Back to School Lunches: Make them Fun and Germ-Free

I will be honest, as the school year draws to a close, one of the things I MOST look forward to are the days with little to no schedule…those that allow me the flexibility of a few extra minutes in the morning, that don’t find me harassing my small people to ‘hurry up’, to ‘find their shoes’, to ‘pack their backpacks’ and to rush out the door…and yes, I definitely don’t miss making and packing their lunches.

But as Summer drifts by and then eventually winds down, my entire mindset changes. I crave order. I begin to be excited about the new beginning. I cannot wait to buy school supplies, get down to business and yes, find a way to make lunch time healthy and creative again.

By that time, we have sunned and swam, stayed up late, slept in a little too often, played outside until the sun set and done every single thing a kid (and an adult) could possibly do during the lazy days of Summer. And we have loved every second.

The kiddos don’t want to admit it….and I remember the days of longing for Summer to continue forever, but all good things wind down – at least for a season. As I prepare, both mentally and in our home for the truth of that first day of school, I know I don’t want to fall in to a routine of doing the ‘same old thing’ for lunch every day AND I know a huge priority will be to keep those small people of mine as healthy and germ-free as possible all year long. Am I thinking ahead? You bet am I. Every once in a while I do that.

To get me in the spirit, I partnered with Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish Crackers and Wet Ones to plan healthy, germ-free, creative lunches. Here is what I do:

Ask for my kids’ input: the truth is….they are at school, out of my sight and if they hate what I pack for them, they would rather go hungry than eat it. That is a loss for everyone.


Make them Germ-Free: Have you thought about this? Include a Wet Ones Single pack in your kid’s lunch. Genius. Little hands. Lots of germs. It makes sense, right? You provide the Wet Ones for them to do a quick clean right before they dig in and you know that everything they have touched in the classroom and even in the lunchroom up to that point is wiped from their hands. This is good.


Include a variety: I always aim for protein…like turkey or chicken, their favorite fruits and something sweet – I want to feed their brains and offer them a treat to give them something to look forward to. My kiddos have always loved Goldfish crackers. I almost feel as though we have grown up with them. As there are so many options, we can mix the Pretzel and Cheddar crackers and pair them with hummus for dipping or combine the Vanilla Cupcake and Honey as a ‘dessert’ option.


Be an Enabler: This if for those of us with bigger kids. When your small people start to turn the corner in to ‘bigger people’ territory, invite your kids to start helping with the creative process. Instead of asking them what they want YOU to make them for lunch…begin to oversee THEM making their own. I think you will find not only that you are raising intelligent kids with a variety of tastes, but that they, too, can be quite creative.

How do YOU tackle back to school lunches creatively? I’d love to hear your suggestions! And don’t forget to head to Wish I Had Wet Ones to enter for a chance to win a year’s supply of Wet Ones® for your home and your little one’s school (make sure they can accept donations!) PLUS $1000 in cash!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Wet Ones®. The opinions and text are, as always, all mine.

5 Tips For Creating A Back To School Evening Routine

Hi everyone! Kasey here from All Things Mamma! This week I’m talking about how to stay sane when trying to do homework and after school activities with your kids. This is something I’ve definitely not mastered, but I’m getting close! With now, TWO kids in school – one in 1st grade and one in 3rd, there’s double the homework, double the take home papers, double the after school actives and double the meltdowns! (maybe triple if you throw in an occasional meltdown from me! haha!) Here’s 5 tips for organizing your evenings better so that everything gets done and there’s no surprises in the morning right before you head out the door for school!

5 Tips For Creating A Back To School Evening Routine

1. Have a designated drop zone. The very first thing I have my children do when they walk in the door is to hang up their coats, shoes and backpacks in a designated area! This is important, believe it or not. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had too many mornings of running around trying to find a hat or a mitten than I care to admit. This solves that problem!

2. Unload and repack. As soon as the kids are in the door I have them unload their book bags of anything that doesn’t need to go back to school tomorrow – homework, graded papers, lunch boxes, sweaters, etc… This give me a chance to go through through it all in case I need to have something ready to go back the next day and to also evaluate how they did with the lunch I sent. Did I send enough or too much? Was that jelly and cream cheese bagel sandwich a hit or miss? It’s all out on the table so that we can see what needs to be accomplished that evening before bed.

3. Snack time! The kids have been at school all day and it’s time to refuel before taking on the rest of the evening. I always make a yummy snack that will get my kid through until dinner to avoid any meltdowns or grumpiness!

4. Homework. After snack I give them some time to unwind and run around but then I have them dive right into their homework. There are two reasons for this. 1. They have plenty of time to focus or get help, should there be any issues and 2. They aren’t up at 9pm in a panic trying to complete it. There’s nothing worse than trying to do a bedtime routine while your child is doing their last math problems that they can’t figure out and are on the verge of tears. That’s no fun for anyone. So, we get it out of the way so that we can enjoy the rest of the night.

5. Pack Up. After homework we start to pack up the backpacks for the next day. We put homework, notes and supplies back into the bags, along with anything else that needs to go back. PE shoes, snacks, water bottles, etc.. Then, there’s also no running around searching for that missing library book right before you head out the door in the morning! This is also a good time to check the calendar to see what’s going on. Is it music day or art? Will there be soccer practice after school or will you be home for the evening? It’s always a good idea to know what’s going on so that you are prepared.

There is so much to do these days that it’s imperative to plan out your evenings or it will never get all accomplished and you’ll be up at 10pm at night while YOU try to do everything that your kids could have helped you do earlier in the evening. I think it’s super important, no matter your child’s age, to teach them to be responsible for themselves and their own things. It will save you time, energy and will pay off in the long run!

How do you organize your evenings at home with your children? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below.

5 Back to School Organization Ideas

I swear I was just putting the Winter coats and school paperwork away. Yet, here I am again, making plans for another school year, shaking my head – amazed that the days of sunshine and pools are slipping away and my children have, in fact, entered a higher grade.

When did this happen?

I’m promising myself I will DEFINITELY be organized this time around. Each year, the routine begins and I feel as though we are just a few steps behind…. we haven’t quite figured out school lunches, I’m worried I missed something on the school supply list and I swear I forgot all about tonight’s baseball practice.

But this year, I’m disorganized no more. And I’m dragging you right along with me.

5 BacktoSchool Organization Ideas -


Here are five tips to keep you on track as your kids head back to school for yet another year.

Mark that Calendar: I don’t care what you use, but use SOMETHING. Maybe you have a large white board calendar by the garage door or you and your significant other have managed to make good use of an online service like Google Calendars or Cozi Family Calendar….the important thing is finding what is right for you. In this calendar, you need to put everything: school events, sport’s schedules, doctor’s appointments, family travels, etc. If you are using an online service, definitely jump ahead and fill in the entire year so next month’s half day at school, parent-teacher conference or weekend soccer tournament won’t come as a surprise.

Pull your Papers together: Some schools and school sports teams require important paperwork…everything from immunization records to proof of doctor’s visits. The very last thing you need is a panicked search for one of these the night before the first day, so check the school’s website to confirm any needs.

Study before you Shop: I know back-to-school shopping can seem alternately exciting and overwhelming, but it is best handled with a bit of advance planning. First of all, what clothes still fit? Which are destined to be passed down, given away or tossed? And which might your kids simply refuse to wear again? When thinking about school supplies, not only are you best served to head to the store with the school’s list in hand, it would be smart to check any arts and crafts areas around the house. With just a small amount of cleaning, I discovered unused erasers, red pens, highlighters, notebooks, folders, pencils and rulers. I can promise you I would have purchased each and every one of them all over again if I simply hadn’t LOOKED to see what we already had. Another quick tip – if you can get away with it – the process is quicker and a touch less expensive if you can go without your kids. (no one is begging for extras or adding anything to your cart!) Additionally, if you are looking for a great way to keep your supplies organized, Mabels Labels is a favorite.

5 Back to School Organization Ideas - Mabels Labels:

Master your mornings: Mornings can easily morph from a slow to chaotic in a matter of seconds if you don’t take the time to plan ahead. As your kids get a little bit older, teach them to take a bit of responsibility for getting ready. Lay clothes out the night before and make sure backpacks are packed and ready to go. Mom and dad can set the table for breakfast, prepare a few snacks for the week and even prepare a portion of the next day’s lunches. Again, if the kids are older, get them involved in each of these steps as well.

Ready the Routine early: Don’t wait until the night before school starts to establish a new ‘school year’ bedtime, a regular dinner time and yes, that early morning wake up call. The shock of Summer ending and re-entering school is more than enough for your family without a battle on the first day. Since Summer is typically a time when bedtimes vary ….as do the morning wake-ups, the scheduled meals and full days, it would be smart to begin re-establishing a routine at least a week before your kids have to make their school days a reality once again. (keep in mind – I suggest this, but find it almost impossible to implement!)

What are your best tips for getting back in to the swing of school? Share your thoughts with me here or on Twitter. You can find me @DanielleSmithTV.

Best Back to School Items…for Moms!


You amazing, awesome mother, you. You are already diligently cataloging whether Charlie needs jeans, if Eve needs a new backpack and where to find the best back-to-school deals for your kids. You will research the best place to snag those sneaks that your son has to have, and look high and low for an Elsa and Anna lunch bag.

You will scour the Internet and trek the mall in order to find those items that will make your children happy and proud when they enter the doors of their school that first day.

But wait! As usual, you are forgetting someone. Yourself! To keep everyone organized and the trains running on time, there are a few items that YOU, Mother of Dragons, can totally use for #backtoschool. You may not need a plaid skirt or number two pencils, but you can use these fabulous, functional items especially for dedicated moms.

momAgenda Desktop Planner $43 Keep all of your work, personal and kids’ appointments organized in this beautiful, intuitive planner developed with you– the over-extended mom — in mind. There is something about keeping track of all family plans in a paper calendar that keeps your commitments, deadlines and just your mind more organized.

Wall Pops Calendar $14.99 A dry-erase calendar in a family common area helps everyone in the house. Train the kids to check what they need to bring with them to school that day (their instrument? gym shoes? art folio?) and what activities are planned for the afternoon and evening. We love how these calendars are constructed on wall decals so not only are they reusable month to month, they are super easy to hang, rehang and are not bulky on the wall.

Ikea Rissla Magazine File  $9.99 Do you live a double life of working woman and M-O-M? Then a two-sided file is perfect for your duality. Keep the PTA handbook and soccer phone tree on one side, and your agenda, work forms, expense sheets, etc. on the other side.

Cozi Family Organizer App Free House your entire family’s to-do lists, digital calendars and shopping lists in one place that syncs and shares all users’ additions. Sending your husband a shopping list or reminding your teen about his orthodontist appointment has never been so painless.

Handbag Handcuff $42 If your car is your command center, then your purse is your co-pilot. Keep that baby safe and from toppling over at red lights with this crazy helpful innovation (invented by a mom…of course!) Just attach one cuff to your bag and the other cuff to your car’s headrest post. Your goods will be secured from spilling all over your passenger seat and car floor.  

Lifeproof Phone Case $59.99 – $89.99 Drops, spills, cracks, dunks and more hazards threaten your precious smart phone daily when you are a busy parent. We love how this case offers optimum screen, device and liquid protection while still remaining sleek enough to slip into a pocket of skinny jeans.

What back to school item for YOU is at the top of your list? Share with us! 


Back to School – Quick and Easy School Lunches

Quick and Easy School Lunches - ExtraordinaryMommy.comPeanut butter sandwiches. Almost every single day last year my small people requested a peanut butter sandwich, and I complied. Now, there are three things you could say about that: 1) I’m giving them the food they would eat and 2) I’m incredibly lazy. Both are probably accurate. I DID know they liked it. I DID know they would eat it. And yes, it certainly made that one small area of parenting just a little bit easier. But it definitely didn’t award me a gold star in ‘lunches’ when it came to parenting.

So, this year, determined to do better, I started researching.  Or crowd-sourcing. Or looking online. I asked my friends on Facebook. And the first few people jumped off my page with ‘GO TO PINTEREST’ and then my brain exploded… because people? One of the first things I saw was THIS: It is a cherry tomato, cucumber cut out with a cookie cutter and an individual shrimp on a popsicle stick. Sure it is cute, but oh-so-very-time-consuming and my kids just aren’t going to eat that.  (I link because I don’t want to take the picture…. you know how I feel about that :) )

So, I asked AGAIN and this time qualified – OTHER THAN PINTEREST. I wanted real options. Something that I could create in a reasonable period of time and that, *gasp*, my kids might make on their own. And that they would EAT.


Here are some suggestions…. from me, from my small people, from other fabulous mothers I know.

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Back To School – The Top 5 Best Things About It (According to ME – The Mom)

Back to School 2013My small people have officially reached the age where saying you are excited to go back to school is no longer considered ‘cool’.  It is now much more ‘in’ to wrinkle your nose in distaste, to roll your eyes, to screech in horror, or if you are MY CHILD and all of the aforementioned are unacceptable when speaking to another adult (and just might render you grounded the first few weeks of school) you struggle not to mumble, smile a little and say, ‘I can’t wait to see my friends’.

Now, I know this to be true, but the fear of being eaten by the never-before-seen, yet frequently mentioned, homework monster still has them on edge.  Even now, two weeks in and we are still trying to get used to the whole process.  Scratch that, I’M not trying to get used to it, THEY are.

I love it.

Sure, I may have had my teary-eyed moments as I felt that age jump that can only accompany the first day of school: one moment they are 1st and 3rd graders enjoying Summer and they next, they are brand-new 2nd and 4th graders.  It is as though they aged 365 days in 24 hours.  But even that wisdom can’t temper my enthusiasm.

I am excited.  Here’s why:

The top 5 Best Things about Back to School (According to the resident adult)

Soooo…. agree or disagree?  What have been the best moments, FOR YOU, about Back-to-school?

That Mom Award I Didn’t Win….

I was watching out the window….  you know, pretending NOT to be watching out the window.

He hopped out of the car first, turning around to help his big sister down.

As they made their way up the front walk, their second full day of school already a memory, she moved into the lead…clearly the expert in being dropped off after school. She turned around a few times, making sure her kindergarten brother was close behind.

I watched discreetly.  They were smiling and hurrying to the door, anxious to spill the days events at my feet. I did a few mental hand-springs: I have this down.  Would you look at them?  Uniforms still mainly clean (despite the small dude’s morning run through the sprinklers with the dog – IN said uniform – he claimed he was HOT), backpacks on tired little shoulders, actually looking out for each other.  I thought to myself, “I bet they even ate their grapes.”

This back-to-school business is a piece of cake.  I win.  Whatever the Mom Award is for making it through the first couple of days of school with your kids and your sanity intact…..  that award is mine.

“Mommy?” sweet hands reach for mine .  Those big blue eyes have a serious question.

“Yes, Buddy…..”, I waited.

“Am I a girl?”  I can tell he’s worried.

“No, Coop… you are, most definitely, a boy.  Why?”

“Because a boy today said, ‘Are you a girl?’ to me and then pointed to the boy next to him and said, ‘You see Scott**, he’s not a girl…he’s a boy because he has a haircut like mine.”

Coop has the most amazing hair ever. Ever.  Thick. Blond. Wavy curl.  He has good hair, but it is longer than the other boys in his class.  We like it that way. More importantly, HE likes it that way.

I sat myself down right there on the floor in the entry way.  You know that whole ‘piece-of-cake’ thing?  Who was I kidding?  I mentally, and gracefully decline said Mom Award. I don’t know if I will ever be any good at this parenting thing.  Seeing your kids sad….or wounded… it doesn’t get easier.  And I know I won’t always have the answers. This is just the beginning.

I never took my eyes from his, “Buddy….  you know you are a boy.  Sometimes people say things that aren’t nice.  That’s ok.  We know that words can hurt.  You tell him you ARE a boy and walk away. ”

My sweet girl chimed in, brushing his blond hair from his forehead, “Buddy, its ok….  I’ll protect you.”

And with that?

I suddenly felt like I was winning again.

**name changed so as not to identify anyone in the class