Back Seat Drivers

By: Jill Shultz Hennesey

Looking back at my childhood, it is hard to remember every Christmas and what presents we got. However, I remember our traditions, who was there, what we did and the special things we only do on Christmas. Most likely kids won’t remember many of their presents as much as they will the traditions and family togetherness. Here are some fun things to consider for your family to make Christmas all the more special.


1. Take them to a musical– There are lots of wonderful Christmas Musicals out there.

2. The Nutcracker– At least one year, you have to go see The Nutcracker!

3. The Polar Express– Many cities have Polar Express events you can attend to really make the story come alive for your children. However, if you are watching your spending, reading the book in your pajamas with a hot cup of coco is just as memorable. The movie is wonderful as well. Family movie night is always a hit!

4. Volunteer in a soup kitchen- You can’t put a price on teaching your kids to give to others and help people less fortunate.

5. Helping the homeless– I remember my mom making turkey, ham, bread and all kinds of other yummy foods and taking us to hand it out to the homeless. We also took clothes, blankets and other necessities.

6. Christmas Crafts- Look on Pinterest for hundreds of ideas.

7. Baking for others- Bake some goodies for your neighbors and have your children hand them out.

8. Homemade gifts-  Christmas is expensive and sometimes stressful for parents. Teach your kids to make homemade gifts. It will be time well spent with your children and they will be proud to hand their gifts out.
9. Ice skating
10. Clean out old toys– Clean out the old and get ready for the new!
11. Read Christmas Stories– Classics are always my favorites, but new ones are fun too. Read a new one every night. There are lots of stories on YouTube if you don’t have a lot of books at home.
12. Write a Christmas Story together.
13. Pay it forward– Random acts of kindness.
14. Sing Christmas Carols while Decorating- I am a teacher and you’d be suprised how many kids have never heard of the classic Christmas songs!
15. Have a Christmas Scavenger hunt- This is fun to do while driving around looking at Christmas lights.
16. Dinner and Christmas lights- Driving around looking at Christmas lights has always been a favorite of mine.
17. Teach them how to prepare a turkey- This will be a thing of the past soon if we don’t teach our kids!
18. Buy a real Christmas Tree- I know it’s a pain, but there’s nothing like the smell of a real Christmas tree!
19. Write a letter to Santa- And actually mail it.
20. Write letters to all your family you won’t see on the holiday-Seriously people, kids don’t know how to write letters and actaully mail them anymore!
21. Christmas Eve pajamas and dinner- My favorite is breakfast for dinner on Christmas Eve. We always made pancakes.
22. Reindeer food- On Christmas Eve right before the kids go to bed, put out some reindeer food with your children. All you do is mix red and green glitter with oats and sprinkle it around the yard. The moon will make it sparkle bright and it will guide Santa and his reindeer to your home.
23. Santa tracks- Use a pair of shoes and sat them down and sprinkle a little powdered sugar or flour around them and make track leading up to where you put their presents. They’ll freak with excitement!
24. Christmas Morning Breakfast- Since my kids were born, I started a Christmas breakfast tradition. I make the same breakfast every Christmas morning. We only have it that one time a year, which makes it really special.
25. Santa Cookie-This one may be obvious to us, but not so much for people from other counties that want to join in on the Christmas fun!
26. Santa Key- If you don’t have a chimney, your kids may have a lot of questions about how Santa gets in the house. No more making up WILD stories. Just buy an old skeleton key and spray paint it gold or red, have your kids sit it at the front door before bedtime.
27. Making Christmas Ornaments- There are a million different kinds of homemade Christmas ornaments you can make. It is fun to make these and put them on the tree year after year and add news ones.
28. Thank you Lord Jar– Keeping the meaning of Christmas alive when Santa and presents can take over the kid’s minds is very hard. Here is a great way to ensure your kids remember the reason for this holiday. In the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Have everyone write down one thing a day that they want to thank the Lord for over the past year. I’ve also seen this done in a way where, everyone write how they can add more time for the Lord into their daily lives.
29. Christmas Eve Church Service- I know there are a lot of people out there that avoid this because of the large crowd, but it truly a beautiful service.
30. Christmas Eve boxes– Make up one box for all of your children and add Chrsitmas pajamas, a Christmas movies and a yummy snack. Everyone load up on the coach in their pajamas and enjoy one last Christmas movies together all snug and warm.
If you have a unique family tradition please feel free to share it below. I love to hear other’s traditions. Merry Christmas!

My 3 Year Old Babysitter

If you are in search of a babysitter, let me know. My 3 year old is starting her business. Her duties include, but are not limited to:

-Putting kids down to nap, rocking or patting if they need.

-Making sure they follow the rules.

-Keeping them away from things that can “hurt you”.

-Folding and hanging your lovely clothes and towels.

-Washing dishes

-Loading the dish washer


-Taking the trash out


-Feeding the animals


-Cooking meals 😂

I kid you not, let me elaborate on that last one a little more. First, you should know that Charlee is extremely independent and talks as though you are speaking to a 13 year old. She is hysterical and has no idea that she’s being funny. I was on the phone in my bedroom while her twin brother, Dax and I are in my bed watching a movie. I realize that Charlee is missing and very quiet. I always make sure to look for her very quietly, because I want to see what she is really doing in that moment. I don’t want to interrupt the busy bee at work. So I begin walking slowly and quietly through the house, when I was stopped right in my tracks to a shocking sight. I find her in the kitchen, with a chair in front of the microwave and the microwave was ON!!! Of course, my first thought was, “Lord have mercy, what has she put in the microwave?!? A bear, a plastic phone, her play food…?” I ran to the microwave and opened it quickly before sparks started flying. To my wondering eye did appear,  a plate full of chicken nuggets. My child had opened the freezer, got out the bag of chicken nuggets, crawled on the counter and got a plate down, put the nuggets on the plate, put the plate in the microwave and TURNED the microwave on. I asked her what on earth she thought she was doing, to which she replied, “I just cooking my dinner, mom!” Oh okay then, carry on! I immediately called her dad. At which point we both decided, we can start leaving them at home since Charlee obviously has everything under control. My 3.5 year old is capable of doing more than her teenage step sisters. She has better problem solving skills than 99.9% of my second graders and she organizes better than I do. Now, granted she can make a mess bigger than the great state of Texas, but what kid doesn’t. She is an extraordinary child and I can only wonder what the 14.5 year have in store for her and us.

Quick Guide: Helping Your Child With Basic Addition

Math can be irritating, frustrating and downright eye-rolling, screaming homework task for parents with a child who struggles in math. I can remember my mom and I fighting over math homework many nights. Sometimes parents may struggle with knowing different strategies to show their children, when another isn’t working. We tend to teach our children the same way we were taught. Most teachers by now, SHOULD be teaching their students different strategies and different ways to work problems out. This is all apart of adapting instruction to how the students learn, because they all learn differently. I find it sad that I see some teachers still requiring their students do it only one way. In my opinion, this limits our students, getting them away from that “outside of the box”  or higher level thinking that they need. I teach several different strategies and post an anchor chart in my room, allowing the kids to choose their favorite way of working out their problems. Basically, as long as they can explain to me how they did it, I dont’ really care how they went about it. I want to share a list of simple addition strategies that will help you at home when you see your child struggling.

  1. Pictures

When working with simple addition like 5+4, drawing picture is a great way to help them.


2. Manipulatives/counters

Use small objects to help them count out the number that they need. You can buy these at any education store or you can use things around your house. You can use, coins, marbles, pom poms, dice, paper clips, beans, etc.



3. Ten Frames

Ten frames are a favorite for a lot of kids. Down below you will see an example of a ten frame. These are provided by our school, but it is really easy to make a paper copy or just simply draw it on their paper.



Here I have placed 5 counters on my frame.


Now I have placed 3 more to represent 5+3.

10 frame

This frame is one you can print off a computer at home or draw one on paper.

frame 2

When you get into numbers with a sum higher than ten you will need two ten frames. Here I have represented 7+5.

I placed 7 counters in the first frame and 5 counters in the second frame.

4. Dots

Placing dots beside the number will help the child count out the number.


5. One more

If your child knows their doubles facts really well, than you can show them the “one more” strategy. If they know 5+5 is 10 than, than 5+6 is 11. Two more is also easy with this strategy. If they know 6+6 is 12 than 6+8=14.

6. I call this next one “Pound it”.

They take their fist and lightly pound their head, while saying the largest number in the number sentence and then counting out the smallest number on their fingers.

For example: 7+5

Pound the number 7 in their head and immediately hold up 5 fingers to count out 5.

7. Flash Cards/Games

By second grade your child should know some of their basic math facts automatically without counting our drawing pictures. Flash cards are a great way to help them. There are also TONS of apps that help them memorize their math facts.

There are many more strategies out there, but these are the ones I use in my classroom for basic addition. If you have practiced all of these and you find that your child is still not understanding, feel free to comment below and I will be happy to help you find one that works for your child.


How To Prepare Your Home and Yourself for Twins

Twins!!???!! OMG! What? Are you sure? All I could say in that first ultrasound was, “Oh my God, Oh my God, OH MY GOD”. I am not sure how many times I said it, but I was stuck on repeat for several minutes.  I have found that most people with twins had some kind of a knowledge that they could possibly be next in line for a set of twins. Most of the time, we see twins run in families. Well….not in my family. I had no thought or clue as to the fact that I would ever have a set of twins. It wasn’t even a worry in my head. My husband sat beside me excited and laughing… Because less than 30 minutes prior, he made a post to FaceBook “checking in” at ultrasound appointment. Along with A super annoying post, “Twins, Twins, Twins”. It was of course all in the name of fun and a huge joke, but when the sonographer said, “Oh….OH… There are TWO heartbeats”. That joke became not so funny!  It took me an hour or so for it to sink in and register, after I then became excited. So excited, in fact, that I went from store to store buying two of everything once I found out their sex. One boy and one girl, can’t get more perfect than that. Brining twins home is scary and exciting, as well as a tough task for those of us who don’t have loads of money in the bank to pay for extra help. Granted, it depends on the personalities of your babies how your first months of life will be. Preparing yourself and the people around you will help you be one step closer to not losing your freaking mind during days and days of no sleep and screaming simultaneously.

First, let’s talk about preparing yourself, because let’s get real, this is the last bit of time you have to put yourself first. Like taking a bath in private, going pooh with out two bouncers siting in front of you. Forget about fixing your hair or putting on makeup for a while…. and going to the mall…HA. Your stroller is like driving a bus, what do you think you are going to do when you have TWO screaming infants by yourself in a busy mall. And let’s not mention you won’t get much shopping done, from people stopping you asking a bazillion annoying questions about your twins. As if you are pushing around something no one has seen or heard of.

First and foremost, make sure you have someone you can call on when things get bad. I mean you may get lucky and get these little sleeping angels that sleep sixteen hours a night and take a four hour nap, but don’t set yourself up for failure thinking of perfect world scenarios. My twins, bless their beautiful little hearts, are two of THE most high maintenance children to ever walk the earth….since birth. They don’t require much sleep, hungry 24/7, always wanted to be held and filled up an entire trash bag of diapers daily. Thankfully, since I am not a Kardashian, I had lots of amazing people around me that where at my side in the blink of an eye. If you don’t have family or friends, maybe just find a teenager to do some light work around the house or hold a kid when they are both screaming at the same time. Either way, have a no fail back up plan for those day you are overwhelmed or sleep deprived. It will make all the difference.

Bed rest is a common thing for lots of pregnancies especially those of multiples. I went on bed rest at 6 months and was not prepared to be a laid up incubator yet. I had lots of things still unfinished. Again, thankfully I had people who came and finished these things for me. Try to get yourself prepared way in advance. Have all your must haves done within the first couple of months of pregnancy and then work on the rest in the remainder of your time. Absolutely do not wait until the later months to do any must-dos.

If you plan on breastfeesing, read up on breastfeeding and talk to other moms who have breastfed twins. No offense to anyone, but a mom who has never had multiples can’t really help you figure out how the heck to work that crazy schedule  out or give you techniques and tips that will make getting them situated easier and more doable. Lots of people think they know everything, but until you’ve tried to get two babies situated and latched by yourself, you have no idea of the struggle. The struggle is REAL you guys.

Any personal items you will need during those first couple of months, stock up. Your favorite shampoos, soap, lotions, drinks, snacks, etc. Not that you won’t  leave the house for months, but changes are that any time you do have to “get away”, you’ll want to sleep or lay in a nice relaxing bath.

Buy yourself some workout DVDs and some small hand weights or bands. Once you are able to get back to exercise, it’s not as easy as you think to get two kids ready and to the gym. So have those as backups for those days you don’t want to get out of your P.J’s and just get that workout at home.

Any medications you will need to come home with and all of your feminine products, have those stocked and ready. You don’t want to send your hubby to the store to try to figure out what diapers/pads you will need for the waterfall that is about to happen.

Please, please, please make sure you are seeing a doctor that is connected to a hospital that had a great NICU. Not all twins are born early and need this, but you’d rather be safe than sorry on his one.

Make sure you’ve stocked up on postpartum clothes. This is once I didn’t really consider or think about and I was sorry for it later.

When preparing your home, it is my own advice, that you go ahead and do those thing that you think may not need to be done until they get a little older. Especially, if you plan on going back to work. Like cabinet locks and door stops. Get that honey-do list up and running quick and put that man of yours to work. Once those babies are here you’ll be crazy busy.

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go buy two of everything, before you know what they like. I went crazy and started buying two of everything. Don’t do that!! Most things you won’t need two of, one will like the swing and one will like the bouncer then you’ve wasted money on two of everything. My advice is to just get one and see what they like. If they like some of the same things, go ahead and get two. I had to have two swings, they were my lifesavers. I also had two bouncers and walkers, these also saved me lots of times.

In my own experience, I found having them in separate rooms help a lot. I realize some people don’t have this luxury, but if you do, you may want to consider. You may have one that will sleep a lot longer than the other and trust me, you want that baby to sleep if he/she will.

Strollers are probably THE most annoying part of having twins. Side-by-sides are too wide to fit in some doors and go down store aisles, but they are the best for exercise and jogging. Buy two, one that’s compact for shopping days and one that’s large for exercise and family activities.

Of course, I could go on and on for days more, but I think this is a good start. Twins are such a blessing and lots of work. Many people with singles, will not understand you or have any advice that won’t really annoy the piss out of you, from their lack of knowledge on the daily struggles you face that isn’t even a thought in their mind. Find other parents of multiples and go to them for advice. I’ve wanted to punch so many people in the face for stupid advice, because they just simple don’t understand. Congrats on your double blessing and have fun watching these two very different unique individuals grow and blossom.


Choosing A Just Right Book For Your Child!

If you read, “7 Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Their Children To Read”, you know how important it is to choose a book that is just right for your child. This is called the Five Finger Rule, here are the steps:

  1. Let your child choose a book.
  2. Have your child read a page or two.
  3. While your child is reading count how many times they get a word wrong or get stumped.
  4. If you count 0-1 words, the book is too easy. If you count 1-2 words, perfect choice! If you count 2-3 word, give it try. And if you count 5 or more words, it is too hard.

There it is! Simple as that!

7 Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Their Children To Read

Many parents think they know exactly how to help their kids become better readers, how hard can it be? Right? It’s not as easy as you think when helping struggling readers. As a teacher, I hear parents tell me many things they do at home to “help” their children with reading. I find myself cringing at some things and thinking REALLY?? You REALLY do that??? Check out the list to see if you are doing any or all of the following. Let me help you adjust your approach to help your child become a better reader!

1. Picking books that are too hard for your child.

Do you pick higher level books because your thinking is “reading at a higher level will make your kids read better”?  You couldn’t be more wrong. You will find your child getting frustrated very quickly. Kids feel motivated and successful when they can accomplish a task independently. If you are having to help your child too much they will feel unmotivated to keep going. Choose books that are on your child’s level (look for more blogs from me on how to do this).

2. Not allowing the child to chose the books.

Children should feel some freedom in picking their own books on a topic that thy are interested in. Have you ever tried to read a book about oil rigs? Do you remember anything about it, other than the fact you’d rather be doing anything other than reading this stupid book? Of course you don’t and neither will they. Kids need to be excited about what they are reading.

2. Choosing books that are too easy.

Your child will see little to no growth if they are reading kindergarten level books when they read on a second grade level. This doesn’t mean never read those books they love that may be on a lower level, but when practicing to better themselves their books need to be up to their level. The key is not too easy and not too hard.

3. Asking the same question after every story.

Apart of reading is comprehension. Kids need to be able to comprehend what they are reading to be successful. Use a variety of questions to ask your child when reading. If you don’t know where to start, do an internet search on your state’s standards for reading. This will tell you what they are working on and what they need to know.

4. Only asking questions after reading the entire book.

You should be stopping your kids periodically throughout the book to check for understanding. Engage your child is discussion throughout the story to help with comprehension. Don’t get to the end of the book and realize they didn’t understand something from the very beginning. Stop and discuss words and phrases they may not know.

5. Not practicing fluency and prosody.

Fluency and prosody go hand in hand. Fluency is the ability to read with speed, accuracy and proper expression. Prosody is proper timing, phrasing and emphasis that help the reader’s understanding of the story,  in turn helping with comprehension.

6. Using reading as a punishment.

I had a parent tell me once that when their child is misbehaving, she sends her to her room to read. Using reading as a punishment puts a negative connotation on the activity. Using reading as a punishment doesn’t help your child become a better read, it makes them hate reading.

7. Not reading to them.

One of the best way kids learn is by the example we give them. When we read to our children, we are modeling how good readers read. Kids need to hear and see adult reading to model those good behaviors. Take on some of the reading and read to them!

It is important that kids like to read in order to grow as a reader. Before you do anything ask yourself, is this benefitting my child as a reader or hindering them in the process? Working with struggling reader can be a frustrating task, don’t make it harder on yourself and your child by making these mistakes! Happy reading!

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