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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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!

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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.

Teaching Our Children to Choose Success or Failure

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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We made a tough call the other night.

We stopped helping our 8th grader with homework.

Well, OK, we still help, we just don't, well, help.

(Come on Atkins, get to the point already, because, we, the readers, are lost.)

On any normal day, homework is assigned and brought home.

Or isn't. 

That is issue number one. If homework fails to make it to the house, we don't head back to school to get it (especially because school is now 20 minutes away), nor do we make a big deal about it.

Why?

Do I want my child to fail?

No.

(Yes. A little.)

I consulted my Mom on this one, because sometimes what we think of as being helpful is actually hovering. She set me straight. My daughter is 13. Time to present her with reality, but not by sternly laying down the law. We presented the facts calmly.

"Your homework and your grades are solely your responsibility. If you don't understand something, we are there to help. But if you forget to bring home an assignment, turn work in late, fail to study, or give a poor effort, the consequences are all yours. We're not intervening in the decisions you make. We know you can do well! Proud of you!"

Don't get me wrong. It was hard. I was torn between laying down the law, and swooping in and helping her manage every detail of her academic life.

But we can't. Not anymore. So we simply remained even-keeled as we shared that we were backing off.

Our children will never learn the satisfaction of driving towards and fighting for their personal success if they don't also experience and overcome momentary failure.  I am of the belief that practice makes progress (not perfect, as the cliche goes). During progress, one will experience setbacks. They're inevitable. Even my daughter needs to learn how to navigate them. This won't happen if we take the hero role in her "I forgot to bring home my spelling words" scenario by emailing the teacher or calling the parent of a classmate to get the words. Instead, we must allow her to stumble and find a solution. See, failure can serve as the push to improve in the future, especially when there are consequences more dire than one's parents getting angry or even a low grade. Poor grades will affect her involvement in karate drill team or basketball, both of which require responsible marks as per the coach's guidelines. She doesn't want to miss out on these!

So, our daughter has choice.

Own it and commit to keeping up with her responsibilities.

Or lose what she loves.

You'll be happy to know, she's doing GREAT. Funny what happens when you raise the bar. Children CAN and WILL rise to the occasion.

(Now, if only she would hear and wake to her alarm in the morning. Any tips for that?)




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.

Please Sir, I Want Some More

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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"More?"

Really? I'm flattered.

Translation? My family is pretty happy with the consistency of our new and improved household hot-meal program.

aka: dinner.

Confession: I have never been the best meal planner for the entire family.

Sure, over the last 5 years, I've overhauled my personal nutrition, and helped my husband drop 40 lbs, but at times, the focus on our health has affected the creativity of family meals. Not that family dinner needs to be a Pinterest-frenzy of perfection, but I was definitely pulling a "D", or with luck, maybe a "C+" when it came to meals last year. While there were meals, they were hit or miss in terms of balance. Yes, my family was fed. However, the variety was pretty lean.


I gave myself a bit of leniency. I was a new home-schooling Mom to a 3rd grader, and was also running a full-time business, while adjusting to life with a middle-schooler. 5:00 would come around and I'd be scrambling.

Tread water much?

This year, the 3rd grader and the 7th grader are in a small private school, I am still running a business (#payforprivateschool), and there have been hot meals almost every night since school started. With leftovers for lunch.

My family is . . . surprised.

The meals have gotten a bit more creative. Ingredients don't consist merely of a protein, veggie, and blah side. There are amazing smells wafting through the house. Whereas last year, I was able to make this happen 1-2 times a week, my batting average has greatly improved this fall. I'm on a roll. 

What changed?

  • I started meal-planning. Not rocket-science. Or an amazing discovery. But while I've dabbled in meal-planning in the past, I did so with wavering commitment. I would lose momentum and run out of ideas. So, to help me . . .
  • I opened a Making Friends with Your Slow Cooker group on Facebook, and along with the help of a colleague, gathered healthy slow-cooker recipes from all over the internet and provided weekly meal plans and tips to the 200 women who joined us. The key to this group: HEALTHY. You can take the girl out of the gym, but you can't take the gym out of the girl. No creamed soups and large amounts of cheese here. We're trying to stick to nutritiously balanced meals. With new recipes in hand . . .
  • I took an hour and a half on Sunday to prepare 5 freezer meals for the week. Now, they are ready to be thawed and cooked when needed. The kids have been reminded that . . .
  • In our home, one eats what they are served, and shows respect for the chef. I went soft on this last year. Due to sheer exhaustion. This year, I taught them how to cook. Don't like dinner? You are more than welcome to make your own dinner after the table is cleared. (Ask me how many times that actually happens. Who wants to clean up after dinner, make a second meal, and clean up again?)

I often tell my children, "Proper planning prevents poor performance."

And they tell me, "Awesome. You're doing much better at that."

That makes me feel good.

Evening schedules, as crazy as they can be, mean that unless meals are planned, fast-food can be the default. 

No so here. Tomorrow is Mexican Pork and Sweet Potato stew.

Are you a consistent meal planner? Any tips or tools that you use to organize meals for the family?

 


 


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, 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.