ACT Prep. It’s a Thing.

In high school I took the ACT {twice} and the SAT because it was what I was “supposed” to do I guess at the time. I didn’t prepare besides getting a good night’s sleep the night before, looking back I don’t think anyone did. We did as well as we thought we could at the time. But these days? Things are different.

ACT tests mean a lot more when it comes to college acceptance and scholarships and preparing for it is not only an option, it’s recommended.

I asked Molly Perry of Academic All Star Tutoring to share a guest post on ACT tests and prep because I, like many other parents I’ve talked to, feel very in the dark about what all this ACT test prep is all about.

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There is a lot of tension in the Braaten house these days.  Their first child, Sydney , is a junior in high school, so she is taking the ACT test again next month.  Her mom and dad are stressed too.  They don’t quite get all this hype about the ACT, since they took it once in high school.  No big deal then.  No classes or prep books for it.  They just took it and went onto college. Heck, they can’t even remember their ACT score! Things aren’t quite so easy for Sydney.

Is the ACT test really more important for Sydney?  YES.  It is no longer just an aptitude test (like back in her parents day), but it has evolved into an intense competition for scholarship dollars and college admissions.

Sydney and her parents have been inquiring about what she needs to get into the college of her choice this entire year.   They’ve been told that admission departments are looking at 3 main criteria.

# 1:  GPA in core and college prep classes.  The colleges typically aren’t too concerned about Sydneys’s PE grade (It was an “A-“), but they certainly want to know how she did in math, science, language arts and such.  Sydney has done well in the GPA area with a 3.75 GPA.

# 2:  Class Choices.  Sydney had several friends choose an easy schedule.  Luckily, she did not.  Her counselor told her that admissions personnel want to see that students are taking harder classes and challenging themselves.   Sydney took a strong course load that included classes like Chemistry, American Literature, AP History and Pre-Calculus.  Her friends may end up with a better GPA, but it won’t be in college prep classes.  Poor choice, buddies.

#3:  Standardized Test Score.  Sydney has done well in high school, which is the best ACT prep of all.  She got an above average score ACT score of a 25.  Most of her friends would be happy with that score.  Yet, she knows that a higher score may be needed because it could be a significant factor for admissions and scholarships.

Another way the road to college has changed in the last few decades is that there are lots more people applying to college than there were when her parents applied.  Syd recently read this information is on the University of Minnesota website:  To date, applications have increased 4% over last year.  We have received more than 44,000 applications for a freshman class of approximately 5,400 students.  It shocks both her and her parents to realize that there are so many young people applying for so few spots at the U. Since Sydney is considering going to the U of M amongst other schools, she decides she must do some sort of ACT prep to increase her chances of getting in.

Since Syd’s parents went to college in the early 80’s the cost of tuition has tripled, outpacing both inflation and family income.  How can they afford to send Syd to college without having her take out tens of thousands in student loans?  They don’t want Sydney to be saddled with a lot of student debt when she graduates, especially in a tough economy.  Her mom was sharing this with a friend and was told some encouraging news.  Her daughter received $12,000 more a year in scholarship money from St. Ben’s when her ACT score went from a 26 to a 28.  A two point increase meant nearly $50,000 to her friend’s family!

Colleges often look to a standardized test score when giving out scholarship money.  They do so because students all across the country are taking the same test.  They realize that a “B” from Sydney’s teacher in Pre-Calculus may be very different than an “A” in another student’s Pre-Calculus class in a small town in North Dakota.

The Braaten family is hopeful that Syd will get into the college her choice, and not be saddled with student debt.  Sydney needs to keep working hard in her tough classes and improve her ACT score.  If so, they’ll soon be unpacking Syd as she moves into her dorm room in just over a year!

The information in this scenario was based on real life stories and research.

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What do you think? Do you have any personal experience with ACT prep and college acceptance? Do you plan on having your child take a prep course?

For more information on Molly and the services Academic All Star Tutoring offers, including PrepStar, an ACT Prep course, visit her website.

Disclosure: While Academic All Star Tutoring is a site advertiser but this was not a sponsored or paid for blog post.

Things Not To Miss.

If you’re a local friend and reader, the new Twin Cities Moms Blog is hosting a Girls Night Out at the West End on May 15! Tickets are $15-20 depending on if you want to attend the movie, Moms’ Night Out.

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I saw this a few weeks ago and will be posting a review later this week. It’s a great movie with an all-star cast! Sarah Drew from Grey’s Anatomy, Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond, Trace Adkins, Sean Astin from GOONIES!

 

There will be drinks and appetizers and lots of giveaways and fun! It’s sure to be a fun time. Join me?

For info and to buy your tickets, visit here.

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Another local deal is happening right now for the Water Park of America. Coined as the largest indoor water park in Minnesota and conveniently located right next to the Mall of America, there are deals on passes for the water park and overnight stays. Overnight stays start at $149 and INCLUDE waterpark passes. The deal is good for passes or stay through June 15!

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One last local event for new and expecting moms happening both Wednesday and Thursday night from 6-7:15pm. The Bump Club will be hosting the new parents guide to diapering, swaddling and bathing at Target. The event is sponsored by Britax, Target, Evenflo, 4Moms, Chicco and BOB. Wednesday’s event is at the Quarry Minneapolis Target and Thursday’s event is at the Ridgedale Target. Both events are FREE, but Bump Club asks that you RSVP at the above links. You don’t need to be a first time parent to attend. {I’ll be attending as media Thursday night, say hi if you’re there!}

And finally, Tea Collection, one of my favorite places to get little girls’ dresses, is having their annual Friends and Family sale. Save 20% on your total purchase {including SALE!} by using code: FRIENDS20

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I bought this one for E today. She is going to be the best dressed kindergartener next year.

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Disclosure: Affiliate links were used in this post.

Sentimental Value.

A week ago last Saturday we did one of those deep, house cleanings and purged like we’ve needed to do for a long while. I am no packrat yet some of the things we’ve accumulated are crazy.

I finally donated some of my old jackets from HIGH SCHOOL. I mean, chances are they will eventually come back in style, right? But it was time.

We washed and dryer and packed away all of the snow stuff {which is probably the reason we got nearly 13 inches several days later}.

And we went through our baby stuff. Now I have no problem getting rid of baby stuff. Done with the swing. Check. Bouncy seat. Check. Playmats.Check. I like to think that I’ve purged as I’ve gone over the years, intentionally only keeping things I know that we would use or favorite outfits instead of all of them. It’s worked out well that way. Even though H was first and we had boy everything, there have been a number of things we’ve been able to pass along to the little girls too.

All three littles wore the same Hanna Andersson fleece snowsuit, all three will play with the same Cozy Coupe car. All three have slept in the same crib, with the same Pottery Barn bedding I just had to have eight years ago and all three now worn one of my favorite gender neutral outfits.

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H got this outfit from my favorite teacher ever, Mr. Gehrke, when he was a baby. Pictured top left H, 11 months, bottom left, E, 14 months and right, F, 11 months!

I’ve always had a love or pass sort of opinion on saving clothes. If I don’t absolutely love it and want to save it once it’s outgrown I pass it. So while F certainly has her share of E’s old clothes, there are also things we’ve had to get not only because of the seasonal difference but because I only saved my favorites.

We’ve gone through a collection of strollers, made decisions on car seats we love and hate, carried our babies close in the same Baby Bjorn and had a variety of diaper bags.

But there are certain things that I find myself stuck on. That even though I know no other baby in this house will wear or use it I can’t pass it along.

And these are strange items.

First,

This Beaver costume.

I mean, please.

We bought this a week before Halloween at Gymboree when H was 6 months old out of costume desperation. I didn’t like any of the offerings I’d seen elsewhere, wanted something warm and different and so we got the Beaver.

It is the least practical Halloween costume ever because you can’t put them in the car seat with it on and they really can’t move with it on and in the end, H was really the only one to wear it.

Yet, here it sits. I can’t get rid of it.

Second,

Their little Robeez shoes.
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I can’t get rid of them.

I love, love, love these little leather elastic shoes. We have 8 or 9 pairs which is so ridiculous, I know. H and E LIVED in them. I think by the time I had F I was less concerned with her footwear as there have been many times I’ve thought, shoot I should have put shoes on her.

It makes no sense to save them really. They will never wear them again. The elastic is likely to be shot in a few years sitting in boxes. But I can’t bear the thought of not being able to see them and hold them up and say, look how little your little feet were.

Third,

Two gender neutral fleece sleepers. My mom bought these way back when and H wore them when he was about 8 months old but they were never my favorite. Yet, after my mom died I couldn’t bear the idea of getting rid of them. I’m not sure E ever wore them and at this point their a little bit for F still so the seasons might not line up for fleece, but I still can’t imagine tossing them.

It’s funny yet interesting the things that I feel sentimental value about. Where certain things can go and I don’t bat an eye, still others make me wince at the idea that I won’t have it.

They say you can tell how much someone values something when they try to sell something by out pricing themselves. I’ve seen it a million times at garage sales and second hand/consignment sales. A nice outfit or dress is priced way high but then I think that mama probably loved that dress on her little girl.

What is it you place sentimental value on? What is it that you can’t imagine passing on or giving away?

Blogging Q & A.

Every few months I get inundated with questions about blogging from friends, family, readers both bloggers and non-bloggers alike. The hows, the whys, the whens and all that jazz. I decided I’d do a quick post on some of the most commonly asked info and link up to some helpful info other bloggers have shared on the ever important topic of blogging.

 

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How to get started:

I think the easiest platform to start with is blogger which is a Google platform. I started with that and switched over to a hosted blog on wordpress after I ran into some design snafus on blogger and also after I decided it was worth it for me to pay to have my blog hosted.

Why?

Well, here’s why not- I think the worst reason to start a blog is for money. There are millions and millions of blogs out there right now. Do NOT go into it to make money. Do it because you are passionate about something whether that’s fashion or parenting or writing. Don’t do it looking for fame and glory and money.

There are a lot of opportunities out there for bloggers, both financially and professionally but you won’t just get handed those opportunities starting out so make a plan, get engaged, find a following and a groove.

I think the best reason TO blog is if you have a story to share. Maybe you’re a really creative cook so you want to share recipes. Maybe your spouse travels a lot for work and blogging is a way of coping and creative outlet. Maybe you just want a way to keep up with friends and family. I believe we all have a story to share and anyone can be a blogger, even if it’s just for you and just for fun.

I started blogging “just for fun” almost 9 years ago now. As I started writing more and doing some freelance work, my readership went up and opportunities presented themselves.

Speaking of money, Do you really make money?

This is the most common question I am asked. YES. I do. {I love this post Hollywood Housewife wrote about how bloggers make money, too!}

The majority of my income comes in three different ways: freelance writing/social media work, sponsored posts here and affiliate links.

What does this mean to readers? Most of the freelance writing/social media work I do I don’t link to here. Sometimes I will if it fits in but mostly I don’t.

I try to only accept sponsored content that fits for me, my family, my lifestyle AND my readers. I turned down a really, really good sponsored opportunity just a few months ago because it was really NOT me at all. I got an email awhile back from someone who was unsubscribing from my blog because she didn’t like the sponsored content. It made me feel icky but that said, I have really worked hard to try to balance that. And also? it’s my livelihood. {Sponsored content comes from many sources including PR agencies, companies direct and groups I belong to such as Mom It Forward, MomSpark, Collective Bias, Massive Sway and Global Impact.}

Affiliate links are bloggers little secrets even though they aren’t so secret. I use and love affiliate links. Some of the companies I am an affiliate with are: Tiny Prints, Tea Collection, Gymboree. When I link to or share a deal or write something about these companies and you click on my link and make a purchase, I receive commission. One of the worst things you can do to a blogger you like is decide to just type in the web address to the site you plan on shopping from when a blogger is linking you to a deal. {I’ve had several people tell me they’ve done this when buying Christmas cards through Tiny Prints. Please use my link!}

I truly do love and enjoy working with the affiliate companies I work with. I choose to work with them and every word I ever write about them is true. I really love Tea Collection dresses for little girls. I love the quality of Gymboree kids clothes. And we use Tiny Prints every chance we get for stationary and holiday card products. I will NEVER share a deal or product that I don’t personally think is relevant or worth it. If I say, this is a great deal on jeans at Gymboree, I mean it’s a great deal on jeans at Gymboree and I’m stocking up.

PS Tea Collections is currently accepting new affiliates and if you have a website or blog and want to join, now’s the time!

Some bloggers use and share Groupon and Living Social deals, I do if it’s something that is local or that I know people I know will use or be interested in but really don’t on a regular basis.

I do use zulily links and frequently share the deals that I personally love or am taking advantage of. {Stitch Fix is another referral program.}

While I offer advertising and this used to be a bigger part of my income, it’s slowly changed. My BlogHer ads are managed by BlogHer and I receive money based on page impressions. I do some self hosted ads that I charge on a monthly or bi-annual basis which are flat rate versus page views.

I also do get “free” things. Some unsolicited. Some I know are coming. Some for reviews, some for compensation or in exchange of work.

When?

The second most commonly asked question I get is when I blog. You really don’t want to know. Where some bloggers carve out time each day to work on posts and plan ahead I can only dream of that.

I still consider Tuesdays and Thursdays my “work” days even with F home because she takes two naps a day and really, I can get some work done with her. That said, a lot of times I try to work on actual paid work first before working on personal blog stuff. I also spend most evenings once the kids are in bed writing or reading other blogs, articles and social media.

I always keep a running list of ideas that I want to share or write about. If there was more time in the day, I’d get to them all but alas sometimes a few weeks go by and what I wanted to say no longer feels relevant.

But what about privacy?

Every blogger has to make their own decisions about what they will and will not write about online. What’s sacred. I’ve noticed and felt as our kids get older there is less I feel inclined to share and while I still have this platform I have to adapt to be respectful of their privacy and story, too. I switched to using initials after I decided I didn’t want my blog to show up when my kids’ names were google-d.

I also try to be cognizant about what friends and family might want shared or not shared. Their perspective might be different than mine but it’s important to not cause hurt and misunderstandings either. Relationships are worth more than blog fodder.

Social media-

When I started blogging, social media wasn’t really a part of the game. Facebook took off, then Twitter, Instagram. Now there’s Pinterest and Google Plus and who knows what else is to come. You must engage. Share. Converse. {I’m really bad at Pinterest and Google Plus so far but some bloggers are really making those tools work!}

I also think that while a good chunk of followers/likes is a good thing, it means nothing if you are not connected. If all you are doing is spouting off links and expecting people to read/comment/share, it’s not going to work. Engage, connect, share other blogs, articles, information.

And if you ever want to give me a gift, SHARE a post you really like via your social media. Not every post, not every day but sharing is the current currency in blog-land.

More info-

This list compiled by another Minnesota blogger, Jen at Life with Levi, is phenomenal and has 36 Answers to Common Blogging Questions. 

What other blogging questions do you have? If you have a blog, share it in the comments. And if you’re a blogger what other tried and true tips and tricks, dos and don’ts, do you have when it comes to blogging? I’ll try to either update this post or post a new post with other info that comes up.

*Disclosure: I used affiliate links in this post.

Diaper Decision Making {Mom to Mom.}

 

Mom to Mom Logo

It’s no secret that a walk through the store and you are bombarded with options. There’s a dozen different brands of tortilla chips, cereal fills and entire aisle and diapers? Oh, the diaper aisle is it’s own little world.

With every box and package claiming that they are indeed the best, how do you know what the best option for diapers are when it comes to quality, price and convenience?
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READ MORE.

Diaper Decision Making {Mom To Mom. Sponsored.}

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mom To Mom.

Mom to Mom Logo

It’s no secret that a walk through the store and you are bombarded with options. There’s a dozen different brands of tortilla chips, cereal fills and entire aisle and diapers? Oh, the diaper aisle is it’s own little world.

With every box and package claiming that they are indeed the best, how do you know what the best option for diapers are when it comes to quality, price and convenience?
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Quality:

I want diapers that look and feel good to the touch and also fit well. I want them to be soft and comfortable on my little one’s bottom and I don’t want them to feel cheap. If as I’m trying to velcro it on, the flap rips off, that’s going to make me crazy because that’s not quality.

Price:

Just because the price is high doesn’t mean the product is better. Many times I’ve found just the opposite. Diapers shouldn’t have to cost a lot.
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Convenience:

Can I swing in to a local store to grab a pack of diapers if we’re running low? That’s a big plus.

Are they going to leak out on to clothes not only causing lots more diaper changes but outfit changes too? If so, that’s a big problem in the convenience department.

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Mom to Mom diapers meet all of the above. An affordable, quality and convenient diaper created by moms, for moms. Who better to design a product that moms will use each day?

The diapers are inexpensive and available at Safeway stores nationwide. {Bummer, Minnesota friends, no Safeway here!} They are made with aloe and Vitamin E which helps protect baby’s skin and they are quality, flexible and leakproof.

How do you decide what kind of diapers to purchase? Are you a cloth user? disposable?

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mom To Mom.

Farm Babies at the Minnesota Zoo.

We took a trip to the Minnesota Zoo earlier this week. Now that spring has sprung we really have to take advantage of getting outside as much as we can.farmbabies

The Wells Fargo Family Farm is open the entire month of April and it was our very first time checking that out. Miss E loved all the little baby farm animals, especially feeding them.
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Miss F was a fan too though the goats were a little intimidating when they came out to say hello to her.


Each spring, the Minnesota Zoo opens the family farm where you can visit cows, chickens, goats, horses, pigs and even bunnies and their new babies. While it’s a hike from the main section of the zoo, there is a free tram ride offered to and from the family farm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. That said, the walk isn’t horrible if the weather is nice.

The zoo is always better with friends.

This weekend the Minnesota Zoo Wells Fargo Family Farm is hosting a PEEPS weekend. The PEEPS mobile and mascot will be on site from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as well as family crafts and activities planned. Animal zoo keepers and even some farmers will be on site to answer questions and share general information about the farm babies.

Farm Babies is included in your general zoo admission. Adults are $18 and children 3-12 are $12. Parking is $7. The Minnesota Zoo is pricey but you can get a family membership starting at $130 which makes sense if your family will visit the zoo 2 or more times a year. Parking is included with memberships. {Kids can participate in this coloring contest and be entered to win a family membership, too.}

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post but due to a working relationship I have with the Minnesota Zoo, they gave us a spring gift including complimentary passes.

Eleven Months Old.

Or as I can’t stop thinking of it. ALMOST ONE!

Miss F turned 11 months on Tuesday and Miss E was the first one to start celebrating. We’d talked about it the day before and somehow, someway E remembered overnight and woke up looking for her sister and started singing Happy 11 Month Birthday!

Miss F is growing so fast. At night when I look in at her I just can’t believe how long her little body is. She’s growing and changing and busy. So, so busy.

She gained four more teeth this month making that six total. And her cute little toothy grin is my favorite.

She loves kisses, peek-a-boo and being tickled. She is so ticklish and her laugh is infectious.


Her blue eyes are crystal clear.

She is crawling and climbing and pulling and doing everything that she can all the time. She loves outside and other people {and kids!} but still likes to be near me. Can make it in the childcare at the gym but not quite the church nursery. That I can’t figure out.

She is super curious, always trying to look at things and figure things out.

She is still a peanut, though she loves to eat. As I type this she sits in the high chair devouring, DEVOURING, cut up turkey and string cheese, veggie straws and pears. She loves to eat.

She is a good sleeper and still sleeps 11-12 hours a night. Naps twice a day but is already so good at going with the flow. We went to the zoo yesterday and she was awake from 6:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. and was FANTASTIC. She passed out less than 2 minutes in the car after the zoo.

Her siblings are her favorite thing. She beams at them when they come home, waves goodbye when they leave and spends hours looking at pictures and kissing them and waving and smiling.

She is a lot of fun. I know I say it every monthly update but I can’t stop. I love this age and stage. I love that I am enjoying it all.
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Happy 11 Months, Miss F! We are so thankful for you and how much joy you bring our life. We love watching you grow and learn every day!

 {Most of the pics on this post are from my instagram. If you’re on there come connect with me at @samarapostuma }

Simple Little Things That Bring Me Joy.

It’s finally, finally spring around here. Like throw open the windows, let the kids play outside without a jacket and grill, kind of spring.

At last.

Things that are making me happy these days:

This busy, busy girl.
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These are the things she does when I’m trying to work.

 Work you say? Yes. In addition to the ebb and flow of my blogging {which can be attributed to the above pictures!} I’m doing some social media consulting/management work for two organizations here in Minnesota right now in addition to some writing for Crow River News. I’ve also got a new gig starting soon with the Star Tribune, more on that to come.

Spring.

Do you see that there is no snow left? Yesterday we were outside ALL afternoon and it was glorious!

Also? Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. Fantastic read.

Stitch Fix.

I finally, finally jumped on the Stitch Fix bandwagon and am so excited that my first fix is scheduled. If you aren’t familiar with Stitch Fix, it’s a style service. You pay $20 and complete a questionnaire about preferences and sizes, they send you several clothing items and you decide if you want to buy them or not. If you do buy them, the $20 style fee goes towards the purchase, if you decide not to, the only cost is the $20 style fee. I’ve heard mixed things about it but feel like it will be good to get some items I really love and wouldn’t necessarily pick out myself. If you’re interested in trying it out, here’s my link.

Seattle.

Like I said last week, later this month J and I celebrate 10 years! And we’re going to Seattle to celebrate! Just a few weeks ago we booked our tickets and we’re in the process of finding our hotel and we’ll be leaving the kids behind come July for a few days. I can’t wait. Seattle has always been on our list.

Have you been? What are your must dos? Or things to skip?

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What are some simple little things bringing you joy these days?

 

Celebrate Easter With HERSHEY’S #BunnyTrail

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If you love Easter candy {like I do} you definitely don’t want to miss your chance to win an assorted box of HERSHEY’S Easter candy.

#bunnytrail

READ MORE HERE!