It’s OK to Miss Them: The Back-to-School Blues

I grabbed a long sleeved shirt from my closet this week. It’s the first time since Winter released her grip on us in late May. I was convinced Summer might not ever arrive. Spring had peeked out at us, but didn’t seem intent on sticking around. The tulips emerged, the trees bloomed, and still I held my breath.

I feared just what happened.

That this Summer, once it brightened our mornings and graced our doorsteps, would be both beautiful and brief.

There are two camps of people: those who’d rather be cold than hot. At this very moment, those people are celebrating…yanking their scarves and boots from the back of their closets in preparation, switching the decor in their homes to reflect the impending Fall months and placing their mental orders for pumpkin spice-everythings.

I am not in this camp. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pair of boots (and so much of the food that appears this time of year), but ahhhh…I will never get enough of the warmth and everything glorious that accompanies it.

The opposite folks – those like me – will take 102 over 22 every day of the week. No mittens, just flip-flops. No heavy Winter Coats, just a light jacket. No bundling, burrowing or freezing temperatures to avoid.

But more than all of this, more than missing the warmth and long sunshiny days, this particular Summer was special because of my small people. At nine and eleven, they just might be the perfect age for all things fun, family and summertime. Sure, they fought. They are siblings. And there were days I thought my brain might explode from attempting to juggle one too many camps, one too many requests for time with friends, one too many hours of a house filled with neighborhood kids who have a volume dial set permanently on LOUD.

But I miss them.

Every year…and I do mean every single year, I’ve secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly) celebrated the return to routine, the magic of a quiet house and little minds suddenly occupied with school work rather than begging for more activities.

But not this year.

This year, I miss them.

I’m excited about watching their minds grow, thrilled to bear witness to the students they are and the young adults they are becoming.

But I really like them. And having them around less actually makes me a little melancholy.

This Summer was filled with firsts. And a ton of sports. (of course.)

Cooper Baseball Rookies Team 2015We traveled for the first time with baseball and softball.

Delaney Softball Jacksonville 2015My small girl went away to Camp – for an entire week. She’s still walking in the clouds from the experience. And I survived her absence.

Delaney Camp Ondessonk Rock ClimbingOur family vacation to Gulf Shores was one of the best ever.

Gulf Shores FamilyI didn’t care about the jellyfish (every one of us was stung). I didn’t care that we lost almost an entire day to rain. I *almost* didn’t even care that we couldn’t get in to the ocean. At all. (seriously. the jellyfish.) We watched movies, we played marathon games of Uno, we ate too much food, we dug for seashells, read on the beach, snuggled in bed as the sun came up and watched the ocean in all its glory, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Gulf Shores Shells

Gulf Shores Delaney ReadingYou see? I miss them. They are sitting in the magic years….a time when children are old enough to have great conversation, express their own opinions, ask interesting questions, make a sandwich on their own, shower, get dressed and clean their rooms…and yet, they still LOVE their mom and dad. We haven’t hit the invisible wall that suddenly makes parents uncool, boring and decidedly annoying to be around. Instead, we can still rock a photo booth together.

Gulf Shores Photo BoothYes, the Magic Years.

They still hold my hand, love to be hugged, value my opinion and prove over and over again that family is a treasure.

So, you can bet, while I confess to enjoying the silence and the ease of getting my work done uninterrupted, I’m still waiting at the door when they come home from school each day and I DO miss them while they are gone.

Back to School 2015I may be alone as I know there are many moms (and dads) relishing this back-to-school time and I’ll embrace it after while, but for now, I’m content to know it is ok to miss them and this Summer of everything.

Back to School, Saving Time and Eating Vegetables

Every morning, I’m up before the sun comes up. Lest you think I’ve turned in to some early-bird or that I’m a martyr, I’m happy to clarify: I do not do this during the Summer months, but once school is back in session for my kids, I value the few minutes of quiet before the chaos of the day kicks in. While I adore (love, cherish, worship) the warm, sunny months, there is something beautiful about getting back in to a routine – especially when our days are so packed.

Like you, we juggle school, work, multiple sports, favorite activities and just….life. Since it is so crazy from one day to the next, I try to take steps to save time and allow us to spend more time together. Delaney, Cooper and I are excited to have partnered with Libby’s to share a few back-to-school recipes (two that keep veggies as a part of our meals!) and tips for making the most of our time together.

You know we enjoy cooking as a family, we LOVE video and we love to do video together.  Here’s the fun we created:

If you are looking for the recipes:

Sweet Corn Salsa

Libby's Sweet Corn Salsa

Combine:

2 Cups of Libby’s Sweet Corn (the Vegetable Cups are perfect)
1/2 cup of diced red and green peppers
1/4 cup red onion
1 teaspoon of cilantro
2 tablespoons of honey
Salt and Pepper to taste

Perfection. You are done!

Libby's Sweet Corn Salsa

Butter Cream Pasta

Libby's Butter Cream Pasta

Boil your choice of pasta (my kiddos love bow tie pasta)

Butter Cream Sauce

1/3 cup of butter
1 cup of milk
1 1/2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of minced garlic (optional)
Combine and cook over medium heat until thickens

To Pasta, add sauce, 1 Vegetable cup of Libby’s sweet corn , 1 Vegetable cup of Libby’s peas, and 1 teaspoon each of fresh oregano and basil.

Libby's Butter Cream Pasta

Enjoy!

I so hope Back-to-School time has been painless for you. You will have to let me know what you think of the recipes if you try them (and if your kids help!) Thank you for being here with me.

Disclosure: I’ve had a long-term relationship with Libby’s and the kids and I partnered with them to create these recipes and this video. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

First Day of School Jitters? Understood.

I’ve been thinking a lot about back-to-school and my kids growing up (way too fast!) and I’m not sure I like it one little bit. But that certainly doesn’t stop time from flying by, now does it? Every year since pre-school and kindergarten, I’ve gathered school supplies, I’ve purchased brand new shoes and made sure uniforms are ready to go. I’ve labeled, and lunch-boxed, I’ve visited classrooms and teachers.

I’ve nurtured little hearts who were both giddy and filled with nerves and I’ve calmed my own big heart, sometimes thrilled to ‘get back to routine’ and absorb the quiet while other times, I’ve barely saved my tears for the moment they were safely within the doors of the school or classroom.

Letting go and sending our little ones on a journey to independence and knowledge, especially for the first time, can be tough. Since I am reminded of that very first time each year as we prepare for that ‘big day’, I created a list of tips over on SheKnowsExperts to help ease you and your new-schooler in to this transition. (I know it can be tough on both of you!)

Delaney First Day of Kindergarten

Trust me, I know it is a ‘mixed-emotion’ event, so some of the tips are practical and some tap in to how you and your kiddos feel about this new journey. Head on over and let me know what you think. I’d love to know how you are working through the first day jitters and excitement.

Good luck!

 

 

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.

WetOnesGoldfish2

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.

WetOnesGoldfish

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.

WetOnesGoldfish5

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 - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

 

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: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

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!


back-to-school-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!