When you just don’t like your teen

I love my children.  But there are times I just don’t like them.  Especially teenagers!  What’s the deal with teenagers?

Well,  let me tell you. They are mouthy, rude, disrespectful,  selfish,  and sometimes just plain nasty.

I had worked with other people’s teenagers for around 9 years before having one of my own. Other people’s teens love me!  My own…I definitely wonder.

Now that I have two in my house I can tell you my theory on teens seems to be true. My theory is they turn into demon spawns around 12 or 13, and start turning into humans again after they turn 17.  It was most certainly true for my oldest,  and my 14 year old is knee deep in his demon transformation.  In fact,  I’ve resorted to calling him a cactus (code word for prick since my oldest has been calling him that lately).

This is why I say its ok to not like your child.  After all,  who likes a person who is rude,  disrespectful,  and downright nasty?

Here’s a few ways to handle those demon spawns.

1. Let them know they are still loved.

 Trust me when I say I understand how difficult it is to love someone you don’t really like at the moment. But teens need to know you still love them regardless of their behavior and attitude issues.  This is one of the hardest times for them and they need to know you’re going to be on their side.

2. Let them know home is a safe place to be themselves.

 I want my kids to be able to come home from school and have a safe place to be who they are.  In my house this is more an issue of the older kids constantly picking on the younger kids for being “annoying” or  “talking to much.”  But it also comes in the form of letting your teens be demon spawns if they need to be.  Which leads me to my third point…

3. Let them know it’s ok to be in a bad mood.  

Right now my 14 year old’s every day persona is a mean and grumpy jerk.  To everyone.  All the time.  Its nonstop.  And I completely understand how that feels. It’s called hormones.  I know I, myself, can feel like I hate everyone around me when hormones are high, and his hormones are high.  All. The. Time.

This week I needed to let him know it’s ok to be in a bad mood once in awhile,  that’s human nature. And I drew a comparison of myself when I know hormones are changing my moods.  I let him know, however,  that he needs to talk about being in a bad mood and not just lash out at every one he sees.  Let us know he’s grumpy so we give him his space. We aren’t mind readers, and honestly his every day attitude and his grumpy attitude have been the same lately.

 4. Let them know they still need to be respectful to authority, no matter their mood. 

 This one is important.  About three days ago my teen popped off pretty bad at dinner time.  It was to the point it was a full blown screaming match before he left the kitchen in tears, after yelling at me a command to stop talking to him.

You see,  he was completely out of line with his tone and attitude towards his younger sister. His words were mean and unnecessary, and it’s been how he is acting lately.  When I pointed out he was crossing the line, he turned to yelling at me.  My response to this is a life lesson.

We are all human and will all have bad days,  but you can’t just go around treating people, especially people in authority,  like that.  I pointed if he had a job and talked to a customer or his boss like that he would be fired.  In MY house I AM his authority, and let him know he is to NEVER speak to me in that manner again.

Be understanding,  but don’t lay down to these outbursts.

5. Continue to ask them how their life is going,  even if they don’t seem to want to talk to you.  

 Not going to lie,  this one is hard.  It’s hard to be nice to a kid you’d rather punch in the face sometimes (figuratively speaking, mostly).  I’ve definitely had an issue trying to get through to the teens when they are going through this stage.  But I continue to do it because it shows I still care. And beyond that,  I actually DO want to know how his day went.

6. They will come out of this stage.  Just be patient. 

I promise,  if you continue to show your teens love they will come out of their demon spawn stage.  Around 17 or so they should start to mature a little, the hormones calm down a bit (not all the way but the bulk of puberty is done so they aren’t quite as bad), and the human side starts to come back.

Like I said, I worked with teens for 9 years prior to having one in my house.  I’ve seen the change in other people’s kids,  and I’ve seen it in my own.  My oldest has come such a long way from his “cactus”
 years.  And even though my 14 year old is hard to like sometimes,  I have no doubt he’ll come out of this stage and be better because of it.

How to get your kids to do chores

I have spent years trying to create a streamlined and stress-free way to get my kids to do chores. Is it still stressful? Yeah, pretty much every day we do them. Has it gotten easier? Yes. Definitely.

We have gone through numerous different strategies over the years. The one I landed on is a color coded list that rotates between 4 weeks, weeks A, B, C, and D. It looks like this:

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To make it easier for them to have everything they need in one place, I went to the dollar store and bought plastic baskets. I labeled each one with the room they correspond to: Bath up, Bath down, Family room, Living room, Stairs and Landing. The kitchen supplies stay under the kitchen sink.

I loaded each basket with every cleaning supply needed to clean each room. For example, the bathroom baskets have toilet bowl cleaner, glass cleaner, antibacterial wipes, tub cleaner, a sponge, a roll of paper towels, and rubber gloves. Yes, there are TWO bathroom baskets, with the same supplies. I found that when there two kids trying to clean two bathrooms at the same time, they fight. Same thing with the supplies for the living room and family room.

Yes, you WILL have to remind them to put the baskets away, and yes you WILL have to check all the supplies yourself to make sure they aren’t empty, because as many times as you tell them to put the empty ones on the grocery list, they won’t.

So the list is part one, the basket is part two, part three? The dreaded check list. Yes I have created an extensive check list for EVERY room. Each room, even the bathrooms, have different needs. This chore day is meant to be a thorough cleaning of the house, not just a clean up day. An example of the kitchen list is:

Kitchen
□ Dishes are completely washed
□ Sinks are both emptied and bleached
□ Counters are completely cleared off and cleaned. This includes cleaning under blender, bread box, knives, can opener, and behind faucet by sink
□ Stove is cleaned, including top and oven door front
□ Dishwasher is properly cleaned with stainless steel cleaner
□ Front of fridge is wiped down
□ Cabinet fronts are wiped down
□ Microwave front is cleaned and inside checked for cleaning
□ Table top is clean
□ Floor is swept and mopped
□ Cabinet separating kitchen and living room is cleared and wiped off
□ Take out garbage and recycling

Does this seem like a lot? Maybe. But here is the thing, there are SEVEN people in this house, and I don’t make this mess alone. I’m not gonna clean it alone. And because there are four of the five doing this, this breaks down to each kid cleaning each room in the house ONE time each month. And, obviously, these lists are age appropriate. My six year old does NOT do the kitchen, just cleans the kitchen table.

The thing about the check list is getting them to actually FOLLOW it, which is still a work in progress. But, they are getting better. And it’s really easy to hand them the list when it’s time to clean. And just as easy to use it when I check (and I do need to check) to see if it is done correctly. If it isn’t done, they go back in. I wouldn’t say I use a white glove to check them, but it’s close. Why I do this is I’m trying to instill a good work ethic in my kids. Right now, this is their job at home. Half of the time, if they were at a paid job for these chores, they’d be fired for poor work.

I’m trying to ready them for real life, for both future jobs and future adult life. I have heard from numerous people in their 20s that they didn’t have chores, or that their parents did everything for them. Um, no. It is my job to raise kids who can be adults who can take care of themselves. Yes, you need to know how to clean a toilet. Yes, you need to know how to do your own laundry (they start here at age 10). Yes, you need to know how to cook a meal (or twenty).

Eventually, once my kids are out on their own, they will appreciate the fact they are able to do these things on their own, even if right now they dread chore day as much as I do!

I don’t buy my kids stuff for Christmas

I have 5 children, and a house that can’t handle 20 new presents every year for Christmas. Between the presents they receive from my husband and I, Santa (obviously also my husband and I), grandparents on both sides, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, it can be overwhelming for the household to get “stuff.”

Last year I decided that any tangible items they asked for would be doled out to family members, and the more expensive ones would come from Santa. (We still had two believers last year, so we do ALL still go see Santa for pictures, where even my 17 year old plays along with asking for what he wants.) Instead of stuff, we would try to get the kids “experiences.”

I grew up in a house with five children. Some of us felt lost in the mix, not getting individual attention from both parents. I didn’t want my kids to feel that way. So I started to brainstorm what we could take the kids to do that would become a date night with my husband and I.

What I ended up with was a great amount of memories, a ton of pictures, and scrapbook pages for their books! Instead of wasting money of things they didn’t really want just to fill the amount of presents for each child, I created individual certificates to wrap and put under the tree for each child’s experience. The other presents the kids received were tied into these date nights, as much as they could be.

My daughter went to the Signature room, an upscale restaurant in the John Hancock building downtown Chicago, and a new dress to match. Plus a trip to the salon to get her hair done.

My oldest got a ticket for not just him, but also his girlfriend, to see Phantom of the Oprah in downtown Chicago. He couldn’t wear his typical jeans and hoodie, so I bought him a brand new suit, one he’ll have for years. He also got a fancy dinner in an upscale restaurant before hand.

My youngest got a day at the Legoland Discovery Center for him and a friend of his choice. He also got a dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. He was five at the time, so yes, he did have toys he wanted, but this year I’ve been asking for what he wants and his reply was to go back to Legoland!

During the summer, Great America was handing out coupon sheets for Medieval Times. I thought this would be perfect for my then 11 year old. It was! He enjoyed himself very much, and ended up with a sword and a sheild that hang on his bedroom door.

The present for my then 13 year old is actually what created this idea. He didn’t want to go to his 8th grade Washington D.C. trip with his class. Instead, he wanted to go with us. So, I planned for him to take a friend (my nephew) and go over the same weekend as his school. It cost us the same amount of money for all 4 of us as it would have for just him to go because we drove. This single child excursion is what created the new Sanneman family Christmas tradition!

This year, I’ve been asking the kids what they want for Christmas, as the requests from family have now started, and I am at a loss. Aside from a few items (literally like 2 or 3 each), I am finding myself once again racking my brains to find ideas to give out. I just don’t know!

What I DO know is they are all getting experiences again. Why? Because when I asked my youngest what he wanted, his gave that answer, “to go back to Legoland!” I guarantee he doesn’t recall ANY of the things he opened last year, but he remembers that. Memories. Isn’t that what’s most important after all?

If this is something you want to try, and you aren’t sure what to do for these experiences, I suggest starting to look on apps like Groupon. They have a great number of things to do that I wouldn’t do on my own (horseback riding, music lessons, glass blowing classes, etc.). I also found one of the kids night out on Facebook this year. Be creative with this, it can be so much fun. It is pretty easy to make it age appropriate. Even if it’s a movie night with just you, or bowling, or a day downtown. Try going ice skating, or to Dave and Buster’s. It creates a great bond between you and your children, and nothing is better than hearing “remember when we went to….” come out of their mouths. After all, that is what it’s all about.

Asian Steak Skewers

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I am always looking for ways to change up typical meat.  Steak can be a difficult one to change up because it can be more on the expensive side, so chopping up and marinating steak may be difficult for some steak purists.  However, these steak skewers did not disappoint!  I tend to buy only rib-eye, as I like the marblization, but you could use sirloin steak as well for these tasty little steak morsels!

I, as well as my family, am a fan of Asian flavors.  I tend to do a lot of Asian marinades. Of course you can buy store bought ones, but I like to adjust flavors to fit my taste buds!

You could do a quick marinade with this instead of creating the steak skewers, but I like to make things a bit fancier and these bite sized steaks made it easy to not have to cut up food for the kids!  I used metal skewers, and would not recommend using wood ones as they tend to burn and make it difficult to keep the skewers together.  However, if you do use wooden ones just make sure you soak them in water first for about an hour.  This helps the food not stick to them and will lessen the likelihood they will catch fire.

For this recipe, you’ll want to cut the steak into cubes, as uniform as possible, about an inch by an inch.  Once the steak is cut, marinate it for at least an hour, longer if possible.  I like to reserve a bit of the marinade to baste the meat with and have a bit extra as a “steak sauce” to use if you are a condiments person like me!

Once the steak is done marinading, skewer it up and ready the grill!  Be sure to cook these on all sides for a uniform sear, but not too long or you’ll have jerky!  The length of time on the grill depends on how you like your steak.  We are medium well eaters in this house!

Asian Steak Skewers:

  • 2 pounds sirloin or ribeye steak diced into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons diced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • sesame seeds and green onion for garnish

Combine all ingredients (minus the steak and garnish) in a bowl and stir until all ingredients are well incorporated.  Then you can can either transfer the marinade to a ziplock bag to add the steak to (how I do it) or add the steak to the bowl.  REMINDER- if you are taking any of the marinade out to baste with be sure to do it before adding the meat.

Let meat marinade at least an hour and then skewer the cubes.  Place on grill and turn every few minutes to hit each side.  Remember don’t cook them too long on any one side or you will over cook them.  If you are basting, be sure to add a little sauce every time you turn them.

Once the steak is done to your liking, pull the skewers off and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.  I served these with a rice pilaf made with Jasmine rice and sauteed onions, mushrooms, celery, and garlic.  Add in a veggie and your dish is complete!

Why I don’t give my kids allowance

I grew up in a house where Friday was chore day.  We took turns in each room and never got an allowance for that work.  At 16 I got a job,  and started paying for things myself.  At 18, I lived on my own,  with my own car payment,  apartment rent,  and credit cards.  

What I learned from that is how to appreciate what I had,  what I bought,  and it instilled a good work ethic in me. 

Today with my own five kids, Friday is chore day, or deep cleaning day if you will. They each have assigned rooms,  and in any given month they only clean each room once.  

Now you might be thinking,  “if they have chores shouldn’t they be getting a  allowance?”  My answer is no. These are chores they have to contribute to the family. The bathrooms,  the kitchen,  the living room — all rooms they make messes in.  

Now,  this is not to say my kids can’t EARN money by doing things around the house not included in weekly chores.   My fourteen-year-old regularly helps me in the yard and earns money that way. Yesterday my ten-year-old wanted extra money to buy a case for the tablet that I purchased for her. So she decided to help bleach the grout in the kitchen that needed to be done desperately.

My thoughts are not giving them allowance for these weekly chores comes from the fact that it is still a weekly battle to get them to do things and do them correctly.  It is my job as a parent to prepare my kids for adult life.  If a manager had to reprimand my children like I do…THEY WOULD BE FIRED!  

While yes, I take into consideration their ages with what my expectations are,  a 7th grader and freshman in high school should be able to complete tasks correctly.  As should my senior in high school, as he is actually old enough to HAVE a job.  

Now, my two older boys do a good job at this point.  However, even for these weekly chores I still do not give them monetary allowance. Rather they get allowance in cell phones,  rides to friends’ houses, and trips to numerous places for fun…all at my expense. 

I feel if they want more,  they should DO more. Pull some weeds,  paint the deck,  scrub the kitchen fan which has started growing things.  Earn it.  Learn a new task.  Grow your work ethic.  Become more productive.  Life doesn’t have hand outs.  

And that is why my kids do not get an allowance! 

Cherry Wood Smoked Chicken

I’m not one to eat meat on bones, so to make a whole chicken was a new experience for me.  But, with this smoker my husband bought for me this past Christmas, it was my goal to smoke at least one meal a week.

I was hosting a quiet Saturday night bonfire with a few family and friends and decided to throw dinner together as well.  I figured whole chicken would not only be delicious, but affordable.  These chickens were around $5.00 a piece at Aldi, and that wasn’t even on sale!  Perfect for a large group without breaking the bank.

So here’s the trick to making the perfect smoked chicken — Brine it first!  I brined both of these chickens in a cooler with water, garlic powder, sugar, and salt.  This step is great for any poultry.  I have brined turkeys and it makes for the best and most tender meat.  One thing to be sure to add is ice, I didn’t have the ability to put this in the fridge so I added the ice to keep the correct temperature.

After the chicken brines over night, take it out and pat it down with paper towels to dry it off.  I did A LOT of research on how to smoke a chicken and what I found is that the skin tends to become rubbery.  I found a way around this…butter. For that crispy skin I achieved in the picture, I melted butter and then added my spices to create a wet rub.  I added a lot of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, salt, and pepper.  That was it.  I wish I could tell you the amounts but to be honest, I have been cooking long enough I don’t measure.  I do it by eye balling and we like our seasoning so I tend to be heavy handed.  I can tell you I did about the same amount of paprika as the rest of the spices combined.

Now, as far as the smoker…I have found that my electric smoker tends to cook whatever I put in there faster than the recommended time.  Instead of cooking the chicken at 225 degrees as recommended, I set it at 195 for the first few hours.  The trick to a smoker is low and slow so I lowered the temp a little.  I used cherry wood, which gave a great flavor.  After the internal temp hit 140 I turned the smoker up to 205 for an hour and then 225 for the final hour.  This is because the meat hit a plateau, which means it gets “stuck” at the same temp for longer than any other temp.  Raising that temp up allowed it to get past that in time for my guests!  The changing of temps may not be necessary for you or your smoker, but because my smoker tends to cook faster than it should I have adjusted for it.

Once the meat got to it’s correct internal temp of 165 I pulled it out and let it rest (as you should do for pretty much all meat) for 15 minutes.  Now I will tell you I pulled those chickens out and put them on a cookie sheet.  The skin on the top was nice and crispy but the bottom was soggy.  So, I will put a cookie cooling rack on top of the cookie sheet to keep that more crisp next time.

After you let it rest…DIG IN!!!  This was so tender, juicy, and gone in a few minutes!

One trick I can tell you is to use the carcasses (gosh that sounds gross) to make your own chicken stock.  I took both and threw them in the crock pot with a little water, a chopped onion, and that was it.  The flavor of the smoke comes through really well into the stock. I actually used my stock tonight to make a goat cheese risotto and you could really taste that smoke!  It paired really well with the smoked pork tenderloin that was for dinner tonight!

Hopefully this will encourage you to go out and try some new recipes yourself!

All About My Blog

Hello blog readers!  This is my new blog about life.  Why about life?  Well, let me tell you a little about myself.  I am a wife, the mother of five children, a certified teacher, an actress and model, and a bartender.  I also love to cook, grill, and smoke (in a smoker only–just to be clear!) new recipes.  I am an avid gardener, I spend a ton of time scrapbooking my children’s lives, and I am a DIY queen (for both hosting parties and redoing things in my house).  I Pinterest all the time, and turn those pins into NAILED IT successes.  

Now you see the problem!  I couldn’t decide WHAT to blog about, so I will blog about numerous topics, for people with kids, for people without kids, for people who love to cook, and those who want to but don’t know where to start, for those who want to garden, and those who want to host parties.  

So thank you for being a part of my new blog!