Carpool Lane

Carpool Lane - Meet Joline for a "CuppaJo" as she juggles two kids in school, homework, extracurricular activities and trying to find some "me" time.

 

 

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Don't Mess With Holiday Traditions

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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"Mom, are we starting the Advent boxes tomorrow?"

Uh-oh.

It was November 30th. We had just returned home from a trip out east where we celebrated the life of my Nanny (grandmother) who had passed away a week earlier. It was our second trip out to the Philadelphia area in a week. We were emotionally and physically spent. We hadn't even thought about bringing Christmas up from the basement yet: the bins of ornaments, decorative items, lights, or, yes, those Advent boxes. Over the years, those 24 little boxes were always filled by December 1. This year? I didn't even know where the boxes were. 

I was truly wondering if my kids would even remember our Advent box tradition with how chaotic the week had been. And, secretly, I was hoping they wouldn't.

Well, that's the thing about traditions. They stick.

"Hey, kiddos, I'm not sure we're going to do the Advent boxes this year."

Silence.

No pout. No back-chat. They held back any expressions of disappointment. It was as if they understood that the emotional weight of the week had worn Mom out.

"It's, OK, Mom. Really."

I was so impressed. 

And sad.

I couldn't let it happen. It took me a week, but by the time they returned home from school on December 8th, the Advent boxes were sitting in the living room. Stocked. Up to Day 8. Fist-bump.

"Go ahead! Open!"

"Wait. We can open 8 days?"

"Yep. Thank you for being so understanding."

A week earlier, as I prepared to share memories of my Nanny at the funeral, I was struck by how many of them were centered around Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions. It was wonderful to share my personal snapshots with those who came to celebrate her life with us. When grown, I want my children to recall the special moments they remembered looking forward to every year. And Advent boxes are the one consistent tradition we've adopted. Filled with tiny gifts, or slips of paper announcing an activity or outing for the day, I just couldn't bear knowing that my children were holding back their disappointment because they didn't want me to feel badly for putting the tradition on hold.

But after celebrating my Nanny's life of tradition, wasn't it fitting that I should continue in her footsteps?

Our Advent boxes will be something my children can pass down to their children. 

I'm glad we can give them this tradition.

Do you have any holiday traditions? Care to share?

 




Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, will never get enough of the Gilmore Girls, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

 

 

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Lessons Learned from Road-Trip Binges

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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I used to have it in the bag.

Literally.

Fruit, sandwiches, pretzels, trail mix, veggies, and maybe even some hummus.

All packed in a small cooler for a road-trip. This frugal and smart fitness coach knew how to travel with health in mind. 

Somewhere along the way, I've lost my culinary road-trip mojo. My resolve seems to have petered out. Hop in a car and all bets are off!

Recently, we had to take an unplanned trip to Philadelphia. I quickly threw some apples, granola bars, and home-made juices in a cooler and we set off. I was strong. We were going to save money and eat healthy snacks. Maybe pick up a little something for lunch.

Rest Stop #1: Sure everyone can have Starbuck's, and grab breakfast while you're at it! A steamer, a few lattes, and some baked treats to go, and we were back in the car.

Rest Stop #2: Thirsty again? Sure! Go for it. Another little snack won't hurt ya. Beef jerky and a Lunchable? Sounds good to me.

Who am I, anyway? I've never ever purchased a Lunchable! My kids had no idea where their mother had gone. They were baffled.

And giddy.

In my sugar and carb stupor, the remainder of the drive was a blur. 

I could chalk up my behavior to the stress brought on by the need for the spontaneous trip, and yet I was quite aware of the truth that what we were consuming would only exasperate that stress, rather than calm it.

Oh, did I mentioned that we also drove HOME that very day?

Do the math. That makes double the rest-stop foods consumed.

The day after the binge brought no physiological surprises. We fully expected the lethargy, stomach-aches, and water-retention. My kids woke tired and grumpy. I woke needing a detox.

As I reflect back, I realize that sometimes, even with the best of intentions, Mama gets tired of planning.

And even though we ate our way to Philly and back, I must admit we had a nice time together. Munching and listening to an audio book.

I guess if Mom dropping the ball every once in a while makes for an entertaining memory for the kids, I can willingly choose this route again in the future. So often, I feel the pressure to view every circumstance as an opportunity to teach my kids a life lesson - for instance, "Be prepared, or you'll waste a ton of money on food that will send you straight to the rest-room - more than once."

It was kind of nice, for this time, I didn't teach them a darn thing.

Unless one considers giving instructions on how to balance a hot drink and a bag of dried and cured chunks of meat on one's lap a life skill.

If that's a life lesson, I taught it in spades.




Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, will never get enough of the Gilmore Girls, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Baking Marathon

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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Don't misunderstand the title. 

I'm not the one baking.

My daughter, however, has caught the baking bug. 

A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, my daughter fell in love with baking. Not from scratch, not yet (as her mother is definitely not the one to teach her any baking skills whatsoever), but from a box. Which, is as good a start as any. Reading directions, preparing ingredients . . .

Ingredients.

Suddenly, I was being asked to have ingredients on hand, which, while a staple for many, just don't seem to reside in my house.

"Do we have eggs?"

"Yes. But WAIT! They are all hard-boiled."

"How about milk?"

"Of course. Oh, um, it's almond milk."

"Where's the butter?"

"Butter? Can you use coconut oil?"

"Mom, where's the sugar?"

"Are you kidding me?"

I know. Sad. If you are a neighbor needing to borrow a cup of something, please skip my house.

Seeing her interest, and even hearing "culinary school" in her conversations about the future, I decided to pick up more eggs, milk, butter, and sugar. I want to encourage her, and thus, the staples are now on hand. We've had pumpkin bread, chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free vanilla cake (found a bag of Bob's Red Mill stuffed back in the pantry), and even cheddar biscuits. Her brother, recognized the perks of a having a sister who bakes, cleared and organized our weak attempt at a baking supply pantry, creating a shelf just for her and her "boxes".

My goal, however, is to help her research healthier options - especially recipes from scratch, and tackle one with her each week. I need to learn how to bake also, so why not do it together?

Now is the perfect season to enter the baking race. We'll be taking it slowly, but I'm sure we can knock out a few scrumptious delights, that may even be worthy of sharing. It will even be fun to eat our mistakes.

But truly, I don't bake and didn't grow up in a baking house.

  • What ingredient staples MUST I have on hand at all times?
  • Are there special kitchen tools/small appliances recommended?
  • Where can we learn the basics together?
  • Any links of favorite baked goods that we should try from scratch?


Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, will never get enough of the Gilmore Girls, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Rushing Christmas

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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In the midst of finalizing our Halloween costumes this week, my kids slipped me two sheets of paper.
 
On them?
 
Christmas lists.
 
They were detailed. They were thorough. They were surprisingly reasonable.
 
They were handed BACK to my children.
 
I appreciate their forethought. I am all for thinking ahead. But just like my reaction to the stores who began selling Christmas items one aisle over from the Halloween candy before Trick or Treating even commenced, I just can't get on board. Not yet.
 
I didn't want the kids to skip over Halloween, or Thanksgiving. And, what about Election Day???? Isn't that right around the corner?  We can't possibly think about Christmas until that special day has come and gone . . . (I'm winking at you.)
 
We are tempted to move so very quickly through our days. Especially this time of year. While I love being prepared, there are times when I am convicted to simply take one day at a time. I want my children to follow suit.
 
Thus, I handed the Christmas lists back, asked them to tuck them away in a safe place, and to please attend to any last details for their Halloween costumes.
 
"Mom! I need a bow-tie!"
 
Glad we stepped away from Christmas planning with enough time to complete our Halloween inventory, or my Dr. Who Whisper Man would be missing a pivotal costume piece.
 
We are about to enter the annual seasonal frenzy. I want to savor one event at a time. That begins with . . . ok, maybe not election day, but rather, Thanksgiving.
 
Welcome, November - YOU bring an excitement all your own, and I'm looking forward to enjoying our time together.
 
(I can't promise I won't pick up gifts this month, but I will do so without shoving you to the side and giving your neighboring month the spotlight. You deserve to be celebrated in your own right.)

Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, will never get enough of the Gilmore Girls, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Surprise Invite to the 8th Grade Field Trip

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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New school. 
New teachers.
New friends.
New schedule.

NEW can be overwhelming.

So when I was invited by my daughter to be one of the chaperones for her 8th grade field trip, I was flattered. While I realized that this year has already proven to be dramatically more positive for her than last, I wrongly assumed that the last person a 13 year old would want on a field trip would be her mother.

Enter: New cheerful kid.

Upon hearing that the field trip would be a walking tour of the Strip District, I did a little dance. (I have no shame.) I also began to dream of cheese. (And, um, spending time with my daughter and her classmates, of course!)

There are several perks to having one's child attend a private school. One is the smaller class size. I believe there are about 20 kids in her entire grade. Thus, my "group" consisted of my daughter, her friend, and their homeroom teacher.  The second perk? Getting to know this teacher outside of parent-teacher conferences and email dialogues. We chatted about food, jobs, travel, etc., never once mentioning school topics. Third perk? That woman KNOWS the Strip District of Pittsburgh! 

Grand slam!

Our formal tour took us to several locations that are mentioned in the novel "Macaroni Boy". And although this class had read the book a few years prior, the tour content was no less interesting, for it provided the perfect backdrop as we walked and talked about Strip area as it was in the '30's. 

After the tour, the Strip was ours to explore for a few more hours.

Wholey's Fish Market, Penzy's spices, Mancini's (complimentary breadsticks), Penn Mac, Sunseri's, Pittsburgh Popcorn Company, Peace, Love & Little Cupcakes, Reyna's. If you live here, you know the culinary delights of which I speak!

One of the highlights was taste-testing several varieties of feta cheese from Stramooli Brothers. The Macedonian was the overall winner. There was popcorn to try, biscotti's to pick up, hats to model, gifts to purchase, and the maple-glazed/bacon donut incident. This health nut knows how to shock her kid.

We laughed. She hugged me in front of her friends. Not usually physically affectionate, I'm not even sure she realized that at one point she was holding my hand. Not once did my daughter communicate that I was being a bit over-the-top. No eye-rolling, or "Mom, stop it!" And, trust me, I know myself. I can be . . . well, a lot . . . It would totally be understandable to receive the fish-eye from my teenager - a non-verbal signal for me to take things down a notch.

Instead. We simply enjoyed the day together.

I asked her afterwards why she wanted me to come along.

"Normally when a parent comes on a field trip, it's awkward, right? But it's not awkward with you. You know?"

Um, no. I didn't know.

Did anyone record this statement? Anyone?

I teared up.

She giggled and gave me a hug. 

And asked if I'd come on the next one.

Will there be more cheese?



Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, will never get enough of the Gilmore Girls, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.