Blog Posts by Jeri Nowlin Shaffer

  • Parenting Guru: Heading back to school

    The start of school this year is a little different for our family. Of course there is the usual concern for our children. Ben is venturing to pre-school for the very first time, Maggie is entering first grade, Levi is starting middle school as Caleb embarks on the 8th grade. I always worry about the children fitting in and finding someone to eat lunch with, finding their classrooms, and getting awesome teachers who appreciate their unique personalities. But this year I have an added concern because it will be my first day of school too. After 13 years as a stay-at-home mom, I am heading back to school as a teacher. Today, I am worried about how I can possibly manage my children, my home and my students. I worry about keeping up with laundry, helping our kids with homework, cooking dinner and grading papers. And, to be perfectly honest, I am worried about fitting in and finding someone to eat lunch with at school. Some things never change.

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  • Parenting Guru: Do your kids know how to swim?

    Our oldest child had his first swim lesson before he was two months old. Okay, so it was more a Lamaze class reunion than a swim lesson (though a friend hired a certified swim instructor). Caleb was enrolled in some form of swim class every year until after he turned 5 years old. We moved from Florida to Ohio when Caleb was 5 and Levi was 3, but I drove them to lessons (in the snow!) because we knew we would be spending summers in Florida. It sucked, but both boys are excellent swimmers.

    By the time Maggie was born, we were back in Florida. I swear I meant to sign her up for lessons, but I never did for all kinds of reasons. Some seemingly legitimate. Of course, when Ben was born two years later it became even more difficult to juggle schedules and put swim lessons on the growing to-do list. But, today putting swimming lessons on our calendar became the easiest call I ever made.
    I read a post by Jo Ashline at A Sweet Dose of Truth that moved teaching Maggie and Ben to swim to

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  • Parenting Guru: What not to say when a friend loses a baby

    A couple of weeks ago, a teacher at my child's school lost her baby 37 weeks into her pregnancy. The details are unbearably sad, but it isn't my story to tell. I will say that I have not been able to get this woman and her devastating loss out of my head. I know her heartbreak first hand. I delivered our second baby, Emma, at 18 weeks when my cervix opened prematurely. She was born alive, but with undeveloped lungs she died within a couple of minutes. Though I can't go to a complete stranger and offer support during her personal nightmare, I thought I could at least share some of what I learned from our tragedy here, starting with what not to say.

    What not to say when someone loses a baby

    • You can have more children

    I know it seems logical to encourage a devastated mother that she will have another chance to have a baby, but it is the last thing a grieving mom wants to hear. Right now, she doesn't want another baby; she wants THAT baby. Trust me, she could go on to have

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  • Parenting Guru: Lessons Learned at Camp Corn

    I have never been to an over-night summer camp. Actually, I don't think I ever went to a summer camp of any kind as a child. None of our four children have ever gone away to camp either. To the best of my knowledge, all of my childhood friends also stayed local (meaning in their parents' living room) for summer "vacation". Maybe it is because we live in the Deep South, Bible Belt region of the country. I'm not sure why other children in this area miss out on summer camps, but I can tell you why my brother and I spent summers at home. We had our very own camp. Camp Corn.

    Every year since I was ten years-old, my father has planted sweet corn. When the corn matured, my best friend and I were assigned the task of selling the corn (until my brother was old enough to help). Our first year, the price was 5 cents an ear if the customer picked the corn and 10 cents if we picked the corn for them. It didn't take long for us to drop the option of picking corn for an extra nickle, so it has

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  • Parenting Guru: What I learned from our children's school year

    As the school year winds to a close, it is natural to look back and consider how much your child has learned and how he has grown during the school year. This year has been especially educational. For me. This year, Maggie started kindergarten and Caleb started middle school. Levi was placed in a full time gifted class where he had to actually put forth an effort at school. Each child's school experience has taught me a great deal this year. Here are the highlights of my lessons.

    Middle School
    Our oldest child has always been an over-achiever. I have said many times that Caleb would rather be set on fire than break a rule. I said that often because it was true. Until middle school. Middle school offers kids their first small taste of freedom. Middle school teachers are typically less involved than teachers in lower grades. It seems that Caleb quit doing homework around Christmas. Every day he told me that he didn't have any homework. I trusted him, to a point. I finally had a

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  • Parenting Guru: More sleep + less laundry= Spring Break

    A couple of weeks ago, I was lounging pool side with some of my closest mommy friends. Eventually the topic of Spring Break rolled around. My friends had plans for everything from Disney World to camping in the Smokey Mountains on the calendar for Spring Break. It seems there is no shortage of ideas to keep kids busy during their week off. Our plans? Absolutely nothing. I can get away with planning nothing for several reasons, so allow me to explain.

    Travel aversion
    I am not a person who enjoys traveling. In fact, I try to avoid travel when ever possible. In order to go away for Spring Break, we would have to pack. This means I would pull clothing from closets and dressers for the six of us and cram everything that would fit into suitcases. I would also need to take any toys or books that may provide a moment's entertainment for our four children. Then, we would pull all four children from their bedrooms and crowd them into the car for several hours. At our destination, we would be

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  • Parenting Guru: My biggest parenting mistake: I allowed my child to be bullied

    Three years ago our oldest child came home from school upset because he was teased by a classmate. He said that a boy was calling him names like "shrimp" and "small fry". At nine years old, he was wearing a size 6 slim and had to look up at most of his classmates. I tried to console him and explained that he is in fact small for his age and that he should ignore it. I hoped that would be the end of the issue, but it wasn't.

    Caleb came home with a new story about being tormented almost daily. Soon, it wasn't just one boy teasing him, but several. The ring-leader wasn't in Caleb's class, so the boys were only together once a week in the gifted program. It wasn't long before the gifted class went from being the highlight of Caleb's week to being a day he dreaded. One day Caleb got into the car and began to cry. The boys who had been teasing him picked up the project Caleb had been working on for weeks and broke it in half. The teacher responded to the incident by giving the

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  • Parenting Guru: 10 little things I love about coming home to raise our children

    It never really occurred to me that one day I might live somewhere other than Pensacola, Florida. Of course, I considered going away to college and even attended Auburn University. I think I made it all the way to day 10 at Auburn before crying uncle and going home.

    In 2003, my husband accepted a great job offer with a fantastic company...in Cleveland, Ohio. It was his dream job, so before he left to fly up for the interview, I slid a note in his suitcase that said, "I will follow you anywhere. Good luck." I followed him first to Ohio and then to Alabama, where we have lived for 5 years. Today, nearly 8 years after the tearful journey to Ohio, we live in a subdivision that is across the street from my parents' house.

    While it is never easy to decide to pull your children out of their school and away from friends, here are 10 of the reasons we did just that.


    1. We live closer to family. My husband and I both have extended family in the area. It was important to us that our children
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  • Parenting Guru: Setting goals for your children and yourself

    Like many stay-at-home mothers, I tend to put the needs of everyone else in the house before my own. I don't eat or sleep well, I don't remember the last time I exercised, I haven't seen my doctor in three years, and taking time for myself is usually not an option. This level of self-neglect might be forgivable if we only had our three boys, but we also have a daughter. I know that she looks to me as an example of what a woman is supposed to be and by not taking care of myself I am sending her the wrong message.

    When Maggie grows up, I would like for her to always know that she is worth the effort. I don't want her to define herself as "just" a mom or "just" a anything. I want her to know that her worth is not defined by her job title or her role in her family. Whether she has children or not, works outside the home or not, I want her to make taking care of herself a priority. However, I can't expect her to know that her needs are important if she sees me ignoring my own needs

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  • User post: Saying thanks to a great teacher

    I really try not to brag about the children's school accomplishments and grades. I don't like to brag about student achievements for several reasons, but I will just share the top two. First and foremost, I want our children to understand that we are proud of who they are, not what they do. I think basing a child's self-worth on academics is dangerous; a house of cards. One bad test or report card can bring down the whole thing. The second reason is that I refuse to fall into the Mommy Trap of, "My kid is smarter than your kid can ever hope to be". I think that moms exchanging blow for blow comparisons of children's school or sport performance is warped. Trying to hang your title as "Awesomest Mom" on your child's grades is at best petty and probably damaging. But, notice that I said try not to brag. I am still human, so forgive me this hypocrisy. I think you will understand why I am suspending my "no brag" policy momentarily.

    Maggie was named Star Student of the month in her

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