity to maintain sanity. Every day is full of challenges and interruptions, and if there is one thing that is consistent about parenting, it's the fact that it's ever-changing. Inflexibility doesn't work for parents, nor does it work in business. People can be indecisive, situations can change, and even your role can evolve. Having the flexibility to gracefully manage the unexpected is a skill that will always serve you well, whether with the kids or in the office.

April 20, 2021

Ugh - Sick Days!

Gotta love days like this: There's no food in the house, the laundry is in piles, I have writing deadlines out the wazoo — and my hubby and I are both sick.

Happily, Matt, our son, seems to have avoided catching either my sinus infection/bronchitis or his dad's upset stomach. So far. We're doing a lot of hand washing!

Schlepping through the past five days makes me realize how much I normally accomplish around here. And it makes me really appreciate my usual good health. But it's still hard not to get down in the dumps when all you want to do is go back to bed for the day...

As a busy parent, how do you handle those days and weeks when you're under the weather, but the demands of home and family continue? I need all the tips I can get this week!

Well, I'm off to go toss a coin with Randy to see who gets to head to the grocery store...

April 14, 2021

Join Us Friday When The "You're a Good Mom" Blog Tour Stops Here!

For 21st Century mothers, there seem to be just two choices: Live up to the Super Mom or give up to be the Slacker Mom. One's bad for you; one's bad for your kids. So what's a momma to do?

In You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either): The 14 Secrets to Finding Happiness Between Super Mom and Slacker Mom," the Internet's favorite momma, Jen Singer, tells all. Turns out you can raise perfectly good kids in that sweet spot between flash cards at breakfast and "donuts for dinner, kids!" You'll find great tips like these:

  • Don't answer the phone when the class mom calls.
  • Your kid's birthday party isn't your coming-out celebration.
  • Don't treat fine restaurants like a McDonald's PlayPlace.
  • You think you're a "cool mom," but they think you're a pushover.

Filled with "that happened to me, too!" stories, YOU'RE A GOOD MOM offers giggles and a pat on the back for today's moms, whether they're deep in diapers or petrified by puberty.

Join us Friday for a great Q & A with author Jen Singer as she stops by Parent Talk Today on her blog tour!

And check out this terrific You Tube video preview:

March 29, 2022

Please Pass Down the Manners!

The three children vied for their mother’s attention and sipped from plastic juice bottles as their mom and grandmother unloaded the cart in the Target checkout line ahead of me. Of course, it was just a matter of time until the inevitable happened and someone’s juice hit the floor. No biggie, I thought. I’m a parent. I know how Mom and Grandma feel. Been there, cleaned that up. 

But when the youthful-looking grandmother surveyed the mess, she simply said “pick up your bottle” to the preschooler — and continued on as if there was nothing wrong with leaving a puddle of juice for the rest of us to trudge through. When the little boy started skating through the juice, spreading it further with each glide of his tennis shoes, I thought surely Grandma would realize this was not just a sticky mess but a potential hazard for the shoppers in line behind her.

Watching the boy, Grandma continued putting items on the conveyer belt. Okay, now I was getting cranky.

Thinking I might demonstrate a more-appropriate response, I leaned close to Grandma and said to the check-out clerk, “Excuse me. Do you have a paper towel? There’s juice on the floor, and I’m afraid someone might slip.”

“Sorry, I don’t have anything,” she replied. Okay then. It was clearly time to go straight to the source. I’d simply embarrass the woman into cleaning up the mess. “Ma’am, do you have any wet wipes in your purse; anything like that so we can clean up this juice?” I asked Grandma.

She rooted around in her purse and came up with… a man’s white athletic sock. “OK, that’s a bit odd, but I guess she could use it,” I thought to myself — right before she handed the sock to me.

“Here you go!” she said brightly. “It’s clean.”

I was too stunned to reply. With visions of an unsuspecting elderly shopper breaking a hip at checkstand 9, I knelt down and mopped up the juice with the sock while the woman watched.

By then I was more than a bit cranky, not to mention a bit overdue to receive an embarrassed “Why, thank you!” at least, if Grandma and Grandson weren’t going to do the job themselves.

She said nothing. Not a peep. “You know, you could thank me for wiping up your grandson’s juice,” I finally blurted out, looking her in the eye and holding up the juice-filled sock.

“Oh, just drop that anywhere,” she said, pointing toward the sock. “That’s disgusting.” And with that, the five of them were on their way, leaving me to find a trash can for the drippy sock.

Yes, it certainly was disgusting. But unfortunately, it’s becoming less and less surprising. Life’s little niceties, like holding the door open for the person behind us, saying please and thank you and even just having basic respect for those we encounter every day, seem to be disappearing faster than we can say “It’s all about me.”

Grocery clerks will be the first to tell you how much common courtesy has vanished. Ask them how it feels to ring up $100 worth of groceries for a shopper who continues a cell-phone conversation, hands over a grocery-store club card, runs the debit card through the machine and then leaves without ever making eye contact, much less saying “thanks.”

It’s easy to encounter the “it’s all about me” folks on the road, too. As our once-wide-enough residential streets become virtual one-way passages, narrowed by parked SUVs on both sides, there’s often room for only one vehicle at a time to go by. When I pull my car to the side of the road to let someone else pass, is it too much to ask for a friendly “thank you” wave or a smile? When someone responds with that simple gesture, it brightens the rest of my day. I’m guessing it perks up their day, too. But if it happens one time out of eight, it’s a good day. Most folks just drive on by as if to say “Of course, you should pull over for me.”

Not long ago, our local parks-and-rec department offered an “Etiquette and Social Skills” class for kids ages 7 to 12. Parents ponied up 70 bucks per kid for two 3-hour classes so that someone else would teach their children why manners are important, how to behave in a restaurant and how to be polite.

The trouble is, such a class may teach a kid the difference between a salad fork and a dinner fork, but it can’t create a thoughtful child. It can’t instill basic kindness or the desire to consider others’ feelings. That’s a parent’s job, and it takes years. And you can be sure our children are checking out our moves, noting how we behave.

At first I was incredulous that the mother of that preschooler, who continued to unloaded her cart and watch while the “juice incident” took place, didn’t step in to show her young son the right thing to do. But then I realized the sad truth: Her mother had never taught her the importance of common courtesy. And now Grandma and Mom were passing on that same lack of concern for others to a third generation.

Our children want so much to be like us. So they watch closely how we treat cashiers and waiters and crossing guards and fellow shoppers and fellow drivers and all the other people whose paths we cross each day. They also see whom and what we ignore — the people and things that don’t make a blip on our radar screen as we go about our business.

It doesn’t take a fancy etiquette class to teach our kids how to treat others with kindness. Sometimes all it takes is the willingness to clean up a little spilled juice.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Subscribe to Parent Talk Today by Email