Tag: back to school

Back to School, Plus a Chance to Win a $1,000 College Scholarship from Groza Learning Center!

Many children across the U.S. are getting ready to head back to school. But here in Northern Virginia, public school doesn’t start again for another four weeks.

Still, the summer has seemed to fly by for us. For one thing, it’s a week shorter this year: Our district shifted the school calendar so that school will end a week a week earlier in June and start a week earlier (the week before Labor Day). But because the 2016-17 school year still followed last year’s calendar, our kids still got out at the same time. That means this summer break is only 9 1/2 weeks for us, instead of 10 1/2.

Then, Matt had a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy only three days after school ended. Due to a complication, the recovery took two weeks. Add to that a 10-day trip to New York and lots of pool time, movies, ice cream, and other fun in between, and more than half of summer break sailed by.

In some ways, the thought of the kids starting school again makes me sad. I’ve been loving our more relaxed schedule: staying up too late to roast s’mores and play catch, sleeping in, lounging around in our pajamas all morning instead of rushing out to catch the school bus.

Ice cream cones
Nothing says “summer” like ice cream before dinner!

But at the same time, I know that in four weeks we’ll all be ready to get back to our regular routine. Our bodies will crave a more consistent sleep schedule and healthier meals instead of frozen yogurt for lunch. Our brains will need to be challenged again (I’ve cut back on work for the summer). The kids will be excited to see all of their school friends again.

Sleeping toddler
Summer has us sleepy like…

Still, the first few weeks of school will be an adjustment. Lily will start preschool a week after the boys go back and will only go to school 12 hours a week, so I know she’ll be asking for her brothers at first. And when all three are at school, I’m pretty sure it will be a bit unnerving! Yesterday, Lily told Keith, “Daddy, soon my brothers will go on the school bus and Mommy will drive me to school and then she will be ALL ALONE!” Keith replied, “Yeah, and then Mommy will have a party!” If you call writing stories, working out, and showering without interruptions a party, then he’s right!

But as big of an adjustment as I and all of my fellow parents will have once school starts, it can’t compare to the big changes parents with kids heading off to college will go through! I’m sure they’ll be feeling a mixture of excitement, sadness, nostalgia, and pride as they drop their kids off at their new schools. And with the average cost of tuition and fees being $33,480 at private colleges (according to the College Board), many of them will also be feeling some sticker shock.

Groza Learning Center in Pacific Palisades, CA—which specializes in tutoring, test prep, reading, and homeschooling—understands the high costs of college tuition. So, the center wants to help students reach their goal of attending college or university by offering a $1,000 scholarship to 2017 high school graduates or currently enrolled college or university students. The deadline for submissions is November 30, 2017. Click here for more information about the scholarship and to apply. Good luck!

I wish all of the students heading back to school—and all of their parents—a healthy and happy school year! In the meantime, we’ll be enjoying the rest of our summer at the beach, the pool, a theme park, and baseball games!

Disclosure: This a sponsored post on behalf of Groza Learning Center. 

Ready for Kindergarten With Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies

This post was sponsored by Nature Made® as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.

It is the final week of an extremely busy and fun summer for my family. We enjoyed lots of pool and playground time, baseball games, trips to New York, and even a Hawaiian vacation!

But now it’s time for us to get back into the swing of things. In just five days, the twins start kindergarten, and Lily starts preschool a week later. So many big changes are coming up for my family, and I can’t quite believe it!

Though Keith and I vowed to get the kids (and ourselves) back into a routine by mid August, our easygoing spirits took over and we failed to do so. Right up until last week we were still staying up too late to eat popsicles al fresco and enjoy family movie nights; still spending leisurely mornings lingering over breakfast and building LEGO cities in our pajamas.

But we’ve finally decided to get our acts together and transition the kids into a healthy back-to-school routine. Over the past week we’ve been eating earlier dinners and getting the kids to bed by 8 p.m. I’ve also been waking up before them to jump-start the day and prepare a nutritious breakfast. And for Matt and Nate, that breakfast includes Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies.

The boys started taking these vitamins a few weeks ago after we picked up a bottle of them during a Target run. They were right on the top shelf at the beginning of the vitamin aisle, so they were really easy to find! That made the kids happy because it meant we could head over to the toy aisle quicker.

Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies img_8923

The boys tried the vitamins the very next morning and absolutely loved them. They have taken them every morning since then, even asking for them if I forget to set them out with their breakfasts. The gummies come in three flavors—orange, cherry, and mixed berry—and Matt and Nate say they taste just like fruit snacks.


Here is Nate ready to take his favorite flavor, orange:


And here’s Matt with his favorite, mixed berry:



But while the boys simply view Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies as a morning treat, they also contain 12 essential nutrients for kids. These include vitamins A, C, D, and E, B vitamins, and minerals such as iodine and zinc. I also like that the gummies’ colors come from natural sources (meaning no synthetic dyes are used), that they are gluten free, and that they contain no preservatives or yeast.

I will continue to give the boys Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies every morning this school year to help give them a healthy start to their day. Click here to learn more about them. Then head on over to Target to purchase a bottle. Here’s to a healthy, happy, and successful school year!

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Back to School with PlanetBox

When the twins started preschool last year, I was introduced to the crazy world of making school lunches. The boys only go to school three days a week, yet it didn’t take long for me to run out of fresh ideas. I mean, how many PB&J’s and cheese quesadillas could I make?

So I started putting together lunches using little things the boys like to eat—fruit, carrot sticks, cheese and crackers, hummus, etc. Not only did that leave me with a ton of tiny containers to wash, but the boys would often come home with half of their lunch uneaten. They’d say they ran out of time to eat, partly because it took them so long to open everything.

That’s when I realized why so many moms and kids love bento-style lunchboxes. These sectioned lunchboxes make meals visually appealing, help you pack a well-balanced lunch, make it easier for kids to eat, and create less waste.

I tried different styles of bento boxes, but it was hard to find one that works for us. Some have too few sections, others are too deep, etc. Then I saw this post from Catherine McCord of Weelicious, in which she showcases some of the fabulous bento lunches she makes for her kids. Immediately, I started pining for the lunchbox in the photos. It’s called the PlanetBox Rover, and when I was recently given the opportunity to test one out for review, I jumped at the chance.

PlanetBox is a high-quality stainless steel lunchbox that keeps foods fresh and well-portioned. It comes in three sizes and can be personalized with fun magnets and a range of accessories.

The Rover, which holds 4.5 cups of food and measures 10 x 7 x 1.5, is the most popular model. It has five sections: one large square one (perfect for a sandwich), a longer skinny one to hold a cheese stick or other small items, two medium-sized ones, and a small one in the middle that’s perfect for a small treat. It also comes with a Big Dipper and a Little Dipper, round lidded containers that can hold dips, sauces, yogurt, and other wet foods.

The magnets for the rover come in 29 fun designs and have space to write the lunchbox owner’s name. We chose the Rockets design.

Planetbox Rover with rocket magnets

You can also get a carry bag for the Rover with a water bottle pouch and a snack pocket on the outside, as well as an inner mesh pocket. The bag has a short handle and an adjustable strap. We got a blue bag.

As soon as the PlanetBox arrived, we were sold! Matt and Nate immediately started fighting over who would get to eat lunch from it, so I immediately ordered another one—same magnets, but with a red carry bag. As soon as that one arrived, the boys begged me to make their lunches in their PlanetBoxes even though we weren’t going anywhere. Here’s what I cobbled together:

Bento-style school lunch in a Planetbox RoverI put the yogurt in one of the main compartments and not in the Little Dipper (where the crackers are) since we were eating at home. The boys loved it, and it was the quickest they have ever finished their lunch!

Suffice it to say, Matt and Nate can’t wait for school to start so they can carry their cool new lunchboxes. I think I’ll have a lot more fun packing their lunches, and cleanup will be so much easier—I can pop them in the dishwasher! Also, the boxes are BPA-, phthalate-, and lead-free, so I know they’re safe for the boys. Click here for some other things that make PlanetBox great.

Now, here’s the thing: PlanetBox is pricey. The Rover sells for $49.95, the magnets are $3.95, and the carry bag is $12 to $14. That makes the whole set around $70. But I honestly feel it is well worth it for a lunchbox that is such high-quality and will last for years and years. Plus, PlanetBox can easily be handed down simply by switching out the magnets.

To build your own personal PlanetBox, click here. In addition to magnets and a carry bag, you can add a water bottle and accessories such as utensils and cold packs. And if you need meal ideas, get them here! Happy lunch-making!

Disclosure: I received a free PlanetBox with magnets and a carry bag for my review. All opinions in this post are my own!