Parenting Tweens

Well yesterday was payday, so today I spent my day in the mall while my daughter went back-to-school shopping. She has been waiting for this moment since August 1st rolled around and all the catalogs began showing the newest fashions. She understands that August is not a good financial month for educators on 11 month contracts and patiently bided her time.

While she was waiting I had the opportunity to think about how I wanted to approach this shopping season. As luck would have it my Allure magazine arrived featuring Jennifer Garner Affleck, the quintessential girl next door. Her mother allotted her a budget of a couple hundred dollars and told her to have at it. With that money she had to buy a coat suitable for West Virginia winters as well as all of her other clothing items. From this experience she learned to craft a budget. While I doubt Ms. Garner needs one these days, it is a good skill to have. I thought her mother’s approach was pure genius and decided to give it a try.

I decided to do $150.00 just for fall/winter clothes including a coat. My daughter, teenager “H” is growing so fast that it is doubtful anything she buys now will fit her for more than a couple seasons. When I told H about her budget she thought this was a ridiculous amount of money and wondered how she would spend it all. Then she began looking at coats she liked. She quickly realized what she wanted and could afford were two different things, so she had to make some compromises. She also wanted some shirts, a dress, and various other items.

Our shopping day was an adventure. H grabbed her friend “L” for shopping support, but forgot to grab her cell phone or wear a watch. First, we went to Old Navy where the entire store was 30% off. I ended up getting many more items than she did and now feel totally stocked for next summer. Then we went next door to Dick’s Sporting Goods. This was eye-opening for me as H spent a whopping $22 on socks. Yes, socks. I never would have thought socks where such an important part of that girl’s wardrobe but apparently they are.

Then we headed over to Southpoint Mall at about 1:00. On our way over we discussed meeting up at 2:00. This gave H and L an hour to get their bearings and let me know their plan. I disdain malls and have no idea why I used to love them. Being the genius I am I told the girls I would wait at Nordstroms Bistro safely tucked away from the crowd. Well, 2:00 rolled around and they were nowhere to be found. Then came 2:30. Finally at 3:00 I gave the Nordstroms Bistro lady a note and decided to go looking for them. In the back of my mind I was trying to figure out what level my Worry-O-Meter should be humming at. H is an uber responsible kid. She is the 5-minutes-early type that gets everyone into the car on time for church. Yet I also knew how intoxicating this day was for her and guessed she had forgotten the plan and was gleefully trying on clothing items. Her friend L has never paid attention to time so I was not confident she would be reminding H of our meeting. Southpoint isn’t exactly the most dangerous mall in America and I knew the girls won’t leave the mall on their own, so when considering all the facts my internal Worry-O-Meter just didn’t have the gumption to get past mild even though the evidence suggested it should be much higher.

As luck would have it, I spotted my aunt riding up the escalator — she happened to be at the mall too! We devised a plan. She covered Nordstroms Bistro while I searched on foot. Not five minutes after we began our mission the teenage girls showed up at the Bistro.

As a parent you have a few options in a situation like this. In addition to feeling relieved, I could have chosen to be mad, upset, or worried. I chose to be none of the above. My daughter has proven over and over again she is responsible over the years. She made a mistake that was out of character so I decided to acknowledge it and move on. Driving home she asked me if there was a consequence for her oversight and I said, “Not this time. If you do it again, absolutely. But you get a pass this time.”

Parenting is an interesting intersection of meeting yourself and navigating societal norms. When I make mistakes, I like it when I get a pass and someone says, “No worries.” That is the ‘meeting myself’ part. I hate making mistakes. I really don’t like to dwell on them longer than necessary because they make my skin crawl. On the other hand, life has real consequences and making people wait because you forgot the rendezvous time is poor form, causes worry, and many other negative things. I think most parents would have been upset as that is the societal norm part.

If it happens again then we will have a whole different issue. Of course, next time she won’t leave without a cell phone or a watch either. But I’m still going to Nordstroms Bistro — their tomato basil soup is ridiculously good.

I distain malls.

To Forty and Beyond! The New Age of Awesomeness

So here we are. No longer babies of the world, we are now the adults of it. How did this happen?! Just yesterday we were graduating from college and looking for the place with the best Happy Hour specials. The irony is that we struggled then and we are still struggling now. Back then we were trying to scrape up enough money for a burger and a beer. Today we are still scraping by but the list of things to pay for is longer and includes mortgages, car payments, braces, tuition fees, weddings, and, of course, reading glasses.

Back when we were kids we thought like kids. We spent our money on ourselves and we planned our future over late nights at the bar. We were going to be millionaires by 40, travel around the world, and have a best-seller under our belts by now. Then things changed. We lost control somewhere between our job, the dog, and the second kid. We’ve become boring and serious. We’ve forgotten how to have real fun, belly laugh, and be free. Forget living life to the fullest, we are lucky if we remember brush our teeth every night before falling into bed completely exhausted. While are days are full, this is not quite the fullness we had in mind when we were planning our lives. But it is close. A few tweaks and we will be there.

Now older and wiser and much better looking than we could have ever dreamed of, we don’t think like kids anymore. We know things require a plan and take time to manifest. This wisdom is not headline news. It goes back to Biblical times. 1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways.

Giving up childish ways means facing life full on. It means taking responsibility for ourselves, our words, our relationships, our families, our community, and our world. This depth of living is not child’s work. It is the work of the adult within. However the adult in us can get so high on their horse and that they forget that life is about the journey, not the destination. I have two questions for you:

1.  Can you have fun if the house is not clean?

2. Is the house ever clean enough to have fun?

…. Yep, you are busted. You are far too serious and desperately in need of being reminded who you really are — a fun loving, responsible, awesome person.

As we age, we develop a one sided relationship with time. Basically time moves faster and we hold on for dear life. Though we still look awesome and could easily play our children’s siblings on the made-for-TV-version of our lives, we are not getting any younger. We like control and with time we have none. This is definitely not the relationship we had in mind since there is no give and take. Every New Year’s Eve reminds us that we’ve got to get a move on if we are going to get all the things done we want to do.

Our forties and beyond are the point in our lives when it is our time to set our own priorities. It is at this time when we can focus on ourselves for more than a fraction of a second and really think about what we want in the future. In the past we put this on the back burner because we knew it required more RAM space than we had available. Now that we no longer have to search for goldfish crackers in the sofa cushions or worry about our child drowning themselves in the bathtub, that RAM space is freed up.

The average age expectancy in most developed countries is around 80. Think about your current age and how long it will take you to get to 80. Remember that it took you twelve years to get from 30 to 42 and think about how much change happened during that time. Let’s say you are 59. If you live to the national average you’ve still got over 20 years to build a whole new life. There is a great quote by motivational speaker Earl Nightingale I want you to live by:

Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.

Go ahead. Embrace your hidden dreams and set your course.

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3 Tips for Raising Awesome Kids

It happens. You walk into a room and it appears all hell has broken loose. Chips have been crushed and ground into every piece of carpeting and furniture. Your walls have been colored on and the wet stain on the cushion was not likely left there by the dog. “Junior!!!!!!” you yell so loud that Fido runs cowering into the corner while Junior dives under the bed to avoid detection. Mind you this is a completely different experience than you had imagined when Junior made his debut into the world. In your imagination, Junior was the perfect child wearing matching clothes and playing harmlessly with toy trains. Not a child covered in dirt and prone to tantrums. You, yourself were also perfect in this imaginary world. You showed no signs of sleep deprivation, had clearly showered, and did throw tantrums either.

Sure it would be great if our children arrived in the world without barbaric tendencies as well as knowing how to say “please” and “thank you” — but they don’t. They hit, bite, steal, eat their boogers, poop in their pants, and engage in a myriad of destructive, impulsive, non-awesome behaviors. As their older, wiser, parents it is incumbent on us to teach them how to manage these destructive impulses so that they are well equipped to go out into the world and not get undone by their own doing. As the world’s sages have told us, our ability to regulate our own actions is the key to a happy life.

Self-discipline is what keeps us from eating our way to a heart-attack, drinking our way to oblivion, and sleeping our way to a divorce. We respect ourselves more when we are in control of who we are, which is why holding on to that internal picture of yourself is important. As children we learn to be disciplined from our parents. A parent’s voice is the first voice children hear teaching them the difference between right and wrong. It is no surprise that many of us internalize our parent’s voice and play it back in our minds many years later. Here are three tips to make sure that the voice your children hear inside their heads has massages worth repeating — messages that will help them grow into their awesomeness:


Tip 1: Hold your child accountable for both good and bad.

To keep being heard by your children and not get ignored requires a careful balance of discipline and complements. Yes, children need to be corrected for errant behaviors, however they also need to have their good behaviors acknowledged as well. Too much praise leaves them without the ability to identify their own areas of growth, and too much criticism leads them to thinking they can’t do anything right. Both praise and criticism can be done simply by stating facts. If your child crumbles cookies on the sofa, it is not required that you yell, curse, or beat your chest, though all might feel like the most appropriate thing to do. It is possible to simply say “you made a mess so now you need to clean it up.” As Yoda pointed out, “Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are they.” Often when you are parenting the dark side of our nature is barely under the surface and always seems more readily accessible than the Force. Regardless of which side you draw from, Junior needs to clean up his mess because whether we are young or old we all need to clean up our own messes. The quicker Junior learns this, the better for society in general. As a parent you can help clean but even a two year old quickly learns that cleaning up chip crumbles is not worth the price of the fun had making the mess. This works for potty training accidents too.

On the flip side, when a child does something well such as matching their clothes, using good manners, using the potty, studying hard, or clearing their dishes, recognize their efforts. “Thanks for being such a great helper/hardworker/etc..!” This feedback is helpful in teaching children what you want from them and allows the Force to move more fully into your life.


Tip 2: Tell your children what you WANT.

Well-meaning parents often say “Don’t spill your juice.” instead of saying, “Hold your juice with two hands.” When possible avoid using the word “Don’t.” Instead, say what you want them to do. Clear instructions are easier to understand and produce better results. For example, replace “Don’t wet your pants” with “Use the potty when you need to go pee-pee.” Or, “don’t fall” with “look where you are going.” Or, “Don’t do drugs” with “keep your mind clear and stay in control of your actions.” The more simply you can say something, the more likely it is to work and keep Junior on his path to awesomeness.


Tip 3: Make sure you both understand each other’s point of view.

As parents we are in a prime position to impose our will upon our kids. We are bigger, stronger, and know more (sometimes). Yet here is the rub: Though they are puny and uneducated as to the ways of the world, kids are actually smaller versions of the adults they will become. They are people, just people in smaller bodies. The best rule when dealing with a kid is to ask if you would like to be treated the way you are treating them. Do not fall into the crazy trap of citing your parent’s lack of parenting skills as an excuse for your own. You are writing your own story.

If a ‘timeout’ is necessary, tell your children why you are putting them into timeout. For a two year old, one sentence is fine. At the end of ‘timeout’ have them repeat the reason to you so everyone is completely clear on how to avoid going into timeout again. Small children do not need a full briefing. “I’m putting you in time out because you did not listen to me when I told you to stay close to me.” Is just fine. When using timeout base the amount of time they are ‘out’ on their age – 2 years equals 2 minutes, 7 years equals 7 minutes. When time out is done, talk over what happened. Ask: “Do you know why I put you in timeout?” Make sure they understand their role in causing the consequence. Along those lines you can also ask kids what consequences they think are appropriate for certain actions. Recently my four year old nephew wanted to run as fast as he could with a sharp stick in his hand. Rather than telling him he might fall and poke his eye out I told him he needed to let me hold it so both he and the stick stayed safe. Then I asked him an appropriate consequence if he ran with it and he said, “Auntie Kristin put me in time-out.” I never had to because he gave it to me, but if I did, there would not have been much drama because we had an agreement.

Truthfully, these three tips work with all kids regardless of whether they are two or forty-two. These are just good rules for living.

Please follow @artofpotential on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and give us some feedback. We would love to hear from you!

Be Successful at Anything

I don’t know how many times it takes a baby before they learn to walk but suffice to say, it is a lot. In the first few months babies want to straighten their legs, then there is the whole crawling experience, followed by teetering, and finally there is walking. Going from 0 to 100 takes place in roughly a year give or take a few months on either side. When babies are not being successful in their walking efforts they certainly don’t second guess themselves, mentally replay their mistakes, think God has it in for them, blame the sofa, or do a myriad of other things that we adults do. Instead they take a nap and try again.

Success is a journey in which you spend a lot of time on your butt because you took a wrong step. What makes babies successful is that they don’t really care about the butt time or wallow in their mistakes. They certainly don’t label a fall as ‘failure’ although they might get frustrated and cry. They stay focused on their goal and try to reach it many times per day. For them, walking is going to happen and it is just a matter of when.

Accomplishing personal and professional success is no different no matter what business or motivational expert you read. In the end, all the experts are trying to do is get you out in the fray so you will keep trying. It is simple math really. Every successful person has miles worth of unsuccessful attempts behind them. (Notice I’m not calling these failures because there not.) Brad Pitt dressed up in a chicken costume for Heaven’s sake. He wanted to be an actor that bad. Our own egos are our biggest enemies. They cause us to feel shame and be embarrassed by our performance. Babies are egoless – they don’t care.

If you want to be successful at something put your ego in a box, leave it at the door, and keep trying because the truth is nothing is really a failure except quitting.
Kristin Hiemstra and Founder and President of the Art of Potential. Check out Kristin Hiemstra’s Hired in 30. Follow her on Twitter @callingkristin. Check out her website:

7 Tips for Parents to Keep Your Kids from Being the Target of Social Media


According to Wikipedia the word parent means to take care of your offspring. Personally I like to think of parenting as an exercise in self-discovery because every time my offspring do something I am challenged to understand I learn something about myself, my tolerance levels, and my personal biases. The truth is my children want for nothing. ‘Suffering’ is not part of my children’s vocabulary and I’m okay with that to a certain point. However I often wonder if they will have the fortitude to make lemonade out of the lemons life deals. For example, tonight my nine year old daughter broke into tears because her voice did not sound good when she was singing the song Titanium. This does not bode well for future struggles she will likely encounter. I’m afraid a chipped finger nail or a hairstyle ruined by the humidity might send her over the edge. I can already tell that I will be doing some major self-discovery during her teen years.

As many people know I work in a school with teenagers so I am fairly used to this age. Most of the time I love teenagers. They are honest, vulnerable, savvy, and I believe every ounce of investment we put in them pays off in dividends in the long term. I said I love them ‘most of the time’ because there are times when I have to repeat Bible verses to myself so I remember to practice ‘unconditional love.’ Teenagers can be very mean and now with so many options in social media, they are can be meaner faster. One Tweet can reach thousands of people instantly and destroy a another person’s reputation at neck breaking speed. Every educator in middle schools and high schools across the world is dealing with the power from of social media.

Social media is a tool that is here to stay so we all need to learn to use it wisely. As parents there are a few things we can do to help our kids navigate this space starting from the ground up:

1. Keep your own personal comments about other people positive. We adults are mature enough not to Tweet that our neighbor just got a face lift but teens are not that mature. They Tweet everything. There seems to be the overriding theory that if it is not Tweeted about, it didn’t really happen. The teens who avoid getting pulled into the cesspool of social drama are the ones who rise above it. Remind your young adult that your family is not the type that spreads mean gossip or says mean things about others.

2. Practice compassion. We all make mistakes. Teens do not have the maturity to overlook them the way us mature adults do. These days when someone makes a stupid mistake which they will ultimately regret, it lives on forever in Instagram rather than fading of into obscurity. Photo evidence gets Tweeted over the internet and commented on by peers and strangers, many of whom hide behind ‘handles’ or random names. If you have ever made mistakes that rocked your own opinion of yourself (which often happens in high school) then you will understand why having that mistake sent to all 1000 of your closest friends can result in a trip to the psych ward because you are convinced your world is over.

3. Follow your kids on their social media. Warning to parents: your children are putting stuff on the internet that would SHOCK you including pictures of themselves wearing little to no clothing, horrible comments about others, and cries for help on their Tumblr blogs. You would also be pleasantly surprise if you knew how nice some of them are in cyberspace. Please note that these to feelings can exist simultaneously. Many teens will not willingly confess they have social media accounts and will likely lie if you ask them if they have these accounts. Parent: “Honey, do you have a Twitter account? I want to follow you.” Child “Nope” – later conversation with friend. “OMG! My mom wants to follow me on Twitter. She would die if she saw pictures from the party last weekend. Hey, since everyone is being so mean to each other let’s start a Twitter feed where we all give each other compliments.” If you notice your child looking constantly at their phone then this is a good indicator that they are following Twitter and not constantly checking the time. Search on Twitter by plugging in their name and looking at the pictures on the left hand side of the page. Please note that many kids change their names or the spelling of their names so they will not be discovered by you. If you can find their friend’ accounts you have a good starting point.

4. Role model filtering your comments. Tell your kids, “Before I say or do anything I might later regret I count to 10 or sleep on it to make sure that is the message I want out to put out there.” Many young people are very good at modulating their own behavior but many are not. If you child is a ‘blurter’ and has been known to say inappropriate things than this comment is especially for you parents. The moment a thought or opinion comes into their minds they are putting it out there for the whole world to see.

5. Keep all passwords and check your child’s phone regularly. If you are paying for the phone, it is yours. Parenting is not always fun. We want to honor our kid’s privacy but we also need to let them know we are the boss. Many kids actually don’t think their parents are bold enough to take over their phones and which is why they will actively strategize online how to snowball you into letting them go to an unsupervised party.

6. Cut the phone off during the school day. Teachers hate cell phones. Before you think, “Well the teachers should take the phones!” Please know that if the teacher takes the phone in class and breaks it, or loses it, the teacher may then have to pay for it. Many teachers already work an extra job to make ends meet. Make their lives easy by contacting your service provider and having parental controls in place so your offspring can’t text during the day. (Yes, your child may start to cry, say they hate you, and mean it if you do this. On the upside their grades will likely improve.)

7. Have a cell phone “bed” time. I can assure you that the late night gossiping and flirting happening at 1:00 am is not improving your child’s sleeping patterns or grades. Unfortunately romance and gossip are always more fun than learning about the Pythagorean Theorem. Make it a family rule that all phones and media devices are in one place at 10:00 or whenever you deem appropriate. If they complain that their iTouch as their favorite music on it then this my be a good time to introduce them to the concept of suffering.

Social media is a reflection of us. It is not good or bad unless we make it so. Parenting is really about giving our offspring the tools they need to go out into the world and be successful. Help your off spring reflect the best in themselves and others.

Kristin Hiemstra and Founder and President of the Art of Potential. Check out Kristin Hiemstra’s Hired in 30. Follow her on Twitter @callingkristin. Check out her website:

image by valeri vizhanksi via flickr

Six Job Getting Strategies for Upcoming Graduates to Take Advantage of Now

Dear @CallingKristin,

I am going to be graduating in May and will be looking for a job. Is there anything I need to be doing now?

Great question and the answer is ABSOLUTELY! Here are six tips for soon-to-be graduates:

1. Run, don’t walk, to your college’s career center. These gems are packed with great information, knowledgeable people, and most importantly, job leads. Put a resume together to bring with you and set up an appointment to get it reviewed. Attend all of the campus career fairs and interview with as many companies as possible. Even if you don’t get a job offer you’ve increase the likelihood of someone hiring you and gotten interview experience.

2. Start getting your letters of reference together. In much the same way you used recommendation letters to get accepted to college, reference letters written by professors and previous employers can speak for you in ways your resume and cover letter cannot. Many colleges have a service where they will keep reference these on file and send them out upon request.

3. Fire up your network. 7 out of 10 jobs come from referrals and these referrals are often one person removed. For example, let’s say you know Kelly and Kelly knows Mike. Mike would be one person removed from you and he would be the person looking to hire someone. Kelly is the connector between the two of you. Kelly will not gush to Mike about how fabulous you are if Kelly does not know you are interested in getting a job so be sure to let everyone know you are looking. Networks include friends, parents, parent’s friends, friend’s parents, etc…

4. Get clear on what you want. In spite of what you see on the news, reality television, and in the movies most people in this world are genuinely helpful and not out to harm you. Very few helpful people will remain that way if you can’t tell them what you want them to do for you. Here are some things to clear on before you ask for help : 1. Where do you want to live? 2. What type of job do you want?

5. Begin searching for jobs now. The band is already practicing Pomp and Circumstance, the Graduation Office is lining up a speaker, and May is going to be here before you know it. Getting a job often takes a few months so it is smart to begin identifying what companies, organizations, for whom you would like to work. Try to see many different job descriptions.

6. Set realistic expectations. Though you are worth far more than any amount of money, the paychecks you get in the beginning of your career may make you question your value as a human being. Most everyone starts out in an entry-level job and has to work their way up the food chain to earn the big salaries. As a new graduate you have little room to negotiate because you don’t have a proven track record to show case your capabilities besides your report card.

Kristin Hiemstra is Founder and President of Art of Potential and the Hired in 30 workshops. She would love to answer your career related questions. Feel free to email your career concerns to Follow her on Twitter @callingkristin.

Adventure of a Lifetime

So we are about to do a family vacation across the US, Griswald style. Instead of the woody wagon, we have the Honda Odyssey, complete with a dvd player. Thank God for technology. Why talk to your children when you can plug them directly into a movie?

The trip came together rather haphazardly. My husband, a history teacher, announced that he wanted to see Mt. Rushmore, Little Big Horn, and Shiloh, home of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. For those who are geographically-challenged like myself, that equates to South Dakota, Montana, and Tennessee.  I want to see the Grand Canyon, which happens to be conveniently located in Arizona. Needless to say, we are going to be spending a lot of time in the van…like the entire month of July. Fortunately, the timing works perfectly with some friends need for housing. They get free housing, and we get a dog-watcher and hamster-feeder. Can you say ‘Score!’?
We decided to do the trip now instead of in a few years for the following reasons:

  1. Our children still like us. Being 12 and 9, they have not yet figured out that we know nothing and are embarrassing to be seen with in public.
  2. Braces are going on in September and there is no end in sight of orthodontist bills. This very well may be our last hurrah before they graduate from college.
  3. We think it will be fun. We might be wrong, but regardless, we will be making lots of memories. 

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to plan out how to make this trip fun and here are a few things I’m doing for me and the kids.

  1. I’ve started a Starbucks fund. This is all about me. My children fight and I’ll be charging them $1.00 every time they do so. I’ve done this before and, yes, I collect the money. Even amid tears, proclamations of undying love for each other, and promises never to fight again, I make them pay. Now when they start fighting, all I have to do is say “I’m in the mood for coffee, and I’m looking for a $1.00 for my coffee fund.” They get really quiet. I’m confident at some point during this trip, the dollar will be worth getting in the last word.
  2. I’m giving them each $50.00 cash to spend on each other. I realize that doling out $100.00 prior to actually leaving on vacation is not considered wise, but I will say it has really inspired them to notice what the other one likes.  They’ve taken it upon themselves to create ‘gift boxes’ to present upon departure and seem genuinely jazzed about the whole thing. Thus far, the oldest has bought the youngest something quite squishy. I’m not sure exactly what it is or where this exercise is going to end up, but they are having fun and looking forward to receiving the boxes.
  3. I’ve found campgrounds with cool activities. While I’m sure Mt. Rushmore is awe-inspiring, breath taking, and most reasonable people could spend weeks staring up at George Washington’s nose, I don’t hold out this hope for our attention challenged “children.” We will be staying at a nearby campsite with free putt-putt and heated outdoor pool and I, of course, will be happy to drive them to and fro while my husband soaks up all the historical information he can handle.
  4. I’ve created bags of goodies for them to receive every other day. I’m all about saving a dollar, so I hit up Judy Jones, a retiring science teacher, for anything she might be getting rid of as she cleaned out her classroom. I can’t wait to see the excitement on my daughters’ faces when they find decks of cards with snakes and dinosaurs on them, or get a load of the Guess the Scientist game. I’ll be throwing in some hand sanitizer in there for good measure too.
  5. I’ve made them part of the planning. Each place we are visiting includes some activity they will enjoy. We will be zip lining in Lake George, seeing sharks at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, panning for gold in South Dakota, riding bikes in Jackson Hole, and walking on the skywalk over the Grand Canyon. As of right now, I still have no idea what we will be doing in Shiloh, TN (seriously, what family goes to Shiloh, TN?).
  6. We will all be best friends with Rick Riordan. Mr. Riordan writes stories about the Greek Gods, such as ‘Heroes of Olympus.’ He meets my kids’ need for story-telling, my husband’s need for history, and my need for character development. We love him, and his voice is the one that will be heard over the radio, except when the kids are watching one of the hundreds of movies we will be renting at Redbox. When that happens, Hans and I will undoubtedly find something more sophisticated and adult to listen to (as yet to be determined).

So there you have it. The Hiemstra family vacation, Griswald style. I’d love to hear your advice or suggestions on what books on tape are good, so feel free to email me at

And do you have exciting family vacations of your own planned? Let us know in the Comments below.

10 Tips in Making it Through the College Application Process

College application season is upon us and finally all that hard work is going to pay off. Students are busy writing their essays, moms and dads are busy trying not to nag, and college admission’s counselors are traveling at neck breaking speed around the nation trying to encourage applicants to apply. Here are a few tips that can help this process go smoothly for everyone involved. 
  1. Get Organized. Your young adult is going to handle the college application process the same way they have handled all academic assignments in the past. If they habitually procrastinate and wait until the last minute to do things, they will do the same during this time. You can help them by providing organizational tools such as a wall calendar with deadlines so they know when to do things like: request transcripts, take the SAT, request recommendations, attend meetings, etc… 
  1. Have an angle and a plan. It’s no secret colleges are competitive. Each college is looking for a well rounded student body not necessary a well rounded student. Decide ahead of time which aspect of your student you want to highlight for example, academics, trumpet playing, sports, passion for classical languages, etc… and develop a plan to showcase that talent. 
  1. Set restrictions up front. If your have certain financial and geographical restrictions let your child know so they don’t waste their time researching schools that are off-limits. However, be aware that financial aid is available for most schools and scholarships are often given to students who exceed a school’s admission requirements.   
  1. Partner. The college application process should be spearheaded by your young adult and supported by you. In an ideal world, your young adult will be the one arranging college visits, tours, and interviews. In an ideal world, he should also be the one in contact with the colleges. There are many reasons for having your young adult spearhead this process but among the most important are the fact that admission’s officers prefer hearing from students and not parents. Hearing from students gives them a chance to establish a relationship, and second, the more work a student does to realize his dream the more invested in the process he becomes. Encourage your child to seek your help and see you as a resource. (i.e. – “Mom, I would like to go visit these schools can you take me?” “Sure, let’s sit down with a calendar, what dates do you have in mind?”) Or, as one local mom shared. “I asked my daughter if I could ask her about college applications one day a week.” 
  1. Cheerlead. Establish how you want the process to go mentally ahead of time and talk about it often. Parent: “I’m very proud of the way you have handled this process. You have made it easy for both of us.” Let your students know when they are doing something right. Not only will it change how they view themselves in this process but it will change how you view them as well. If your child has the resources necessary, knows what expected and how to do it, yet doesn’t lift a finger, consider the possibility that they are not ready for college yet and a gap year might be a good idea. Having taught college freshman, I can say with certainty that students who are not ready for college will waste the opportunity. 
  1. Search for the best fit. Chapel Hill is an academically goal oriented town with intense pressure and pride built around academic success and college acceptances. However just because a school has a good reputation, like UNC for example, does not mean it is a good environment for your child. Some kids will do well in large classes and extensive use of teaching assistants and others will flounder. In my experience, success at larger schools requires a very motivated self-learner who will not let the professor stand between themselves and their learning. Take the time to necessary to make sure the school aligns with your child’s learning style and temperament so that success is probable. Explore things like living learning communities, class size, etc… 
  1. Talk about the future. College is one of many important stepping stones in life. Since day one, we talk to our kids about how they need to do well in school so they can get into a good college and get a good job. BYW- they can recite this verbatim. However, few of them can articulate what the future looks after college. Now it’s time to create new goals and intentions. Start talking about what the college experience will look like, ask question like: what have you considered as a possible major? What about travel abroad programs or internships? Mention how fun it will be to meet new people of differing political opinions, backgrounds and experiences. By doing this you are helping your young adult look forward to leaving high school and thus generating more energy around getting that application out the door. This type of transformation will also help both of you move more confidently into the future. 
  1. Listen. Reflective listening is a technique taught in every mental health facility, mediation program, and sales training. When you listen reflectively you seek to understand another by repeating back what that person has said minus any judgment or personal input. In other words, listen to your children vent but do not let them off the hook for what needs to be done. Venting allows for a student to dump their emotions, regroup mentally and move on. For example,
    student: “applications sucks”
    parent: “it must be a pain to have yet another thing on your plate”
    student: “it is, I don’t feel like I have the time to do them’”
    parent: “so it feels like you are under a lot of pressure, huh?”
    (note the parent did not offered to make the problem go away, they only listened) 
  1. Call in outside help if necessary. Your relationship with your young adult is one of the most important possessions you have in life. While it is completely possible to breeze through this process, and many families do, it is also not unusual for both student and parent to experience stress during this time. If the stress turns to anger and hostility than it is time to seek outside help. 
  1. Enjoy it. In the end, this is a year to be celebrated by both of you so schedule sometime to just enjoy each other.

Five Hassle-Free Ways to Save Money

Recently I had award winning author Laura Adams, aka “Money Girl” on the Art of Potential show to share easy ways to maximize your hard earned money. She authors the top-rated Money Girl podcast that has been downloaded over 10 million times; to listen to a podcast of our interview click here.  Laura has taken some of her simple tips as well as helpful websites and provided us with (drumroll): 
Five Hassle-Free Ways to Save Money
by Laura Adams
Saving money doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require you to scrutinize your expenses. Here are 5 tips for hassle-free ways to cut costs and save money:
Tip #1: Update Your Banking
Shop around for a better checking or savings account that pays you more interest and charges zero fees. The best bank accounts reimburse ATM fees, never charge for debit cards or paper checks, have no minimum balance requirement, offer free online bill pay, and are FDIC-insured. Find a high-yield account at sites like and
Tip #2: Optimize Credit Card Debt
Why pay more interest that you absolutely have to? If you’re carrying a balance on a high interest credit card, learn more about moving it to a less expensive card or using a balance transfer card to save hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest each year. Search for money-saving credit cards at sites like and
Tip #3: Cut Household Expenses
Take a hard look at what household expenses can be reduced or eliminated. Here are some ideas:
·         Ditch your telephone land line and go cellular
·         Find options for lower-priced TV packages or cancel your paid service altogether
·         Always cook with a microwave oven when you can (they use much less power than a traditional oven)
·         Watch your thermostat so it stays close to 78 degrees or above in the summer 
·         Invest in energy-efficient appliances when you need to replace an old one
Tip #4: Keep Your Car
Cars are rotten investments that leave you poorer, not richer. Make a commitment to keep your car for at least 5 years and then to buy a used vehicle that’s in good condition.
Tip #5: Automate Your Savings
A smart way to set money aside is to use a preset payroll deduction to invest in a workplace retirement account. You can also ask your employer to split your check into multiple direct deposits so a portion of your paycheck goes into a savings account. If you’re self-employed, use online banking to set up a recurring transfer to deposit money into a high-interest savings account or an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA)

To learn more about Laura you can read her book Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. To learn more about the Art of Potential show be sure to visit our website.

How to Catch A Case of "Spirit"

As I learned in my recent radio interview with him, Rev. Haywood Holderness is not a man with outspoken opinions until you ask him if it is our responsibility to feed each other. Suddenly this gentle giant gets fired up and if you aren’t donating food to your local food bank my advice is to run and do so quickly. In a world full of food, his answer is a resounding ‘yes’ and he means it. 
Perhaps the “Rev.” gave you a clue that Haywood is a clergyman. Unlike many of his ilk, in addition to a degree in Theology, he also holds an MBA from Wharton School of Business, oh, and I should probably mention he was a code breaker for the US military. Far from a man with his head in the theological clouds, he is a man of God, living in the real world with homelessness, drug addict, and greed. Because we are created in the likeness of God, he believes we will triumph over all of these things and he takes daily steps to make that happen by finding resources for non-profits. Haywood is a man with a great case of Spirit.
Regardless of your personal title for spirit, I am referring to the driving force in life that compels us all to strive to make the world a better place. To me, the word spirit has some energetic implications, for example when I think of a spirited person, I think of someone who is engaged, passionate, and opinionated. Spirit drives us to make ourselves better, pushes us to be responsible, and is a manifestation in love. Spirit is non-judgmental and compassionate and Lord knows, patiently persistent. It is found in the nudging we feel to find the right type of work so we can be at peace with ourselves. It is the love we feel when looking at the world as the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen and embracing our role in taking care of it through our stewardship; it is the power we feel surging in our veins when we seek to right the big and small injustices being perpetrated around us.  Spirit is what moves us into action if we embrace it and it speaks to us constantly, perhaps even the loudest when we are the quietest.
To catch a case of Spirit there is no way around it, you must engage, flex, nurture, and be guided by the heart muscle. You absolutely must care and in some cases, care so greatly that you are willing to give your life for whatever you truly care about. As Haywood says, “You must give to live.”
In my work, I truly get to see the variety of life in working with clients. Some people care about making the world beautiful through art, others are passionate and find joy in working with businessess.  Sometimes the interests are specific like male/female workplace communication, or composing jazz music.  It is important not to judge yourself by what you care about but to let it flow from you naturally. I’ve seen more people loose their fire because they’ve judged what brings them joy as not being of value to soceity and, for example, go to law school instead of art school only to find themselves hating their life and in need of career counseling later. Don’t do that.  

Let your creative vision for the world and the Spirit within you, move you deeply to the edge of your possibility.