6 Things Working Moms Can Do To Start The School Year Right

workingmomadvicebacktoschoolplanningBack-to-school season is in full swing, and parents are busy buying supplies and clothes, while mentally preparing for the demands of the year.

Here are six things parents can do during back-to-school season to get a good start for the school year.

Meet the teacher and return your parent homework quickly. Open house is an ideal time to meet the teacher. Also, be diligent about checking your child’s backpack each evening and return any forms to school immediately. As a working parent, your availability to volunteer in class may be limited, but responding quickly to teacher’s requests can go a long way, too. Just think, does the teacher really want to follow-up with over 20 parents when things aren’t returned?

Make a friend. One of the best ways to get through the year is to have another parent ally. This parent is a great resource if you forget something, accidentally delete an email, or just need to bounce an idea for a different perspective.

Create your child’s bio for the teacher. Trust me, the teacher will be happy to have a cheat sheet on your child’s personality, needs and more. Yes, you probably have something similar in your parent homework, but creating a bio gives you an opportunity to make a good impression, you can print it on color paper to help it stand out, and you’re not stuck to one format.

Monitor what goes right and wrong the first week, then tweak your system accordingly. The first week is for learning. What time will the bus really come? Are lunches working out?

Spend at least 10 minutes each evening with your child chatting about the day. It’s a great time to start this ritual. You’ll be setting a baseline for behavior and have a better point of reference if things change throughout the year.

Open a line of communication. Emails are great for this. Did your child come home happy the first few days? Tell the teacher. Say something nice about the teacher? Share that, too. Opening a line of pleasant communication can come in handy later in the year.

Happy School Year!

Moroccan Travel: Goats Can Climb Trees

moroccogoatsintree_argannearEssaouiraWhen we traveled to Morocco in June, I had no idea it was the perfect month to see goats climbing trees. But yes, those are goats… chillin’… in a tree.

This is an argan tree (yep, like the oil) and goats like the fruit and leaves of the tree. So, in true animal fashion, they climb the tree to get it! I must say, I love their ability to go after what they want.

If you look closely you’ll see a farmer near the tree. Argan fruit ripens in June and July and goats eat the fruit, but they can’t digest the nut in the middle, and the nut is used to make oil. So, once the nut has passed through their digestive system, the shell is easier to crack and farmers collect the nuts to produce argan oil.

Don’t worry, this is one way to get the nut, but there are other ways, too. Women cooperatives in the region also harvest the nut and produce the oils. I visited one of these coops and will post more on my experience there soon.

As for my goat surprise, two things have happened. One, I now think about the goats any time I use a beauty or haircare product with argan oil and two, I love that I saw this in person, :-).

Shea Moisture’s Skin Products I Love

shea moisture black soap and body oil reviewDuring a stroll through my happy place, aka Target, this black soap caught my attention. I was familiar with Shea Moisture’s hair products, but hadn’t tried their body products. Since it was reasonably priced and labeled for “acne prone and troubled skin” I threw it in my basket and kept strolling. After all, you can never buy just one thing in Target, :-).

Fast forward a few years and it has become a staple in my bathroom, and my travel bag. I started using it only on my face, but it has graduated to the only soap that stays in the shower. It was also the gateway product to Shea Moisture’s coconut & hibiscus bath, body & massage oil.

I love this oil.

It goes on great and it smells DIVINE! According to the label it is also for firming & toning, but it’s awesome for any reason. I typically use it after my shower to lock in moisture.

Next time you’re strolling, at a minimum smell the oil. And if you pick it up let me know what you think.

Sincerely, Towanda

Girls Spa Party Goodie Bag Ideas

Girls Spa Birthday party goodie bagLittle girls hanging at the spa for a birthday party is one of the cutest things you will ever see. If it’s a spa that caters to children that is even better. This year my baby let me plan her party so I booked Glitzy Pritzy spa and they had a blast.

I’ll share more on the party later, but this is the goodie bag that I made for her guests. It was the perfect addition to a fabulous girly party.

I wanted the goodie bag to do three things:

  1. Encourage creativity (because girls should always remember it’s okay to like mani/pedis, but their minds count so much more).
  2. Give them a little glitz to take home.
  3. Have something sweet …because girls are sugar & spice and everything nice, :-).

Here are the supplies for this Girls Spa Birthday Party Goodie Bag:

  • favor bags
  • gift tissue paper
  • journals or notebooks
  • mechanical pencils
  • kids’ nail polish
  • candy ( I did two wrapped candies and one lollipop)
  • stickers
  • thank you note from birthday girl

girl spa birthday party goodie bag ideasAssembly was very easy.

First I attached the thank you note to the inside cover of the journal with a foam sticker.

girl spa birthday party goodie bag ideasNext, I cut the tissue paper in half to help it fit better in the bags. Then I took one piece of tissue paper and used it to wrap one journal, pencil, nail polish and candy pack. This was placed in the bag.

girlspabirthdaypartygoodiebagideasThere are lots of other things you can add to your spa party favor bag. Some ideas are:

  • flip flops (for extra oomph you can add a small pack of ribbons and stickers and let the girls decorate their pair)
  • toe separators
  • kid-friendly toiletries like Disney-inspired lotions and creams
  • lip balm
  • sleep mask
  • nail stickers

Good luck with your party!

My Notebook Hack

howtoorganizenotebookforofficeschool

Beautiful notebooks are a necessary indulgence for me. Being able to scribble notes, write inspirational messages and jot down ideas in a piece of art make me happy. It’s why I show up to business meetings with fabulously-colored notebooks instead of the traditional yellow notepads. It’s also why my notebooks often become a topic of conversation.

Through the years I’ve come up with a few hacks to turn my “little of everything” notebook into an organized, efficient tool.

Office supplies needed to hack your notebook or journal:

  • paper clips
  • rubber band
  • binder clip
  • Post-it notes
  • Post-it flags

In the front of the notebook I store a paper clip and a binder clip.

howtoorganizenotebookforschoolworkThese are used to section off a few pages or an entire section of notes. These can also be used to attach loose papers that are needed for a meeting, etc.

On the back cover I add a few post-it notes and flags. The flags are used to flag sections as needed. I like having post-it notes because sometimes I want a temporary note or to share information with others, and I hate tearing pages out of my book.

howtoorganizenotebookintosectionsI purchased this notebook band from Target to keep my notebook closed, but a regular rubber band can do the same thing.

So, tell me. What is your necessary indulgence?

Back to School Checklist (Guide to Being Prepared, Not Stressed)

Back to School checklist with timing and tips 2015I love a good checklist. Actually I love lists – to-do lists, shopping lists, the list goes on and on.

Hahaha, see what I did there.

Okay, I digress. That being said, I need lists that are doable. I refuse to be taunted or intimidated by a list.

Below is my ULTIMATE Back-to-School list, complete with a timeline for planning. It’s helping my sanity while preparing for three school-aged kids. Even better, it is not overwhelming.

Enjoy and I hope it helps you and your family, too.

Back-to-School Checklist with Timeline

Four Weeks Before

  • Take inventory of clothes. Some people do this at the beginning of Summer, but my kids seem to sprout over the break. To make this task manageable, especially if you have more than one child, set a timer and work until time’s up. Do the same each day until you’re done. We worked in one hour increments and it helped me and the kids not be grumpy.
  • Download school supply shopping list from school’s website. At this point you don’t have to shop, but it’s good to have an idea of what you’ll need.
  • Add important school dates to your calendar and/or the family calendar. Doing this early will help you stay on top of events later.
  • Research after school care if needed. Now is a good time to start considering programs or interviewing nannies.

Three Weeks Before

  • Get immunizations and/or physicals if needed.
  • Take inventory of leftover school supplies. Mark items off of this year’s list that you already have.
  • Purchase bookbag/lunchboxes if needed. If using older ones, clean them and make sure all zippers and closures work. Also, make sure straps are in good condition.
  • Put your afterschool research to work. Visit potential programs and/or continue interviewing nannies. Narrow down your list of possibilities and finalize paperwork.

Two Weeks Before

  • Discuss extracurricular activities with kids. Get an idea of what they want to do (if they haven’t started). Keep in mind, homework and down time are important. Resist the urge to overschedule.
  • Do something fun. By now you’re gearing up for school and it’s easy to forget it is still Summer. Enjoy these last days by going to a local pool or beach, eating ice cream outside or having a smores night.
  • Begin adjusting bedtime slowly to get the kids back into a routine.
  • Begin picking up school supplies. I do this in two trips. The first trip is a solo trip once the kids are in bed. During this trip I pick up the staples (yellow pencils, glue sticks, paper, crayons, etc.). The next trip includes the kids and it’s when they pick up their personal items (pretty notebooks, pencil boxes, etc.). I find this is much easier than trying to pick up everything when they are with me.

Week Before

  • Implement a school bedtime. At this point kids can still sleep as long as they want in the morning, but going to bed will help them adjust better to school life.
  • Discuss expectations. This is a good time to highlight the positives of the previous school year and to encourage positive habits this year.
  • Review emergency plan with kids. Make sure they understand what to do if no one is at the bus stop or home, if someone gets hurt, etc.
  • Attend Open House.
  • Label bags, lunch boxes and other personal items. You can purchase labels or use a Sharpie. The important thing is that items can be returned to them if lost.

First Week of School

  • Have a special breakfast of power foods. Fruit, yogurt, waffles, pancakes and eggs are all good choices.
  • Reinforce emergency plans.
  • Make sure your emergency contact information is in their bookbag. I include one of my business cards.
  • Complete parent homework. Yes, you know all of those papers that come home the first week. It’s better to just suck it up and do it. Want to speed it up if you have more than one child at the same school? Fill out one with all of the information that is the same. Photocopy it and then fill in the information that is child-specific on the copies. It’s a great way to avoid writing your name, address and contact info over and over and over.
  • Treat yourself to something decadent. You totally deserve it.

The August Newsletter is Live!

augustplanningtipsforworkingmomsThis month I’m trying something a little different.

Instead of emailing each time I post something new, I’ve done a monthly newsletter that includes my posts, along with other interesting news from around the web. I would love if you checked it out.

Once you check it out, please take a couple of minutes to answer this very short survey. With your help, the September issue can be bigger and better.

More importantly, your honest feedback will help me provide information to make your life easier.

Thank you so much for your support! I am continuously amazed at the great people that support this project.

Love, Towanda

August Holidays and Celebrations

AugustHolidaysandReasonstoCelebrateHappy August, aka Last Full Month of Summer!

As you start to get ready for Fall, Back to School and other things, don’t let this month slip by without some celebrations. Here’s a list of holidays and events to inspire you, :-).

August is:

Family Fun Month

Golf Month

Holidays:

2nd       Friendship Day and National Sister Day

7th        International Beer Day

9th        Book Lovers Day

10th      National Smores Day

12th      International Youth Day

13th      International Lefthanders Day

15th      National Relaxation Day and Corn on the Cob Day

18th      National Soft Ice Cream Day

19th      Snuffleupagus Birthday (The Sesame Street fan in me LOVES this!)

20th     National Lemonade Day

21st      National Senior Citizens Day

25th      National Banana Split Day

26th      National Dog Day

30th      International Bacon Day

31st       Eat Outside Day

Bonus: Looking for other ways to enjoy this month? Here’s my list of ways to enjoy August!