I’m watching NCAA football today and looking at all of these athletic boys out on the fields, making or breaking plays. Their mamas are in the stands cheering them on and I wonder if they were raised to be these strong football players. Did their daddies take them outside and throw footballs to them from [...]
My sweet little princess turned 3 this weekend, and to celebrate we wanted to make her a special dinner made out of things that she loves. We made a run to Walmart to get the things that we needed. Have you ever gone shopping with two tired children?
It’s amusing. Especially at Walmart because they’re always so busy and it’s such a huge store.
I try to sneak vegetables into everything that I make because two of my little lovelies don’t like veggies all that much. I thought if I chopped some chicken nuggets up and covered them with cheese, ketchup, and tater tots, that I’d have a real winner at the dinner table, but how do I add veggies? Squash is relatively bland so I figured grating some squash into the casserole would work. Broccoli is about the only veggie that my kiddos will eat so I thought I could also grate some broccoli and toss it with some ketchup, layered with cheese and VOILA! a casserole that my kiddos will eat. I had to trial and error the recipe but we finally got it perfected. Initially I put the vegetables in the casserole raw and baked them but they were a little overpowering. Once we sautéed them with some onion, garlic, and olive oil; they wilted down and tasted wonderful.
I like doing creative things with otherwise “easy” foods so that the kids don’t get sick of them. Plus, they’ll eat “hidden” veggies but if I serve them Tyson chicken nuggets and tater tots, they won’t touch broccoli, even though they normally like it. Putting some of their favorite things together and hiding veggies adds some nutrient-dense foods alongside a protein and starch. WINNING!
We don’t know many people here yet so to celebrate Madilyn’s birthday, we had some family over. She was content playing with her cousin, Tyler but us adults were bored. It’s not like me to be bored on a Sunday, especially on football opening week but our lovely DirecTV wasn’t working and that NFL Sunday Ticket we pay for? Let’s not even talk about it. So instead of watching TV, we decided to pick out one of our favorite Hasbro games and make a night of it. One of our favorites is Clue: Secrets & Spies. This isn’t like the clue that you’re used to. This is like Clue Mission Impossible style. SO cool. There’s a lot to it but it’s very easy to learn, and a whole lot of fun to play. They used to involve a really cool text messaging feature but when we pulled the game out earlier this year to play, they had discontinued that feature. SO bummed!
In any event, have you heard of #DipDipHooray and how you can win a $1000 Hasbro Game Night Grand Prize? If not, it’s SO super easy. You visit the Dip Dip Hooray website and register with your email address. Don’t worry, I registered and I haven’t been receiving spam mail so go ahead and register. You literally click on the very obvious icon to enter (one entry every single day!) then type in the captcha code to verify that you’re not a bot. That’s IT. SO easy. To unlock the digital version of the game of the week you simply type in the UPC codes from Tyson Chicken Nuggets, Ore-Ida French Fries, and Heinz Ketchup on the “Game of the Week” screen. You have to use one of each to unlock. We use Heinz Simply Ketchup, and that’s fine too, even though it’s not pictured. This week we got Pictureka! WE LOOVE that game but don’t have the board game version so this has been a BLAST! For the complete list of rules , check here.
We love to have family game nights but our schedules often get in the way. I sometimes complain that the babies are too young but we recently bought a Sesame Street Memory game by Hasbro. She LOVES it and does a great job playing. Grady is still a little young but if we give him a card or something to hold he’s as happy as a pig in poop. I’ve been trying to do a better job focusing on spending quality time as a family since we moved to Raleigh and I think we’re doing a darn good job. Styles loves the interaction and so do we. It definitely leaves us feeling more connected when we’re done.
How do you and your family get quality time in?
Don’t forget to check out our awesome recipe creation below!
Nuggie Tot Farmer’s Pie
1/2 bag Tyson Chicken Nuggets
1/2 bag Ore-Ida Tater Tots
1/2 cup Heinz Ketchup (I used their “Simply” ketchup)
2 yellow squash
2 broccoli crowns
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 package (2 cups) shredded cheese (I used Pepper Jack)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400*. Once oven is preheated, bake chicken nuggets according to package instructions.
2. While chicken is baking, shred veggies with the grating attachment on your food processor or with a box grater. Heat oil on medium, with garlic until garlic is softened but not browned. Add squash and broccoli and saute until soft, approx. 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. Once the chicken nuggets are done, preheat oven to 450*. Bake tater tots according to package instructions.
4. Cut chicken nuggets into bite-sized pieces. I found that making a lateral cut and two horizontal cuts made perfect child-sized bites. Place diced nuggets into the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer sauteed vegetables over chicken nuggets.
5. Spread 1/2 cup of Ketchup over the vegetables and layer 1 cup cheese over the ketchup.
6. When tater tots are done cooking, reduce heat to 350* then mash the tots with the back of a fork and layer them over the vegetables and cheese.
7. Bake casserole in 350* oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese over casserole and bake 15 more minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
8. Allow casserole to rest 5 minutes outside of the oven before serving.
“I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ Tyson and Heinz #CBias #SocialFabric,lfg[o3rlllrrrklwA
I can’t believe Styles is going into middle school. It’s ridiculous how time flies. I feel like just last week I was shipping him off to Kindergarten where he made me wait down the hall so he could go by himself.
He was so big then. He shoo’d me away like he was embarrassed of me and ran down the hallway, never looking back. His white hair was just flying in the disturbance of air around him and his skinny legs were going as fast as they could go with his heavy new backpack attached to his spine. I didn’t cry, just laughed.
And now we are going into the 6th grade. My little boy has become a young man and it makes my heart quiver with longing for the past. I’m not generally a sentimental person but my relationship with Styles is a special one. It was just the two of us for 5 years and we did everything together. I was even that hippie mom with her 5 year old at a Dave Matthews Concert. He is an awesome kid and I would like to think that our years alone taught him to be who he is today. I am also so entirely proud of his academic achievements. He is always either on the All A Honor Roll or the A/B Honor Roll and he exceeded expectations on the CRCT in Georgia last year in EVERY category. He’s witty and hilarious and he just knows WAY too much for a kid his age.
He blows my mind.
So I decided to compile a few of the things that Styles picked out for his basic Back to School gear – Middle School Edition, and share them with you.
Disclaimer: I prefer to spend a little extra money at the beginning of the school year on things that will last all year long instead of having to replace them half way through the school year. QUALITY is our #1 determining factor when purchasing an item and its COOL FACTOR is #2.
I hope you enjoy!
There are some GREAT companies out there that sell backpacks and other luggage. There is the tried and true Jansport, my personal favorite from High School: North Face, Kelty, 31, and Eastpack. But when I found out that Lands’ End sold backpacks I had to check them out. Lands’ End is known for their superior quality clothing and outerwear. I figured they would definitely have something to offer in the backpack department. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the Comic Strip ClassMate backpack. The print on it is something that I KNEW Styles would flip for. When I showed it to him, he said that he HAD to have it. I didn’t purchase it right away because making a $50 commitment for my 6th grader felt like losing $1M on the stock market. He’s HORRIBLE to his backpacks and has a horrendous track record with ripping a shoulder strap off within a week, or tearing a seam half way through the year.
A few days later he came and asked when his backpack was going to get here because he couldn’t wait to see it. He was vibrating with excitement so I caved and bought him this awesome backpack. Lands’ End does a really cool thing. They reinforce the bottom of their backpacks for those backpack-dragging-kids like Styles. It is made of heavy-duty 600D Polyester with a 1200D Polyester bottom. The print is fun and different so Styles will stand out in a crowd – as though the shock of white hair on top of his head wasn’t enough!
And it has a few extras on it like a reflective strip, a water bottle holder; places to hang a hat, helmet, or coat; and has a sternum strap for extra back protection and comfort.
Another bonus to spending a little extra money on a backpack? That whole ergonomic thing. Our children’s backs are important and springing for something that is going to protect them is worth every penny.
The Lands’ End ClassMate backpacks start at $39.00 and go up to $49.00. They also have an entire collection of matching lunch gear, as well as some other fun prints for boys and girls alike.
I came across this lunch bag at The Land of Nod while looking for a backpack for Grady. I thought it was the most unique and wonderful lunch bag I had EVER seen. It is insulated, tear-proof, leak resistant, has a magnetic closure, and you can DRAW ON IT!
It reminded me of when Styles was in Kindergarten. I used to send his lunch to school in a paper sack but I drew on it with markers or crayons EVERY morning so that he had a decorated and special lunch bag every day. Is it still OK for me to do that now that he’s going into the big Middle School?
Maybe we’ll find out.
This lunch bag has “cool” written all over it and with “limited quantities” at Land of Nod, it’s possible that your kid could be the only one at their school pulling their PB&J from this sack. Plus, it wipes clean. What more could I possibly ask for?
The Brown Paper Bag Lunch Bag retails for $19.99.
In keeping with the whole Super Hero theme, I found this cool Pencil Pouch from Etsy. It’s perfect for a middle school boy who likes comic strips and it’s handmade! I LOVE supporting small and at-home businesses. Etsy is one of my favorite places to shop for just about everything and I knew I could find something unique there.
If Styles was a girl, I would have splurged on the Lined Paper Fabric Pencil Case. I. LOVE. IT. It can be personalized to say whatever you want it to say and retails for $28.00.
The Marvel Superhero Pencil Pouch retails for $12.50.
All of my kids LURVE shoes. Styles is not extremely picky about what he will wear, but Madilyn has a very clear idea of what she likes. I was fortunate enough to catch a KEEN sale on Zulily today and we stocked up on shoes for the school year. I wanted some casual shoes for Styles and something that he could use as gym shoes as well. KEEN has a SUPER cool technology in the soles of their shoes that harden during cold weather for extra grip on the ice. With our recent move to North Carolina, I thought that was a relatively important technology. I also want shoes that will last all year long, are fashionable, and can go with nearly every outfit. KEEN are great shoes for outdoors but they also have more casual styles to go with any outfit, winter boots for boys and girls, and aqua sandals for the summer.
KEEN shoes retail for anywhere between $35.00 & $65.00.
Styles says that erasers save him and that he LOVES erasers so I thought that including them in our list was a must. He is obsessed with LEGOs and most recently, Angry Birds. We found some at Target but you can order them from Amazon if you prefer to shop online. I found some Lego erasers on etsy that retail for $11.35.
Do you remember when erasers were the ULTIMATE accessory at school? I loved the scented ones, and the little citrus-looking translucent erasers. Apparently erasers are still super cool.
Moms don’t let kids go to school with pink erasers.
Especially when they could take cookies instead.
Reading is an extremely important activity in our household. Styles could sit for hours and listen to me read when he was a toddler. He didn’t start reading until he was in 1st grade but by the end of that year, he was reading at a 4th grade level. Now, as a 5th grader, he reads and comprehends at a high school level. I believe that his love of reading was spawned from my love of reading, and in turn, has prompted him to be in the gifted program in school.
Early literacy is so important for your child’s success in school. If you don’t read to them daily now, you might want to consider starting.
Today, we have a guest article by Emily Patterson about the importance of this very thing:
Early Literacy is Key to Success: Raising A Little Reader
Written by Emily Patterson on behalf of Primrose Schools, where a balanced curriculum and instructive day care prepares young children for life beyond the classroom.
A large body of research shows that access to books and being read to aloud are crucial to a child’s success in school. Children who enter kindergarten need a vocabulary of at least 3,000 words in order to be successful from the start. Without a wide range of stories read from a variety of books, it’s nearly impossible to gain the necessary vocabulary.
Along with vocabulary, early access to books ensures that children understand concepts of print at an early age, another marker for school success. Concepts of print include such pre-literacy skills as holding a book right side up, understanding that pages are turned from right to left and that print is read from left to right. Sadly, many children who don’t have access to books in the home don’t learn these important distinctions until preschool.
Using rich and varied vocabulary through reading and providing plenty of age-appropriate books in the home are imperative to ensuring your child is on target for doing well in school, and will help instill a love of reading. It’s important to read aloud to your child every day, ideally starting from infancy. At first, he or she may not show much interest books, but be assured that even if your child doesn’t appear to be listening, the words and stories are getting through, establishing prior knowledge and a basis for eventually learning and loving to read.
When reading to your child, engage him in the entire process, from looking at the cover and reading the title to stopping to look at pictures and saying, “The End!” Help your child make connections between the pictures in the book and events from her life. For example, point to a picture of a giraffe and remind the her that she saw a giraffe at the zoo yesterday. By making these essential connections, the child’s scope of knowledge increases and the vocabulary becomes firmly established.
Choosing the right books for your child is an important factor in helping him become a lifelong reader. Books that have rich, rhythmic language and engaging, colorful pictures are ideal for very young children. Children who can sit and listen to an entire story and become engaged in the plot should be provided with quality children’s literature, which includes picture books. Picture books that have won a Caldecott Medal for artwork or a Newbery Award for content are generally well loved by children and adults alike. Choose books that you enjoy reading as well; you will likely be reading the same book over and over to your child, which is not only how your child prefers it, but is also extremely beneficial for emergent readers, who begin to memorize the book and can begin to “read” it on his or her own, which leads to important self-efficacy in reading.
Try these tips for creating a rich, literate environment for your child that will encourage a lifelong love of books and learning:
-Have age-appropriate books in every room of the house and in the car. The more your child is surrounded by books and the more easily accessible they are, the more your child will pick them up to “read.”
-Provide a variety of different kinds of books, from board books and simple picture books for young children to engaging nonfiction books full of wacky, wonderful information for older children.
-Let your child see you reading. Modeling a love for reading will go a very long way in encouraging your child to read.
-Read books that have repeating phrases and encourage your child to say the phrases with you. Once your child is older, let him take the lead in looking at the pictures and pointing out interesting objects, and let him “read” to you.
-Find out what your child is learning about in preschool or school, and check out interesting books on those subjects. This will encourage your child to make more connections to what he is learning in school and pique his interest in a variety of subjects.
The first few years of a child’s life is all about language development and understanding communication. Reading books, telling stories and providing your child with a variety of experiences are the best ways to help children understand how oral and written language work. These skills need your support, and the time you spend reading with your child is together time that you’ll both enjoy and benefit from.
As the beginning of the school year creeps up on us again, I am reminded of the crappy experiences we had last year in our public school system. Styles was in 4th grade and there were fist fights in his classroom, on the playground, at gym, etc…. The children in his class were outright rude [...]
Oh heaven help me. Styles will be 10 on August 18. I can’t believe the last 10 years have gone by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was imagining what he’d be like at this age. I wondered if he’d annoy me like the kids his age did when I worked an [...]