Back to School Checklists for Kids

This school year is going to be bringing about a lot of changes for my family.  The biggest change is that A is going back into public school. This will be the first time in ten years that I have no children home with me! I am going to increase my work hours at home so that I work for the entire time the kids are at school.  I also am taking on a weekend job outside the home in social services.  My husband may even be taking on a new position at his job.  Lots of changes afoot for us!

My kids will have at least two extra curricular activities each at any given time.  That's how it always is.  We try to ensure they see friends at least once a week as well.  Basically, we are going to be busy.  Life becomes a whirlwind during the school year. 

I am determined to stay organized this year. I will admit it is hard for us to stay organized even without being busy.  I can do it but it takes a lot of concentration and energy for me being a dyspraxic (and I am realizing as I get older that I may have ADHD, too).  My daughter has executive functions issues along with her dyspraxia.  My hubby is the most disorganized of all of us.  He is a genius in his field but keeping track of appointments, homework, and even car keys is not his strong suit.  

To keep the kids on course, I have made them checklists for before and after school.  This way they know what is expected and it is not overwhelming.  As long as these things get done we'll be okay.  I will have to make up some lists for myself as well!  

If your kids need organization help, feel free to download these lists for yourself or copy and tweak them to meet your needs.  

You'll notice I added in setting a goal in the morning.  This is because I know for myself that when I set an intention in the beginning of the day things go much more smoothly for me.  When you tell your mind what you hope to accomplish and you have a direction set, things fall into place for you and you feel more secure.  I want this for my kids.

I also added prayer time at the end of the day where the kids need to be thankful for what is good.  Taking the time each night, even for just a minute or two, to be grateful and appreciate what we have can make such a difference in how we feel and what we take to the others we interact with.  I also say for them to ask for help with anything they need assistance with.  This gives a sense of control and of faith.  If anything is going wrong we are taking the time to do what we can by asking for help and turning our struggle over to a higher power.  

I added family time to the after school list as well.  I know with the activities there may be days where we can't fit in a game or a craft but it is something to shoot for as much as possible.  I am going to really miss my kids this year and I want to make sure I spend time with them whenever I possibly can.  I feel this is good for all of us.  I miss them already and they have not even gone back to school yet!

Link to Checklists:

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Five Lessons for Parenting Life {Mom Get Out and Play Challenge Days 4-12}

Okay, I dropped the ball on blogging for every day of the Mom Get Out and Play Challenge.  However, I have been honoring my commitment to connect with my kids and I have been learning a lot of lessons along the way.  Here is some of what I've been taking in.

1) Let Go Of Your Preconceived Notions. Your children can be anything and anyone.  They'll surprise you if you let them.  Example: My son HATES shopping.  Nothing seems to make him more miserable.  However, when I had him try on clothes this past week at PS, he fell in love.  I'm not sure if he is love with shopping or just his own reflection in nice new clothes, but something changed.  By the time we left the mall he was asking me when we could go shopping again and said, and I quote, "I LOVE CLOTHES SHOPPING!"

2) Sometimes the Sweetest Moments are The Most Ordinary.  There was one day last week where I was really trying to force this whole bonding thing.  I was taking these kids from one activity to the next but it seemed like nobody was really feeling it.  It was just too forced.  When I put A to bed that night she began confiding in me about her fears of going back to school and we wound up talking for over an hour in her bed.  I felt a real connection happening. She was listening and I was helping. Board games, outings, and activities mean nothing without this connection.

3) Forget What You Like and What You Want.  It's Not About YOU Anymore.  My husband was a wrestler. He therefore wants my son to wrestle. My son wrestled last year with dad coaching.  He was pretty good and worked hard at it but he really is not an aggressive kid and he did not enjoy it at all.  He hated the idea of someone getting hurt because of him and he (of course) hated getting hurt.  He loves and excels at soccer, track, and baseball.  My husband won't coach these sports and does not attend all of them.I'm not writing this to rag on my hubby.  I decided to take a look at myself to see if I do this same thing.  I do.  Sometimes I am only willing to do acitivies or watch movies that I like with the kids.  It should not be that way.  We should enter into their world and engage in what they love with them.  Whatever they love we should love it too because it is a part of them.  Children deserve the chance to become themselves.  They don't owe us their lives.

4) Setting Our Intention is the Most Important Part of Anything We Do.  When I wake up each day telling myself that my intention is to be a good mother and to connect with my children, it sets the tone for the entire day.  Just setting this intention makes parenting easier, almost effortless.  I am finding that I can intuit my children's needs now.  They have not had to ask me for anything or remind me of things because I am flipping my brain into "awesome mom mode" at the beginning of each day.

5) Making Time for Fun Makes More Time. I don't know why, but when I carve out time for fun and family my day seems to last so much longer.  I don't feel robbed of time, I feel like I have more of it.  Time is all about perception.  That's why when we are little 3 weeks seems like an eternity and when we are older it seems like it goes by in the blink of an eye.  Time has not changed, we have.  Adding happiness, connection, love, and fun into our days extends time.

All of the pictures I used in this post are from  The words I added to them are mine.

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Mom Get Out & Play Challenge {Day 3}

I had all sorts of problems with congestion and coughing last week.  Today I was sick to my stomach so I am guessing the illness has morphed.  The last thing I wanted to do was "get out" and do anything.  That's why I love blogging though.  Since I publicly declared that  I was going to do this every day for 21 days, I have to do it NO MATTER WHAT!  I'm glad because I want to keep my commitment to my kids.

So it was pretty late in the day when we got out, but we did get out.  We took a walk over to the nearby woods for a hike.

Hiking is always a grand adventure.  I always say, "If you want to get real, go hiking."  It is one of my favorite things to do.  For the kids it is always fun, too.  There is a sense of freedom and exploration when you are in the woods.

When we emerged from the trails, we ran into friends at the Community Garden so the kids tasted some freshly grown black raspberries and helped out a bit with some planting.

What I learned from hiking with my kids can be summed up in this picture:

Here are some of my hiking pins for your next adventure!

Follow my board outside on Pinterest.
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Mom Get Out & Play Challenge {Day 2}

It rained today.  That's what happens when I decide I am taking on a challenge about going OUT to play!

I connected with my kids on an intellectual level today.  We played strategic games like Battleship and we watched Brain Games on the Nat Geo channel.  Brain Games is a fun show to watch because they ask you to play along at home so you are actually doing something with your family rather than just sitting on the couch.  Kids also get very amazed by the tricks their brains can play on them!

Here are a few other playtime ideas that I have been collecting from Pinterest! By the way, keeping a Pin Board of fun activities is great because when the kids are bored, you can always go over to Pinterest and pick out something to do.

What I Learned Day 2
Don't try to control quality timeLet the kids be who they are even if they happen to be lying, cheating, bickering siblings at the moment.  I usually step in and police everything, trying to create a "Family Time" postcard.  That's not connecting- that's acting.  Today when my son peeked at my daughter's Battleship, I let them argue it out.  He wound up admitting it and we all ended up laughing.  When my daughter whined because she had no sleep from her sleepover the night before and she spilled out all her Battleship pegs, again we laughed.  Usually I would have said, "See?  This is what happens when you don't sleep," or something equally annoying that would have ruined the mood  Letting the kids be who they are allows me to get to know them all over again and appreciate their unique flavor instead of trying to mold them into who I think they should be.

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The Mom Get Out and Play Challenge {Day 1}

Photo by photostock from

This weekend my hubby took the kids on a boat trip.  I was getting over bronchitis and I'm prone to seasickness so I stayed behind. I was able to get caught up on some household chores but I missed the kids for the whole two days they were away.

Being that I had missed them so much, when they were heading outside to play today I asked them if they wanted me to join them.  They looked at me surprised which made me realize that it's been a while since I was a participant in this kind of playtime.  I usually go out and do yard work or clean the pool while they're playing. Other times I "just watch," reading or soaking up the sun while they go about their business  In fact, for several months now I think my only playtime with them has consisted of things I prefer to do- evening board games, going for walks, movies- adult fun.

My son has recently started using the poem, "Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish. How many pieces do you wish?" to deem whose "it" in tag or for various other important life decisions.  Hearing him recite it brought back memories for me.  I remembered that there was a time when I loved going out to play and knew how to have real fun.  I actually felt a small surge of excitement go through me at the prospect of going out to play with the kids.

When we first got outside my adult self starting nagging me that I really did need to skim the pool and sweep off the trampoline. I gave in, trying to incorporate it into the pretend game we were playing. "I'm fishing for our dinner tonight," I said as I used a net to scoop leaves and bugs out of the pool.  They weren't buying it. I felt like they were thinking, "I knew it was too good to be true.  Mom doesn't know how to play."  So, then I really committed to my role.  I spent an hour out in the yard giving play 100% of my attention.  First, we had to pretend we were in the Minecraft world.  We then jumped on the trampoline.  This turned into a game of hide and go seek which later morphed into a kickball tournament.

It felt good to play.  I honestly think that is what humans were made for- to be creative, to enjoy the moments.  I became a part of my kids' world instead of them always having to come visit me in mine.  I felt a deepening of connection with them, not to mention I got a workout!  As a side benefit, I even felt my creative juices flowing and I was more motivated after playing.  I think the brain requires this!

We don't always do enough for the people closest to us.  We don't always take care of the things that are most important.  I enjoy being with my kids more than anything, so I mistakenly look at that as a luxury for myself.  Luxuries for myself get neglected.  I tell myself that work and housecleaning are for the kids, but they could care less about that.  They want my time and I need to be willing to give it.  It's not enough to just be nearby if I'm absorbed in my smartphone, my writing, or even my own thoughts.  I need to give myself to them fully.

I used to know this.  When the kids were younger I used to make sure that one of the first things I did every day was give them an hour of undivided attention.  If I did this, they were satisfied for the rest of the day and I was able to tackle my work while they played contentedly on the floor of the office.  Now that they're older and they have iPads, iPods, XBoxes, and friends, I think I forgot that they still need me, too.  And I need them!

The nice weather will be over soon so I am setting up a 21 Day Challenge for myself to get out and play with the kids every day.  It's good for the body, the soul, and our relationships.  If it's raining we'll play a board game, or do a puzzle, or bake- anything to be together.

This isn't easy for me to do and I suspect I am not the only one that feels this way.  It's hard to NOT multitask when you're a mom. We have so much pressure on us as women in this culture.  We have to be successful professionally, domestically, and socially.  Just in the mom role alone we have to worry about health, nutrition, screen time, homework, 8000 extra curricular activities, and the list goes on.  All this while trying to prove we can also be a bread winner and have a house that would make Martha Stewart proud (or in my case at least not cringe).  With all this in mind, it takes all of my willpower to not fold laundry while waiting for my turn in SORRY or not answer email while the kids mix up some cake batter.  That's where the word "challenge" comes in.

For me, this is a lesson in mindfulness.  In meditation, I try to bring my thoughts to a singularity and focus on one thing such as the breath.  Well, my kids are going to be my breath. They are going to be my practice.

Do you ever find it difficult to find and  commit to family time?    If so, feel free join me on this challenge!  I am going to post an activity idea and something to think about each day for the next 21 days to try and bring us closer to our kids.  To subscribe to this challenge via email sign up here. I'll just be posting blurbs for each day on playtime ideas and insights.

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It's The End of the World as We Know It and I Feel???

So, I figure I should share this here. I decided to homeschool my daughter last year because I was unhappy with her school.  She wasn't learning, had major anxiety, and I felt like she was not getting the support she needed.  I knew she had a learning disability since first grade but it took until the summer going into fourth after providing endless paperwork from doctors and private therapists followed by what I felt like was me throwing a tantrum for them to evaluate her and see this for themselves.  Some of the kids were bullies and I also felt that my daughter was discriminated against because of her disabilities.

Homeschooling was something I always believed in and wanted to do but I doubted myself and went along with the status quo for far too long.  Before taking her out, I tried to get her into the school across town.  They didn't have room for her so I kept her home and I was happy about it because I knew nobody was going to be able to teach her like I could.  As a mom, I understand how my daughter thinks and I could give her one on one attention all day long.

Being home was great.  I caught her up where she was behind and allowed her to zoom ahead in areas she excelled in.  We met other homeschoolers and fell in love with that community. I got to bond with my child in a way I hadn't been able to since she started school at four years old.  It was all about her and about us together every day, all day.

There were hard parts, too.  One was that I had to work nights and therefore hardly slept.  We had less money because I worked less.  I put most of my energy into lesson plans and teaching and only what was left over into working. I also missed out on helping out at my son's school because I was busy teaching A at home.

I decided I would leave next year up to fate.  If she got into the other school this year she'd go and if not we'd be home again. I felt like I was leaving it in God's hands.

Well, she got in.  So now I am not a homeschooling mom anymore.  Not that I did not always teach my kids at home outside of school hours anyway, but still, it feels weird. It's like I had a big H on my chest and someone just ripped it off.  I may even start working outside the home now, too.  I have been working from home (see Work at Home Wisdom) for a decade now!  I have even been writing about working from home for a decade.  It is such a big part of who I am.  I'm sure I'll still do some part time work from my home office but I always said I'd go back to social services when both my kids were in school full time.  Being of service was always a big part of who I was as well.  I've missed it a lot, missed having that connection to people and feeling like I'm helping.  It's a true passion.

So, big changes are afoot.  We are feeling both scared and excited.  That being said  if my DD doesn't learn or her anxiety or health issues return, she'll be back home with me again.  This is all experimental and in the end we have to do what works best for her.

I'm not going to give up this blog either.  I have lots to say about parenting. learning disabilities, and family in general. Quite frankly, I love it here. I also won't stop finding great learning resources, using them with my kids, and posting them.  Like I said, I have always done that. This space has also become a place where I can try to raise awareness for Dyspraxia, another passion of mine.  I am debating on whether I should change the blog's name though. I'll wait and see how everything unfolds.

This whole thing is really an emotional roller coaster.  One minute I feel happy, the next I feel sad.   A is the same. She said, "I don't know how to feel, Mom."  There is the excitement of her being in school for 5th grade.  They are the oldest kids in the school with lots of great trips, awards, and ceremonies. This school has a drama club and a talent show and many other things A will be interested in.  The principal who happens to have gone to high school with my husband (in another state, what are the odds?) is amazing as are the other teachers I have met.  But then there is the fact that although she knows some of the kids there from various activities, none of them are in her social circle of close friends that she has sleepovers and playdates with so she's a bit nervous.  We don't know how she will do academically, especially in math being that she has dyscalculia.  We also don't know how it will be with the auditory processing which got in the way a lot before and even affected her Iowa tests this year (she did not hear them say she could use scrap paper!).  Mostly, we'll miss being together.

To be continued....
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Guardians of the Galaxy: A Mom's Review


Last night we took the kids to see Guardians of the Galaxy.  My kids are 10 and 6 and the movie is rated PG 13.  I don't normally allow my kids to watch PG-13 movies but I accidentally took them to see The Avengers when that was out and only found out after the movie was over that it was not PG rated.  Since that movie was not so bad, I figured this one would not be either.

I think my husband wanted to see this more than any of us because he is the comic book fan in the house.  My daughter wanted to see it because she is a female version of my husband and pretty much just wants to go anywhere with him.  My son, surprisingly, was not too gung-ho to go even though he loves reading books about super heroes and playing with the action figures.  He also thought Avengers was "AWWWWWESOMMMME" so I really thought he'd want to see this one, too.  As for me, I watched the preview a couple of months ago when I was writing an article on what the big Halloween costumes would be this year and I thought it looked very good!

The closest theater to our home was sold out of tickets three hours in advance so we had to go a half hour away to see the movie.  Even though we arrived forty minutes early, we could not find four seats together.  We had to sit two and two in front of one another.  Basically, this movie was packed.

I won't spoil anything, but I will say that I cried in the first ten minutes of the movie.  After that, I laughed for the rest of it.  I don't laugh easy.  I am finicky with my comedy, but this movie did it for me in that regard.  Chris Pratt from Parks and Rec and The Lego Movie was hilarious as Star Lord.  Bradley Cooper (who I like to call, "The Dude from the Hangover") voiced tough talking Rocket Raccoon and was also very funny.

This movie has a great sound track. Most of the music is 70's which matches Star Lord's look with his super smooth leather jacket.  He rocks out to these jams throughout the movie on his Walkman.  Yes, I said Walkman.  He is a child of 1980's Earth, like me.  Therefore, you also get lots and lots of 80's references and jokes in the movie.  This keeps us parents happy and entertained.

Picture from Come See Toys

All of the Guardians are extraordinary characters with complex back stories.  I cannot pick a favorite out of them because I love them all.  The villains were not too shabby either.

Picture from this site

The movie was a little over two hours long and I did not feel it.  I could have kept on watching these guys all night.  My six year old, he got a little fidgety towards the end but still was enjoying himself.

Why is it rated PG 13?  One thing I will say is there is some bad language in the film.  Nobody drops an F bomb, but you'll hear lots of other colorful words here and there.  The other thing is, of course, violence.  It is not any more violent than the other super hero movies like The Avengers and Iron Man, but it could be scary for some kids.  My daughter at 6 could not have handled it.  She used to run out of the room at just an unpleasant confrontation on TV.  She is only able to handle it now at 10.  My son has never been bothered by this stuff. He knows it is all pretend and handles it fine.  So, every kid is different and only a parent knows for sure.  It's not gory, you don't see much blood and the camera pans away from really violent acts. However, you know what's happening during the fight scenes so if your child is super sensitive this might not be for them.  There is no sex in the movie.  Star Lord makes a few references to being a ladies man but nothing that makes it uncomfortable or confusing for kids to hear. 

As a mom and a movie lover, I love when a kids' movie is as entertaining for the parents to watch as for the kids or when a parent movie is safe enough for the kids to watch with us.  This movie fits the bill for us as a good family movie.  The characters were great, the story was compelling, the music rocked, and we laughed a lot.  We all left the theater feeling good and raving about the film for the entire ride home. 
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#GetNoticed! New Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Body Wash {Review & Giveaway}

Disclosure: I received a free sample of Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Body Wash in exchange for a product review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

I'm going to be honest with you.  Before I had children I was a body wash connoisseur.  I am very into scent and I loved using high end, aromatic, moisturizing washes.  Since having kids, however, I usually only use the good stuff when it's given to me as a gift or I have a coupon.  I also wind up sharing it so it is a family body wash.  In recent years, I have even been known to use ::gasp:: bar soap!

All that being said, you can imagine my elation when I received in the mail a big bottle of Dial Moisturizing Body Wash.

When I began to read about this newest member of the Dial Body Wash family, I got more and more excited.  This isn't only a product that gets you clean, it's nourishing skin care.  Coconut water is rich in antioxidants and electrolytes so it's healthy and hydrating.  Mango is chock full of nutrients as well.

Since I am a scent-aholic, I couldn't wait to open up the bottle and take a whiff.  Dial did not disappoint.  The scent is tropical and clean.  I could not get enough!

Sometimes scent is great in the bottle but doesn't transfer over to us when we use it, so I put it to the test with hand washing and later with a shower.  The hydrating body wash lathers very well and definitely gets you clean.  It also provides some nice, relaxing aromatherapy.  After the hand wash and the shower my skin continued to smell yummy and tropical and never felt dried out!  (As I am writing this I am sniffing my arm and, yup, still smelling tropical after 6 hours!)

Are you ready to try it out yourself? I have coupons for FREE bottles of Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Body Wash to give away!  Enter to win yours now!!

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