Back-To-School Hacks For Busy Moms

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It’s August which means back-to-school season is here! My tweens just got their teacher assignments yesterday and I’m busy with my new position as the Director of a preschool. It’s been interesting having one child headed off to middle school while preparing to welcome a whole group of preschoolers to their very first day of school ever and taking care of a new baby while doing it all. It will be a juggling act for sure! Since back-to-school season means busier schedules for everyone I wanted to share some hacks that I’ve discovered over the years that have worked for us. From making mornings run smoother to helping kids become self-sufficient to spending less time running errands, I hope you’ll find a couple ideas to try :)

#1 do as much the night before as you can.

Things can be hectic in the morning so do as much the night before as you can. We try to pick out outfits, get homework back in the backpacks and get the lunchboxes on the counter and partially packed before we go to bed. The less you have to do in the morning the better!

#2 start your morning routine earlier and plan to be ready or out the door earlier than you need to be.

I’ve found that my kids always need more time to get ready than I think they will need. We start our morning routine earlier than I think we will need to and, when we drove to school, our goal was to leave our house 30 minutes early every day (though school is just a couple minutes away). Most days we were out of the house on time and I treated myself to coffee on the way to school drop off. Even on mornings we were running a few minutes behind we still ended up arriving to school early. We would sit in the car talking about our day, getting in reading time, watching funny YouTube videos, or practicing math facts. It’s such a more relaxing way to start the day and even Luke’s teachers had commented in the past that he seemed calmer when he is one of the first kids at school versus when their dad would drop them off closer to the bell time and they had to rush to their lockers and class. (Sidenote… This year will be the first time in 5 years that I don’t have to drive my kiddos to school so hurray for not having to navigate the school drop-off-line! This tip still applies if your kiddos are bussed though.)

#3 have quick breakfasts ready to go for the kids (and yourself).

Am I the only one who has had a child say they “forgot” to eat breakfast right as they are walking out the door (even though said child has been up a couple hours already)? For those mornings I have cereal in a baggie ready to go and they can eat on the go. I’ve even made breakfast muffins that take 5 minutes of prep time and can be frozen so they just need to be reheated in the morning.

#4 have a snack station to make packing lunches easier (and teach older kids how to pack their lunches!)

Just a couple years ago Jacob and Lucas started packing their own lunches and it’s been wonderful. To make things easier to pack lunches (and to see when we are running low on things) we have all of the snacks in two places. We use three containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge to keep yogurts, cheese sticks and bags of fruits and veggies and a number of small bins on the shelves of our island that store raisins, portable applesauce, crackers, chips and other snacks.

#5 freeze water bottles overnight to keep lunches cold.

In place of a freezer pack you can freeze a water bottle to stick in the lunch box. It will keep the lunch cold and melt in time for a nice cool drink to enjoy at lunch. (Remember to not fill the bottle up all the way ;) lol)

#6 help kids learn routines with schedules.

Whether you use picture schedules for younger children or written schedules for older ones, schedules help keep things running smoothly. I’ll never forget the first day of school a few years ago when Jacob woke me up early in the morning to tell me he was all ready for school without me having to remind him of a thing! It was wonderful…still working on that with my 10 year old but he’s getting there!

#7 have a homework station and stock it with everything your children will need to complete projects and homework assignments.

I’ve learned over the years that children need a lot more than a pencil to complete homework assignments. Find a place in your home where you can keep everything children need at homework time- from scissors to markers to glue sticks. Make sure to have plenty of sharpened pencils there as well! Need a portable homework station? Here are tips to set up a homework caddy.

#8 simplify after-school activities with separate bags for each activity and keep all items related to the activity in the bag.

We’ve found that bags for each activity my kids are in makes it easy to get out the door because we aren’t trying to find items as we are getting ready to leave the house. A simple reusable bag or backpack works to keep everything together and we no longer have to hunt for their scouting books or the soccer shin guards.

#9 tame paperwork with a paper file.

As parents we get tons of papers on a weekly basis. Many of them have important dates and information on them. Write all dates on your calendar immediately and file the paper away in a file folder by category (school, sports, community, etc). When that activity comes up on your calendar you can find it in your expandable paper file and refer to the paper for information about location, what to bring, etc. Once the event is done you can then throw the flier away. (Real mom talk: currently all said school papers are mixed in with my mail in a basket that’s overflowing but, when I can keep up with it, this method works amazingly. Until then I just dig through the one basket lol)

#10 make memory boxes for art work, school work and other memories.

Keep a box for each child labeled with the school year and put all “memory” things in it (art work, stories, pictures, awards, etc) as you clean out their folders every day or week. At the end of the year you can go through it and decide which things you want to keep and what you can let go of. My mom made boxes for my siblings and I and I’ve loved looking back through them as I’ve gotten older- remembering everything from my first concert to my sweet 16 birthday party. Even if you don’t physically keep everything but choose to take photos of the items and store them digitally, your children will cherish the memories you have kept for them.

#11 as you commit to things add them to your calendar.

“Mommy brain” is real. I swear! lol. Make sure to add things to your calendar immediately. Don’t write them on post-it’s, count on reminder emails or think that you will remember. We already have enough on our minds as parents so there is no need to try and add a list of important dates on top of everything else.

#12 have children take uniforms off and put them directly on (or in) the washer.

Whether it’s their school uniform or their karate uniform, nobody wants to dig through dirty laundry looking for that essential item of clothing they need. I have my boys take their sports uniforms off and put them right on top of the washer so I can wash them before their next game or practice and we always know where all of the pieces of their uniforms are. No more missing soccer socks found at the bottom of the laundry basket!

#13 prepare fruits and vegetables one day a week.

One day a week, wash and cut up all the fruit and veggies for snacks and lunches and then portion them into individual ziploc bags. I know in our house our produce is likely to be eaten more often if it’s easy to ready to go. It also makes packing healthy lunches easier because all the work is already done and we just need to put it in the lunchbox in the morning. (BTW you can always make sure you have fruits and veggies in your home with Imperfect Produce delivery.)

#14 take some time on sundays to plan the week ahead.

Every weekend look at the schedule for the week coming up. Add anything you need to your shopping list (like a birthday gift for the birthday party your child will be going to or snacks for the soccer game) and plan out your to-do list. The week will run much smoother if you know what’s coming up instead of waiting until that day to see what you have planned.

#15 limit errands you have to run by doing as much as you can online.

During the school year I have so much to do that I don’t want to be spending most of my days running errands around town. I’ve found that most of what I need to do can be done online or even via my phone. Whether it’s buying a birthday gift, putting money in my kid’s school lunch account, or paying bills, there is little need to leave the house to run errands these days.

What hacks do you have to share? I could use some help figuring out how to make sure Lucas gets dressed the first time I ask and tips to keep my car (aka the place we basically live in during the school year) clean and tidy!

Tips For Smoother School Day Mornings

I’m far from perfect as a mom… I can’t keep my van clean, stay on top of laundry, or get my youngest to love veggies. One thing I can do though? Get my kids to school early every day. I have had some moms in my mom’s groups ask for help and tips when it comes to this so I wanted to share some things that work for us. Keep in mind my boys are older (9 and 10) but many of these tips also worked when my boys were both in preschool. Plus, my 9 year old still needs a lot of assistance when it comes to getting ready in the morning so hopefully these tips are helpful to those with younger kids and for those who are raising little ones with special needs as well.

My biggest tip is to give yourself more time than you need in the mornings. Yes, you all can probably rush and get ready in just half an hour but wouldn’t it be better to give yourself an hour and have a calmer morning? I always think about the time it should take two kids and an adult to get ready and double that because I know things will always come up. Whether it’s a missing shoe, a child who takes *forever* to eat breakfast, an unexpected meltdown, or a last-minute reminder (as you are about to walk out the door) that they needed to wear the school colors for a spirit day, extra time is always helpful. I also make it my goal to be out of the house earlier in the mornings so I have enough time to get coffee. Most of the time I am at school dropoff with coffee in hand but even on mornings we are running a few minutes behind we still end up arriving to school early. It’s such a more relaxing way to start the day and even Luke’s teachers have commented that he seems calmer when he is one of the first kids at school (versus when their dad drops them off closer to the bell time and they have to rush to their lockers and class).

Another big help in getting out of the door easier in the morning is to do as much the night before as possible. Kids can pick out their outfits and set them out along with their shoes and socks. Homework should be done and in backpacks which can be put by the front door so they are ready to go. Lunches can be partially packed with non-perishable snacks so in the morning you (or the kids!) just have to grab the other items from the fridge to add to it. Don’t forget to do a quick check of your calendar and to-do list as well which can hopefully help you remember anything important you need to get together, like something your child needs to bring to school or the special aforementioned thing they need for spirit week!

Breakfast muffins that can be made ahead of time and reheated are ideal for busy school mornings!

When it comes to breakfast I’ve found easy options are best. My kids love when daddy makes pancakes but those are just not realistic for busy school mornings. For weekdays stick to easy breakfasts like cold cereal, fresh fruit, frozen waffles, healthy smoothies (I like to add oats in mine for a more filling breakfast), and eggs. Warm breakfast options that can be made ahead, frozen, and then reheated, like these easy breakfast muffins pictured above, are great as well. And we always have those mornings where we are walking out the door and one of the kids realizes that they never ate breakfast so it’s always a good idea to have some fresh cut fruit and cereal in containers that they can grab and eat in the car.

Once kids start getting older they can help more in the mornings. Whether it’s dressing themselves, brushing their own teeth, or combing their hair, the more kids are able to get themselves ready the less you have to do! If your kids are able to you can also have kids make their own lunches and get their own school snacks which is really helpful. Having all of the lunch making items together so they are accessible to kids helps the process go smoother. To make lunch-making easier for children I’d suggest making sure all snacks and other items are on low shelves and stored together. We have plastic containers in the fridge which house yogurt, string cheese, fruit, and sliced up veggies they can take for lunches. All other snacks, like chips and individual containers of applesauce, are in a small cart with drawers.

Once I have baby #3 I’ll probably have more tips to share on how I learned to get ready with a baby added in the mix, too, but in the meantime I’d love ideas on how to do that since it’s going to be an adjustment! Please come and chat with me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and share all your knowledge with me!

Hope your kids all have a fabulous school year!!

Tips On Taking Your Child For Their First Eye Exam

Thanks to Visionworks for sponsoring this post.

Did you know that 1 in 4 children have vision problems? Poor vision interferes with a child’s ability to learn so, with school starting for many this coming week (and already started for some), now is the perfect time to take your child for an eye exam.

The whole process of eye exams might seem scary to some kids but I’ve found some simple ways to make the process run smoothly. The first step is deciding where to go and finding a place that is child friendly. We headed to our local Visionworks and I could not be happier with the decision. From kind staff to a great selection of kid’s frames to a partnership with PAW Patrol, Visionworks welcomed my active boys and made Luke’s first eye exam experience great.

The next thing you’ll want to do is talk to your child about what to expect and show them some pictures of eye doctor’s offices. The large machines in the office can be intimidating but once they know what they are for and what they do they aren’t so scary anymore!

Once the eye exam is done you can browse the kid’s frames and see which ones your child likes. Visionworks carries the largest selection of  kids’ frames at every day low prices. Kids’ eyewear has improved so much since we were children and become much more durable with the development of polycarbonate impact-resistant lenses and flexible frames. There are a lot more cute designs now as well! Letting your child pick out a pair of glasses that they love is important because you want them to feel confident wearing their glasses.

Visionworks is passionate about offering its youngest customers a positive and fun experience at the eye doctor and their partnership with PAW Patrol shows kids that coming in for a back-to- school eye exam isn’t scary at all. Not only do they carry an exclusive line of PAW Patrol frames designed just for this back to school season but, for a limited time, children who have completed their annual eye exam will receive a goodie bag, which will include a themed activity sheet, a box of crayons, a sticker sheet and a PAW Patrol character mask.

(Don’t you just love the little paw print on the side of the frames?!)

In the end, we discovered that Lucas did not need glasses but I’m still so glad that we went so we could rule out vision as a cause of some of his learning struggles. Need to take your child for their annual back to school eye exam still? Find your local Visionworks here and schedule your appointment online to make things easy.

I’d love to hear how you prepare your child for new experiences, like heading to the eye doctor, so please leave me a comment below and let me know!

Back To School Hacks To Make Life Easier

Thanks to Stick 2 Me for sponsoring this post.

The boys start school in a little over a week so today I wanted to share some of my favorite back to school hacks to make life easier.

Label everything

Often time when kids are younger the school tells you to label everything but I think it’s just as important to do so as they get older. Last year I was at a school event and happened to look in the lost and found to find four of our jackets that Lucas had left at school. He had worn them on chilly mornings and then either taken them off at recess leaving them on the blacktop or left them sitting in his classroom when he came home for the day. If I had put labels on them they would have found their way back home instead of ending up in the lost and found.

Stick 2 Me creates fun, durable, and waterproof kids identification labels that can be customized with your child’s name. They are great for snack containers, clothes, school supplies, sports gear and more. Parents will love that the labels come in multiple convenient sizes and that they are waterproof, washable, and UV resistant so they can go into the dishwasher and the microwave. Kids will love that the labels have fun designs, from beautifully illustrated designs like unicorns and monsters for the younger children to cool graffiti designs for tweens to more neutral designs for teens. Overall there are 24 different collections to choose from (see them all here).

Have a place for school papers that come home

School paperwork can be overwhelming and pile up quickly if not dealt with. From PTA fliers to art projects to field trip forms, I think that I get at least a couple dozen papers a week and even more so during the first weeks of school. Having a place to keep all of the papers together is helpful so this year I’m using a basket for all the papers that come home. When the boys empty their backpacks they can put the papers directly into the basket and then I can go through them when I get a chance. No more papers piling up on my table!

Send extra clothes to school (even if kids are older)

When my children were in preschool, sending extra clothes was a no brainer because they would have the occasional bathroom accident. Last year though I discovered that even grade schoolers could benefit from an extra set of clothes when I found myself running to school midday to drop off pants for my then 8 year old. He had fallen into a mud pit while playing outside at recess and was covered in mud. If he’d had an extra outfit stashed in his locker or backpack he would have been set so lesson learned!

Start the day off on a good note

Mornings can be stressful but they don’t have to be! I’ve found that starting our morning routine earlier than we need to leads to calmer mornings and us getting out the door early every day. Figure out how much time it takes your family to get ready and then add 20 to 30 minutes to that time because you know things are bound to happen- like your child not being able to find their school library book or being ready to walk out the door and discovering that your child still doesn’t have their shoes on even though you’ve asked them to do so at least 10 times. (We’ve all been there, right??) Having outfits picked out the night before and backpacks ready to go helps make mornings easier as well.

Designate a homework area

It’s important that children have a designated area to do homework. You’ll want to find a well-lit area with few distractions and stock it with all of the supplies they need to get their schoolwork done. Last year my boys usually did their homework at a small table that didn’t make it easy for us to help if they needed it so this year we’ve moved them to a larger table that we’ve designated for homework and projects. The table has a homework caddy filled with essential supplies to make homework time easier.

Find 15 more back to school hacks here. Which tip is your favorite?

Beyond The Backpack Event In Chicago This Weekend {Gift Card Giveaway}

Thanks to Kmart for sponsoring this post.

Hey Chicago parents! Looking for a fun back to school event to get your kids excited for the first day of school? If so, you’ll want to head to the Nick Jr. Beyond the Backpack event at the Addison Kmart location this Saturday!

This free, kid-friendly back-to-school event will be filled with awesome activities, games, crafts and even a dance party for everyone to enjoy. Plus, big news for the littlest shoppers, there will be surprise appearances from Shimmer and Shine as well as Dora the Explorer. There will also be kindergarten readiness resources from Nick Jr. Beyond the Backpack, a nationwide initiative to promote overall kindergarten readiness for preschoolers.

  • Event Date: Saturday, August 19 from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Event Location: Kmart Addison – 3443 W. Addison Street, Chicago, IL 60618

While you are at the event, make sure to check out Kmart’s great selection of back to school necessities and get everything else you need to make the first day of school a success. From a cute outfit for picture day to stylish shoes to a cool backpack, they have everything your family needs for the school year.

To make shopping for back to school gear a little easier, Making Time For Mommy is partnering with Kmart to offer a $50 Kmart gift card to one lucky winner. Just enter via the form below and the winner will be chosen Saturday and receive their gift card via email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get A Haircut To Share A Haircut

Thanks to Hair Cuttery for sponsoring this post.

There are a few things our family typically does in preparation for the first day of school each year. The first thing we do is buy all of the supplies on the school supply list along with a backpack of each child’s choosing, I also shop for the perfect new outfits for the boys to wear on the first day of school. One of the last things we do to get ready for school is head to the salon to get much-needed haircuts for each child. My boys get their haircuts in May and typically then go the whole summer without a haircut so by Mid-August they are long overdue for a trim.

If your kids are going to need haircuts before school like mine do, I’d encourage you to visit your local Hair Cuttery in the next couple weeks to participate in their Share-A-Haircut program. I love companies that give back so I’m proud to support Hair Cuttery and this program that gives free haircuts to underprivileged community members, specifically kids in need as they head back-to-school. To date, the Share-A-Haircut program has reached more than 2.16M people with haircut certificate donations, valued at $35 million. Isn’t that amazing!?

This year Hair Cuttery is offering this program for the 18th year in a row and hoping to donate tens of thousands of free haircut certificates. To do so, they need YOUR help! From August 1st-15th, take your child or teenager to get a haircut at one of Hair Cuttery’s almost 900 salons. For each child that gets their haircut during this timeframe, one free haircut certificate will be donated to a local government or non-profit organization who will then offer it to an underprivileged child in that same community. It’s such an easy way to do something good and it will help a child feel more confident as they head back to school.

Not sure where your closest Hair Cuttery location is? You can use their salon locator here. Have your children gotten their BTS haircuts yet?

Tips For Putting Together A Homework Caddy

Raise your hand if you are ready for back to school season. No? I’m not ready either but I figured I better start because, as I shared a few days ago, my boys’ first day of school is just about a month away. There is so much to do but at least I’ve gotten one thing crossed off my list- I’ve made a homework caddy that will make homework time easier for my kids! I wanted to share some tips on how to put one together and what elements you’ll want to include.

Make it portable

We have a small child sized table where the boys normally do homework but sometimes they need to do homework somewhere else. When mom or dad needs to help with an assignment or they are working on an art or building project that can’t be disturbed homework ends up being done on the kitchen table. Because of this, having a portable homework caddy is essential because they can carry it wherever they are working on homework that day.

Keep it organized

Keeping school supplies organized is the best part about making a homework caddy. I recommend using something with dividers already in it so kids can see where things go. The supplies will hopefully stay sorted a little longer that way!

Include all the supplies your children need to complete their homework

Including all of the necessary supplies is important. For children in elementary school this usually just means pencils, coloring tools of some kind, glue and scissors. As children get older they may need rulers, graphing calculators, highlighters and more. Having all of the supplies in the caddy means that your children can easily complete their homework assignments.

Make it easy to find a sharpened pencil

I’d say about half of homework time last year seemed to be the boys going through all of the pencils to find a sharpened one. Make it simple by pre-sharpening all of the pencils, or better yet just buy them pre-sharpened and save yourself some time! I also like buying all of the same kind of pencil so the boys aren’t fighting over that one favorite character pencil ;)

Keep a snack handy

My children start on homework while having a snack so it only made sense to stock their homework caddy with one of their favorites- Goldfish® crackers. I love these individual serving sized packages because it limits how much the boys can eat for snack. (I also love being able to grab a package for myself so I can enjoy a quick snack while I sit at the table with them!)

We found a variety of flavors at our local store. Lucas loves the traditional Goldfish® Cheddar flavor while Jacob’s favorite is the Extra Cheddar flavor. Be sure to check out the Goldfish® Pinterest Page for more back to school and snack ideas!

How are you getting ready for back to school season? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Protect Your Memories With Picture Keeper {And A $300 BTS Shopping Spree Giveaway}

Thanks to Picture Keeper for sponsoring this post and giveaway.

I know it’s only July but my mind is starting to think back-to-school already! It might be the school supplies in stores or it could be the realization, after looking at my calendar, that the first day of school is only about a month away. (Which means I better get busy preparing for the school year…)

One of my favorite things to do on the first day of school is to take a picture of my boys so I can compare it to the previous year (and share it with friends and family obviously lol). The school year brings tons of other photo opps as well, like holiday concerts and PTA events, so if you like taking pictures of your loved ones like I do, give yourself peace-of-mind with backup security from Picture Keeper. With so many memories stored on computers, don’t risk photos of your children getting lost or deleted without a backup plan.

Picture Keeper Connect is a simple all-in-one USB device with embedded software that makes it easy to transfer photos, contacts, and videos directly from your Phone or Tablet (iOS and Android) to your Mac or PC with the simple click of a button, freeing up space on your device and securing your memories. This device is simple and convenient to use with no software to install, no wires to connect, no complicated setup, and no passwords to remember. The files can be accessed and backed up without WiFi or data connection and are always within reach. Best of all, there are no monthly fees associated with using Picture Keeper.

Protecting your memories shouldn’t be difficult. Whether you’re switching to a new phone, running out of storage on your smartphone, or wanting to safeguard those important first day of school photos, Picture Keeper Connect offers simple photo backup solutions for all devices – smartphones, tablets, and computers.

To celebrate the back-to-school season, Picture Keeper is hosting a great giveaway for a $300 shopping spree and a Picture Keeper Connect. Enter below for a chance to win!

Back to School Giveaway!

Stylish Looks From OshKosh B’gosh {Giveaway}

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of OshKosh B’gosh; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. #BacktoBgosh

The kids are back in school and today is the unofficial end of the summer season which means we all know the cooler Autumn air will be here soon. With it comes the start of football, pumpkin spice lattes and apple picking, along with the need for new back to school clothes. It will soon be time to put away the shorts and sandals in favor of sweaters and boots.

Knowing this, I recently went shopping at OshKosh B’gosh for some stylish fall looks. It’s one of my favorite stores for kid’s fashion and I’ve been a customer ever since my boys were babies crawling around in their little overalls. Denim has been a staple in my kid’s wardrobe for years because it’s comfortable, stylish and versatile. OshKosh B’gosh is one of the few places I buy jeans for the kids because their pants have adjustable waistbands for my kids’ tiny waists.

Along with a pair of dark wash denim jeans I bought a light jacket and a number of long sleeve tops. I love that denim jeans go with just about anything- from t-shirts and athletic shoes to dress shirts and boots. All of the shirts I bought looked great with the jeans and I was able to create a number of outfits with the same pair of dark wash jeans.

I noticed that this year I was drawn to a lot of blue and orange combos when I was shopping. Perhaps because of my love for our Chicago football team? Or maybe it’s because these colors will brighten up any dreary fall day, especially when paired with a smile!

Want to do some back to school shopping of your own? I’m excited to be sharing a coupon code for OshKosh B’gosh and giving away a gift card to the store!

What stylish looks will you find for your kids?

To save 25% at OshKosh B’gosh use the coupon code Coupon Code OKBG3136 or print the coupon below.

GIVEAWAY:

One person will win a $50 Gift Card to OshKosh B’Gosh

HOW TO ENTER:

To enter the giveaway comment on this post letting me know why you want to win.

For an extra entry, share this post on social media and comment a second time with the link

The giveaway ends September 20, 2016 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident and 21 or older to win.

P.S.- Does anyone else’s child dab? Jacob just had to do so during our little photo shoot. How could I not share these pictures? lol

 

 

15 Back To School Hacks That Make Life Easier

The end of August means busier schedules and more items on our to-do lists so I wanted to share 15 hacks to make this school year the best one yet. From making mornings run smoother to helping kids become self-sufficient to spending less time running errands, I hope you’ll find a couple ideas to try :)

#1 Do as much the night before as you can.

Things can be hectic in the morning so do as much the night before as you can. We try to pick out outfits, get homework back in the backpacks and get the lunchboxes on the counter and partially packed before we go to bed. The less you have to do in the morning the better!

#2 Start your morning routine earlier and plan to be ready or out the door earlier than you need to be.

I’ve found that my kids always need more time to get ready than I think they will need. We start our morning routine earlier than I think we will need to and our goal is to leave our house 30 minutes early every day (though school is just a couple minutes away). Most days we are out of the house on time and I treat myself to coffee on the way to school drop off. Even on mornings we are running a few minutes behind we still end up arriving to school early. We sit in the car talking about our day, getting in reading time or practicing math facts. It’s such a more relaxing way to start the day and even Luke’s teachers comment that he seems calmer when he is one of the first kids at school (versus when their dad drops them off closer to the bell time and they have to rush to their lockers and class).

#3 Have quick breakfasts ready to go for the kids (and yourself).

Am I the only one who has had a child say they “forgot” to eat breakfast right as they are walking out the door (even though said child has been up a couple hours already)? For those mornings I have cereal in a baggie ready to go and they can eat on the go.

#4 Have a snack station to make packing lunches easier (and teach older kids how to pack their lunches!)

Jacob just recently started packing his own lunch as well as Luke’s. To make things easier to pack lunches (and to see when we are running low on things) we have all of the snacks in two places. We use three containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge to keep yogurts, cheese sticks and bags of fruits and veggies and a number of small bins on the shelves of our island that store raisins, portable applesauce, crackers, chips and other snacks.

#5 Freeze water bottles overnight to keep lunches cold.

In place of a freezer pack you can freeze a water bottle to stick in the lunch box. It will keep the lunch cold and melt in time for a nice cool drink to enjoy at lunch. (Remember to not fill the bottle up all the way ;) lol)

#6 Help kids learn routines with schedules.

Whether you use picture schedules for younger children or written schedules for older ones, schedules help keep things running smoothly. I’ll never forget the first day of school last year when Jacob woke me up early in the morning to tell me he was all ready for school without me having to remind him of a thing!

#7 Have a homework station and stock it with everything your children will need to complete projects and homework assignments.

I’ve learned over the years that children need a lot more than a pencil to complete homework assignments. Find a place in your home where you can keep everything children need at homework time- from scissors to markers to glue sticks. Make sure to have plenty of sharpened pencils there as well!

#8 Simplify after-school activities with separate bags for each activity and keep all items related to the activity in the bag.

We’ve found that bags for each activity my kids are in makes it easy to get out the door because we aren’t trying to find items as we are getting ready to leave the house. A simple reusable bag or backpack works to keep everything together and we no longer have to hunt for their scouting books or the soccer shin guards.

#9 Tame paperwork with an expandable paper file.

As parents we get tons of papers on a weekly basis. Many of them have important dates and information on them. Write all dates on your calendar immediately and file the paper away in an expanding file folder by category (school, sports, community, etc). When that activity comes up on your calendar you can find it in your expandable paper file and refer to the paper for information about location, what to bring, etc. Once the event is done you can then throw the flier away. I have two file units- a smaller one for things I’ll need on the go and a larger one I keep at home for things I don’t need to keep with me but still need to refer to.

#10 Make memory boxes for art work, school work and other memories.

Keep a box for each child labeled with the school year and put all “memory” things in it (art work, stories, pictures, awards, etc) as you clean out their folders every day or week. At the end of the year you can go through it and decide which things you want to keep and what you can let go of. My mom made boxes for my siblings and I and I’ve loved looking back through them as I’ve gotten older- remembering everything from my first concert to my sweet 16 birthday party. Even if you don’t physically keep everything but choose to take photos of the items and store them digitally, your children will cherish the memories you have kept for them.

#11 Have children take uniforms off and put them directly on (or in) the washer.

Whether it’s their school uniform or their karate uniform, nobody wants to dig through dirty laundry looking for that essential item of clothing they need. I have my boys take their sports uniforms off and put them right on top of the washer so I can wash them before their next game or practice and we always know where it all of the pieces of their uniforms are. No more missing soccer socks found at the bottom of the laundry basket!

#12 Prepare fruits and vegetables one day a week.

One day a week, wash and cut up all the fruit and veggies for snacks and lunches and then portion them into individual ziploc bags. I know in our house our produce is likely to be eaten more often if it’s easy to ready to go. It also makes packing healthy lunches easier because all the work is already done and we just need to put it in the lunchbox in the morning.

#13 As you commit to things add them to your calendar.

“Mommy brain” is real. I swear! lol. Make sure to add things to your calendar immediately. Don’t write them on post-it’s, count on reminder emails or think that you will remember. We already have enough on our minds as parents so there is no need to try and add a list of important dates on top of everything else.

#14 Take some time on Sundays to plan the week ahead.

Every weekend look at the schedule for the week coming up. Add anything you need to your shopping list (like a birthday gift for the birthday party your child will be going to or snacks for the soccer game) and plan out your to-do list. The week will run much smoother if you know what’s coming up instead of waiting until that day to see what you have planned.

#15 Limit errands you have to run by doing as much as you can online.

During the school year I have so much to do that I don’t want to be spending most of my days running errands around town. I’ve found that most of what I need to do can be done online or even via my phone. Whether it’s buying a birthday gift, putting money in my kid’s school lunch account, or paying bills, there is little need to leave the house to run errands these days.

PayPal is one of my favorite tools to use when I’m doing online transactions, whether it’s sending or receiving money or ordering things online. I like knowing my bank account information is secure when I pay with PayPal and, with PayPal One Touch, there is no need to type in credit card information or re-enter usernames and passwords on every app or website which makes the process even quicker.

If you are still looking to purchase back to school clothing or supplies take advantage of PayPal’s exclusive offers with select retailers that can make your Back to School shopping even more affordable. Visit paypal.com/backtoschool to see the best ways to save money!

#16 {BONUS!} Show your children that the person they are is more important than the grades they get.

I told my kids today that as important as grades are, I care more that they are a good person and a kind friend. As parents we try to teach our children to care about others and the best way to do that is to show that we care for others. Whether it’s bringing a meal to a sick friend, volunteering at a soup kitchen or sticking up for someone being bullied, there are many ways that our family can help others. One easy way to support those in our community who need help is to use the PayPal Giving Fund which lets people donate online with 100% of proceeds going to selected partnering charity organizations, such as Let Girls LearnYMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Even better, now through August 31st, donations made through the PayPal Giving Fund will receive a 1% match from PayPal! Learn more here.

What hacks do you have to share? I could use some help figuring out how to get Lucas to get dressed the first time I ask and tips to keep my car (aka the place we basically live in during the school year) clean and tidy!

 

 

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

25 After School Snack Ideas


Thanks to Tampico for sponsoring this after school snack ideas post.

Back-to-school season is almost here which means shopping for new clothes and school supplies and getting back into routine. Our daily routine varies greatly depending on what sport or activity my kids have that day but one thing that is a given is my boys are going to walk in the door from school hungry. As soon as they take off their shoes and hang their backpacks up they head to the kitchen for a snack.

I like to have a variety of snacks available for them to choose from so I wanted to share a list of 25 after school snack ideas in case you all are looking for some more snack variety as well :)

After school snack ideas:

1) Apples (plain or dipped in peanut butter)

2) Trail mix

3) Pita chips and hummus

4) “Ants on a log” (celery with peanut butter and raisins)

5) Yogurt (plain or topped with fruit or granola)

6) Toast with peanut butter or jelly on it

7) Grapes

8) String cheese

9) Bananas

10) Popcorn

11) Cucumber slices

12) Cheerios

13) Cheese roll up or quesadilla (with salsa)

14) Carrot sticks (plain or dipped in ranch dressing or spinach dip)

15) Pretzels

16) Veggie straws

17) Red pepper slices

18) Cheese & crackers

19) Fruit kabobs (fresh fruit on a skewer)

20) Nutrigrain bar with fruit filling

21) Crackers topped with cream cheese and strawberry jelly

22) Strawberries

23) Graham crackers

24) Applesauce

25) Granola bar

My boys like having juice with their snack, especially when it’s Tampico juice drinks! The Tropical Punch flavor is their favorite. Every time we start to run out of it Lucas makes sure to remind me to get some more when he knows I’m headed to the store.

What after-school snacks do your children enjoy?

How You Can Help Teachers {And Win A Chance To Meet Katy Perry}

I’m proud to be partnering with Staples this back-to-school season to share about some great things they are doing in the community.

Did you know that most teachers spend their own money to equip their classrooms? The Education Market Association estimates that they spend more than $400 per year buying things they need. Staples wanted to do something to support teachers across America and help them as they start preparing for the upcoming school year so they made a $1 million donation to DonorsChoose.org. DonorsChoose.org is a charity that has funded more than 700,000 classroom projects for teachers and has positively affected more than 18 million students across the country.

Katy Perry, who has previously supported Staples commitment to education in the past, has joined in to help support teachers across America. She says she believes in “education as a foundation for a great life” and wants “to make sure that students across the country are inspired by their teachers and afforded every opportunity to realize their dreams.” Perry knows “firsthand how desperately teachers need our support.”

In the video above, Katy Perry shares about an inspiring project she made as a 4th grader in music class that helped her express her dreams for her music career. She thinks about how she may not have had that chance to create her vision board if her teacher hadn’t had the materials and goes on to talk about the harsh reality that many teachers face on a daily basis, having to spend their own money to provide adequate supplies and equipment to students. Staples and Katy Perry hope their PSA will encourage viewers to help support teachers by making their own donations at a local Staples store or online at StaplesForStudents.org.

Staples is also hosting a sweepstakes. Beginning June 26th through September 10th, fans who spend $25 or more in any Staples store will receive a unique entry code on their receipt to enter the sweepstakes online at Staples.com/StaplesForStudents. One grand prize winner will win a $50,000 scholarship plus a trip for two to Los Angeles to meet superstar, Katy Perry. Four first prize winners and one guest each will also win air travel to Los Angeles, two nights stay and spending money to meet Katy Perry at the VIP Winners Celebration. (Visit Staples.com/StaplesForStudents for official rules.)

Teachers make such a difference in the lives of children and together we can help them make an even bigger difference this back-to-school season. By donating at a Staples store or online, anyone can help a classroom in need. Donations help teachers with books, art supplies, field trips, technology and other resources they need to help children learn.

Will you join me in supporting this important cause?

 

Adding Variety To The Lunchbox (Gift Card Giveaway)

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

Back to school is a special time of year for our family. The boys love making new friends and all of the activities the school year brings. They especially love two times of the school day: recess and lunch.

We spent weeks preparing for the school year and buying everything we needed. Most things were one time purchases but we also have daily costs like lunch. We let the boys get school lunch one time a week and then the rest of the week they pack lunch. As with any purchases, we as a family look to save money and time, and we can do both at Save-A-Lot while getting a variety of delicious choices to fill the lunchbox.

Variety is the spice of life. When it comes to my kid’s lunch boxes they love having plenty of choices. With Save-A-Lot our money gets more juice boxes and yogurts and snacks and every lunch is packed with fun. When my youngest tries to make his own lunch for school he always grabs a million things and it feels great seeing his excitement and joy.

We try to give the kids a balanced lunch and a healthy snack for each one that might not be so nutritious. We want them to enjoy eating it but, at the same time, don’t want to pack it full of junk. Save-A-Lot helps the most here because I know that I can find healthier, affordable options at their stores. I also buy bigger bags and we portion them ourselves to save even more money that way.

Another thing that changes during the school year is breakfast. Kids have less time in the mornings now to lounge around but we still want them to eat something before they leave for the day. In our house, cereal is the king of breakfast (mainly because it’s so easy)! We portion cereal in plastic bags so they can eat it while they are getting ready or in the car if we are in a hurry. Cereal serves as a friendly snack as well so we always make sure to have extra boxes on hand.

School is in session and the kids are falling into routines so the days aren’t so hectic. One thing that helps us feel prepared is to have breakfast and lunch snacks ready to go so we start our day off on the right foot. How do you make school days easier?

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a $25 Gift Card to Save-A-Lot

HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment on this post sharing a back-to-school tip.

For an extra entry, share this post on social media and leave a second comment.

Giveaway ends 9/19/2015 at 11:59pm CST. Must be 21 or older and a US resident to enter.

Win Your School Supply List!

The month of August is filled with all sorts of school related expenses. School supplies, new clothes, backpacks and lunchboxes, school physicals, and more seem to take up every spare penny we have this season. Because of this, I’m excited to share about a way that you can win your school supply list so that’s one less expense you have to pay for. Thanks to Great Clips for sponsoring today’s discussion.

Great Clips is fulfilling school supply lists with the #GREATLIST. Upload your school supply list to www.greatclips.com/greatlist between now and Sept. 5. Daily winners will have their back-to-school supplies shipped to their front door for free (up to $100). Everyone won’t get their list fulfilled but everyone is a winner because Great Clips is giving each person who uploads their list a $2 off coupon to get their back to school haircuts!

Also, as much as parents think they spend on supplies, it’s estimated that teachers spend $1000 of their own money on school supplies each year. Download Great Clips’ free Online Check-In app through Sept. 5 so you don’t have to wait to get your haircut. Not only will it save you time, it also helps classrooms in your community. For every download through Sept. 5, Great Clips will make a donation to support AdoptAClassroom.org, up to $20,000.

I love the commitment they’ve made to helping classrooms around the U.S! Pull out your tissues and watch how they gave gifts to two St. Paul area teachers in this video below:

Labeling School Supplies Made Easy

My boys start school in less than a month and I am not ready at all! Starting to think of the new school year means that my shopping list and my to-do list is continuing to grow. Admittedly, school supply and clothing shopping is one of my favorite parts of the preparation. Labeling all the supplies (so they don’t get lost) and filling the backpacks though? Not as fun. I’m excited to be working with Bright Star Kids this month to share just how easy packing the backpacks can be once all the supplies have been bought.

Bright Star Kids, established in 2005, sells a great range of Name Labels & Wall Art. Their name labels are perfect for labeling supplies for your student! They are delivered quickly, use high quality products, adorable and offer a 100% Money Back Guarantee! Think about all the things you could label!

  • backpacks
  • lunch boxes
  • notebooks
  • school books
  • folders
  • pencil boxes
  • calculators
  • spare clothes
  • reusable water bottles
  • gym shoes

Even better than easy to use, fun labels? Labels on sale! Get free shipping and 15% off store wide using the promo code LABELS on orders over $30 in conjunction with back to school. Make sure to check out the Bright Star Kids school labels value kit that’s less than $40 (when the 15% discount code is applied) for 175 labels.

Save 15% off Storewide Plus FREE Delivery. Enter Code: LABELS at checkout. Min Spend $30, offer ends 15th September.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bright Star Kids. The opinions and text are all mine.

Back To School Bash {$350 In Prizes}

Welcome to the Ultimate Back to School Bash! 3BoysandaDog has teamed up with A+ Interactive Math and some fabulous other brands to bring you this giveaway and I am excited to be helping promote it. Check out the amazing prizes below!

Back to School Bash 2013

Prizes:

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  • A+ Interactive Math – 1 year FREE Online Full Curriculum – A+ Interactive Math – 1 winner (choice of: grades K – Algebra I) Value $124.99 . A+ Interactive Math is dedicated to making math enjoyable and learnable for all ages. A+ Interactive is perfect for homeschooling parents or parents that just want to give the child some extra math help. A + Interactive Math offers full curriculum books, workbooks, online education and interactive math CD’s. You can purchase A+ Interactive Math or view their catalog here.

    Door Prize for all participants:

    Multiplication for Elementary & Middle School – download (value $21.99)

    Code: enter 3DOGSMATH upon checkout

  • $100 Visa Card – This fabulous gift card is being brought to you by www.learntobloghangouts.com! This is the perfect way to get a great jump start on your back to school shopping! You can use this $100 Visa gift card at any location that accepts Visa.
  • Back to School Survival Guide – This back to school guide is brought to you by The Confident Mom. In this Back to School Survival Guide you will find everything you need to help you ensure the school year runs seamlessly. This guide is an 80 page printable that will help you keep your child safe while using the internet, help with homework, making packing school lunches easier, become a savvy back to school shopper and much more! You can read more about the Back to School Survival Guide or purchase one here.
  • Office Depot Sackpack of School Supplies –Office Depot is committed to providing affordable school supplies! You will find $25 worth of school supplies in this sack pack. The Office Depot Foundation donates over 30,000 backpacks to school children each and every year!
  • BYOU Magazine Subscription
  • Go Picnic Ready to Eat Meals – Go Picnic makes packing lunches and snacks a breeze. They offer gluten-free, kosher, all-natural and a variety of other snacks that are perfect for back to school lunches and snacks. You can view the large variety of products they offer here.
  • Tummy Calm – Have a little one with an upset stomach? Tummy Calm is a safe option to helping your child feel better. Tummy Calm is made with all-natural FDA regulated ingredients. You can read more about Tummy Calm and place an order here.
  • BIC School Supplies – BIC offers a wide range of back to school items from pens, pencils, markers, highlighters and much more! BIC is your one stop shop for your back to school supplies.
  • Teach My Preschooler – Teach My is your one stop solution for giving babies, toddlers and preschoolers a jump start on education. You will find interactive learning products that promote learning in a fun manner. You can order a Teach My learning program here.
  • Wild Planet Foods – Wild Planet Foods has tuna like you have never tasted before. This tuna is the perfect ingredient for a healthy and delicious school lunch. Wild Planet offers tuna that has 6 times the Omega 3 and 1/2 the mercury other brands have. Order up your own supply of Wild Planet Foods here.
  • GHCretors – GHCretors offers all-natural, non-GMO and gluten-free popcorn in a variety of flavors! You will love that a healthy snack can taste so good. This might just be the best popcorn you have ever tasted. Get your order placed here.
  • ListPlanIt – Are you ready to get your life organized? If so then ListPlanIt is the place to visit! Any kind of list you can imagine you will find on ListPlanIt. The winner is going to receive 2 ePlanners (Student ePlanner and Home Education ePlanner, value $10) + a coupon code for a 3-month trial to ListPlanIt! This is a fantastic prize to get the school year started off. You can also sign up for ListPlanIt here.

 

Go to The Ultimate Back to School Bash (<<—-click there) post to enter for your chance to win this HUGE giveaway worth well over $350 dollars!

(Disclosure: I am not being compensated for posting this. For any questions about this giveaway please contact the host blog.)

First Day Of School 2013

Walk The Halls In Style With Kohl’s

It’s back to school season and I’m sure most of you are busy preparing for school. When buying back to school fashions don’t forget the shoes! It’s been said that shoes make the outfit. Check out these cute looks from Kohl’s (disclosure: I am working with Kohl’s to promote their BTS looks):

 (Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post however I am working with Kohl’s on other posts at the moment.)

8 Simple Tips To Spend Less On Back-To-School Electronics

Have a child headed back-to-school soon? Here are eight simple tips to spend less on the electronics they want.

  • Shop on sales tax holidays—seventeen states have sales tax holidays that will allow consumers to purchase back-to-school items, such as clothing, computers and school supplies, tax free. If you live in these states, plan to do your electronics shopping on a sales tax holiday—it could help you save 4% to 10% depending on your state.
  • Shop online—shopping online makes it easy to compare prices from several retailers. And there are plenty of sites that do the bargain hunting for you. Dealnews.com has a page devoted to the best computer deals; Amazon and PriceGrabber are good sources for comparing prices.
  • Take advantage of price-match policies—if you find a good deal online but don’t want to pay shipping costs, you might be able to get the same price in a brick-and-mortar store if it has a price-match policy. For example, Best Buy and Target will match Amazon prices.
  • Buy refurbished—you can save a lot by purchasing refurbished tech items, which are used but restored to like-new condition and usually have a one-year warranty. Try Apple.com, BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Newegg.com and Walmart.com to find refurbished electronics.
  • Take advantage of trade-in programs—one way to pay less for new tech items is to trade in a used item. A number of retailers, including Best Buy and Radio Shack, have trade-in programs that offer cash, a gift card or credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a new item.
  • Look for bundles—look for bundle deals, which are popular back-to-school promotions among tech retailers. The deals typically include a gift card, printer, gaming console or other accessory along with a laptop—at a price near what you would expect to pay for the laptop alone.
  • Get a free phone—mobile phone service providers, such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, often offer free smart phones when you sign up for a two-year service plan. Considering smart phones usually cost $200 or more, this can be a major savings. Or you could buy an unlocked phone and cut the cost of a service plan by more than half by opting for a prepaid wireless provider.
  • Don’t splurge on features you won’t use—when buying a laptop for your child, look for systems with a dual-core processor (not a pricey quad-core setup). Also, say no to tech support and retailers’ extended warranties—your credit card might offer an extended warranty.

Guest post provided by Kiplinger. Get more details on any of the above tips here.

 

10 Back to School Resolutions for Parents

Each new school year is a chance for children to start fresh and establish new routines. The same is true for parents, who play a huge role in a child’s education. As you send your children back to school this year, consider making a few resolutions of your own to make this a successful academic year. Most importantly, share the list with your child to help set expectations for both of you.

Education expert Renee Thompson, Kiddie Academy, offers the following thought starters for resolutions parents may wish to make, along with the reason why each is important.

Parents’ Back to School Resolutions:

1. I will give you a break after school if you need it before asking you to start homework.

Why: Some children can jump right into homework and others are more focused after having some time to unwind. See what works best for your child.

2. I will stay in touch with your teachers throughout the year.

Why: Communication is the key to early detection of potential problems. If your child is struggling, an open line of communication with the teacher will help in resolving the issue.

3. I will ask for positive feedback from your teachers.

Why: We’re all busy, including teachers, meaning that sometimes parents only hear when there is a problem. That’s not really fair to your kids or to you – if you’re going to endure the bad stuff, you both deserve to hear the good stuff, too.

4. I will offer guidance and assistance, but not a full solution, when you encounter a challenge.

Why: Children need to develop problem-solving skills. If their parents are constantly “fixing” things, the child will never learn to negotiate the inevitable bumps in the road.

5. I will enforce a consistent bed time, even if you fight me on it.

Why: Getting a good night’s sleep will allow your child to start the school day refreshed and ready to learn.

6. I will provide a healthy, nutritious breakfast.

Why: Just like sleep, your body and your brain need fuel to function at their highest level.

7. I will stock up on school supplies so you’ll have what you need.

Why: Nobody wants to run out of paper or glue when finishing a project. Stock up in the fall, when prices are low, and keep the supplies in an easy-to-access location. Consider making a Homework Bin – you can find directions here.

8. I will listen to your opinions on Back To School fashion choices, and do my best to accommodate your requests — within reason.

Why: It’s important to show your child that you respect and value their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. You can still have the final say; however, listening is key.

9. I will document your FIRST day of school with a photo every year. I will be discreet and take the photo at home. I will not follow you to school or ride the bus to get candid shots.

Why: One day, your child will want to look back and remember how they looked as they grew up. You can save the memories for them until they’re old enough to appreciate them.

10. I will take a picture of you on your LAST day of school each year.

Why: It’s amazing how much kids grow over the course of a school year. Take a photo and compare it to the first day of school picture. Sharing the photos with your child is the perfect opportunity to review the year’s accomplishments.

 

Free Back To School Printables

Have a child heading back to school soon? Check out these great new back to school printables from Paper Coterie that are perfect for those first day of school pictures! There are preschool through twelfth grade ones available. Download them free here.

Image courtesy of Paper Coterie

 

3 Ways to Plan Early for Back to School

You may not want to spend the last days of your kids’ summer vacation thinking about back to school preparations, but planning now can save you a lot of unnecessary pressure this fall. Divide up key tasks that need to be done before school starts and get them accomplished now. Here are a few suggestions for your to-do list:

Vaccinations

Be sure to check whether or not your kids are due to have their shots updated. If so, they aren’t the only ones; schedule an appointment now to be sure you get in on time. If you postpone and get stuck on a waiting list, your child may not be allowed to start school until proof of immunizations is shown.

While there are no federal vaccination laws, each state has its own vaccination requirements for children attending public schools. Mumps, rubella, measles, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus and polio are immunizations typically required. For older students, especially those heading to college, ask your doctor for information regarding HPV and Meningococcal vaccines.

If you have a letter from the school nurse, be sure to bring it, along with your student’s most recent shot record.

Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones

No, your first-grader probably doesn’t need any high-tech gadgets, but your high school or college student may! To help keep costs of major purchases like this down, Apple is giving $50 and $100 App Store gift cards with certain purchases. Buying a new Mac earns you $100, and you’ll receive $50 for an iPad or iPhone purchase. Gift cards are for the App Store, not retail stores, but your student can still use it to buy books, movies, music and apps from the iBookstore, iTunes Store, and Mac App Store.

You need to purchase the Mac or iPad from the Apple Online Store for Education, an Apple Retail Store, or an Apple Authorized Campus Store to qualify for the bonus. iPhone purchases must be made directly from Apple. Only college students, a student accepted to college, a parent purchasing for a college student, or a faculty or staff member at an education institution are eligible as well.

Apple offers educational pricing discounts up to $200 as well, so be sure not to miss any additional discount available!

School Clothes and Supplies 

For many, the shopping for back-to-school outfits and supplies can be the most fun part of heading back to class. Others dread it. Starting now is a good idea no matter where you stand on the subject. You can either get it out of the way early, or spread out the enjoyment!

When it comes to buying clothes for the new school year, there isn’t anything worse than not finding the sizes you need or the specific uniform pieces you require. Getting a jump-start on the crowds will ensure you have the pick of the sizes and items you need. If your student wears a uniform, use discounts to stock up on items he or she will need throughout the year. Sears already gives you $10 off Dockers uniform purchases of $75 or more, and if you’re a Shop Your Way Rewards member, the discount doubles.

Don’t forget that empty backpack your student will need to fill up before heading back. Pens, paper, notebooks, etc. will all eventually get used, lost or broken, so buy in bulk now at a lower price to save money throughout the year.

Often, shopping for supplies requires multiple trips to the store due to new additions to the school-provided list, the wrong size paper or the rise of a new celebrity heartthrob that demands a new set of folders. Staples actually accounted for this with its Back-to-School Savings Pass. Available until Aug. 31 for $10, the pass is valid until Sept. 21 and gives you a 15 percent discount on all purchases during that time.

The early bird gets the (book)worm, so get a jump on your back-to-school preparations now and stress less this fall.

(Disclosure: Guest post by Ashley.)

First Days Of School {Wordless Wednesday}

Luke’s 1st Day of Preschool

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Jake’s 1st Day of Preschool

$50 Tiny Prints Giveaway

Are your kids headed back to school soon? My youngest started today! While many people think that back-to-school time is just for kids I am here to share some products that are just for you! Why should our kids have all the fun? :)

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How about some mom contact cards to make setting up playdates easier?
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Need to take notes at your PTO meeting? Their personalized notebooks are perfect for that!

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Let everyone know those tasty brownies came from your kitchen at the next office potluck or mom group meeting with these custom stickers and labels.

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And if you just can’t think of spending $50 on yourself, Tiny Prints has lots of other cute items {like lunch box notes}.

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GIVEAWAY:

$50 to spend at Tiny Prints!

(Please note promo code excludes, calendars, photo books, Erin Condren notebooks & planners, and gift certificates)

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me which Back To School product from Tiny Prints is your favorite

2) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

3) Like Tiny Prints on Facebook

4) Follow me on Pinterest

5) Follow Tiny Prints on Pinterest

6) Subscribe to my blog via email {look in upper right corner}

Giveaway ends September 4, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US only.

(Disclosure: I received a gift code to Tiny Prints in exchange for posting. All thoughts are my own.)

Preschool 2011 {Wordless Wednesday}

The boys start school this week! I thought I’d share a picture of the first day of school last year when just Jacob was headed off to school. Next week I will share a picture of both boys because Jacob and Lucas are both headed to preschool in the next couple of days!

1st Day Of School Ideas

Here are some of my favorite ideas for the 1st Day of School:

Cute Smarties gift idea from It Is What It Is

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Read a special book like The Kissing Hand

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Snack idea from There’s A”1st” For Everthing

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Make a cake for the 1st day of school like Mama’s A Mess! does

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Take a picture of your child on their first day of school.

They can hold a sign saying their grade.

We like to take a picture by the front door every year

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Pack an awesome lunch like this one from This Lunch Rox

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Make a list of your child’s favorites of the moment.

If you do this every year you can see how they change over time.

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10 Teacher Gifts For The First Day Of School

Here are 10 of my favorite gift ideas for teachers I’ve found online:

1) A loaf of homemade bread w/ a special note

“May this preschool year be like this loaf of bread….

so very delicious you barely notice the crummy parts.”

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2) Lotions with labels that say:

“I hope your school year goes smoothly”

{Find the printable labels at Oops, I Craft My Pants}

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3) Packs on pencils with a tag that says:

“You are the “write” teacher for me”

{Find the printable tags at Itsy Bitsy Paper}

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4) Calculator with a cute note that says:

“According to my calculations this is going to be a great year!”

{Find the printable at eighteen25}

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5) Adorable oreo pops in a pencil vase

{Find the tutorial at Amanda’s Parties To Go}

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6) Starbucks Via Coffee Packs with notes that say:

“Something to get you back into the grind”

{Find this at Jacolyn Murphy}

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7) Container of Andes mints with a note that says:

“You were ‘mint’ to be my teacher”

{Find this and other foodie gifts at Brown Paper Packages}

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8) First Day Of School Survival Kit

{Find all the details at Bee In Our Bonnet}

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9) Bin full of teacher must-haves

{Details at Corner House Blog}

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10) School Supply Cake

{A Pumpkin & A Princess has a fabulous one!}

Bag It Forward With Elmer’s

For the 3rd year in a row I am proud to take part in the “Bag It Forward” campaign. I participated two years ago in the virtual campaign and last year donated a bag full of school supplies to a little girl whose family had lost their home. This year I chose to “Bag It Forward” to my nephew, Camden, who is headed to Kindergarten. I felt like it would really help my brother and his family by not having to stress about the cost and time of having to go get school supplies.

I headed to Walmart with the boys to pick up school supplies. I had the list of everything Camden needed and boy was it a long list! I don’t remember needing nearly as much of those things when I was younger. When we walked in the door we easily found the back to school section because it was in the front aisles.

I love that Walmart has a school supply list holder. It’s so convenient for parents to easily ensure they are buying the supplies that their kids actually need and not just what they think they need. I read the information about the 1st Day app and excitingly downloaded it. What a fun way to document the boys first day of school and easily help give back to others!

One thing my mom told me that Camden really wanted was a Transformers backpack and lunchbox. I found backpacks for only $10 and I thought this was a great find because I had just spent $19 on the backpacks I purchased for Jacob and Lucas at another store.

Jacob loved helping me find the supplies we needed.

Lucas also enjoyed helping mommy shop. He was very excited when I put these watercolors in the cart {I think he thought they were for him!}

After I had gotten most of the school supplies on Camden’s list we head to the toy aisle. Jacob always asks me, “mommy, I look with my eyes?” and circles his fingers into glasses. It’s so cute that I just can’t resist his request! On our way there we saw a great display with school supply kits in it.

Pre-made school supply kits! What a great idea. And for $20 with over $30 worth of coupons in it the price can’t be beat when it’s purchased to give to someone in need. I thought of the supplies on the list that I still needed because they were out of stock and added one of these bags to my cart.

After we looked at the toys we looked at the clearance shirts. I thought it would be nice to get a shirt for Camden to wear on his first day of school. We then picked up the rest of the things we needed and headed for the checkout lines. {You can see more pictures from my shopping trip in my Google+ story}

We headed right from Walmart to my mom’s house for our playdate with the boys’ cousins. Thankfully the kids napped on the way there. Once we got to my mom’s house we surprised Camden with all his school supplies.

My nephew was so excited to see that he got the backpack he was hoping to. I also think he won’t need any school supplies throughout the year because we even got him some backup supplies!

Afterwards, the children sat down to do a craft. I had brought my Elmer’s glue, craft sticks, superhero stickers, and letter stickers so the children could decorate picture frames.

Maddie, Camden, and Jacob enjoyed decorating their frames. Maddie and Camden went crazy with the stickers while Jacob kept it simple with just his name on it.

I love how Maddie’s turned out!

***

Do you have someone in your life who could use help getting the school supplies they need? It’s as simple as heading to Walmart and picking up a prepackaged bag of supplies while you do your own back to school shopping. I also created a list on list.ly with my top 10 school supplies young kids need.

Another easy way to give back to others is by using the 1st Day app. It can be downloaded from the iTunes store,  Google Play and from the website www.the1stday.com. This application was especially created for parents to use on their children’s first day of school. It makes it easy to organize the pictures and share them with friends and loved ones. For every photo uploaded, Elmer’s will donate one product to The Kids in Need Foundation (up to 200,000 products). I love that giving back is as simple as uploading photos of my children on their first day of school which is something that I was going to do anyway.

See how others are bagging it forward on Pinterest.

Want to connect with Elmer’s?

Find them on Facebook and Twitter

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and and Elmer’s.  #BagItForward #CBias #SocialFabric )

School Supplies Shipped To You {And A Giveaway}

Though it’s only the beginning of July, my mind has started thinking about back to school season. With that comes preparing for a new year with new clothes for the boys and fresh school supplies. I love shopping for the outfits but the school supply shopping is not nearly as fun. I was excited to find out about The Write Stuff, a company that creates school supply kits.

Whoever thought of this idea deserves some gold stars! I love the convenience of these kits because they are designed {by the teachers} specifically for each school and grade level. I liked that the kits included top brands like Crayola, Elmer’s and Mead because they are the same products I would buy for my boys if I was shopping in the store. I also think it’s great that they come in a box with a handle so they are easy to transport the first day of school.

The Write Stuff offers a couple different programs for schools so if you are on the PTA or PTO listen up! If your child’s school has parents willing to volunteer the school can gather the orders and ship them to the school for distribution. Another option for schools is that they can have parents order online and then have orders shipped home or to school. {Our preschool isn’t on the participating school list but so excited to see our grade school on the list!}

If your school doesn’t participate you can still take part in this great program! Some schools’ kits are preloaded on the website for home delivery but if they aren’t parents can shop “a la cart” and build their own kit. The supplies are then shipped to your home. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of shopping those last days of summer you could actually be enjoying them and making some memories with your kids?

Want a chance to win your own sample kit full of school supplies? Thought so!

GIVEAWAY

One person will win a sample school supply kit from The Write Stuff

HOW TO ENTER:

Share your best back-to-school prep tip

ADDITIONAL ENTRY:

Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends July 13, 2012 at 11:59pm Central Time. US only.

(Disclosure: I received a sample supply kit from The Write Stuff but all thoughts are my own.)

Organizing For A New School Year

Jacob starts preschool next week so I am busy preparing our family and our household for everything that this new season of our life will bring. I thought I’d share 10 things I’m doing to get ready for the start of the school year and hope that you will share some of your tips with me (especially if you have done this whole school thing before!)

1) Establish a weekly schedule. Things won’t be exactly the same every week but for the most part our routine will not change that much from week to week. I suggest writing the schedule down and posting it so everyone in the family knows the routines. Consider adding in details such as when to leave the house if you are going to be having dad, grandma, or a sitter help with some of the routines. Make sure to also schedule time for yourself!

2) Pull out the calendar. Add all school meetings, days off, and events to your personal calendar.

3) Organizing clothes. First, start by catching up on laundry if you aren’t already. Go through all of the kid’s clothing you currently have out and put aside anything that doesn’t fit or is unwearable. Pull out the fall/winter clothes and put them away in the closets and drawers. It’s still going to be hot here for another month or so but this saves you from having to do this later on. I also am going to be putting out a week’s worth of outfits every Sunday night so I have one less thing to do in the mornings. If your child picks out their own outfits they can do this ahead of time, too.

4) Establish new routines. Every year something in your schedule is bound to be different. A week or two before the first day of school start practicing the routines. For me I need to see how long it will take me to get to Jacob’s school during rush hour so I make sure he’s not late on his first day of school. I also want to figure out where his soccer gymnasium is located so I’m not searching for it on his first day of soccer. I will also be practicing getting myself out of bed and ready before the boys need me so I can see how long our morning routine will take us and plan accordingly.

5) Cleaning. I will be making sure my house and car are clean so I can start the school year off right. I am also going to create a cleaning schedule for my family so I can {hopefully} stay on top of things.

6) Meal planning. I’ve tried menu planning in the past and not followed through with it because I often cook whatever sounds good in the moment but I am planning on trying a loose meal plan of just a few meals to make throughout the week. I also hope to get some freezer meals prepared ahead of time for nights that are really busy. This will save me from picking something up on the way home that isn’t very healthy.

7) Contain the paper piles. Establish a place in the home for school/extracurricular papers. For some families this might be a binder, folder, or shelf in a kitchen cabinet. Also, find a home for the mail so it doesn’t overtake your kitchen. For school papers I will be using a binder. For mail I use a basket that I stick mail in and then go through it once a week while I watch TV.

8) Put together an emergency bag for the car. This should contain an extra set of clothes and whatever else your child may need. This is good to have in your car for a last minute sleepover, an overnight at Grandma’s, or a muddy day on the playground.

9) Gather the school supplies. Look at what items you already have and what you need to purchase. Consider buying extra supplies while they are on sale so you  have them on hand if your child runs out during the school year.

10) Get yourself ready! Maybe that means scheduling a Doctor’s appointment for yourself, getting a haircut, or investing in a new planner. Whatever it is, make sure that in all the craziness of getting ready for a new school year you don’t forget about yourself.

***

So those are my top 10 tips. What tips do you have for me? What have you found works to help you start the school year off right?

First Day of High School

Yesterday was my little sister’s first day of high school.

I took pictures in front of the front door before she left for school, just like my mom used to do.

Check out the shoes she rocked!

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Any advice you mothers out there have for my little sister as she embarks upon her high school journey?

Dayspring Back To School With Purpose

If you are buying school supplies for your child make sure to stop by Walmart and check out Dayspring’s line of school supplies. I loved finding school supplies with Christian messages and Bible verses on them at a secular store like Walmart.

Check out my Whrrl story to see what other great Dayspring products you can find at Walmart!

(Disclosure: I was compensated for this shop by Collective Bias and Dayspring.)

*****

Dayspring has partnered with Adopt-A-Classroom to bring needed school supplies to children and classrooms that couldn’t otherwise afford it. Adopt-A-Classrom increases opportunity for student success by empowering teachers with community partners and funds to purchase resources for the classroom.

This Back to School season, DaySpring is celebrating its’ new Back to School products sold at Walmart and their legacy of bringing hope and encouragement every day, everywhere. DaySpring will donate $5,000 to the Adopt-A-Classroom campaign with your help.

How can you join? It’s simple:

  • Participate in the DaySpring Back to School WithPurpose campaign by creating a blog post about what it means to go Back to School With Purpose with specific rules described here.
  • Dayspring will donate up to $5,000 to Adopt-A-Classroom
  • You can tag as many people as you wish whom you feel live with purpose.
  • The DaySpring Back to School With Purpose campaign will officially begin at 12 AM EST on August 12 and end at 11:59 PM EST on September 08, 2010. Blog posts submitted to us before or after that time period will not be counted for.
  • The blog post link has to be submitted to us here for your participation to be counted.
  • In addition copy and paste the following text in your blog post:

DAYSPRING’S BACK TO SCHOOL WITH PURPOSE BLOG CAMPAIGN RULES:

  • Copy and paste these rules to your blog post.
  • Create a blog post or Facebook note about what it means to you to go Back to School WithPurpose and identify others who you feel are Living With Purpose in their lives – you can recognize as many individuals as you want.
  • Link back to person who gave you a DaySpring Award
  • Let each person you are recognizing know you have recognized them.
  • Leave your link at btswithpurpose comment section. You can also find the official rules of this #WithPurpose blog campaign, and more information about Back to School with Purpose with DaySpring there.
  • DaySpring is donating $10 for each blog or Facebook note participating in the Virtual Bag It Forward Donation to Adopt-A-Classroom (up to total of $5,000 for blog posts written by September 08, 2010).
  • Please note that only one blog post per blog url will count towards the donation