Great College Bargains

Written on July 8, 2014 at 5:02 pm , by

College can be pricey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save. We rounded up some of our favorite deals below.

Books

Visit chegg.com for better deals than at your school bookstore, or download the free Amazon App to scan barcodes and compare prices.

Dorm Supplies

PBteen gives students 10% off their order with an .edu email address or a valid college ID. pbteen.com 

Electronics

Apple Education offers special education discounts and a financing option that allows students (or parents) to pay for Apple software, Mac computers, and select accessories over time. apple.com

Best Buy sends coupon codes for deals on MacBooks and other tech devices to students who enter their .edu email address. bestbuy.com 

Other

The free College Discounts app (iTunes and Google Play) gives students deals for popular local businesses around campus. The app currently features more than 50 colleges.


Summer Must-Reads: 8 Books for Your Beach Bag

Written on July 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm , by

There’s a lot of things I love about summer: the warmth (it can never be too hot), the long days and the amazing books. I’m like a kid in an ice cream shop unable to decide on my favorite flavors. In no particular order, here’s what I’ll be devouring.

 

Calling all fans—and fans-to-be—of Rainbow Rowell! The author of the acclaimed YA crossover Eleanor & Park dials it up in Landline (St. Martin’s Press), a back-in-time story of a magical phone that is also an honest, bittersweet depiction of grown-up love and marriage.

Emily Giffin scores again by bringing her discerning understanding of matters of the heart—as well as small-town football—to The One & Only (Ballantine), in which Shea Rigsby must learn to stop living her life on the sidelines.

It’s no mystery why Liane Moriarty is a summer staple: She takes hyperparenting down a notch with wit and compassion but still keeps it real. In Big Little Lies (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam) she throws a dead body into the mix.

A young mother going blind is no laughing matter, except, incredibly so, it is in Nicole C. Kear’s courageous, relatable and, yes, truly funny Now I See You (St. Martin’s Press).

 

Looking to connect with your teen and enjoy a great read? Turn to these four not-so-young-adult options. They’re guaranteed to give you something to talk about.

 

In Conversion (Putnam), Katherine Howe conjures up a spooky story of afflicted modern-day high school girls alternating with the actual account behind the accusations that led to the Salem witch trials.

Megan Abbott’s The Fever (Little, Brown) is a darker, more disturbing brew (parents, especially, may shudder) as a group of teenage girls’ maladies reveal secrets and deception.

Cammie McGovern channels her knowledge and passion for special-needs kids in Say What You Will (HarperTeen). Amy is trying to break out of the confines of her cerebral palsied body. Matthew is secretly trapped by the rituals of his OCD. Brought together, they push each other to overcome their fears and embrace life and love.

The deservedly best-selling Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Knopf Books for Young Readers)—required reading for every family—doesn’t just get you talking, it gets you thinking, feeling and rejoicing.

 

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5 Smart Ways to Score Freebies

Written on July 8, 2014 at 11:01 am , by

By Anna Davies

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but by being creative, you can turn up plenty of ways to get a meal (and gym membership, theater tickets or groceries) without opening your wallet. “Not only have people become more savvy about finding bargains, but businesses have realized the value of their relationships with their customers, who can act like an informal marketing department,” explains Clare Levison, author of Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live Better. Try these real reader strategies to score—and save—big.

“Like” a Great Service

Following a business you love on Facebook or Twitter can be an excellent way to get insider info on special sales. But for even more deals, ask the company how you can help. Gina Lincicum, 41, a mom of three in Washington, DC, became a mystery shopper for a local restaurant chain. “I earn a free meal, plus $10 or so for filling out a questionnaire about my experience that usually takes 10 minutes to complete. I keep track of my mileage to and from the restaurant for my taxes, so I get a little money back that way too.”

Swap Skills

Think beyond trading carpooling for babysitting duties:  Bartering can also be  used to score major discounts on dental appointments, music lessons and other small-business services. Hope Hunt, 39, from Williamsburg, Virginia, saves $674 a month on tae kwon do and gymnastics lessons for her four children. “I work in technology, so I offer website design, blog setup and networking support in exchange for lessons,” Hunt explains. Not sure what you can offer? Look around and see what’s not available.

Volunteer

Tickets to museums, aquariums and theater performances can be scored for nada by giving your time, explains Laura Wallis, a mother of two and creator of the money-saving site Momsgonnafindout.com. “Check local attractions,” she suggests. “Usually nonprofits will be happy for an extra pair of hands.” Often you’ll have to attend a training session and make a specific time commitment, so this is a great strategy if you’re truly passionate about an organization. Bonus: If your teen has a volunteer-hour quota at school, joining you helps her while giving you two a chance to hang out.

Join a Focus Group

Offering your opinions on brands can be valuable if you’re savvy about sifting through opportunities, explains Wallis. “Some pay people in product, but others offer $20 to $150 an hour for your time.” Sign up at paidfocusgroup.net. Once you’re approved, you may be inundated with responses, so create a secondary email address and alternate phone number (such as a free Google Voice number that directs to voice mail). “Some focus groups are conducted via email or telephone, so you may not need to live in the area to participate,” says Wallis.

Complain the Right Way

It’s tempting to fire off an angry email—or unleash a few all-caps Tweets—when you’re confronted with subpar service. But taking a few deep breaths before eloquently explaining why you were disappointed helps you and the company in the long run, says Adi Bittan, CEO of OwnerListens, which offers an app that lets customers send private, anonymous feedback to business owners. “When consumers are legitimately dissatisfied, they will frequently get money back, gift certificates, samples or replacement products.” However, Bittan cautions that vague complaints aren’t likely to go far—even if you have a large following on social media. “Companies want to make things right, but they’re also wise about people using their social networking platform only for freebies,” Bittan says. “They can easily tell, based on a person’s social media history, when someone is making up a problem in order to save money.”

 


10 Road-Tested Travel Apps

Written on July 8, 2014 at 10:15 am , by

When our kids were little, my husband Dan and I planned road trips with an attention to detail that likely rivaled General Eisenhower’s strategy to invade Normandy. Not anymore—these days, we hit the highway at the drop of a hat like a pair of carefree teenagers, with our own teens (17 and 15) in tow.

A smartphone and the right apps at our fingertips means there’s very little we can’t tackle as we go. Case in point, our annual climb to the top of the Great Smoky Mountains. A few years ago, we would have started booking rooms weeks in advance. This summer we mapped and reserved almost nothing ahead of time—yet spent less money than ever.

A few days before we left, I bid on a rental car at Priceline.com. (For this getaway, we rent a vehicle substantially bigger than our family car to gain more legroom and space for gear.) Bidding is fast, easy and nets the best price, provided you bid low. That same night, I plotted our driving route using Google Maps and shared the result with my family, so everyone had the info on their phones. Then, on D-day, we just loaded up our bags and got going. Apps bridged the gaps when we needed food, gas or the closest clean bathroom. And when it was time to settle in for the night, booking a room at the last minute was simple and inexpensive— meaning we could rest easy.

What to Download

Create a page on your smartphone and group these mostly free apps together for easy access.

Last Minute Travel Deals (iOS, Android) : Provides access to broker’s prices and last- minute bargains for flights and hotel rooms.

HotelTonight (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): Incredible prices on hotels near where you are or will be. Here’s the catch—although you can scout options beforehand, booking is same-day-only for up to five nights. Embrace the spontaneity to snag awesome deals.

Waze (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
: When traffic suddenly comes to a halt, Waze can provide insight as to why—it tracks the speed of all nearby smartphone- toting drivers so you can see real-time driving patterns. Often a user posts the reason for the delay, as in, Three-car accident just before Exit Such-and-Such.

Yelp (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): 
Hungry? This app finds nearby food options and shares other diners’ feedback. Just
tap the screen for precise directions to your chosen pit stop.

Eventseeker (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): A source for concerts, museums and other attractions near your location.

Priceline (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): Instead of going to the trouble of shopping around, just bid what you can afford on hotels, flights and rental cars.

Google Maps (iOS, Android): 
A comprehensive navigational tool, including turn-by-turn directions, that incorporates rerouting when needed based on up-to-the-minute traffic info.

ChargePoint (iOS, Android): If you drive an electric vehicle, you’ll want to reserve at a free charging station along your route. (For obvious reasons, it’s best not to leave this to chance!)

SpotHero (iOS, Android): 
Skip the circling and reserve parking at discounts of up to 50% in New York, Boston, Chicago and other select cities.

Parkopedia Parking (iOS, Android, Windows Phone):  Once you’ve arrived, park like a
local by accessing this app’s crowdsourced database on available nearby options.

 

 

 

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Turn Off to Turn On: Make Time to Really Connect

Written on July 8, 2014 at 9:38 am , by

 

Truly connecting with your spouse, your kids or even a coworker isn’t a high-speed endeavor. Meaningful relationships can’t be jump-started by hitting send, condensed into 140 characters or easily deleted. They’re about a lingering glance, a tight hug or a pat on the back.

Unfortunately, high touch is being taken over by high tech. I’ve painfully witnessed couples more engrossed in their smartphones than in each other, fathers reacting faster to the ping of a text message than to their kids yelling “Dad!” and moms spending more time uploading family photos to Facebook than letting their kids download with them.

I know, I know, your teen is probably so obsessed with her Instagram account that she’s not paying attention to you either. But it’s hard to ask a teen to turn off a smartphone when you’re not paying attention yourself. My suggestion: Aim for as much real face time as you can. Create mini media blackouts by using a basket to collect electronics for a distraction-free dinner or having a family night devoted to offline entertainment like board games. Most important, teach your children when to pick up the telephone to reach out to someone by modeling that behavior. Our kids need to develop the keys to love and trust that come from a human touch-not a touchscreen.

 

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.



Powdered Alcohol: The New Kool-Aid of Teen Drinking?

Written on July 8, 2014 at 9:11 am , by

By Julie D. Andrews

We were visiting my brother, his wife and their kids in Georgia. It was our first time in Peachtree City, a picturesque suburban haven, where it’s hip (and safe) for teens to flit around on backwoods paths to ball fields and drive to local cupcake shops in decorated golf carts. The place seemed so first-kiss sweet and innocent.

Yet, I still can’t forget what happened there. Largely because it just wasn’t the sort of thing you imagined going down in such a pleasantville. As my sister-in-law filled us in on the neighborhood news, she told us of a local dad who found his 16-year-old son, early on a Sunday morning, coiled at the bottom of the family hot tub, limp and lifeless.

The honors student, who attended a nearby Baptist church and played junior-varsity soccer, had bought a package of Mojo Diamond Extreme Potpourri at a nearby convenience store, taken it home and smoked the OTC synthetic marijuana. In one puff of smoke, there vanished a just-beginning life, so bursting with opportunity and hope and yet-to-be-had tingly moments that the sheer thought of this boy’s final breath still sends a jolt through my spine.

Teens are impulsive. They’re experimental, feel invincible and can rapidly get in way over their heads. Over Memorial Day, soaking in a hot tub at my sister’s house in Maryland, I couldn’t help but think of this tragedy, and want to level with my A-student, every-sport-playing 12-year-old nephew about the dangers of youthful experimentation—dangers that exist for every teen, no matter their GPA or extracurriculars.

What’s the latest newfangled intoxicant? Powdered alcohol. On April 8, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau granted label approval for Palcohol packets, then, 13 days later, rescinded that approval. The government called the approval an error, but the manufacturer, Lipsmark, soon announced its plans to tweak and resubmit labels for final approval.

Powdered alcohol is discreet—therefore, ideal for covert underage drinking. As Senator Chuck Schumer, who called on the Food and Drug Administration to ban Palcohol, pointed out, it can be easily slipped into pockets and shoe soles, and brought into parks, concerts, you name it. It can be cavalierly sprinkled onto food, mixed with water or snorted—a particularly big cause for concern.

Snorted alcohol immediately alters the brain. While no research has yet been done, preventing us from knowing the full risks, we do know that snorted alcohol is absorbed—and can intoxicate—instantly and that doing so may significantly impair judgment and motor skills. Worse, predicts Joshua Lafazan, a member of the Syosset School Board and the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, powdered alcohol could “certainly lead to many more instances of alcohol poisoning for youth.”

It’s not your kids, it’s the age and the time and the hormones and the peer pressure. Call it what you must, but talk to them.

 

Julie D. Andrews is a writer living in New York City. Her new book, Real Is the New Natural, dismantles the negative, destructive messaging about body image and beauty bombarding us daily under the guise of health. 

 

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You Make It, We Post It!

Written on July 7, 2014 at 10:30 am , by

“Thank you #FamilyCircleMagazine for the recipe, and the cute idea of putting it in jars!” says Instagram user @ashmarie122 who snapped a shot of our Banana Pudding. The traditional southern treat is easy to prepare and personalize—she left out the bananas for an all-vanilla indulgence! Create an entire Low Country-inspired feast with these down-home recipes.

 

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.


A Summer Code of Conduct for Your Kids

Written on July 3, 2014 at 8:00 am , by

 

Since I moved to Colorado from Washington, D.C., almost two years ago, I have grown to love summer. First off, there’s no humidity. As a native Washingtonion, I thought living in the wet, moldy sponge that is D.C. from June through September was normal. What’s more, every day here is beautiful, there aren’t annoying bugs everywhere, ice cream is plentiful and people are in a good mood. The only complaint I have: The school ends the third week of May. That is just way too early.

To be fair, no matter how hard we parents work all year, for our kids, summer should be a time to sleep in late, relax, roam around, and hang out with friends. But in order for parents to not get really irritated and start walking around the house muttering about how lazy and slovenly their children are, we have to have an agreement about how summer is going to go down.

So three weeks into their vacation, I told my boys: “I want you to relax and have fun and neither of us want me constantly nagging you or raging at you (“raging” is the word my boys use to describe my very calm requests). So here is how I think we have the best chance of accomplishing these very important goals.” Then I shared with them my “Summer Code of Conduct.” Perhaps these rules to relax by will help you preserve your sanity this season.

1. If you want to kick back. . . don’t leave cups and dishes around the house. This is especially true if you have eaten cereal and/or drank chocolate milk with an inch of chocolate sludge at the bottom and left it wherever you finished it. This is also true with clothes (dirty or clean), technology accessories like ear buds or headphones, new or used tissue paper, sports equipment, art projects and any small pets. You won’t be able to relax because all of these actions will automatically result in your parent flipping out—as in making you clean everything you have spread around the house and nagging you as you do it).

2. To be left alone. . . you must read a book of your choosing, outside if possible, and enjoy it. Your parents will leave you in peace while you read—unless they see that you are hiding a handheld device behind the book. If you are, we get to make you do additional chores around the house such as loading the dishwasher (see #1), folding laundry, taking out garbage and more.

3. When hanging out indoors with your friends. . . know the house rules. If you’re hanging out at another person’s house, you are expected to follow the other family’s policies without argument. Likewise, your friends are expected to follow our family rules when they are at our house. If not, your parent will make it clear to your friends what the family rules are.

4. When hanging out outdoors with friends . . . respect the freedom we give you. Summer is time to spontaneously hang out with buddies. But that will happen much more easily if you check in with your parents on a consistent basis. So when your parents ask you by any method where you are and when you will be home you need to answer concretely. For example, “Soon” and “In a little while” are not appropriate answers to a parents’ text message about when you will be returning home.

5. While improving your video game or tech skills . . . Watch the clock. I know video games aren’t all bad. They just can’t take over your life or be a major source of conflict between siblings. So each child can have ninety minutes per day on the device of their choosing for fun. Basic necessities must be taken care of before engaging any technology, which are defined but not limited to putting on clothes, brushing teeth and hair, and taking care of any pet needs. All technology activity must end an hour before bed (to assure a good night rest) and devices be charged in parent’s bedroom. Other projects involving technology are excluded from the ninety minute limit.

6. If you want to impress me. . . . tell me how you plan on giving back this summer. A couple times a month over the summer, the family and whatever friends want to join in, will do community service together. Examples are making dinner for a children’s or teen shelter, painting a family homeless center, gardening, mowing lawns or getting groceries for an older person. When I know you’re up to some good, I can kick back and enjoy summer too.

Have you laid down some rules of the road for your kids this summer? Post a comment and tell me what they are below.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice, here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

 


Moms and Daughters Bond While Working Out with “Biggest Loser” Trainer Cara Castronuova

Written on July 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm , by

Learning about fitness and health is as easy as having fun—that’s what celebrity trainer Cara Castronuova has in store for her camp-goers.

Camp Kid Warrior in Patterson, New York, which is open to boys and girls ages 7-18, will focus on eating balanced meals, an assortment of exciting workouts (including Zumba, martial arts and kickboxing) and, most important, getting kids inspired by fitness.

With a staff of motivational athletic counselors, the camp is offered by Cara’s very own nonprofit organization, the Knockout Obesity Foundation, which gives children in need the chance to exercise and keep at it.

Traditional camp activities like arts and crafts, fishing and archery will also be offered.

Learn more about the program and the organization by visiting knockoutobesityfoundation.org.

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Special Delivery! Could a Little Purple Box Change Your Love Life for the Better?

Written on July 2, 2014 at 11:50 am , by

 

After we posted on Family Circle‘s Facebook page that we were looking for readers to try out a romance kit, my email inbox didn’t stop dinging for the next hour…plus. So many readers responded! We selected several moms from across the country and asked them to await the arrival of the Bedroom Chemist—a subscription service that delivers a discreet box of intimacy-enhancing products specially curated for, well, a good time. Every six weeks you get a bundle. No one knows what’s in the box—not the mailman, not your kids and not you—until you open it. We asked testers to try the products out and tell us what happened. Here, two testers share their stories.

Tester #1: “This Was One of the Most Romantically Fun-Filled Nights We’ve Had in a While.”
With a house full of kids—and all their various activities—there’s not too much time for romance. My husband and I made a decision that we were going to really make this past Valentine’s Day special. Our older daughter was in charge of taking her two younger sisters and her daughter to the movies. I made a nice romantic dinner for two with candles, wine and chocolate-covered strawberries. My husband even helped with the cooking!

After we enjoyed our dinner and having the house all to ourselves, we decided to try the kit. I lit the candle and left it on the nightstand for a bit to let the wax melt. This was our first time experimenting with a candle and it was so much fun! We massaged each other with some of the warm wax, which made our skin so smooth and soft. It also had a wonderful fragrance and made the bedroom smell really good.

It was also our first time using a vibrator, which was fun and interesting. We would probably try it again. We did not need to use any of the lube and with all the fun we were having, we forgot we had the sexy scratch-off cards. This was one of the most romantically fun-filled nights we’ve had in a while. Can’t wait until the next date night—we will definitely be using our kit again.

Tester #2: “I Would Recommend It to Anyone Just for Something Different.”
The biggest challenge that my husband and I have to intimacy is timing. We’ve been married 22 years and have two teenagers. I never would have thought that finding time to make love would be so hard once the kids got bigger.

I loved the idea of the romance kit just to make us make the time to be together. The kit came in the mail on a Thursday. I told my husband to reserve one hour on Friday for me. We eagerly anticipated the next morning. What happened? I got called in to work, so scratch that plan. It took a few days, but we finally got to try out the items.

I was excited about the candle. I love a massage. The problem with the candle is that it took a really long time to melt…Like, we got tired of waiting so we never used it. But it still sits on the nightstand for another day with better planning. The lubricant was the best of any we’ve ever used! But I’m guessing my husband applied too much of the “sensation-enhancing” balm—he couldn’t tell how many drops were coming out—because it was like I was on fire. The little vibrator was really cute and I liked the feel of it. But it just didn’t have enough power for us. Even though we didn’t love everything, all in all it was a great time and I would recommend it to anyone just for fun—and something different.

Want to spice things up between the sheets and try out this kit yourself? Check out the BedroomChemist.com ($50 or less per package) and let us know how it goes!

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WIN IT! Family Circle Summer Shopping Spree Sweeps With RetailMeNot.com

Written on July 1, 2014 at 2:15 pm , by

Let digital coupon site RetailMeNot.com foot the bill for all your summer shopping needs by entering Family Circle’s gift card giveaway sweepstakes. There are four $500 visa gift cards up for grabs. Here’s your chance to WIN! See official rules, here.

 

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Driver’s Ed 101: The Parent Edition

Written on July 1, 2014 at 7:30 am , by

Do you know any parents who love teaching their kids to drive? Me neither. Now that my husband and I are at our official halfway point—midway through our third teen’s permit—I’ve finally reached a point of peace with it.

With the first new driver, I thought I’d be the cool, laid-back stepmom who wouldn’t stress out or raise her voice. This was before I fully grasped that the things that exasperate you about your kids around the house will exponentially exasperate you when they’re behind the wheel, because now those annoyances are dangerous and expensive.

You put your reasonably intelligent teens in the driver’s seat and it’s as if aliens have abducted them and left poorly functioning drones in their place. The girl who speaks fluent French gets the brake and gas pedals mixed up. The boy who does complex logarithmic equations in his head fails to notice when the car in front of him brakes. The volleyball star who anticipates the moves of every member of the opposing team can’t anticipate a single move by another driver.

Yet even when they lull you into a false sense of security by pretending to ignore you, it turns out your kids are always watching you.

At a four-way stop, our second teen driver stopped smoothly and took her turn in order.

 “How was that?” she asked.

 “Perfect!” I said.

 “You have the best stops out of everyone,” she explained. “You let up on the brake a little before you come to a complete stop, and then it doesn’t jerk at the end.”

That’s a habit I developed in my 20s, back when I smoked and drank coffee from an open mug while driving (stopping like that keeps the coffee from spilling). I didn’t mention this.

When the third kid got her permit, I looked back on previous experiences and accepted a few things that have made it easier:

1. The car’s going to get dinked up.

The first teen jumped the curb in our driveway, ripping off the entire undercarriage covering while her father and I watched. She then proceeded to tell us how it wasn’t her fault. The second one ignored, for three days, the fact that the car had been bombed by a pack of wild turkeys. When we demanded she wash the car, she used a steel wool pad. She’s hit the retaining wall so much that the bumper looks like it was attacked with an industrial cheese grater.

We’re in no rush to get nicer cars.

2. I will accomplish nothing by holding my Jesus handle and pressing my imaginary brake pedal.

It is far more effective to calmly point out facts:

You should brake now.
Accelerate, or you’ll get run over.
You missed the exit.

3. I will accomplish nothing good by imagining worst-case scenarios.

Instead, I bring myself back to the present moment by calmly asking questions:

What’s the speed limit here?
Are you trying to crawl up that guy’s tailpipe?

4. I will raise my voice at some point.

It’s okay to yell when they do something truly dangerous. They’re new enough to the whole driving thing that they may not understand immediate danger. Parental anger usually gets their attention.

On a recent drive, the third teen did beautifully and didn’t make a single error. But as we approached our driveway, she didn’t slow down. Before I could speak, she turned, too fast and not enough. The noise was loud and jarring. I couldn’t tell whether she hit the retaining wall or the power line pole. I tried to be angry—I pulled out the old standby, “What were you thinking!?!” but it felt as if I were playing a part. She knows what she did and she’s unlikely to make that same error again. Fortunately, she only hit the retaining wall.

Inspecting the damage, I realized I couldn’t tell new scratches from old ones, and laughed. Accepting that these things happen—and being desensitized by two previous drivers—made it suddenly funny to me.

But I didn’t laugh half as much as I’m going to when the fifth one finally gets his license and I don’t have to teach any more teens how to drive.

 

JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand, and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.