Tag Archives: school

MOM, What’s for Dinner?!?!


I’ve recently returned to work after being on maternity leave with my little guy.  To put it lightly it’s been a whirlwind of details that I felt I was handling pretty well until I started coming home from a full day to find that I hadn’t even begun to think about what we were going to have for dinner.

Dinner for me is seen as a time for families to sit together and talk about the days events, a time to eat a balanced meal after a day filled with commitments   a time to enjoy each other before winding down for the night and preparing to run the race again the next morning.  The only problem I’ve had with this time I look forward to each day with my family is that it’s not as easy as it sounds.  “Making the Time” to meal plan while juggling family needs and a full time job was literally pushing me over the edge.  So, when you’re feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place what’s the best thing to do?  Initially I thought picking up a $5 Hot and Ready each night on the way home from work might do the trick but quickly realized I can’t have my kindergartner telling all of our family and friends that the only thing she has for dinner is pizza….but they do sell wings and other side dishes…

In the midst of my self induced stress over this minor detail in our daily lives, a good friend and coworker of mine set down a couple of books on my desk about meal planning.  After staring at them for a couple of days, I decided to take them home over the weekend and skim the pages to see if anything jumped out at me that screamed, “You can do this!”  The Gods must have been on my side because this is exactly what happened when I opened Once-a-month cooking family favorites : more great recipes that save you time and money from the inventors of the ultimate do-ahead dinnertime method.  While paging through this cookbook, I picked out just a couple of recipes that sounded easy and like something even my 5 year old would eat.  Cooking up just two of the recipes proved to be a success this past weekend because not only did we have two very enjoyable meals but there was enough left over for lunches or a second dinner later in the week.

This cookbook has been written to help busy families like ours.  There are two week and one month meal plans complete with shopping lists that can be prepared ahead of time so that meals can be “pulled” from the freezer, placed in the oven and enjoyed within 30 to 60 minutes.  Although I haven’t attempted to prepare two weeks or a months worth of meals yet, I’m actually looking forward to doing this knowing the end result will leave me with evenings more focused on what’s important…Our Family!

How do you prepare and handle dinner making for your family?  Have you ever attempted make ahead meal planning?  Please share your experiences!

Check out the available website for Once a Month Cooking!


Should I Send My Child to Preschool?

Should I Send My Child to Preschool?

Many parents begin to ask themselves, “Should I send my child to preschool?” when their child is between the ages of 2 and 3.  This is a very sensitive topic for parents and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  There are advantages and disadvantages to any preschool setting so it’s good to have a solid understanding of what you are looking for and what will meet the needs of your child best.

If you are a parent currently contemplating this very topic, I encourage you to gather as much information as you can before making a decision.  Hop online, speak with other parents, trust your gut and be honest about what your child is and isn’t ready for.

Lastly, visit as many preschools as you can, I cannot stress this enough!   When I was researching preschools for my child, I first called 24 preschools.  From these initial conversations over the phone I was able to quickly narrow my searching down to only 8 that I wanted to visit.

As luck would have it, the last preschool that I visited was the one that I fell in love with and I knew it within the first five minutes I was there.  The best part of this whole process has been watching my little girl blossom as a result.  The self-confidence and social skills she has gained from her preschool experience is nothing I could have taught her on my own.

Driving away that first day of school had me in tears; I wasn’t sure if I was crying because I had dropped my little girl off for school for the first time or if it was because her teacher had to remind her to “wave goodbye to Mom!”   This is when you know your child is ready; they may not look back because they are secure in who they are and what they are doing.

As you being to compile your list of preschools to visit and questions to ask, don’t forget to include the three following questions, they will tell you a lot about the center you are considering.

  • Is the preschool licensed and/or accredited?
    • It’s important when considering a preschool to know if the school is licensed.  There are standards that licensed facilities are required to meet and they shouldn’t be overlooked.  One of the standards includes a balanced teacher to student ratio.  There should be at least one teacher for every eight to ten 4-5 year olds, and one teacher for every six 2-3 year olds.  Enrolling your child in a preschool that has too many kids and not enough help can lead to a very negative experience for your child.
    • Another stamp of preschool excellence comes in the form of accreditation.  Being accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) requires preschools to follow strict guidelines for areas such as curriculum, teacher qualifications, class size and health and safety standards.  A small percentage of preschools are actually accredited because the requirements can be too financially demanding for smaller preschools to commit to.
  • What is the educational training and experience of the staff?
    • Now more than ever, standards are rising for the qualifications needed to teach young children.  Asking to see what form of education and experience each member of the preschool staff holds is important.  Look for a head teacher that has at a least an associate’s degree related to early childhood development.  Having some educational training will enrich the program your child is enrolled in.  Also, a good teacher interacts with the children.  The children are asked a lot of questions and are listened to. Children should feel welcome and safe in the classroom environment.  A good teacher can clearly answer all your questions and does so patiently.  Have the teacher tell you about a typical day and how they will communicate your child’s progress and challenges to you on a regular basis.  Above all if you feel comfortable speaking with the teacher and are happy with the way the classroom is structured you are on the right track!
  • How is the preschool structured and what curriculum do they follow?
    • It is easy as a parent to get caught up in developmental milestones, but it should not be about making sure we are keeping up with the Jones’s kids but engaging our little ones in opportunities that will allow them to socialize and be imaginative.  These opportunities help build the skills children need to become well rounded individuals.  There are at least 13 formal years of more structured learning that will take place for your child, additional time if they pursue an advanced degree.  When interviewing potential preschools make sure they believe in a classroom that learns through play!  If you see kids cooking with blocks in a play kitchen wearing a dinosaur costume while others are smearing shaving cream on a cookie sheet, this preschool is doing something right, continue to pursue!

How did you know your child was ready for preschool and did you find the right fit?

Kindergarten Prep, What’s Your Secret?


I’ve been having some great discussion with friends and family since my Kindergarten Registration post and I’m curious to see how others have prepared their children for Kindergarten.

Please take a moment to answer the short survey below.

Kindergarten Registration…

Kindergarten Registration…

While browsing through the mail last night, I came across a newsletter from our neighboring area highlighting that Kindergarten Registration would begin towards the end of February.  This grabbed my attention and heartstrings in a very BIG way because my little girl will be transitioning to the “Big School” this fall with the “Big Kids.”

It wasn’t as if this was news to me, we’ve been talking about starting kindergarten since last spring when some of her fellow classmates were graduating from the preschool she attends.  At the time it seemed like we had all the time in the world, another year to enjoy the comfort and routine of our current setting.

But now, that year has almost passed…

Kindergarten Registration?!?! Can it really be that time already?  It seems like only yesterday I was working through the initial sleep deprived days of being blessed with a newborn, endless feedings, diaper changes, hugs and kisses.  Before long she was toddling and babbling, baby proofing our environment went into overdrive, more hugs and kisses to follow as the bumps and scrapes started to add up.  Then it was on to researching preschools and finding activities to become involved in. Now, elementary school is knocking at our door.

As an educator, I know she’s more than ready.  We’ve done the prep and then some…reading aloud everyday, practicing basic skills, working on becoming more independent, fostering emotional and social growth, establishing routine,  the list goes on and on.

I guess where I continually fall short in this journey is preparing the mother in me.  No where in the “handbook of mothering” can I find lessons I need to complete in order to prepare myself for the monumental moments in my child’s life. They always seem to catch me off guard.

The one true blessing in it all is knowing that I am raising a very strong, independent daughter that holds a true joy for life and learning.  She’s not afraid of what’s ahead, in fact she’s running towards it full force.  She’s confident and relentless because she knows that no matter how great the journey ahead she has the unconditional love and support of her family behind her.  This of course and an endless supply of hugs and kisses to celebrate each step along the way.

Preparing a Kindergartner of your own?  Below are some helpful resources to get you and your little one ready for this important transition!

Let Them Play!

Let Them Play!

What are some of your most memorable moments as a child?

Is it the time your family took a bike ride around the local metro park or is it the time you baked a blood red heart cake with Dad to celebrate your Mom’s birhtday?  Do you have memories of pillow fights and building forts?  Setting up lemonade stands on a hot summer day with your BFF or sewing new dresses and dolls with your Grandmother on a Saturday afternoon?

Why is it that some memories and lessons stick in our mind and others are lost forever?

Hippocrates famously said that “Men ought to know that from the brain and the brain alone arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pain and griefs.”  Our brain is such a complex organ acting as the main hard drive for all of our thinking, feeling and functioning.

Mariah Bruehl, author of, Playful Learning: developing your child’s sense of joy and wonder, observes that children are natural scientists, artists, mathematicians, authors, and scholars. From the time they are born they seek out information about the world around them in an effort to construct meaning and further their development. While children have an inherent drive to make sense of their reality, parents have a unique opportunity to harness their children’s curiosity and channel it into a love of learning.

So, how do we help our children become lovers of learning? Through Play!

Bruehl defines playful learning as “the magic that takes place when we meld a child’s sense of joy and wonder with thoughtfully planned learning experiences.”  Stopping to think about what this says makes what we intuitively know to be so true.  Something all of us have known since the first time our hearts burst out with laughter!

I guess this only leaves one question, “How will you play today?”

What’s For Lunch?

What’s For Lunch?

Packing my daughters lunch every morning for school was beginning to feel like such a tedious chore.   It seemed that my options for creating what I wanted to be a very healthy lunch were limited because, well frankly, my four year old wishes to only eat pasta.   Can you relate?

I finally began reading some of the parenting emails that flood my inbox regarding children’s eating habits and food preferences.  It occurred to me after viewing a few of the pictures tied into the proposed meals that it wasn’t so much about being extremely creative in what to make but more about how the dish is prepared and presented.

Cutting fruits and vegetables into bit size manageable pieces and shapes is fun for kids.  I’ve also found when I pack my daughters lunch in fun containers they are more likely to return home empty!

Here’s a few ideas to get you start!

Have any fun and creative ideas of your own for serving up a healthy lunch to your kiddos, please let me know!

I first saw these lunch containers on Amazon from Easy Lunchboxes, while researching healthy cookbooks for kids.  I love that they are divided into compartments.  The visual display entices the appetite while the ability to portion control makes me feel better about the foods I send.

I love the idea of this puzzle sandwich cutter!  Many other sandwich cutters that I’ve seen often waste much of the sandwich to obtain the cute little shapes they make.

Lunch Boxes and Snacks: Over 120 healthy recipes from delicious sandwiches and salads to hot soups and sweet treats,  filled with fun and quick ideas to jazz up your child’s lunch.  I am looking forward to trying the oat, raisin and sunflower seed cookies soon!