Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back- to-School Traditions

Whether you are a home school mom, a teacher or a mom whose children will be going to school this year, I was wondering if you have any special traditions that you do to "kick off" back-to-school time.

Being a former teacher, I've always enjoyed this time of year and I love looking for back-to-school sales and bargains. I especially love buying new art and craft items and school supplies (as you may have guessed from my recent sweepstakes offer). Even though I'm a stay-at-home mom now, I still feel the urge during this time of year to buy myself at least one new outfit. There's just something special about buying new clothes during back-to-school time. I have great memories of my mom, my sister and I on our big clothing shopping spree every year in August. I always buy my kids new clothes this time of the year too.

My husbands aunt hosts a Back-to-School party every August. It's a great time for the children and adults in our family. She really goes all out planning fun games and activities for everyone to enjoy. At the end of the day, she gives all of the children some new school supplies. One year she handed out pencils with "Back-to-School party, 2006" printed on them. It's a fun way to end the summer, spend time with family and get ready for the new school year.

Some other ideas that I have read about or thought of doing as a way to celebrate the start of a new school year:

~Let the children pick out new backpacks or lunchboxes (this is fun even if you are a home school mom).

~Shop for school supplies together.

~Go out for ice-cream after the first day of school.

~Gift your child with a new book

~Make a special breakfast the morning school starts.

~Set some goals with your child for the new school year and help him/her to accomplish them.

~If you home school or are a classroom teacher, get your children involved by asking them for ideas. Such as "Tell me two things that you would like to learn about this year" "Tell me one thing that you would like to learn how to do". If they don't know, that's okay, they can think about it and let you know when they are ready.

What are some of your ideas and/or traditions? I would love to know!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sweepstakes Winners!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our giveaway. The 3 winners of the back-to-school prize packages are:

  • susan1215
  • agordon10
  • blueviolet

Winners need to contact me at with their shipping address by Wednesday August 27th in order to receive their prizes.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back to School Sweepstakes

Very soon the lazy days of summer will be over and many children will be heading back to school or gearing up for homeschool. I thought it would be fun to hold a back to school sweepstakes. Entering the contest is simple. All I ask is that you help me spread the word about my blog. Some easy ways that you can help spread the word:
~Send an email to other moms, teachers, friends and family, etc. linking them to this blog.
~Share a link on your own blog.
~Write a review on Stumble Upon.
~Share my link on parenting, teacher or home school message boards that you frequent.

In order to be entered into the contest, please leave me a comment letting me know how you helped spread the word. Your comment will serve as your entry. Three "Back to School" prize packages will be awarded to three different winners. Each prize package contains all of the items shown in the picture above. I appreciate all of my blog readers but this particular contest is limited to to USA residents only. The contest ends at midnight EST on Friday August 22nd and the random drawing will take place on Saturday the 23rd. Winners will be posted on the blog shortly afterwards.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

U-Pick Adventures

If you've never gone to a U-Pick farm or orchard, I definitely recommend giving it a try with your kids. Yesterday my family went blueberry picking. This was the third year in a row in which we have taken the kids. Blueberries are a favorite around our house so we like to have blueberries on hand all year long. My four year old twins had been anticipating blueberry picking day for about a month. They remembered it well from the previous year. They did a great job picking berries and were wonderful helpers. We managed to pick 22 lbs of blueberries in just over an hour. As we were picking berries, it was fun to remember how small the kids were that first year we went to the blueberry farm three years ago. It's a fun tradition and I hope that even when they are eighteen years old, they will still like hanging out with mom and dad enjoying these kinds of simple pleasures.

Today we prepared many of the berries for freezing (Place a single layer of blueberries on a cookie sheet and quick freeze for one hour. Separate into Ziploc sandwich bags and freeze). We also made blueberry muffins. It was fun for the kids to make something yummy using the fruit they picked with their own hands.

We are looking forward to apple picking next month.

Weekly Challenge: Since my challenge is coming at the end of the week instead of the beginning, think of it as a head start to next week. You have the whole weekend and next week to work on this. My challenge to you is to take your children to pick some fresh produce. If you can't squeeze in a U-Pick adventure in the coming week, at least give it some thought and try to make plans to go in the near future. It's a great family activity. It's also a great way to save money and get some wonderful high quality in season produce to can or freeze for later. After picking your seasonal produce, let your children help make something using the fruit and/or vegetables they picked.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Natural and Better For You

A couple of years before we had kids my husband and I decided to get a new life insurance policy. After getting blood work done for the new policy, we discovered that my husband had high cholesterol. My tests came back fine but with my family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and diabetes, I knew that making healthier eating choices would be of great benefit to me. I started taking steps to become more informed, cleaned out the pantry and started shopping and cooking differently.

I thought that I was doing very good with our food choices until my twins were 2 years old. We were at friends baby shower and I let my kids have some dessert. One of my daughters broke out in a terrible case of hives after eating a strawberry cake with some artificial ingredients. We spent several weeks trying to figure out what caused the reaction and we narrowed it down to red dye. I suddenly had to be even more aware of what was in the food we eat. Red dye (specifically red #40) is in so many things...even things that are not red! After giving it some thought I started wondering why we needed artificial colors at all and artificial flavors for that matter too. In my quest for no artificial coloring, I became even more aware of ingredients. I was honestly surprised at so many ingredients, some names that I did not even recognize. I decided that I was going to do my best to buy natural foods with ingredients that I understood.

Replacing refined flours with whole grains, using all natural peanut butter (only ingredient is peanuts), lean meats without preservatives when possible and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, was pretty easy. Avoiding artificial colors and flavors took awhile to get used too and grocery shopping took a lot longer at first but it was worth it for the health benefits.

I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject but I want to share a few of the "better for you" and not too expensive store bought convenience foods that I have in the house right now for the kids. In the summer we are busy and I do a lot of spontaneous picnics and outings with my kids and their friends so quick and easy is good.

~Mott's All Natural Fruit Snacks

~Target Market Pantry Unsweetened Applesauce (I make my own canned applesauce every year but always seem to run out so these are a good alternative). I believe that Mott's also has the natural and unsweetened applesauce but the Target brand is less expensive.

~Pepperidge Farm Goldfish made with Whole Grain (my kids begged for goldfish crackers for a long time so I was glad to find these for a special treat)

~Dannon All Natural Yogurt, No Artificial Anything (these do still have quite a bit of sugar but that doesn't worry me too much since my kids don't get a lot of sugar and after all..sugar is natural)

~Hormel Natural Choice (100% natural, no preservatives) deli meats

~Quick Oats 100% natural (great for a quick and healthy breakfast, I buy a big container at Aldi very inexpensively)

~Pure Honey (we put it on our oatmeal to add sweetness). My kids also like to use honey as a dip for many things.

~Ocean Spray 100% Juice, no sugar added. No artificial colors or flavors and made in the USA. (we like the Cranberry & Blueberry and the Cranberry & Concord Grape). I buy this at Target for $2.59 (64 fl oz) which seems like a good price to me. Juice is so expensive these days.

Non-Food products that we switched over to recently:
We have a lot of fun in the sun and this summer we started using "Burt's Bees Chemical Free Sunscreen" with hemp seed oil. It's pricey at $12.99 for a 3.46 fl oz tube but it seems to work well, doesn't smell bad and I feel good about using it.

Another product that I've discovered this summer is "Jason Hand and Body Lotion" (Pure, Natural, Organic). It makes our skin silky soft. I found this at Target on sale for less than $5.00 a bottle.

These are just a few of my finds. I would love to hear about some of the natural snack and lunch foods and products that you enjoy. Please leave me a comment or send me an email and let me know.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Upcoming Sweepstakes

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be doing a couple of giveaways this month. Please check this blog often so that you get a chance to enter and possibly win some fun prizes to use with your kids.

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