Mama J on June 8th, 2011

That is today’s question. My 11-year-old has started to babysit. So far she has one client,  third-grade twins in our neighborhood. She has stated her case that it would be helpful to have a cell phone while babysitting in case of emergency when she walks out of the house to take the kids to the park, to a neighbor’s to play, or to the nearby pond.  Once she called me from a neighbor boy’s cell phone to double check her understanding of the twins’ plans for the day.

I know that back in the day none of us had cell phones and we all lived through every situation that came our way. Yet, I’m in a serious debate with myself. Is finding ways to call me without a cell phone a useful test for my daughter to learn resourcefulness? Or am I foolishly missing the boat by not taking advantage of the conveniences of a cell phone?

I definitely see tween behavior with cell phones that makes me want to shy away from the whole mobile scene for tweens. Last weekend while sitting at a dance recital, I overheard a girl who couldn’t have been older than 4th or 5th grade tell the rest of the group, “I have all these tunes on my phone!” I got that uncomfortable ripple I feel  when I think someone might be a bit overprivileged. I also know of a pre-teen who had a stranger sexting her on her cell phone (which has since been taken out of her possession).

Are you allowing your tween to have a cell phone, and under what conditions?

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a parent and stepparent who enjoys writing about family dynamics, issues, and relationships.

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Mama J on May 26th, 2011

I didn’t blog yesterday because the day was filled with “last days of 5th grade” events. Graduation in the morning, the outdoor celebration lunch, followed by the annual field day. Whew!

At the luncheon, one of my friends asked, “Are you going to miss elementary school?” (This is truly the end of our own kids attending elementary…between my stepchildren and my daughter I’ve been involved with the school for 18 years!). Well, of course I am going to miss it…the initimate environment, the innocent wonder in the eyes of the children, the amazing and communicative teachers…I will miss it all. And yet I’m excited for my new middle schooler. I can’t believe how grown up she looked in her dress yesterday. She IS growing up…there’s no stopping her.  I thought I’d be more emotional about her graduation than I am…I think I’m sentimental but I’m not grieving. Could this be a reflection of my desire to move forward with her? ( Despite the unknown. Despite the buzz that middle school can be the hardest years of a young person’s life. Despite the challenge of daily managing the changes.)  I hope I’m as ready as I feel today for this roller coaster ride.

What musings do you have about your children moving up to middle school in recent years?

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a Northern-Colorado-based writer who delights in sharing her thoughts about family dynamics and relationships.

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Mama J on May 19th, 2011

Last week I made a case about how I think face time with my kids trumps Facebook. Recently, we’d had the pleasure of having each of my older kids (my stepchildren) move back in with us, one at a time. Last week I told the story of my stepdaughter, her fiancé, and their dogs squeezing into the storage area of our basement. This week I’ll tell you about my 23-yr.-old stepson’s stay.

My stepson has a keen interest in politics and loves to talk about what’s going on the world, country, and city. Let’s just say I don’t run at the mouth regarding these topics. This makes a typical, quick conversation between us go a little bit flat.

When he lived here last year, we had more opportunities to chat about everyday things. For example, a ready subject was the canine miracle of nature who lives with us (a very sweet and very needy dog). Or, we could comment on various aspects of education when my then-10-year-old daughter would bring home school assignments and projects.

My stepson moved out about a year ago. We really believe it’s better for everyone if young adults are independent. But I do miss the low-key discussions in the kitchen. I miss him offering a hand by grating the cheese and chatting while I was making the rest of the tacarito casserole.

As quickly as we were able to re-connect when he lived here, now we hardly connect at all. We see each other at planned family events or when he drops in (which is still better than Facebook). But everyone else also attends those family events. His rigorous work schedule overlaid upon my life and schedule doesn’t leave a lot of room for one-on-one get togethers. And, guess what I haven’t told you…he isn’t even on Facebook! So in conclusion, I would have to admit that while face time trumps Facebook, Facebook trumps no time!

What place does Facebook have in your overall relationship with your kids or stepkids?

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a Northern-Colorado-based freelance writer who enjoys discussing family relationships and dynamics.

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Mama J on May 11th, 2011

I’m here to validate an understatement: for real relationships, face time trumps Facebook.

Our stepfamily had a lot of face time in 2010. Each of my adult stepkids (then 23 and 22) stayed with us during the year, living in our basement one right after the other. Instead of just marking “Like” on a Facebook comment, it was nice to be able to hear the expanded version of the latest. We even managed to eat some meals together without much pre-planning.

Do I wish that they lived in the house permanently? Well, no, and at their ages I know they are also eager to be independent. But, living under one roof and acting (mostly) like adults with each other was sure a relaxed way to catch up and stay in touch. The time together deepened our relationships.

My 24-year-old stepdaughter and her fiancé managed to live in what is basically our basement storage area for four months. My stepdaughter got to know our 11-year-old, her little sister, much better. What a boost for my young one to have her older sibling around and to play Wii together! We have one dog and they brought two more, so I was often greeted by the mythological three-headed Cerberus when I came in the door. A little chaotic? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely, extra dog hair and all.

Now we are planning my stepdaughter’s wedding, and that is certainly not something that can be done on Facebook! My stepdaughter and I are moving into new territory —  scheduling appointments together. Facebook definitely augments our knowledge of what’s happening in each other’s lives, but, like texting, I consider it a supplement and not a replacement for relationship.

My stepdaughter was talking about the new house before they moved out and joked, “I’ll bet you can’t wait to get rid of us!” I replied, “No, actually, it’s been nice to have you here.” She just smiled. As recently as four years prior, I wouldn’t have honestly meant that. Kids do grow up and we all can change the way we relate to one another.

Is Facebook contact with your children or stepchildren enough for you? Why or why not?

Stay tuned next week to hear how life progressed when my stepson moved in and out.

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a Northern-Colorado-based freelance writer who enjoys discussing family relationships and dynamics.

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Mama J on May 4th, 2011

No matter whether you are biological mother, stepmother, or both, Mother’s Day can be an emotionally-loaded holiday.  (Often no where near as tasty as a loaded baked potato!) Over the years I  found that my expectations for Mother’s Day became my biggest enemies. I’ve learned that if I have expectations for Mother’s Day I need to fulfill them myself!  For example, I want to get our yard trimmed up and blooming this Mother’s Day, so I’ve carved out from noon til 6 p.m. to work in the yard. Yes, I’m asking my family to join me too, and I’m sure they’ll pitch in (thankfully the forecast says 79 degrees for Sunday!)

I thought I’d reiterate some wisdom that has worked for me to make Mother’s Day so much more pleasant over the years.

1. Take Mother’s Day into your own hands. Plan something that makes it your day, as opposed to waiting for someone else to do something for you. What did Tom Petty say? “The waiting is the hardest part!”  Yeah. Don’t wait; take action.

2. Be bold enough to celebrate an entirely different day with your stepchildren. I really believe (but only after years of experience!) that this holiday is not your day to celebrate with them. Whether she is dead or living, your stepkids have a mom, and this is the day to honor their mom. I’ve found conflicting information about Stepmother’s Day. One site said May 1, so that would be appropriate to celebrate this week. Another site said the Sunday after Mother’s Day, originating from on a daughter’s wish to separate celebrating a day for her mom vs. a day for her stepmom (see?).

3. If your own mother or mother-in-law are around, do something special for her/them. If it’s something you enjoy too, all the better! If weather permits, do something outdoors. Or catch a special movie together. Giving can feel as good as receiving. Maybe even better.

4. No matter what you choose to do on Mother’s Day, remember that it will feel best if all parties are sincere in what they can give. If the most sincere gift is to offer nothing, in my opinion that is better than something that feels forced.

God bless all moms and stepmoms, and the important work that we do!

Mama J is a Northern Colorado writer, parent, and stepparent. She specializes in articles and essays about family life and family dynamics.

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Mama J on April 27th, 2011

I am reading the book Success in Middle School: A Transition Road Map with my 11-year-old daughter. I believe that the key word in the title is “transition.” I picked that word instead of “success” because I think success becomes a very personal definition for each student. Those definitions will range from success equaling academic records alone, to success defined by how proud and fulfilled a student feels as a whole child. Transition, however, is something that all students moving from elementary school to middle school go through. I wanted to share with you the topic areas in this book. They catch our attention as we strategize how to help during this transition.


  • Logistics: What’s different in the middle school schedule and layout? (Lockers, changing classrooms, etc.)
  • Study Habits: How do you step up your accountability for your learning and your grades? How can you best organize yourself?


  • Meaningful Friendships: What do you value in a friend? How will you choose friends?
  • Developing Compassion: How do you appreciate differences? How do you deepen your relationships?
  • Connecting with Others: How will you meet new people and get to know them? How will you know when you’re with the wrong group?
  • Healthy Boundaries: How do you set appropriate limits?


  • Nuturing Brain and Body: How do you take care of your health to be your best?
  • Learning to Take Risks: How do you learn which are appropriate risks that help you grow?
  • Attitude: How do you remain optimistic and envision your own success?

As my daughter and I work through the book I will blog on the sections that strike me as most insightful.  For example, I really like introducing the concept and the vocabulary word, “accountable” to our upcoming middle schoolers because accountability is something that we all learn and work on for our entire lives! Our kids are starting to think more concretely and they can begin to understand examples of being accountable for their school work, actions, and decisions. In this book, accountable is defined as: “responsible to someone or for some action.”

Run this word by your young student and let me know what kinds of reactions you receive!

Mama J is a published writer who has a passion for the topics of family dynamics and relationships. She specializes in magazine articles and personal essays. Stay tuned for her updated website at

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Mama J on April 14th, 2011

For those of you who have teens, you are well aware that prom season is upon us. I wanted to introduce you to a website that I appreciate, one that right now has several great blog entries about moms and prom, prom drama (a.k.a. prama), and how to talk to your teens about what could go on at prom. Check out Time to Talk from The Partnership at Drug

Have you ever considered hosting a coed sleepover on prom night? A lively discussion about this topic ensues on Time to Talk’s blog, which is called Decoder.

How do you talk to your teen about alcohol and sex, which are probably most parents’ biggest fears during the prom night scene? Time to Talk offers ideas.

Enjoy this reading…it is so well organized and commented upon that I couldn’t really do the topic any better justice, other than to encourage with your teen a steady flow of communication during the after-party hours, whether by phone or text.

Mama J is a freelance writer based in Northern Colorado. She specializes in articles and essays about family relationships and dynamics.

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Mama J on April 6th, 2011

In the last month I have seen several references to the havoc that information overload can wreak on our brain power. (Most recently the cover article, “Brain Freeze,” from the March 7 issue of Newsweek.) In light of watching my youngest daughter grow up in an age of constant, excessive stimuli, I couldn’t be more pleased with this publicity. Researchers are putting statistics to what I have intuited and felt for years: my ability to produce and make good decisions slides downhill when I am bombarded with too much information, especially all at one time.

Is my slowed processing because my brain is aging and I just can’t keep up with the lightspeed of information? Maybe. Should I not worry about my children because the rub is that young people can handle constant multiple stimuli? Definitely not, even though this is the impression I walked away with after reading a very good but very disconcerting article last summer about teen study habits. The article maintained that a productive norm for teenage studying includes simultaneous homework, music, and Internet chatting including social networking, AND texting on their phones. REALLY?!  I was starting to feel inadequate – I can’t even turn on music anymore when I write, much less add all the other input.

But articles like “Brain Freeze” give me an opportunity to open a dialogue with my school-age daughter, who, at 11, is still young enough to believe and accept the sincerity in my viewpoint. It helps me validate why she doesn’t yet need a cell phone, and she shouldn’t be playing Nintendo DS or watching “Wizards of Waverly Place” while doing her homework.  Just as important, she shouldn’t be distracted by multiple media input while chatting on the phone with her grandparents.

These conclusions lead me back to an important reminder:  I can model for her by slowing down and being present with each moment.

What examples of information overload have you seen recently?

Mama J is a freelance writer based in Northern Colorado. She specializes in articles and essays about family relationships and dynamics.

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Mama J on April 1st, 2011

Life threw me some curves this last year. Yet, I am returning to contribute to my parenting blog because the topic area of family dynamics, in particular raising girls and being a stepparent, is truly one of my passions. You’ll see the new parenting and stepparenting posts weekly most Wednesdays (except when I post Wednesday night, in which case it dates on Thursday!) (or, when I randomly post on a Friday 🙂

When I started this blog in fall of 2008, I launched it with vigor and was able to make the time to blog three times per week. At the beginning of 2009, I had to field a financial curve ball, and decided to re-direct my blogging energy to billable projects. I now write articles for Rocky Mountain Parent magazine here in Northern Colorado, and have contributed to two educational textbooks published by Lifebound Communications in Denver, CO. I also manage an international student-exchange organization here in the state.

Last summer, I got excited about blogging again, and even hauled my laptop to the community pool to compose several entries about face time with kids, and about the role of professional therapy in families. Then, life threw an emotional curve ball: my mother had a huge stroke, spent nearly three weeks in the hospital, and we lost her. I am just coming out of my slump, determined to post my way through anything else climactic that happens in my life! Watch this Wednesday, 4/6, for my first post of the year about the potential effect of information overload on our kids.

And, if you’re wondering about this cute logo (coming soon!), Remarriage Magazine gave my blog a Top Ten Bloggers award in January, 2010! I’ll be getting the logo onto the blog with the next post!

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Mama J on February 19th, 2010

OK, I said I was only going to blog about my book chapter topics for now, but I’m so excited about a group I’ve become part of that I had to share. I’ve written before about the concepts behind The Mother-Daughter Project, an initiative to keep mothers and daughters close and supported along the road to adolescence. Several moms and I fell into conversation at the New Year and decided to explore the concepts. The result? We have now launched a mother-daughter project group and we’re working our way through the book chapters.

The moms are meeting at least four to six times first, and then we’ll pull our nine- and ten-year-old girls together for their first meeting. Some already know each other, but no girl in the group knows every other girl. It will be a great opportunity for us all! We are inspired by the stories of groups who stay together for many, many years while the girls grow up.

I’ll leave you with some of the strategies of the group, all of which center around helping the girls:

  • Communicate effectively at every age
  • Cultivate healthy body image
  • Understand the importance of both safety and personal freedom
  • Feel empowered with the confidence to achieve her dreams
  • Know that there exists a group in which she will not be judged

Anyone else out there in an active mother-daughter project group? I’d love to hear what you’re up to.

Mama J is a writer, parent, and stepparent based in Northern Colorado. Check out her Stepparenting the Grieving Child audio and book at

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