FULL QUESTION: My teenager's a slob and it's driving me crazy – their messy room, leaving dirty dishes all around the house, and the bathroom looking like a disaster area! And now they're home for the summer. Help!


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


Moms everywhere know exactly what you're talking about! And although people told me not to worry, this phase will pass, that didn't make it any better while I was in the midst of it. (I wish I had understood why teenagers have messy rooms and what I could have done to manage it better.)The good news was I was able to set expectations (and help maintain them) for the common areas of the house, but dealing with their rooms was very different. Especially with my eldest daughter since nothing would work – not bribes, not threats, not rationale conversation. I tried all the tips and "tricks" without success, and eventually decided to stop nagging her because all it did was get me upset while she seemed perfectly content with the mess.

At that point, I realized my primary concern was that I'd ultimately need an exterminator and/or plumber (for those of you that have lived through this, you understand), so I'd periodically go in and selectively clean that which would create problems for the rest of us. The rest I left alone. Hey, if she wanted to wear smelly clothing or have a bathroom that should be declared a national emergency zone, so be it.

My younger daughter, in comparison, was so much better. And since she's more social and likes to have friends over, that has been the best thing to keep her room habitable by humans, as she'd never have them come into a pigsty.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io


I do not have children, but there was a time I did have stepdaughters, and not knowing what else to do, I decided to treat them like I would new employees. I knew employees basically wanted to please management, so I figured kids wanted to please their parents. I created a "Rules of the House" document (small, basic, easy things) and presented most of them as things to do versus things not to do, and looked at the rules as an opportunity for them to achieve and succeed, not as a set of restrictions. I always found it more effective with employees, and then the girls (and even their father), to reinforce positive behavior rather than punish bad behavior. It can be as simple as a "thank you," complimenting them on their efforts, or maybe even reward a job well done. It seemed to work, and along the way, improved communications and helped us set priorities.


Red assets.rebelmouse.io


If you had asked me this when my girls were young, since we celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas, I would’ve said, “Shop for lots of gifts.” Which, I found out the hard way, resulted in lots of credit card debt. The funny thing is, except for my immediate family, I give homemade baked goods to almost everyone else on my list. Black made me realize how important it was to plan and budget for the holidays, and I started buying things throughout the year and/or putting aside money. But, maybe more importantly, it also made me think about the “best” gifts to give my girls.

And I quickly realized it was the gift of time. I couldn’t help but think of the times I’d be busy and only give half my attention to the girls, promising to spend more time with them “later”. And “later” would never happen. So, I created “Day with Mom” gift certificates that were redeemable for a day to do what they wanted (within reason, of course). Surprisingly, actually shockingly, each chose simple things to do, and this special day of spending time together became one of their favorite gifts (and mine, too).


Black assets.rebelmouse.io


I have a very short list. In terms of family, I always give my nieces gifts throughout the year versus feeling forced to find something during the holiday season, although I do give small “token” gifts and send Red rugelach from Zabar’s. (It is efficient as I am already on the website on Cyber Monday buying business gifts.) Of course, for some people I want to “thank” during the holiday season, cash is the best gift.

I recognize I am very fortunate, and charities (like Make-A-Wish) help me keep my life in perspective. I have an annual budget, and as situations arise throughout the year (unfortunately, given the increase in natural disasters, they occur all too frequently), I make charitable donations. But, I also realize that during the holiday season, many people are hungry and turn to food banks, so part of my holiday tradition is donating to the Houston Food Bank (part of Feeding America).


Red assets.rebelmouse.io


Well, for me, this is a very special Black Friday … as it’s Black’s birthday, which makes me smile as the term “Black Friday” couldn’t be more perfect. So, as much as she prefers to ignore it, my daughters and I will ignore her (it’s probably the only day we can get away with that) and, at the very least, wish her a very Happy Birthday in person.

After that, I’m looking forward to carrying on my “day after Thanksgiving” tradition, which unlike millions of other Americans, isn’t going shopping. It’s going to the movies! And it’s not because I hate to shop; it’s because I love the quiet and escape of a movie, especially as it’s the perfect way to relax and recuperate after my marathon Turkey Day shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. Of course, the popcorn is the best part, and Black claims (rightfully so) it’s the real reason I go to the movies.


Black assets.rebelmouse.io


I celebrate my birthday the same way I celebrate holidays and even Black Friday. I work. And, enjoy the quiet and uninterrupted pace of the day as everyone else is busy doing something else. (Red refers to this time of year as the “silly season”, but all I know is that in-store shopping is too crowded, too time-consuming, too inefficient).

So, when do I do my holiday shopping? For family, I do things for them throughout the year, so holiday gifts are more like holiday tokens. For everyone else, usually on Cyber Monday, especially at Zabar’s, where I traditionally buy most of my holiday gifts. And, while I know that for some people, nothing will stop them from shopping on Black Friday, for others (such as myself), nothing will get us started.


Red assets.rebelmouse.io


I know it’s a simple question, but I hope you weren’t expecting a straightforward answer. In terms of my favorite candy, which I rarely eat at any other time of the year (but I find the Halloween sizes irresistible), that would be M&M’s (regular or peanut), Nestle Crunch, and KitKat. The funny thing is, unlike our mom, I’m not a chocoholic, but there’s just something about the combination of sweet and crunchy. (Which may also explain why I love kettle corn, but that’s an entirely different subject.)

But when I think of Halloween and fall (my favorite season), there’s one candy that beats out all the others – candy corn! And it has to be the traditional white-orange-yellow ones. I’ll admit that I loved them more when I was a child, but the fact they’re one of my daughter Natasha’s favorites always make me smile. As does memories of making turkey cupcakes with candy corn forming the perfect feathers, beak, and feet!


Black assets.rebelmouse.io


I have one word to describe candy corn – nasty. Consistency and flavor. Although I will admit they make great (non-edible) cupcake decorations. Anyway, growing up, my favorite Halloween candies were Mounds, Milk Duds, Charleston Chew, and Starburst. (Candy trivia – which of those was used to teach rheology, the branch of physics that studies the deformation and flow of matter? For the answer, check out this paper from the Geological Society of America.)

Today, although I am no longer a candy fan, I enjoy the history of Halloween candy in general as well as specific nostalgic treats. But, I love how the Halloween concept of individually wrapped smaller versions of candy is now being used for other food items (such as pretzels, veggie chips, and popcorn). And, I am stocking up on them as they are perfect portion-controlled snacks good year-round.