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25 Tips to Prepare for School

August 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Family

As August begins, many of us are now thinking about how we can prepare for school. The back to school sales are everywhere and your home will soon be overwhelmed with papers (that you can easily control!) As you prepare for school, find some extra helpful tips here.

1) Take some time to read with your kids throughout the summer and it will help prepare them. These six tips will be so helpful to teach you what you need to do to get the most out of your reading time with your kids.

2) Enjoy school shopping with your child and involve them by giving them choices. Our kids love to pick out their own outfits! (as you can see below – because rain boots go with every outfit, right? haha! That’s our Allie!)

3) Prepare yourself for early mornings and prepare what you can the night before. Being ready for a school morning is the best thing that you can do to get your family off to a great start! It makes a HUGE difference (and cuts back on stress and chaos for the mornings).

4) Celebrate back to school with a party! My friend hosted a back to school party and it was adorable. She had water balloons, pizza and gave each of the kids a few school supplies that were adorable (like cute Frozen pencils and a fun Initial notebook!)

5) If you are homeschooling, build up your supplies as you start the new year. Stock up on pencils, markers, crayons, highlighters and more! You can even check out the free printable below from

6) When all the busyness of school hits, it is nice to have some planned family time.  Play one of the board games here or do any of these 10-minute activities with your kids.  Our favorite time to play is right after bath time when we are ready for some much-needed family time!

7) Take time to prepare your anxious children for school. Take a tour of the school, meet the teacher and practicing pick up and drop off are just a few ways to get starting in your preparation. It will really help your child to know what is going to happen on that first day.

8) Create a homework station for your children. You could even build a whole desk for under $100 like this one (get the directions here)

9) Heading back to school is always a busy time for teachers, surprise your child’s teacher with a gift as school starts. A mason jar filled with pencils is perfect!  Paint the mason jar a bright shade of apple red to look like an apple!  Or you can make a school supplies cake and fill it with everything that your teacher could need this year.

10) Use this video is my secret weapon to teach the kids their letters in a week!  Seriously awesome (use it in the car… even better!)

11) Start a tot school with the little ones to include them in the fun! Preschool is a great time to help your kids start learning.

12) Use hooks for each child’s book bag to keep things organized. I grabbed these little buckets & hooks at Ikea.

13) Mix up the lunches this year and keep it simple.  You can even use something fun like this sandwich cookie cutter to make their lunchbox filled with anything BUT a boring sandwich:

14) Organize your child’s clothes for the entire week.  Pick every outfit out on Sunday afternoon and lay them out or hang them up for the week.   It will get rid of any “I didn’t want to wear that!” type of battles… well, let’s hope so! 

15) Start your child’s day out right with a great meal! These make-ahead frozen breakfast ideas are easy and you can have them ready to go. A little protein is all that they need .

16) Plan out some easy, healthy after school snacks to fill your kids just enough until dinnertime.   I can remember my mom letting us pick a snack as soon as we came home from school (which reminds me… I can also remember my VERY HEALTHY brother having two powdered doughnuts and sprite every single day after school!  I’m pretty sure he hasn’t had a doughnut in over 20 years, so that is a very funny memory!)

17) Back to school means sicknesses are on their way, find ways to cut down on sickness!  I recently read a study that said that two groups of people were ‘given a cold’. One group slept for 8 hours. The other group had under seven. Which group was more likely to get a respiratory infection? The 7-hour group… THREE TIMES HIGHER!   Find more tips like that right here.

18) Let go of last year and be ready to start fresh with a positive attitude!

19) Start the school routine a weeks before school starts to get yourself and your kids ready!  I love the tip about preparing for back to school emotions. They caught me off guard when our very mature first born started Kindergarten several years ago… and was very nervous and scared to go.   I wish I had prepared for this part a little more.

20) Create a command center to keep all your meal plans, papers and other school materials organized.  I love the ones here (you can buy these to make your own Command Center!)

21) If your child is going to Kindergarten, these back to school items are going to be really helpful for your child!

22) The morning of the first day, have a special gift for you child. It doesn’t have to be fancy.  A great book and crayons or pack of fun pencils might be all that you want to do. I love to give our kids a book like this before their first day:

I like this one, too, if you have a child with First Day Jitters:

23) Have your child fill out a first day interview.  These are adorable and your child can fill it out on their own or with a little help (although I suggest you let them write it… get in some last minute handwriting practice before school starts!)

24) Try lunch box notes to brighten your child’s day. If you don’t want to use chalkboard paint on their things, at least stick a little note in each lunchbox. Here are a few free printable lunch box notes that you can print out to be ready for that first week!

25) Be sure to use your last week before the kids go to school to spend some much-needed one on one time with the kids. This is how we have one on one time in our house of four kids and it has been really helpful and all of our favorite nights!

What are some tips you find to be useful as you prepare for school?  I would love to hear them! 

Recommended by Brock Tozer – TED Talk

July 5th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Family

BrockIf you can bear with the audio issues, in the first few minutes, this Tedx talk is well worth watching, in full. I love the direct one-to-one connection she makes between household chores & the development of character, in our children. As parents, sometimes we’re guilty of placing too much emphasis on grades, & personal achievement, even at the expense of teamwork and cooperation (such essential life skills!). This is a great reminder, on that score, from Dr. Deborah Gilboa. – Brock

Moms, this is a great read!

July 5th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Family

Can I Be Honest? Sometimes, I Get Jealous

Stay-at-Home Mom

Dear Stay-at-Home Mom,

Can I be honest? Sometimes, I get jealous of you.

Like, when I picture your mornings, minus the chaos of hustling kids out the door to daycare. I picture breakfasts eaten without staring at the clock, maybe a morning kids’ show, everyone still in PJs. I see you taking the kids to the zoo or the park or the lake mid-morning, snapping selfies with them and texting your husband the funny thing your oldest said. I see you throwing a load of laundry in the dryer when you get home (or whenever you WANT!), playing goofy games with the kids over lunch, eating food you didn’t have to pack at 11 PM the night before.

When the youngest goes down for a nap, I see you getting things done around the house, or working on your in-home business, or bonding with your oldest over a craft project. I see you witnessing every milestone and every funny moment, amassing memories that will make you smile years from now. I see you, glowing and healthy from days spent outside, chatting up the other moms at the park or the library or the gym, wearing whatever the heck you want, never going to boring department meetings, never realizing mid-day that you forgot to put deodorant on and can’t do a thing about it…

It all seems so nice, as I sit in my cramped, sunless office, stressing about the project I’m way over my head in and wondering what my kids are doing right now (that I’m missing).

But don’t worry. I know there’s more to it than that.

I know you also deal with meltdowns, and picky eaters, and fighting over toys (over everything), and long, lonely days where you’re way over-touched and you don’t talk to a single person over the age of 4. I know there are rainy days, snowy days, teething days, and inexplicably-crazy-kids days. I know you go to the same park a bazillion times a week, repeat the same phrases to your kids all day, play the same games over and over, and prepare and clean up SO MUCH food.

I know you’re desperate for alone time and adult time, and I know you feel guilty when you take that out on the kids. I know you think about your education and your pre-kids career, and you wonder if you’re doing the right thing. I know you wish you could contribute more financially. I know you worry that you’re pouring so much of yourself into your kids that you might lose sight of who you are.

I guess I just wanted to let you know that I see you, and I recognize the sacrifices you’re making for your family. It’s easy for me to focus on the highlights of your life—the things I’m personally missing out on—but I know that’s not the full picture.

The truth is, neither of our lives is perfect or easy, but they’re both pretty dang awesome—just in slightly different ways.

I see you, and I support you. Keep it up, girl!


Working Mom

Dear Working Mom,

Can I be honest? Sometimes, I get jealous of you.

Like, when I picture your mornings, sipping a still-hot latte, alone at your quiet desk. I see you going to important meetings, talking to important people about important things (or at least, talking to adults about adult things). I see you grabbing lunch with your coworkers, gossiping about the office, maybe on an outdoor patio, maybe over some giant salads and still-cold iced teas. I see you giving presentations, in that cute tailored blazer you have, speaking eloquently and confidently to a room of people who respect your ideas.

I see you planning out your days (and having that actually be a useful endeavor), working on projects that interest and challenge you, getting recognized for your hard work from your peers and superiors. I see you traveling for work—sitting on a plane (ALONE!), staying in a nice hotel room, eating dinner on someone else’s dime. I see how proud you are of your career, how good it makes you feel. I see how extra special the time you spend with your kids is—the way you’re eager to pour into them in the evenings and on weekends, the way you treasure every minute…

It all seems so nice, as I sit here eating leftover cold chicken nugget bits off my son’s plate, half-heartedly yelling at the kids to stop tackling each other and preemptively beating myself up for all the TV I know I’m going to let them watch later.

But don’t worry. I know there’s more to it than that.

I know that you still feel guilty sometimes after dropping off your kids, especially when they cling to you and cry. I know you envy the person who gets to spend their days with your children, seeing the funny things they do and hearing the funny things they say. I know you hate being stuck in your office on a beautiful day, wondering what your kids are up to and wishing you could be part of it.

I know it’s hard at the end of the day, when everyone’s tired and hungry and cranky, and you’re desperately cobbling dinner together before the frantic rush of baths and bedtime, and you SO wish it could be different because those are the only precious hours you get together as a family. I know it sucks to have to cram all the housework and errands into the weekends. I know you get lonely when you travel, and all the nice dinners and hotel rooms in the world can’t compete with those little faces at home that you can’t kiss goodnight. I know you miss your kids, and you wonder if you’re doing the right thing.

I guess I just wanted to let you know that I see you, and I recognize the sacrifices you’re making for your family. It’s easy for me to focus on the highlights of your life—the things I’m personally missing out on—but I know that’s not the full picture.

The truth is, neither of our lives is perfect or easy, but they’re both pretty dang awesome—just in slightly different ways.

I see you, and I support you. Keep it up, girl!


Stay-at-Home Mom


This post was written by a woman who’s been a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, and a work-from-home mom. She’s felt the unique joys and challenges of each, and is here to scream from the rooftops: none of them were easy. None were perfect. And definitely, none came without guilt.

There’s always greener grass somewhere, and always will be. Don’t forget to look down at your feet from time to time–the ground you’re standing on right now is actually pretty awesome.

About Kim

Kim grew up in Minnesota, but moved to Madison to attend the UW and fell in love with the city’s spirit and culture. Kim is married to a handsome dude named Brent and has two handsome little boys, Mason and Joshua. When she’s not racing monster trucks across furniture or reading dinosaur books, she’s working on freelance writing projects or planning events for Madison Momshine, a local health and fitness community for moms. Kim is a certified personal trainer and teaches strength training classes for women through her fitness business, Lioness Fitness. She’s also a food allergy mom, which means she can read a food label like nobody’s business! Kim’s a sucker for good wine, good sushi, a good book, and ANY beach.


No Sandwich Lunches

June 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Family

Only a couple more weeks of lunches left to pack before school is out! Dan Adam’s wife shared this great link to give you some inspiration for these last few weeks. “Some of these dishes and containers really make portioning and packing a lot easier… dare I say fun!  If you suspect you’ll be needing a lunch bag makeover in September, consider looking for sales now instead of at the end of summer when the store’s selection can get low.”

So let’s just say no to the boring old sandwich, and mix things up a bit!

Here is a whole page for you with lunch after lunch after lunch with no sandwiches! These are my favorite kinds of lunches to make. And while you may see some similarities, if you look closely you’ll see that the lunches are never the same twice.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at God’s Not Dead 2

April 4th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Family

Click here for a list of showtimes!

Easter is a whole season. Here are some ways to celebrate with kids of all ages.

March 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Family
Do Your Children Understand Easter?
shutterstock_68094250Free mini-lessons to help you give your child a greater appreciation and understanding of the purpose of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

Many parents would agree that children should wait until they are older to see the acclaimed movie The Passion of the Christ, which graphically depicts the horrible violence that Jesus Christ endured before giving His life on the cross.

For the most part, children in our culture are privileged enough to be insulated from the reality and “scariness” of death.

Death and life, however, are at the core of the Christian message exemplified by Good Friday and Easter and remembered each Sunday. How much does your child understand that message?

Children need to know that dying was Jesus Christ’s reason for living on earth. They also need to know about Jesus’ resurrection three days later. As a parent, you can have the wonderful privilege of talking with your child about these important truths. The Easter season (which only begins with Easter Sunday) is great time to do this.

The following mini-lessons are designed for you to download, print out, review with a Bible in hand and then read with your child. These lessons will help you give your child a greater appreciation and understanding of the purpose of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Ultimately, these five mini-lessons will encourage your child to join God’s family.

These mini-lessons are intended to help parents to excel in their role as spiritual leaders for your children. Focus on the Family is a primarily donor-funded ministry, and their online resources are provided through the generosity of our supporters.


Reinventing Christmas: Tips to help moms stress a little less

December 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Family
Sleigh bells ring! Are you listening?Sorry, did you just ask me something?

In the lane, snow is glistening.

Oh – we still need lights for that shrub.

What a beautiful sight . . .

But I’ve got to bake tonight. Could you take the kids to Winter Wonderland on your own?* * *

Does that sound like you in the lead-up to Christmas? Busy. Distracted. Preoccupied. It’s understandable: what mom doesn’t want to give her family a really great Christmas? All the baking . . . the decorating . . . the shopping . . . that’s sacrificial momma love in action.

And it makes us just a little bit crazy every year.

Have you ever stopped to consider how much “Christmas” is really necessary?

Your hubby and kids might be happier with a little less Christmas and a little more of you – the normal, relaxed you who is able to savour a Silent Night with them more often.

Here are some simple shortcuts that can save you a lot of fuss and bother. Rethinking and simplifying your approach to Christmas might be the key to creating your family’s best Christmas yet!

Re-thinking family activities

Being intentional is often the first casualty of Christmas. So don’t be afraid of looking selfish – it’s not selfish to safeguard your time and energy so you can create the relaxed, Christ-centred Christmas you’ve always wanted for your family. Decide now to put reasonable limits on what you will and won’t do for Christmas.

  • Make sure you sit down and actually ask your family which traditions are important to them. You may discover you’re wearing yourself out each year on activities your family has outgrown. Does your whole family have to choose the tree together, or is decorating it together the real priority – or neither? Does your family really want you to bake nine different kinds of cookies, or will they be happy with a few favourites? Do they care that you make your cookies from scratch, or are they just as happy decorating store-bought cookies?
  • Can you create margin in your calendar by combining two traditions into one? For example, if you always get together with a certain family at Christmas, can you invite them along on your annual visit to Winter Wonderland? (You’ll also save the fuss of having to entertain in your home!)
  • Can you postpone a tradition until the less-hectic days after Christmas? Save that special shopping trip with your girlfriends for the after-Christmas sales and buy for next Christmas, or for birthdays. Could your time-consuming Christmas Day dessert become your “two-days-past-Christmas dessert”? (Sell that idea by hinting there’ll be more to go around!)
  • Can you start new traditions to replace complicated ones? When I replaced our usual Christmas Eve fare with a ridiculously simple Journey to Bethlehem meal (served as an eat-when-you-want buffet), my youngest son pronounced it one of my best Christmas ideas ever. Who’d have thought?
  • Consider making “non-events” a Christmas tradition. As you add all the essential dress rehearsals, work parties and et cetera to your calendar, deliberately pencil in dates for a number of “immediate-family-only events.” When the time comes, your “event” may simply be unwinding with a Christmas movie and an early night to bed, but you’ll be glad you reserved that rejuvenating “just us” evening.

Re-thinking gifts for your immediate family

Creating a serene, holy, Christ-centred Christmas is a real accomplishment in our materialistic culture. The prospect of a windfall of gifts distracts kids, and it distracts parents too. Why do we shop as if Christmas is the only time of the year we can give gifts to our kids? Perhaps cutting back a little will restore some sanctity and sanity to your season:

  • Many families use this rhyme as a guideline and give each of their children four gifts: Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.
  • Focus on the Family broadcast guest Karen Ehman, co-author of Everyday Confetti, recently shared her tradition of buying three gifts for each of her children: “Jesus got gold, frankincense and myrrh. So, now each year our kids get a gold gift, a frankincense gift and a myrrh gift. . . . Gold is something that was sought after and priceless and precious, so they get one thing they really, really want. Then frankincense was burnt and arose during prayer, so they get one gift that will bring them closer to Christ. Perhaps it’s a new Bible, maybe it’s tickets to their favourite Christian concert. And then on the third gift, the myrrh was a burial spice actually that covered a person from head to toe. So they get one thing to wear on their body.”1
  • Kathi Lipp, author of Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, also limits her children’s gifts to three. On a November Focus on the Family broadcast she commented: “I want to buy something significant for my kids, instead of something that they’re going to use once and throw away. . . . We put it into three categories. We [buy] something fun for them. We do some clothes for them and then, we do something that is going to enhance them – maybe it’s spiritually or educationally – and so, maybe we’ll pay for a course that they want to do.”2
  • Some families allow their children to write a gift wish list, but with the limitation that they can only write down three or four gift ideas. Having to think carefully about what they want most of all helps kids rein in some of the “Christmas gimmies.”
  • Consider plumping up kids’ Christmas stockings with practical items like toothbrushes, combs, hair ties and fun shoelaces. Who says the whole stocking needs to be filled with unique (a.k.a. hard-to-find) gifts?

If all that gift wrapping leaves you unravelled:

  • Surprise your kids with a special DVD to watch on Christmas Eve while you retreat to the bedroom to get an early start on wrapping gifts.
  • Entice Grandma or Aunty to come and wrap gifts at your house while you’re out and about with the kids. Tape a named gift tag to each gift so your Christmas helper knows who each gift is for.
  • Keep and re-use your gift tags each year. It will save you a little work, and the kids will consider the familiar tags another fun Christmas tradition.
  • Don’t feel you need to wrap large gifts. There’s still huge excitement for kids in finding the gift beside the tree on Christmas morning. (Until then, perhaps hide it in the garage under a sheet, or have a neighbour store it for you.)

Re-thinking gifts for your extended family

If your family tree is showing some impressive growth, you’re likely not the only one in your family who’d love to prune back the long list of gifts to find for nieces, nephews and cousins. Perhaps this is the year to relieve everyone’s gift-buying burden by suggesting one of these alternatives:

  • Agree to exchange a single gift per family, instead of buying individual gifts. Puzzles, movie passes, sports gear and board games make great gifts a whole family can enjoy. To ensure your gift will be a hit, search online for award-winning toys from associations like Parents’ Choice Awards, the Canadian Toy Testing Council (until 2014) and recognized board game critics.
  • Create a secret Santa gift exchange and buy one fabulous gift for one special person.
  • Exchange cookies instead of a gifts. To reduce time and effort even further, exchange just key ingredients, along with the recipe, and let each recipient bake their cookies whenever they need something fresh on hand.
  • Make it a mission-minded Christmas for your extended family and pool your group purchasing power to make a world of difference for someone in real need. Consider gifts to World Vision or Compassion International, or fill Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for next Christmas.Alternatively, you might choose to bless someone closer to home. Perhaps contribute to a missions trip for a family member, or if someone in your extended family has a severe permanent disability, contribute to a Registered Disability Savings Plan for them. It’s not only a practical act of love, it’s also money smart too, since contributions attract additional government funds.

Re-thinking decorating and entertaining

When it comes to decorating and entertaining, moms are easily tempted to overdo it. Be honest about who you’re really serving. Do your husband or kids care about the fancy, time-consuming ideas you saw on Pinterest? Not likely. Admit that you’re recreating them primarily to please yourself – a good reason to ensure you don’t shortchange your family as you go about it. Here are some shortcuts to help you deck the halls and fill the buffet table, and still retain some Christmas cheer:

  • Put up your favourite, must-have Christmas decorations first. Decide to add the rest of your decorations only if you have time and energy. Pack your favourites away together for quick access next year.
  • Remember that parties and family gatherings don’t have to be a sit-down meal. Try an after-dinner event and serve finger food, or host a dessert evening. Your friends and family may appreciate the chance to circulate a little more. If it lessens your burden, ask a guest to bring the centrepiece for the table or mantel instead of contributing to the food.
  • Got a student in the family who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on gifts? They may be thrilled to “gift” you a few hours of babysitting, house cleaning or hanging decorations before your big event.
  • Decide now on a special dish you could bring to all the parties you’re invited to, then there’s no need to think of something different for each event. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of ingredients on hand.
  • By mid-December it’s easy to become so busy preparing for what lies ahead, meals your family needs today get forgotten! Cook and freeze extra casseroles and stews now, so you’ll have quick and easy meals on hand for your most hectic days of the season.

However you decide to celebrate Christmas, just remember that you don’t have to recreate your mother’s Christmas, your mother-in-law’s Christmas, or your best friend’s Christmas. Create the kind of Christmas that’s right for your family in this season of your life!