Archive for July 2017

Simplifying School Nights

July 28, 2017

It's juuuust about time to be getting back into our school life routines. As much as I'm dreading giving up these long summer days, I know it's good for all of us. It can be a little bit stress inducing thinking about everything that needs to get done in the day, which is why I try to simplify as much as possible. The after school rush is the worst for me. The sprint from the last school bell until bed time when all the things must get done. Homework, dinner, sports, playdates, etc. Here are just a few ways I try to get the upper hand: 

1. Keep a schedule in place. This probably seems so obvious, but I make sure we have a set time for homework, a set time that little guy can watch tv while I prep dinner, a set time for dinner, play, bath and bed. It might not always get followed to a T, but it helps keep us chugging along when we start to feel tired and run down. Schedules get adjusted of course when sports practices and lessons are added in. Here's what our schedule generally looks like during the school year:

2. Plan dinner ahead. Every Sunday I sit down and I outline our meals for the week. I make sure we have all the ingredients on hand and pick up anything at the store that we may need. Anything that I can prep the night before I do. Meat and veggie chopping, marinating, etc. all make things run smoother the following night. I try to stick to super simple, quick meals during the week and I promise to write a post soon with all our favorites! 

3. Avoid messy cleanups. I LOVE using Reynolds Kitchens products because they cut my clean up time in half. If I'm using the crock pot then I add one of their crock pot liners to the bowl ahead of time. They also have oven liners that go in baking dishes and precut parchment paper that fits cookie sheets that I use when roasting vegetables. These kitchen helpers make it so easy to just pitch the dirty liner and put away the clean pan without scrubbing. Nights when we are really in a hurry we use Hefty foam plates and cups, so there are no dishes to wash. Any spare minutes I can gain in our night time routine are a huge win! 

 Reynolds Kitchens™ and Hefty support Box Tops for Education  which helps schools raise money for supplies, technology and more. Find Box Tops on most Reynolds Kitchens™ products like Parchment Paper, Oven Bags, Slow Cooker Liners and Bakeware Pans. You can also find Box Tops on Hefty Trash Bags, Hefty Foam Plates and Hefty Cups—all things you need to make life easier during the busy school year!

Now through August 29 you can enter here to be one of 50 daily instant winners and enter to win the grand prize of $1,000 worth of Box Tops for your school! A total of five schools will be chosen for the grand prize and you can enter daily until 8/29 so make sure to bookmark the site and visit often!!

Tears and Fears

July 25, 2017

We seem to have entered a new phase of parenthood. One where our fearless toddler has blossomed into a wary preschooler who is afraid of just about everything - including the old cliche, his own shadow. Shadows, thunder, bugs, water, all things he didn't give a passing thought to previously. We try to calm his fears as best we can, we tell him the thunder is just the angels bowling, bugs are just tiny animals, shadows are caused by light, but it doesn't seem to make much difference. He's suddenly super shy around kids other than those he knows well. Trying to get him to share his name and play is like pulling teeth. Besides a big bowl of reassurance and a whole lot of encouragement, we're a little bit at a loss....

Perhaps the most discouraging is his sudden fear of water. The bathtub is fine, but anything else... is not. The kid who used to run straight into the waves now won't go anywhere near the ocean without being held. He's started crying at the splash pad refusing to go anywhere near the water. So we've started taking him, several times a week, hoping repetition will make him more comfortable. Our pool is closed until August for maintenance (SERIOUSLY who's idea was it to do that in the middle of summer?) so it's pretty much our only option for cooling down outside. Beach trips are big productions with armloads of stuff so those get saved for longer trips on the weekend. 

For now, it seems to be working. After a good half hour of being carried around he'll eventually let us put him down, and with A LOT of encouragement he'll come around and start to enjoy himself. He still doesn't like to tell other's his name or interact with them (unless he previously knows them) .... but baby steps, right? If you have any tips for calming fears in preschoolers, I am ALL ears! Please, give me your best advice!! 

This adorable towel is from my sweet friend (and former teaching neighbor)'s new collection. It's 100% organic bamboo, eco-friendly, and the softest towel ever. Jacob loves to put it on and run around growling pretending he's a polar bear. It makes a PERFECT shower or new baby gift and you can get one for yourself HERE

The After School Question Jar

July 19, 2017
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RITZFilledBackToSchool #CollectiveBias

I don't know about you, but I can hardly believe that summer is more than half over. Where have these precious, sun-soaked days gone? I'm faced with the harsh reality that not only am I returning to the classroom soon, but my son is headed there as well. Shortly after I return to my job as a kindergarten teacher, little man will be headed to preschool for the very first time. 

I'm feeling SO bittersweet about this change. I'm so excited for him and all he's going to learn this year; the friends he's going to make and the experiences he's going to get away from home. His little mind is sharp as a tack and incredibly eager to learn. I know he's going to thrive in a school environment. But I'm also so, so, sad that we've reached this point in his childhood already. Weren't we just bringing him home from the NICU yesterday? I'm still a little bit in denial that we're sending him off in a little more than a month, that we've reached a place of backpacks and lunch boxes. 

Because of our work schedules I'm usually out the door before anyone in the house is awake. Which means Daddy will be doing drop off and pick up each day. It also means that by the time I get home Jacob will have been home for 3 hours and taken a nap. Which presents me with a unique challenge to get him talking about his day. It'll be easy for Daddy, since it will all be fresh in his head when he gets picked up, but I know I'm going to need some extra help getting him to remember and share about his day.

Enter the after school question jar. Designed specifically to get kids talking about their day. Have you ever had this exchange with your kids?

Parent: How was your day? 
Kid: Fine. 
Parent: .......
Kid: ......

Exasperating isn't it? Every single question in the jar is designed so that it cannot be met with a one word answer. The open ended questions will get your kids thinking and sharing about all different aspects of their day.

So here's what you do:
1. Print out the Question jar printable HERE
2. Choose a label (color or b/w) and glue it onto a container - mason jar, old soup can, etc. 
3. Cut out the questions and glue them onto Popsicle sticks
4. Place all the Popsicle sticks in the jar. 

Every day after school let your child pick out a predetermined number of sticks. You can do one, or several. If you have a reluctant conversationalist you may choose to start with just one and work your way up to a couple as they get comfortable. I'll be getting home from work just as little man is getting up from his nap and ready to have a snack, so I plan to always pull out the question jar at snack time. To make things extra special I plan to do a little snack picnic some days. I don't know what it is but Jacob finds something so magical about eating a picnic on a blanket, even if it's just a quick snack! 

Speaking of quick snacks, here are some of our favorite pairings: 

1. RITZ Cheese Crackers + grapes or blueberries
2. Fruit Kabobs + yogurt dip
3. RITZ Peanut Butter Crackers + Berries (PB&J)
4. Pepperoni Slices + Cheese Sticks
5. Popcorn + Pretzels + Goldfish (snack mix)

RITZ crackers are the perfect portable snack not only for after school picnics, but also for throwing in your bag for sports practices, after school meetings, etc. Jacob loves both flavors and they always fill him up, helping us avoid meltdowns. I found my RITZ crackers at my local Kroger. Find your local Kroger/Kroger Family of Stores to get your RITZ crackers HERE.   

Photos courtesy of Little Mountain Momma

The Fourth of July

July 6, 2017

Whew. We had the longest, fullest weekend celebrating Independence day at the lake and our hearts are absolutely bursting full of memories. I grew up spending weeks at a time with my grandparents at Crystal Lake during the summer and it makes me so happy to share those same good times with little man. There's just something about a small town 4th of July that's quaint and nostalgic. 

Our days were full and little man napped a solid 3 hours each day - a sure sign of a day jam packed with adventure. We drove up Friday night so that we could have a full three and a half days. Jacob handled the four hour drive (+2 extra hours of traffic) like a champ, thanks to a nap, iPad and several pit stops. Fresh cherries from a roadside stand? Yes please! 

Saturday we ventured to the beach, which is full of sand, rocks, and swings - all of Jacob's favorite things! After approx. 2,347 pushes on the swings we convinced him to leave with us to grab lunch at our favorite spot - StormCloud Brewing Company. The nachos, beer cheese soup, beer flights, and kids pizza all get two thumbs up from us. 

After we filled up we headed to the Point Betsie Lighthouse. The museum there is full of interesting information about the lighthouse and the people who have worked there, and it's great for kids too. We climbed to the top of the light house and were rewarded with amazing vistas of north and south Manitou island, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Jacob was a champ climbing up, but freaked out about going back down the ladder. We'll probably wait a few years before trying that again. After a LONG nap, we ate dinner at the Cherry Hut before spending some more time at the  beach.

Sunday we returned to Frankfort for some playground time, they have the BEST kids area there. The playground is right on the water, and the equipment is shaped like lighthouses, boats, and trains. We grabbed a quick lunch at the A&W in town, which still has it's original drive up ordering, and little man tried root beer for the first time. He wasn't too sure about it! 

Sunday evening we went into Traverse city where the Cherry Festival was going on for a little fun at the carnival. I've dubbed this year the summer of 1,000 carnivals because I've lost count and I'm not exactly sure how many we've been to. What I am sure of is that Jacob has loved every single one. I"ll always remember this as the summer he found his brave. He loves the rides and will go on pretty much anything he's tall enough for.

Monday we spent some time back at the lake, and went berry picking. We picked both Saskatoons and raspberries, then baked up a yummy raspberry cobbler! We ate it after a yummy dinner of grilled hamburgers, corn on the cob, and all the fixins'! We went that night to Crystal Mountain where Jacob and I had our first chair lift ride together up to the alpine coaster. The coaster is really fun and even little kids can ride if they go with an adult. Jacob sat right in front of me on the sled and hearing his giggles as we raced down the mountain was the best. They put on quite the fireworks show that night, and I'm happy to tell you that unlike last year, Jacob now loves fireworks! 

Tuesday morning we went to the main street parade in Frankfort followed by, you guessed it, another carnival! I'm really not sure what Jacob's going to do when we go back home to Florida and there isn't a carnival every weekend! He's going to be one sad kid.

We drove back down state during nap time and ended the day with a dip in the pool, confetti poppers, and watching our neighbors shoot off fireworks from the back deck.

I hope you all had the most amazing 4th and made memories to last forever!