Mommy Tips: Back to School Part 3

Another aspect of the back to school days is one dreaded by many:

Packing lunches or snacks.

With so many peanut allergies around these days, that limits a lot of “quick and easy” meals or snacks in most people’s minds but I’m here to tell you that I have found some great alternatives! There once was a day when Mr. Man would eat anything we put in front of him. His sister is now the fabulous eater of the family and he’s taken a huge regression. I won’t say that he’s picky…he’s selective. He knows what he likes, he thinks he knows what he doesn’t like and he freaks out about the smallest dash of spice on his piece of chicken or noodle! This makes for some difficult decisions when it comes to meals. I’ve noticed that he isn’t necessarily in a full meal phase these days, but more in a multi-option snack phase.

 

Here are some ideas that I came up with to take to school as a snack. Many of these can also be used as lunch options:

Graham Crackers
Grapes
Cheese sticks/slices/cubes
Turkey/Ham/Bologna
Cucumbers and Ranch
Watermelon
Strawberries
Blueberries
Mini tortilla roll-up sandwiches or croissant’s
Pudding
Applesauce
Alphabet crackers
Goldfish
Teddy Grahams
Dry cereal
Popcorn
Clementine/Orange
Cheez-its
Pretzels
Fruit snacks
Oatmeal Cream Pie
Dinner roll/Corn Bread/Muffin
Pasta salad
Taco Salad
Any Leftovers
Mini corn dog poppers and ketchup
Cherry Tomatoes
Pickles
Potato Chips
Chips and salsa
Raisins
Buttered noodles

 

A mom from our preschool last year came up with these ideas for class snacks. Thanks Erin Bennett!

String cheese and fruit skewers
Mini Muffins (banana, zucchini, etc.) and fruit
Mini sandwiches with milk
Yogurt and pretzels
Fruit skewers and a yogurt dip
Veggies and dip
Wraps (meat and cheese, Hummus and veggies, cream cheese and veggies, etc.)
Healthy snack mix (popcorn, dried fruit, etc.)
Dried fruit (cranberries, mango, raisins, cherries, etc.) and cheese or whole grain cereal
Whole grain flat bread with cream cheese and jam or fruit
Oatmeal cookies or another “healthier” cookie choice
Granola bars
Rice cakes with cream cheese or jam
Pretzels and cheese
Baked pita chips with hummus or another dip
Graham crackers with apple sauce

 

If you’ve never heard of the Plant Box lunch boxes you will want to go research them right now! Just so you know, I am not getting paid to advertise them. We don’t even own one yet. I’ve just seen them from a photographer I follow, Oh So Posh, and she gracefully makes her daughters lunches in these boxes and makes me droll every time she posts a picture to Instagram or Facebook! The lunch boxes are more costly than one you can run to Target or Walmart to buy but after seeing the durability and versatility of them I personally think the value will outlast the cost in the long run. Here are a few pictures of what Lidia over at Oh So Posh has created. You may go ahead and drool now….

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This last picture was too cute not to post. It is from Another Lunch and I think any little boy would love it!

 

 

***Now…to research where to get all these super cute tools and food holders! I will be on a mission, my friends!

 

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Mommy Tips: Back to School Part 2

Now that some of us have come to the realization that school starts back up NEXT WEEK you are all probably wondering what getting back into the routine will look like.  I know I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  Our kids have never taken to a bedtime schedule well so I think this is going to be our biggest battle to come.  I was excited to have Mr. Man in school every afternoon because 1.) MOMMA NEEDS THE BREAK and 2.) We are SO not morning people!  Well, the school schedule is changing a little and that changes things for us too so now we will be doing school Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings {for the time being}.  This REALLY changes things for me mentally.  I was so excited about packing him a snack every day, finding the alphabet letter of the day item from around the house five days a week rather than three, and having every afternoon with my girl.  Now I’m thinking about bedtime routines, morning routines, quick and easy breakfasts and what to do with myself and Little Miss while he’s at school.

Last year we used this flashcard system to help Mr. Man understand what was expected of him every morning.

Free Printable Morning Flash Cards for Kids by LivingLocurto.com{http://www.livinglocurto.com/2009/08/school-morning-routine-free-printable-cards/}

This was awesome for us at the time because he was 3 for most of the school year only turning 4 a month and a half before the end of the year. This was so simple and easy for him because it was broken down into 4 quick steps that he could visualize.  After we moved in the winter and things didn’t make it back on the new walls this system broke down for us and every school morning was a struggle.  A. STRUGGLE.

This year, he’s a little bit older and I know can be challenged a lot more so we are stepping up our game and doing this.  {And, I am in LOVE with the chevron and super cute wording}  All I need is a frame from the dollar store, a nail, a hammer and a perfect spot to hang it!  {http://www.itsoverflowing.com/2012/08/morning-checkoff-list-for-school/}

I remember a family friend, Missy, had things like this posted in her house for her 4 children except that she was a schoolteacher and hers were all handwritten on large poster board with pictures of the kids doing each activity listed.  I’m a visual learner and I think Mr. Man slightly is too.  I have always remembered those posters from her house almost 8 years later and can’t wait to replicate it someday soon.  I may be a teacher, but I am not an artist.  For now, these cute printable’s will have to work–but watch out hubs…you may be seeing something pop up in our home soon!  {Hi, babe…do you actually read my blogs?}

What are your mommy secrets for routines?  I’m seriously interested in ideas specifically for bedtime.  Even when putting the kids in their room by 8:00pm, on a full tummy, after a bath and a few stories read they both can stay awake for hours and fall asleep even after we’ve gone to bed.  I’d love to have cheerful waker-uper’s every morning.  Any ideas?

Mommy Tips: Back To School Part 1

The new school year is just around the corner for most of us here in Michigan, but some of you have already been in school for a week or more.  As we are getting ready in our household for Mr. Man to go to Pre-K five afternoons a week {plus handling all the behind the scenes work at the school myself}, I thought it was an opportune time to talk about getting back into the school routine.

As I pondered which approach I wanted to take in my posts I thought about my old co-worker, Jill Sadler.  When we worked together we were a dynamic team.  I could always look to her for advice, finishing a task I couldn’t complete, taking the initiative in something that I didn’t have the creative juices for, or even just making sure that I stopped to eat or drink during the day.  Jill is one of those friends that I haven’t seen in a few years because our schedules just don’t match up well, but she is also one of those friends that we can start right back up where we left off and it isn’t weird or anything.  It just works.

Please enjoy our collaborated effort over the next few days with some Back to School advice and tips:

First, meet Jill:

How and why do I know what I do, enough to assure you that what I say is true?

Because I said so. Sound familiar?

I have an early childhood development from Oakland Community College. I used to teach Pre-School with Miss Amy for a few years. Currently I am a household manager for a busy family- and this is where I experience the in’s and out’s of parenting and child development beyond the early years. It may feel like longer, but I am only a couple short years away from finalizing my elementary education degree with a double major in Social Studies and Language Arts.

So I’ve nannied, taught, tutored and mentored kids from the ages of birth to sixteen, and truly believe in the family unit first and foremost. As a teacher in the future I plan to lend my support to families as much as possible, and in the mean time I am grateful to serve the family that adds more to my life than I could ever verbalize.

Now is that time of year that we know we’re scheduled to implement new routines, new rules, and we’re worried about our kids reaction to those new routines and whether or not we can keep them up throughout the year.

Well, let me assure you of two things I know.

1) Kids thrive on routine–they will not resent you for it.

2) If you’re diligent about the routine in the first few months of the year, the rest of the months will follow easier even if some minor tweaks occur.

Whenever you do deviate from the plan, it’ll be easier to pick it up the next day if you’ve truly established your expectations. What do we mean by routine? Well, bedtimes, bath times, study time, lunch making (who does it, who helps, when you do it, etc), rules about tv and computer time, the rules about friend time in regard to homework, and all of these things are even more important when you take into account extracurricular activities.

If there’s been a new healthy idea you’ve been wanting to try with your family, now is the time to do it. Its like Christmas time for the organization and resolution fairy. The good news is; whatever does unwind a little by the middle of the year gives you the opportunity to make family goals when the new year starts, goals about finishing up your year successfully!

Talk about your individual and collective goals at a family meeting. If you have kids that are too small to vote on this, the good news is you can choose for them. It may even be especially helpful to have these goals in a visual format for the family to see and recall upon, sort of like a vision board. Your thoughts become your reality.

So since you have a whole lot of planning to do and a whole bunch to implement, its best if you don’t wait until the day school starts to try. Have a family meeting, and get your bath and bedtime schedules going a week or two before school starts to ensure the best success rate.

Good luck to you all- and another thriving school year!!

Small Business Monday’s: milk & hannah

Welcome to the start of a new week and a new section called “Small Business Monday’s”

While some are walking into the new week feeling the descent off of a wonderful weekend spent with family and friends, on the beach or at music festivals, I want to look up at the good things to come.

And that’s why I’m starting this section. Because:

1.) I’d rather not have the Monday blues myself

2.) I love small businesses and desire to support them

3.) I love my friends and family and all of their talents

Our first Small Business introduction is a very special one to me and thus my choice for our first feature: my sister-in-law, Hannah Spencer.  She is the owner, creator, shopper extraordinaire {and more} of ‘milk & hannah’.  When the idea to showcase small local businesses on my blog wouldn’t leave my thoughts I just knew that I had a great starting point right here in my own family.

Hannah is wife to my younger brother, mother of my niece and nephew, big sister of 5, friend of many, possessor of many talents including music, crafts, business ideas, social media campaigns, thrifting goddess and more.  After a few years of thrifting together, I’ve seen firsthand the time and care she takes in choosing items.  I’ve witnessed the shock and awe she possesses when she finds a unique and vintage item.  I’ve seen the cute exclusive packaging and personal detail she adds to each item sent.  She’s a joy to work with because there is no one with Hannah’s quirks and charm and your experience with her will be unlike any other customer’s experience with her.

Here is a little interview I did with her about her and her business:

1.) Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Hannah, helllo hot stuff.

I’m the owner of ‘milk & hannah’, a vintage Etsy space full of charm and age that can’t be duplicated. The rust is real, the cracks are real, and the price tags came off 20, 40, 60 years ago.

Me? I’m really tall. I love good coffee & Michigan Autumns, and I don’t feel passionate about anything like I do thrifting. I have 2 babes, Porter Claire and Cade Xander– they drove me to seek at home options for supplementing my man’s income. I think it’s very important to be a nurturer of your passions, and ‘milk & hannah’ is my ho. We are lifers, me and that shop.

2.) When did you start your business?

I opened in May of this year.

3.) What made you want to do what you do?

I love the look of vintage items in my home but I ran out of space. I found sooooo many things while at thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, and estate sales that were ‘my style’ but that just weren’t something I could utilize anywhere in our space.

When our kitchen table started filling itself, magically duh, I knew it was time to either start a shop or stop shopping. I fell in love with the Etsy concept, the true and genuine passion for equipping small business owners with the tools and framework to achieve their business goals, and I started listing.

4.) How do you prepare/execute your shop?

I wish I was better at business plans. BAHAHA. Honestly, at this point, I have a list of items that I know customers are intrigued by and request. I keep my eyes out for those things everyday, but as someone who is looking for a very small percentage of items that were produced sometimes a century ago? I have a more free-spirited concept.

I hunt, I gather, I list. That’s the plan.

5.) What kind of advice do you have for new small business owners?

Passion is the root of all profit. If you love it and you work for it, you’ll get there.

6.) Do you ship out of state?

Sure as heck do, Chip. (That’s a Talladega Nights reference, Ricky Bobby style.)

7.) How can we contact you?

You can see my shop by going to www.milkandhannah.etsy.com

The Twit: @milkandhannah Insta: @milkandhannah FB: www.facebook.com/milkandhannah E-Mail: milkandhannah@gmail.com

I’m everywhere, like air.

And, my friends, that is not all.  In honor of this post {and in celebration of her 23rd birthday yesterday} she is offering an EXCLUSIVE discount code to my readers!  See an item you can’t live without on her Etsy shop?  Make sure you enter code “happyfreaking23” at checkout for 23% off that item….good today through Sunday, September 1st, 2013.

Thank you, Hannah!  Love you!

Marriage Tips and Advice

us

Upon celebrating our 7 year wedding anniversary we were blessed with winning a photography contest to have our wedding pictures redone.  This was a HUGE blessing to us since we only have one wedding day photo displayed in our home.  A family friend was supposed to gift us with her photography skills for our special day but decided the day before our rehearsal that she wanted to go Up North for the 4th of July weekend.  That left us with no options—until our friends Randy and Marli Brown http://www.randyandmarli.com reached out to a friend who took their picture for one of their album covers.  Thankfully she was available the day of our wedding but only for a few hours.  There was no money budgeted for photography at this point so we used a little of what we had from our paychecks plus some out of our wedding cards {that we had to open early} and we received a few good pictures on a CD.

Fast forward 7 years later and this amazing photographer offers a contest on her Facebook page to do a wedding re-do session for couples who never had wedding pictures or had a bad experience.  I had been following her for awhile already because she had taken pictures of some friends family/children and I thought they were beautiful.  Somehow I didn’t even see her post about the contest in my own feed but I did when a friend shared it to her page.  I knew immediately that we were destined to at least apply.  Little did I know that God had bigger plans to bless my socks off!

MarieMassePhotography has been a HUGE blessing to us!  We had a great experience with her during our session, she captured beautiful images that are already on display in our home and we formed a friendship that includes messages to each other and play dates at the park.  Thank you Marie for going after your gift.  You are a true talent!  If you are in the Metro Detroit area, check out her work and blog at http://www.mariemassphotography.net

Before sharing a blog post regarding our session with her, she asked us to come up with some marriage tips and advice to go along with it.  While I still keep coming up with things to add to this list, here is what we came up with for her:

1.) Always stand up for your spouse whether you believe their view is correct or not.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and everyone has their own unique feelings.  Showing that you support them and their stance will go further than making them feel like their view doesn’t matter.

2.) Remember your spouse.  Think about things he/she likes and remember them when you stop at the store on the way home.  Don’t buy yourself a beer to bring home for dinner and come home empty handed for her.  Sometimes a favorite drink, ice cream or Taco Bell is much more meaningful than jewelry or flowers.

3.) Dance in the kitchen.  Always.  Turn on some music and whisk her around the kitchen.  Not only are you setting a great example for your children and having a little bit of fun but you never know where it might lead when they go to bed : )

4.) Always show your children how you respect their mother or father.  Demonstrating love and respect in front of them will help them know how they are expected to treat them when you aren’t around.

5.) Work together.  Many hands make work light.  Even after a long day in the office or a difficult day at home with the kids, when the dishes or laundry needs to be done do it together.  It will get done a lot faster if you each take a task rather than doing it alone and angry.

6.) Husbands–here is a BIG key of advice that no one has probably ever told you: When the house is a mess, her brain is too.  When the dishes are done and things are picked up her mind is free and her body relaxed to rock your world in the bedroom!

7.) Make sex a priority not a chore.

8.) Be humble.  Apologize.  It’s okay to be wrong and vulnerable in front of your spouse.  Nobody wins unless you both win.

9.) Never ever, ever, ever throw a frying pan across the room toward your spouse (not us–-a couple we once knew).  It’s better to take a time out, leave the room and collect your thoughts before you say or do something you know you will regret later.  Walking away isn’t a sign of weakness or a step toward isolation.  It is showing maturity and respect and knowing that you care enough about the other person to tread cautiously all in the name of love.

10.) Set aside time for date nights even if you don’t have a lot of funds.  Put some ideas on Popsicle sticks and draw one each date night.  They could range from dinner at a fancy restaurant to coffee only, movie, bowling, etc.  Be purposeful to take time together–especially after children join the family.

11.) Husbands–call a cousin, a niece, or a neighbor and line up a babysitter.  Sometimes women have too much on their plate that even finding a babysitter can be too much.  Taking this stress off her shoulders will help her be a more enjoyable date for you.

12.) Wives–Sometimes it’s okay to let your man go out for a drink with the guys after work.  If you’ve had a long day and just want him home–tell him.  If you can stand waiting a few more hours for his arrival–let him go.  He’ll feel so refreshed to be able to go somewhere that isn’t work or home.  It will help him be more present and appreciative with you and at his job.

13.) Stay up late to binge watch your favorite series on Netflix.  Eat lots of sherbet, drink craft Root Beers and enjoy each others laughter.  You might sleep all the next day since you’re not as young as you used to be but do it anyway.  You won’t regret it later when you say, “Remember that one night we stayed up late watching How I Met Your Mother until 5am?”

14.) Don’t talk down about your spouse to your friends.  It could affect your friends’ view of them and isn’t respectful toward your spouse.  Keep your gabbing under control.  Don’t say anything about them behind their back that you wouldn’t want them to find out five years down the road.

15.) The word “divorce” is never in your vocabulary.  Period.  Be in it to win it!

Bedtime songs and the busyness of life

Bedtime tonight was a night like no other I’ve experienced in my 4 years of parenting yet. And I want more like it!

You see, I’ve been a very busy, very preoccupied momma lately. I haven’t been able to give my children {or my husband} 100% of me for practically the whole summer. My other baby, Mr. Man’s preschool, has taken up a lot of my time. It’s not completely a bad thing because we are getting on track with organization and structure but it has required more of my time this summer than I expected. It’s not easy running an entire preschool from behind the scenes.

{Back story: In May I accepted the position of School Board President for the 2013-2014 school year. It’s not something I want to brag about so only a handful of friends and family really know my deep involvement–until now that is.}

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and the world around us. I know I have. It’s not something that I desire to do but I also know that God has given me talents and passions for a reason so I strive to do my best with what He gives me. Remember the story in Luke 10: 38-42 where Jesus comes to the house of Mary and Martha? Mary loving sat at Jesus’ feet the entire time listening to Him and enjoying His presence while Martha busily rushed around tending to things to serve Him with. Martha’s actions caused her to feel resentment toward Mary and she approached Jesus to “tattle” on her sister. Do you remember what He said to her? Verses 41-42 read, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

How many times have you found yourself distracted by life lately? I know I am guilty of that. I am SO a Martha. I haven’t fully enjoyed my children, my husband, my summer because I’m always busy cleaning this, typing that, calling here and signing there. I desire to be a good mix between Mary and Martha {because let’s face it: if there were no Martha’s in this world we would live in stress and filth and resentment. A girls gotta get done what needs to get done. But she should also be able to stop and enjoy her surroundings.}

And that’s just what I did tonight.

Little Miss was having a hard time falling asleep in her new big girl bed alone. I could tell my man was frustrated and just wanted some time to enjoy what he wanted to do: watch tv. I offered to see if she wanted to nurse in hopes that she would fall asleep. That didn’t last long before she was up jabbering about something. I thought her little incoherent words were adorable so I asked her to start saying all the words I could think of: taco, happy, fox, cracker, orange, train, Drew, Cade, Papa, Grandma, Jesus….the list goes on! She did great! So many new words this week it’s like a volcanic explosion!

I could tell she was getting sleepy as she started playing with her ears and rubbing her own head. I asked her if she wanted me to sing to her and she said yes. I started with Twinkle, Twinkle because I really like my own special twist version. Then I sang some ballad versions of I’m a Little Teapot and Mommy Loves Me This I Know that one of my former preschool students taught me.

This was about the time when Little Miss wanted her hair to be taken down for the night. As I did it, she put her hands on my forehead which I knew meant she was “praying” for me. She’s been doing this for a few weeks and we usually “pray” about 20 times in a 3 minute time span. All I kept saying was “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus”….and this is when the course of my night changed.

All of a sudden I felt this still small voice whisper words into my heart that were buried deep inside from years prior. These words were lyrics to songs I remember singing at church growing up. It started with,
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There’s just something about that name. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Like the fragrance after the rain. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Let all heaven and earth proclaim. Kings and Kingdoms shall all pass away. But there’s just something about that name.”

She was swaying with her eyes closed and I asked her if this was better. Then more lyrics rose up:
“Better is one day in Your courts. Better is one day in Your house. Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere.”

Again, another song came forth;
In the secret. In the quiet place. In the stillness You are there. In the secret. In the quiet hour I wait. Only for You. Cause I want to know You more. I want to know You. I want to hear your voice. I want to know You more. I want to touch You. I want to see Your face. I want to know You more.”

And lastly, my heart and words transitioned to:
“Like a vessel sweet with ointment. Pour yourself into my heart. I want to see a vision of who You are. Open up my eyes and set my heart ablaze. Revive my spirit ’til I can take no more. Pour out. Pour out. Your spirit in this place. Pour out. Pour out. Your spirit by your grace. We are ready. We are ready. To receive your blessing right now. Precious Lord we are willing. To lay down all we are. And give you the full control. We have everything to gain. When our lives are in your hands. Holy Spirit. Breathe life into our souls. Pour out. Pour out. Your spirit in this place. Pour out. Pour out. Your spirit by your grace. We are ready. We are ready. To receive your blessing right now.”

Bedtime songs have always been about the nursery rhymes and ABC’s but tonight was different. Tonight was about stopping to enjoy the scenery. Stopping to heed the still small voice inside. Stopping to let God refill my tank.

When’s the last time you heard that still small voice speak to you? Did you listen to it? Or did you bury it deep inside because it was inconvenient to you? Let Him in. Let Him refresh your soul and give you rest. His peace and presence will fall over you. You will feel whole and new. I promise He has good things for you if you just stop to smell the roses of life!

The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes Leaping upon the mountains, Skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he stands behind our wall; He is looking through the windows, Gazing through the lattice. My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away. For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, And the vines with the tender grapes Give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away! “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret places of the cliff, Let me see your face, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your face is lovely.” {Song of Solomon 2:8-14 NKJV}

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Dinner Menu: Tuesday “Chicken Pasta Stir Fry”

Tonight’s dinner was another product of “What does Amy want to eat together tonight”. And let me tell you–my taste buds have never steered me wrong!

We get so tired of the same old thing all the time so I like to mix things up often. Even if it’s only one or two different ingredients sometimes it can make it seem like a whole new dish.

Tonight’s dish I am calling “Chicken Pasta Stir Fry” because it was simply that. Chicken, pasta and a whole bunch of vegetables.

Again, I don’t measure out my ingredients per say and we make according to our taste buds. Here is what we did tonight:

6-8 chicken thin cut tenderloins cut into small cubes
Angel hair pasta
Zucchini
Red Bell Pepper
Mushrooms
Onion
Garlic cloves
Lime
Olive oil
Butter
Salt
Ground black pepper
Garlic salt
Parmesan Cheese

In a large skillet drizzle olive oil in the pan and add chicken. Cook on medium heat about 5 minutes or until they are no longer pink.

Add chopped zucchini, red bell pepper, mushrooms, onion, fresh garlic (3 or 4), 1 tsp butter, salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste.

Squeeze half a lime over the entire mix. Stir the dish, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes on medium heat.

Cook pasta accordingly.

Drain pasta, serve the chicken vegetable stir fry over and add a few sprinkles of Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

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