Parenting

Parenting tips and advice for working mothers

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!

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.

Working Mom Tip to Manage Evenings and After School

eveningroutineforworkingmom

Three elementary school kids with homework, papers to sign and daily updates can be overwhelming.

To manage, I created an afterschool/evening routine for checking homework, getting dinner on the table and giving each of my girls a little quality time, too.

Not only does it work, my girls look forward to it!

My Working Mom Evening Routine

Once home, my kids are responsible for putting their things away (backpacks, coats, etc.), washing their hands and getting a small snack. I start dinner.

After snack, they are to either finish homework or organize their things for our one-on-one meetings.

Once dinner is cooking, meetings start. One-on-one meetings are as they sound. Each child gets my undivided attention, typically for 5-15 minutes, depending on their needs that day. The others can’t interrupt and this prevents me from mixing up their homework, agendas and permission slips… which may or may not have happened before.

During one-on-one I check homework, read and sign any teacher notes/permission slips/agendas and then they share freely about their day. It’s not a lot of time, and you’d be surprised how good they feel to have a few minutes of my attention to just chat, especially without having to talk around their siblings.

I get to hear what they loved about their day, who they played with at recess, if they had special treats because of a classmate’s birthday, and more. Bonus point, I’m hoping as they get older this habit will make it easier for them to keep talking to me about their world.

Once I’ve done this for each child, it’s typically dinner time.

I hope this helps you with your evenings!

Quick and Easy Stir Fry Recipe – Chicken & Broccoli

quickeasybroccolichickenstirfryrecipeMaking a quick dinner is part of managing our weekday schedule, especially when I factor in afterschool activities, homework, and my work schedule. By keeping a few staples on hand, I’m able to cook dinner in less than thirty minutes. Here is one of my favorite stir fry recipes…

Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry Recipe

Ingredients:

1 box of pasta (I use spaghetti noodles)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 bag frozen broccoli

1/2 bag frozen peppers

1/2 can cream of mushroom soup (can also use cream of celery soup)

1 pack precooked chicken strips

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup water

Cooking the stir fry is pretty simple. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

In another pan, add the olive oil and heat it using medium heat. Once it’s warm add  peppers and mushrooms. Stir for two minutes, until peppers are tender. Add broccoli and let cook for 3 minutes. Add cream of mushroom soup and chicken strips. Add 1/2 cup of water, stir and cover. Let simmer for 7 minutes or until broccoli is cooked to your preferred tenderness.

Add pasta to plate and add desired amount of chicken broccoli mix.

Enjoy!

 

School Lunch Idea – System For Kids To Pack Lunch

kidslunchidea_systemtoletkidspacklunchThis year I created a system that makes it easy for my kids to help pack their school lunch.

It’s fairly healthy and saves me time when I’m preparing for the next day.

Plus, my girls love having a say in what they are eating each day.

My “Kids, Help Pack Your Lunch” System

I purchased these stacking bins and put them in arms reach, so they can easily see their choices. Then, I only have to stock them weekly.

Each bin is labeled so they know how many items from each bin is needed. Once they have chosen from the bins, an adult (Hubby or me) adds an entrée (sandwich, thermos dish, etc.). This is also when we check to make sure they didn’t grab two treats and no vegetables, :-).

On some occasions the oldest will make the sandwiches, too. However I’m not quite ready to give up that responsibility.

Here are the four bins:

Fruit/veggie and dairy bin. This one stays in the refrigerator and includes things like yogurt, string cheese, grapes, carrots, and grape tomatoes.

Snacks. They can choose two things from the snack section. This is usually chips, goldfish, snack crackers, granola bars, Z bars, raisins, craisins, and applesauce.

Juice/Milk. They can decide if they want milk, juice or water.

Treat. Here they can choose from things like oatmeal pies, cookies and fruit strips.

A few other things:

  • These are a few of the lunch options I have for my girls, but you can adapt this to your child’s preferences and dietary needs. For instance, two of my girls eat GoGurt, but my other chooses soy yogurt. One kid loves oranges and another loves apples.
  • I bought the bins from a dollar store, but you can find similar options in your area discount store.
  • Sometimes I let my kids shop with me, because they may choose something I never considered.
  • I ask for feedback to see what they loved and what they didn’t.

I hope this school lunch idea helps you take one thing off your to-do list!

Daily Schedule For Kids On Holiday Break

WinterBreakScheduleForKidsAtHome

With the kids out of school for Winter Holiday break soon, I’ll be splitting my work time between the office and home.

Since I’ve shared some of the ways I work from home while the kids are there, I’m following up with a sample schedule.

I hope this helps you keep your kids entertained.

Sample Schedule for Kids At Home During School’s Winter Break

Breakfast. Oatmeal is a favorite because it is healthy, quick and filling. Also, muffins and hard-boiled eggs are a hit.

Project Time. Instead of giving them a particular assignment, keep a mix of craft supplies and set the timer for 60-90 minutes. Let them decide what to make with it. You may be surprised what happens when they mix jewelry-making with scrapbooking with paper and markers.

Reading Time. We set aside 30 minutes of reading time. After reading they have to either write a brief summary or draw an illustration that goes with the text. This is shared during lunch time so they really look forward to it!

Math Time. I rely on math websites for this. Their school uses Dreambox and Sumdog, but there are plenty of sites out there to choose from based on your kid’s grade level.

Lunchtime. Some of our favorites are pizza, turkey wraps with baked chips and fruit, and chicken noodle soup with whole wheat crackers

Quiet Time/TV Time.You can decide or let your kids choose to read, nap or watch TV for an hour. I find this downtime to be imperative to a good evening, especially once you get to day three or four of winter break.

Let’s Move. After quiet time, it’s time to move! This can be anything from a dance party to an exercise video to using a video gaming system like Wii.

Hope this helps you manage during school’s winter holiday break.

Happy Holidays and enjoy the season!

Great Teacher Holiday Gift Ideas, Even If You’re Not Crafty

I would love to give my girls’ teachers some of the cute, crafty holiday gifts I see on Pinterest. Except, I do not have the time, energy or mind to do any of these things. To keep me from overextending myself, and still recognize teachers for their hard work, I have three guidelines for gifts:

  • Be easy for me.
  • Gift things that they will love to use.
  • Have a personal touch from the child they are teaching.

Keeping these guidelines in mind here are some Teacher Gift Ideas:

TeacherHolidayGiftIdeasCandy with movie gift card. In most stores you can buy one or multi packs of movie gift cards. Pick these up on your next trip, along with boxes of movie candy, blank index cards and ribbon. Let your child use an index card to write a thank you note to the teacher, draw a holiday picture or both. Then, all you’ll have to do is assemble it with ribbon. It’s cute and not time consuming, a win-win.

Kindle or bookstore gift card with book. Like movie gift cards, bookstore gift cards can be purchased in multi-packs. Have your child pick out a book for their class when you’re in Target, Walmart, etc. Similar to the instructions above, buy blank index cards and ribbon. Your child makes the card and you assemble. Even better, if your child is old enough, they can put the gift together!

teacherholidaygiftidea_yoobiUnusual Office Supplies.I saw these Yoobi pretzel erasers and the jumbo highlighter during my Target run. Aren’t they fabulous?! Plus, for every Yoobi item purchased they donate an item to a classroom in need

Fancy markers/sharpies in pencil bag with label. I love office supply stores and there are always fabulous pens, pencils and markers. Choose a pencil box, fill it with some of these cool writing/drawing tools. Then, your child can use a piece of construction paper (or index card) to make a card that can be attached to the box. You can attach the card with glue if it is one-sided or tape if it is two-sided.

Oh yes, one other thing to remember. For the card, make sure your child writes his or her name and the year on it. Years from now it’ll help the teacher remember who gave the gift.

Happy Holidays!

Working From Home When The Kids Are There, Too

tipsforworkingmomfromhomewithkidsAs we start a new school year it’s inevitable that I will have to work from home some days with the girls. It’s not easy finding appropriate care for a sick child and Teacher Workdays are always some random day of the week.

Here are a few ways I work while the kids are home:

We keep a schedule. On these days they can sleep as long as they want, but once they are up they get timed activities. In the morning we usually do 30 minutes of reading time, 30 minutes of computer time and then 45 minutes to an hour for creative play – think Legos, arts and crafts, jewelry making, etc.

I take a 5-minute break every hour to give them attention. This is when they can show me what they’ve done, ask for help or request special snacks. It’s also when they can suggest additional activities.

I make sure they understand any times that I shouldn’t be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. For instance, if I have a 1 o’clock conference call we talk about that beforehand and they help me watch the time. This makes them feel good because they are connected to the event. During the call they are responsible for making sure they don’t get too loud.

Lunchtime is fun. Yes, we eat. But, we also do something fun like have a dance party or they may put on a show for me.

We treasure quiet time in the afternoon. Napping is not a requirement, but relaxing is imperative. Sometimes they’ll watch TV, read some more or nap. This is usually 90 minutes to two hours.

Generally speaking, I have found the most success when my girls don’t feel like they are competing with work for my attention. The tips I shared work because they understand schedules and activities due to school. The mini breaks throughout the day also help.

Hope this helps and if you have additional tips please share.