Friday, August 22, 2014

Back-To-School: Make Your Mornings Easier

Three Days. That's how much time I have until my two older children return to school. My daughter will be entering the 3rd Grade, and my son will be going into the 1st Grade! It's crazy to think that our summer vacation is just about over. Gone are the mornings of "sleeping-in," the pajama days, the late breakfasts, and the "do whatever you want" weekdays.

It's time to change our summer habits and get back into the routine of school life. For us, that means rising early, making cute lunches, and preparing what we can the night before a school day. In order to get out the door in time, we had to find ways to make our mornings go smoothly and quickly. These tips may help your family as well.

1. Designate an area for everyone's backpacks, shoes, homework, lunchboxes, etc.
We are fortunate to have a built-in mudroom between our kitchen and garage. (Let's just say that this was a must for this mama when designing our house.) We have hanging hooks, a built-in bench, and some cubbies. Of course, you do not have to have a fancy mudroom for your things. You just need a special place, preferably, one close to your entrance/exit door. If your short on space, find tubs or baskets that can hold your kid's stuff. Install simple hooks or hanging folders/baskets to hold papers or homework. When my kids come home from school their backpacks go directly on those hooks. Shoes should go in their cubbies. (I will admit that we still have to remind the children not to leave them dropped around the house, but at least we have a designated space.) Folders and homework are packed away in their backpacks when they are finished with their homework. I check their folders, sign papers, and file or dispose of flyers and notes as they work on their homework each afternoon. This is the easiest way to stay organized, to get paperwork taken care of, and to ensure that everything returns to school as needed. In the morning, the kids just need to grab their packed backpacks before they leave the house.

2. Lay out clothes, shoes, and other school necessities the night before.
I have my kids pick out what they are going to wear for school the night before. This means they choose the top and bottoms that they want to wear the next day and hang them on their closet door. They stick their socks in their shoes. This eliminates the "I can't find my other sock," and the "I need a shirt to match these shorts," the next morning. Another battled avoided.

3. Prepare lunches the night before.
I know there are tons of parents who find it easier to have the kids' lunches completely packed and ready to go the night before. Some make and freeze sandwiches. This makes mornings easier, especially for working parents. If this works for you, go for it! I make my kid's lunches each morning. That means I have to get up a little bit earlier if I want to make them fresh, bento-style and cute, but I do not mind. With that said, I DO prepare as much as I can the night before, and simply put it all together in the morning. Preparing means cutting up fruits and vegetables, freezing ice packs or yogurt tubes, filling thermoses with water, and dividing snacks or fruits and veggies into individual containers or baggies. I find that putting out my lunch supplies, lunch boxes, bread, peanut butter etc. on the island the night before makes for easy prepping in the morning also.

4. Establish a morning routine.
Parents and children alike need to establish a morning routine. (This can even be practiced the week before school starts to get the children and yourself use to waking up early and getting ready.) Let the children know what is expected of them each morning. Make a list or chart for them to check off if they tend to forget things  or need a little nudging in the morning. (i.e. Get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, brush hair, pack your lunch in backpack, etc.)

It's a little easier for myself to get back into the routine of school days. With a little help from my alarm I get up, and get myself completely ready. Then, I make the lunches. Sometimes they are simple and quick lunches. Other times, they are cute and fancy. (It really depends on how much time I have..and how motivated I am feeling.) By this time, the kids are starting to wake up on their own or it's time for me to go and wake them. I get a feeling of satisfaction knowing that I am dressed and ready for the day, and now I just have to guide the children through the rest of the morning.

Ready or not...It's "Back-to-School" time!

Do you have any tips on getting back into the routine of school days? How do you make your mornings easier?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Back To School Chore Chart Feature

Some of your children have headed back to school already. Others are starting to get ready for those first days of school. My children have about another month till they say good-bye to summer vacation. I am hoping to share some of our back-to-school preparations and ideas this next month.
Until then, I would like to thank for featuring my chore chart coupons on their back to school organization post. Last Fall, I shared with you printable coupons that you could use to reward your children for helping out around the house. They have worked for us, and I am sure they will work for you, too!
Stop by to see how this Mama and others are organizing for Back-To-School.

Friday, June 20, 2014

DIY Mickey Mouse Applique Shirts

We just spent nine awesome days at Disney World! It was amazing! We were able to visit all four parks, and got to thoroughly enjoy each one. Two of those days were spent at Animal Kingdom. I knew that I wanted us to have at least one day of wearing matching shirts. I also wanted to have shirts with the iconic Mickey head. So, I made the girls (my mom, myself, and my two daughters) zebra print Mickey shirts. I made my son a camouflage Mickey shirt also. With the right supplies and a little of your time, you can make your own boutique style Disney World shirts..for half the price!

  • Plain T-shirt (I purchased hot pink craft shirts for the girls, and an orange shirt for my son from Hobby Lobby. Wash and dry before starting your project.)
  • Fabric of your choice (Zebra print for the girls and camouflage for the boy)
  • Heat-n-Bond Ultrahold iron-on adhesive (or HeatnBond Lite for sewing)
  • Mickey head pattern
  • Sewing scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Matching Thread
  • Iron
  • Freezer paper
1. Make a Mickey head pattern. You can print and/or blow-up a picture found online, or you can make your own pattern. I simply traced a cup and plate in the shape of Mickey's head. You may need to make a couple of sizes for children and adults.
2. Follow the instructions on the Heat-n-bond package to create your applique. Put the Heat-n-bond adhesive onto the wrong side of the material you are using. (Paper liner should face up.) Iron the adhesive onto the material, pressing until it is completely bonded. Let it cool completely. 
3. Trace your pattern onto the liner and cut the pattern out.  You will be left with the Mickey head shape. Peel the liner off the back.

4. Add your Mickey applique to your matching shirt. Center or measure where you want your applique to go on your shirt. Iron the applique onto your shirt, pressing for about eight seconds onto each section until it is completely bonded to the shirt.
5. Use your sewing machine to stitch around the applique. Turn the shirt inside out. Iron a piece of freezer paper (shiny side down) onto the inside of your shirt (the applique should be directly on the other side.) This will help prevent your shirt from bunching up when you sew around your applique. Turn the shirt right side out. Make a zig-zag stitch around the applique or use a satin-stitch to prevent fraying. I set the stitch length to zero, and used the highest setting for a zig-zag stitch. (You may need to play around with the settings on your sewing machine and do a couple of trials on some scrap fabric to get the stitch the way you want it.) Simply follow the applique all around when sewing it to the shirt. I made a satin-stitch for the first time, and it was easier than I thought. I really loved the finished look!

6. Remove the freezer paper from the inside of the shirt. After sewing, the freezer paper practically peels off in seconds. Any leftover freezer paper should come off in the wash.

7. Enjoy your new shirts and wear them to the Disney parks...especially made for Animal Kingdom!

I loved the way the shirts came out, and I am so glad I took the time to make them for our trip! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

We're Going to Disney World- A Surprise Scavenger Hunt

Yes, it's a dream come true for us! I have heard the countless and exciting stories from everyone who has made a trip to Disney World. My husband went to Disney World when he was younger, but I have never even been to Florida. Of course, my three children have not experienced the "World" yet either. My husband and I started talking about going, and then we took the plunge in December. We booked our hotel and flight. Fortunately, we were able to use points that we had earned for the hotel. Because we were booking well ahead of time we were able to get great flight times and routes to Orlando and back.
It was a bit torturous not to tell our children right away...for us, at least. But, we did not want to tell them the news and then make them wait and wait for months. We did, however, want to get them prepared for the trip and help in some of the planning process. So on Easter we gave them a surprise they would not forget!

How We Told Our Children

After we went to Sunday mass, opened Easter baskets, and searched for Easter eggs in our back yard, my husband took our kids for a nice, long walk. I placed eggs and clues throughout the house. Each clue would lead to the next clue and egg. In each egg there were alphabet letters that they would have to unscramble at the end of their scavenger hunt.
The kids were greeted back with a letter telling them how proud we were of all of them. It also explained that as an extra special treat they were going to go on a scavenger hunt around the house.
My kids had no clue that Disney World was even being considered by mom and dad.

We took videos and pictures of their hunt and their reactions. I cannot even explain how happy we were to tell them and how ecstatic they were when they realized where they were going this summer. My six year-old kept "fainting" afterward. It was quite funny to watch them jump up and down, and see the giddiness that followed.

Though I am sure it would have been an awesome surprise to tell them the morning we were leaving on our flight, I am glad we chose to do it ahead of time. Not too early and not too late. They have had time to plan what they want to wear and pack, get even more excited and countdown the days until the trip, research and read about the rides and adventures that they want to experience, and watch lots of Disney movies!

P.S. I know I am a month overdue with this post, but I cannot tell you how busy we have been since then..Disney and many other events have taken over our life. Haha! More Disney fun to come!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Non-Candy Easter Egg Fillers

If you're anything like me I get a little overwhelmed with the amount of candy my children receive on holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. When my pantry starts to be overtaken by candy I beg for some alternatives. Easter is coming up quickly and there are already a couple of Easter egg hunts planned in our community. I decided to make a list of some of my favorite Easter egg filler ideas. I am sharing this list and including some pictures just for you! Hopefully, others will consider filling their eggs with other fun stuff besides candy...

1.     Plastic army men
2.     Fake bugs
3.     Rings
4.     Legos or Lego mini-figures
5.     Stretchy or plastic animals, dinosaurs, etc.
6.     Erasers
7.     Spinning top
8.     Mini nail polish
9.     Mini Bubbles
10.  Rainbow Loom (type) Rubber bands
11.  Play money or plastic coins
12.  Key chain
13.  Magnetic letters or other cute magnets
14. Bouncy Balls
15.  Cross, Rosary, or other religious items
16.  Stickers (Seasonal and character)
17.  Mini Tattoos
18.  Stretchy/sticky hand
19.  Stamps
20.  Crocs "jibbitz" shoe charms
21.  Bunny, chick, or other Easter trinket/toy
22.  Hair ties, mini-bows, or hair clips
23.  Foam Stickers
24.  Silly Putty or play-doh
25.  Small lipgloss
26.  Bracelets
27.  Balloon
28.  Necklace
29.  Dollar bill or coins
30.  Earrings
31.  Small figurine
32.  Disney trading pins or other attachable pin
33.  Whistle
34.  Mini car
35.  Barbie accessories or clothes
36. Mini wind-up toy

*Don't forget to check the party aisles and the Dollar Tree for small toys and trinkets. Party favors are cheap, small, and fun!

 Maybe this list of Easter egg fillers will help you when you are staring at a pile of empty Easter eggs. I know I will be referring back to it when I am preparing for our Easter egg hunts and baskets!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Getting your Kids to Eat their Fruits and Vegetables

As a mother I want my children to live a healthy lifestyle. I want them to eat their fruits and vegetables. More importantly, I want them to learn to make good choices on their own. Fortunately, getting them to eat their fruit was never a problem. They crave that sweet taste and enjoy many different kinds of fruits. My daughters love vegetables, too! My son, on the other hand, will turn his head away from most of them. But, this does not stop me from putting them on his plate each day.

 Do you have this problem? I challenge you to make it a priority to include fruits and vegetables in your family's daily diets.

Serve It Up 

  • Cut up fruits and veggies for easy access. A whole pineapple or an orange sitting on the counter may easily get passed up by everyone. Do a little prep work by cutting up your fruit and vegetables when you return from the grocery store. Store them in see through containers, or snack baggies. Kids and adults can grab and go.

  • Make your fruits and veggies look delicious. My kids love when I make their fruits and vegetables into different shapes. One of my favorite ways to serve up fruits or veggies is by letting them "eat the rainbow." Offer different colors of fruits and veggies and shape them into a rainbow.

Name It

  • Make a fun name for a fruit or vegetable. Broccoli is not just broccoli for my kids. Broccoli bites are "trees," and cauliflower is the "cousin."
  • Pretend you are an animal eating your veggies. Eat carrots and lettuce for your "bunny food." 

Dip It

  • Offer some ranch dip or other dressing. I love carrots. Simple and delicious. My oldest daughter, however, will not touch them...unless I add a squirt of ranch dressing on the side.
  • Try hummus. Hummus is a favorite dip of mine. I do not buy it as often as I would like to, but I will enjoy a plateful of veggies with hummus.
  • Enjoy some fruit dip. Make an easy-peasy fruit dip by adding honey to some plain yogurt. Mix it up and get ready for some yummy dipping.

Mix it

  • Smoothies and milkshakes. Remember my post about our favorite green smoothies? Smoothies are a great way to mix in both fruits and vegetables for your children and yourself.

  • Muffins and breads. Blueberries, carrots, squash...there are plenty of delicious fruits and veggies that can be added to your favorite homemade breads. Try them in muffins, loaves, and pancakes for starters. 
  • Dinners. I do not have a problem with mixing in vegetables with some of our favorite dishes. Add shredded carrots to sloppy joes or add a layer of spinach to your lasagna. A little addition here or there may help spark their taste buds.  
If you have trouble getting your child to eat their fruits and vegetables, do not give up. They will learn to love them eventually. :)

Mix them, hide them, do whatever you have to, but keep serving them!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

DIY Essential Oils Carrying Case

About six months ago I started using Doterra's essential oils. The essential oils come in little, glass vials. My family uses them on a daily basis, and I believe we have all been healthier because of them. :) I have a drawer in my bathroom that houses these oils. Because of their many uses, I found myself needing these oils to treat everyday illnesses, aches, and pains when I was away from home also. (Some oils are even a great alternative to the overused anti-bacterial gel soap that everyone carries around.) I needed a carrying case that I could just drop into my purse, and pull out quickly when needed. Doterra sells carrying cases, but I figured I could make something with what I have on hand just as easily.

 (Note: This is a "cheat" DIY bag!!)

So, I rummaged through my zipper makeup bags. You know..the ones that come free when you purchase a certain amount of makeup. I found a pretty flowered one in my closet that I had never even used. I would have liked a zipper that ran up the side, across the top, and around the other side. This would have made sewing with a sewing machine a whole lot easier. Those zipper cases that open flat would have been ideal, but I settled for my simple, zipper top bag that I had received for free. I grabbed a few necessary items and got straight to work


  • Sewing machine
  • Zipper makeup pouch
  • Thread (matching color)
  • Elastic (I used 3/4 inch)
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Measuring tape

Next,  I opened up the zipper bag and turned it inside out. I measured out the elastic. (Give yourself a rough estimate by measuring the length of the pouch, or sew as you go.) I used a thicker elastic band because the vials are round and wide, and I wanted the elastic to have a secure hold on the vials. I pinned the elastic to the inside of the bag. (I ended up sewing only one side of elastic on this pouch because I did not want it to be too bulky, and I wanted to make sure it closed easily. This particular pouch was not incredibly deep.) This is where a free arm attachment on your sewing machine works well because you will really have to get into that pouch and sew at a difficult angle. You have to be careful that you do not sew through to the opposite side of the pouch, too. I sewed a straight line down and back stitched. I repeated this every few inches. I left enough room in each loop to fit each vial. Just remember the elastic will stretch over time so you will need each "loop" a little smaller than the vial or whatever you will be holding in the elastic loop. 

Turn the bag right side out, and secure your essential oils in their new home. Now you have a quick and frugal way to carry around essential oils and other necessities! It is a makeup bag after all, so go ahead and throw in your lipstick, lotions and anything else you want, too!