Essays, Parenting

Dear high school graduates

With high school graduations coming up, I have a message that I’d like to put out here for any high schooler who desperately wants to go to college but believes they can’t afford it:

Just get there.

I know you’re looking at those student financial aid packages and the amount of money you still have to come up with on your own, and you’re thinking it just isn’t possible. But I’m telling you it is.

Just get there.

Take whatever free money you can get. “Free” meaning you never have to pay it back. Take only what you need in student loans to actually pay for your tuition and dorm room (if you need one,) and then start looking for a job on or near campus. Ask the financial aid office to set up a payment plan. Work your ass off this summer and save up as much money as possible to help pay for that first year of school. Don’t worry about the second year yet. Just figure out how to pay for that first semester.

Just get there.

Continue reading “Dear high school graduates”
Memoir, Parenting

My son, the writer

Avery's book project
My son is working on this book project for school. He wants to publish his story when it is done.

My 8-year-old is writing a book for a competition at his school. Yesterday, he brought his notebook to town with him so he could work on his project while we waited for my cracked windshield to be repaired. He likes to use waiting room time constructively and always brings something to read or work on.

At one point, my son stopped to ask me to list all the foods I cook for dinner that “he really really likes a lot” (I could only think of tacos.) You see, he is doing a life writing piece and couldn’t remember what we’d had for dinner on a particular day he was describing, but he could remember it was something he liked a lot.

Since I wasn’t much help, he finally said, “I’ll just use tacos,” and got on with it. He didn’t let himself get hung up on that insignificant detail but instead chose something that acted as a fair representation of the truth. This is an essential concept to keep in mind when writing nonfiction, which many readers consider to be completely “true.” Sometimes obsessing over getting a tiny detail just right is counterproductive. There comes a time when you need to just come up with a fair representation and get on with it. Continue reading “My son, the writer”

House and Home, Parenting

Can you use positive reinforcement on yourself?

Cyberpunk Motivation
I don’t know if this image has anything to do with my blog post. But I thought it looked cool, so I’m sharing. Thanks, Zemanta. | Cyberpunk Motivation (Photo credit: Kordite)

Many years ago, when I took Psychology 101 as an undergrad, I learned a very important lesson about motivation that has always stuck with me: positive reinforcement is always far more effective than negative reinforcement. Here’s an example of that concept in practice:

I have an ancient laptop that I let my kids use for watching YouTube videos and playing online video games. My 7-year-old would spend the entire day with his eyes glued to the computer screen if I would let him. In fact, his computer usage was becoming a major problem. It got to the point where I felt like I was constantly yelling at him to get off the computer and do his chores, do his homework, go outside and play, etc. It was a never-ending battle to try to pry him away from that computer and get him to do anything else. Continue reading “Can you use positive reinforcement on yourself?”

Facebook, Holidays, New Year's, Parenting

2014 New Year’s Resolutions

Skipbo Cards
My kids love this game.

It’s mid-December and time to begin thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t typically get too involved in those. Usually, my resolution is to simply try to be a better person overall. I like to think I am slowly evolving into a human who is at least somewhat better than she was just a few years ago. This year, I’ve decided to be a little more specific about my goals for 2014. I have two:

  1. Be more fun.
  2. Stop complaining so much.

Lately I feel like I am already being a lot more fun than I used to be. I used to hate playing board games and such. I think it had more to do with the company I was keeping than it had to do with any specific bias against games. The past couple of months, my kids and I have been playing Skip-bo literally three to five nights a week. And I am enjoying it. I want more of that in 2014. So much so, that I asked Santa to bring my kids several items that we can enjoy together as a family.

As for my second goal, well—  Continue reading “2014 New Year’s Resolutions”

Blogging, Holidays, House and Home, Parenting

Where have I been all this time? –And- My thoughts on STUFF

a graduate and her dad
My dad looks a little sleepy in this picture, but I look good, and he’s not online to see it and complain about it, so here ya go. I got my Master of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing from Mount Mary College on May 18th, 2013.

Hello there. I’ve been MIA from my blog for some time now. I hope you all didn’t miss me too much. This may turn into a long, rambling post with little to no point. I hope you don’t mind.

So, where have I been? First of all, I made it to graduation and crossed the stage on May 18th. I may now officially refer to myself as Mandy Webster, MS, MA. Wow, look at all those letters behind my name! I also got an A on my creative writing thesis (go me!) Graduation and all that goes with it is part of the reason why I’ve been largely absent from the blogosphere.

I was also wrapping up all seven of the courses I taught this semester (or quarter depending on which school I was teaching at.) Needless to say, after teaching seven courses and writing a thesis in one semester, my house was a bit of a wreck. Since graduation, I’ve been on a cleaning streak that has completely distracted me from all things academic. Continue reading “Where have I been all this time? –And- My thoughts on STUFF”

Communication Technologies, Parenting, Random Rants

Remember the phone book?

a phone / telephone book / directory Polski: k...
At least the phone book was right more often than not. | a phone / telephone book / directory Polski: książka telefoniczna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you remember when we used to have to rely on the phone book to look up a phone number? Remember how much fun it was to play, “Guess what my friend, Jenny Johnson’s dad’s name is” to try to find the number that belonged to the correct Johnson in the book? I used to think it was a huge pain that the only person whose name showed up in the directory was the person who paid the bill, or at least the person who set up the phone account in the first place.

When I was a kid, I thought it totally sucked having to call down the list of Johnsons and bother a bunch of strangers until I figured out which number was Jenny’s (just kidding, I don’t really know anyone named Jenny Johnson.) But these days, I find myself longing for the days when you knew the phone number listed in the book belonged to the person who was paying the bill at that home the last time the phone book was updated. Continue reading “Remember the phone book?”


Ann Romney hasn’t ever worked a day in her life

Photo of Ann Romney at the Reagan Dinner in De...

If I had 5 housekeepers and nannies to help me raise my children, I don’t think I would dare compare myself to the average stay-at-home mom in America. Yet, when Hilary Rosen told Anderson Cooper last week that, “Ann Romney hasn’t ever worked a day in her life,” stay-at-home moms across the country took it personally.

Why? Ann Romney’s version of stay-at-home mommery in no way compares to the average American homemaker’s life. I’ve been a stay-at-home mother myself, so I would know. Maybe I’m not the average American housewife, but I’m pretty sure my story comes a lot closer to the norm than Romney’s.

I am a veteran of the United States Air Force who decided to separate from the military and stay at home with my first new baby 13 years ago. I spent about the first whole year at home with each of my children, partly because I didn’t want to miss out on those first months of their lives, and partly because my economic situation at the time dictated that I do so. Continue reading “Ann Romney hasn’t ever worked a day in her life”


The nerve of some people’s kids

Einkaufswagen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s funny how a random comment from a complete stranger can ruin a fun family outing.

Yesterday, I was pushing my 5-year-old around in a shopping cart in the garden section at Wal-mart looking for flowers to plant in our garden. It was a beautiful sunny day, around 70 degrees, and we had decided it was time to get a couple of plants in the ground. My younger son loves to help me out in the garden, so this was a perfect opportunity for the 2 of us to spend some one-on-one time together while his older brother was at a friend’s house. Continue reading “The nerve of some people’s kids”

Education, Parenting

Easy is a bad word

It's Not Easy Being...
It's Not Easy Being... | Photo credit Wikipedia

My kindergartener told me the other day that the word “easy” is a bad word at his school. I asked him why, and he told me, “Just because something’s easy for you doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone, and we don’t want to make our friends feel bad.” I guess I can somewhat understand the reasoning, but at the same time, I wonder how this makes the kids feel when they think something is easy and are not allowed to voice their opinion.

There are lots of things that are easy for other people but not for me (math.) I won’t hold it against you if it’s easy for you. I won’t decide I just can’t do it because it’s not easy for me. No, I just accept the fact that I have to work harder than you do on that specific task and take comfort in knowing that there’s probably something else I DO think is easy. And when I do that other task, I’d like to be able to feel proud of myself and say, “Wow, this is easy!” Continue reading “Easy is a bad word”