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1944 Valedictorian Speech Eerily Relevant Today

1944 Valedictorian Speech Eerily Relevant Today

My 92 year-old Pop was Willows High School Valedictorian in 1944 (among other cool things, but that’s another blog post). He just passed away recently, and my brother and were sorting out some of his memorabilia. During this process, we came across his Valedictorian Speech. His words were both poignant and relevant to many of the world’s issues and concerns today.

A handsome devil at 18 – Pop’s senior portrait.

It’s incredible to think that young Dean Bailey would graduate from high school and immediately volunteer to join the US Army. And fight in World War II. At age 18. With our oldest daughter soon to be 18, that just blows my mind. Little did he know his valedictorian speech would be relevant today in 2019.

Valedictorian Speech Relevant Today

Rather than me try to paraphrase, here it is in it’s entirety.

Friends and Fellow Students:

In past years the Valedictorian of the Graduating Class might have spoken about how those going out from such an occasion as this were to take their place in the nation’s industry. Or how some would continue their education among the lines of their individual interests. Today, individual interests are secondary.

Almost over night our country has decreed that boys are now men, and girls are now women. We are called upon to do our part in a cause that stands before us both as a great challenge and a great opportunity for service. We have attended high school as boys but we graduate now as men, many of whom are soon to train for military service. High school girls are quickly becoming women – women who are expected to carry on many types of work that would release men for fighting positions. In this critical situation, the youth of American can be relied upon to fulfill every expectation.

(OK, a little sexist but it was 1944.)

Pop spent more time on a boat in the US Army than his best friend Bob, who enlisted in the Navy.

Democratic Principles

If our way of life is to survive, if our democratic principles are to continue as a basis for our nation’s government, then we must bring this war to a conclusive end. We must win an unconditional surrender from our enemies so that we can build a better world free from tyranny and united with closer and friendlier relations. We must not only win this war, but win our peace also be preparing for it now as well as after the war.

Good Leadership

A successful outcome to these preparations requires good leadership. Our leaders in political and community life must be capable, intelligent and honest, worthy of the faith of the people. It is their business to guard the interests of the country that makes it possible for us to live the way we want to live. Leaders can only reflect the characteristics of those who choose them to lead.

If our leaders are to be capable, intelligent and honest, then these characteristics must prevail in us, the voters.

This fact places the responsibility first on the independent citizen. He will be you and I. It is now more than ever our obligation to inform ourselves of the problems that confront our government and our country and come to an understanding on them, realizing that the force of the nation can merely be the combination of forces of all the citizens of the nation.

We must lay aside our individual interests until we have ridden the world of this menace that threatens our very civilization. We cannot win this war as a people pulling against each other, each struggling for our own benefits. These personal ideals are the things we are fighting for, the right to work for what we want, to do as we wish within the limitations of the law. But until this war is over, we have to sacrifice these privileges so that we can work together, as one people united for freedom.

Even now it seems that the light of victory is in sight, but we dare not slacken our pace. The war is yet to be won. The hardest battles are still ahead of us. It is the duty of the people here, on the home front, to stand fast and sacrifice graciously so that the boys over there can come home as quickly as possible, safely and victoriously.

Pop saw some serious combat on Okinawa, and would never ever talk about it.

Called to Service

At best, we will have our hands full for a long time to come. Many of us who are not yet in uniform will be called into service soon, and we will be ready. Those of us who are not suitable for military or naval service or who re required for farms and production lines here at home will have to be ready too – ready for more sacrifices, more work, harder work, more sorrow even, and heartache.

But if each person has within his heart the conviction that we can make this war the war to end all wars, that we can have a prolonged peace, then of this we may be certain. That the things we love and live for will be preserved for our children and their children after them, They they will enjoy these things because of us and because of what we are doing. That the day will come when we can once again take up the instruments of peace, proud in the consciousness that we did not stumble or falter when the job was before us.

After the War, Pop shipped home to see his mom in Willows, CA.

Memories for Our Children

Everyone should have his reasons for fighting in this war. I have mine. I fight because of my memories – the fun we used to have when we were kids. The football games I’ve played in, sprinting the last stretch in the mile, camping in the mountains with the Boy Scouts. Fishing in the old “Catfish Hole”, my first real date, walking in the rain, listing to good music. Mother, and how she used to tuck me into bed. If people like you and like me do not fight for memories such as these, our children may never experience them. And the world of tomorrow would be a cruel one, indeed, without some pleasant memories of the past.

In closing, I wish to congratulate you, my classmates, on your many outstanding achievements of the past four years. As you go out into this world of today, I hope you will realize that in your hands, my young fellow students, lies the future of our country.

L. Dean Bailey, Willows High School Valedictorian, Class of 1944


Returning home, Pop looks older and a bit more world-weary.

What a cool guy, my Pop, and so eloquent at such a tender young age. Innocence forever lost, but so much gained in the process. Thank you Pop, and thanks to all the men and women who gave everything to ensure our freedom, 75 years ago.

And those that serve our country today.



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Equipping Your College Kids’ Medicine Chest

Equipping Your College Kids’ Medicine Chest

This post was sponsored by College Student First Aid Kit, but honestly we’d write about it anyway because it’s so darn cool.

Although it might seem early to be thinking about the start of the school year in the Fall, a lot of kids are graduating soon. Yikes! Sophia and Ava have a bunch of friends who are seniors, soon to walk in their high school graduation ceremonies. These kids (mostly their parents really) are obsessively making lists upon lists of all the things they need to equip their college dorms. But rarely do they think about the medicine chest, or a college student first aid kit for their college-bound kid.

It seems like something a parent might not think about. In the hubbub of getting ready, packing up necessities, clothes, school supplies and such, a college student first aid kit may not be on the forefront. Until it’s needed, anyway.

Created by a mother of 2 college students, the College Student First Aid Kit is the ideal antidote for clueless college kids.

man with College Student First Aid Kit

Ordering from the website was easy, and my College Student First Aid Kit arrived at my door.

College Student First Aid Kit

To be honest I would not have thought about this either, but it makes perfect sense. A college-bound kid, particularly a freshman on their own for the first time, may not know how to fully care for themselves. They’ve been all cushy at home, surrounded by caring family members and friends. When they get sick or hurt, there is a village of loved ones nearby to help.

Move away to college and live in a dorm, and all of a sudden that support system is gone. When that college student gets sick, they are left hanging on to dim memories of treatments their parents might have administered back home.

Like a portable medicine chest, the College Student First Aid Kit is packed full of first aid supplies and remedies. After all, the creator of this kit is a Certified Nurse Practitioner and mom.

College Student First Aid Kit

Compact and organized, the College Student First Aid Kit is easy store for ready use.

Packed Full of Goodness

We’ve got the Premium Plus First Aid Kit ($89.95). As I looked through the well-stocked and very organized kit, I was impressed with how much thought it’s creator, Beth Palmer Stewart, put into each chosen item.

Beth thought about everything. It seems that when her own kids were going to college, she went looking for a first aid kit to send along with them and she couldn’t find one. She painstakingly researched all the things a college student would need in medications and supplies. Sourcing items carefully, she selected all the best items based on her research.

fully stocked First Aid Kit

In case of college dorm craziness, or zombie apocalypse, this kit will help students cope.

Our Premium Plus First Aid Kit has cold medicine, cough drops, a thermometer, eye drops, ear drops, anti-itch cream and more. It also includes a hangover kit, because let’s face it. These kids are college students, and may on very rare occasions have a drink. Or two.

The Premium Plus First Aid Kit sells for $89.95, and the Premium First Aid Kit is priced at $74.95. There is also a more compact, portable First Aid Travel Kit for the car, luggage or sports, which is priced at $64.95.

(I wish this had been around when I was a college freshman. It would have come in very handy!)

girl with portable First Aid Kit

Sophia is happy to know there is a thermometer in the kit as well.

First Aid Essentials

All kidding aside, I honestly think if one of our girls injured themselves they would not be prepared. If we did not buy them all the essentials, pack it up and send it with them in a box, our kids would be clueless.

The College Student First Aid Kit also contains bandages, gauze, antiseptic, bandaids and other stuff for wound care. It parents had to buy all this stuff individually and try to cobble this kit together ourselves, we’d spend a bloody fortune. (Pun intended.) This kit saves both time and money!

I mean, how many of us parents would run around town to buy comforters and fancy bedding for our kids’ dorm rooms. How about dorm room decor that will get trashed by Christmas, or plants that will die before the Fall Semester is half way through?

girl with box of eye drops

They’ve thought of everything to put in this kit – including eye drops!

This College Student First Aid Kit is a good investment in making sure my kid makes it to class in one piece. With all that money we’ll be paying for four (or five) years of college, we want to ensure they make it to classes.

Investing in our kids health and safety suddenly seems like an even higher priority!

First aid kit stocked full

This kit is stocked full of all the essentials.

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3 Mother’s Day Activities for Homes Without Moms

3 Mother’s Day Activities for Homes Without Moms

There are Mother’s Day activities and things your family can do, even if – or maybe especially if – your kids don’t have a mom in the picture. You might have chosen to have your household be motherless. Or that choice may have been forced upon you. The key to navigating this holiday is to figure out what works best for your family and be sensitive to your needs (and not what people think you should need). So we’re sharing 3 Mother’s Day activities for homes without moms – like ours!

Triton’s mom Patricia on the left, and Jon’s mom Anne on the right. Both gone too soon!

The truth is that Mother’s Day can be a mine field. There are families like ours with two dads, single dad families, and loving, non-traditional households that don’t include a biological mother for a myriad of reasons. Forget what Hallmark, your nosy neighbor, and your local brunch spot thinks you should do this Mother’s Day. Just do you.

Here are three Mother’s Day activities for homes without moms.

You’ve got options!

When the girls were little.

3 Mother’s Day Activities For Homes Without Moms

Option 1: Lay low.

Skip the brunches, breakfasts and flower-laden dinner specials that abound every Mother’s Day. Turn off the TV too, and banish those sticky-sweet commercials and TV specials that are sure to come on. Why not spend today playing old school board games with your kids? (Just call it retro and they may be more inclined to indulge you.)

Maybe spending the afternoon baking those special chocolate chips cookies your own mother baked for you. That would make for a sweet day with your kids. (Pun totally intended.) My mom made these rad oatmeal-raisin-chocolate chip numbers that I really need to find the recipe for!

This could also be a good time for a self-care time out. Maybe this means getting a massage, or just giving yourself permission to sit down to read a book, or (Gasp!) take a nap!

lotus flower in girl's hands

Even the smallest of gestures can mean so much.

This option means you choose to opt out of Mother’s Day this year. And listen to me when I say this: That’s totally OK.

Option 2: Focus on Mother Earth.

You may think this is possibly too kitschy of an idea, but why not? The Earth really is the ultimate mother, right?

Spend time in the garden. (A community garden or a friend’s garden is acceptable if you don’t have one handy at home.) You could even decorate planters and bring some flowers indoors. Personally, I think Mother Earth would love a sweet little herb garden on my back deck as a Mother’s Day present!

girl picking carrots

Gardening is a great way for the family to spend time together.

You can also take the kids out to pick up trash in your community and let them post their #cleanupchallenge selfie, (which is trending and guaranteed to get them likes. #Bonus.) We did this on the beach in our hometown recently, and it was actually pretty fun.

If you have little ones, read books about Mother Earth and then get outside and play in the dirt to help them make the connection. This option gives your family the choice of focusing on a bigger, more theoretical idea of motherhood.

girl pushing wheelbarrow

Doing some gardening gets everyone outside in the fresh air on Mother’s Day.

Option 3: Celebrate all the mothers in your life.

Instead of opting out or honoring Mother Earth, you can embrace the holiday with some Mother’s Day activities for the important women in your children’s lives. Why not help your kids celebrate all the mothers that surround them?

Your kids might not have a mom in their home, but there are probably wonderful women all around who have freely given their mothering gifts. Can the kids make cards or cute, little gifts for them? How about inviting those lovely women over for a brunch they don’t have to cook or clean up afterward? Grandmothers, aunts, neighbors, cousins-once-removed, that lady around the corner that always greets them with a smile. If a woman has helped to mother your children in their own unique way, use Mother’s Day to show your thanks and appreciation.

potted flowers

Potting flowers for beloved women in our lives.

This option is best for families who really want to celebrate this holiday and participate in the Mother’s Day activities that tend to occur.

Homes Without Moms

The bottom line is that Mother’s Day activities for homes without moms don’t have to include a mom. And your family doesn’t have to be excluded from any fun on the second Sunday in May because there’s not a mother in the house. You can celebrate this day in your own special way.

Think about whatever makes you and your family happy and feels right to you. Then, with all the love in your heart, go with it.

2DadsWithBaggage family in Puerto Vallarta

Family is what you make it.

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Can Two Dads Raise Girly Girls?

Can Two Dads Raise Girly Girls?

With two dads in the house, we sometimes wonder how our girls got to be so, well, girly. Okay, maybe we aren’t the butchest guys in the world, but we aren’t working the MAC makeup counter at Bloomingdales either. (Not that that’s a bad thing.) But it does make you wonder how can two dads raise girls that are girly girls, even without a mom’s influence in the house.

Even when they were little, they loved to curl their hair and wear make-up.

Two Dads Raise Girls

So where did the girls pick up all their girly influences? A lot has been written about how social norms are communicated to little girls and boys about how they are supposed to behave. It starts with pink blankets for girls and blue for boys. Toys for babies and toddlers reflect this as well. Boys are supposed to play with cars, and girls are supposed to play with dolls. In our house, our daughters had both cars and dolls. They still chose the dolls.

I wonder who picked the colors in this play set. I mean, look at that blue!

Drag Queen Make-Up

When they were younger, a family friend started it all by bringing Sophia and Ava little make-up sets she bought at Sephora. You know, little girl powder and glittery eye shadow, plus the ever-popular lip glosses in a variety of colors and flavors. It might as well have been candy the way Ava and Sophia glommed onto this stuff. Before we could even get the packaging open all the way, Sophia had glitter all over half her face. Ava had smeared lipstick like a clown several inches around her little mouth. Of course, they smiled the bright cheesy grins of girls that just know they look absolutely gorgeous. And they did!


So of course, Triton and I asked ourselves if this was the start of something. We wondered if we needed to worry that when two dads raise girls would our daughters somehow be influenced towards over-femininity. What should really be seen as a fun dress-up game, versus a slippery slope into prepubescent sexpots? We did not intend to encourage a couple of JonBenet wannabes, running around with big hair and caterpillar eyelashes as they got ready for school.

I keep finding these all over the house, and can’t stop myself from swatting them. Just in case.

Girls Will Be Girls

We decided to put the make-up away for only special dress-up play. I tucked it under a pile of stuffed animals on top of the armoire in Sophia’s room.

A few days later, I got home from a long day at the office and wanted nothing more than a big hug from my two sweet girls. Triton was in the kitchen making dinner and the house was oddly quiet. Of course this  made me wonder what they were up to.

Sure enough, when I went upstairs I found the culprits.

Ava had carried the little play table from her bedroom into Sophia’s room, and placed a chair on top of the table. Then Sophia put a suitcase from her closet on top of the chair, and was helping Ava to balance on her tippy toes at the top of all this.  All this because they wanted to reach the makeup stash we thought we had “hidden.”

Glitter is hard to get out of little girls’ hair, FYI.

When I walked in, Ava’s head swiveled on her body like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Sophia’s eyes were as big as Moon Pies. The expressions on their faces were awash with that guilty look that only kids can have when caught in the act. Because why? Ava had that hot pink lipstick painted all around her mouth like a lunatic clown, with the lipstick still in her hot little hand. Only to be outdone by Sophia, who was covered in a glitter bomb from head toe.

Then And Now

Clearly this was the start of something big. As they have grown into beautiful young ladies, the obsession has not left them. I regularly get texts to make an EMERGENCY MASCARA STOP! on the way home from work. Or we arrive home to find their bathroom covered in Q-tips with one end black from eyeliner clean-ups. We find bottles of nail polish in the oddest places.

Who taught Sophia to stand like this?!?!

And as long as we assure the girls that it’s what is inside them that is truly beautiful, then I say GO FOR THE GLAM! We’ve worked hard to teach them their worth is far greater than beauty. That they can be intelligent, kind, driven, accomplished, self-confident, humble, stable, kick-ass women. In whatever form they choose that to take. Even if they do all that with caterpillar eyelashes and glitter bombs.

Nothing wrong with a little girly around the house. (Ahem. Hold your wisecracks, please).

quinceañera sisters in gown and crown

See how beautiful they have become? Inside and out.

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Self Defense Classes for Teens

Self Defense Classes for Teens

Recently there were some incidents at our girls’ high school that freaked us all out a little bit. We’ve always talked with our daughters about being aware of their surroundings. We’ve discussed how to get help if they found themselves in a difficult situation. However, boys can be aggressive and girls can be mean. We wanted Sophia and Ava to be able to physically defend themselves should they ever have to do that.

We decided to sign them up for a self defense classes for teens, and it was well worth the time, money and effort.

self defense class in session San Diego

Coach Tracie Arlington teaches the girls how to escape from a man sitting on them.

Self Defense Classes for Teens

It was interesting to learn that both girls were all in on this adventure. We researched several local options, and decided on Play It Safe Self Defense – classes for women and teens. Our girls really wanted to learn how to defend themselves physically. Not only would this process be a confidence booster. It would also empower Sophia and Ava with an important skill set. It turns out these self defense classes for teens was way more than that.

Some Alarming Statistics

According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, one out of every four women will be attacked or raped in her lifetime. Look at these alarming statistics from the Play It Safe website:

  • 83% of rape victims are between the ages of 12 years and 25 years of age.
  • 90% of women assaulted knew their assailant.
  • 25% of college women surveyed are victims of rape or attempted rape.
  • 85% of rapes on campuses are acquaintance/date rapes, and most happen in the first three months of college due to Fraternity and Sorority pledging and parties.
  • 90% of all campus rapes involve alcohol.

Women who resist are twice as likely to escape injury as others. According to the Women’s Self Defense Institute, an analysis of 3,000 actual assaults showed that half of the attackers fled from a woman who was willing to resist!

coaches with girls at self defense class

The class gets instruction from Coach Matt in preparation for each having a chance to defend themselves.

Finding the Right Class

After searching online for options, we found way more than we expected to see when we googled “self defense classes”. We found an enormous array of classes offered, and the choices became overwhelming. Did we want boxing? The use of tools like pepper spray or whistles? Did we want the classes to be more educational from a book lesson? Indoors or outdoors? Men present, or women only? Multiple days, or one long session? Hard core, or just tough enough?

After narrowing our search to wanting physical defense tactics with practical hands-on experiences, we started asking other parents for recommendations. Surprisingly, not many had researched this subject for their kids. We guessed there was a bigger need for self-defense services than any of us realized.

Triton finally spoke with a friend who had taken classes from Play It Safe. On her positive review, we decided to sign Ava and Sophia up for a 3 1/2-hour Saturday session.

girls self defense class circle

Standing in a circle, ready to practice their new skills on the guys.

What They Learned

On the appointed Saturday, the girls gathered with several others similar in age at a warehouse gym facility about 10 miles from our house. The organizers of Play It Safe told the parents they could stay for a bit and watch, but could not participate.

One of the greatest things that impressed the girls was the hands-on lessons in fighting back – with a real guy trying to attack them! There were two guys helping with the class, fully suited up in protective gear. One by one, the girls and women in the class took turns kicking and punching these poor guys. They used the skills they were learning in the class about how to fight off an attacker.

Some of the skills each girl learned how to:

  • Fight off a guy grabbing her from behind
  • Break his hold on her arms
  • Get away from a guy on the ground
  • Hit an attacker in places that will disable them quickly

And there was so much more.

(Photo courtesy of Play It Safe)

How Self Defense Classes Made Them Feel

When they got home from taking this class, they were nearly giddy with excitement. They couldn’t wait to tell us all of the things they had learned (and demonstrate some of them)! They felt empowered and capable, but most of all they felt confident. Both Sophia and Ava were more self confident, and said they knew more from that three hour class about how to defend themselves than they had learned in all the years prior.

They’ve still got a lot more to learn, and need to be careful about letting down their guards in unsafe situations. But they are definitely more knowledgeable and prepared in case something ever happens.

Honestly, after watching them demonstrate some of their newly-learned moves, I wouldn’t want to cross them!

The 3 Weapons of Defense (Photo courtesy of Play It Safe)




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Prepaid Cards Are Like Digital Piggy Banks

Prepaid Cards Are Like Digital Piggy Banks

*This post was created in partnership with Starbucks, and as always, all opinions expressed here are our own.

When our girls were very little, we introduced the idea of piggy banks – with a twist.  We gave each of our daughters three piggy banks, marked on their sides with a sharpie: “Save”, “Spend” and “Give”.  These days, those piggy banks have gone online, and now prepaid cards are like digital piggy banks that help kids save, spend and give through the use of tools like the Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card.

Prepaid Cards Are Like Digital Piggy Banks

In this modern world of online banking and finance management, we are teaching our girls the value of money by allowing them to use our Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card. The idea of saving, spending, and giving is still the same.

girl in Starbucks with Starbucks mobile app

Sophia and Ava can both check their balances from their phones, and make Starbucks mobile purchases in any Starbucks location


As little girls, Ava and Sophia learned the value of saving for what they really wanted. The piggy bank marked “Save” collected $2 of the $5 we allowed each girl per week. With these two dollars accumulating per week until a small fortune (at least in the minds of young kids), they could witness what saving for something was all about.

We would ask them what they wanted to save their money for. Usually the answer was a new Malibu Barbie or Play-doh, or some fun toy. Then we would go online or show them in the store how much the item cost. We’d then help them tally their savings until they reached their goal amount. The reward for patience was to take the money and purchase the toy that had been saving for. Reward system!


Granted, the money in the “Spend” piggy bank did not last very long in that piggy’s belly. These $2 per week was designed for immediate gratification. Ava and Sophia could go immediately to the store and spend their $2 on whatever they wanted that week.

There was another benefit to this system – they also learned that $2 does not go very far. In fact, $2 does not buy very much at all. More the once, they would get a dissatisfied look as they held a few small pieces of candy or a Japanese eraser in their hand. To them, the rewards of saving for something bigger started to seem like a pretty good idea.

corner Starbucks store exterior

Our neighborhood Starbucks is within walking distance, and we’ve been going there with the girls since they were babies.


Our girls have been fortunate to have the opportunity for a weekly allowance. The “Give” piggy bank was designed to help them understand the power of sharing with those in need.  One dollar of the five each week was placed in this piggy bank, collecting until there was enough to make a gift of some kind.

As the money accumulated over a couple of months, we asked the girls where they would like to donate the money for that round. Sometimes their answer would be to help homeless people; sometimes it was school supplies for kids that couldn’t afford them. Heartbreakingly, one time it was for the janitor at school who had lost everything in a fire.

The look of pride on their little faces was priceless, as they realized their “Give” piggy banks had helped in some small way.


Now that the girls are teens, they’ve obviously outgrown the piggy banks. However, the concept of Save/Spend/Give is something we still talk about.

Starbucks Rewards Prepaid Visa Card

We felt like the cool kids in our local Starbucks store, whipping out our new card when no one working there had seen it yet.

We’ve shifted our conversations to how prepaid cards are like digital piggy banks that help kids save, spend and give. Through the use of tools like our Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card, we can use the card to help them learn about the value of money with an added bonus. Although far more sophisticated and powerful, cards like this can still operate in a similar fashion. We give the girls the choice to spend it all, or save it to amass for a larger purpose.

Once or twice a week, we sit with them in front of a laptop to view our card balances online. We talk though each purchase, the price of what they paid, and whether or not they feel that purchase was worth the cost. So far, the eye rolling and heavy sighs have been kept to a minimum. Instead, they actually seem interested in how it all works.

For The Love of Starbucks

A huge added benefit of the Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card is the ability to earn Starbucks Stars with each purchase we make on the card (some restrictions apply, so see for details). We can earn an easy 125 Stars the first time we use the Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card to load $10 or more to our registered Starbucks Card. Purchases outside of a Starbucks earn 1 Star for every $10 spent, but purchases made with our registered Starbucks Card at Starbucks stores earn 2 Stars for every $1 spent!

original Seattle Starbucks with Starbucks prepaid Visa card

We even visited the original Starbucks location across from Pikes Place Market in Seattle, and yes the card works there too.

We have no illusions as parents that their interest in talking finance with us will continue, but we are gaining confidence that the habits will last.  As digital piggy banks help kids save, spend and give through the use of tools like the Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card, these old habits will die hard.

And in this case, that’s a very good thing.


At participating Starbucks stores. Some restrictions apply. See for details.

Debit cards are provided by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.  Member FDIC.

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9 Tips for Planning College Tours for Your High School Kid

9 Tips for Planning College Tours for Your High School Kid

It’s really hard to believe that Sophia is a Junior in high school already. It was just the other day we were pushing her around in the stroller while she gummed a handful of Goldfish Crackers. Now as a high school Junior, she has to start thinking about college. But where to go? Many parents have to help their kid visualize potential college options by actually going to visit them. We’re starting this now, and wow is it fraught with questions and landmines. Turns out planning college tours for your high school kid is no walk in the park!

This past week, we loaded up a sleek 2019 Chevrolet Traverse (#brandpartner) on loan for our family to test drive, and headed to Arizona. First up on the college tour schedule were Arizona State University in Tempe, and University of Arizona in Tucson.

Chevrolet Traverse with desert background in Tempe Arizona

With the Arizona desert landscape of Tempe in the background, the Chevy Traverse showed up nicely. #brandpartner

9 Tips for Planning College Tours for Your High School Kid

As we prepped for beginning this process, we learned some things about planning college tours for your high school kid worth sharing. Already we’ve made a couple of mistakes, so let us help you avoid some of our pitfalls and learn from our experiences. I imagine this will be an ongoing series, because we still have a lot to go!

9 Tips For Planning College Tours
  1. Talk with you kid about what they want to study. I know this seems obvious, but when we started planning this process Sophia did not have an answer to this question. Without knowing what she wanted to study, we were flying in the dark on choosing college campuses to visit.
  2. Know your budget in advance. One of our mistakes was planning to visit schools before we had checked on tuition and other costs. Well THAT was a shocker. We live in California, and out-of-state tuition and associated costs like housing, books, etc comes to $44,000/year for ASU and $48,000 for UofA. Not to get into anyone’s personal finances, but that might be a lot for some people to shoulder for 4-5 years. PER KID.
  3. Buy this book: Fiske Guide to Colleges. It lists every college in the US, complete with important stats like tuition costs, GPA/SAT requirements, strong areas of study, acceptance rates, financial aid and more. We’ve been pouring through this book, looking for potential college fits for Sophia using a list of criteria combining her desires and ours. It has been immensely helpful in narrowing down on great options.
    Fiske Guide to Colleges book cover

    This book, Fiske Guide to Colleges, is the bible for kids (and parents!) researching which colleges best suit their needs.

  4. Consider hiring a college coach. This may seem like a luxury for some, but we have found it to be money extremely well spent. You know that thing your teen does, where she looks at you like you are an idiot and know absolutely nothing about anything? Yeah, well they don’t pull that with a neutral third party. The college coach has gotten more information out of Sophia than we have. Plus she’s helping Sophia prepare for writing entrance applications, essays and more.
  5. Plan your college visits to include an actual school day. It may be hard to drag your kid out of school to miss a day for touring, but it will be good to see the campus with actual students and activity. On our recent tours, school was out on vacation and the colleges were deserted. It was a chilly way to see what is normally a bustling campus. Part of the reason for touring is to see the other students, and have your kid determine if they like what they see. Can they be friends with these people? Are these people they could be dorm roommates with?
  6. Make appointments for your college visits far in advance – the dates book up quickly. Most college websites have a built-in scheduling function so you can request your chosen day and time. The tours are very full, and no walk-ups are allowed.
  7. Encourage visits to large and small campuses, colleges and universities, public and private, small town and big city. This will help you kid start to envision themselves in this place, living here for most of the year. Do they like the energy and bright lights of the big city? Or maybe they prefer a quieter, less active country location.
    University of Arizona sweatshirts

    Waiting at the UofA bookstore for our tour of the campus, it was hard not to purchase a signature sweatshirt.

  8. Don’t stress if they hate it. This touring business is as much about helping your kid determine what she doesn’t like as what she does. Just like you, they are not going to like or feel comfortable in every location. Some will naturally drop off the list after touring.
  9. Have your kid keep a notebook for writing down pros and cons of each college you visit. Good advice given to us by our coach was for Sophia to ask herself the same four or five questions after each campus tour.
Tucson mountain landscape

The landscapes in Arizona are breathtaking, like this one in Tucson.

Arizona College Overview

Arizona State University

ASU is located in a sweet little town called Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix. Located right next to downtown Phoenix, Tempe is a mix of hotels, retail, residences and the Arizona State University campus. Our tour started at the Welcome Center, and was extremely well organized and planned. Starting in an auditorium with a slide show and video, our host guided us through a great amount of information. She was warm and personable, and Sophia felt instantly at ease.

family entering Arizona State University Welcome Center

The ASU Welcome Center was, well, extremely welcoming! Great way to start a campus tour.

After that 30-minute orientation, we were split into groups by major or interest, and off we went to tour the campus. Because it was holiday break, we did not see lecture halls or dorm rooms. However, we did tour the sports center and student union buildings – both were very impressive. Sophia’s eyes were wide open, taking it all in.

University of Arizona

A more informal tour, this one started at the bookstore on the Tucson campus. We were split into random groups and assigned to a guide for our walking tour. Since there was no orientation, the guide became the source of information about all things University of Arizona in Tucson. Our guide was knowledgeable and funny, but not overwhelmingly personable. We toured the student union, sports center and even a dorm building.

Old Main building at University of Arizona

The Old Main building at UofA was the original university structure, and now houses administration offices.

Sophia was not feeling this one, and I think maybe seeing a dorm room was the clincher. She will get used to it, but at first glance these rooms are S-M-A-L-L. She did not like the idea of having the shared bathroom down the hall either. We will be encouraging her to shake off the princess attitude, but this first tour was not the time to address that.

After a very brief comparison of pros and cons, Sophia decided that she did not want to pursue either of these colleges in Arizona. We’ll see if that view changes after touring more!

red 2019 Chevrolet Traverse in driveway

This sweet red 2019 Chevy Traverse was our loaner car for our Arizona college tours, and it was the perfect fit for our family. #brandpartner

Read Next

Prepaid Cards Are the New Allowance

Prepaid Cards Are the New Allowance

*This post was created in partnership with Starbucks, and as always, all opinions expressed here are our own.

Do you hand your kids cash? We’ve been talking with several of our friends with kids the same age as ours, and we all grapple with giving our kids cash money. We all ask ourselves the same question. If you hand your kid a $10 bill in the morning to go get a snack after school, do you really know exactly where they spent that $10? Yeah, neither do we. That’s why we decided that prepaid cards are better than cash.

Oh, and good luck trying to collect the change leftover from that $10. Not that we don’t trust our kids – it’s just they can be a little…..careless with the cash.

In our family, we’ve got a Saver and a Spender. Ava is our little Saver, and she often squirrels away her allowance to save up for a big purchase. She has a goal in mind, and she will work towards that goal until she achieves it. On the other hand, Sophia is a spender. She neeeeeeds thiiiiiiings, and she must have them right now. (Kind of like a sweeter, kinder version of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory – “I want an Oompa Loompa NOW, Daddy!”)

Either style works, we tell them, as long as they keep responsibly within budgets. Honestly, it’s important for both routes to keep track of how many dollars are actually available, whether saving or spending.

girl in Starbucks with app

It’s easy to check our card balances online, and manage our purchases to a set budget while watching our Starbucks Star balance grow.

Prepaid Cards For Kids Are the New Allowance

We’ve been experimenting recently with the Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card, and it’s been a great teaching tool for us. Helping the girls understand how to manage a budget, we are parenting them in financial responsibility. And best yet, they feel like it’s freedom!

Loading our Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card with their allowance each week, we are able to monitor their expenditures on the cards we got for this purpose. Sitting down at the computer with them on a weekly basis enables us to teach them how to manage their budgets.

Starbucks prepaid Visa rewards card and drinks

This card has brought our family all kinds of benefits, including a Starbucks treat now and then.

Why Cash Can Be Difficult

Cash is so easily lost or misplaced by kids. Our girls shove cash into their pockets without a wallet, crammed and smashed into little balls. Mixed with random coins, these pocket-fountains-of-cash often erupt when being pulled out. Money goes flying all over the floor. Plus, cash is easy to spend without full knowledge of where it actually went. Easy come, easy go – until it’s all gone, that is.

And even though we harp on the girls to carry a purse or backpack with them, they don’t always remember to bring it. However, they do remember to stick our prepaid cards inside their phone cases. Because they never go anywhere without their phones! At least we know the card will never be left behind or forgotten. We can also link the card to the Starbucks App, so they can make in-store purchases directly from their phones.

Starbucks and Chase app on phone

Connecting the card to the Chase App allows us to see the remaining balance, as well as purchases.

Prepaid Cards Allow Insight

One of the tools which automatically come with the Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card is the ability to check balances online.  We like this card because there are no monthly, annual, or reload fees (other fees may apply) and it’s really easy to reload. For more info on the card, go to

Through the Chase website we can track the girls’ expenditures ourselves, or better yet so can they. We’re teaching Sophia and Ava how to log on, access their card accounts, and view every purchase they’ve made.

Yes, the first couple of times we sat with them were complicated, as we talked through navigating the site to access the available information. Keeping the conversation under 10 minutes, we found these quick sessions provided great ways to have a conversation about the value of money. How far $10 goes (or doesn’t go) was a revelation to them. We also covered budgeting tactics, and planning for the things you want to buy.

So far, so good. No transgressions so far. We have not seen them go wildly over budget, or misuse the cards. They don’t seem to hate the conversations held over the laptop about budgets and finances. After all, it seems like a good exchange for the freedom of having the cards available for their use.

Chase Visa Starbucks reward card

Win/win! We get Stars towards Rewards for using our card at a place we love, and then redeeming those Rewards for something we also love. Genius!

Racking up Starbucks Stars

All of these financial lessons have a silver lining for Ava and Sophia, and it’s called Starbucks. A place they already love to go for drinks and snacks, Starbucks now brings them new interest. The girls can cash in the Rewards they earn with purchases they make anywhere using our new Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Cards.

Not only do we get 125 Stars after the first time we use our Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card to load $10 to our Starbucks Card, we can earn Stars for using the card to make purchases at Starbucks. And you get Stars when you make purchases outside of Starbucks stores.

Now it’s just a question of what they will get with those Stars. A Strawberry Frappuccino drink? Cinnamon Dolce Latte? Cake Pops or mini vanilla scones?

So many choices….


At participating Starbucks stores. Some restrictions apply. See for details.

Debit cards are provided by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.  Member FDIC.