Belated Back to School Goals

Photo by jmiltenburg from

Back to school time is a perfect time to hit the reset button and set goals for you and your children.  

How I wish I had set my back to school goals prior to the start of school. 

I didn’t want the shimmering, loosely-structured summer of play to end. However, a part of me welcomed the schedule and bustle of classroom learning and after school activities. Shivering with each gust of biting wind during my son’s soccer game the other day helped to snap some sense into my bones.

As a parent of an eighth-grader, one of my goals this school year is to see the big picture of schoolwork and related activities. Knowing what is due, by when helps ease my anxiety. So I dragged out the large paper calendar from last year and penciled in projects, homework, tests and quizzes that I knew, and James added to it. I layered in soccer games and practices since that would help prioritize and focus his school work-efforts. I also included notes about after-school events – like my tennis games, or Rob’s travel schedule – to add to the big picture. 

The calendar sits on James’s desk for easy reference and is one of many tools we use in addition to Infinite Campus, paper planners, and a shared Google Calendar.

Last year, I wrote about area moms who made back to school resolutions. I wondered: did their resolutions – or goals – stick?

Heather Bartlett, a registered nurse and clinical director of Westfall Surgery Center had a goal to not over schedule her kids. She allowed them to choose two activities for the school year, one sport, one art.

Although, Bartlett wanted to stick to her plan, her kids were not on the same page. With so many great clubs offered at school, including school newspaper and gaming group, she wanted them to participate, but timing rides and meals proved challenging.  “Thank goodness for Grandma!” said Bartlett.

Claire Hallancia, an Elementary Education teacher, tried to stand firm on a rule of no electronics after 8 pm. “If someone needed Internet access after that time, the family computer was available,” she said.

The rule worked for her then-7th grader. “It was easy because he really only uses his devices for video games,” said Hallancia. For her 9th grade daughter the rule didn’t work because she developed a habit of listening to music on her phone to help her fall asleep and used the alarm on her phone to wake her in the morning. 

“This year we decided to try something new,” said Hallancia. “While we eat dinner together everyone shares the best and the worst part of their day.” Hallancia admitted that they haven’t consistently met their goal, with two kids and a foreign-exchange student all involved in school soccer. She is, however, determined to get back on track now that soccer season is over.

Brenda Zariczny, an account executive for AmRent, wanted to more fully use technology during the school year. “Having two boys in high school, I know that when I speak, they don’t listen,” she said. “My boys have Gmail accounts, so I set myself up with one and now we share calendars.” 

Her goals have become a work in progress. 

“I have embraced the calendar in Gmail for scheduling the family’s activities. It has mostly helped me and my husband to stay up to date because teens have moved way past email and mine at least have not figured out the benefit of staying organized.”  

While Zariczny has encouraged her teens to advocate for themselves, they find it uncomfortable. “The funny thing is that with all of the advances in technology teenagers are still teenagers.”

Last year was the first year that Laura Beganny, a stay-at-home mom, had all three of her kids in school. “I’m going to have several hours of uninterrupted time to accomplish some of those household tasks I’ve been putting off. Things like painting trim, cleaning out toys, and organizing my recipes,” she said. 

She stuck to her goals – and became quite the DIYer.  “I cleaned out toys and the kids even made some money selling them on eBay.  I also managed to paint the walls and trim of my kids’ bathroom, install a new light, and hang two medicine cabinets.  I also put up a new shelf in my closet. I did not get around to the recipes.” 

This year, Beganny has already started on a new list of projects. Give her a drill rather than a spatula any day and she’ll get the job done!

Sarah Milko, Executive Director for AutismUp!, set the following goal: “Homework will be completed right after school. Everyone will wake up 15 minutes earlier than last year, and last but not least, I will insist that my kids get their back packs and all related materials (parent signed forms, donations, etc.) ready to roll the night before.”

Most of her goals stuck:  “I’m not sure if it had a lot to do with motherly determination or the fact that my kids just started to grow up!”

Have you set any back to school goals? It’s not too late, if you haven’t. If you have set goal, you can always check in to see what’s working and what needs adjustment. 

What do you think? 

This is my best work today. Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook, or tweet me @kristinebruneau.

Five tips for being a successful sports parent 

soccer parentsWhat makes a successful sports parent?

While at my son’s soccer game on Sunday, – Father’s Day – I saw most parents rooting for their boy’s team and enjoying the game. Also watching the game from the sidelines was a lone ranger-of-a-dad, muttering to himself. His son’s team was losing. The referee made a call in favor of my son’s team. The lone ranger took it personally and bellowed:  

“Get your head out of your ass ref!”

I was stunned, as was anyone else within earshot, including parents and players. The referee stayed cool and to my surprise didn’t eject the lone ranger. I learned later that the referee fined the opposite team $25. 

Why do parents get so hot about a youth sports game? 

Clearly youth soccer is not World Cup action. However, I’ve seen parents act like it is life or death. I’ve seen a group of parents make a teen referee cry. I’ve seen a parent yell at a volunteer coach for not giving his son enough playing time while the team of popsicle-licking 9-year-olds watched. I’ve seen parents berate their kids from the sidelines. And I’ve heard many more instances of adult misconduct and parents behaving badly.

What are we as parents teaching our kids when we behave like lunatics? 

Our children notice our behavior – good and bad. Lashing out with rage, sarcasm and fighting has no place on the sidelines. Unkind words and actions may not always make headlines, but that doesn’t mean the damage to a child is any less severe. Behavior in the crowd impacts players on and off the field.

Here are my five tips for being a successful sports parent:

1. Don’t coach your kids from the sidelines. The kids can’t hear you. They are playing a game and trying to remember the 16 things their coach told them. Plus, you really are annoying to other parents who keep their mouths shut.

2.  When you’re watching a bunch of young soccer players running around an overgrown field, remind yourself that there are things about their (mostly) pre-pubescent bodies beyond their control. Arms, legs and feet go one way when their brain is telling them to do something different like: settle the ball, pass the ball gently, kick the ball towards the goal, keep hands down, and more.

3. Don’t talk to the referee. Even if you know in your heart that the ref made a bad call, it’s not your call to make. The ref, however, will fine your team, and/or throw you off the field. Keep in mind, while some referees are parents, in many instances, the ref is still in high school. And someone’s kid.

4. Don’t talk to the parents of the other team during a game. Move away from the big mouths, otherwise it will not end well. You may even end up on YouTube, which will live in cyberspace forever.

5. Do practice being an objective observer from the sidelines. Sure you’ll see errors, bad calls, coaching inconsistencies, and difficult people. There are flaws in everything, including our own personalities. Be willing to encourage the unfolding potential of your son or daughter, their team, or the referee instead of giving more attention to the imperfections and strengthening them.

Kids who play youth sports with passion learn a great deal from their experience. By watching our kids and keeping mouths shut, eyes open we can learn what it takes to be successful sports parents.

Do you have any tips to share for being a successful sports parent? Post a comment on my blog, or Facebook. Or tweet me @kristinebruneau.

This is my best work today. Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook, or tweet me @kristinebruneau.

Lessons learned from loss – “Jack’s Five Dads”


jacks five dads-1Losing a parent is a profound loss at any age. Children especially have trouble realizing that the loss is permanent, and they can’t organize their emotions the way an adult can. When friend Bob Dedrick lost his battle with cancer, Rob Hovey, of Canandaigua, wanted to do something for Dedrick’s family. But he didn’t know what he could offer. He noticed several men who took an interest in Dedrick’s young son Jack – talking, playing, or just giving him a great big bear hug. Witnessing these actions sparked the idea for the self-published, print-on-deman book “Jack’s Five Dads” a heartfelt story about a young boy who misses his Dad. “I woke up in the middle of the night,” said Hovey. “I knew I needed to write this book.”

Transcending loss to highlight the idea of “it takes a village to raise a child,” Hovey wrote the book so he could help the Dedrick family. A portion of each book sold will be donated to the Bob Dedrick Education Fund in support of his children’s education.

The illustrations were created by Hovey’s brother Jack, who’s a professional designer/illustrator in Baltimore, MD. “I think my brother and I grew closer through the process,” said Hovey. “As soon as he read the manuscript, he agreed to illustrate it. I didn’t realize how many iterations and the amount of effort he put into it. People love the illustrations and seem touched by the content.”

Hovey has some lessons for kids and grown-ups; “Think about the people in your life that you can do something special for. Go inward to help someone in need.”

I think that’s pretty good advice any day. You can learn more and read an excerpt of the book, at

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook.

(also published to the Democrat and Chronicle’s Moms blog)