Samara Tilkens Postuma is raising five kids from infant to teen in the St. Michael area with her husband, Jeff. When not found driving kids to and from activities, helping with homework or at the park or pool, you can find her sharing her life online where she does some freelance writing and social media work and also writes at her own blog,

Posts about Society

How to Stay Organized this School Year

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: September 1, 2014 - 9:22 PM

The first day of school is upon us and so it goes for most families, new routines, schedules, enthusiasm and the like are all a part of the season. We start the year with gusto. We will lay out clothes the night before, pack healthy lunches and go to bed early. But as time goes on it's all too easy to fall into bad habits, both students and parents alike. How do we set things up for all of us to succeed, for us to keep the momentum going both academically and at home? 

Well one piece of the puzzle in our family with five different kid schedules and four different schools is staying organized. And that's not just for us parents, the kids need to help in this department too.

At my son's open house last week, one of the questions the teacher asked us parents was one thing you hoped your child would work on this year. And without skipping a beat I wrote- ORGANIZATION! Because have you ever seen an 8 year old backpack, bedroom or desk? 

Learning how to organize oneself is a developmental skill that kids have to learn and struggle through. As organized as mom and dad are, or try to be, the child has to master it themselves. Some kids are naturally good at this, other kids aren't.

I checked in with Molly Perry owner of Academic All Star Tutoring her thoughts on school and organization and here are some tips from her:

  • The school backpack is a huge indicator of organizational issues for children.  If a student has lots of unnecessary stuff in their backpack (possibly including rodents), it shows that he/she is struggling with organization.  How can they be on top of their studies if he/she cannot find papers pushed down in the bottom of their backpack?  One quick solution to this is to empty out the back each Sunday night and organize it.  It will help a ton!
  • Students should have a quiet area to do homework.  It should be free of distractions, such as the TV or noisy siblings.  And even more important is to have it be a “cell phone” free zone.  Kids just cannot resist the temptation of responding to a text and it takes their focus away from studying.
  • When a child is working on homework it is vital that he/she has all the supplies available in the workspace area.  All too often children are roaming the house looking for a scissors, a calculator, a pencil...  This takes precious time away from actually working on the assignments.  And, often kids feel like they worked on their homework for “more than 2 hours”, but really it was only an hour and fifteen minutes because they were looking for supplies for the rest of the time.
  • We hear from parents all the time that their child does their homework, but then they don’t turn it in at school.  Oh so frustrating!  One reason for this is that students cannot find their homework after they completed it and put it in their backpack.  An easy solution to this is to have a homework only bifold folder.  On one side it says “home” (for all assignments that need to be worked on at home) and the other side has “school” (for completed work to be turned in).  It really works well!! {Sometimes teachers at school will even require students to have this kind of take home folder.}
  • As the year quarter or semester goes on for middle and high school students, they get more and more papers in their binders and folders than they really need.  One easy solution to this is to use a portable file box at home.  They can label a file for each class, which allows them to file graded assignments, handouts and such.  When they have a final or need to get a handout to study from a couple of weeks ago, they know right where to look.
  • Another way parents can help students who struggle with organization is to stay in contact with teachers, either through email or a parent portal system.  If students are missing assignments on a regular basis, all parties need to establish a solid plan of attack.  Teachers deal with organization issues all of the time and they can be a great resource.

What works in your family when it comes to organization? How have you helped your child to be more successful and become more organized?

Chores without the Nagging? Yes, Please.

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: August 28, 2014 - 10:13 PM

Back to school time is a time of establishing new schedules, routines and for some families, starting that tricky balancing act of chores for the kids. 

I like the fact that as my kids get older they can help with chores around the house. What I do not like is the harping on them, reminding them and the double checking business.

Which is why I think FamDoo is a genius solution to that whole "nagging" part of chores.

An even better part of the new app is that it is Minnesota born app. Created by Mark and Susan Lacek of South Minneapolis. They saw a way to reward their kids for chores without having to nag and without having to have cash on hand, admittedly one of my biggest faults when it comes to paying my kids for chores.

The two's app, aptly named FamDoo, solved the problem. Simply download the app {FREE!}, create an account and create task lists and points available per chore for each child to complete. It's in their court. The child decides not to do their chores, they don't earn any points. They do them, they earn points.

And what good are the points? 

That is where a unique partnership, thanks to loyalty program expert Mark Lacek, comes in handy. If you are a US Bank account holder, all those FlexPerks Points can be cashed in for points on the app which in turn are good for gift cards for your kids. Don't have US Bank or FlexPerks Points? No problem, you can purchase points {250 points cost $2.50} which are then redeemable for giftcards. {FamDoo allowance point purchases in any amount costs a flat-rate $2 fee}

The app and program is totally free to download and use and I love that you can decide if you would rather have the rewards be non-monetary or monetary. IE if they are earning a special activity versus an iTunes giftcard.

I recently decided to create an account and start adding tasks for our kids with the hopes that this fall even amidst school schedules and sports, they can really take ownership in completing their chores rather than ME harping on them to do them.

{Super easy, by the way.}

Do your kids do chores? Do you reward them or are they expected? 

Families interested in registering for FamDoo can get 250 free cash-value FamDoo promotional points (a $2.50 value) by using the BTS2014 code in the Referral Code field upon registration.  This referral code is valid one time per family upon the initial registration process only through Sept. 30, 2014. The promotional points will be deposited to the parent account of the newly registered family up to 7 business days after the date of registration. This offer is subject to change at any time without notice. This offer is subject to the general Terms of Use of the Service (see for these details).

Back to School Nerves and When To Be Concerned

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: August 25, 2014 - 1:43 PM

It's not entirely uncommon to experience a myriad of emotions with the start to the school year. Even as a parent, I am feeling happy {yay for a schedule and structure again} and sad {boo to a schedule and structure again}. I am excited for my kids, yet miss them already. If this is how I feel as an adult I can only imagine the mix of emotions on our kids.

Some kids will express their nerves by saying, "I'm nervous {or excited, scared, happy...}, still others won't say anything but parents might see a change in behavior while their child adjusts. 

I recently spoke with Dr. Mike Troy, a psychologist at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and asked him some of his thoughts on back to school nerves.

1. Have patience

"Don't mistake all transitions as a disorder," Dr. Troy said. It's normal for kids to adjust to the start of the school year, to be nervous, to be excited. Just because the first week is an adjustment doesn't mean your child has a clinical diagnosis, it just means be patient and continue to see how they adjust.

2. Compare

Last school year how was your child doing by the third week of school? How were they doing by Halloween? Look back and decide how long the adjustment took last year. Do you see a change in their behavior? Are they typically a happy, outgoing child who now seems withdrawn? Then it might be time to have a conversation with your child's teacher.

How are they doing compared to other kids at the same developmental stage? There is a wide range. 

3. Engage

Most adults are good at identifying externalizing problems but not as good at identifying internalizing problems. So have a conversation. What do you worry about? What does it mean to be a successful student?

Have a conversation with their teacher and find out how it seems they are adjusting if you are concerned. Compare notes at home and school and enlist the help of your child's primary care doctor. "Typically a child's primary care doctor knows the family and the child's development and can help assess if additional help and support is needed," Dr. Troy said.

4. Reflect

What tools have you and/or your child used in other challenging situations? "This isn't a different territory or skill set," Dr. Troy said adding that if trying things that have worked in the past aren't helping it's a concern.

Remember, we all adjust to the start of something new whether that is the start of the school year, a new baby, a new job or any other transition life has. Dr. Troy reminds us "don't see the adjustment and transition as a negative. We need these challenges in our lives. It's easy for parents to automatically see these behaviors as a negative but it's how you grow."

In the end, transitioning, making new friends, expressing nerves about situations like the start of school builds resilience and just as we need exposure to germs for our immune system, we need exposure to these sorts of developmentally appropriate challenges to realize strengths and weaknesses.

What sorts of tips do you have for parents and children nervous about the start of the school year? What has worked in your family in the past?

Taking the Kids to the Minnesota State Fair

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: August 21, 2014 - 12:38 PM

Taking your kids to the Minnesota State Fair can cost a small fortune, but it doesn't have to. Here are some tips and ideas for taking your kids to the fair and not breaking the bank.

1. If you didn't buy advance tickets, go on a promotional day to save money. Kids Day takes place Monday August 25 and Monday September 1 and kids 5-12 are $8 compared to $11. Or bring the whole family on Read and Ride Day {and bring everyone's library cards!} on Wednesday August 27 where adults are $11 and kids are $8. Kids under age 5 are always free.

2. Feed your kids before you arrive. This seems like a no-brainer right? But we all know how the sights, sounds, smells of the fair affect us adults, imagine being a kid. Plan on buying things to share instead of everything individually to not only save some money but also allow everyone to try more items.

3. Buy a Blue Ribbon Bargain Book. Just $5 and includes more than $900 in savings. Just using a coupon or two pays for the book over and over agin.

Visiting the fair doesn't have to mean rides, rides, rides. Of course kids want to ride rides and play games {does anyone ever win?} but there are a lot of FREE family activities that take place every day of the fair. 

1.The barns and animals are a fun thing to do but how about actually milking a cow? Each day at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Land O Lakes Stage outside the Cattle Barn you can try your hand at handmilking a cow. Or visit Kemps Little Farm Hands where kids ages 3-10 can ride tractors and try things out at a pint-size mock farm exhibit. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

2. Friday, August 22 you can visit the DNR Park and Building to celebrate Smokey the Bear's 70th birthday a and also help make an ornament that will decorate the US Capitol Christmas Tree this Christmas. This year's Christmas Tree will be traveling from Chippewa National Forest to D.C. and more than 10,000 ornaments representing Minnesota will be made for this tree and 60-70 smaller accompanying trees. Both events take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow.

3. Eco Experience activities. This year there will be a visual of the world's largest wad of paper and also a Nature Adventure Play Yard. It's an outdoor, multi-sensory, exploratory experience, including sand and water and even a construction zone. Intended for ages 2-12, enjoy some free unplugged time here.

4. Alphabet Forest

An entire area devoted to kids and the alphabet, kids can play games, win prizes, meet authors and learn about the State Fair alphabet. Located at Family Fair in Baldwin Park, this area is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday of the fair.

Do you plan on going to the fair with your kids? What are some of the activities you enjoy or plan on checking out? 

Day of the Dozers

Posted by: Samara Postuma Updated: August 19, 2014 - 2:57 PM

If you have kids who LOVE trucks, tractors, construction vehicles and more you will not want to miss the Day of the Dozers. The event takes place on Saturday September 13 in Elk River at the ERX Motor Park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kids will even get to ride the Big Equipment with a trained and qualified professional operator, and all proceeds go towards a great cause- Children's Hospitals and Clinics.

Last year the event raised a little over $5000 and this year's goal is $10,000.

Adult admission is $10 and kids admission is $5. You can pay when you arrive but you might want to save time by filling out your waiver beforehand online right here.

For those early birds that day, the first 500 children will receive a free toy construction hat.

Do you have a truck and construction loving kid in your house? Will you be attending?


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